2013 has been a great year for movies, so narrowing down our list of favorites was no easy task. As Cinema Blend has numerous writers with varying tastes in film, we decided to go solo this year in sharing our Top 10 lists of the best movies of 2013. Sean went first. Kristy went second. Eric went third. This is Mack’s list, which begins with Disney’s best effort in years.
Being successful over the long haul involves some level of change. It requires keeping core values in place but adapting the specifics and even sometimes the messages as society ebbs and flows in different directions. Once upon a time, movie fans may have been eager to hear about princesses blindly falling in love with handsome strangers who later made all of their dreams come true, but we’re just not there anymore as an audience. We’re far too practical, and Frozen actually understands that.
Not only does the film incorporate some stunning music and pretty big laughs, it offers up a storyline that lovingly pokes fun at many of the Disney films that have come before. It’s not mean. It’s not disrespectful. It simply acknowledges that getting engaged to a man you’ve met for a few hours is one of the most idiotic things a girl could possibly do, and perhaps more importantly, it also has the thoughtfulness to let viewers know non-romantic love between sisters. can be every bit as beautiful and worth rooting for.
A strong case could be made that no professional sports team is more fondly remembered by our grandparents than the Brooklyn Dodgers. Overflowing with future Hall of Famers, the team was the first to enlist the services of an African-American ballplayer and within just a few short years, the group included a melting pot of players from a ton of ethnic backgrounds. It was racial harmony at its most successful and important. And then suddenly, the team was uprooted and moved to Los Angeles, destined to become a beautiful memory of the world at a specific point in time.
42, at its core, is the story of Jackie Robinson—how he broke the color barrier and how dominated the National League during his first season, but in many ways, it’s also the story of the Dodgers and how men of different backgrounds came together to create something beautiful that still means so much to so many people. 42 does Robinson and the whole crew justice, and I can’t imagine a higher compliment.
8. The Great Gatsby
Director Baz Luhrmann is wrong for an overwhelming majority of scripts. His sensibilities are simply far too weird, and his narrative touch has a way of pushing everything too close to flamboyance and opulence. Luckily for him and audiences, however, Jay Gatsby is a man who exists in the space between real and fantasy. Everything about his world is dreamy, over-the-top and lined with grandiosity. He’s a bullshit artist obsessed with style and appearance who has no concept of going too big, and in Luhrmann’s hands, he just keeps pushing and pushing. The parties are outlandish displays of wealth. The houses are mansions it would take days to explore, and the personalities border on caricatures in all of the best ways.
Luhrmann was born to make The Great Gatsby, and while we’re remember other roles first when looking back at his career, Leonardo Dicaprio was born to play Gatsby himself. With a brilliant supporting cast and the best soundtrack of the year, the film is an unqualified success, and its almost three hundred and fifty million at the worldwide box office is pretty damn good evidence of the wonderful word of mouth it inspired.
Of Matthew McConaughey’s three main roles in 2013, Mud is the one people are talking about least. That’s understandable given it’s a whole lot less showy than his parts in Dallas Buyers Club or Wolf Of Wall Street, but quietly, Mud is the best thing the budding superstar gave us this year. As the mysterious title character, he spins a web of Southern charm, intrigue and danger that’s simply captivating. Sometimes he comes off like a man to be admired. Sometimes he comes off like a man who desperately needs our sympathy, and sometimes he comes off like a full blown asshole. During every single moment, he’s captivating as a man on the run, hiding in a houseboat in the woods.
In her best role in years, Reese Witherspoon steals a few scenes as the object of Mud’s affection and the downfall of his existence. Michael Shannon too offers up some double takes as an out of control family member with some awful advice and newcomers Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland more than hold their own opposite the far more famous co-stars. Mud didn’t make a big dent at the box office, but it’s a film that should be sought out and appreciated by a wide audience of movie fans interested in complicated stories that live in the margins.
6. The Spectacular Now
I love high school movies, but an overwhelming majority of them don’t remind me of how I felt in high school. They’re either too sex-driven or too obsessed with social status. High schoolers are sexed up and obsessed with social status, obviously, but that doesn’t define every single moment of the day. A whole lot of being seventeen involves perpetual boredom and really fun and crazy moments that you don’t really appreciate at the time. The Spectacular Now gets that. It remembers what it feels like to both think the future is filled with any number of possibilities and to be a weird mix of apprehensive and euphoric about starting down that path.
The Spectacular Now is honest, and it doesn’t feel the need to talk about everything. It references conversations that happen off screen. It doesn’t endlessly dissect weird little moments that happen, and it obsesses over the things that seem really, really important to high schoolers. It’s a great film, and it somehow improves upon the spectacular (500) Days Of Summer that Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber wrote prior.
