Thursday, February 27, 2014

Five Film Favorites: Movies released in 2013

Greta Gerwig is Frances

by F. T. Rea

This is the first year I’ve seen all of the Best Picture nominees in decades. And, I have to say I liked eight of them just fine. With the Academy Awards about to be handed out on Sunday night, for this week’s list of titles (with notes) I’m going to name my favorite films of 2013.

As far as winners are concerned, I’ll leave the predictions to others, but three of the titles on my list are Best Picture nominees, two aren’t. For basic info on the Oscar nominees, go here.   

Without further ado, in alphabetical order, here’s the list of my favorite 2013 movies:
  • “Captain Phillips” (2013): Color. 134 minutes. Directed by Paul Greengrass. Cast: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Catherine Keener. Note: This film is so tight and suspenseful it would probably win the Best picture Oscar in most years. This year it has stiff competition. Yes, this is the story of the 2009 hijacking of an American container ship by Somali pirates. Since we know how that turned out, where’s the suspense? Details. And, by focusing on the relationship between the Maersk Alabama’s dutiful commanding officer and the determined leader of the Somali pirates, the viewer is pulled into appreciating the unbelievable stress the two men endured.   
  • “Frances Ha” (2013*): B&W. 100 minutes. Directed by Noah Baumbach. Cast: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver. Note: Frances is so delightfully scattered and hungry to get her adult life underway, it’s both funny and sadly familiar. Her whimsical adventures as a 27-year-old still-aspiring dancer, looking for a place to live, trying to juggle difficult relationships -- and needing a real job! -- flow together seamlessly through brilliant editing (by Jennifer Lame). This picture is about fleshing out a memorable character; no plot needed. And, as a bonus, it’s a beautiful homage to similar slice-of-life movies from the French New Wave. * It premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in 2012, but the theatrical release in the USA was in 2013.
  • “Parkland” (2013): Color. 93 minutes. Directed by Peter Landesman. Cast: Zac Efron, Marcia Gay Harden, Tom Welling, Billy Bob Thornton, Paul Giamatti. Note: Yes, we know what happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963. But by zooming in on the people most immediately and directly affected by the murder in plain sight of President John F. Kennedy -- the Secret Service men, the medical personnel at Parkland Hospital, the FBI agents, Lee Harvey Oswald’s family and poor Abraham Zapruder (who shot the most famous 8 mm footage in history) -- the viewer gains a fresh perspective on the crime of the century and its aftermath.  
Judy Dench and Steve Coogan
  • “Philomena” (2013): Color. 98 minutes. Directed by Stephen Fears. Cast: Judy Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Mare Winningham. Note: “Philomena” is based on a true story about a woman searching for the son she lost to adoption when she was a teenage girl, forced to live in an Irish convent. Philomena’s ordeal in the convent, where she went when she was pregnant and unwed, looks too much like life in a prison. Decades later, haunted by guilt, she enlists the help of a journalist to help find out what happened to her child. Thus, the movie becomes a detective story with a pair of unlikely sleuths. If Judy Dench’s performance doesn’t win her a Best Actress award it will only add to the crimes dear Philomena has endured.  
  • “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013): Color. 180 minutes. Directed by Martin Scorsese. Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Rob Reiner. Note: Yes, it’s too long. But when you make a movie about overindulgence, maybe it's best made by a director known for his lack of restraint. This story is about the swindlers/stock brokers who struck it rich during the go-go bubble years at the end of the 20th century. It’s about how they did it and how they lived. Talk about a lifestyle! Lots of cocaine. Lots of Quaaludes. Maybe this doesn’t sound all that funny? Well, it is. Although DiCaprio has been tedious in some of his previous roles, this time his performance is surprisingly spot-on.
The only Best Picture nominee I didn’t like?


What 2013 films did I neglect? 


  1. What did you make of American Hustle?

  2. It was funny. I enjoyed it, but I think it's an overly self-conscious film that's a little overrated.