I'm of the opinion 2013 was a great year for movies overall, but at the same time it wasn't necessarily a great year with a ton of great movies, thus making my top ten of 2013 a little harder than I'd expected to put together. Before finalizing the list I attempted to watch and rewatch as many movies as I could fit in while at the same time hoping to create some distance from those experiences, expecting a certain grouping of films to eventually bubble to the surface as the most memorable and emotional affecting in what really ended up being a rather dark and melancholy year at the cinema.
For me, a year end top ten is about the films I want to watch again. Films that, as soon as they end, you could watch them all over again immediately, not wanting whatever connection to what you just saw to go away. This obviously creates something of a contradiction.
While I consider the following ten films to be the "best" the year had to offer for reasons such as personal preference and emotional attachment, they are probably best described as my favorite films. If we're talking absolute best, from what I saw in 2013, 12 Years a Slave (my review) is probably the best combination of pure cinema and emotional storytelling the year had to offer, but at the same time it's an unbearable watch... Such films I hold a special place in my heart for their powerful filmmaking, but my want to watch a film again has become a major factor in its placement on any of my year-end lists.
In rewatching several films, some fell just short of making my top ten -- Rush, Fruitvale Station (I can't wait for more from Ryan Coogler), The Past and The Wolf of Wall Street -- while others revealed themselves to be a little less than what I remembered them being.
Only a couple days before finalizing this list I rewatched Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha and once again recognized and enjoyed all the French New Wave inspirations, but Greta Gerwig's pixie-like character irked me more than she did upon first viewing. The first time I saw it, her struggle was one I could, somewhat, feel pity for, this time I just wanted her to get her shit together.
Additionally, while absent from my top ten, I don't want to discount the enjoyment I found in Dallas Buyers Club (Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto were outstanding), August: Osage County (acidic and often wonderful), Ernest & Celestine (the animated film I wish I'd seen earlier), Behind the Candelabra (the TV movie that should have been in theaters), The Way, Way Back (small, but great), This is the End (Michael Cera stole the show), Blue is the Warmest Color (Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux yelling and loving), Mud (don't forget Tye Sheridan), 2 Guns (the movie few saw, but more should) and there are more, but we only have so much time.
The most noticeable disappointment in 2013 was the lack of quality blockbusters. It was a year where Fast & Furious 6 comes away as the most memorable blockbuster for me and World War Z walks away as the best. Yet, I tried watching Fast 6 again and couldn't finish it and World War Z is pretty much only half a movie... maybe the sequel will make it whole.
All of this is to say on the following pages is my list of the top ten movies of 2013. Many changed positions as I wrote it up, some moved around even minutes before I officially posted the list, which is to say it's flexible, though I'm quite confident my top three will always be within my top three for 2013 as I love each of them so very much and for entirely different reasons.
Short Term 12
Short Term 12 was a bit of a surprise for me. You hear how great a film is and a lot of the time that can end up taking away from the magic. It often means you'll have to watch it once within the confines of all you've heard and know only to have to watch it again several years down the line, divorced from any outside opinion.
There is such authenticity to the storytelling in Destin Cretton's film I found it instantly appealing. Performances from Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek and Keith Stanfield all stood out. Occasionally the film would dip its toes into the cliche, but as I said in my review, Cretton knows "how to deal with the more heightened dramatic beats in ways that don't cause the film to lose that well-earned realism and he found just the right cast to pull it all together."
Certainly the issues the characters in Short Term 12 are elevated above those most of us face on a daily basis, but the actors' ability to create sympathetic characters and Cretton's ability to portray them as real people rather than stereotypes places their concerns on our shoulders. By the time the final scene fades into a sun-kissed run across the home's front lawn, you can't help but feel you've seen something special... Because you have.
Read my full review here.