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Top 10 Films of 2013

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Contributed by Tom Stockman, Jim Batts, Melissa Howland, Travis Keune, Michael Haffner and Michelle McCue

A Son of El seeks refuge on Earth… the Undead run amuck in the streets… artificial intelligence finds love… Sisters from the Kingdom of Arendelle bond… Brothers from the Realm of Asgard unite … car races that put you in the driver’s seat… the old man and the unforgiving sea… and scares that gets under your skin.

A trip to your local cinema was a ticket to some of the most fantastic voyages of 2013.

Rounding out the year in film, the silver screen was filled with journeys Terrestrial and Otherworldly, images both frightening and scary, poignant affairs of the heart-strings and emotions, sojourns so colorful that the stories took us to new heights and two of the greatest American comedies.

It was a magnificent overload of the senses.

“Beautiful… don’t you think?”

So without further adieu… Drum roll, please. We Are Movie Geeks presents our Top 10 films of 2013.

Honorable Mention – THE CROODS

THE CROODS

Nicolas Cage and Emma Stone headed the voice cast of Dreamworks’ prehistoric odyssey THE CROODS and it turned out to be the Geek’s favorite animated film of the year. THE CROODS provided much dizzying, fast-paced action as the stone-age family chased their breakfast in an exhausting daily survival ritual and tried to avoid becoming dinner for a world full of fantastical creatures. It may have lacked the heights of FROZEN or the box-office appeal of DESPICABLE ME 2, but THE CROODS was the perfect balance of big laughs and bigger heart, delivering magnificent visuals, frantic pacing, a consistently side-splitting script (co-written by Monty Python’s John Cleese) , and a lesson on how important it is for families to cherish and protect each other. “Never not be afraid!”

10. AMERICAN HUSTLE

Amy Adams;Jennifer Lawrence

Director and co-screenwriter David O. Russell takes an irreverent look at a real incident, the Abscam scandal, for this wacky trip back to the tacky 1970′s. And he’s populated this undercover caper with a casting dream team of actors from his growing cinema repertory company. We can laugh at the bad hairstyles (maybe the worst movie “comb-over” ever) and garish fashions, but Russell isn’t just trotting out disco-era cartoon characters. There’s a bit of nobility in these con-men and women as they deal with over-zealous ambitious federal agents. Master chef Russell mixes GOODFELLAS and BOOGIE NIGHTS with a pinch of ARGO and a dash of THE STING to give us one of the year’s tastiest movie banquets. But remember, “Don’t put metal in the microwave food heater!”.

9. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

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The Coen Brothers always seem to make films that perfectly reflect “America’s story.”  Their filmography could serve as a road-map of America and all its pleasantries and pitfalls.  Like O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? and THE BIG LEWBOWSKI before it (or so many other films in the brothers’ career), INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is about one man’s journey in both physical and metaphorical terms.  The journey of an artist whether it be a painter, actor, or in this case a musician, can be a lonely road of introspection and hardship.  Given the fact that this trip is in the hands of the Coens, an equal amount of humor and drama are infused along the way.  Whether it be the repeated sightings of an orange cat named Ulysses – whose name is no coincidence of course – or the cyclical bookends to the film, LLEWYN DAVIS’ tale of a poor folk singer in the 60’s shows that sometimes history is doomed to repeat itself.

8. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Martin Scorsese’s fast, stylish tale of the drug and sex-fueled rise and fall of a crooked Wall Street banker is a smashing return to form. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, the best of the five Scorsese/DeCaprio collaborations so far, is long but with a fast-moving storyline and surprisingly robust humor, its three hours fly by. Sensitive filmgoers may be appalled by the shameless sexism and wall-to-wall bacchanalia on display, and while it may not reach the Marty heights of TAXI DRIVER/RAGING BULL/GOODFELLAS, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET excites the senses in a way few film-makers even dream of. Its epic sweep and brilliantly energetic film language is anchored by an effortlessly expert performance from Leo DeCaprio. His Jordan Belfort is the picture of amorality, a narcissist who acquires wealth simply to feed his vulgar habits, more Caligula than Gordon Gecko. His story makes for the most compelling and outrageous film of the year.

