Sunday, March 2, 2014

Oscars Preview Finale - Our 2013 Top Tens!

Chels and I have written ad nauseam on this year’s films, so we decided that for our top tens, we could keep things to Twitter length.  That’s right, here are our respective top ten films, with our explanations all under 144 characters.  As a bonus, we also included our favorite films we viewed in 2013, but that were produced in a prior year.  NOW, we are ready for the Oscars.  We hope you are, too.

Dave’s Top Ten of 2013

10. All is Lost – J.C. Chandor
A raw display of man vs. nature that taps into our most basic survival instincts. Thematically simple, but visceral and truly affecting.

9. Stories We Tell – Sarah Polley
A candid family portrait that is honest, funny, insightful, and ingenious. Sarah Polley establishes herself as a unique cinematic voice.

8. Nebraska – Alexander Payne
Payne's opus and lament of small-town American family life; a bittersweet, quirky, and poignant depiction of senility, purpose, and aging.

7. 12 Years a Slave – Steve McQueen
An unflinching and intensely involving glimpse into the chief injustice of American history; directed with resolve and acted with sincerity.

6. The Wolf of Wall Street – Martin Scorsese
Frenzied and manic, this cautionary epic of sensory excess succeeds through both titillation and nauseation. Daring work from all involved.

5. Frances Ha – Noah Baumbach
A perceptive and convicting study of adult adolescence; captures American delusions of grandeur and exceptionalism as felt by my generation.

4. Upstream Color – Shane Carruth
Sci-Fi for grown-ups, this engaging mystery plumbs the human psyche, speaking through montage as purely cinematic as anything you could see.

3. Before Midnight – Richard Linklater
Relationships are hard work, and this beautiful film shows how this inevitable, frustrating work is vital to bring true humility and growth.

2. Her – Spike Jonze
Prophetic and deeply emotional, Her is both a lament of modern disconnect and an instructive recognition of our need for human connection.

1. Inside Lleywn Davis – Joel and Ethan Coen
Addresses life's biggest questions in periphery, where they dwell most often. Smartly explores grief's paralysis with compassion and care.

Best Non-2013 Film Consumed in 2013: The Up Series, by Michael Apted
I have never seen films as thoughtful, living, or absorbing as Michael Apted's masterful cinematic experiment with his Up films – a series of documentaries that revisits in reflective interviews a group of fourteen individuals every seven years from the age of 7 to what is now 56.  I truly felt that I knew these people more intimately that I know many of my friends in reality – documentary has a way of doing this by asking questions we rarely have opportunities or courage to ask in reality.  The films examine purpose, faith, class, gender, family, professional pursuits, and the very fragmented nature of documentary filmmaking itself with humility, patience, and an unmistakable passion for finding what it means to be human.  They are living documents also, as Apted’s focus seems to change over time.  With age, he becomes less concerned with questions of class politics and more concerned with questions of meaning and personal worth.  In this way, the films not only examine human life explicitly, but implicitly through their changing structure and focus.  As a whole, they are a masterpiece of the finest order and their place in film history should be accorded high status.

Chelsea's Top Ten of 2013

10.  The Act of Killing – Joshua Oppenheimer
A look at Indonesia's awful past and corrupt present.  Maybe the most important film of 2013 - unflinching and chilling. Watch the credits.

9.  Before Midnight – Richard Linklater
Long term relationships are work and this chapter turns the romanticism of the first two films on its head. Honest and raw fights included.

8.  Frances Ha – Noah Baumbach
Painfully and poignantly follows a lost millenial who struggles in career, romance, and friendship.  Gerwig is not to be missed.

7.  The Wolf of Wall Street – Martin Scorsese
Scorsese continues to push buttons in this overwhelming and exhausting experience that indicts excess. DiCaprio gives his career best.

6.  Inside Llewyn Davis – Joel and Ethan Coen
Masterfully scripted and shot, this film allows us to sit in melancholy while also listening to the melodies abounding. Plus, OUTER SPACE!

5.  Upstream Color – Shane Carruth
The pieces all fit together in Shane Carruth's visionary puzzle.  Worms, pigs, and soundscapes help examine the essence of identity.

4.  12 Years a Slave – Steve McQueen
McQueen examines this remarkable man who experiences the whole of our nation's atrocious past; allows us to star unblinking at the horror.

3.  Nebraska – Alexander Payne
Payne appears to have grown up in my family once again as he poignantly and lovingly deals with aging, dignity, and relationships.

2.  Short Term 12 – Destin Daniel Cretton
A young caregiver at a group home also deals with her own distressing past. What could have been trite is honest and penetrates the heart.

1.  Her – Spike Jonze
Jonze pulls together each element: performances, music and cinematography to elevate this fatidic script to a deeply felt and resonant film.

Best Non-2013 Film I saw in 2013: Holy Motors by Leo Carax
To be fair, I didn’t watch a ton of classic film this year.  I did, however, probably ponder Holy Motors and the themes it presents on a near-daily basis.  It’s fabulous.  Read our previous blog.  And see the movie.  Seriously.  I know that I’m inflating your expectations, but if I don’t, you probably won't watch it.  It’s on Netflix.

*Intriguing 2013 Movies We Didn’t Have a Chance to See (Ordered Alphabetically):
20 Feet from Stardom, A Band Called Death, A Hijacking, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Anchorman 2, At Berkeley, Berberian Sound Studio, Beyond the Hills, Blue Caprice, Broken Circle Breakdown, Dirty Wars, Don Jon, Europa Report, First Cousin Once Removed, Frozen, Go For Sisters, God Loves Uganda, In a World…, In the House, It’s a Disaster, Labor Day, Like Someone In Love, Lone Survivor, Museum Hours, No, Only God Forgives, Out of the Furnace, Pain and Gain, Pieta, Saving Mr. Banks, Something in the Air, Stoker, Sun Don’t Shine, The Angel’s Share, The Counselor, The Great Beauty, The Heat, The Past, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Selfish Giant, The Wind Rises, Wadjda, War Witch, You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet