With the Academy Awards just 10 days away it’s time for my annual list of my favorite films of the year. I tried to hold out until I saw all the films I wanted to see before compiling this years list, but unfortunately I just didn’t get to them all so this will have to do. With apologies to the films I haven’t seen, namely Nebraska and Inside Llewyn Davis, here are the ten films I enjoyed the most in 2013:
- In A World — This was the most charming and unexpected surprise of the year for me. It’s not going to win any awards, but it’s sweet and funny and exactly the kind of film I love. I didn’t know Lake Bell before seeing this film over the summer, but she is a force to be reckoned with. Bell, who you may know from her role as Sally Heep on TV’s Boston Legal, wrote, directed and starred in this film. A triple threat I expect we’ll be hearing a lot more about over the coming years. Great supporting work as well by the very talented Demetri Martin, Rob Corddry and Nick Offerman.
- American Hustle — Of all the “big” films this year I enjoyed American Hustle the most and think it should win Best Picture. For me it is because of the performances that it was so great, despite criticism that the performances were way better than the film. Christian Bale is absolutely brilliant in this film and he has really cemented himself now as one of the top actors in the world.
- The World’s End – I love Simon Pegg and I cannot lie. The World’s End is a great continuation of the series of otherworldly send ups by the guys that brought us Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. I laughed hysterically throughout this entire film even as the ending turned into a weird post-apocalyptic zombie alien freak show. Pegg and his crew are the best comedy troupe working in film.
- The Way Way Back – Everyone I know who saw this little film over the summer loved it and for good reason. Who doesn’t love a good coming of age film, especially one where Steve Carell plays the bad guy! If you were ever a 14-year-old boy, or knew one, you’ll love this film. For me it’s really a throwback to the John Hughes/brat pack 80s style. Sam Rockwell is perfect as the oddly cool older guy who shows young Owen how to come out of his shell and make the most of his life.
- Kill Your Darlings – This great little indie film about beat generation poets Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs that creeps up on you and tears you apart. Don’t be fooled by the subject matter or the fact that it stars Harry Potter – this is a great story of friendship, betrayal and forbidden love during a time when being different could literally be risking your life. Daniel Radcliffe shows his adult acting chops, but the star of the film really is Dane DeHaan, who steals the film as the boy who other boys want to be – and be with. DeHaan is a rising talent who was also great in another film I liked from 2013, The Place Beyond The Pines. Keep an eye on him! Excellent supporting performances by the great Michael C. Hall, the guy who played “Richard Harrow” on Boardwalk Empire, Jack Huston, and Ben Foster as William Burroughs.
- The Wolf of Wall Street – I’m not going to make any apologies for loving this film despite the despicable nature of the characters. Yes, they ruined people’s lives, but this film is wild and crazy and a million laughs. People are sure wound up about the fact that the film glorifies the lifestyle of criminals, but so did The Sopranos and I didn’t hear anyone complaining about it. Leo is my favorite actor and he doesn’t disappoint as Jordan Belfort. It’s another tremendous role for Mr. DiCaprio and he deserves the Oscar nomination.
- Star Trek Into Darkness – The new cast of Star Trek is making me excited again for the series. I have always been an “original” cast guy and never found an interest in the Next Generation crew, but going back to the original characters in an earlier time was a brilliant move for this franchise. This is what science fiction action movies should be like.
- Gravity – I really had no interest in seeing this movie, but finally gave in and saw it in 3D. Sometimes when your expectations are really low you are apt to be surprised and that was the case with Gravity. The special effects were ridiculous. I still have no idea how they shot it, but director Alfonso Cuarón is a genius. It sure ain’t Y Tu Mama Tambien! I also like the subtle theme of evolution and rebirth at the end.
- The Book Thief – I’m always skeptical of a film from a novel I loved but I thought they did a tremendous job with The Book Thief. I was curious how they were going to deal with the narrator (it’s not a spoiler to tell you that the narrator is death himself) but they did an OK job with it. I think they could have gone further with it truthfully. Fabulous performances by Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson and the kids were terrific. Bring your handkerchief!
- Dallas Buyers Club – Congratulations to Matthew McConaughey for graduating to full-fledged actor status in the past couple of years. Surely Dallas Buyers Club is his coming out party, but don’t discount his great performance in 2012’s Mud and his soon-to-be Emmy winning performance in HBO’s True Detective. He is so good in this film it’s only a shame that he’s up against Christian Bale and Chiwetel Ejiofor (whom I think will win). Jared Leto will win for his role as a transvestite AIDS victim and believe me none of us ever thought we’d hear anyone ever utter the words “Academy Award Winner Jared Leto.” But good for Jordan Catalano…he’s a better actor than a singer.
I’d also like to mention a few other films from 2013. For me, the biggest letdown was Her, which I was really looking forward to. I thought it was good, but it could have been great and it wasn’t. I liked 12 Years a Slave, but it was slow. I liked Captain Phillips, but I didn’t think it was all that. I thought Blue Jasmine was just okay, although Kate Blanchett was remarkable and gave one of the most memorable female performances ever. I didn’t see the aforementioned Nebraska and Inside Llewyn Davis, which I will and perhaps (Maybe. Hopefully) adjust this list. I didn’t see August: Osage County and have no desire to. Same with Philomena. Same with that Mary Poppins crap. I still haven’t seen The Butler. Still want to see The Wind Rises, Adult World, Lone Survivor, All is Lost, Enough Said or Before Midnight. I still have a ways to go, but it sure seems like 2013 was a great year for film.