|12 Years a Slave is one of last year's finest.
2013 was a magnificent year for films. There were so many films I loved, and even more that I really liked. In fact, I saw over 25 films that I gave 4-star ratings, and that doesn't include films, such as The Past, Beyond the Hills, The Great Beauty, and Like Someone in Love, that I won't get to watch until they're released on DVD. Still, I loved a lot, so I've included several honorable mentions beneath the list.
10. Blue is the Warmest Color (dir. Abdellatif Kechiche)
This French drama is a moving story of a young lesbian romance. Stars Adèle Exarchopolous and Léa Seydoux deliver two of the year's best performances, and Kechiche gambles to great success with the intense intimate moments and controversial erotic scenes.
9. Trance (dir. Danny Boyle)
Boyle's genre film never really found its audience, but it's one of the year's most interesting experiments. A scrambled timeline laced with memory manipulation works like a charm with solid performances, crisp visuals, and a fantastic score.
8. Inside Llewyn Davis (dir. Joel & Ethan Coen)
This tale of a down-on-his-luck folk singer finds the Coens at their most effective. Additional viewings are a must, as the film only improves upon further evaluation. Of course, Oscar Isaac's performance is a highlight, as is the brilliant soundtrack.
7. Spring Breakers (dir. Harmony Korine)
Korine's film is insane. Bikini-clad women and a grill-sporting, rapping gangster live it up in St. Petersburg, Florida, with a banging soundtrack, luminescent cinematography, and wonderful performances to complete the chaos.
6. The Place Beyond the Pines (dir. Derek Cianfrance)
Cianfrance's crime drama is a sprawling morality tale of fathers, sons, and the sins that span generations. All of the incredible ensemble cast are on point, with each storyline finding its own resonance within the larger scope of the piece.
5. The Wolf of Wall Street (dir. Martin Scorsese)
Scorsese's bloated nose dive into the debaucheries and financial schemes of Jordan Belfort's time on Wall Street features Leonardo DiCaprio in a sensational performance, with Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie providing a compelling background.
4. The Selfish Giant (dir. Clio Barnard)
Barnard's British drama is probably the finest of its kind since Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank. The emotions are raw; the cinematography is bleak and absolutely stunning; and newcomer Conner Chapman gives a firecracker performance.
3. The Hunt (dir. Thomas Vinterberg)
Mads Mikkelsen delivers a heartbreaking performance in Vinterberg's fierce drama. It's a fascinating glimpse at the power of perception and misinformation and the assumptions and judgments of society against alleged child molesters.
2. Before Midnight (dir. Richard Linklater)
This again proves that sequels can be worthwhile. Even more mature than its beloved predecessors, Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy take Jesse and Celine and test the waters of their long term relationship. Needless to say, it is time well spent.
1. Gravity (dir. Alfonso Cuarón)
Cuarón's uplifting sci-fi drama is the spectacle of the year. It's a breakneck thrill ride that's beautifully shot, emotionally draining, and features a gut-wrenching performance from Sandra Bullock. Bravo to all involved.
Frances Ha, Laurence Anyways, Mother of George, In the House, Her, 12 Years a Slave, Out of the Furnace, What Richard Did, Prisoners, To the Wonder, Our Children, Adore, Blancanieves, Captain Phillips, The World's End, The Spectacular Now, Fruitvale Station, Lore, Mud, Side Effects, The Bling Ring, and Upstream Color
Look out for my personal awards ballot on Friday.