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 Raffi Asdourian’s favorite films of the year below.
It has been an exceptional year in film, with some exceptional new offerings from seasoned filmmakers to the resurgence of lesser known, but much beloved filmmakers trying to make their own mark. To say that 2013 hasn’t had it’s share of ups and downs would certainly be a bit disingenuous, with Hollywood still wading through the trenches of sequels and stale franchises. Yet nothing can stop the bullet train that is quality contemporary cinema, with all sorts of amazing offerings from both the US and around the world. I was lucky enough to attend several film festivals this year and there was an excellent amount of top notch work making this list tough to cull down. All I can say is that there was a steady stream of quality films to choose from in 2013 and I hope that continues next year.
10. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine)
Harmony Korine‘s bizarre trip to Florida feels like the cinematic equivalent of taking drugs. Featuring dizzying cinematography from the lens of Benoît Debie, the DP of Gaspar Noe‘s Enter the Void and Irreversible, the film is less a traditional narrative and more a fever dream that encapsulates, similarly to The Wolf of Wall Street, the escapism inherent in the American Dream. But where Scorsese is more interested in the dangerous potential of unfettered freedom, Korine is all about embracing it. Spring Breakers is a hallucinatory journey into the vices of American culture without trying to tackle any one them too seriously, it’s just an odd amalgamation of a film.
9. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)
With Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese has proven that he still has the bravado and energy to make a truly great American film. Especially considering that his main subject, the parasitic titular Wolf, is a vile, despicable and highly unlikable human being who manipulated and used the people around him to satiate his own never ending need for money, drugs and power. It’s impressive that this three-hour film, filled with scenes bursting with energy, feels more like a roller-coaster than anything else. Smartly skewering capitalism, greed and materialism with razor sharp writing, direction and acting, The Wolf of Wall Street is the pinnacle achievement in Leonardo DiCaprio’s and Martin Scorsese’s cinematic love affair.
8. Borgman (Alex van Warmerdam)
The less you know about Borgman, the better. All that matters is that it’s Dutch, it was the most bizarre film to play in the main competition of Cannes this year and it’s coming out next year courtesy of Drafthouse Films. Oh, and it’s a devilishly good time for fans of black comedy shenanigans. If any of that sounds at all intriguing, then definitely seek this film out and you’ll be sure to be both bewildered and delighted. All that’s left to say is: Gotta go Borgman.
7. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer and Anonymous)
Joshua Oppenheimer’s unusual hybrid style of documentary and narrative creates one of the most disturbing and fascinating films of the year. By following around several retired gangsters in Indonesia who committed horrific crimes during a military coup against ‘communists’ thirty years ago, the film attempts to understand how these men, who brutally executed thousands of people without questioning their conscience, are still celebrated as heroes. By attempting to get them to recreate their actions by selling them on making a movie to preserve their legacy, Oppenheimer cleverly creates moments for them to realize the atrocity of their own actions. Subversive and surreal, The Act of Killing is unlike any documentary to come out in the last several years.
6. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen)
Any year that the Coen brothers decide to make a movie is a good year for cinephiles and this year was no different. Using their collective intelligence and experience seems to give them an impeccable ability to create memorable films that feel effortless in their elegance of presentation. They have a precision to their craft that is uncanny and Inside Llewlyn Davis is a further testament to this, focusing in on a specific time and era in New York’s Greenwich Village folk music scene with incredible detail and character. Anchored by an incredible performance from Oscar Isaac, whose musical talent is equally impressive as his acting ability, Inside Llewyn Davis captures a mood and place in time that is both transportive yet tragically heartbreaking.
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