Closing out our year-end coverage is individual top ten lists from a variety of The Film Stage contributors, leading up to a cumulative best-of rundown. Make sure to follow all of our coverage here and see Jared Mobarak’s favorite films of the year below.
You know 2013 has been a banner year for cinema when Sony Pictures Classics gets shut out of the Best Foreign Film category it’s ruled the past four, a French film like Blue is the Warmest Color has a better shot at Oscar glory not being picked by its country for foreign consideration, and studio CBS Films has a guaranteed Best Picture nomination with Inside Llewyn Davis. Yes, CBS Films. I have yet to see some big ones like the aforementioned Coen Brothers flick, Her, The Past, The Great Beauty, Short Term 12, and The Grandmaster, but even with those absences I have no regrets listing any of the following fifteen films as my personal favorites. And when you have that kind of confidence in selections you know may be bumped off in the coming weeks, it’s easy to see the level of quality these past twelve months have given.
10. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)
It’s not the best of Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, but boy does it pack a punch the two previous entries never could considering where leads Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s relationship was. A wonderful depiction through wall-to-wall dialogue of what stress and familiarity can do to a couple so many years down the line despite the absolute love and devotion we all know exists between them, you can’t help but relate to his incredulity or her yearning for more than the stagnancy to which they’ve fallen prey. It’s honest, full of the warts we began to see crop up at the end of Sunrise, and an authentic look at how much more complex love is beneath the façade we allow to be seen in public.
9. Blue Is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche)
A never-dull portrayal of love’s genesis and deterioration that transcends its lead characters’ sexual orientation too many enjoy letting overpower the rest, Blue is the Warmest Color may be the first film I would actually accept someone’s description of an actress being “brave.” It’s the type of adjective that is generally seen as a cop-out, blanket phrase for any female who sheds her clothes on screen, but Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos both bear their souls whether they’re naked or not each and every frame. You need the explicit love scene to understand their passion before interest wanes with time and rapturous sexual attraction proves less important than initially seemed.
8. American Hustle (David O. Russell)
The perfect example of a filmmaker taking a true story and making it cinematic rather than hoping it will translate on its own, David O. Russell’s caricature of the ABSCAM operation of the 70s/80s is entertaining, involving, and genuinely funny beyond the vintage clothes and hairstyles. Christian Bale and Amy Adams are shoe-ins for Best Actor nominations with Jennifer Lawrence continuing her domination of the independent scene on top of her success in Hollywood. Don’t discount Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, or a slew of memorable supporting players, though, because everyone plays their role to perfection alongside Russell’s inventive use of time and heavy voiceovers that actually enhance how the story unfolds for more laughs and a welcome twist or two.
7. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine)
As divisive a film as any in 2013, Harmony Korine’s exposé on today’s co-ed culture raises questions on just how little we know about our kids once they fly the coup for consequence-free fun in the sun. Hooked on drugs and the adrenaline rush of getting away from home to shed inhibitions and parental suffocation, these ex-Disney and CW youth starlets dive right into the chaos of sex and crime provided by James Franco’s unforgettable hoodlum with a heart of black gold. Shot in a fantasy glow of phosphorescent light to drive home its dark fairy tale sheen, what results should be a cautionary nightmare yet actually proves to be a warped journey of bloody—and avoidable—retribution.
6. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach)
I mistakenly put this on my list last year, but it is good enough to go on again now that it finally saw release outside of the festival circuit in 2013. Easily and understandably labeled by some as twee and obnoxious fare suitable for hipsters and few else, Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s look at twenty-something angst, insecurity, and lack of motivation is a delight. Consistently funny and endearing without the mean-spirited edge the director has fallen prey to more than once the past decade, it’s easy to relate to the titular Frances as she traverses a world maturing too quickly for her to catch up or comprehend how everything she thought would be forever has left her behind.
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