Monday, July 1, 2013

Best of 2013 (so far)

July 1 marks the halfway point of 2013, and because this year has already been so cinematically pleasing, I thought I’d list what I’ve loved most. I mean, seriously, new visitors of this blog might think I’m some sort of film softie – handing out A’s and B’s like they were nothing. But the fact is, I’ve loved a lot of what 2013 has offered, and I’m very optimistic about this fall. Below is my Top 10 of the year so far (titles link to my initial reviews), along with a few traditional and untraditional Best Of categories. Enjoy!

Top 10 of 2013
10. Mud – dir. by Jeff Nichols
A tale of love, regret, vengeance and lost adolescence, Mud continues Nichols’ remarkable streak of documenting poor Americans in poor situations. He’s the only filmmaker currently telling stories of this kind, and we should all start paying more attention. On DVD/Blu-Ray Aug. 6

9. Frances Ha – dir. by Noah Baumbach
Frances Ha is one of the most unconventional films we’re going to see this year; a digital, black and white indie about a girl trying to figure it all out. If you’re into Baumbach’s unique tone, then there’s simply no reason not to love this. Currently in select cinemas

8. The Bling Ring – dir. by Sofia Coppola
A highly stylized semi-non fictional retelling of Hollywood’s famed Bling Ring, a group who robbed celebrity homes for the hell of it. This may be the most out-and-out entertaining movie of Coppola’s career, but that doesn’t make it any less essential. Also, gorgeous to look at. Gorgeous. RIP, Harris. Currently in select cinemas

7. Side Effects – dir. by Steven Soderbergh
What could be Soderbergh’s final theatrical release, Side Effects is a twisty pharmaceutical thriller that had me guessing throughout. I know its third act angered some viewers, but not me. It was perfectly… Soderberghian. Please, good sir, do not quit now. On DVD/Blu-Ray

6. The Hunt – dir. by Thomas Vinterberg
This import from Denmark is a patient thriller about a kind schoolteacher accused of molesting his students. Vinterberg knows how to set a mood of grim isolation, and star Mads Mikkelsen knows how to live it. I seriously doubt I will see a more infuriating film this year, and I mean that as a compliment. Limited theatrical release begins July 12

5. To the Wonder – dir. by Terrence Malick
Terrence Malick’s methodically paced story of love and love lost, To the Wonder is that rare type of film that forces its way into my mind nearly every day. Like all of Malick’s work, it creeps in and stays, without a hint of going away. Currently available through various OnDemand providers; on DVD/Blu-Ray Aug. 6

4. The Place Beyond the Pines – dir. by Derek Cianfrance
Someday my pain/someday my pain will mark you. Harness your blame/harness your blame, walk through.

What might have been lost.

What might have been lost.

On DVD/Blu-Ray Aug. 6

3. Before Midnight – dir. by Richard Linklater
At this point, I’m convinced there is nothing Richard Linklater can’t do. With a career defined by bold, innovative features, perhaps his most significant are the Before films. Each one is more unnecessary than the one preceding it, and each one is better than the one before. How does he do it? Currently in select cinemas

2. Spring Breakers – dir. by Harmony Korine
“Sprang breayyyyyk. Sprang breayyyyyk. Sprang breayyyyyk. Sprang breayyyyyk. Sprang breayyyyyk. Spring break foreva, y’all.” On DVD/Blu-Ray July 9

1. Upstream Color – dir. by Shane Carruth
If I’m lucky, I get one of these movies every year. Shame in 2011, Rust and Bone last year, and it seems as though my crown jewel of 2013 is destined to be Upstream Color. Now, I understand that may seem presumptuous; we have six months of movies to go, and many of them sound fantastic. But the inspiration I feel from watching Upstream Color is so uniquely profound. Yes, it’s “out there.” Yes, it doesn’t answer all the questions it asks. Yes, it’s different. But if different is done right, you’ll never hear an argument from me. Now available on DVD/Blu-Ray, various OnDemand providers, and Netflix Instant

Best Of Categories
Best Director, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Score, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing
Upstream Color
It hits on every level. Lead actress Amy Seimetz delivers what is (by far) the best film performance I’ve seen this year, while Carruth proves he’s not only a great director and writer, but an exceptional DP, musician, editor, sound mixer (and on, and on) as well. Fair warning: I’m going to be talking about this film a lot in the ensuing months.

