Top 25 Films of 2013

10. Nebraska

Alexander Payne is someone who likes to rub your nose into problems a lot. You cannot escape the bad situations of your life with him at the helm. You can only learn to laugh at yourself. Nebraska may not be as cynical as his other films, for you anyways, but it may be his most cynical towards himself. Payne was born in Nebraska, and oddly enough, the journey for the overly hopeful Woody Grant and his bluntly realistic son David ends in that very state. This is where all of Payne’s knowledge comes from. This is where all of his experience is buried. Whether or not any of the caricatures in the film are based on real people, or if he has had a similar story where he was a part of mass hysteria, Nebraska is a film that talks more about the ways humans interact towards one another. It isn’t about the situation or who it involves. We’ve witnessed arguments. Hell, we’ve had many of our own. We’ve had arguments over the most trivial of things and the most obvious of mistakes. We’re prone to being involved in disastrous situations, and that is why the film is in black and white (although our resolutions are where the grey areas fill in). The film may take place in a few states, but its source material is universal; We’re just seeing it from an angle that Payne knows best.

9. The Spectacular Now

It’s ironic that a movie about high school would discuss the importance of striving for the future as opposed to living for the moment when most high school movies feel dated and latched within their times. The Spectacular Now will surely be timeless because it is honest. It is charming and sweet but will be dark when it feels like it. The film is very real, with its occasional long shots, lovingly pure performances, and its decisions its young adults face. Should I strive for what lies ahead of me, or should I appreciate what I have now? What does it even mean to appreciate the now? The Spectacular Now is uplifting but also serious. It’s poetic yet very literal. For us older audiences, we will be transported back to our youths with such dignity and open arms. For the younger, you will be treated seriously. Whether the film is heart warming or sad, The Spectacular Now is exceptionally witty and deep for a film about high school, and it will resonate as being a lovely fable about life for both the young and the old.

8. Blue Jasmine

Woody Allen has been making a film a year for the longest time. He’s got some of the best scripts out there, and attached to them a slew of fantastic films. With more successes than duds lately, the past decade for Allen may have had some good films but none matched the impact that his glory days carry (although Midnight in Paris came close). That is until Blue Jasmine, which is Allen’s most exciting and powerful film in a very long time. During a horrible financial crisis where many of us can be certifiably desperate here and there, we get a familiar retro-hollywood story brought back to remind us that this kind of problem has happened before. We see a socialite known as Jasmine who is slowly going insane because of her situation, and suddenly we feel sorry for a member of the maligned 1%. We are brought into hectic and frightening homes where there is something funny to find occasionally but a lot to be taken aback with too. Blue Jasmine is the kind of Woody Allen movie that hasn’t been around for a while, where somehow all of the world is contained in a singular person and/or story. We get hurt emotionally like Alvy. We want to get lost in the lives of the fictional like Cecilia. Now, we want to hang on to our dignities and still find an answer to our hardest problems without complete humility like Jasmine.

7. Dallas Buyers Club

When the trailer came out for this movie about the unfortunate first days of the HIV virus, it seemed as though we had another sappy hero story on hand. I am so glad that I was beyond wrong. Dallas Buyers Club is much more dignified and multidimensional. Our main character Woodroof is an absolute jerk who gets HIV and blames the world for his sickness. He is so full of hatred. After being saved, he begins to find a great source of income from saving others with similar practices. He slowly becomes a voice for a crowd by speaking against AZT and starts to be compassionate towards those he used to be unjustifiably hateful with. With so many people on screen full of disease and sickness, this is anything but a glorified hollywood film. It gets scary when people disappear left right and center. When you see the fears of people right up in front of you, there is no escaping. Luckily, everyone hangs on, and with brilliant performances throughout the film, you’ll hang in there too. You’ll be left with a story that does indeed have a moral but it isn’t spat at you to write about like it wee some film about class. It’s a film about life, and it doesn’t matter if it takes place decades ago; Its message about life and human relationships is timeless.

6. La Grande Bellezza [The Great Beauty] 6

If you take a gander at some of the best foreign films through the many years of filmmaking, you may see a reoccurring theme: Self reflection. While American films will have this idea instilled within some of its own films, you may find the best examples of the most candid of self analyses. Wild Strawberries showed a man asking who he is now as a respected academic. 8 1/2 had a director question his capabilities as a filmmaker when he was weak in other aspects of life. Even last year’s surreal mix-and-match of styles Holy Motors had an actor ask what it meant to be in this industry. The Great Beauty features Jep; A socialite who is more concerned with celebration than why people celebrate. It’s not until he reaches a certain peak in life where he begins to ponder what on earth grants him the right to reward himself. Like these other films, he takes a step back and we enter his mind. We see such unreal imagery that we ourselves take a step back and are separated from the movie. When you are aware that you are watching a film and you are still fully invested, the movie is doing something right. It’s dreamy, it’s thought provoking and it’s beautiful. The Great Beauty is the kind of movie that will have you feeling like a changed person after viewing, and it is one that will teach you that sometimes, the most fascinating thing about humans is not what they have achieved but the questioning of why and how.

About author

Former Film Editor & Music Writer at Live in Limbo. Co-host of the Capsule Podcast. A Greek/South African film enthusiast. He has recently earned a BFA honours degree in Cinema Studies at York University. He is also heavily into music, as he can play a number of instruments and was even in a few bands. He writes about both films and music constantly. You should follow him on Twitter @Andreasbabs.