As an admitted cinephile (and gamer who loves video games that replicate the rhythms and beats of the cinematic experience, 2013 was an interesting year at the movies. Some very eccentric and incredibly well acted quirky romances filled the screen in droves and some powerful and raw movies based on historical events made an indelible imprint as well. Here are my top 10.
#1 - 12 Years a Slave: "One of the greatest films ever made. An American masterpiece made by a British director at the peak of his heights and the most powerful and honest film ever made about slavery. Steve McQueen is a fearless artist that makes relentless diatribes on the human condition. He displays images so unflinchingly real that might make you consider looking away but you can't because the images are so beautiful. 12 Years a Slave is like a beautiful painting portraying a horrific moment in history that tries to find elegance in the madness. And it does so. Even the dialogue is magnificently conceived. The movie seeps into your pores, bores deeply inside the psychology of what made American slavery tick and has the best ensemble acting of any film in nearly a decade. Chiwetal Ejiofor deserves the Oscar he is sure to win. He is world class brilliant as Solomon and brims to the rim with utter dignity and soul in every scene. But towering over this film is Lupita N'Oyongo who gives one of the most heartbreakingly raw performances to ever grace the screen as Patsey. To imagine how many Patsey's or how many Solomon's (who didn't make it) this movie sings is blues for is truly a tragic American beauty. One of the few necessary viewings of our lifetime"
#2 - Prisoners: "One of the best thrillers in years. That will literally have you on the edge of your seat and guessing what's next at every single turn. Genuine thrills, twists, and turns are in grand abundance in this magnificently shot film. Hugh Jackman is ferocious in the performance of his career. He is a battered, tormented soul in this movie and the war he wages from within is stunning to behold. Prisoners succeeds in taking the audience to some dark places and asking us to navigate the film's complex moral compass on our own accord. It respects us enough to be able to decide for ourselves what's right or who's wrong. It never preaches, never judges. It's a silent observer on these two families tragic story and the films ending is on the greatest final shots in recent memory. The only thing keeping this film from being a flat out masterpiece is the motive. But it's still a flawed masterpiece."
#3 - The Spectacular Now: "Shailene Woodley is amazing in this film. A heartbreakingly sweet star making performance if there ever was one. The Spectacular Now is the most honest, authentic, and deeply emotive coming of age drama to grace the screen in quite some time. And it does so effortlessly thanks to the depth and genuine heart of its lead actress. The film has one of my favorite scenes of the last few years. A one camera tracking shot, unedited conversation of our two leads walking and talking from a party leading to their first kiss which to me is the sweetest and most genuine first kiss I've ever seen on film. Splendidly acted. The chemistry between Woodley and Miles Teller just feels right and the movie is vaulted into the stratosphere off the heels of their "lika" and "believa" -bilities. Must see".
#4. American Hustle: "While watching American Hustle I felt giddy like a kid in a candy store. It's the kind of film made by cinema lovers for cinema lovers. It dazzles you from all directions. A hyperactive jolt to the senses featuring blazingly confident (and brilliant) performances, masterful direction that is fervently in command of all the madness and hoopla, and a sheer entertainment quality that cannot be understated. It is perhaps the most purely entertaining and compulsively watchable movie of the year and something must be said for that. Many have plot concerns but I don't. I see it as a snap shot of these characters lives, a moment in time film and the performances are so complex that everything we need to know can be seen on the faces of each character at any give time. Who needs a plot heavy storyline when you got all these goods?"
#5 - The Wolf of Wall Street: "Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese are films dynamic duo. The Batman and Robin of cinema. Every time these two hook up its pure cinematic gold (sans Shutter Island but bare with me here) and The Wolf is no exception. A marvelous, daring, but albeit repulsive all out blitz of an expose on the evils of greed that has the balls to tackle every. single. dirty. detail that revolves around the corrupt and morally bankrupt world of high stakes stocks on Wall Street. The 3 hour running time flies by like a bird bath shower with Margot Robbie".
#6 - Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom: "Critics be damned. This is a dignified, visceral, and powerfully acted send off to one of the most benevolent and influential figures this world has ever known. Idris Elba and Naomi Harris are remarkable as Nelson and Winnie Mandela in Oscar worthy turns. The film spans a very very very long time thru Mandela's life and does so at under 2hours and 30minutes but nothing feels rushed or undercooked. At films in you feel as if you know Mandela and you can literally see why his impact on the world was so profound. To experience hell on Earth and come out of it on a mission to grant Heaven to all is a task very few men in history could complete let alone ever attempt. RIP Mandela. Idris would make you proud."
#7 - Fruitvale Station: "You shot me!?! I got a daughter!' The restraint shown by first time director Ryan Coogler for the entire film leading up that tragic moment is a thing of beauty. We literally feel as if we are just observing a day in the life and Grant only to be powefully reminded we have been eavesdropping on the last moments of his leading to his death. Somewhere in the film I forgot that he dies in the end wanted to see him escape that fateful night at the transit stop but as fate would have it he would not see another day. This is not a movie about race or racism or even hatred. It's about love. About the value of human life and the dignity that comes with it. No decent hearted man deserves to have his life ended like this. No one."
#8 Her: "Spike Jonze has directed some of my favorite screenplays ever written (Adaptation being one of them). They were written by genius extraordinaire Charlie Kaufman. Her is strikingly similar to the eccentric brilliance of those films. It appears Spike has tapped into his inner Charlie for this irreverent but tender love story told so creatively that it makes you want to applaud it. Scarlett Johannson is never seen in this film. But her performance as an OS (and feel?) that can talk is nothing short of spectacular. Between this role and how scorchingly hot she was in Don Jon's Addiction I think this year Scarlett reminded everyone why she is a frickin' movie star! Bravo, girl! Bravo!"
#9 - The Conjuring: "One of my favorite horror movies of the 2000s. A marvelous throwback to the golden age of American horror that is beautifully shot, impeccably acted, and genuinely effective. The film establishes a creepy, "who's there?" atmosphere from its opening moments and never let's up. While watching this film I had this magnificent feeling of nostalgia. Like I was transported back to a time when horror movies were, well, good. Scary but artistic. Fun but mature. Creepy but not gory. Damn, I miss those days. Hope I don't hafta way til The Conjuring 2 to get that feeling again!"
#10 - Blue is the Warmest Colour: "As soon as you saw this on my list you said to yourself well he like this's ur because of the insanely graphic lesbian sex scenes didn't you? And well, you were right! Well, partially. Did I like Blue is the Warmest so much because it had insanely graphic (and yes, admitted, insanely hot sex scenes). Not really. I liked it because it was so raw of a probe about love, heartbreak, and sexual curiousity that after seeing the film yourself you will realize there really wasn't a better way to tell this story. They play a very critical role in this film's pay off. The acting in one of the final scenes in the film is one of the most emotionally devestating scenes of yearning for unrequited love to ever grace the screen. The obsessive, almost unhealthy fascination on display is heartbreaking.
Honorable Mentions: Mud, Dallas Buyers Club, Before Midnight, The Butler, 42, Gravity, Out of the Furnace, Oldboy, Spring Breakers, Don Jon's Addiction, Elysium, and Stoker