Best Actor
Mads Mikkelsen – The Hunt
Much of what is so maddening about The Hunt is the way Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) handles the situation he’s stuck in. He doesn’t rant, he doesn’t rage, he doesn’t even ask the right questions. He sits. He thinks. And then he reacts. There’s power in this performance.

Best Supporting Actor
James Franco – Spring Breakers
“Sprang breayyyyyk. Sprang breayyyyyk. Sprang breayyyyyk. Sprang breayyyyyk. Sprang breayyyyyk. Spring break foreva, y’all.”

Best Supporting Actress
Eva Mendes – The Place Beyond the Pines
It’s been brought to my attention on more than one occasion that Eva Mendes ages in The Place Beyond the Pines. Given that the film covers a substantial amount of time, most everyone in the picture ages, but she ages. Sunken, dark eyes, frizzy, gray hair – tired. Thing is, people are using Mendes’ aging as a criticism. I beg to differ. Given all the shit this woman has gone through, I think she aged very appropriately. But make-up is nothing more than a mask to accentuate an actor’s skill. Mendes has skill, all right. Evident in her every scene of Cianfrance’s rather perfect film.

Most Surprisingly Awful Moment in an Otherwise Good Film
The shower scene in 42
…in which a white baseball player tells Jackie Robinson, “Come on… take a shower with me, Jackie,” which Robinson does, as the violins are literally cued. Breaking down the barriers of race, one shared bar of soap at a time.

Most Surprisingly Sexual Moment in and Otherwise Good Film
The shower scene in Stoker
…I’ve known Mia Wasikowska was a forced to be reckoned with for quite some time, but I didn’t know she could (or would) do that.

Best Line Delivery (that shouldn’t have worked, but did exceptionally)
“I want to, rob.” – Emma Watson, The Bling Ring

Best Film I Never Thought I’d Like
This Is the End

Movie I Most Hope is Nominated for Oscars
Before Midnight
I never thought I’d be in a position to actually champion the Academy’s idiotic “nominate 5-10 movies for Best Picture” rule but if that allows Before Midnight to sneak in, then consider me converted.

Movie I Liked Much More Upon Reflection
The Bling Ring
That’s the power of Sofia Coppola. Ask me in December, and I’m sure I’ll love The Bling Ring even more.

Movie I Liked Much Less Upon Reflection
Man of Steel
With the exception to responding to the occasional comment my review for this film gets (thanks for those, by the way!) I haven’t spent one minute thinking about Man of Steel. Oh well.

Biggest Cinematic Letdown
M83’s Score for Oblivion
M83 frontman Anthony Gonzalez has been outspoken about the way Universal Studios treated him while he crafted the score to Oblivion. They disregarded his initial, M83-esque tracks and demanded something generic. M83 is my favorite band, and I certainly hope the shit experience on Oblivion does not stop Gonzalez from creating film scores in the future.

Best Matthew McConaughey Moment
Chest Pounding in The Wolf on Wall Street Trailer
“Mmmm, hmm, hmm (bump, bump). Mmmm, hmm, hmm. (bump, bump).” Repeat x10. Whistle. “Yeah.”


  1. I don't know whether you saw this or not but Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing is definitely worth checking out.

    1. One of my biggest... faults (if that's what it's called) as a film fanatic is my complete aversion to Shakespeare-speak. I can't do it. Can't.

    2. To the tell you the truth the film was a very easy watch. I went in knowing absolutely nothing about the original source material and was able to follow the story just fine. The top notch cast and beautiful imagery was also a bonus.

    3. You know, that is actually really reassuring. The indie theater near me is currently playing it. Might check it out tonight. Thanks for the push!

  2. Man, I haven't seen two of your top ten, but our lists still have 7 films in common. That's awesome!

    Love your awards too. I did a full ballot, and I nominated two of your acting winners, as well as some of your winners in other categories.

    1. Just read your lists, love how common ours are. Awesome indeed. This has been a great year so far, hasn't it?

  3. With you on most of these (though I doubt I'll get around to making a list), though Stoker would definitely make my best of so far. This is, I think, a GREAT year for cinema thus far (especially unconventional 'coming of age' films) and I'm thrilled to have a top 10 list already I'd be happy with at the end of the year. Crazy stuff!

