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The Lucky 13: Favorite Films of 2013

December 31, 2013

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My Favorite 13 films of 2013 is finally here at last! Lets not waste anymore time, lets get to it! These are MY favorite films of the last year, remember that, these are MY PICKS!

[NOTE: No, I haven’t seen “Her” yet, there wasn’t a screening available in FL, so I have to wait till 1/10]

13. “Frances Ha” – I’m extremely happy to see that female led films these days are becoming more unique and distinct about their voice than following the typical Hollywood formula. Sure, for every single “Frances Ha”-like movie, there will follow at least five Katherine Heigl-type romantic comedies, but, I think the HBO series “Girls” has paved the way for something new and exciting in female voiced films. Like Lena Dunham, Greta Gerwig is one of those woman who’s unique voice gives a realistic impact on the realities of everyday adulthood, not to mention womanhood. Gerwig co-writes “Frances Ha” with indie-darling filmmaker Noah Baumbach, telling the story of a New York woman (who doesn’t really have an apartment), apprentices for a dance company (though she’s not really a dancer), and throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as their possible reality dwindles. The characters are relatable, post-college adults can identify with Frances, and the movie ends with a dash of hope, for such a hopeless individual.

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12. “Only God Forgives” – Man oh man, whatever crawled up the anus of the critics this year regarding Nicolas Winding Refn’s second Ryan Gosling feature, I may never know, because this movie is FUCKING MENTAL, in the best possible way. This is a pure bloody revenge picture, stylistically done in a way that questions God, religion, family, honor, and personal gratification. Gosling performances is mute at best (not just in a vocal-sense), it’s certainly not his best, but it is one of his bigger head scratching performances. Refn, from what I’ve gathered, want to tell a revenge picture simply through glorifying imagery, you could somewhat pair this with “Spring Breakers”, where the visual over powers the narrative, and it can be either way. I think what through people off about this movie was that it wasn’t the typical movie Refn has done, you could argue that “Valhalla Rising” does a similar thing, but if you really watch both, they’re structures are completely off tangent. “Only God Forgives” will go down in cinema as one of those cult movies that will garner more love and appreciation with age, mark my words, it’ll fall into the “Blade Runner” category of cultisms within the next decade or so.

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11. “The Kings of Summer” – Every year (since 2012) I volunteer at the Sundance Film Festival, this past fest, the volunteers got a special screener the night before the fest for Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ “The Kings of Summer” (formally titled “Toy’s House”). And I gotta say, I haven’t laughed that hard in ages ladies and gents. Not only is it a brilliant written American comedy, but that way they shot the film, that’s what really caught my attention, and I knew I wasn’t imagining it, Jordan stated on the Nerdist podcast last month that they approached shooting the movie as if it were one of those hard core Oscar bait dramas. Call it adding another layer to the weirdness factor, call it whatever you want, but shooting it in that way, that was bloody genius, and I’m not sure many other comedies would have the nerve to do something like that. It’s as if you got the comedy stylings of “Superbad” being produced by the men behind…“12 Years A Slave”.

10. “Evil Dead” – I would HATE myself if I left this movie off my list, and I’m sorry if you think I should put something like “Blue Jasmine” or “Her” on here, but to be fair I didn’t get to see “Her” yet, not till Jan. 10th unfortunately, but damn it this movie was simply amazing to the max! Many fans of the original series dreaded this movies arrival, but with the thankful word of mouth from this years SXSW,  Fede Alvarez’s unique take on the classic Sam Raimi cult horror, was brilliant in every sense of the word. Beautifully shot, the visuals were photorealistic, with not a hint of CGI to saturate it, and the story, while still familiar managed to find it’s own footing.  And the fear of minus-ing out Ash, by replacing him with a red-head named Mia, fret not, Mia OWNS the movie, while the remainder of the cast aren’t really there to be bragged about, Jane Levy put her own staple of badassness and made the role her bitch! It’s an unapologetic horror film and managed to scare the shit out of me the first viewing. Of course, after multiple viewings the scares dissipated into cheers of the nut-ball fanboy that I am.

9. “Gravity” – Incredible visuals, yes, it’s eye-popping, sure, the best looking 3D film of its kind, ALRIGHT! But, did any of the people out there who saw this film even bother to pay close attention to the substance within the story?  For those who are unfamiliar with the term ‘Nirvana’,  taught by Buddha, nirvana is something that is achieved after a long process of committed application to the path of purification. Isn’t that what Bullock’s Dr. Stone basically went through during the 90 min runtime? This is a woman who’s truly affected by death on both ends of the spectrum, her daughters unexpected death, the death of her crew, and finally her own (theoretical) death. So, why not? Maybe I am reading too much into it, maybe it simply is just a simple survival story (IN SPACE), and she does survive, and she lives happily ever after, and the effects are FUCKING UNREAL, but c’mon people, read between the lines, there’s deeper meaning in countless films, you just have to open your mind, and accept it.

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8. The World’s End – This past summer I’ve seen this movie three times in the same weekend, it was my favorite movie of the summer. When you go for three viewings, three days in a row, that’s a true testament of a die hard fan. Such a shame it didn’t do too well at the box office (curse you “Butler”), but I think with a little word of mouth, the movie will get its rounds. It’s a madcap and heartfelt movie, Edgar Wright’s sci-fi comedy benefits from the typically hilarious Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, it’s a plethora of supporting players, and sharp as the devils tale of a script by Pegg & Wright.

