Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Ten Favorite Films of 2013

Not the best films, I may not have even seen the best films that came out this year. But as for the films that entertained, enlightened, informed (especially entertained), here’s the top ten.

10) “Much Ado About Nothing” – Directed by Joss Whedon

This might have ranked higher if the Kenneth Branagh’s version of the classic wasn’t out there. I’m not ready to say one is better than the other, but I do wish Whedon had covered new Shakespearean territory. But two roles were certainly cast better than in the KB version. Sean Maher captures the pettiness of Don John is much better than the awful Keanu Reeves, but most anyone would be. And Nathan Fillion is really funny as Dogberry and reminds one that Shakespeare wanted people to laugh.

9) “Frozen” – Directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck

It is good to see a love story for children that is not about lovers (primarily), but instead about siblings. At turns funny, at others moving, but always gorgeous to look at. After Pixar’s amazing steak, for three years in a row the “Disney” film is better than the “Pixar” film (both are actually Disney now and many of the same people work for both divisions.) I liked Pixar’s “Monster’s University” but “Frozen” was better. Last year “Wreck It Ralph” from Disney was better than “Brave” from Pixar and the year before that “Winnie the Pooh” was greater than “Cars 2”. And next year there is a Disney film, but no Pixar film.

8) “Frances Ha” – Directed by Noah Baumbach

Baumbach often makes cynical and abrasive film, but this tale of a young woman (the darn cute Greta Gerwig) growing up in NYC is quite sweet. If you wonder about the title, you’ll have to wait to the end. It’s worth the wait. (Now on Netfilx.)

7) “Gravity” – Directed by Alfonso Cuarón

I wrote about this film in the blog here, but for now I’ll just say that not every filmmaker is making a false choice between a good story and amazing special effects. Both are possible.

6) “No” – Directed by Pablo Larraín

I wrote about this Chilean film as well, the only foreign language film on my list. One of the best films about politics since the foreign language film with a shorter title, “Z”.

5) “Mud” – Directed by Jeff Nichols

This is my only film on the list that I didn’t see in the theater, caught it on DVD from the library. It would have been fun in the theater to see the beauty of the Mississippi River. The story of two young boys helping a man on the run will remind many viewers of Huck and Tom and the amazing thing is it stands up to the comparison.

4) “Inside Llewyn Davis” – Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen

After I see the film another time or two, this film might become by favorite of the year. But I saw this film recently and like many Coen films I need time to mull it over some. The wonderful thing about this film is you want to mull over this episodic story of a folk singer in Greenwich Village in the early ’60’s. A marquee in Minneapolis captured some of the spirit of the film advertising the film starred “A cat and John Goodman” and on the other side, “Inside Llewyn Davis, Outside Very Cold.”

3) “12 Years A Slave” – Directed by Steve McQueen

Maybe the most important film of the year, maybe the best, and I like it very much, but it wasn’t my favorite. The true story of a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery is at turns grueling and heart breaking and at other times inspiring. As a Christian, it is a good reminder that some at this dark portion of our country’s history were inspired by their faith to fight evil while others used the trappings of faith to hide their evil.

2) “The Way, Way Back” – Directed by Jim Rash and Nat Faxon

I wrote about this film as well. Two things I loved about this film so very much: Sam Rockwell channeling early ‘80’s Bill Murray and an example of how to love teenagers.

1) “Nebraska” – Directed by Alexander Payne

Maybe it was dealing with the loss of my mom this year that made me appreciated this film all the more. Will Forte plays a son dealing with his father, who is convinced he won the Publishers’ Clearing House big money and must go to from Montana to Nebraska to collect. A funny, tough and tender look back at a man’s life; the accomplishment and failures, dreams unfilled and unexpected gifts.

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