7. THIS IS THE END

1170481 - This Is The End

When several of the top X-Gen comedians in Hollywood get together and decide to make a film as themselves getting together for a party at James Franco’s house, the first word that comes to mind is “pretentious.” Combine this with Armageddon breaking out in the midst of their hoopla and it may sound like Van Wilder meets Dogma, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This faux-reality escape into an imaginary alternate universe where the End of Days ensue and the world splits open swallowing up half of our comedic talent, leaving the other half to fend for themselves on Judgment Day turned out to be one of the most original, most clever and funniest movies of the year. I laughed so hard, for so long, I actually had 2 or 3 near death experiences, leaving my body but then returning when I realized how much I was enjoying the movie. Heaven can wait!

6. THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES

place_beyond_pines2-620x412

Ryan Gosling has become a Hollywood leading man who chooses to focus on edgy roles on the fringes of mainstream filmmaking. This film further proves he has an uncanny knack for these roles, even though in the film his character acts as more of a catalyst than a central character. Gosling plays a tough motorcycle stuntman, once again giving a performance that seethes a calm, cool creepiness housed within a man with good intentions but a habit for bad choices. This is an average American story told in an unconventional prose, with a non-traditional ensemble performance. Director Derek Cianfrance constructs a film not unlike a gritty, less ideal version of Norman Rockwell’s small town image and the colors and textures of the film’s palette are as intriguing as the score by Mike Patton, unique and curiously magnetic. This film is everything you want it to be and nothing you expect it to be.

5. BLUE JASMINE

blue_jasmine

Woody Allen has been making a movie annually as long as I can remember and every few years critics latch on to his latest work and declare it his “best in years”.  BLUE JASMINE really was. Star Cate Blanchett was a riveting image, not just for the things she said but for the ravaged beauty and sadness she allowed the camera to find in her face and clothes-horse figure. Throwing back Xanax and martinis to cope, Blanchett performed emotional highs and lows, often within the same scene and her performance is deserving of the year-end awards she’s been raking in. Special mention must go out to Sally Hawkins as her unrefined sister Ginger and, in a canny and rewarding bit of casting, Andrew Dice Clay as Ginger’s loutish ex.  BLUE JASMINE is Woody Allen at the very top of his form and one of the year’s best.

4. 12 YEARS A SLAVE

12 YEARS A SLAVE_a

It goes without saying that 12 YEARS A SLAVE is not an easy film to take in.  Yet, what makes director Steve McQueen’s unflinching portrait of these dark years in American history not easy to take in is the natural way the characters and their appalling situation unfold.  Violence and brutality aren’t rubbed in our faces as much as the emotions displayed on the characters faces. Halfway through the film cinematographer Sean Bobbitt (who also lensed another favorite of mine this year THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES) orchestrates a four and a half minute unbroken shot of a woman being whipped.  But what makes this sequence even more intensely personal is the fact that the majority of the shot focuses on the reactions of the bystanders and everyone involved.  Chiwetel Ejiofor speaks volumes through his quiet but moving performance.  He doesn’t need to give touching speeches to communicate in every scene his desire to be re-connected with his family.  It’s a performance and a film that will forever serve as a reminder that we are all human after all.

3. SAVING MR. BANKS

SAVING MR. BANKS

SAVING MR. BANKS is just the spoon full of sugar you need for the holidays. Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks are magic together onscreen as they tell their story of the relationship between P.L. Travers and Walt Disney during the making of Mary Poppins. Sure, the film is not a true tale of how everything really went down, since Travers hated what Disney had made of her beloved nanny, but as a stand alone film, it’s wonderful and charming. You’ll be singing Mary Poppins songs the whole way home!

2. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

Tom Hanks

Of the many 2013 films that were “ripped from the (very recent) headlines”, Paul Greengrass’s retelling of the 2009 hijacking and kidnapping incident was the most compelling. Tom Hanks plays the title character, a regular working class “Joe” in charge of the US shipping freighter Maersk Alabama, whose life is forever changed when he’s taken by Somali pirates eager to hit up his employers for a multi-million dollar ransom. Muse, the leader of the pirates is played by first-time actor Barkhad Abdi in, perhaps, the year’s most surprising performance. Much like last year’s ZERO DARK THIRTY, we know the outcome of the events, but Greengrass keeps us on the very edge of our seats. But after the military heroics, it’s the final scene of Phillips being examined by Navy medics that delivers an unforgettable emotional knock-out and reminds us why Hanks is one of the all-time great film actors.

