Specs & The City: Top 10 Films of 2013

It’s that time of year again. Every year around this time, we’re barraged by list after list of the year’s “best” films. It’s an arbitrary assignment of quality based on nothing but personal opinions, but it’s also a ton of fun to look back on the year that was and reminisce a little bit. So, in the grand tradition of “everyone else is doing,” here is my list of the 10 best films for 2013.

(A small note before we begin: since I’m writing this for Script, I decided to only included narrative films on the list. So, no offense intended towards the art form, but that means none of the excellent documentaries of the past year are represented.)

Okay…onto the list.

Top 10 Films of 2013

10. Secret Life of Walter Mitty
As a fan of the original James Thurber short story, I’m not exactly objective on this one. While the film has its flaws, it serves up a lovely tale about one man’s inability to deal with reality, and captures it with some truly breathtaking visuals. Star/Director Ben Stiller also ups his game considerably on both sides of the camera.

9. Before Midnight
The third chapter in what is essentially an 18 year long conversation, the third installment of the “Before” trilogy is its best. A case study in how rules of screenwriting are only rules until they’re not (there’s A LOT of dialogue and monologueing in this film), both Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy turn in exquisitely nuanced performances. Watching two people talk about their relationship has never been so captivating.

8. Filth
Filth, the story of a deliciously dirty, Scottish cop, shines a spotlight firmly on its star, James McAvoy, and man does he deliver. McAvoy owns the screen, daring you to look away (sometimes you’ll want to…but you’re too afraid of what you’ll miss) and Irvine Welsh has his first really successful screen adaptation since Trainspotting hit big back in the ‘90’s. It’s not for the faint of heart, but for those willing to get down in muck with the filmmakers, it’s a journey well worth taking.

7. Saving Mr. Banks
A sugar-tinged, slightly rose-colored glasses look at Walt Disney’s attempt to get author P.L. Travers to sign over the rights to Mary Poppins, Saving Mr. Banks is so charming and full or grace, that you don’t mind. While Hanks is more likely to see get an Oscar nomination for his harrowing turn in Captain Phillips, in Mr. Banks, he turns in a sublime performance as the sometimes vaguely sinister feeling Walt Disney, and Emma Thompson is equally captivating as the sour Travers.

6. Iron Man 3
After floundering with the second installment of the series, Iron Man 3 recaptured it’s swagger with a little help from Shane Black. Whether you like the plot twist or not (I won’t spoil it here, in case someone somewhere still hasn’t seen it), Black and Robert Downey Jr. rediscover what makes Iron Man great by doing the unexpected – they take Tony Stark out of the suit for most of the movie. The result is the most humanizing, and ultimately satisfying, portrayal of this Marvel superhero yet.

5. Gravity
It’s been seven years since we’ve had a film from Alfonso Cuaron (one of my favorite films ever, Children of Men), but it was worth the wait. Behind the amazing special effects, lies the heart of a simple action film that never lets up. Gravity proved that you can have heart pounding scenes while still keeping the focus small and the stakes personal.

4. Her
Spike Jonze’s lovestory between a man and his operating system is the most touching film this year. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll never doubt for a moment that Theodore Twombly (in yet another acting master class from Joaquin Pheonix) could fall for Samantha. This is one of those rare films that is a success on every level, from acting and directing, to set design and score.

3. The Wolf of Wall Street
With the film still under a review embargo, there’s not a lot of detail that I can spill about Martin Scorsese’s latest. So let’s keep it vague and just say it’s Scorsese being Scorsese in the way that only Scorsese can (and that’s a good thing).

2. American Hustle
With the stars of his last two movies in tow – Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper – and the additional of the sublimely permed Jeremy Renner, David O. Russell has crafted a captivating (and really funny) caper film that is loosely based on the Abscam operation of the late 70’s. With sublime performances across the board, American Hustle offers a fascinating look at the concept of corruption, and just might be the most overall entertaining movie this year.

1. Inside Llewyn Davis
It’s become trite that, every time the Coen Brothers put out a new movie, reviewers say it’s their best one yet… but Inside Llewyn Davis just might be the best Coen Brothers movie yet. Though it’s set in the New York folk scene of the 1960’s, this tale of cynicism and callousness trumping talent feels timeless. With music that’s as amazing as the performances (T. Bone Burnett and Marcus Mumford curated the music for the film), it’s an utterly captivating piece of filmmaking.

So there you go. One man’s list of his favorite films of the year. Agree? Disagree? Share your own Top 10 down in the comments sections!

This is the last Specs & The City column for the year so, until we see each other in 2014, keep writing!

'Inside Llewyn Davis'

‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

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