Jeremy’s Top Ten Films Of 2013

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2013 has without a doubt been one of the most diverse years for films. Normally, a year in film operates on a lopsided scale, with most of the Oscar bait coming out towards the end of the year, with a few summer tent-poles occupying most of the summer and then the leftovers get dumped out around January through April. But not this year.

This year brought us high quality films almost right out of the gate and then continued to impress and surprise throughout the summer and into the fall. There was so much variety released too. Comic book movies took a backseat to some genuinely original content that ranged from romantic comedies, hardcore sci-fi and even action-packed adventures. Those that continue to say that movies are dead or far from original clearly aren’t looking in the right places, because I had a difficult time narrowing down my list of favorite films down to ten.

My top ten lists run a little differently than most. I find the whole ratings system to be severely flawed, but most sites that we mingle with suggest that we put a number on our reviews, so you might find something that I’ve rated high based on more than just direction, acting and writing. I always try and factor in if it’s something that I can watch over and over versus something that I’ll probably just watch once. Sometimes a film really speaks to me for reasons that others may consider flaws, so just know that this is my own personal list and it’s not some sort of end-all list of authority.

This is just a list from some guy that spends way too much time watching movies and writing about them. So there’s that.

Also worth noting, I’ve got two more lists that I’m working on. Lists that highlight ten under-rated films and ten biggest surprises, so if there’s something missing on here that you’ve heard me ranting and raving about, chances are high that it didn’t quite make this list, but will be making one of those.

And here’s my halfway point article that I wrote up in the summer, for some perspective.

10. Disconnect

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Director Henry-Alex Rubin‘s latest drama Disconnect is a slam dunk character ensemble that unfolds in spectacular fashion, constantly leaving you on the edge of your seat, waiting to find out what happens next. Disconnect uses its layered approach to peel back at the importance social media has on our society and how everyone wields this uncontrollable power in the palm of their hands with the simple click of a button on a keyboard or the pressing of the screen on a smartphone. Disconnect fuses social media into the storytelling process while also shedding some light on just how important it is to understand the consequences that come from the simplest actions.

I saw Disconnect earlier this year at the 2013 Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival and it still sticks with me as one of the better films to depict the modern age of social media that we all live in. The film’s ability to tackle such heavy and relevant topics through various characters is impressive and something that most will be able to connect with. Also, Jason Bateman shows a side of him that most aren’t familiar with and it gives me hope that his career is worth so much more than playing second banana to other comedic talents.

Click here to read my review.

9. Fruitvale Station

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Fruitvale Station is an extremely moving film that exposes some ugly truths, while also showing how one man’s kindness can change those around him in such a positive way. It’s a film that acts as a double-sided coin, both revealing a depressing and sickening real-life story that makes you upset and angry, while also being a gripping film about love, friendship, tragedy and loss.

Director Ryan Coogler hits it out of the park, creating an emotionally-charged drama that packs one of the heaviest punches of 2013. This is his first feature-length film and yet somehow he manages to wrestle out an Oscar-worthy performance for star Michael B. Jordan, who plays the main character with such strength, courage and down-to-Earth realism. His performance still sticks out as one of the year’s best and I sure hope he gets some love come awards season.

Click here to read my review.

8. Side Effects

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Side Effects is a pharmaceutical thriller that attacks the viewer like a drug to the brain, with its ripe message about America’s obsession with prescription medications right on the front line, while also easing back and uncovering a dirty secret that has its fair share of twists and turns. Soderbergh directs Side Effects much like his pandemic movie Contagion, but with a much sharper eye and a stronger and more focused sense of storytelling.

This is supposedly director Steven Soderbergh‘s “last” film. If it is then all I can really say is wow, because Soderbergh has again crafted another slick and hazy drama that plays out like a modern day Alfred Hitchcock film. Soderbergh’s ability to create such a twisty story, seeded with lies and half-truths is superb. Everything about Side Effects works and works very well, from the film’s hazy and gloomy color scheme, to Jude Law‘s surprising turn as the film’s most valuable asset.

Side Effects is something that meanders on perfection and almost becomes an all-timer, apart from its shifty ending that’s weak and almost ruins the entire film. But still, everything up until that point is amazing and exactly what we’d come to expect from Soderbergh.

Click here to read my review.

7. The World’s End

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The World’s End is the concluding piece of the blood and ice cream three-pack of films, which leans more on the science fiction side, with Wright’s trademark humor, quick-cuts and eye for directing with such superior confidence. I have no problem admitting that The World’s End is the weakest of Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy, but I also must say that it’s his deepest and most honest in terms of character exploration.

He really exposes his characters and their flaws in this one, while also jam-packing the film with his usual bag of tricks and because of that I just have to drop The World’s End somewhere on my top ten list. I wish it was much lower on the list, but it’s still a fine film that works more than it doesn’t.

The World’s End is still a roaring good time and one of the year’s funniest films, but it’s not Wright’s tightest or most comprehensive film at all. It’s still a fitting conclusion to a trilogy that I’ve personally grown to love.

Click here to read my review.

6. Pain & Gain

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My opening paragraph from my Pain & Gain review still best describes how I feel about this film:

Pain & Gain just might very well be Bay’s best film yet, fusing his trademark flashy and high-octane style behind the lens with some truly dark material and it works like magic, thanks to Bay’s direction and the energetic performances from Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie. Pain & Gain is the first great comedy of 2013.

That statement still sticks and it sticks hard. Pain & Gain is easily my most-watched movie of 2013. I saw it a handful of times in theaters and even more times on Blu-ray. Heck, I just picked up the new Collector’s Edition, because I just can’t get enough of this pitch-black comedy about three of the biggest airheads to ever live on American soil.

Bay’s Pain & Gain is rude, immature and will most-likely turn off a lot of people looking for a cleaner R-rated comedy (if there is such a thing?), but that’s okay, because the people that are craving something absolutely insane by every definition are going to eat this one up and be begging for more.

Click here to read my review.

5. The Wolf of Wall Street

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 The Wolf of Wall Street is completely bonkers, with Scorsese showing off a certain type of energetic bravado that puts many young directors to shame. The Wolf of Wall Street is not only a well-made, near masterpiece, but it’s also the funniest film of 2013 that clocks in at nearly three hours. Leonardo DiCaprio more than earns his long-waited Oscar, while Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey provide the film with well-balanced, but equally looney supporting characters. The Wolf of Wall Street is big, mean and in your face, but it’s also an interesting exploration of greed, money and power through one of the biggest asshole characters ever to grace the silver screen.

I’ve seen the film twice now and confirm its longevity. It’s seriously one of director Martin Scorsese‘s finest films, compiling everything that the filmmaker has learned over his long years behind the camera to create one of the most disturbingly funny films that I’ve ever seen. Knowing that it’s based on real events shouldn’t lessen its impact as a film, because Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio and the rest of the cast are far from glorifying Jordan Belfort and the world that he lived in, but instead are showing you what it was like without a filter. This is a rise and fall story and not just a promotional piece for one of Americas’ biggest assholes. How people can’t see that makes me question if they even watched the entire film.

Click here to read my review.

4. 12 Years a Slave

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12 Years a Slave is a gripping tale of survival and hope and the strength of the human spirit. Chiwetel Ejiofor leads what will stand out as a performance-driven powerhouse of a film, constantly lingering on hopelessness and despair, while eventually making way for one of the most inspirational stories of all-time. 12 Years a Slave is tensely a shot and downright disturbing film, but one that will move you profoundly.

If there’s one film that both moved me the most and made me feel the most uncomfortable, it’s 12 Years a Slave. Director Steve McQueen‘s latest is his most raw and revealing, yet also the one filled with the most hope and spirit. There’s an undeniably thick atmosphere that’s dripping with anger and aggression, but beneath all of the hate and despair rests the beauty and power of the human spirit and the will to survive.

