Top 15 Films of 2013 – Allen’s Picks
Why 15? Because 10 just ain’t enough.
That’s how good 2013 has been. Granted, every year can be considered a good year, since great movies come out all the time. But this year has proven to be a standout, as one release after another has provided cinematic quality in droves. For my particular list, I had such a difficult time limiting it to ten that I had to toss my hands up and expand it, and even then, I probably could have gone to twenty and still had a hard time rounding it all out. Making a list of the top films of the year is a silly practice, since it’s pretty much comparing apples to oranges. But if it gets people to talk about movies – whether they agree with the list or not – that’s always a positive thing.
A few notes before we begin. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to see much foreign cinema this year, and the ones I did see were not very good. There are only two foreign language entries present on the list, but I hope to catch up with the ones I missed later down the line. Also, regarding how I chose one film over another: there is no scientific method. The list was created entirely on how I feel today, and the order may change a week from now. Except for the top spot (which I do feel is the best film of the year), many of the others can be reordered in any arbitrary way. That means I better hurry up and finish this thing as quickly as possible before I redo it for the umpteenth time.
Ok, let’s get down to business:
15: Spring Breakers
Harmony Korine’s examination of the youth and party culture is a hypnotic and nightmarish satire. Filling the screen with hyper realistic imagery, he takes the story of four young girls on a mission to have the best spring break of all time, and transforms it into something dangerous and upsetting. “Spring Break Forever” is repeated so often it loses whatever little meaning it has, turning into a hollow excuse for these people to do whatever crazy acts they so desire. James Franco delivers one of his best performances as Alien, a low life drug dealer and rapper, who takes the girls on a ride none of them were expecting, but can’t turn away from. It’s a story where the line between having fun and causing mayhem is not just crossed, but erased entirely.
14: Blue Jasmine
The best performance of the year – male or female – goes to Cate Blanchett as the spoiled New York housewife on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Woody Allen is one of the most accomplished writer/directors working today, but this is the rare occasion where the lead performance lifts the material to be better than it actually is. As Jasmine, Blanchett hits every emotional beat – from funny to angry to romantic and condescending – all while holding in the mental collapse boiling inside of her. It’s the acting version of a decathlon, and she nails it with such natural believability. I only hope this is the start of a long and prosperous collaboration between Allen and Blanchett. They’re two artists whose styles fit perfectly in sync with each other.
13: The Grandmaster (The Chinese Cut)
Before it was bought by the Weinstein Company and reedited to be a shell of its former self, Wong Kar Wai’s epic was an emotional story of maintaining tradition through the passage of time. Tony Leung plays Ip Man, the martial arts master most famously known for training Bruce Lee. But this is not just his story. We also learn of Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi), the daughter of another master who wishes to carry on her family’s honor. Through them, we see the struggle to persevere just as the Sino-Japanese War destroys their lives. It’s not a love story as we know it, but a connection between these two people based on a common understanding. WKW again shoots his story in lush and beautiful cinematography, not concerned with the force of the fight scenes, but with the artistry that separates one style from another. It’s what Ip Man and Gong Er identified with, and if that is taken away, a part of their very being is taken as well.