Fall is around the corner, and that is when Oscar buzz gets going with festival winners and nominees names popping up. With the recent release of The Butler, Ain’t Them Body Saints, and the premiere of 12 Years a Slave at the Toronto Film Festival; we thought it would be good time to look back and recap the Top 10 best films of 2013, so far. Some of our most anticipated films at Cannes Film Festival didn’t make this best film list as The Bling Ring fell short of cinematic quality and missed Coppola’s style. Meanwhile, the Lynchian aesthetic of Only God Forgives drew us in but lacked the dialogue that Tarantino could have gotten away with for example, although kudos for Kristen Scott Thomas and Vithaya Pansringarm who clearly stole the film. If you don’t see your favorite film (so far), make sure to check out our other films to mention at the bottom and leave your comments.
Top 10 Best Films of 2013 (So Far):
10: Drinking Buddies by Joe Swanberg
Number 10 on the list was a very close call with Before Midnight, as much as I enjoyed Hawke and Deply, it was the cast of Drinking Buddies that won me over. Life is complicated and you have to get on with it which is what Drinking Buddies does as opposed to Before Midnight which constantly comes up with excuses for life problems. Both films however are about balancing life’s relationships and results from our actions. Drinking Buddies felt less suffocating, equally as honest, and well made it number 10 on our best films list.
9. Zero Charisma by Andrew Matthews & Katie Graham
There has been a cultural divide in recent years and that is the Nerd vs Hipster. Finally someone has decided to tackle the issue, outside of Portlandia. The film follows a hard-core gamer whose life is turned upside down when a hipster crashes his regular Dungeons & Dragons game. The nerd in me wants to say that you might not find all of the references funny and the characters quite unlikable, but as we all have family and went to high school, I’m pretty sure you enjoy Zero Charisma as much as I did.
8. Spring Breakers by Harmony Korine
HarmonyKorine’s Spring Breakers is an unforgettable film from the colors, soundtrack, location, to James Franco’smetal-grilled rapper-gangster performance. If one thing should remain from the contribution of reality TV and MTV it should be this film. Korine has narrowed in on a culture that does exist from Kavos to Cancun as the backdrop for this hedonistic hell crime spree adventure.
7. Frances Ha by Noah Baumbach
We make several ‘coming of age’ references in this list, we could easily call it the cinematic trend of the year. While audience versus critics reviews are mixed on Baumbach’s Frances Ha it struck a personal chord with me. As I’ve experienced some of my closest friends buying places, getting promotions, having children, there are moment when I feel I’m having a friend break-up left wondering when I will grow up too. Yes, Frances Ha does sometimes feel like a pretentious exercise in indie film-making, but sometimes trying to become who we are also feels like pretentious undertaking.
6. Stoker by Park Chan-Wook
Park Chan-Wook’s Stoker came and went through cinemas earlier this year without many people taking notice of this stylish chilling ‘coming of age’ story. While Park doesn’t shy away from violence, it is the tool that brings you into the story and very soon you find yourself not shying away either. So why it is so good? Because it is the tension that scares us.
5. The Grandmaster by Wong Kar-Wai
I’m totally biased here because Wong Kar-Wai is one of my favorite directors, however, I’m not a big martial arts fan so I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the film as much as I did because at the end of the day I’m a sucker for the visual stunning and The Grandmaster did not disappoint. The story follows a martial artist (who eventually went on to teach to Bruce Lee) set against the elegance of the aesthetic that Wong is famously known for.
4. Mud by Jeff Nichols
One of my favorite films growing up was Stand by Me, it was the sense of adventure, secrets, and friendships that quickly became a right of passage. So it is hard to watch Mud and not draw comparisons as these young boys decide to take keep a secret and use their own judgement. What sets it apart from Stand by Me, besides era, is the location in the deep south. If you remember our best film list from 2012, you would know that Beasts of the Southern Wild topped our list, so if you want to continue this cinematic background in 2013 catch Mud.
3. Fanie Fourie’s Lobola by Henk Pretorius
Who doesn’t love a good romantic comedy, the people of Seattle certainly do awarding Fanie Fourie’s Lobola the top audience prize for best film with a Golden Space Needle Award at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). Although the film is set in South Africa about an Afrikaans man and a Zulu woman who fall in love, I think anyone can find this film full of charm because its equally about generational differences as it it cultural.
2. Upstream Color by Shane Carruth
Full of symbolism, romance, theological perspective, and layered thematically rich storytelling, Upstream Color doesn’t look like your typical medical thriller (say Side Effects for example). The film follows a young duo who try to make sense of the strange series of events affecting them. Like Terrence Malick, director Shane Carruth creates beautiful visuals that summons up the microbiological themes in the plot.
1.Fruitvale Station by Ryan Coogler
Since covering Cannes, the Grand Jury Prize winner of 2013 Sundance Film Festival Fruitvale Station has made it to the top of our best film list. Let’s see if it will be remembered around Oscar Season. Based on a true story of Oscar Grant III, who was going home to the East Bay when he got into a fight and was shot by a panicked cop. With the nationwide release of the film at the same time as the Zimmerman trial, emotions to film were high. I saw it earlier, and they were still high, leaving me in a state of tears. Usually, with such a story I prefer documentaries and interviews, but Ryan Coogler shot it as an observer leaving us not with racial explanations but a sense of solidarity.
Fruitvale Station by Ryan Coogler
Best film lists can easily be subjected to genres, with many of the greatest films decided by critics not audiences. Here is a breakdown of film genres first because I know that is how many of us choose films, additionally because there are so many great documentaries out at the moment that it could constitute a list of it its own and my personal favorite category, foreign films, is difficult depending upon when their release is in your country.
Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill is the focus of the documentary The Punk Singer
Documentaries: I grew up listening to Bikini Kill and was love in with frontwomen Kathleen Hanna who was vocal in the Riot Grrrl movement, The Punk Singer catches up with her and looks backs at the pioneer that shaped women like myself. Other documentaries that touched me were Sarah Polley’s The Stories We Tell, Cutie and the Boxer, and Rewind This! which is also nostalgic for my youth. I’m a bit hazy about documentaries with personal agendas as they can be deemed as quite bias but I like a Place At The Table which explores world hunger as not a lack of resources but the rise of poverty. Poverty in the “developed” world is treated as the white elephant, full of shame which the documentary tackles.
Foreign: Last year we told you about Pieta, but now that is has reached full release this year we can tell you to go out and watch this violent beautiful masterpiece along with Oscar nominated No starring Gael García Bernal, Japanese gem Someone in Love, Almodóvar’s camp fest I’m So Excited, Lore. Other films bringing in the awards include The Hunt, Something in the Air (Après Moi), and War Witch.
Horror: Say goodbye to torture porn and shock tactics, what is really scaring us in 2013 is old fashion terror filled tension found in Jug Face, Moma, You’re Next, and this summer’s surprise blockbuster The Conjuring.
Quirky Comedies: Every since Juno‘s Oscar nomination, indie films are leaving their artistic pursuits behind for comedy. Rounding off the best in quirky comedies are Wrong, This Is the End, The Spectacular Now, The Kings of Summer, The Way, Way Back, and as a big fan of David Sedaris I enjoyed C.O.G., but you would have to cross reference a review from a non-fan.
Critical Mention: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and so far, The Place Beyond the Pines, Side Effects, Trance, To the Wonder, and Before Midnight have scored well with European critics. Anna Barr