For a year as jam-packed with movies we loved as 2013, it’s pretty tough to narrow down a set list of ten features that two dudes agreed on almost perfectly. And yet, that’s exactly what we’ve managed to do with this list of films. What better way to kick off the Listomania (not to be mistaken with Ken Russell’s Lisztomania) feature section than a big ol’ list of our favorite films of the year. While this is something we discussed on the first episode of our newly restored podcast, we figured posting the top ten itself would be easier to share than trying to coax people in listening to ninety minutes of us talking.
Due to the obscure nature of the wild science behind this top ten list (which basically comes down to whatever films were featured on both our lists plus the highest film of each we didn’t share), we’re also going to go ahead and include a collection of honorable films that made it into the top twenty, but weren’t included in the mix.
For Derek, those films are: A Field in England, The Act of Killing, All Is Lost, Drug War, The Grandmaster, Nebraska, Pain & Gain, Man of Tai Chi, Rewind This, and Ninja: Shadow of a Tear.
For Juan, those films are: Much Ado About Nothing, To the Wonder, You’re Next, The Bling Ring, Blancanieves, Prince Avalanche, Evil Dead, Only God Forgives, About Time, and Before Midnight
Without further ado, here’s the official top ten.
T10. Inside Llewyn Davis
“God damn. I am one lucky son of a bitch.”
One of the Coens’ shaggier dog stories, focusing on the exploits/foibles of a talented folkie on the wrong side of seemingly everything. The world is cold and indifferent, what you love is not enough, and you can make your own bad luck; naturally, a very funny film. – DG
T10. 12 Years a Slave
“I don’t want to survive. I want to live.”
Something about Steve McQueen’s artful presentation of desperate situations always impresses me. While the film presents a slave narrative in the most harrowing way possible, it also shows that maintaining hope and a will to live while suffering through the worst fate possible is essential. It’s an impacting work, led by an outstanding cast, that deserves to be watched by all. – JB
9. The Counselor
“Nothing is crueler than a coward, and the slaughter to come is probably beyond our imagining.”
To call this movie ridiculous would be too generous of a word; it’s batshit crazy. As Cormac McCarthy is well-aware, its insanity is what makes it oh-so-entertaining. It’s an aggressively written film that allows for its writer to move every scene along with lengthy monologues and conversations that work almost the same way as narration, but for all that, it’s still some of Ridley Scott’s best direction in nearly a decade. – JB
“Anxiety is bad for the heart.”
A gripping feat of technical dexterity that completely literalizes the struggle to survive in the face of cosmic indifference. Alfonso Cuaron decides to let his camera dance a ballet through the cosmos for just under one-sixth of its running time, before throwing us all into a mosh pit of queasy loop-de-loops and deadly debris. Remember to breathe. -DG
7. Spring Breakers
“This is the fuckin’ American dream.”
It’s hard to think of a film with as much hate and contempt for Spring Break culture than this one. As much of a Harmony Korine hater as I am, so much of this movie just kills. It’s a downright assault on the senses from the bouncing booties to a freaky Franco and all the better for it. And you’ll probably never hear me say this again, but goddamn, Cliff Martinez and Skrillex owned that score. – JB
6. Computer Chess
“There seems to be a little glitch here…”
This movie would have worked brilliantly as a nostalgia piece for and about computer nerds. Instead, it fractals off into the realms of comedy, sci-fi, and surrealism. It’s a movie about bugs that gets progressively, enthrallingly buggier as it goes along. The world does not operate on a grid. – DG
5. Wolf Children
“Why is the wolf always the bad guy?”
Sirkian melodrama meets Miyazaki-esque self-actualization. Mamoru Hosoda abandons the pastel-coloured technophilia of his previous features and makes a lateral move into light fantasy. These werewolves don’t represent sex; they represent self. The tough road to becoming the person you know you are is always worth taking. -DG
4. The Wolf of Wall Street
“I’ve been a poor man, and I’ve been a rich man. And I choose rich every fucking time.”
What’s more fun to watch than a bunch of depraved individuals living out their lives only to crash and burn in the worst of ways? Not a lot apparently. Martin Scorsese proves that he’s still got more energy in him in his seventies than most people can achieve in a lifetime, and with Thelma Schoonmaker by his side to make a three hour film that flies by, it’s no surprise. Talking about Leo’s performance alone, as well as his great physical comedy, would take forever, so it’s suffice to say that everyone involved brings out the best — or rather the worst — of Jordan Belfort’s story. – JB
T2. The World’s End
“I fucking hate this town!”
All of the Cornetto movies are about the often strenuous but ultimately rewarding nature of male friendship. But thanks to career turns by both Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the film’s pathos feels ingrained deeper than in the trilogy’s prior entries. The emotional toll of love and nostalgia filtered through a genre-film lens. Also, the setup/payoff game of Pegg and Edgar Wright has never been tighter. -DG
T2. Frances Ha
“Sometimes it’s good to do what you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it.”
There’s something so genuinely uplifting about this story of a young woman trying to figure out life and friendship that hits close to home. Everything in this film just emits a positive atmosphere even in the most downbeat moments and it’s rather refreshing. The French New Wave references, the light-hearted dialogue, Greta Gerwig’s delightful performance, and a genuinely touching story make this one of the best of the year. – JB
1. Upstream Color
“The water before you is somehow special. When you drink it you feel revived and full of energy. It is better than anything you’ve ever tasted. Take a drink now.”
The closest we’ll get to another Andrei Tarkovsky film. Thematically and structurally dense to the point of abstraction. Could be about how we cope with trauma with isolation. Could be about the cyclical nature of existence. Most definitely about the glory of existence in the face of pain. Plays like a lucid dream in sharp focus. Bypasses the logic centres of your brain and plugs directly into your emotional core. Singularly overwhelming. – DG
Here’s to a great cinematic 2014!