The 10 Best Movies Of The Year
With another great year for film in the books, that means it's time to slap a list together in anticipation of the grotesque pageantry of the award ceremonies and the dead zone of theatrical releases that is January, allowing us to catch up on what we've missed. Here's a list of the best movies that came out 2013, roughly in descending order of quality and with the director(s) mentioned in the brackets. Share your favorites in the comments.
Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach)
The latest collaboration from Baumbach and his muse Greta Gerwig is about as restless as movies come these days. Frances Ha channels the nervous energy of being someone who has not quite gotten to the self-anointed point of becoming a Capital-A Adult ("I'm so embarrassed—I'm not a real person yet.") into a brutally honest and downbeat work that is also hilarious and lighthearted. Frances Ha breezes by with deft yet clumsy footwork like that of Greta Gerwig prancing through NYC's Chinatown to David Bowie; it is an absolute joy to watch.
Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Véréna Paravel)
Forget Gravity, this is the most immersive and visceral cinematic experience of 2013. Using dozens of strategically located GoPro cameras, the filmmakers at Harvard University's Sensory Ethnography Lab depict the dangerous occupation of commercial fishing as it is: nauseating, vicious, and violent. In a movie year that saw filmmakers push the boundaries of the documentary genre, Leviathan led the way.
No (Pablo Larraín) / Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski)
How strange it is, in a transitional era for cinema from film to digital, that two of the best films of the year were shot on video! No, the Oscar-nominated Chilean film about the last days of Pinochet, used the format to seamlessly blend personal lives with history. Computer Chess, the latest from mumblecore auteur Andrew Bujalski, worked within the limitations of the format to create a bizarre and psychedelic world that exists outside of history.
The Act Of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn & Annonymous)
The most disturbing film of the year became the sleeper hit of the year, bringing audiences face-to-face with two real-life monsters: a mass murderer and our collective fascination with violence.
A Touch Of Sin (Jia Zhangke)
Since his earlier days of working outside of the auspices of the state-controlled movie industry in China, Jia Zhangke has been one of the most important voices in contemporary cinema. Long giving the nearly one-billion voices of the Chinese an outlet for their discontent, in A Touch Of Sin they are mad as hell.
Pain & Gain (Michael Bay)
In The Year of American Capitalistic Decadence, only one of those films stood out for this viewer. Spring Breakers was OK, The Bling Ring was a little flat, and The Wolf Of Wall Street had its problems. But none was as concise and daring as Michael Bay's most realized and purest work. Oh, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson gives the performance of the year.
Wadjda (Haifaa al-Mansour)
The first film directed by a Saudi woman and shot entirely within Saudi Arabia, Wadjda is remarkable for reasons aside from these milestones. A simple story of an 11-year old girl in who wants to buy a bicycle, it is comprised solely of the smallest of gestures. The power of the film lies in its context, where in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia an act as defiant as wearing Chuck Taylors under a hijab is still punk as fuck.
At Berkeley (Frederick Wiseman)
In a great year for documentaries by young up-and-coming filmmakers, Frederick Wiseman reasserted himself as one of the most important in the craft. Taking a break from depicting bodies in motion, he uses almost four hours of voyeuristic footage from UC Berkeley to illustrate the real-life heartbreaking story of the struggle between the dream of public education and the realities of bureaucracy.
Bastards (Claire Denis)
Another stunning work that solidifies Claire Denis as one of the best filmmakers alive. Less a narrative and more a gloomy cloud of moral corruption and the decay of the family unit, Bastards is the Bummer of the Year. But where its subject seems abjectly unpalatable, Denis creates an atmosphere so enveloping and alluring it is impossible to not get sucked in by her craft.
Drug War (Johnnie To), You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet (Alain Resnais), The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki), 12 Years A Slave (Steve McQueen), The Past (Asghar Farhadi), The Selfish Giant (Clio Barnard), Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel & Ethan Coen), Museum Hours (Jem Cohen), Nebraska (Alexander Payne), The Counselor (Ridley Scott)