10. Dallas Buyers Club
Dallas Buyers Club was one of the more inspiring flicks of the year. When Ron Woodroof was told he had only 2 months to live and there wasn’t anything that could be done he went out of his way to prove everyone wrong. Dallas Buyers Club is the adaptation of his heroic tale. Dallas Buyers Club is going to be known for the high point of the McConnaisance and Matthew McConaughey’s performance is nothing but dynamite here as well as his co star Jared Leto as the fictional Rayon. The good thing is the performances don’t over shine the script & direction. Dallas Buyers Club doesn’t try to force its characters down your throat or try to tell you a story. It plays out like a storybook with Woodroof being nothing but ignorant and homophobic in the beginning. He progresses while the movie goes on after he learns about his disease. He works with Doctors who want to help, he notices the problems with the medical system and he sees people truly for who they are. He starts to love the people he hates and Matthew McConaghey was the perfect choice for Ron Woodroof as he immerses himself in the role and gives us this believable perfomance. We grow from hating this character to loving him. He brings tons of emotion and a unique sense of humor to the role as he grows. Dallas Buyers Club is an inspiring tale of one man’s fight for justice and to help others and his willingness to grow as a person and it shows we are all capable of growing & accomplishing things when we set our minds to it.
9. Only God Forgives
You either loved Only God Forgives or hated it. There really is no in between. I ended up adoring it. The film is very straight forward in its plot, the main character loses his brother and is set out by his mother to exact revenge. Only God Forgives plays out like a revenge flick made by David Lynch. Very little dialogue and full of symbolism. The entire film is a mystery. Only God Forgives doesn’t make much sense towards it’s conclusion but the greatness of the film is you piece together the film. It’s the audience’s film. Only God Forgives does bring out more questions than answers but that’s what makes this an astonishing film.
8. The World's End
7. The Way Way Back
6. Inside Llewyn Davis
It has been a while since the Coens released a film and instead of going for a big return, they opted for a more subtle return. Inside Llewyn Davis is a film full of symbolism and questions like previous Coen films. Inside Llewyn Davis explores the life of a musician who’s trying to make it in the industry but his biggest obstacle is himself. Kids dream of becoming rock gods, movie stars or astronauts but in reality not many achieve that type of success. Llewyn Davis is constantly struggling with his refusal to settle for less but he’s a lot more afraid of failure and that’s the flaw of the character. We get to see the darkness of the musician struggle here. Inside Llewyn Davis takes a dark look into the music industry where stars like Bob Dylan were rising and guys like Llewyn Davis were being forgotten. The beauty of this film is the interesting character of Llewyn Davis. ILD isn’t like other Coen Brothers films. It’s a fresh film and it’s the character’s journey that makes it an interesting one. It’s a compelling character study that touches on some of the harder moments of the music industry and had one of the saddest symbolic scenes I’ve seen. There’s a scene where Llewyn has a chance to for some happiness but he refuses himself to take that path and in return a cat gets hurt. The cat resembles Llweyn and little things like that made Inside Llweyn Davis a fun film for me. It’s one of the more unique & puzzling films to come out this year and I’m glad it left me with open ended thoughts once it was over.
5. Captain Phillips
Captain Phillips was one of the bigger surprises for me, I expected the film to bomb and just be outright terrible. It’s been a while since a great Tom Hanks film came out. It felt as if the time of the great Hanks was over. Paul Greengrass’s last film, Green Zone wasn’t anything to rave about either and that had another great actor, Matt Damon as its lead. The trailers didn’t do this film any justice either setting it up to be an action packed retelling of a true story. The odds were against it. Instead Tom Hanks gives one of his best performances in a long time. The film isn’t as extravagant as it’s advertisements made it out to be. It’s a steadily paced thriller with fleshed out characters from the pirates to the crew. I found the film to be a joy ride and Tom Hanks brings a whole new element into the movie. Captain Phillips is a smartly scripted film that brings Tom Hanks back to prominence. Greengrass was in top notch form here but he still hasn’t abandoned the shaky cam but it’s not as bad as it used to be. So many things were done right that I was entertained for the whole movie regardless of the film’s accuracies. Captain Phillips was one of the more entertaining thrillers of 2013.
4. 12 Years a Slave
12 Years a Slave was one of the more powerful films of the year and an important one at it. There were a few flaws that detracted my score for Twelve Years a Slave but it still had enough right to be high up here on the list. The teaming up of Brad Pitt and Steve McQueen on a production scale turned out to very good. I always felt McQueen’s films lacked a strong narrative but he reaches the correct balance here. We get both great visuals and a strong narrative. Chiewtel Ejiofor gave the best performance of his career right here. He’s always an underrated actor and he finally has his breakout film here. Chiewtel is the big driving force behind the film as he carries the silent scenes. His performance conveys enough agony & pain that we feel it. Michael Fassbender gives us a strong performance as one of the slave owners and the chemistry between the two is impeccable. Going back to the whole powerful statement, 12 Years isn’t solely powerful for showing us how terrible slavery is. That’s something we’ve learned countless times in history class and it truly is one of the cruelest points of history but the film makes you appreciate what you have and not to take anything you have for granted. It could all be gone in the next minute. It’s an emotional journey beginning to end. We as humans can be very cruel to each other that at times we don’t cherish the freedom we have.
