5) You’re Next (Adam Wingard) There’s always that one horror movie each year that sticks with me for years to come and in 2013 it was You’re Next. Nothing brought more fun to the theater than seeing this refreshing take on the home invasion thriller. The script’s brilliance is comparable to Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s The Cabin in the Woods. Every scene is as sharp as a knife, continually growing the smile on my face the further the adventure took me. Sharni Vinson embodies our heroine’s strength and confidence so enthusiastically that you cannot take your eyes off of her because she is so unpredictable and kick-ass. All of the action will have you begging for more. There wasn’t a more thrilling and exciting experience all year. You’re Next is a breath of fresh air in a cluttered world of remakes and sequels. It rewards repeat viewings with all of its clever antics, redefining what it means to be a “final girl” in this generation of horror.
4) 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen) Not for the faint of heart, Steve McQueen (Hunger; Shame) strikes again in his most visually punishing yet exquisitely crafted biopic of Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor). McQueen drains the very essence of your being as he tests audiences’ endurance physically and emotionally through the harsh depictions of one free man’s tale of enslavement. One of the most visceral, hard-hitting movies you could ever sit through, 12 Years a Slave is quite disturbing if you think about how not long ago this way of life took place. And sadly enough, slavery continues in other horrifying ways.
Equipping McQueen with the tools to direct such a masterpiece, credit must be given to screenwriter John Ridley (Undercover Brother; Red Tails). You may laugh at how silly his filmography is, but 12 Years a Slave is poetic and at times Shakespearean. The beautiful cinematography by Sean Bobbitt, who has worked on both of McQueen’s previous works, is accented wonderfully with a score by Hans Zimmer along with exceptional costume and production design. To add the icing on the cake, the riveting performances by Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o are simply magnificent as they convincingly convey the true horrors and sick pleasures of American slavery from an angle that hasn’t been captured on film as well as this.
3) Before Midnight (Richard Linklater) Flat out, this is the greatest franchise of all time. Richard Linklater’s Before series – a trilogy for now, fingers crossed for more – is the most honest, surprisingly fresh, and dramatically compelling stories of love and romance you will ever witness on screen. What Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke have created through the 18-years spent with Jesse and Celine is a a testament to the care and devotion they have for the characters and their fans. The writing and dialogue is so organic it’s unbelievable that it is fictitious. Before Midnight deserves your utmost attention to all of the intricacies this team of filmmakers have developed between these two beloved characters.
It is fascinating to catch up with Celine (Delpy) and Jesse (Hawke) at this point in their lives – it’s hard to get into details without ruining the goodwill of the franchise – because of how different they have become since we last saw them in Before Sunset. Before Midnight gives you plenty of time to reach an understanding of how they’ve grown just through actions and conversations alone, it doesn’t have to be explained to us. What keeps me coming back to these two is the vast difference from one decade of their lives to the next. Since each film takes place and is released nine years apart from one another, every story told becomes more personal, raising the stakes as the actors/characters become age with sadly so much too lose after everything we have seen them go through. This all too real depiction of love and the challenges it brings with it will stand the test of time for generations to come.
2) Short Term 12 (Destin Cretton) If I could tie Short Term 12 with the top ranked film on this list I would. But because I want to stick with a true top 10 list and the fact that both are completely different, as much as it pains me to do so I have to put Short Term 12 at number two. I had absolutely no idea what Short Term 12 was about going in, I glanced at the synopsis before the theater went dark. And it was for the better. Destin Cretton’s little indie project of the same name that won Best Short Feature in 2008 at Sundance has flourished nicely into a spectacular full-length feature. Regardless of whether you know the plot or not, Short Term 12 is a fantastic, emotionally driven ride that hits you with so many feels.
Thanks to the well constructed world of the foster-care facility, every moment spent with each major and minor character felt entirely relevant and important to the story. Brie Larson’s performance as Grace is dazzling and earnest. The conviction she brings to her Grace’s passion for helping others, dedication to her kids, and heartbreaking story is inspiring. And her supporting cast (John Gallagher, Kaitlyn Dever, and Keither Stanfield) are perfect in their roles that intersect with Larson. From beginning to end, Short Term 12 executes everything with accuracy and excellence.
1) Her (Spike Jonze) Above all else, Spike Jonze’s Her stands out as as the most rewarding experience I had at the movies in 2013. Phenomenally acted, perfectly written, and emotionally authentic, Her connected with me in a way I haven’t felt before. The time spent with the masterful Joaquin Phoenix and infectiously charming Scarlett Johansson was joyful, heartwarming, sad, hilarious, and overall amazing. Phoenix and Johansson work so naturally well to create such an electrifying chemistry that it’s hard to believe the two were never on set together while filming.
Through the charismatic and honest dialogue, the stylish simplicity of the world building, and spritely empathetic score by Arcade Fire, Jonze succeeds on every level with swift precision. And he never fails to inject his own sense of humor when appropriate. Nothing comes close to a more genuine realization of what it personally means to share a bond with someone or something than Her. Elegant andtouching, Her will forever withstand the test of time in my book as one of the most beautifully told stories I will ever remember. (Read the full review here)
What were your favorite movies of 2013? Share yours in the comments section below.
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