In a fine year for cinema, such as 2013, it’s not all that
challenging to compile a list of excellent movies. The
challenge is to confine such a list to the customary 10
entries. One reviewer’s response to said challenge,
including a one to 10 ranking and summaries, follows. (Readers
will note the list is limited to movies seen in their entirety
by the reviewer - and that even a reviewer doesn’t manage to
see all of the many films released in a given year.)
Years a Slave.” This brutally visceral view of pre-Civil War
slavery gets the nod above all the year’s other films due to
its weightiness and historical significance. Much has been
said, rightly, in praise of stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita
Nyong’o. Michael Fassbender is just as brilliant as an evil
slaveholder in this long-to-be-remembered, memoir-rooted
production whose screenwriter, John Ridley, is a Milwaukee
native. Some stunning cinematography, too.
Osage County.” Playing a volatile mother and daughter who
don’t exactly see eye to eye, Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts
head an extraordinary acting ensemble guaranteed to mesmerize
and delight. The titular county is in Oklahoma and the movie
is based on screenwriter Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer- and
Jasmine.” The amazing Cate Blanchett
teeters somewhere near the edge of insanity as the
widow of a Bernie Madoff-type. Still, there’s plenty of
comic relief in Woody Allen’s enticing flick.
Funnyman Will Forte is quite serious, and sometimes almost
saintly, as he travels with and comes to understand his
enfeebled and irritable father (Bruce Dern).
June Squibb is a hoot as Forte’s mom and Dern’s
wife in what may be the best of several very good Alexander
Payne pictures to date.
A sweet old gal (and a sensational actress, Judi Dench)
searches along with a calloused journalist (screenwriter Steve
Coogan) for her long-lost son. One is tempted to describe
“Philomena” as “The Bells of St. Mary’s” with nasty
nuns, but such a tagline would hardly do it justice.
Buyers Club.” AIDS may no longer be a crisis of epidemic
proportions in the United States, but this Matthew McConaughey-Jared
Leto movie, set in the 1980s and based on an unlikely but bona
fide victim’s response to the HIV virus, is captivating from
the word go.
The cream of 2013’s animated crop is Disney’s cheerier
take on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.” The
retitled fairy tale has been preceded on screen by what
appears to be a vintage Mickey Mouse cartoon short, “Get a
Horse!” The cartoon is buttressed by life-size characters
popping in and out of the screen, making for the best 3D
manifestation I’ve yet seen at the movies.
Way, Way Back.” This wonderful, relatable story of
initiation stars Liam James and also has an
acting-against-type Steve Carell, a very funny Allison Janney,
a quirkily lovable Sam Rockwell, some exceptional bit players
and the odd, but exactly right, setting of a water park
that’s seen better days.
Hustle.” It’s hard to separate the good guys (and gals)
from the bad in this ABSCAM-spawned Christian Bale-Jennifer
Lawrence dramedy that recalls Martin Scorsese’s “GoodFellas.”
A much appreciated touch: snippets of hit songs from the
Said.” James Gandolfini, who died before this gentle
comedy’s release, is nothing like Tony Soprano here, playing
opposite an equally pleasant and watchable Julia
Louis-Dreyfus. What “Enough Said” said to me is that
love’s embrace extends far beyond “beautiful people” who
are brand-new to adulthood. And that’s something worth
movies were reviewed at greater length in TimeOut during 2013.
Most of those reviews can be accessed at gmtoday.com/timeout/reviews.