best film: Gravity. I’m 4 days removed from my most recent visit of Inside Llewyn Davis so I don’t trust myself enough yet to put that #1 supplanting Gravity. There was no question which was the best film in 2013 when I saw all of these for the first time—it was Gravity by a landslide (oddly enough American hustle was a distant #2 and that has fallen to #6 now). However, Inside Llewyn is a beast that is not easily tamed with that initial viewing and if I feel as if I do now, it’ll soon displace Cuaron’s masterpiece for the top slot.
most underrated: Alexander Payne’s most visually impressive film, Nebraska, deserves a much better fate than being #21 on the TSPDT list. The black and white stark photography is an excellent choice for Payne who has always been more about narrative and rich characters than visuals. I’ve got this solidly in my top 10 in a superb year—it may be a top 5 film in a year like 2012 or many others.
most overrated: I don’t have a lot of problems with the TSPDT for 2013 so I had to nitpick and go with Spike Jonze’s Her which is their #4 and my #12 (approximately). That’s really not far off in the scheme of things- there are just a lot of films I really admire from 2013. I’m a fan of this film, Jonze’s work as a writer and director, and Phoenix’s performance.
gem I want to spotlight: I hate to pick Refn again but this one was booed at Cannes and has a 37 on metacritic. It’s closer, from a narrative standpoint, to Valhalla Rising’s mute narrative than Drive (I thought Drive was a bit of a irregularity for Refn (the one film so far he hasn’t also written—he’s not usually this accessible)). It’s not a great narrative—full stop. But the visuals are there and in some respects, even better than Drive. It’s gorgeous to look at and with another revisit I may very well have this film in my top 10… so much for the 37/100 score.
trends and notables: If you look at the top for films of the year you have the Coen Brothers and Richard Linklater who work almost every year but you also have Cuaron (last film was children of men in 2006) and Jonathan Glazer (last film prior to this was birth in 2004) who take a long time between films (writing this of march of 2018 neither has released another film yet since 2013) so that’s worth noting an occasion here. Speaking of Linklater, this is the 3rd leg of his “Before” trilogy (1995, 2004, 2013) which are all 9 years apart. I can’t wait for 2022. All in all it’s just an incredibly strong top 10— I feel really good about it (which I don’t with 2012). It’s back to back top 10’s for David O. Russell, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper with Silver Linings in 2012 and here with American Hustle. Villeneuve is heating up with two archiveable films: prisoners and enemy. It’s not her debut but it’s rare to see an actresses in three films in one year yet we have one with Rooney Mara in Her, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and Side Effects. Again it’s only early 2018 but it feels like, as far as debuts, that Ryan Coogler and Michael Jordan are destined for greatness and they got their archiveable start and debut here in Fruitvale Station. Ditto, on the acting side, for Miles Teller, who makes his archiveable debut in The Spectacular Now.
best performance male: Oscar Isaac is magnificent in the tragically sad Inside Llewyn Davis so he runs away with my top slot here. There’s a lot of competition here in 2013. I think next I might go with either Christian Bale in American Hustle, Ethan Hawke in Before Midnight or Tony Servillo in The Great Beauty. I don’t love the film as much as I love the performance which is why I have DiCaprio’s work in Wolf of Wall Street all the way down here. I’m not ready to mention them with the others above but Phoenix does strong work in Her, Hanks in Captain Phillips, Bruce Dern in Nebraska and Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender in 12 years a slave are right there as well. This year is loaded.
best performance female: It’s loaded don the ladies’ side as well with Sandra Bullock leading the way for her career-topping work in Gravity. You couldn’t go wrong picking Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin or Julie Deply for Before Midnight. It doesn’t stop there. Both Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux are brilliant in Blue is the Warmest Color as is Cate Blanchett in her oscar-winning work for Woody in Blue Jasmine. We’re already at 6 performances and I haven’t mentioned Marion Cotillard in The Immigrant, both Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle or Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave.
- Inside Llewyn Davis
- Under the Skin
- Before Midnight
- The Great Beauty
- American Hustle
- Twelve Years a Slave
- Blue is the Warmest Color
- The Immigrant
Archives, Directors, and Grades
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives