CriterionCast

2013 In Review: Top 10 Films Of 2013 [Joshua’s List]

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10. Viola

From director Matias Pinero, this Shakespearian “adaptation” (the film is ostensibly an adaptation of The Bard’s Twelfth Night) is both a stroke of cinematic genius proving Pinero as one of today’s greatest film voices, as well as a real tour de force for this uniformly great ensemble cast. Oozing this oddly naturalistic sense of eroticism while being equal parts sexy and deeply profound, Pinero’s picture is a thrilling meditation on romance that playfully blurs the line between fact and fiction in as beautiful a manner as we’ve seen in ages. (REVIEW)

9. Laurence Anyways

Speaking of unique filmmaker voices, few are as singular as youngster Xavier Dolan. With his real “debut” feature, I Killed My Mother, also finally arriving stateside after playing US festivals a handful of years ago, Dolan’s third film is inarguably his greatest work to date. Crafting both a deeply powerful emotional drama and a breathlessly singular, experimental vision, Dolan’s proves to be a director far beyond his years in a handful of ways. Perfectly deft behind the camera when it comes to painting one of the year’s prettiest and most vibrant stories, Dolan stuns with his emotional depth here, giving us a story of a love affair that spans years. Resonant and unforgettable, Dolan is, along with Pinero, proof that this up and coming generation of filmmakers may be one of cinema’s most exciting. (REVIEW)

8. Beyond The Hills

One of the handful of truly great foreign language films from this year, Cristian Mungiu’s latest film may not have the emotionally gut punch that every scene of his last film, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, packs, but it’s easily one of this year’s most intellectually rewarding films. A film looking at both isolation as well as the constant battle found between religion and superstition, Mungiu’s picture is emotionally powerful and yet oddly darkly comic, proving not only Mungui as a master filmmaker, but his native Romania as one of cinema’s most fruitful landscapes. With its eyes set on the heavens and those people that must debate its existence, Beyond The Hills is an absolute winner. (REVIEW)

7. Leviathan

Brazenly experimental and the definition of visceral, Leviathan is truly unlike anything the medium of documentary film has offered up before. A logical step forward for a team involved with a film like Sweetgrass (an equally breathtaking meditation on the flow of life), this film is both the epitome of a non-fiction film, and yet completely outside of the box for anything, documentary or not. Featuring some of the best photography of the last few years and sound design that, if this world is right in any way, will win some sort of award soon, Leviathan is one of the best documentaries from what may be one of the best years for non-fiction cinema that the medium has ever seen. Breathlessly experimental and yet utterly unforgettable, this is one of the greatest documentaries from this still very young decade. (REVIEW)

6. Like Someone In Love

In Abbas Kiarostami I trust. Near the top of my list in 2011 with his masterpiece Certified Copy, the auteur is back once again with one of his best films to date.  Said to be a spiritual relative to the director’s last film, the dots do sometimes cross, but this is an entirely different, albeit just as thought provoking piece of work. With the lies piling up, the film’s final moments are some of the most tense you’ll see all year, and it’s only because the time spent with these people may be full of quiet moments, but they are moments so full of life and truth that the conclusion packs even more of an emotionally charged gut punch that will surely leave you winded. With top notch performances, this masterwork in dramatic narrative storytelling and some wonderfully inspired photography, this film may be a slow boil for some, but those willing to go along with this lyrically paced picture will find its interest in the human need for connection and contact to be beyond rewarding. (REVIEW)

5. Before Midnight

By itself, Linklater’s third entry in his Before trilogy is a breathtaking look at a relationship on the absolute brink. However, within the body of Linklater’s series here, it proves to be one of the best cappers to any franchise ever made. And more over, if this trilogy were to end at this moment (which I could, but it has room to continue, obviously) it will stand as arguably the greatest trilogy in film history. A breathtaking meditation on modern relationships, love and how time changes all, Before Midnight is as great a film as Linklater has ever made, and re-affirms him as one of today’s foremost filmmakers. With two startling lead performances that are as emotionally resonant and seemingly lived in as any seen this year, this is easily one of the greatest sequels ever made. (REVIEW)

4. Spring Breakers

Blend writer/director Harmony Korine’s punk rock energy with a Badlands-esque breadth and lyricism with a pinch of Benoit Debie’s luscious neon-lit Gaspar Noe-esque photography (he did shoot Enter The Void, after all), and what comes is something unlike anything we’ve ever seen.  A brilliant and breathtakingly timely look at an American Dream so perverse that it becomes as fueled by an interest in money as it is fueled by aspirations of being like the stars this generation grows up admiring, Spring Breakers gets a cavalcade of brilliant performances and becomes as aggressive a bit of social commentary as anything seen in a very long time. Seemingly inspired by the anger seen in mid-career Godard films, the film carries in it the definitive set piece not just of 2013, but arguably of this entire generation. It’s all summed up in the oft-repeated mantra: Spring Break forever, bitches. (REVIEW)

3. Blue Is The Warmest Color

Beautifully entrancing and bewilderingly emotional, this astounding and deep look into love in every single one of its many stages is not only a film greater than the controversy you’ve likely read non-stop about, but it’s as powerful a look at romance as we’ve seen in a handful of years. Wonderfully profound and brimming with honesty and truth about relationships, the film uses an intimate aesthetic and two star making performances to paint a picture so beautifully crafted that it needs to be seen to be believed. Again, likely better known in your mind for the controversy it has sparked than as a film itself, this dense and unforgettable meditation on the various stages of love never leaves a moment floating in the ether. A story built on each and every moment prior, this is as rewarding and intensely moving picture from 2013. (REVIEW)

2. At Berkeley

Aesthetically, the film may be muted but it’s ultimately as thrilling a documentary as you’re bound to see all year. Never wavering, director Frederick Wiseman’s camera is ever present and lingers on any and every conversation it catches. Be it the final “act” where the school’s brewing controversy surrounding its rising costs for students takes hold or the first block of the film which looks entirely at conversations between students and teachers, the film is ostensibly a filmed series of lectures, and it is all the better for it. Giving the viewer intense access to the interior of Cal-Berkeley, the film is a real testament to not only the power of film to enrapture a viewer, but also to the human spirit and its constant need for intellectual growth. With his latest masterpiece, Frederick Wiseman has crafted a film that may seem intimidating and unwieldy, but is as intellectually stimulating and emotionally resonant as anything we’ve seen come across the screen in a very, very long time. He’s given this world a true gift of a film. (REVIEW)

1. An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty

While the American Dream was arguably the topic of 2013, romantic relationships were again at the forefront. However, with films like Before Midnight and Blue Is The Warmest Color showed us singular relationships and used them to look at how we as humans love, few films ever take love out of the realm of emotion and turn it into a living, breathing thing. That is until Terrence Nance’s debut feature showed up. Oversimplification takes one singular moment in a man’s romantic life, the canceling of a date by his girl, only to turn the subsequent 80-ish minutes into a meditation not only on this man’s entire romantic history but into love as something far bigger than just an emotion. Blending live action filmmaking with various animation styles, Nance’s picture is not only the greatest film of the year, but it may be one of the most breathtaking and bewilderingly obtuse and inventive films seen this still young decade.

Joshua Brunsting

Josh is a critic, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, a wrestling nerd, a hip-hop head, a father, a cinephile and a man looking to make his stamp on the world, one word at a time.

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