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Christopher Schobert’s Top 10 Films of 2013

Written by on December 30, 2013 

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 first up is writer Christopher Schobert with his favorite films of the year.

This was a rare year in which I could have easily found 15 or so other films to include in my top 10 list, and I’m not sure when that last occurred. In other words, 2013 was stellar, even if some biggies flopped hard, especially during the summer months. This year, even films I would consider modest disappointments — Gatsby, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Dallas Buyers Club — had wonderful moments.

The year was so strong that achievements like Short Term 12, Lore, Before Midnight, Reality, Room 237, Stranger by the Lake, Mud, Upstream Color, The Bling Ring, Spring Breakers, Much Ado About Nothing, Gravity, Fruitvale Station, and The Great Beauty found themselves eclipsed. One note: I have yet to see a few majors, including Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, and Nebraska, so put a big asterisk next to my name, sadly. And check with me in a few days, because the order may have changed completely, another sign of a joyous year of cinema. In the meantime, see my honorable mentions and top 10 films below.

Honorable Mentions:

10. The Place Beyond the Pines (Derek Cianfrance)

Here is an epic American crime drama, one that takes a narrow-eyed look at class, and how the circumstances of our birth dictate the rest of our lives. It’s boldly told, ambitiously plotted, and often verges on collapse. But Derek Cianfrance and his cast keep it together. Ryan Gosling has never been better as a motorcycle daredevil turned bank robber, Bradley Cooper is nicely flawed as the beat cop who finds himself on Gosling’s tale, and Eva Mendes gives her best performance as the woman who gave birth to Gosling’s child, but knows he’s on the road to nowhere. Few films this year matched this one’s verve and ambition.

9. Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)

Woody Allen‘s finest drama since Crimes and Misdemeanors was a dark, unsettling character study centered around one of the finest performances the director has ever brought to the screen. Months later, it is easy to forget how frantically unhinged Cate Blanchett‘s woman-on-the-verge of a lead actually is; rewatching at home may, if anything, make Blanchett, and the film itself, even stronger.

8. Blue is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche)

The plot is, in some ways, simple: Teenager Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) meets Emma (Léa Seydoux), a college art student, and the two fall in love. During the course of the three-hour film, we see the highs and lows of their passionate relationship. But the film is much more complex, much more involving, much more vivid than that. It is, I think, one of the finest films ever made about young love. Yes, the film features several graphic, extended sex sequences. But they are only a small part of director Abdellatif Kechiche’s creation. The emotion is what stands out, and that is what makes those scenes memorable, not how graphic they are. “I have infinite tenderness for you. I always will,” says Emma late in the film. The viewer feels that tenderness — and shares it. What a great love story this is, and what a glorious portrayal of two unique people.

7. Bastards (Claire Denis)

Claire Denis continues to demonstrate why she is one if the world’s most provocative and important filmmakers with this razor-sharp, chilling bit of film noir. Dark, disturbing, and unforgettable, Denis’ film is a brutal shocker. There are images — blood running down a dazed, naked girl’s legs; the inside of a hellish barn; one of the most mesmerizing night driving sequences in film history — as brilliantly composed as any in recent memory.

6. A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhangke)

Jia Zhangke’s four-story tapestry is a harsh, epic exploration of modern China, and a study of defeated characters that rewards close viewing. In each story, violence comes quickly, sometimes coupled with absurdity: a villager strikes back against the oppressive powers-that-be, a killer takes aim due mainly to boredom, a sauna worker is pushed past her breaking point, and a young person shuffles from job to job with disastrous results. What does it all mean? For Zhangke, that is the ultimate, likely unanswerable question.

See Christopher Schobert’s top 5 films of 2013 >>

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