I have a hard time recommending 12 Years a Slave to most, because of its depiction of violence and slavery, but I honestly believe that it’s the most important film of 2013 and one that all should watch and learn from.

Click here to read my review.

3. The Place Beyond the Pines

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Derek Cianfrance‘s The Place Beyond the Pines is the third best film of 2013. It’s perfect in almost every single way. His direction is sprawling and epic, expanding the film’s scope far beyond what anyone would have originally expected, while the performances by Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling are dark and damaged and exactly what we’d expect from these two men when they’re operating at their highest capacity.

Comparisons have been drawn between Pines and The Godfather and I can certainly see why, because Pines deals with family and legacy with such a similar structure and focus on expansion and lingering outcome.

I wouldn’t call Pines the next Godfather, but I’d certainly defend it as something deeply powerful that shows Cianfrance’s skills as a master craftsman behind the lens. Pines is beautifully-shot, hauntingly scored and a film that echoes on mistakes, learning to live with consequences and above all else how one’s path through life creates ripples that go on to affect not only those around them, but others down the road.

Click here to read my review.

2. Elysium

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Elysium is smart, silly and entertaining all wrapped into one. It’s not just a perfect piece of sci-fi, but a perfect movie from the ground up. It’s every bit as good as Blomkamp’s groundbreaking District 9, if not slightly better because of Blomkamp’s ability to expand and grow as a filmmaker. Elysium is much bigger, yet it shares that same intimate scope that made D9 excel as something that was smart, engaging and highly original.

I have no idea why most have been rejecting Elysium and claiming it to be a giant step backwards for Blomkamp. Here, the filmmaker takes on even more touchy social subjects and manages to again turn another high quality piece of science fiction, loaded with creative content and backed by a story with weight and purpose.

Not to mention Blomkamp’s progression as a director, with multiple action sequences that will literally drop your jaw straight to the floor. The camera panning, combined with general placement and flow make the film something of a landmark for a genre that mostly relies on sloppily done speed work. Elysium moves quick, but always competently and always with enough restraint.

I loved Elysium the first time I saw it and I loved it even more the second time. It’s an instant classic that somehow manages to grow on you with repeat viewings. I know that makes absolutely no sense, but I can’t describe the film in any other way.

Click here to read my review.

1. Gravity

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Gravity is a masterpiece. Simple as that. Alfonso Cuarón‘s latest science fiction project not only pushes the boundaries of special effects and technical accomplishments when it comes to shooting a film that actually feels like it takes place in space, but Gravity also firmly replants the science fiction genre right back where it belongs, telling a motivational human story about struggle, rebirth and never giving up, while surrounding it with a beautiful canvas full of empty space. Gravity is more than visual treat for space-lovers and sci-fi junkies. Gravity is a gripping tale of survival and it’s an airtight experience that will have you gripping your seat and gasping for oxygen.

That above paragraph was lifted directly from my review, because what I first said about Gravity has remained true through the three more times that I saw the film. It never lost its impact. It just grew stronger and stronger and cemented itself as my absolute favorite film of 2013.

Gravity is a phenomenal achievement for the world of film. It’s one that pushes the technical side of filmmaking to a whole new level, while also bringing back the true meaning of science fiction to the art of film.

Click here to read my review.

2013 coming to an end brings a bittersweet feeling to my heart. On one hand, I really did enjoy the year and thought that it delivered more than enough good films, while on the other hand, I’m looking forward to seeing what 2014 has to offer.

I hope my list was worth the read. I’d love to hear from the readers. Let me know down below if any of my films have made the cut on your list or if your list is composed of an entirely different set of films.

Do you agree with me saying that 2013 was a phenomenal year for films or was it one of the weaker ones in your opinion?

Sound off below!

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