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Added by lotr23 on 7 Jan 2014 02:44
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Favorite films of 2013

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The Top 10

Do I look old to you?

No. Yes. How old?

Older than I am? Older than 27?

No. 27 is old, though.
[Pause.] Let's do something fun. We could go to a movie.

Movies are so expensive now.

Yeah, but you're at the movies.


=================

I'm surprised that this list managed to take shape. There was a point during 2013 when I wondered whether or not my appreciation for movies was waning. I had more "big deal"/real-life things happen to me in 2013 than I did in 2010, 2011 and 2012 combined. That obviously had an impact not just on the amount of time I had to watch movies (which I'd say I still had enough of), but it affected, like... the amount of emotional and intellectual energy that I could invest into movies, since I was having to invest it in other things. It's for that reason that I couldn't have picked a better year to attend the Toronto International Film Festival in September. It came at a moment at which I was doubting myself as a cinephile, and the five days I spent there were enough to remind me that, as drained as I may sometimes be, and as much as I know I'll be writing about movies a lot less than I did two or three years ago, nothing will ever change the fact that seeing a great/very good movie still has the ability to bring me more joy than almost anything else and to stimulate me in ways that other art forms simply don't.

As for 2013 itself, I wouldn't say it was a great year for film, but because of everything I talked about in the above paragraph, it was a great year of movie experiences for me. TIFF was fantastic. And the several changes I experienced throughout the year in terms of emotional growth and maturity are reflected in the way I responded to what I saw. I've been able to "let myself go" with movies much more than in the past. And although my #1 movie of the year is exactly the movie I would've predicted in January 2013 would be my favorite of the year, as it turns out, the reasons why it's my favorite movie of the year are very different than the reasons I had in mind before seeing it, because the movie blindsided me in the best way possible, which I suppose is also what the year 2013 did to me as a whole.

If you've made it this far, thanks for your patience, and with that, here is my top 10. As usual, it's presented in reverse order, starting with #10 and ending with #1. As I say every year, take it for what it is- a list of someone's preferences. Every top 10 list is really personal, and in my case, maybe moreso this year.
People who added this item 347 Average listal rating (154 ratings) 6.5 IMDB Rating 6.5


My most anticipated movie of those I selected to see at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it didn't disappoint in the slightest. As expected, I didn't have a chance to revisit it before year's end, because it hasn't played where I live, so my memory of the film is a bit muddled with all of my other TIFF memories, but what I do recall is that this movie was just so freaking alive, full of energy and entertaining throughout. I had my reservations about the things it chose to emphasize during the climax, but still, in a year that was lacking in an abundance of great movies, Kill Your Darlings easily squeezes into the list.
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People who added this item 1444 Average listal rating (941 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 8
Her (2013)


There's no doubt that Her is the most socially relevant movie of the year and that it imparts the sharpest, most insightful of critiques of where we're at in 2013/2014 and of how much we've lost our ability to connect with one another. But what makes Her truly special is that it doesn't issue that criticism in the cold/objective/analytical way that, say, a documentary about the subject would do it, but rather, it digs deep into the emotional fucked-up-ness to which electronic communication is dragging human beings. If that sounds too dark, believe it or not, the movie's actually beautiful throughout nearly every frame. There's something a little too conventional about the way a particular aspect of the movie gets "resolved". If it'd been resolved differently or more creatively, I would've placed Her much higher on the list, but its place on it is still very much deserved.
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People who added this item 298 Average listal rating (173 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 7.5


These movies that are "based on a true story" and which you know end in tragedy from the very beginning have a tendency to portray ill-fated protagonists as angels, so that once they meet their end, the audience weeps buckets. That's manipulation. But the makers of Fruitvale Station chose not to do that. Instead, Oscar Grant is portrayed as a caring and loving person who's sometimes forced to do disagreeable things in order to survive, because it's the only choice he has. This is also one of those cases where knowing how things end doesn't ruin the experience, but rather, it just makes you apprehensive throughout the entire movie, wishing you could do something to help even though you can't.
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People who added this item 257 Average listal rating (157 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.4
In the House (2012)


Without a doubt some of the finest dialogue that I had the pleasure of listening to in 2013, and plain and simply, one of the coolest, most creative stories I saw on a screen this year. One could say that In the House cheats, because sometimes it does things that you could criticize, but then it will immediately comment on it and criticize itself without even giving you a chance to do it first. But that's what happens when you're dealing with something as deliciously self-aware as this. And regardless of whether or not it cheats, it doesn't make the experience any less engrossing.
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People who added this item 1093 Average listal rating (738 ratings) 6.4 IMDB Rating 6.6


Yes. My top 10 list this year has Gravity as an honorary mention, then it has four serious, "sophisticated" indie dramas in spots #10 through #7, and then at #6... the hilarious This is the End. If that seems weird, first, you should remember that I said that top 10 lists are personal. Second and most importantly, I think you have to evaluate movies based on how good they are at doing what they do. That means seeing how good they are at their genre, rather than automatically saying that a serious sci-fi flick has to be better than a meta comedy. This is the End is the best comedy of the year, not simply because it's the movie that made me laugh the most, but because of how well it handles its meta-ness. Self-reference doesn't get funnier than this. The trio of Jay Baruchel, James Franco and Seth Rogen is like Neapolitan ice cream.
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People who added this item 846 Average listal rating (471 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 7.8


La vie d'Adele (Blue is the Warmest Color) was three hours of pure devastation. This is the character that I literally felt closest to in any film this year, because the way her life is portrayed eventually makes it feel as though there's no screen dividing you from her. It's kind of unfortunate that the hype and hooplah over the film is focused on the graphic sex scenes, because those are only part of the film's aim to portray everything at the rawest level possible (even things like eating and sleeping). Both halves of the movie morph into a cohesive whole that ends up saying a lot about what it's like to be a lost soul in this world and to have a hard time finding your place in it and fitting into different groups of people. I'd like to think that those are things that anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, can relate to.
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People who added this item 131 Average listal rating (61 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 6.3
Wrong (2012)


Wrong was one of the first 2013 releases I saw, and I immediately knew it would make it on this list. I just didn't expect it would be so high. Alas, they simply don't make movies as deliciously off and quirky anymore. I understand that one could make the argument that weirdness for weirdness' sake shouldn't be considered "good art", but for my taste, if I have to choose between a bland movie in which everything makes sense and every action is logical and something like Wrong, I'll pick the latter. Movies are supposed to take you to interesting, weird, unexpected places. This is my kind of entertainment.
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People who added this item 431 Average listal rating (295 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 7.4
Frances Ha (2012)


I love this movie. I would've loved Frances Ha in any other year, but the movie had to come into my life when I was 27 and dealing with a number of crossroads, and that just made it all the more affecting and utterly bittersweet... though I'd say ultimately more sweet than bitter, which I'll admit is a good thing. As great as the dialogue is, what haunts me and tugs at me the most about Frances Ha is Frances' solo trip to Paris, during which the expressions on her face say it all... Painful.

I'd been waiting so long for Noah Baumbach to make something as great as The Squid and the Whale. Turns out we got something even better. Frances Ha may be #3 on this list, but I'll admit it's the one with the most replay value for me since, well... I've seen it four times and I'm already longing for a fifth viewing. Yeah. Undateable.
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People who added this item 288 Average listal rating (183 ratings) 6.3 IMDB Rating 6.4


This is the coolest, boldest, trippiest movie experience I had this year. The extraordinary John Dies at the End is the best kind of "WTF?!". If you haven't seen it, and you take a look at the poster and the plot synopsis, it might look like something really silly that they'd only play on the SyFy network. But this movie is awash with ideas about parallel universes and with existential questions, and the best thing is that it delves into those topics through a series of events that are insanely entertaining and constantly unpredictable.

Weird as it's gonna sound, this is probably the film that best exemplifies the changes I personally underwent in 2013, because I feel like I actually let myself go and said "fuck it", you know, and absolutely loved the ride as a result of that. I doubt this film will show up on many people's top 10 lists... but at the same time, I can't imagine someone not loving it. In normal circumstances, this would've been an extremely easy choice for my #1 spot. Oh, and yeah... when you hear a song on the radio, where is the song?
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People who added this item 659 Average listal rating (385 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 7.9


Anyone who knows me well enough will think this is highly predictable. And if you had told me back in January 2013 that Before Midnight would end up being my #1 of the year, I would've probably said: "Well, of course." I've telegraphed my love for the first two Before movies pretty extensively. But... this actually isn't a predictable choice. My overwhelming love for the third entry in the story of Celine and Jesse stems from places that have very little to do with my feelings towards the first two films.

In 2013, I realized that I've been guilty in the past of giving tons of credit to (mostly independent) dramas simply because they're "intelligent" or "realistic" (and I guess I'd practically have a cinegasm whenever a movie was both). And don't get me wrong, "intelligent" and "realistic" can be good or even great qualities for a movie to have. But I may have overpraised certain movies just for having them, even if they were lacking in other areas. There's a certain comfort in the arms-length entertainment offered by a movie in which mumblecore dialogue and witty ideas you agree with are exchanged, but in which you're not given any sort of emotional wake-up call. Before Sunrise and Before Sunset each featured two people who spent most of their time philosophizing or talking about problems that affected third parties. These two people are in love, but 97% of their conversational exchanges are about things that two people who are simply friends might talk about. But that's not Before Midnight.