Gravity was the long awaited follow up to Children of Men by Alfonso Cuaron and even though it wasn’t as epic as Children of Men, it’s still a through provoking film. Alfonso Cuaron opted for something more subtle with Gravity and that’s the beauty of Gravity. Gravity plays out like a simple thriller at first. Woman trying to survive in space when a mission goes wrong. You’re tensed up about what’s going to happen next that there are some beautiful moments that might be overlooked on a first view. Even though it’s a thriller, Gravity is peaceful a movie at the same time. Gracefully scored by Steven Price. It’s masterfully directed by Alfonso Cuaron, who’s one great quality is he makes you feel you’re in his films with the characters. We feel as if we’re on this journey with Sandra Bullock’s character Ryan. Gravity was probably the most relaxing film I saw all year. Gravity requires a day or two to take in. It’s not a fast paced film and it’s not very innovative in execution. The greatness of Gravity comes from the script. It’s a movie about coping with loss and being reborn. There’s one scene where Ryan cradles up like a fetus and that symbolizes her rebirth. A whole new phase in her life. She’s on this mission for the wrong reasons but this mission allows her to understand her life better. It’s what makes the climax of the film so stunning. Gravity may not be the most complex film to come out this year but it’s the one of the most meaningful films to come out this year.
2. The Place Beyond The Pines
The Place Beyond the Pines was one of the year’s early gems that got overlooked by many. It’s filled with fantastic performances and a superbly strong script. It’s also one of the most unconventional films of the year and that’s the beauty of it. Advertised as thriller, it’s the total antithesis of a thriller. It’s a film about consequences. There are no good guys or bad guys here. Just flawed individuals who all have made bad decisions. The film is split into 3 parts. Part one dealing with Ryan Gosling as a motorcycle bank robber, part two with Bradley Cooper as a cop working in a corrupt police force, and part three concluding with their children.The movie tends to slow down after story one as that’s the most action packed part of the film. It has a strong a performance from Ryan Gosling and his partner Ben Mendelsohn. Gosling gives both a frightening & fragile performance. Once act one is over, Bradley Cooper’s story is a good one but nothing too unique or different from most cop thrillers. Once act 3 hits everything in the film carries more significance. Derek Cinafrance makes it a priority to make sure the actions of the parents affect themselves & their children. Act three is all about that. The children aren’t as strong as their parents acting wise but still pull out good performances. No one in the film is weak. Once the film is over, it leaves an impact on you that gets you thinking. Sometimes the minor actions we make in our lives can leave the biggest impact later. Everything’s related in some way or manner. Ryan Gosling & Bradley Cooper’s characters have good intentions but their mistakes go all the way to their children. The children don’t know any better and make more mistakes that just lead to other situations. Consequences shouldn’t be seen as punishment but more of a lesson and that’s what Place Beyond the Pines is about it. Ben Mendelsohn’s character best sums up the movie with the quote, “If you ride like lightning, you’re gonna crash like thunder.” It’s a strikingly powerful film that everyone must see.
Spike Jonze is best known for his creative films, music videos and tv series Jackass. Her marks Spike Jonze’s first solo scripted film and it’s his most personal film. Spike Jonze’s last film, Where The Wild Things was about growing up. Her is about being an adult. Elements of Lost in Translation are rumored to be about Spike Jonze and Her could be the answer to that. The influence of Charlie Kaufman’s works are very evident here and Jonze proves he’s just as talented as Kaufman. Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly who may or may not be a representation of Spike Jonze. Regardless Joaquin Phoenix does a spectacular job in bringing the script & character to life. Her is full of strong dialogue about past regrets and being lost in a world. As an adult you’re expected to grow up and act a certain way but there’s no formula to that. It’s what society wants us to be. Theodore’s struggle over his grief is a representation of that. There is no scripted way of change, it’s an emotional movement. Samantha is the piece that helps Theodore grow and mature. Spike Jonze does his best to bring his wonderful script to life. He even enlists the aid of some of the best musicians working today (Arcade Fire & Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). Arcade Fire create some of their most subtle work for the score but even though it’s subtle it’s emotionally vigorating. The score brings a whole new element to the heavy dialogue driven scenes. An entirely new layer is added. The score is an entity of its own and Karen O tops it with a duet written by her that is performed between Samantha & Theodore which has a loving child like quality to it. Spike Jonze goes to his best efforts to make sure everything in this film is perfect. He doesn’t create an unrealistic future, this is a possible future where technology can be heading. There’s a new sense of fashion that’s even more retro than it is now and games are even more interactive & vulgar.This is a a whole new world but a possible world we can live in. Again I have to mention how strong the script is. Her hardly contains an action in the film but it’s the superb dialogue that’s not only remarkably funny but enlightening. It’s not only a communication between characters, it might not even be just about Spike Jonze dealing with a past relationship but it communicates with its audience. There’s something to be learned from the script and one of my favorite quotes from the movie was by Amy Adams’ character, “I’ve just come to realize that, we’re only here briefly. And while I’m here, I wanna allow myself joy.” That’s something we should live our lives by. Not live up to others expectations of who we should be. Be ourselves. Spike Jonze goes out of his way to create a masterful film. From the music to production/costume design to editing to having strong performances. Spike Jonze’s presence is there all throughout out the film. (He cameos as the unrecognizable voice of the Alien Child too) Her is a personal piece that comes from the heart. Her had more heart than any film this year and it turned out to be Spike Jonze’s best.
Honorable Mentions: Fruitvale Station, Prisoners, Rush, Trance, This is the End