The task of making a list of favorite movies is always a thankless one; it is a common enough question and fixture, but such list is generally dynamic as one re-watches and re-evaluates films. Some years in particular, it becomes very hard as there are just too many films that must be mentioned. 2013 is one of those years.
Thankfully, no matter how traditional it is, the number 10 is just an arbitrary, round quantity, so I feel perfectly comfortable picking up another number for my list of 2013. The purpose is, after all, to celebrate great films, not to suffer trying to reach a specific number for no particular good reason. I will keep, with a touch of irony, the title.
My Top 10 Films of 2013 (mostly, in no particular order):
Execution is only one of many facets of filmmaking, but rarely there is such a perfect marriage of story and execution. The story is unadorned, but the way it’s told makes it an incredibly immersive experience. The best film-watching, and film, of the year.
The story of this documentary, by itself, is a touching journey of discovery that strikes all the right emotional chords. It is, again, the execution and the subtext about storytelling that make this such a unique, rich and entertaining film.
As simple and complex as a process of self-discovery, this film rings absolutely true. The single best acting of the year adds to the sense of wonder. There is joy, there is pain, there is boredom, but such is life.
While saddled with the somewhat backhanded compliment of “important” films because of the subject matter (two accounts of the racial history of the US, neither of them flattering), both of these films land on this list because, above all else, they are wonderfully made, heartfelt and with some of the best acting performances of the year, particularly by the main characters.
Studio Ghibli, and Hayao Miyazaki in particular, created some of the most amazing worlds of fantasy seen on the big screen. These two films, curiously, take on the as ambitious task of recreating our own world. Visually, both are wonderful, but it is the thematic richness of them that set them apart from most others, animated or not.
On their very different ways, these three films are telling tales of the challenges of growing up. Acting across all of them is top-notch, an important factor to achieve the proper emotional connection with the characters, particularly with such a collection of well-rounded, interesting characters that share one main quality: their deep humanity.
The unusual, high concept nature of this romance doesn’t in any way reduce how touching the tale is (in fact, off-beat romances, if as well-built as this one is, often generate more interesting films). Very strong acting and great visual flair complement the story.
These two films share quite a lot: stories about con artists, great comedic performances despite being non-traditional comedies, two directors working with full control of the elements to make greatly entertaining and energetic movies. Beyond that, they both clearly have things to say about the state of our world, then and now.
The stories of both of these movies have been told, being as they are adaptations of great works of literature that were filmed before. However, and that’s the trick, they have not been told quite like this before. The new ways (curiously, in opposite ends of the lavishness’ spectrum) bring enough freshness without hiding what made those tales so rich and enthralling in the first place.
Road movies are a somewhat common type, but rarely they come being this touching and brutal at the same time; visually beautiful as well.
I wish this list wasn’t already this big. I would find space in it for the great character study of Blue Jasmine; for the white-knuckled tension of Captain Philips; for the visual grandeur of The Grandmaster; for the sweet sorrow and musicality of Inside Llewyn Davis; for the simple and complex humanity of Nebraska; for the dreamy melancholy of The Great Beauty.
I could go on. There are at least ten other films that in any other year probably would be in such a list. 2013 was an embarrassment of riches, which is a good problem to have, and it extends itself to acting as well. This was the year when Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue Is the Warmest Color), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street) and Robert Redford (All Is Lost), just to name a few and keep one list short, gave amazing (and amazingly different) performances that will stick with me for a long time.
So as the film-watching 2013 draws to an end, one thing is certain: if 2014 is half as good, it’ll already be great. But may it be twice as good.
Agree? Disagree? I would love to hear your thoughts below!
(Edited on January 30th to include “The Great Beauty” in the text.)