Monday, January 20, 2014

The Best Films of 2013

When I sat down to review 2013 in cinema, I was surprised at how closely my tastes aligned with critical consensus. To give you an idea, three of my top 5 are up for Oscars. That never happens. I never set out to be willfully contrarian; there's just too much good stuff out there that it's impossible to restrict yourself to sleepy prestige pictures.

In addition to being a great year for film in general  restricting this list to 30 was an exercise in self-restraint  2013 saw a kind of renaissance for Hollywood. After getting its ass kicked by the indies and "new waves" in places like South Korea, the major studios put out some of the best films of the year. Gravity, for example, represented a major risk for Warner Bros. Yes, it has a lot of breathtaking action, but it essentially revolves around a single character coping with grief while also struggling, and at times failing, to keep calm in the midst of disaster. And it was a very expensive film directed by someone, Alfonso CuarĂ³n, not known for cranking out blockbusters.

There are still a lot of films on this list that didn't have the benefit of multi-million-dollar ad campaigns, of course. Upstream Color, a film I was utterly blown away by, was produced for just $7,000. Its director, Shane Carruth, did almost everything else: screenplay, cinematography, music and even co-starred in his uncanny sci-fi opus. A Hijacking, meanwhile, serves as an interesting companion to Hollywood's Captain Phillips. While Paul Greengrass' (still excellent) film pulls back to a birds' eye view at times, the Danish thriller keeps you in the thick of the hostage crisis as seen by both the sailors and the shipping executive who's become negotiator.

I could go on about each of these films, but I'll save that for another time. Please do give these films a spin. Each links to their Netflix page, where a number are also available to stream.

1 comment:

  1. Great picks man. I LOVE that Upstream made the top 5. And The Counselor cracking the top 10 is perfection. I really dig that.

    Out of the Furnace, Spring Breakers, Pines, Holy Motors… hell, what’s not to like?