Stoker is a weird movie. After seeing it twice, I’m not even sure all of it adds up or works. I certainly don’t get the motivations of every single character involved, but none of that changes the fact that it is utterly fascinating to watch. Every single scene bristles with tension and layers. Every single cut-to shot is well thought-out and visually fascinating. There are at least five or ten camera angles and perspectives that I have never seen before. It’s completely and utterly its own creation, and given there are hundreds of movies released every year, that’s a really impressive accomplishment.
Stoker also offers a handful of acting performances that are off-putting and creepy. Matthew Goode is perhaps the best we’ve ever seen him as the mysterious Uncle Charlie who looks at everyone with a mix of sexual lust and blood lust, and Nicole Kidman is perhaps the most unhinged we’ve ever seen her as the grieving mother Evelyn. And Mia Wasikowska, well, she seems to be getting better and better by the performance and here turns in something that will stick with fans for years to come.
4. 12 Years A Slave
12 Years A Slave is hard to watch. It’s depressing and ugly and uncomfortable. It’s the type of film that will make some want to wander to the exit and find something else to do, but given the subject matter, those are all high compliments. In fact, for director Steve McQueen, anything less would have been a cop-out and a disservice to all the men and women who spent time as slaves in the American south. Their stories, horrifying and haunting as they are, deserve to be told, and through Solomon Northup, they find the perfect stand-in. The real life slave was kidnapped and imprisoned for twelve years and later emerged to write his story, one that captivated citizens in the United States and did its part to push the North even further toward its anti-slavery stance.
Despite brilliant performances from actors and actresses in a wide variety of movies, it would be a surprise if lead Chiwitel Ejiofor and supporting player Lupita Nyong’o weren’t honored with statues once Oscar season come around. The two are fearless and touching as Northup and Patsey, and they most definitely deserve their own shining moments because of it. If you haven’t seen the film yet, go out and find it. It’s worth the two plus hour rollercoaster of emotions.
3. The Way Way Back
I wasn’t completely sold on The Way Way Back the first time I watched it, but something about its sense of humor stuck with me. A few of the more quotable lines started coming out of my mouth, and upon the rewatch, I was completely hooked. The film offers a perfect balance of humor and seriousness and a perfect meshing of characters with completely different perspectives. None of them are heroes and none of them are horrible human beings. They’ve just got varying degrees of problems, and they’re all trying to work on them in their own ways.
Movies are often tempted to try and create lifelong bonds or figure out solutions to everyone’s problems. Real life, however, is often about meeting people and using the good in them to take steps in the right direction. Lead actor Liam James has way too many issues in his life to simply figure them all out one summer, but amidst the crazy personalities at the Water Wizz, he starts to like himself. He gains the confidence needed to tell his mom her boyfriend is a shitbag and to actually have some real conversations with the girl next door. He’s a work in progress, but aren’t we all at that age?
Gravity is the most visually beautiful film I’ve ever seen. It makes incredible use of 3D technology, and its backgrounds are mesmerizing. Even if Sandra Bullock and George Clooney were digitally removed from the film, it would actually work as one of those Planet Earth features people put on the television when they have company over. It’s that gorgeous, but luckily, Clooney and Bullock are in the film and their story is phenomenal in its own right.
It’s really, really hard to make a movie without a wide supporting cast. Filling time is so much easier when different characters are being introduced. That helps to break up the monotony, and it helps to offer a fuller experience. Gravity doesn’t have the benefit of doing that, but in its own way, it’s consistently riveting. Its ninety minute runtime flies by and at no point does it feel boring or repetitive. It’s a masterstroke in filmmaking, and it’s one that should pay off heavily in nominations when the Academy Awards officially announce their choices.
1. American Hustle
American Hustle isn’t a perfect movie. It relies too heavily on voiceovers early on. It’s a little too obsessed with its music too, but during its better moments, no film released in 2013 even comes close to matching its quality. Director David O Russell is completely in his wheelhouse with this material, and he’s able to mine everything available for just the number of laughs to keep the tone the right level of light. From stories about ice fishing to experiments with the new-fangled, nutrition-stealing science oven, it’s an absolute joy to sit through. It’s also proof that the director boasts the most interesting mind working in film today.
At more than two hours, the film should feel a little long and cumbersome, but the runtime actually flies by as a wide net of mobsters, politicians and co-workers are ever so carefully integrated into the plot. They all have something to say. They all have a clear purpose, and they’re all on screen for exactly the right amount of time. American Hustle is the single best movie we got in 2013, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re missing out.