Sunday, January 19, 2014

Best Films I saw in 2013

2013 was an above average year in film. There were several films that were in the B to B+ grade range but no true A films and definitely not any A+. The year did feature the best performances I have seen in film in years. There are many performances that in any other year would be sure in Oscar winners. There were multiple films in which Directors moved what could have been mediocre films to excellent pieces of art either through special effects or getting outstanding performances. This seems to be a year where the sum is not as great as the parts. Note: Several of these films came out prior to 2013. They are included in this list of I saw them for the first time this year. Note 2: The best piece of filmmaking I saw this year was Breaking Bad. I watched all five seasons from beginning to end this year. I thought the performances were amazing. I thought the writing was outstanding. I thought the overall story was brilliant. This may have been the best TV series of all time. Best films: 9. Ted – this is a very crude, very funny and potentially very offensive film. I loved it. It has a much deeper message than the story implies. It is one of the funniest films of the year. Link: 8. World War Z – Brad Pitt kills Zombies. It is not deeper than that. It is the best action film I saw this year. It had stakes (survival of the human race). It had characters you care about. It scared you. It also has what every successful action film has, an upcoming sequel. Link: 7. American Hustle – this is the best group of actors in a film I have seen in years. There are five amazing performances. Bradley Cooper gives his best performance. Amy Adams gives the best performance of her career and is much better than I thought possible. Jeremy Renner gives the second best performance in the film and has been criminally ignored. Jennifer Lawrence is Meryl Streep 2.0. It is becoming redundant that she is great. She is always good. Christian Bale gives the best performance of any actor this past year. He gives a brave, smart performance full of anger, perfect comic timing and one devoid of vanity. The film has some great scenes with great actors at the top of their game, but they do not add up to a great film. Link: 6. Game Change – this HBO film about the selection of Sara Palin as the Vice President nominee and subsequent election in 2008 is incredible. It is entertaining, funny, sad (for America) exploration of how we choose our leaders and what factors go into deciding who we are going to vote for. This explores the concept of Cult of Personality, the desire for greatness (an under seen line in the movie “I wish there was a Thomas Jefferson out there, but there is not.”). The film has four outstanding performances; Ed Harris (is he the most under rated actor of his generation?), Sarah Paulson (a frustrated voice of reason, more on her later), Julianne More (who transforms herself into Sara Palin both good and bad) and Woody Harrelson (who has evolved into an actor who never plays the same character twice and always does interesting projects). Link: 5. Dallas Buyers Club – You expect great performances from some actors. Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey are not two of them. Jared Leto gives the best supporting performance of the year. Every scene he is in he dominates. His two best scenes are where he meets with his father who obviously hates him and when he leaves his home for the last time. Both scenes convey his fear and pain and anger. He is a man struggling to survive and that comes across. McConaughey’s 2012-2013 reminds me of Tom Hanks in 1992-1993. Hanks went from Joe Vs. The Volcano to more challenging and deeper performances especially for comedian including Sleepless in Seattle, Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. Now he is considered the top actor of his generation. McConaughey has gone from 2008s Fools Gold, Tropic Thunder, Surfer,Dude and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past to much darker films where he 1. Kept his shirt on, 2. Played unlikable characters, 3. Did not play the lead actor. It was a very brave decision to take on these types of roles. He could have kept cranking out bad but profitable films such as Failure to Launch and How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days and make 10 million dollars a film. Instead he did Bernie, Killer Joe, Mud, Magic Mike, The Wolf of Wall Street and Dallas Buyers Club. I am curious about what will be next. Link: 4. Side Effects – the best thriller of the year. This film was seen by very few people. The film was hurt by its advertising. It seemed to be a film about the problems with mass medication of America. It is much deeper. It touches of the role of medication but it is truly a film about greed and the compromises that some are willing to take to make money. Link: 3. Starbuck – this is a French language film is a comedy about a man who fathered over 500 children by donating his sperm to a fertility clinic. The film was remade into a seemingly formulaic Vince Vaughn film (Delivery Man). Starbuck is a film about growing up. The sacrifices we make for our children. The decisions we make to care for the people we love. The reason for his “donations” is incredibly thoughtful. Link: 2. 12 Years a Slave – this marks the third time that a Steve McQueen-Michael Fasbender film has ended the year as a top two film. Check out their two previous collaborations, Shame and Hunger, they are superior films to 12 Years a Slave. Michael Fasbender is the best actor working today. If Jared Leto had not done an amazing job in Dallas Buyers Club, Fasbender would have won the Oscar for best supporting actor. McQueen’s best trait as a director is that there is NEVER a wasted scene in any of his films. Every scene exists to support another part of the movie. His non-sequential film making style can be confusing and a disaster if not done correctly. He manages to balance the need for direct story telling with the audience buy in that comes with forcing them to think about what happens with these out of order scenes. While Fasbender-McQueen is an amazing combination, I would like for them to include Sarah Paulson again. She plays the wife of the sadistic Plantation Owner, played by Michael Fasbender. In a film where there are characters who rape, lynch, torture, enslave, beat and degrade, Paulson’s character is the most evil character in the film. She has had a career of minor supporting roles but has started to break out with great performances in Game Change, American Horror Story, Mud, 12 Years a Slave and Martha Marcy May Marlene. She may be better at supporting roles than lead roles, but she is becoming a performer who makes me want to see her latest film. Link: Link to Shame: Link to Hunger: 1. The Wolf of Wall Street – this was not the best directed film of the year. That would be 12 years a Slave or Gravity. Leonardo DiCaprio did not give the best performance by a lead actor. Christian Bale should get the trophy. Jonah Hill was good but Jared Leto and Michael Fasbender were much better. It did not have the most moving story (12 Years a Slave, American Hustle). The Wolf had not good roles or performances for women. It did have the best screen play of any movie this year. It had humor, stakes, great character arcs, and put the actors into roles that they could explore fully. DiCaprio has multiple scenes where he gives a physical performance that I did not think he was capable of. He took a great character and made him memorable. Link:

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