Awards SeasonFilmOpinion

Top 10 Films 2013: Editor's Picks

Michelle Douvris ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor

The year 2013 proved to be a great year for film, with action-packed blockbusters, quirky indies, and everything in between. Emertainment Monthly Film Section Editor takes a look back at the year in cinema and offers her Top 10 picks. (It wasn’t easy.)

10. Prisoners

Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman in Prisoners. Photo Credit: Wilson Webb.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman in Prisoners. Photo Credit: Wilson Webb.

Prisoners is a twisty reinvention of the mystery genre, choosing to challenge its audience instead of resorting to cheap thrills and cliché plot reveals. Equal parts psychological thriller and gritty drama, the film is a refreshing take on the familiar kidnapping caper. Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal lead a stellar cast, and the ambitious script and hauntingly beautiful cinematography make Prisoners a unique cinematic experience that fully engages viewers.

9. The Place Beyond the Pines

Ryan Gosling in The Place Beyond the Pines. © 2012 Focus Features.
Ryan Gosling in The Place Beyond the Pines. © 2012 Focus Features.

Derek Cianfrance’s crime drama may not be garnering much awards attention because of its April release, but its poignant storyline, powerful performances, and unconventional plot structure rank it among the most notable films of the year. Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper show that they are clearly capable of handling darker, more layered roles and Cianfrance’s style allows for every moment to feel realistic and emotionally organic. It may lose its steam a little bit as it ventures into its third act, but The Place Beyond the Pines is a beautifully made film that explores compelling themes.

8. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Banks and Josh Hutcherson in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Photo Credit: Murray Close.
Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Banks and Josh Hutcherson in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Photo Credit: Murray Close.

While many blockbuster sequels tend to take advantage of their built-in audience and resort to creative laziness, the second installment of the Hunger Games franchise did just the opposite. Lionsgate hired Francis Lawrence to take the reins after director Gary Ross’ departure and allotted a considerably heftier budget, resulting in an emotionally powerful, visually striking spectacle that improves upon its predecessor in every which way. Featuring a stellar cast led by the fearless Jennifer Lawrence, brilliantly directed action sequences, and a darker and more mature cinematic style, Catching Fire raises the stakes for not only Katniss, but the art of big-budget filmmaking as well.

7. Inside Llewyn Davis

Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis. Photo Credit: Alison Rosa ©2012 Long Strange Trip LLC.
Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis. Photo Credit: Alison Rosa ©2012 Long Strange Trip LLC.

The Coen Brothers’ latest cinematic venture shines a spotlight on Llewyn Davis, a folk singer trying to make it big in Greenwich Village in 1961. Oscar Isaac’s star-turning performance as the broody crooner is a delight to watch, and the music throughout the film is soulfully enchanting. John Goodman is a hoot in a small supporting role and Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver team up with Isaac for one of the most memorable scenes of 2013, a studio session recording of the super-catchy “Please Mr. Kennedy.” While it is certainly sprinkled with lighter moments, Inside Llewyn Davis is a brutally honest tale depicting the hardships of going against convention to maintain one’s intrinsic identity.

6. Dallas Buyers Club

Matthew McConaughey stars as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club. Photo Credit: Anne Marie Fox / Focus Features.
Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club. Photo Credit: Anne Marie Fox / Focus Features.

Matthew McConaughey’s performance as rough-around-the-edges, HIV-positive Ron Woodroof may be the turning point of the actor’s career, signifying an end to cheesy romantic comedies with a wave of complex and fascinating new roles that demand attention. But while McConaughey soars in this gripping drama about the early days of the AIDS epidemic, Jared Leto steals the show. Leto disappears completely into the character of Rayon, a transgender woman dying from the disease while struggling to understand her identity and place in the world. The film would still be great with any actor playing Rayon, but Leto’s performance takes it to new heights.

5. Gravity

Sandra Bullock in Gravity. Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.
Sandra Bullock in Gravity. Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Many have criticized Alfonso Cuarón’s space thriller for having a rudimentary storyline, but a more complex plot would take away from Gravity’s intense beauty. The film could have been a high-octane sci-fi action flick, but Cuarón decided to go in an entirely different direction. Sandra Bullock gives her most powerful performance to date in this haunting, visually stunning spectacle that features some of the most impressive technical effects to ever be seen on screen.

4. Her

Joaquin Phoenix in Her. Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.
Joaquin Phoenix in Her. Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Spike Jonze’s unconventional love story starring Joaquin Phoenix is a brilliant commentary on the intensifying relationship between man and technology. When Theodore Twombly starts to fall in love with his artificially intelligent operating system, we are every bit as confused as he is. But Jonze’s artful direction and Phoenix’s impressively complex performance mesh together beautifully to give us a story much bigger than Theodore’s, full of relatable insight on navigating relationships in an increasingly interconnected world.

3. The Wolf of Wall Street

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street. Photo Credit: Mary Cybulski.
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street. Photo Credit: Mary Cybulski.

Leonardo DiCaprio shone bright in Baz Luhrmann’s over-stimulated adaptation of The Great Gatsby earlier this year, but his role as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street showcases his talent on a new level. Martin Scorsese has crafted a twisted tale of immoral debauchery that is not only wildly entertaining, but culturally significant. You probably won’t be rooting for Jordan Belfort to continue living in his glorified world of excess and corruption, but you will be rooting for Leo to finally get his shot at one of those elusive Oscar statues.

2. 12 Years a Slave

Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o and Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years A Slave.
Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o and Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years A Slave.

Steve McQueen’s cinematic exploration of a man whose freedom was ripped out from under him is not an easy film to watch by any means, but it is all the more important. Many films have tried to capture the harrowing history of slavery, but 12 Years a Slave tells Solomon Northup’s story so realistically and so unflinchingly that you feel like injustice is emanating from the screen and filling the air around you.

1. American Hustle

Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence  in American Hustle. Photo Credit: Francois Duhamel.
Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle. Photo Credit: Francois Duhamel.

 David O. Russell’s latest hit, a loose comedic retelling of the 1970s sting operation known as “Abscam”, is a passport into a world of con artists, political corruption, romance, and wild 70’s fashion. But while the film may seem like a piece of indulgent escapism on the surface, look deeper and you will find that Russell delivers some valuable insight about human nature and the art of self-preservation. Driven by a dynamic energy and an assortment of complex, unpredictable characters brought to life by a fully committed cast, American Hustle is a glistening example of why the world should not be viewed in black and white.

Honorable Mentions:

Nebraska

Blue is the Warmest Color

Captain Phillips

Fruitvale Station

Mud

Blackfish

Rush

Frances Ha

Side Effects

Frozen

Still to See:

Short Term 12

Blue Jasmine

August: Osage County

Saving Mr. Banks

All is Lost

Stories We Tell

Upstream Color

Philomena

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