    1. It's insane that if this was December, I'd be perfectly happy with my Top 10 above. That's wild. Been a great year so far, no doubt.

      I LOVED Stoker.

  4. That is a good list. Yet, with my list. I went with films that were released on 2013. Frances Ha, To the Wonder, and The Place Beyond the Pines are in my 2012 list.

    In the other categories that you mentioning... I'm w/ you on Mia Wasikowska in the shower and... she's got a nice ass. Eva Mendes I think is very underrated as an actress. Take her away from the Hollywood films and I think there's a lot more to her than the stuff Hollywood usually gives her. The Place Beyond the Pines is a perfect example of her work as an actress.

    The M83 score is a let down and if you saw my list of the Best Albums of 2013 so far... it's not in there. I will probably mention it when I decide to do some mini-album reviews on my music blog as I'm about to embark on re-working and re-writing reviews on the entire Nine Inch Nails discography.

    I love Matthew McConaughey. I could watch that guy read a phone book. Just as long as he has his shirt off.

    1. Great list. I've heard nothing but good things about Top of the Lake. So it's definitely worth checking out?

      Dig the music list as well. But man, I could not get into the new Daft Punk. Maybe I need a few more listens...

      McConaughey is the man.

  5. I'm having the same feeling about The Bling Ring. The more I think about it, the more I like it. I think I've edited my review of it like 5 different times already.

    1. It's so damn good, I just love it. Coppola... she can do no wrong.

  6. Very solid list my friend, I can certainly agree with many of your choices (a shame I put The Hunt as my top film for last year because I still think it's one of the best films I've seen in a long time). I am actually quite surprised you enjoyed that film as much as you do, though I am glad as well! I hope the rest of the year will produce as great an output as it has been thus far.

    If I had to assemble a list, it'd look something like this (though I have yet to see Upstream Color):
    1. Before Midnight
    2. Side Effects
    3. New World
    4. Spring Breakers
    5. Stoker
    6. The Place Beyond The Pines
    7. To The Wonder
    8. Our Children
    9. Behind The Candelabra
    10. Mud

    1. Thanks man!

      Love your list, and you've given me a few things to look out for. I cannot speak highly enough of Upstream Color. Really, truly, seek that one out. Just... wow.

    2. Currently in my Netflix cue! It will be the first thing I do tomorrow man! With a rec as strong as that (and your review) I will watch it immediately!

    3. Let me know what you think!

      (I know I've asked you this before, but are you on Twitter/Facebook? Or are we already connected on those...? I can never keep track, heh.)

    4. Well, I've watched it and sat with it for a couple of hours now and I can honestly say that it is a unique and truly inspiring piece of work, but I don't think it's a masterpiece. Most of the things you listed for "Best..." I can agree with, though I thought the editing as a little "jagged" at times and the whole thing with the pigs just went right over my head. I would certainly add it to my list but it would definitely be closer to the bottom at this point. Everything else I agree with in your nomination(?) list and in your original review. The entire time I was watching it I felt like I was just watching a dream and Shane Carruth is definitely one of the best and most talented young (that might not be the best word though) filmmakers coming out right now. I really liked Primer and this is right up there but I might just have to sit with it for a longer period of time and watch it more than once as well lol.

      If you check anything out from the stuff I mentioned (that you haven't seen, I'm assuming) I'd say definitely go for Our Children, while I loved New World (S. Korean gangster flick), from what I know about your tastes from reading your blog and talking to you, I think that one will definitely be more to your liking. Some really great acting and a truly claustrophobic atmosphere. But I loved them both (obviously lol).

      Yeah, I know I'm following you on Twitter and I think you're following me ( I am on FB as well lol ( or just look up Ian Flick if that doesn't work).

    5. So glad that you watched it. For me, it was one of those films that truly revealed itself to me on subsequent viewings. I wouldn't dare say I "got it" after the first go, but after a few watches, I've definitely got a good grasp on everything that's going on.

      Anyway, glad you watched it, glad you dig it. I'm gonna check out Our Children and New World asap.

      I didn't know that was you on twitter!

    6. Yep, I can totally see that. I'll need to watch it again soon, after I let it settle in a little bit longer. I figured it was gonna be similar to Primer in that regard. I've seen that film three times now and still barely get what's going on in that, so it doesn't surprise me that it's one of those films that just gets better the more you watch it.

