Originally published on http://www.Santanerozine.com – February 2014
This Sunday night, the Academy Awards will take place to honor some of the best movies of this past year. Normally around this time is when I take a moment to compile my own list of my top ten movies. I usually post my top ten on my personal blog, but I have been given the permission to post on Santanero. 2013 was a good year for movies. Below are my favorite ten.
- Captain Phillips: Based on a true story about a United States cargo ship that is hijacked by Somalian Pirates. Tom Hanks plays the title character, Richard Phillips, who ends up kidnapped after the hijacking of the ship turns sour. Directed by Paul Greengrass (United 93 and Bourne Ultimatum), the film is a well packaged and thrilling story with some decent performances by Hanks and newcomer Oscar nominee, Barkhad Abdi, as Muse, the leader of the pirates.
- This is the End: Usually, I like to include in my top ten at least one pure comedy. This year is no different. This is the End made me laugh harder than any other film this year. With Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Evan Goldberg playing somewhat exaggerated versions of themselves, the story sets these comedic actors at the beginning of the Biblical Apocalypse. And what else can you expect when the Apocalypse hits Hollywood? Hardcore, balls out, Sataaln raping hilarity of course!
- Gravity: A visual masterpiece, Alfonse Cuaron (Children of Men and Y Tu Mama Tambien) has created a film of outstanding cinematic entertainment. This is a rare film in which watching it in 3D is a must. The story itself is quite simple, Matt (George Clooney) and Ryan (Sandra Bullock), are space engineers working on a NASA satellite when [cue the ominous music] things go horribly wrong. The engineers are stranded in space with nothing but their wits and depleting oxygen to help them on their way back home. Although the film is not unique in story, it is unique in its visual and cinematic scope. The film will most likely win every technical Oscar there is this year and Cuaron is seemingly a shoe in to take the Best Director category.
- Nebraska: Bruce Dern plays Woody Grant, an aging alcoholic father who believes he has won a million dollars after he receives a letter from a sweepstakes marketing company. Woody, having not much of anything in his life, is determined to claim his prize. His son David Grant, played by Will Forte, agrees to take his father from his Montana home to Lincoln, Nebraska, where his prize awaits. Director, Alexander Payne, has become a master at telling the road trip story (About Schmidt and Sideways being the 1st and 2nd of what I call the Payne road trip trilogy). This film is a touching and very funny portrayal of a father too old to do anything about his unsettled scores and a son still trying to figure out what his father is all about. June Squibb has a film stealing performance as the grumpy and mean old wife of Woody’s. The graveyard scene is something to be remembered.
- Blue Jasmine: This past decade has seen Woody Allen create some of his best work. Films like Match Point, Vicki Cristina Barcelona, and Midnight in Paris rank high on my list of Woody Allen flicks challenging top spots with the likes of Annie Hall and Crimes and Misdemeanors. Blue Jasmine is yet another gem out of Allen’s late career. Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine, a former rich housewife struggling to accept her new life as a broke working woman. She has moved in with her sister in San Francisco. Suffering a mental breakdown after her separation with her rich ex-husband, Jasmine seeks to re-invent herself, but finds it much more difficult to break old habits. Cate Blanchett puts on an amazing performance and is well deserving of the Oscar she will most likely be receiving this Sunday. Jasmine is a woman who should deserve pity, but all one feels is utter happiness at the tragedies that have befallen her. The film tests your ethical standards in some interesting ways.
- A Place Beyond the Pines: Unfortunately, this is a film that has been forgotten this past year. I saw the film way back in April of 2013. It is a work of art to say the least. Ryan Gosling plays Luke, a motorcycle stunt performer who finds out that he has a son with an ex-girlfriend of his played by Eva Mendez. Driven by his desire to provide for his newborn son, Luke takes to robbing banks. After one of his bank robberies goes wrong, it sets off an event that drastically alters the lives of all parties involved. Essentially, the film is three stories in one. Bradley Cooper puts on what I feel should have been an Oscar nominating performance (much better than American Hustle in my opinion) playing Avery, a rookie cop who has the bad luck (or good luck depending on how you look at it) of running into Luke as he attempts to escape the scene of the crime. The story spans many years as we find out how this one event has affected the characters involved. A Place Beyond the Pines is a great film that sadly came out at the wrong time. I believe if it would have had a later release, it would have been an Oscar contender.
- Dallas Buyers Club: Ron Woodroof is a homophobic, alcoholic, cowboy, electrician diagnosed with AIDS. As he attempts to find medication that can help his condition, he strikes the unlikely partnership with Rayon, a cross dressing gay man, and starts a buyers club to sell FDA unapproved medication to helpless AIDS patients. By now, many have heard of Matthew McConaughey’s and Jared Leto’s brilliant performances as Ron Woodroof and Rayon respectively. Leto puts on a striking performance as Rayon and absolutely deserves the Oscar that is coming to him, and Mr. McConaughey has reinvented himself as a serious actor. Gone are his days of terrible romantic comedies and annoying Southern gentlemen bullshit. Although I think there is one better performance this year, if Matthew were to win the Oscar for lead actor, I’d say it was well deserved.
- Her: Spike Jonze has done it again. Director of such great and unique films like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, Her is another original piece of work. Strangely beautiful in its own way, this film is like discovering a new porn fetish that at first seems so wrong but then turns out to be so right. Joaquin Phoenix is excellent as the shy and reserved Theodore. Still struggling with coming to grips with his recent divorce, Theodore finds new love in an artificially intelligent operating system named Samantha. The film follows their love story as they both grow and learn from each other.
- The Wolf of Wall Street: This is Goodfellas on Wall Street. Leo DiCaprio’s performance is almost reminiscent of Ray Liotta’s character from the classic Scorsese 90’s film. Scorsese has presented us with an in-your-face, no-holds-barred look at the life of Jordan Belfort. Complete with drugs, naked women, midget throwing, and material excess, this film is a look at the lives of horrible men drunk on greed. Jonah Hill shows his acting chops as Donnie, the equally greedy sidekick to Jordan. The film is highly entertaining and funny as hell. It is the modern tragedy at its finest: a man born of humble roots rises to power only to suffer his inevitable fall. It is a classic tale told by one of the best in the business.
1. 12 Years a Slave: Without a doubt this is the best movie of the year. A heart wrenching tale of perseverance in the face of inexplicable evil, Chiwetel Ejiefor plays Solomon Northup a free black man living in Saratoga, New York in pre-civil war America who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. We follow Solomon as he struggles to survive in a land and time full of ignorance and pure evil. Chiwetel puts on the performance of the year as Solomon and Lupita Nyong’o almost steals the film as the tragic Patsey. The film is wonderfully written. Adapted from the 1853 book written by the real life Solomon Northup, the screenplay is almost Shakespearean in its content and delivery. Not since The Departed has my #1 film matched up with what looks to be the Oscar best picture winner. If 12 Years a Slave does win the Oscar this Sunday night, I can’t think of no other film more deserving.