Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Joseph Anthony's Favorites of 2013

End of year lists are fun but they’re also the ultimate examples of immediate reaction. Time proves what is and is not worthy of high regard in any field. I try to keep this in mind when making these lists, but there’s always going to be something I missed.
If you asked me in 1999 what my favorite movie was, I might have said THE SIXTH SENSE (I was 13), a movie I still fully enjoy. What I wouldn’t have said is AMERICAN MOVIE, a documentary that came out the same year but which I didn’t see until 9 years later. It’s my favorite movie of all time. I suspect there will be several films I have not seen this year that might end up on my list years down the line.

Having said that, it’s more fun to be impulsive than patient and thoughtful.
These are my favorite movies of 2013 (in alphabetical order).

AMERICAN HUSTLE- David O. Russell (THE FIGHTER, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK) continues to make what seems like hybrid films. They feel artsy and edgy but they're mainstream enough for audiences to show up and have a good time. It's slow to get going, but once it does you’ll have a lot of fun. Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper give top-notch performances.  

BLUE JASMINE- Woody Allen may have directed BLUE JASMINE but it’s Cate Blanchett’s film. Blanchett gives a commanding performance that makes JASMINE feel like it moves at breakneck speed. It’s smart, funny and charming. A safe bet for almost any Allen fan.

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB- A movie worth noting solely for the performances of Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. Though the film is choppy at times, it’s never anything less than engrossing. Matthew McConaughey seems to have taken his career to another level putting out great performance after great performance over the last 2 years (BERNIE, MAGIC MIKE, THE PAPERBOY, KILLER JOE, MUD, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET). Next year he will grace us in Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR and HBO’s TWO DETECTIVES.

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS- Over the last 2 decades, the Coen brothers (FARGO, BIG LEBOWSKI, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) have made films involving the most intriguing characters around. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS continues this trend. You might not like the characters, but you can’t look away. A gorgeously shot, cleverly written slice of life that doesn’t ask much of you but to sit back and watch despair in 1961.

MUD- Back in April I urged readers to see this film. My recommendation remains the same. MUD is a moving American tale about youth and love. Tye Sheridan’s performance as a torn adolescent will likely go forgotten this award season and that’s a real shame as it’s one of the years best.

NEBRASKA- My admiration for this film grows each day since I've seen it. NEBRASKA is a film of pure heart. It doesn’t strike a sour note. NEBRASKA has a fun script, striking black and white cinematography and one of the best performances of the year from Bruce Dern. Alexander Payne should strongly be considered for director of the year.

PRISONERS- I wasn’t able to look away. Horrified, depressed, stunned, entranced- I felt all of it during this film. PRISONERS challenges its audience from start to finish. It was my favorite movie-theater viewing experience of the year.

STOKER- I didn’t anticipate falling in love with this film from Chan-wook Park (OLDBOY), but it demanded my attention and appreciation. The unnerving story combined with the loveliest cinematography of the year left me feeling shaken. Much like PRISONERS, this was a viewing experience. One that makes you appreciate what films can make you feel, see, hear, etc. STOKER is not to be missed.

THIS IS THE END- Good comedy is rare in Hollywood. No genre throws as much garbage at the paying audience as comedies do. So when a good one (and I’d argue a great one) comes along, it deserves recognition. It’s nice to see a comedy where you can sense it’s not being made just for an audience to have fun, but was ultimately made because the people making it were having fun.

12 YEARS A SLAVE- Here is a movie that asks a lot of its audience, but rightfully so. 12 YEARS A SLAVE is brutal history lesson and it may leave viewers feeling bleak, but educated. Outside of giving what many have called the most honest look at slavery in the history of film, it’s a brilliantly acted film, particularly by Chiwetel Ejioforand and Michael Fassbender. Everyone from performers to production deserves high praise.

While I didn’t see every movie released in 2013, my viewing this year results in this list. There are certainly films of note not mentioned above (CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, A BAND NAMED DEATH, SIDE EFFECTS, and BLACKFISH (which may have the longest lasting legacy of any film from 2013)) and others that were over-hyped in my opinion (looking at you THE WAY WAY BACK and WOLF OF WALL STREET). More importantly there are films I still need to see that could change my list over time (HER, THE ACT OF KILLING).

But lists are fun and this is mine for 2013.  

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