And our number one film of the year…

1. GRAVITY

GRAVITY

Alfonso Cuaron’s GRAVITY was 2013’s poetic and lyrical “space movie.”

The filmmaker took us on a stunning journey where we collectively shared in the experience of floating weightless in the blackness of space. Filled with a tremendous amount of layered detail, GRAVITY’s theme of rebirth was unbelievably resonant with audiences. After a disaster in space, actress Sandra Bullock’s character makes a passage from a place of loss and being in an emotionally numb state to a place where she rediscovers her purpose and reason for life… and then fights for it. It is the heart of the film. Mission Specialist Ryan Stone’s solitude of drifting into space was both isolating and introspective. Her struggle is body-changing, mind-changing, and mind-bending and with a brief, supporting role by George Clooney, Bullock carries the weight of GRAVITY on her shoulders with breathtaking beauty and clarity of mind. With seamless lines between music, sight and sound, Cuaron effectively explores the allegorical potential of a character in space who is spiraling further into space, a victim of her own inertia, moving away from Earth and all human connections. Making GRAVITY our #1 film of the year, moviegoers went in for an amazing ride and left with the feeling of being transformed.

As we head into 2014, be on the lookout for Matt Reeves’ DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, Gareth Edwards’ GODZILLA, Amma Assante’s BELLE, the animated feature THE BOXTROLLS, MALEFICENT starring Angelina Jolie, FURY starring Brad Pitt, THE QUIET ONES starring Jared Harris and Sam Claflin, Sean Anders’ HORRIBLE BOSSES 2, Seth MacFarlane’s A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson, Darren Aronofsky’s NOAH, James Gunn’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY,  and Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR.

Here’s the individual results from the WAMG team:

Jim Batts

1.  ENOUGH SAID
2.  THE SPECTACULAR NOW
3.  GRAVITY
4.  CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
5.  BLACKFISH
6.  SAVING MR. BANKS
7.  12 YEARS A SLAVE
8.  BLUE JASMINE
9.  THIS IS THE END
10. AMERICAN HUSTLE

HON. MENTION – THE CONJURING

Tom Stockman

1. BLUE JASMINE
2. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
3. THE GREAT GATSBY
4. SAVING MR. BANKS
5. OLDBOY
6. STOKER
7. ONLY GOD FORGIVES
8. NEBRASKA
9. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
10. WHITE HOUSE DOWN

HON. MENTION – THE CROODS

Melissa Howland

1. BEFORE MIDNIGHT
2. THE WAY WAY BACK
3. GRAVITY
4. SHORT TERM 12
5. MUD
6. THIS IS THE END
7. DRINKING BUDDIES
8. FROZEN
9. THE WORLD’S END
10. BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR

HON. MENTION – MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

Michael Haffner

1. THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES
2. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
3. ALL IS LOST
4. 12 YEARS A SLAVE
5. SPRING BREAKERS
6. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
7. BEFORE MIDNIGHT
8. UPSTREAM COLOR
9. STOKER
10. THE WIND RISES

HON. MENTION – HER, PRISONERS, RUSH

Michelle McCue

1. GRAVITY
2. LONE SURVIVOR
3. THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES
4. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
5. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
6. SAVING MR. BANKS
7. 12 YEARS A SLAVE
8. AMERICAN HUSTLE
9. BLUE JASMINE
10. THIS IS THE END

HON. MENTION – ALL IS LOST, WORLD WAR Z

1 Comment

  1. Ray Ayers

    December 16, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    I agree with most of the movies on this lst. Still haven’t seen a few of them. Are there any on this list that would be considered a tie? It’s nice to see that somebody remembered The Place Beyond The Pines. I haven’t seen it on many best of lists and can’t figure out why. To me, it was easily one of the best films of the year. I’m guessing it’s early release date may have doomed it come awards time. It was my favorite film of the year until I saw Gravity. Thanks for sharing!

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