What defines a truly great film experience? Is it the ability to allow audiences to escape into a different world, is it about sheer fun and entertainment, is it stunning, Gravity-esque visuals that put audiences directly into the fray or is it about emotional connection? Good films can, and do, deliver on all of the above but a truly great film is one that goes further.
Great films are like hugs from long-last friends. They grab you without hesitation, swallow you up with powerful emotion and leave you feeling all warm and reflective long after the embrace is over. The power of the moment is so deep because it isn’t just a hug. It is a (re)connection of past, present and future that, for an instant, says everything and you are left in a temporary state of zen-like reflection where life is wonderful.
This year there many films that veered into greatness, hello Coen brothers, while others were tremendous fun, hey-o This Is The End, and others pleasant surprises like Pain & Gain or Drinking Buddies. Ultimately, the onus falls on audiences to determine the effectiveness of a film. The emotional state at the time of viewing a film, the situation that led you to watch it or, perhaps the best and worst friend to all films, preconceived expectations impact ever film.
Great films transcend any fickle viewer and deliver on the promise of bringing a new world to life. And, in a frequently impatient world where television can deliver fully fleshed out characters in shorter increments, films need to be perfect to stand out. Below are the ones that did it best in 2013.
2013 Film Quick Hits
Worst Movies: Grown Ups 2, Captain Phillips, Battle of the Year, The Internship
Most Disappointing 2013: The Counselor, Elysium, After Earth, Oldboy, Pacific Rim
Met ‘Director-based’ Expectations: Inside Lleywn Davis, Side Effects, American Hustle
Most Promising 2014: Dumb and Dumber To, Jupiter Ascending, Interstellar, The Boxtrolls
25. Out of the Furnace
Like the slow-burn of a fine cigar, the continual build of this harrowing small town story just gets better and better as it reaches the end.
Memorable Scene: Will the unpredictable Rodney take a dive or not. Ahhhhh!
Best Performance: Casey Affleck
24. Evil Dead
This long overdue remake was incredibly respectful to its wonderful predecessor being that it was as wildly entertaining as it was campy.
Memorable Scene: Mia’s terrible date with nature.
Best Performance: Lou Taylor Pucci
23. The Wolf of Wall Street
Perhaps too adherent to the book it’s based on, Martin Scorsese and his continual muse Leonardo DiCaprio never disappoint. Ever.
Memorable Scene: Any scene with the absolute scene-stealer Naomi.
Best Performance: Margot Robbie
22. World War Z
Sure it went way over budget, filming was continually problematic and the ending was re-written often but the end result was powerful and fully engaging.
Memorable Scene: Gerry opening the glass door. Will it work?
Best Performance: Brad Pitt
21. The Spectacular Now
A true coming of age story that is full of incredible warmth and thought-provoking scenarios that have wonderfully unpredictable outcomes. Dare you not to feel.
Memorable Scene: Aimee’s incredibly sweet first-time with her first love.
Best Performance: Miles Teller
Alfonso Cuarón‘s film is at all times visually stunning but unfortunately the film, and Sandra Bullock herself, feels empty at times.
Memorable Scene: The beautiful, Stanley Kubrick-esque final scene. Absolute perfection.
Best Performance: George Clooney
19. Upstream Color
Almost too meta for its own good, Upstream Color rewards viewers who stick with the at times confusing opening with a rich, second half denouement. Very thought-provoking.
Memorable Scene: When Kris finally confronts, and destroys, ‘The Sampler.’
Best Performance: Amy Seimetz
18. You’re Next
What a surprising film. At times horror and at others murder mystery, this suspenseful film is incredibly self-aware and just flat-out fun. Oh, and Sharni Vinson is a revelation.
Memorable Scene: The final, don’t-open-the-door scene. Brilliant.
Best Performance: Sharni Vinson
17. Side Effects
Whenever Steven Soderbergh officially retires, it will be too soon. The masterful director delivers a work of art that continually begs for your complete attention. Truly thrilling.
Memorable Scene: The great reveal. Enough said, too much said.
Best Performance: Rooney Mara
16. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Quiet. Pensive. Emotional. Powerful. All of these words accurately describe this Terrence Malick-esque film that is as subtle as it is perfect.
Memorable Scene: The emotional separation of Ben and Ruth. And later, the reason why.
Best Performance: Ben Foster
15. Don Jon
In his first foray into directing, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has created a fun, poignant film that impressively explores the love triangle that is sex, love and addiction.
Memorable Scene: When Barbara finally “catches” Jon in his glory.
Best Performance: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
A powerhouse of a movie. Revenge is at the core of this Hugh Jackman fueled film that always keeps you guessing while tugging at your every emotional chords.
Memorable Scene: Keller showing a terrified Franklin the whereabouts of Alex.
