The 10 Best Movies Of 2013

Real film may be out of the picture in 2013, but great pictures aren't done being made

2013, especially the second half, was a great year for film. Old faves and new friends went up in lights. And with over a hundred years of film history behind us, each one is worldly, learned, stylized, and ever-moving. Check out the ten best.

Spike Jonze writes and directs this love story for the post-modern age. Kitschy and pink, the film centers on Theodore Twombly, expertly played by Joaquin Phoenix, and his love for artificially intelligent operating system, “Samantha,” voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Then Samantha starts to love lonely Theodore back.

Out of the Furnace
Out of the Furnace, directed by Scott Cooper of Crazy Heart fame, could be the best movie of the year. Starring Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson and Willem Dafoe, this stark film centers on some rough, afflicted lives being carried out in the Rust Belt of the United States. Beyond this, it’s a subtle movie about loss, surrender, and fate. The meth-den scene will leave you skipping beats.

The Wolf of Wall Street
Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street promised excellence straight out of the bright yellow trailer. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill team up as two Wall Street swindlers in another high crime adaptation from the king of cinema. The film is explosive, super-sexy, relentlessly and beautifully shot, absolutely disgusting, but also contains that strange, well-read subtlety that makes Scorsese Scorsese.

12 Years a Slave
Steve McQueen is making the transition right now from young and edgy film-maker to Hollywood bankable director. 12 Years a Slave, a true story about a free man sold into slavery in the American South, marks that transition. Straining and tense as a sustained note on a fiddle, the film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and McQueen’s longtime collaborator Michael Fassbender. It’s a bloody, gut-wrenching must-see, and a benefit to the American film canon.

The Lunchbox
Messages come in all forms. Some messages are films. Others, handwritten notes in lunchboxes carried by Indian dabbawallahs (lunch deliverers). Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox, starring Irrfan Khan, is about a love passed back and forth in these small messages, about how these messages are part of but also define our packed lives. You’ll love it, Cannes did.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
David Lowery’s door-creak, light in the hallway, light on the stairs drama starring young, independent, and always physical Casey Affleck tells the story of a doomed jailbird trying to get back to the love of his life. Or it’s a story about doom, that uses a jailbird as a metaphor. Set in the American South, will all the vast spiritual boil that it implies, this film is fatalistic, choked, and hard-handed.

Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen Brothers bring us folk tradition in a pine-oil scented box. This gray movie follows Llewyn Davis, discenchanted and down-on-his-luck folk singer through a week of bumming around in Grenwich village circa ‘65. It’s a film about community and dreams, and the traditions we’ve lost in this old, new world we live in.

The Counsellor
Ridley Scott’s The Counsellor is a film worthy of study. With an ensemble cast of accomplished actors and a screenplay by American master Cormac McCarthy, this trip of a film studies how deals can go wrong and end up exceeding our reach, both personal and geographical. Watch it a few times and you’ll begin to see the pieces come together.

Spike Lee’s remake of the Korean classic has gotten mixed reviews. Remorselessly violent and twisted, the film stars Josh Brolin as an ad-executive kidnapped and imprisoned for 20 years. All the while he plots his revenge in this film that has a lot to say about both deprivation and the media. Watch the 2003 original or Lee’s faithful remake.

Blue Jasmine
Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine was one of this year’s slowballs. It went in and out of theatres with little remark, but now, in retrospect, is beginning to command a lot of attention. How can you go wrong with Cate Blanchett as a defaced American socialite and Louis C.K. as a sad clown? Some have compared the film to A Streetcar Named Desire. Though it shares several plot elements, I’ll simply say Allen’s films are always deeply aware of what’s come before them.

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