      Please let me know what you think of either of those films or Oasis or whatever the fuck lol. I'm really interested in hearing your opinion dude, you're a great writer and I really respect everything you do with this blog.

      Well, I only really use my twitter account for my blog posts and almost never mention anything unrelated to the posts so it's not a big deal if you forgot it was me lol. I'm almost never on it.

    7. Thanks man, I really appreciate you saying that. Will let you know as soon as I track them down!

  7. This is a very cool list.

    And as I've actually seen ZERO of these movies...I'll leave it at that.

  8. This list just calls out the fact that I'm so far behind in my 2013 viewing. The good news is that there will be tons to catch up with in the second half of the year. It's interesting that you mention the score by M83, which I liked in Oblivion. I'm really curious to find out how much better it would have been if the studio hadn't meddled.

    It's also good to see love for Side Effects, which is part of a small group of movies that I caught in the theaters. I'm glad that I did, especially since I knew little about it. I'm with you on still liking the third act.

    1. Funny thing is, I feel like I'm behind too. There is ALWAYS catching up to do!

      I actually dug the soundtrack to Oblivion. But M83 is my life-changing-favorite band, so I hoped for MUCH more. A few tracks standout, but otherwise, it was nothing Hans ZImmer couldn't have done (and probably done better). If Universal didn't own the rights to the first cuts Gonzalez put together, I'm sure he would release them. Sadly, I don't think we'll ever get the chance to hear them.

      I LOVED Side Effects.

  9. Haha I love Matthew McConaughey in that trailer. I can probably watch that for like 30 minutes.

    My favourite thing that I have seen this year *of* this year has been the Pixar short "The Blue Umbrella". My favourite feature film so far has been Stoker.

    I really hope Franco gets nominated for that performance. It was crazy awesome.

    1. McConaughey is such a killer. I respect the hell out of him for taking a few years off, reassessing, and coming back STRONG.

      I gotta check out The Blue Umbrella. I've heard really good things about it.

      What if Franco did get nominated for that? I mean, what if? Be bitchin'.

  10. Nice roundup list, I haven't seen that many 2013 releases yet, now I'll know what's worth looking out for!
    I'm with you on The Place Beyond the Pines and The Hunt, both very powerful.

    1. Thanks man! I can't wait to see Pines again. That one floored me. Twice.

  11. Great post Alex. The only one I haven't seen is 'To the Wonder', which is released this week here. The only one on your list I can't really give too much love to is 'The Bling Ring'. Such a let down from one of my favourite directors. I'm also horribly conflicted over 'Spring Breakers' - I'm not sure I'll ever decide on that one! I liked 'Side Effects' and 'Upstream Color', but they aren't near my top of the year.

    'Man of Steel' was terrible when I walked out and didn't get any better on reflection. I have to say that 'The Bling Ring' has lost some of its shine the more I've reflected on it. And I totally agree on 'This is the End'- i was surprised by how much fun I had with it.

    My top 5 2013 releases are: 1. Dirty Wars, 2. Mood Indigo, 3. The Place Beyond the Pines, 4. The Rocket, 5. Only God Forgives.

    Oh, you're totally right about Mr McConaughey in that trailer. I can't stop watching it.

    1. Thanks so much, Sam! (And thanks for all the comments in general, your support really means a lot!)

      I think Korine wants us to be conflicted over Spring Breakers. Even though I love it, aspects of it are definitely conflicting to me.

      Man of Steel: Sadly, I agree.

      You've given me some flicks to seek out with your Top 5. Thanks for those!

  12. Damn, I really need to see Upstream Color. Before Midnight is my favorite film of the year so far, so it's great to see it mentioned a few times. Also agree on This Is the End being way better than expected.

    1. Seriously man, if this blog can in any way serve as a motivating factor for people to see Upstream Color, then I will feel very satisfied. It's so easily available too, you know? SEE IT :)

      Before Midnight: Oscars, here we come.

  13. Having only seen 7, 4 and 2, this list is a helpful reminder for what I need to catch up on. Upstream Colour and Before Midnight are top of the list, naturally, but I'm also quite excited to see a Belgian film called La Cinquieme Saison when/if it becomes available to me. Oh, and I missed out on an opportunity to see The Hunt and have been kicking myself ever since.