7. “Before Midnight” – 18 years ago, Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Deply entered Sundance with an unconventional love story about two young people meeting on a train heading to Vienna. What was to supposedly to end with Jesse (Hawke) & Celine (Deply) parting ways, leaving us wondering if they’ll ever reconnect…leading to “Before Sunset” 9 years later, and finally this year with “Before Midnight”, which tells the story of marriage and what follows after it. Like the previous installments, “Before Midnight” ends with a hopeful cliffhanger that should leave fans of the series satisfied and hopeful about these characters, but perhaps hopeful for their own love lives. People can relate to Celine & Jesse in a lot of ways, thats why these movies are beloved by so many. Nobody wants to see love end, but we do want a realistic notion that it’s not too late.

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6. “Blue is the Warmest Color” (“La Vie d’Adèle Chapitres 1 et 2”) – This is a film that can speak to anyone who’s fallen into the clutches of love at first site, the question is, that person you first lay eyes on, will they be the one who will provide ultimate happiness. Adèle & Emma’s relationship is complex, featuring minimalistic signs that indicate these two shouldn’t be together, and yet they bravely look past the faults…until later in life. This can be said about many long term relationships. The film features a powerfully acted performance by newcomer Adèle Exarchopoulos and a daring runtime that doesn’t overweigh it’s length.

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5. “Spring Breakers” – Harmony Korine’s biggest hit and perhaps most controversial in the sense that people either liked it or didn’t, and if they didn’t, the ones who liked it become extremely defensive. One thing both sides of the spectrum can agree on is James Franco’s hypnotic performances as Alien. A defining cinematic character if there ever was one. The non-linear structure can be daunting and somewhat off putting for every day audience members, but for the cinephiles out there, there’s enough substance radiating off this neon bright movie, you can’t help yourself but be captivated by it’s ugly-beauty.

4. “Dallas Buyers Club” – Career defining performances by Matthew McConaughey and (welcoming return for) Jared Leto, but if there’s one thing that stands out in a Jean-Marc Vallée’s film, it’s his unique visual stylings behind the camera; his clever edits and natural light scenes. He continues to work with his respective production team, cinematographer Yves Bélanger and editing partner Martin Pensa. What’s significant about this bold team is that the American studio system never seem to get in the way, at least how it appears, creatively & visually. “Dallas Buyers Club” still evokes the “Café de Flore” method; telling a rich story, sometimes complex, and yet utterly simplistic in the winsome nature it is presented in.

3. “Inside Llewyn Davis” – The moral of the story, never threaten John Goodman, he may put a voodoo curse on you, ruin your career, leading all the riches & glory to a young man by the name of Bob Dylan. That’s what I took away from the Coen brother latest folk-musically fueled dramedy. A damn fine soundtrack by T-Bone Burnett, with assistance of Marcus Mumford, all to boot with the superbly melancholy performance of Oscar Isaac.

2. “The Wolf of Wall Street” – Martin Scorsese is 71 years old people! And he was able to directing such a high octane, fast paced, bat shit crazy crime-comedy about the wealthy 1% and how they live it up like Caligula on an MTV weekend party series. Marty as spoken, he may not be doing many more films after this, but I must say, this is one of those rare cinematic hits that will be known as an important generational hit, matching up to movies like “Network”“Wall Street”, and “The Social Network”. Leo, you need a win, I mean goddamn it that ‘cerebral palsy phase’ scene should be your golden statue moment.

1. “American Hustle” – David O. Russell is, to put it simply, is on a fucking winning streak the past few years. “American Hustle” is without question his masterpiece. The characters are developed to a tee and the entire production, the look, the feel, the sound, you cannot ask for anything better in a movie about a bunch of nuts lying to one another at every turn. And even though it’s just a supporting role, this may very well be my favorite Jennifer Lawrence performance ever! The ‘Live and Let Die’ scene pretty much sums it all up in a sweet little package, with a dainty bow to top it off. The cast is electric here, this is one of those movies that reminds us all why we love going to the movies and seeing the craft evolve into something truly special and memorable.

Honorable Mentions: “Nebraska”, “Captain Phillips”, “Blue Jasmine”, “The East”, “Stoker”, “Don Jon”, “Kill Your Darlings”, “You’re Next”, “All is Lost”, “Prisoners”, “This is the End”, “Pacific Rim”, “Man of Steel”, “Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus”, “VHS 2”, “The Conjuring”, “12 Years A Slave”, “The Place Beyond the Pines”, “42”, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”, “Philomena”, “Saving Mr. Banks”, “Out of the Furnace”, “Thor: The Dark World”, “Iron Man 3”, “Star Trek Into Darkness”, “The Family”, “The Spectacular Now”, “Fruitvale Station”, “Kick-Ass 2”, “Elysium”, “The Wolverine”, “Monsters University”, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”, “Much Ado About Nothing”, “The Company You Keep”, “Disconnect”, “Mud”, “Pain & Gain”, “Trance”, “Blackfish”, “Sound City”, “Sightseers”, “Stories We Tell” & “The Crash Reel”

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