Monday, July 8, 2013

Taking On 2013: Top Films (Q2 Quarterly Review)

With the holiday weekend over here in the states it took a little longer than I would have liked to follow up my look at the best albums and tracks of the year so far, but I am back in the saddle so to speak and ready to start getting all filmy up in here. Even though I haven't seen all the movies I would have liked to before constructing this list, I look at the upper portion of my master list and feel like 2013 has been pretty good so far. But what has changed since the last time? Let's find out!

10. The Great Gatsby

Baz Lurhmann's adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's American classic is definitely showy, but anchored by a strong performance from DiCaprio and a stellar soundtrack that places the film in conversation with the present it proves incredibly exciting. There's a profound respect for Fitzgerald's language in the script, and it uses this to evoke the ideas of a crumbling American dream as the original text did, which fits in nicely with many other 2013 films.

9. Behind The Candelabra

What is presumed to be Steven Soderbergh's final film has all the trappings of a generic biopic, but elevates itself through the way the camera captures the inner life of Liberace. Sure it helps when Michael Douglass puts on an acting clinic in the role, but Soderbergh handles both the bombast and the seedier aspects of these events with such precision that, if this proves to be his last feature film after all, I can safely say he exits on a high note.

8. Pain And Gain

Another in the long line of films about the American Dream is Michael Bay's action comedy heist vision that proves the first third of Transformers: Dark of the Moon was no fluke. There's this kinetic energy to everything that happens here, reinforced by the set design and Bay's grandiose flair. It's also another great entry in to what has been a huge year for The Rock. Put him in all the movies!

7. Mud

Jeff Nichols's latest is arguably his most effective film to date, an in depth look at the maturation of a young boy whose world is completely shifting. Yeah, McConaughey gets top billing and he's excellent as the titular Mud, but Tye Sheridan as Ellis is the film's emotional core. It's in Ellis's journey that we see the heart break of youth, in here that we get caught up in the high stakes action, and in his conclusion that makes the film resonate so much. Like Nichols's previous films this one doesn't have the thematic heft I adore, but it's thematically engaging enough for all the other aspects to make it one of the year's most unique films.

6. Like Someone In Love

Following up Certified Copy is a tough task, but Abbas Kiarostami's look at an escort who spends a couple of strange days with an older man provides an excellent discourse on the notions of love and loss. The way the film slowly builds, folding new stories and perspectives until a final shocking moment is simply superb filmmaking.

5. Before Midnight

The third entry in Richard Linklater's Before series of films picks up, fittingly, almost ten years where the last film left off. This series has always been partially about examining the dynamics of a relationship, so it feels fitting that as more time passes there's this underlying sense of resentment surrounded by this obvious affection. Linklater blends the two marvelously, without a note ringing false. Who knows if this will be the last we see of Jesse and Celine, though if it is the point of conclusion captures their relationship wonderfully.

4. Upstream Color

Shane Carruth's follow up to Primer was long awaited, and those who were expecting another puzzle of insane proportions may have been left disappointed, but his sophomore film is largely an improvement on his previous work in every way. Visually striking, Carruth's lens imbues each frame with an evocative image whether secluded in the natural world or in the bleak domestic sphere. Yet the film's tone remains the primary point of focus, one that allows him to explore the way humans make connections that gives the film a heart that Primer lacked.

3. The Bling Ring

I have professed my love for Sofia Coppola's last film, Somewhere, all over the internet, so it was with anticipation that I entered The Bling Ring. Chatter around the web has been divisive, with some claiming the film is detached and ambivalent about its characters (certainly the camera is many times) while others have called it too obvious (I would agree with this more than the former as far as themes are concerned), but as another entry in 2013's films about the disillusionment of the American Dream filtered through a highly stylized lens Coppola's film takes on this subject with the flair and care of the best.

2. Spring Breakers

Or, well, almost the best because I'm still not convinced that when the year is all said and done that Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers won't emerge as the year's best film. Korine so forcefully takes on these large ideas about fame and wealth and freedom and desire and wraps it all up in this fever dream fueled haze. Each formal element compliments a thematic one with such precision, with such craft, that no moment ever feels wasted. This film engulfed me in its world, and if that's not the power of cinema at its purest I'll be damned if I know what is.

1. Wolf Children: Ame & Yuki

Though when I think of the most joy I had with a film, on both an emotional and intellectual level, it's hard for Mamoru Hosoda's Wolf Children to not take center stage in my mind. This sweeping tale of two children (and their parents, as its scope is quite large for what is such a simple premise) growing up is not generally new territory for movies to cover, and even if the kids weren't able to change in to wolves I'm not sure the film's themes would change that much, but the way the characters grapple with life and the drifting apart is simultaneously heartbreaking and joyful. People become seasons, fading in and out of each others's lives, and the way Wolf Children tackles this idea along with many others makes it my favorite film of the year so far.

For the record here is my entire list:
  1. Wolf Children: Ame & Yuki
  2. Spring Breakers
  3. The Bling Ring
  4. Upstream Color
  5. Before Midnight
  6. Like Someone In Love
  7. Mud
  8. Pain and Gain
  9. Behind The Candelabra
  10. The Great Gatsby
  11. “Gregory Go Boom”
  12. “Brazzaville Teen-Ager”
  13. To The Wonder
  14. Side Effects
  15. Lore
  16. Amour
  17. Furious 6
  18. Monsters University
  19. No
  20. “The Frrt Identity”
  21. Stoker
  22. “The Greatest Event In Television History”
  23. Louis CK: Oh My God
  24. The Last Stand
  25. Much Ado About Nothing
  26. Iron Man 3
  27. “The Blue Umbrella”
  28. The Place Beyond The Pines
  29. The Wizards Return: Alex vs. Alex
  30. This Is Not A Film
If you don't agree with the order or if I haven't seen your favorite film let me know below in the comments and I'll add it to my queue before the year's end!


Comments are welcome and, for anyone with a literary mind, I encourage checking out my poetry blog filled with all original works for your reading pleasure.

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© 2013 Richard James Thorne

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