by IFC member, Ben Dulavitch
Listen – it’s 2014 and has been for a while. I’m late. I realize that. Oh my gosh. Anyway, I just thought I’d offer my very humble, very experienced, very well-researched, and very passionate opinion about the year of 2013 in film, which proved to be a decent one. I apologize because I say a lot of things and don’t back them up too thoroughly. But that’s why it’s called a list. Okay? So, here’s what I have to say:
10. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)
The Wolf of Wall Street is an excess of excess. There is too much of everything – money, sex, drugs, alcohol, midgets – and it works perfectly this way. In this film, Leo has departed (get it?) from his usual “I’m so beautiful and serious” roles to play an obnoxious and, oddly, very human Jordan Belfort. This is a story about what actually happens when one can do whatever he pleases.
9. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
Did this deserve Best Picture? Sure.Of all films this past year, 12 Years a Slave seems to have the best combination of everything. Ejiofor, Fassbender, Nyong’o, and Paulson all give great performances. John Ridley’s script is fantastic. Hans Zimmer’s decision to finally not make his score super loud and epic pays off. And with Hunger and Shame already behind him, Steve McQueen reestablishes his credibility.
8. The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino)
This Italian movie is definitely muy bien. Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. As the title suggests, it is a gorgeous film. Like my fellow IFC member Kinsley Koons, this movie is both visually stunning and intelligent. It’s about searching for fulfillment, understanding what is important, and appreciating life as a whole rather than the dissatisfying sum of its parts.
7. Short Term 12 (Destin Daniel Cretton)
It is very difficult not to like Short Term 12. If you don’t like it, then don’t tell me because I’m going to assume that you have absolutely no sympathy for anyone who struggles with anything. Oh my gosh. Totally kidding. But really. The movie’s tone effectively mirrors the many emotions of its characters. Also, Brie Larson offers one of the most admirable performances of the year.
6. Her (Spike Jonze)
Many people this year loved Her including me. It benefits mostly from Spike Jonze’s screenplay, which is the second best of the year. Joaquin Phoenix’s underappreciated performance and Arcade Fire’s unique score also contribute to Her’s ingenuity and sincerity. The film succeeds by asking some very challenging questions – What is human? Why do people change? – and refusing to answer them.
*IFC will be screening Her on Tuesday, April 29. Be there!
5. Nebraska (Alexander Payne)
There is a distinctive and totally hilarious mentality associated with living in a tiny, rural town. No one knows this better than I. (Have you heard of Clar– I mean, Pittsburgh?) Nebraska embodies this type of mentality perfectly. Bob Nelson’s screenplay is hysterical and the casting is just so wonderfully accurate. Bruce Dern’s performance is my favorite male performance of the year.
4. Blue Is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche)
Listen – it is what it is. It’s long, and it’s French, and it’s rough. But so is life. And everything about Blue Is the Warmest Color seems very real, which is what makes it so great. Adèle Exarchopoulos’s performance (that is, her acting performance) is the year’s very best – she plays an insecure 15-year-old as gracefully and convincingly as she does a 21-year-old. Also, you should totally watch this one with your parents.
3. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine)
With Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens in starring roles and music by Skrillex, Spring Breakers has got everything it needs to be the worst movie in the universe. Here’s the thing, though – it’s actually really not the worst movie in the universe. You could write a decent paper about this movie. It leaves you with questions, but its surrealist nature enhances a very unexpected and dark social commentary.
2. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)
Everyone likes it, so it must be bad, right? I apologize for Gravity’s not being scientifically accurate in all regards, but if this is your basis for calling it a poor film, then I am so over you. Like. I’m done. With you. What I like the most about Gravity is that it works well as a piece of literature: it presents a theme – live a meaningful life – and then all aspects of the film contribute to its execution. Cool, huh?
1. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)
The best film of 2013 is Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, the third in his Before trilogy. Love is the most prominent theme in all of storytelling. Some stories romanticize it, while others depict it in a more skeptical and supposedly realistic light. Linklater’s script is the year’s best and wavers between these two attitudes. Viewers can decide for themselves how to interpret Jesse and Celine’s relationship.
Runners-Up: Blue Jasmine, Inside Llewyn Davis, Dallas Buyers Club, The Great Gatsby, Frances Ha