The 13 Best Films of 2013 So Far
by Daniel Rester
It’s been a strong year at the movies so far in 2013. We’ve had a nice variety of comedies, big blockbusters, small indies, animated flicks, etc.
Now it’s time to count down my thirteen favorite films of 2013 so far. The films included must have had a limited or wide release, been released straight to DVD/Blu-ray, or have been picked up as a TV movie in the first half of the year (January 1st to June 30th). These are also going by USA release dates. So, basically, festival films and foreign films aren’t included unless they fit within these guidelines as well. These are some common types of guidelines which American critics tend to go by when making lists.
Two of my favorite films of the year, The Forgotten Kingdom and Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes, have yet to pick up such releases. I had the privilege of seeing them at the 12th Annual Ashland Independent Film Festival, though. While they are just festival films right now and won’t be on my list, I highly recommend seeking them out at a festival near you.
Here we go! Comment below after reading and let me know about your favorite films of the year so far!
Some films from the first half of 2013 that I have yet to see:
· The Company You Keep
· The Croods
· The East
· The Iceman
· Olympus Has Fallen
· The Reluctant Fundamentalist
· Evil Dead
· Monsters University
· Room 237
· Side Effects
· Upstream Color
Danny Boyle’s latest may not be on par with Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, and 127 Hours, but it still provides a lot of entertainment in its wild mind trip. None of the characters are easy to root for, and the plot becomes too twisty by the end, but the cast (including James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, and Vincent Cassel) is excellent, the direction is packed with style, the soundtrack pops, and the cinematography is top-notch. Trance is a colorful crime thriller for sure.
12. The Kings of Summer
The best coming-of-age film I’ve seen since last year’s amazing The Perks of Being a Wallflower (my #1 film of 2012) is The Kings of Summer. It falls back on formula and supporting caricatures from time to time, but that can’t defeat its relatable characters, its heartfelt writing and direction, or its beautiful capturing of its locations. Also, the pipe drumming scene is one of the coolest and most memorable scenes of the year.
11. Behind the Candelabra
Steven Soderbergh (who is supposedly retired) made this TV movie which tells the story of the relationship between Liberace (Michael Douglas) and Scott Thorson (Matt Damon). The film is longish and doesn’t have a strong story thrust, but Soderbergh’s direction is on-the-mark and Douglas and Damon turn in stellar performances. A terrific biopic, if not for everyone.
10. Spring Breakers
Easily the most divisive/polarizing film of 2013 so far is Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. On the surface, the film just seems like a nudity-filled, immoral, music video-like project. That may be enough to turn off some and make them hate it. But I detected a lot of biting social commentary beneath the party-filled surface, with Korine producing some satire of “the Spring Break dream” through his use of montage, repetition, narration, and character traits, among other things. Korine should have gone deeper, but he did go far enough to cause an effect – whether you like it or hate it. Plus the film features a flavorful performance by James Franco, pulsating music by Skrillex and Cliff Martinez, and transfixing cinematography by Benoit Debie. This will definitely gain a cult following in the coming years.
9. Man of Steel
I believe many critics were too harsh on this one. Zack Snyder’s vision of Superman is far from perfect (with a ridiculous, bloated climax, and a weak connection between Kal-El and Lois Lane), but Man of Steel is still a dynamite summer blockbuster — and far better than Iron Man 3 in my opinion. Henry Cavill is a Superman worth rooting for, the nonlinear story is interesting and occasionally emotional, and the visuals and action are unbelievable (the Smallville fight scene made my jaw drop).
8. Star Trek Into Darkness
J.J. Abram’s follow-up to his 2009 reboot is another stunning blockbuster, though some Trekkies may nitpick at some things. The visuals are smooth, the action is exciting, and the characters and cast are great. Also, Benedict Cumberbatch is a standout villain as the mysterious “John Harrison.”
7. This is the End
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s This is the End is the funniest film I have seen in 2013 so far. The film makes some hilarious stabs at celebrity lifestyles, while the cast fully delivers by playing “themselves.” Is it offensive and raunchy and not for all tastes? Definitely. But it also takes some surprising (and sometimes scary) turns and provides a ton of laugh-out-loud moments for the right audience.
6. Frances Ha
Noah Baumbach’s small film Frances Ha obviously takes inspiration from early Woody Allen pics and French New Wave films. The narrative goes here and there in the film (which may annoy some), but Ha is full of quirky charm and honest moments. It also features a superb performance by Greta Gerwig and a nice black and white aesthetic.
5. Much Ado About Nothing
Joss Whedon’s take on William Shakespeare’s work is refreshing and very entertaining. The modernization of certain things isn’t bothersome, the dialogue flows naturally from the excellent cast, the story and characters are intact, and Whedon’s direction is marvelous (with the director setting everything at his house and even filming in black and white).
4. The Crash Reel
Lucy Walker’s documentary The Crash Reel hits you like a sledgehammer in both the heart and mind. The film revolves around Kevin Pearce, a once-promising snowboarder who suffered from a major crash in 2009 – but a man who now remains an inspiration in different ways. You don’t have to be a snowboarder or sports-lover to love this film (I sure am not). Reel features exceptional editing (weaving together tons of footage) and music, but it also packs an emotional wallop and provides a lot of food for thought when it comes to brain injuries and their toll, competitive personalities, family strength, etc. I saw this film at the 12th Annual Ashland Independent Film Festival, but HBO picked it up a while ago and it will be showing on TV on July 15th. Don’t miss it.
Mud is a quiet but moving southern-fried drama, courtesy of Jeff Nichols. Nichols admirably echoes some of Mark Twain’s work in ways, and his film features a remarkable cast – with Matthew McConaughey giving one of the best performances of his career. Mud is a controlled and beautiful gem.
2. The Place Beyond the Pines
Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines may very well be declared as a masterpiece in the future. The film is one of the most ambitious dramas to come around in the past few years, telling a story that deals with fatherhood, family ties, fate, regret, second chances, etc. The cast here is phenomenal, with Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper doing some of their best work. Go into this movie not knowing much about it, as it makes for a more amazing experience.
1. Before Midnight
And the best film I’ve seen in 2013 so far is the near-perfect Before Midnight. Building on Before Sunrise and Before Sunset (do not see Midnight without first seeing those two films), Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy have again crafted a romantic drama that puts most others to shame. This entry now finds Jessie and Celine’s relationship eighteen years in the making, now facing the bruises that can appear in a long-term romantic relationship – with the filmmakers touching on themes of fatherhood, chances gained and lost because of one connection, fading love, etc. The dialogue, situations, and characters here are fully believable, with the film completely riding on long (but absorbing) conversations. It will be sad if this film doesn’t get recognition for its screenplay and acting come awards season.