Top 25 Films of 2013

5. Inside Llywen Davis


If you don’t count The Coen Brothers as some of the best filmmakers of our time at this point, you’re either taking them too seriously or not enough. This masterful pair have always been noteworthy with how balanced their films are in terms of entertainment and severity. Fargo is as dark as it is hilarious. No Country For Old Men is as quotable as it is spine chilling. Miller’s Crossing is both exquisitely aesthetic and text heavy. Inside Llywen Davis is as fortunate as it is unfortunate. It isn’t the life story of Llywen Davis. It’s only a week in his life, for crying out loud. And yet we still feel miserable for the guy (albeit, you can’t tell me you didn’t laugh at any of his misfortunes at least once). With a story that isn’t really resolved in a literary sense, you may leave wondering what this film really means. Have a listen to the music again. The name of his solo album is also the name of the film. This movie is one that shows where a folk singer gets their material. You witnessed the album first hand. There wasn’t some interview explaining how it was made after the fact. You saw his struggles and views firsthand. Even if the music i the film was made after the album was, and not all of the songs are featured on said album, this is as real as a concept album can feel. With every laugh, every cringe and every tear, Inside Llewyn Davis carries the unpredictability of a good album where every spin is a different one from the last.

4. Gravity

A photograph of the famous shot from Georges Méliés’ A Trip To The Moon can be seen upon the space shuttle in Gravity. I wasn’t distracted by a classic movie. I was moved by how much science fiction cinema has evolved. Like A Trip to the Moon did over a century ago, Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity is the work of a filmmaking magician. The long shots make you forget that most of what you are watching is the work of digital mastery. The acting includes the charming bold maverick Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) who eases the pain with his silliness but even knows when reality has sunk in. However, it is Sandra Bullock’s (mostly) one woman show as Ryan Stone that keeps Gravity tethered to Earth. The solar system soars around her as space debris hits her from every angle, and yet the movie never becomes overwhelming. Her humanistic qualities along with the incredible special effects and Steven Price’s compelling soundtrack are works of beauty. With a climax as breathtaking as ever, Gravity is a reminder that after a century later, movies still have the capabilities of being groundbreaking.

3. her

You’ll laugh at how out there it is, but then you’ll realize that life isn’t too far off from that of Theodore’s in her. We have long distance relationships now, where we are basically dating what we see on screen and hear through a speaker. Who knows who truly is on the other side of the connection, where it is a gamble that you may not be dating who you think you are. At least here, the operating systems are programmed to fit your every need and quirk. I love how everything in this movie is normal. It isn’t some news worthy story of oddity that some lonely man is dating his computer. In fact, it’s seen as the in thing. Everything here may seem futuristic, but it is still a satire of how we live now. Theodore shit talks this fowl mouthed creature during a video game, and it’s basically how people play games online now. He writes love statements for other couples, and we’re at that phase of appropriation now (where we plaster quotes of others on our own pictures). The most relatable part of this film is that we all want to feel wanted. We’re all Theodore. We all want that perfect someone, even if they are too good to be true (like the programmed Samantha). This movie is about all of us living in the technological age, where the world may shrink because of connectivity but our isolations are getting worse and worse. This is a movie about us all. This specific movie just happens to be about her.

2. La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2 [Blue is the Warmest Colour] 2

Here we have the most electrifying film of the year. The colours on screen splash and stain every corner of the screen, so you are given a visual feast for the entire three hour film. You’ll notice the colour blue used almost everywhere, and that’s obvious because of the name of the film and the colour of Emma’s hair. Adele is mesmerized by Emma and her bold ways. There comes a point, though, where Emma’s hair will resort back to a natural blonde and Adele’s world is still full of blue. Blue is the Warmest Colour is a very passionate film about one’s first true love and all of the small finer details surrounding this story. You see Adele sleep. You see her walk. You see her sit. This isn’t filler. This is Adele’s life. You tuned in at the right time when Adele first discovers sexuality, her preference in women, and her life with her soulmate. Like a modern rendition of a French New Wave film, this movie takes its time with every situation so we can observe and we can analyze. God knows Adele would have wanted the same capabilities for herself. The movie is extremely risky with not just its scenes of sexual intimacy but its documentations of pure human distraught. No one in this movie wears make up. Most of the movie was improvised. As nerve wracking as it must have felt for Emma and Adele to initiate their relationship, everyone involved with this film pounce on the same self conscious fears by putting themselves on the chopping block. Because of this, Blue is the Warmest Colour may be solely about emotions and have little to do with being overly dramatic, but it is still as big of a rush as any good action film (if not more).

1. 12 Years a Slave

People older than me may remember when a film like Apocalypse Now or The Deer Hunter showed shell shock and war terrors right in front of your face. People of previous generations may remember when Schindler’s List first came out and refused to hide many of the horrors that happened during the Holocaust. It is a rare moment when a film solidifies itself as the best of a certain subject because it had the courage to show everything and to take risks. It seemed like that kind of a moment would not happen again; Not in our life time. That time has come now. That rarity of a film was released in 2013 and it was 12 Years a Slave. This essential film about slavery holds nothing back and is a powerful story as a result. You will be awe struck the entire film, from when Solomon Northup was originally trapped until the very end. You will see things you didn’t even think were imaginable, whether it be how hateful people can be, how twisted some tortures were, or how bold someone can be when their lives are in jeopardy. This isn’t just one of the great films about slavery, it’s easily the best.

Steve McQueen has taken this harrowing true story and has made it into a cinematic masterpiece. It isn’t a film about good people and bad people. Some of the caucasians here are actually really hospitable and even help Solomon. Some of the african americans fend for themselves and refuse to help others. No one is perfect in this film, and no one is a cardboard cut out either. Even Edwin Epps has some balance to him, where both his threatening wife and his curious lust for Patsey turn him into an even bigger monster. He holds religion to his heart and has misconstrued it ever since he was given power in the first place.

The film will move wickedly fast or excruciatingly slow depending on the circumstances on screen, and both paces exquisitely capture the torturous emotions Solomon himself experienced. There are moments to breath with beautiful shots, but they are always laced with something upsetting (bugs destroying the cotton field, Solomon struggling, and more). The film gives you enough to cling onto but it doesn’t sucker punch you. It always reminds you that things are still looking rough for Solomon and the other slaves. It encourages you to stay until the very end with its spellbinding score, gorgeous cinematography and bravura performances.

It’s not just a great film to see, but it is a requirement. If you want to see modern cinema breaking the mold yet again (as The Master did last year), then 12 Years a Slave is that film to see. It will likely be referenced by other films that will try and capture the same spirit. It will be talked about for years to come. It will be one of the greats of our generation. That quick flash of a moment in film history has happened here with the perfect film 12 Years a Slave: The best film of 2013.

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.