Finally… Austin’s TOP 10 FILMS OF 2013!!!

Finally!  Here it is.  My top 10 of 2013!

I still didn’t get to see everything I wanted to.  There were about 2 dozen films I would have liked to see first before I compiled my list, but if I waited until I did that, we might not have gotten my list until the summer.  Since it’s already February, I decided to see at least see a couple of the big Oscar-nominated flicks, and then just come up with a list.  This won’t be the most accurate list, but it’s the best I’ve got.

Before we get started, I feel obligated to tell you which movies I didn’t see that could have possibly made it on my Top 10: MAMA, THE KINGS OF SUMMER, THE WAY WAY BACK,YOU’RE NEXT, DON JON, MANDELA, JOHN DIES AT THE END, THE PAST, SOUND CITY, THE COMPANY YOU KEEP, DISCONNECT, UPSTREAM COLOR, TO THE WONDER, AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS, IN A WORLD, LONE SURVIVOR, LABOR DAY, THE SPECTACULAR NOW, PASSION, CBGB, MR. NOBODY, THE INVISIBLE WOMAN, SOME VELVET MORNING, and THANK YOU FOR SHARING.  I didn’t see any of those, so you won’t find them on my list.

There were a lot of really good movies this year.  I had many great experiences at the theater.  But, I can only pick 10.  However, I do have a runner-up list.  Movies that didn’t make my Top 10, but still deserve recognition.  Here they are:

Runner-Ups (in alphabetical order):

12 YEARS A SLAVE – This nightmare of a film is a one of a kind experience.  Not for the faint of heart, but ultimately rewarding.

56 UP – This continuing Documentary series just keeps getting better.  At nearly 2 and a half hours, this really flew by.  I found this to be the most compelling of the series as we find out what has happened to a group of people since grade school (the series started when they were 7 and catches up with them every 7 years).  Funny, sad, and always riveting.

FROZEN – This animated Disney cartoon almost reaches the level of greatness of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, LITTLE MERMAID and THE LION KING.  I didn’t expect to enjoy this one as much as I did.  Loved the music!

OBLIVION – This was the best summer blockbuster of the year….. and it didn’t even come out in the summer!  From the director of TRON: LEGACY, this had a great post-apocalyptic story, well crafted action set-pieces and outstanding visual effects…. that weren’t even nominated!  This film deserves to have a cult following.

PACIFIC RIM – This was the best summer blockbuster to actually be released in the summer.  I found this to be a 13-year-old’s dream come true.  Big robots fighting giant monsters!  And it’s so much more than that.  This is light years better and in an entirely different league than the TRANSFORMERS movies.  In fact, I don’t even want to compare this to those movies.  This is the definition of a “popcorn movie”.

PHILOMENA – This was one of the films I saw late in the game.  It begins slow, but as the story begins to unfold it will slowly grab a hold of you and won’t let go.  Judi Dench is terrific and the story really got to me.  I cried in this one.  It’s funny, sad, tragic, but ultimately uplifting.  Glad it got a best picture nomination.

PRISONERS – Another tough movie to watch, but extremely well done.  Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano deliver Oscar-caliber performances.  This kidnapping crime drama is just dripping with tension throughout.

SAVING MR. BANKS – I can’t think of a more ideal Academy Award film than this.  It’s a terrific, feel-good story about the making of a Hollywood classic.  And it got completely shunned.  The most shocking of all is that Emma Thompson, who delivers one of the best performances of the year, got snubbed.  A true crime!  This one deserves all the recognition it never got.  For me, this was a film geek’s dream come true.

SHORT TERM 12 – This movie slipped under the radar, and that’s too bad.   It’s a moving drama about a young woman working at a housing unit for troubled teens.  Brie Larson’s performance in this is a revelation.  I think if more people saw this, we would probably be seeing some Oscar nominations from this one.

SIDE EFFECTS – Steven Soderbergh hit a home run with this fun little psychological thriller that Alfred Hitchcock would have been proud of.  Add in an Oscar worthy performance from Rooney Mara, and you’ve got a real winner here.

Unfortunately, those did not make my Top 10, but are all great movies and you should totally seek them out.

Now, without further ado….. here are MY TOP 10 FILMS OF 2013:

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10. FRUITVALE STATION –  I didn’t know the actual true story that this film was based on when I saw this, and I’m glad.  It probably added a lot to the tension.  But even if you know what happens, there is no denying that this story of a young black man struggling to get his life together hits all the marks.  Michael B. Jordan delivers an effective understated performance in what I think is one of the most powerful films of the year.  This one got to me even more than 12 YEARS A SLAVE.