    1. Man, I would love to hear what you think about Upstream Color. I really think you'll dig that one.

      Same with The Hunt. That's our kind of movie, you know?

      I need to keep my eyes out for La Cinquieme Saison.

  14. I've only seen 2, 4, 5 , 6 , 7. The Hunt was my number 2 film of 2012 though so glad to see that in here! I also completely fell for Spring Breakers and I can't wait to see Before Midnight and Place Beyond the Pines!

    1. Great stuff! I hope The Hunt manages to pick up some Oscar noms this year. Doubtful, but it is so deserving.

      Spring Breakers roooocks.

  15. What a good year thus far for films indeed, To The Wonder, Place Beyond the Pines and Before Midnight for sure...and then 'Lone Ranger' goes and gets released today... 'sigh'.

    Yes Upstream Color is an EXPERIENCE to be had, Seimetz thankfully shows up in a few things like in AMC's 'The Killing' and recently HBO's Family Tree, so I could see more of her work. She can just command the screen when she gets the chance, what a find.

    I would only add a few docs if I were doing this list, 56 up (The best installment in the series since 28 up), The Gatekeepers (Best dissection of counter-terrorism in documentary form) and Stories We Tell (Shows just how personal films can be made, and how many secrets and lies could be lurking in our pasts). Here's to this year continuing to be a great run for films.

    1. (sigh) Indeed. Welcome to the American summer.

      Since watching Upstream, I have tracked down as much Seimetz material as possible. Currently making my way through The Killing, and her role is unlike anything I've seen her play. She's remarkable.

      I've been meaning to watch 56 Up for a while now. I love those films, and agree that 28 Up is the best. Definitely more excited for it now.

  16. Great list, for once it's one where I've seen every film! I definitely need to revisit Upstream Colour because I feel I'll like it a lot more on subsequent viewings like with Primer.
    My list would probably look like this:
    1. Blood Brother
    2. Frances Ha
    3. Breathe In
    4. Before Midnight
    5. Spring Breakers
    6. The Hunt
    7. Mud
    8. Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes
    9. The Place Beyond the Pines
    10. After Tiller

    1. Thanks man! You've given me some films to track down, which is awesome. I need to find Blood Brother ASAP.

  17. Oblivion was a let down.
    Glad you liked Spring Breakers! I'm actually listening to the soundtrack at the moment haha.

    I'm excited for Mud, I didn't manage to catch it when it was showing at a cinema near me :/

    1. LOVED Spring Breakers. I've never seen anything like it.

      Hope you enjoy Mud. It'll be on DVD soon!

  18. Oh God, I hated Spring Breakers, along with James Franco in it. But Man Of Steel is indeed meh.

    1. Ha, fair enough man. Certainly not the kind of movie that's for everyone.

  19. Great post! Thus far I've only seen Mud, but it's a fabulous choice.

  20. Great list! I saw Place Beyond the Pines and I thought it was very average, the story just didn't interest me too much. That said, Cooper was excellent in it and I quite liked Mendes. I'm gonna check out Spring Breakers tonight because after seeing Franco in This is the End this week I'm no longer annoyed with him :)

    1. Thanks! Glad you liked Cooper and Mendes in Pines... they both really impressed me.

      I really hope you do a review for Spring Breakers!

  21. Will go check out Mud ASAP. Frances Ha is playing at the Melbourne Film Festival so can't wait to check that one out as well. Love Side Effects and quite enjoyed Spring Breakers and Upstream Color as well. Will be seeing Before Midnight tomorrow night, boy am I excited!

    I think Before Midnight will get Oscar nominated, hard to see it not at this stage. :)

    My Top 5 at this stage is:
    5. Side Effects
    4. This is the End
    3. Breathe In
    2. World War Z
    1. The Great Gatsby

    so we are quite different at this early stage!

    1. You've got some exciting films coming up, for sure! Love that you liked Breakers and Upstream.

      Nice Top 5. I need to check out Breathe In.

  22. Great list, Alex, there are quite a few I haven't seen yet but I did see The Hunt and Mikkelsen blew me away! Ahah, McConaughey is definitely the highlight of the Wolf on Wall Street trailer, that guy is on a roll!

    1. Thanks Ruth! I really hope Mikkelsen gets an Oscar nomination for his work in that film. It floored me.

      And McConaughey... what a nut!