Every year I have taken a look back at the movie reviews I have written. When I counted the reviews I have written this year (=18 plus 3 this year about movies released in 2013), I wanted to see what would be my top ten (actually twelve) favorites. It wasn’t easy, as both television and cinema have upped the ante on story-telling.
This list is not ranked in order of quality –only my top ten for 2013, grouped by genre, and one additional because I couldn’t help myself.
Independent Studios (Quirky themes):
1)Dallas Buyers Club (February 24, 2014 review): character-driven as well as plot-driven, focusing on the relationship between Woodroof and Rayon, polar opposites who need and want each other. The performances are remarkable, perhaps as much for the costumes and physical transformation as for the acting.
2) August: Osage County (Jan 29, 2014 review): a disquieting look at an American family with secrets and lies that keep coming and coming, when the viewer least expects them. Some critics disagree, but for me, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the shattering performance by Meryl Streep as a mother from hell.
3) Her January 19, 2014 review): part romantic comedy, part sci-fi, “Her” plays with the future and the interface between humans and their computers as well as the problems and pitfalls of communicating feelings in any relationship.
4) Amour (February 18, 2013 review): An epitaph of mourning, of having to face the certitude of death. It is painful to watch: to gaze at ageing and loss. It will overwhelm; it will be heartbreaking. Although “Amour” is the story of love and life’s end, the originality and the directness will surprise all who see this haunting film.
5) Page Turner (July 18, 2013 review): A French cinematic sleeper (2006), this thriller is subtle as a sonata, fine-tuned and intricately composed.
6) American Hustle (December 31, 2013 review) : How far are people willing to go to grasp the golden ring, to try to capture the American Dream? This cinematic marvel digs deep into how much we lie to ourselves, in order to believe what we want to believe.
7) Prisoners (October 27, 2013 review): A powerful tale of human nature gone awry. What are parents capable of in their darkest moment, when their worst nightmare happens?
8) Side Effects (July 31, 2013) By releasing only one detail at a time, we are kept wading through interviews, court hearings, false turns, and psychiatrist visits until, finally, everything comes together. The entire film is very subdued, impeccably structured, and intricate in plot.
9) Shattered (July 23, 2013 review): Paced to perfection, a cat-and-mouse game in which the clues and menace are only hinted at, but always cleverly hidden. There are so many curves along the way, with a plot peppered with red herrings, most viewers will be thrown off track.
10) Argo (January 21, 2013 review): I still keep thinking of this big-studio movie over a year after seeing it. “Argo” captures the mood of our country. Affleck plays the quintessential American hero, confident to a fault, who will do anything to protect those he is responsible for–and it is our fear for him that drives the emotional content of the film.
11) Hunger Games II: Catching Fire (December 20, 2013 review): Sequels are notorious for being a disappointment but this series with the heroine Katniss belongs in the same category as “Harry Potter” and “Twilight”. It just seems to get better and better!
12) Silver Linings Playbook (Mar 11, 2013 review): Although billed as a comedy, this is more a romance between two young adults with bipolar disorder whose families and friends have to deal with the turmoil that mental illness creates.