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9. OUT OF THE FURNACE – What a fantastic, tension-filled drama (with thriller elements)!  Christian Bale is in top form, but the supporting cast steals the show.  Casey Affleck gives a career best performance and Woody Harrelson is the movie evil bad guy of all time.  This dude is BAAAAD!  He’s super fun to watch here.  Director of CRAZY HEART, Scott Cooper. has crafted a wonderfully dark movie filled with some great character moments, and shocking scenes of violence.

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8. AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY – I really didn’t want to see this one that much, but man, am I glad I caught it.  For me, this is what a female melodrama written and directed by David Mamet would be like.  The characters are always spouting off mean-spirited, profanity-laced dialogue at one another (think GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS).  And the story is even filled with a couple of surprises that had me gasp out loud.  Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts both deserve to win an Oscar this year.  They are just outstanding!  And so is the rest of the extremely talented supporting cast.

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7. ONLY GOD FORGIVES – Yup, I know I’m in the minority on this one.  About one out of every 500 people will like this movie.  And I was one of them.  From the director of DRIVE (it’s nothing like it at all) and starring Ryan Gosling comes this extremely bizarre, poetic tale of violence.  Every shot of this could be framed and I loved the whole vibe of the film.  It’s not for everyone.  Think David Lynch and David Cronenberg, but even less accessible.  Most people hated this movie, but for some reason it got to me.  Also, Kristen Scott Thomas is just a hoot as the worst mom in history.  I’ve watched this a few times already, and it gets better every time.  If you need things spelt out for you, or if you want to see a movie that has a traditional narrative, then this one isn’t for you.  But those who are open-minded and love bizarrely violent films, then you might want to give it a chance, but I’m not promising anything.  But it did win ME over.

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6. ABOUT TIME – This one is perhaps the biggest surprise of the year.  It’s a British time-travel romantic comedy/drama.  It’s smart, funny and very romantic.  A perfect movie to watch on Valentine’s Day.  I was surprised by how vast and kind of epic it turned out to be.  Easily one of the best screenplays of the year.

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5. THE WORLD’S END – The latest from Edgar Wright is a winner as he teams up once again with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.  I love how this movie establishes the characters during the first hour, only to go completely bugnuts insane in the last half with crazy battles with robots.  Not surprisingly, this was absolutely hilarious.  But surprisingly, it also had lots of heart.  Pegg delivers what could be his best performance to date too.  Filled with countless film geek references, cheeky humor, and well-choreographed action scenes, this was probably the most fun I had at a theater this year.

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4. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET – Leave it to master filmmaker Martin Scorsese to make a movie about a guy on Wall Street entertaining as fuck.  Leonardo DiCaprio delivers arguably his best performance.  And Jonah Hill!?!?  How did he get to be a great actor?!?  The two of them together are fantastic.  Sure, this movie is kind of about the dirty dealings of a Wall Street tycoon, but it’s mostly about assholes doing an excessive amounts of drugs and acting like complete idiots.  This won’t be for everyone, but I found it to be the funniest movie about drugs since FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS.  Definitely funnier than anything Cheech & Chong or Harold & Kumar have ever done.  And there’s emotional weight here too, which makes it all the more compelling.  At over 70 years old, Scorsese is still making movies like he’s a young filmmaking full of passion.  You can tell that he’s still excited to be making movies.

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3. BEFORE MIDNIGHT – The third movie in the “BEFORE” series is the best one.  Seeing where Ethan Hawke and Julie delpy have ended up after nearly 20 years is nothing short of fascinating.  The acting is effortlessly outstanding, the writing is deep and insightful, and the direction is just about perfect.  For me, this one hit close to home more than any of the previous films.  It really shows the strains a long-term relationship can have in the most naturalistic way possible.  It couldn’t have ended more perfectly.

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2. HER – Spike Jonze may just have created his masterpiece.  Joaquin Pheonix falls in love with a computer operating system.  An A.I.  And it’s completely believable, and not creepy in the least.  I really wanted these two to be together.  It made sense.  There is so much insight into relationships here.  Scarlett Johansson’s voice work is so good that one hopes that the Academy will finally add a category for “Best Vocal Performance”.  It’s odd, weird, bizarre and strange.  But it’s also a heartfelt, feel-good, insightful, romantic, heartbreaking masterpiece.

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1. GRAVITY – I usually like to be different when it comes to picking my favorite film of the year.  But I can’t deny just how awesome this movie really is.  I’m definitely on the band wagon here.  Director Alfonso Cuaron has crafted one hell of a movie.  It’s a landmark film.  The effects are groundbreaking, the cinematography is mind-blowing, the effects are game-changing and Sandra Bullock gives the best performance of her career.  Watching this movie just made my head dizzy trying to figure out how the hell they did it.  It’s a complete masterwork that will be remembered for decades to come.  An outstanding achievement from everyone involved.

And that’s it for 2013.

Now………………………. on to 2014!



Categories: Austin Kennedy, Special Reports and Rants

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