Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Top 10 of the year... so far!

From my list on TasteOfCinema.

2012 was a magnificent year in movies, and so far 2013 looks like it will exceed in greatness. Venice and Toronto film festivals are upon us, and with the arrival of film festivals comes the arrival of Oscar contenders. The first 2/3 of 2013 however still deserves a fair share of recognition and awards, so without further ado, here are the best movies of 2013 (so far)! (Note: I have yet to see Blue Jasmine)

10. Mud

Matthew McConaughey embodies the title role in Jeff Nichols’ Mud. After Take Shelter, it’s truly wonderful to see Nichols’ experiment with more accessible independent drama, and it is also wonderful to see two great child actors (Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland) work with Matthew McConaughey, an actor in the process of redefining himself. It’s a great filmic timepiece.

9. Upstream Color

Shane Carruth is the great experimental film artist of our generation; at least I think he is based on his work in Upstream Color. Color is a beautiful film that explores infection, friendships, loneliness… It’s a film that deserves to be seen. I can’t really explain the film that well without losing my head, but I do ask of everyone to see it.

8. Pacific Rim

As a once-fan of LEGO Bionicles, it is awesome to see robots beating the snot out of monsters. The story is handled simply, and the action is wonderfully exciting. Director Guillermo Del Toro handles giant robots and monsters with unbelievable grace. The film is fluid, dynamic, and even the cheesy ‘last hurrah’ speech by Idris Elba is somewhat rousing. It’s a pleasant surprise also to see the cast being lead by no major stars, a testament that blockbusters can be made with a simple idea and good execution.

7. Side Effects

The first of two Soderbergh films on here, this one is a great medical drama that succeeds in dropping a twist a minute near the end. The cast here is top-notch. It’s wonderful to see the rising careers of Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum enter dramatic territory that is so sinister and un-mainstream, and it’s a nice welcome for Catherine Zeta-Jones as an actress. Jude Law, however, steals nearly every scene he’s in, as a man obsessed with solving the film’s multi-layered problem.

6. Fruitvale Station

The true story and final day of Oscar Grant, a BART passenger killed by the police on New Year’s Day 2009 is very good, one that contains many breakouts from lead Michael B. Jordan and director Ryan Coogler. Octavia Spencer of The Help also proves that she is not a one-hit wonder as Oscar’s loving and forgiving mother. Her work is something that truly deserves to be called ‘motherly’, in equal praise with such screen mothers like The Tree of Life’s Jessica Chastain.

5. Only God Forgives

Despite the film having a 37 on Metacritic, I thoroughly enjoyed Winding Refn’s latest. The metaphorical ideas in the film feel well-intentioned, and thoughtful. The violence is exciting and necessary to display the sins of a metaphorical God. The colors are extremely beautiful, and the music by Cliff Martinez is great. Gosling, despite playing second fiddle, is fine as silent and stoic Julien. The lead fiddle of the film is the scene-stealing Kristin Scott Thomas, who pulls off the act of both looking and sounding disgusting in the film.

4. To The Wonder

I love Terrence Malick’s masterpiece The Tree of Life, and To the Wonder is another film worthy to be listed in Malick’s resume. Olga Kurylenko gorgeously flutters throughout the film, and delivers a great performance has a fairy-like adult. Emmanuel Lubezki’s work is (like always) incredible, and the music debut by Hanan Townshend is certainly promising. Javier Bardem, despite being laughed at Venice, has some touching scenes of his own. This is a film that most definitely deserves to be called a Terrence Malick picture.

3. Behind The Candelabra

So it is a TV movie financed by HBO. Whatever. However, it still is one of the year’s best films. Michael Douglas is amazing in the role of Liberace, a man with a public life that is almost too flamboyant to be viewed as a human. Matt Damon is good and succeeds in matching Douglas’ tour-de-force. This truly is a wonderful swan song for director Soderbergh, who manages to juggle the film’s dramatic and comedic aspects masterfully. It’s unfortunate that Rob Lowe did not earn an Emmy nomination for his work as a tight-faced plastic surgeon that helps Damon’s Scott Thorson look more like Liberace.

2. Frances Ha

A hilarious and somewhat moving portrait on today’s youth, with writer/star Greta Gerwig succeeding in delivering a truly great breakthrough performance. Noah Baumbach succeeds in delivering on his directorial wish of inducing ‘nostalgia’, especially harkening echoes of the French New Wave. Shoutouts go to Baumbach for being able to produce this film so covertly, as it is such a surprise to see him make a film so charming when his other films have been so grim. It’s a true claim to his versatility as a director, and Frances Ha most definitely will be a day-one purchase once on home video (by Criterion too!)

1. Before Midnight

Never before have a series of real-time conversations been so interesting. Not only is this the year’s best film, but one of the best films of the decade and maybe one of the best films ever made. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy provide human characters that are both likable and flawed. Richard Linklater provides beautiful images of the Greek landscape and boldly allows his stars/co-writers take control of his story. It’s a beautiful film.

Now that we are 2/3 through the year, here’s hoping that this list will be totally different by December!

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