In Before Midnight, the things that Celine and Jesse talk about are actually happening to them. For that reason, this film is a million times harder to handle than the first two entries. There's pain and anguish here that had never been experienced as part of these two people's universe. The script is every bit as masterfully nuanced, but the situations it crafts aren't hypothetical: they've happened, or they're currently happening, or they're threatening to happen. It's pure despair. I guess I needed to be blindsided by something I was anticipating as much as Before Midnight in order to realize that I've dedicated too much time (both as a moviegoer and as a person) to being a "third person" and to wallowing in observing what happens to others, rather than being open to letting things happen to me and affect me. The film is a masterpiece, which is a word I use only when warranted- relationship dramas simply don't (and probably won't) get any better crafted or acted than this. It's just not the masterpiece I was expecting, but I'm eternally grateful for that.
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Comments

Posted: 3 years, 9 months ago at Jan 9 22:17
This list is an example of why I consider you to be among the best list creators at Listal. A top 10 list that oozes of intellect and love. Top-shelf effort and quality!
Posted: 3 years, 9 months ago at Jan 17 17:46
Six of these will be in the upper tier (meaning not runners-up) of my list once it's complete. Excellent choices & thanks for giving me a handful of films to check out in the future.
Posted: 3 years, 9 months ago at Jan 18 3:11
@ the giraffe: I have a feeling your top 10 list will be THE top 10 list with which I have the most in common!! Who else is gonna give JDATE and Wrong the love they deserve? :) Look forward to reading it once it's up!
Posted: 3 years, 9 months ago at Jan 18 16:28
Your shared thoughts evince an obvious love and appreciation for cinema that is not only thoughtful but full of emotion.
I have yet to see any of these (even the runners-up) but that very fact, coupled with your insights has me questioning my own choices of movies to watch - or rather the order in which I watch them.

Fantasy, adventure, sci-fi, action and horror (or some mixture of them) are my favorite cinematic foods-of-choice and they're usually the ones with the most spectacular previews so, naturally, they are the ones that I wish to see the most. Plus there's the known-quantity factor; the actors/directors that I know and love take precedence. So I end up watching (for example) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Thor: The Dark World, Pacific Rim and The Evil Dead.

Actually, only two of the movies on your list have even been earmarked by me for viewing: Gravity and Before Midnight. But that's not to say that I won't watch the others (some or all).

The fact is that I eventually do get around to watching such films and, when I do, I enjoy them immensely. Films like 3 Iron and Wristcutters, that I've stumbled across have found a place in my heart that they will never leave; yet they were both movies that I never would have figured myself for liking - much less loving.

I suppose it's a bit like eating your dessert before your main course but's that's the way of it. Food for thought indeed. Perhaps I should sift through the offerings, in the future, before snatching up the most delightful looking morsels for consumption because those that I (eventually) do get around to seeing end up being the most filling.

As always, a great list made so by the sharing of your thoughts (I wish more folks here did just that). I'll be marking this one for reference so I don't miss these movies, too. :)
Posted: 3 years, 9 months ago at Jan 23 8:05
Firstly, just have to say that I love the above comment! As a response to your list, and as a revelatory statement about this particular listal member's relationship with cinema. It's the kind of discussion that makes me regret my time spent away from this site for so long.

Also, I could write a 5-paragraph essay and still not express my thoughts any better than Bml93 managed to do in 3 sentences. So yes, I stoutly echo everything he said!

Great list and tribute to your love for cinema and all that it has come to mean to you, and the way your relationship with film has changed between last year's list and now!

But I gotta ask... what happened to Moebius? Have your feelings toward it changed so vastly, or is it a case of "admiring" a film and considering it to be great, but not in fact a personal "favorite"?
Posted: 3 years, 9 months ago at Jan 23 15:31
@ Xanadon't: I took the approach of only including movies that were actually released in theaters in 2013. That's why Kill Your Darlings is the only TIFF movie that made the list. Assuming (and hoping) that they get released this year, both Moebius and Rigor Mortis are practically guaranteed to have a spot in the 2014 list (though I admit I'd really need to see Rigor Mortis again- preferably with more than four hours of sleep!). In fact, if it ends up being a not-so-great year for movies, even Under the Skin has a shot at being at least a runner-up (and from what I've read, that one's guaranteed to get released in 2014). I had originally written an explanation about this in the "pre-list paragraph" (for your benefit, haha), but then realized that it would make the "pre-list paragraph" even longer than it already was, and I knew I'd have a chance to explain this to you at some other point anyway. Despite their absence from the list, I'm sure you know that these movies were a very important part of 2013 as a "year of great movie experiences" for me. :)
Posted: 3 years, 8 months ago at Feb 23 4:27
Wrong was great. Too bad Wrong Cops didn't live up.
Posted: 3 years, 4 months ago at Jun 15 22:04
Hey, just wanna say this list really turned me on to "Kill Your Darlings". Had second thoughts about wanting to see it when at the beginning of the year it was getting all the buzz as "the thing to see at TIFF", then as the months went by I didn't hear a peep about it. I thought to myself "is it THAT bad, we all wanna ignore it's existence?" FINALLY got a chance to watch it the other night and TOTALLY agree with your assessment of it being so freaking alive, full of energy and entertaining throughout. Glad I gave it a chance:D...

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