The Best of Cinema 2013

Of the 37 films I saw in the theater this year, and these are my ten favorites.

10. Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside llewyn davis

A sly yet melancholy look at the repetition of failure, this is the Coen brothers’ most soulful film, largely due to the instant classic soundtrack, but also to Oscar Isaac’s self destructive, world weary portrayal. My full review is here.

9. Side Effects

SIDE EFFECTS

Leave it to Steven Soderbergh in his supposedly final theatrical film to create a new sub genre (the pharmaceutical thriller) while taking narrative and character detours that most studio films would never dare risk. My full review is here.

8. To the Wonder

To the Wonder

Terrence Malick’s visual stunner is his most stripped down work to date with barely any dialogue or narrative propulsion, and yet speaks volumes in observing the disintegration of love in the absence of God. My full review is here.

7. 12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave

A blisteringly formidable piece of work with unforgettable scenes, Steve McQueen’s film may command more respect than love, but the horrors of slavery have never felt this immediate, a living document of the time it depicts. My full review is here.

6. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Hobbit

By developing its key characters and presenting complex themes, Peter Jackson’s rip roaring adventure proves to be much more than just a fantasy, while also pulling off its malevolent dragon in spades. My full review is here.

5. Her

Her

Its emotional hesitancy is largely the point as Spike Jonze delves into our contemporary crises of interpersonal communication and furthers into the mysteries of human consciousness by focusing on a gorgeous duet between Phoenix and Johansson at its core. My full review is here.

4. The Wolf of Wall Street

Wolf of Wall Street

The most daring and audacious film of the year walks a fine line between indictment and celebration, anchored by an astonishing emotional and physical performance by Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by a master in his seventies, whose cinematic eye remains unparalleled. My full review is here.

3. Before Midnight

Before Midnight

This third film in the most unlikely of trilogies is yet another triumph for Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, deepening its investigation into modern relationships with sublime performances and a deeply resonant script. My full review is here.

2. The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines

Derek Cianfrance’s generational epic deftly navigates the tempestuous waters between opera and realism, bolstered by a firecracker ensemble with never better performances by Cooper and Gosling, and emerging as one of the most complete American family sagas in decades. My full review is here.

1. Gravity

Gravity

Cementing its visionary director into the pantheon, Alfonso Cuaron’s masterpiece is not just one of the most visually and aurally immersive films ever made, but more importantly, a powerful metaphorical journey about the struggle for physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual survival, making all other films feel terrestrial in comparison.

Honorable Mentions: All is Lost, Blue Jasmine, Captain Phillips, Prisoners, This is the End

Underrated: The Great Gatsby

Overrated: American Hustle

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~ by romancinema on December 31, 2013.

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