Best Performance: Hugh Jackman
13. The Conjuring
Easily the scariest, almost believable film of the year that feels as fresh as it is genuinely terrifying. The cast was tremendous and the thrills constant.
Memorable Scene: Clap, clap in the pitch-black stairwell. Frightening.
Best Performance: Lili Taylor
This film is as weird as it is captivating. Each character seems to have a secret that will shatter worlds. In Stoker, you must pay always pay complete attention.
Memorable Scene: The passionate, eery piano duet.
Best Performance: Matthew Goode
11. This Is The End
Hate on films with James Franco all you like but in a year brimming with apocalyptic ones, none stood out like this absolutely hilarious portrayal of actors trying survive, above all, each other.
Memorable Scene: The strange exorcism of Jonah Hill
Best Performance: Michael Cera
Let the McConassance continue! In this quiet, seemingly Mark Twain inspired film, Matthew McConaughey is simply is the wildly undependable, potentially dangerous character ‘Mud.’
Memorable Scene: The creek of snakes. Enough said.
Best Performance: Matthew McConaughey
9. Pain & Gain
Simply put, this is the most unexpected great film of 2013. Then again, how could a film where Mark Wahlberg leads a trio of dimwitted bodybuilders to the American dream not be.
Memorable Scene: Paul fighting his own demons while in charge of Victor.
Best Performance: Mark Wahlberg
8. American Hustle
David O. Russell is fast-becoming the Ryan Murphy of filmmaking as he continues to bring back previous actors like Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper. American Hustle itself is full of tremendous backstabbing on impeccably scored scenes but inconsistent pacing, and acting from Lawrence, prevent his latest film from achieving perfection.
Memorable Scene: Richie loudly mocking the sad-sack that is Stoddard.
Best Performance (s): Amy Adams & Bradley Cooper
7. Drinking Buddies
The sweetest, most realistic portrayal of the fine, in this case beer-goggled line between friends and something a little bit more. Drinking Buddies never loses sight of its perfectly cast characters as they explore life through relationships. A true gem of a film. And the end, perfect.
Memorable Scene: Kate getting pissed about a missing bike tire.
Best Performance: Jake Johnson
6. Francis Ha
Like Lena Dunham’s acclaimed HBO series Girls, Francis Ha explores the flawed characters in search of discover their life’s purpose and direction. Unlike Girls, this film feels eminently more authentic.
Memorable Scene: The cringeworthy Frances during the dinner party.
Best Performance: Greta Gerwig
Spike Jonze has a feel for relationships. He also has strong feelings on the human dependence on technology. The contemplative state audiences are left in at the end of the film serve as a testament to the personal journey they go through during the quietly powerful film.
Memorable Scene: Theodore’s first date, and first time, with Samantha.
Best Performance: Joaquin Pheonix
4. 12 Years a Slave
Steve McQueen might be the best director working today. His harrowing look into the world of slavery, as viewed through the lens of an abducted free man, is as gripping as it is disturbing. McQueen’s film is a masterpiece.
Memorable Scene: The can’t look, can’t look away whipping of the innocent Patsey.
Best Performance (s): Chiwetel Ejiofor & Lupita Nyong’o
3. Blue Is the Warmest Color
Wow. One of the best coming-of-age films ever made that proves that finding yourself can be a very destructive, but necessary process. Blue Is the Warmest Color is a must watch that sadly is getting more attention for the sensual nature of the film and not the raw power that runs through it.
Memorable Scene: Adèle and Emma’s emotional reunion of at the café.
Best Performance: Adèle Exarchopoulos
2. Inside Llewyn Davis
Ethan and Joel Coen are master filmmakers. Their week in the life of their protagonist, or antagonist, Llewyn Davis shows true respect for the 1960s folk scene. No moment captures it better than the sublime ending which is so subtly brilliant that you might miss it. Don’t.
Memorable Scene: Llewyn recording ‘Please Mr. Kennedy’ with Jim and Al.
Best Performance: Oscar Isaac
Alexander Payne’s Nebraska is an ode to the midwest that takes itself seriously while finding the subtle humor that is life unfulfilled. With an astounding performance from Bruce Dern and terrific performances by Will Forte and June Squibb, people are at the heart of the most delightful and engaging film of the year.
Memorable Scene: Woody driving the truck through town.
Best Performance (s): Bruce Dern, June Squibb and Will Forte
- The Best TV Shows of 2013 (mikethatmiller.com)
- ‘Gravity’ and ‘Her’ win L.A. Film Critics Assn. best film of 2013 (latimes.com
- Top Ten EVERYTHING of 2013 (time.com)
- The Best Songs of 2013 (mikethatmiller.com)
- The Best Albums of 2013 (mikethatmiller.com)
- What is wrong with films this year? Best and worst of 2013? Tough on both counts. (youtheman77.wordpress.com)
- 2013 CFCA Award Winners Announcement (keeping-it-reel.com)