Favorite of 2013: Movies

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I hope you all enjoyed my favorite 13 Albums of 2013, it was a fun list to put together and allowed me to reflect on the year!

Compiling my favorite 2013 movies was more challenging: I don’t have the time or money to see every movie in theaters, plus many never make it to theaters near me or they get released on DVD after the year is over. It’s also tricky when certain 2013 movies that might have been contenders won’t receive their wide theatrical release until January 2014 (example: Inside Llewyn Davis). I decided to include any film I saw in 2013: some in theaters, but most Jordan and I rented or borrowed from the library. The movies are listed in alphabetical order.

Let’s jump right in, shall we?

American Hustle | David O’Russell, 2013
Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), a part-time business owner, full-time con-artist, falls in love with the damaged yet strong stunner, Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). They quickly become lovers as well as business partners. To help entice customers, Sydney takes on the persona of Lady Edith Greensley, a women with British bank connections. They do quite well for themselves, but eventually an undercover FBI agent, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) catches them in the act. Richie is trying to prove that he can take down the big guys, and by big guys he means politicians. Instead of keeping the two con-artists in prison, he envelopes them in a scheme to take down several politicians in New Jersey.

While the premise of this movie mirrors a crime drama, David O’Russell is more interested in the quad-love-angle between Irving, Sydney, Richie, and Irving’s wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence). Many twists and shenanigans ensue and I couldn’t stop laughing. I had a lot of fun with this movie. The costumes were also incredible; celebrating the disco era in all its gold lamé glory.

Before Midnight | Richard Linklater, 2013
“You remember that guy who loved you and you had that great romance with? It’s me.”

We first met Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) almost 20 years ago after they meet on a train and spend one evening together in Vienna. They promised to reconnect in six months, but circumstances prohibit that agreed upon meeting and sadly numbers weren’t exchanged (in 1994, who had a cellphone?). Before Sunset takes place nearly ten years later, Jesse has written a novel inspired by their shared night and is on a book tour in Paris where Celine is living. She attends the signing and they decide to spend the few hours before Jesse’s flight catching up. The connection they had resurfaces, but life is more complicated now.

That is roughly the plot of the first two films in the Before TrilogyMy older brother, Jon, introduced me to these main characters in high school (and my love affair with french women). I’m not going to give the plot away because if you haven’t seen the first two films, it will be more enjoyable to watch free of knowledge. This third installment beautifully captures the reality of long-term relationships; the lovely, the complicated, but oh-so-worth-it moments. 

Blue Jasmine | Woody Allen, 2013
Jordan and I are huge Woody Allen fans. I love the fluid walk-and-talk scenes and shark, neurotic wit that is evident in all of his movies. We follow Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) who is forced to move in with her sister after a string of unfortunate events leaves her widowed and penniless. Jasmine lived a life that was measured by her wealth and status; she mocked her sister for living a more “blue-collar” life, but the people she socialized with scatter once Jasmine’s life turns up-side down. Through all of this, Jasmine slowly breaks down… the result is mesmerizing and sometimes hilarious.

The Deep Blue Sea | Terence Davies, 2011
This British movie, starring Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston, circulated the festival scene in 2011, was released in the states in 2012, and finally in 2013 was available to rent! I had it bookmarked for almost a year.  I have an affinity towards european dramas with their dreamy and controlled stories. Amidst the 18th and 19th century love stories, Wuthering Heights, Sense and Sensibility, Anna Karenina, etc., you will often find me. The Deep Blue Sea is an adaptation of the Terence Rattigan play. Hester (Weisz) is married to a much older man and while it is a loving marriage, it is somewhat passionless. She meets and begins an affair with Freddie (Hiddleston) and while it is full of passion, the choice between the two men begins a complicated journey. While researching this movie, I found out that this title was a reference the phrase, “between the devil and the deep blue sea”; sometimes neither choice leads us to a good place.

Dial M for Murder |  Alfred Hitchcock, 1954
This year I attempted to catch up on few classic movies that I hadn’t seen yet. But I didn’t get to as many as I would have liked. Rear Window is one of our favorite movies, so we figured we should watch the other two Alfred Hitchcock/Grace Kelly collaborations. While watching older suspense/mystery movies, it’s fun to think how the stories would be different if set in modern times with cellphones and CCTV: Would Dial M for Murder have been plausible?

Tony Wendice (Ray Milland), a retired tennis player, is married to Margot (Kelly) who is having an affair. Tony is fed up and begins to plot a plan that involves hiring a hit man, blackmail, and an infamous latch-key that is almost a character. The one-room setting adds to the claustrophobic tension that keeps you riveted for the entire movie!

First Comes Love | Nina Davenport, 2013
I struggled to decide which documentary to include in this list because I watched quite a few really great ones (FYI: Netflix’s and On Demand are great resources for documentaries). Ultimately, I chose Nina Davenport’s personal account of her decision to get pregnant through a sperm donor (who she knew) and subsequently become a single parent. This film, while not a sequel to her earlier work, Always a Bridesmaid (can you guess what this one is about?), could function as a companion piece.

Nina’s journey is fascinating on its own, but what really sold me was her relationship to her parents. Nina comes from a somewhat affluent family in Michigan. Her father would have liked her to become a lawyer or at least marry one, but instead she became a wedding videographer/documentarian. She weaves in beautiful personal video footage that her father took of her mother (who passed away between the two documentaries) on their honeymoon and of the children’s birthdays and early life. Despite all of that, he still can’t grapple with her decision to document life as a career path. This film had me cringing, laughing, and crying along with Nina and her family.

Her | Spike Jonze, 2013
As Dana Stevens explained, Her is a contemporary sci-fi film that asks the question, “How are human beings changing as a result of, and in concert with, technology?” This is a beautiful, challenging, and utterly moving film. It takes place in the not-so-distant-future, with a hybrid mix of 1940s/contemporary fashion, sleek, minimal, and colorful sets; we can see a slightly familiar setting, but the surroundings are also different.

We begin the movie meeting Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), who recently separated from his wife. He purchases a new operating system that recently launched where a personal interface, with a soothing voice, interacts with its customer to keep them organized. What happens when that voice seems to know you better than your neighbor, friend, spouse? What if you got along with it better than the humans around you? What is real love?

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire | Francis Lawrence, 2013
I read all three of Suzanne Collins’ novels before seeing The Hunger Games. For this film, I went into the theater already a fan. The protagonist, Katniss, is a female character I find interesting to watch(read); strong, fiercely loyal to her family and friends, but still vulnerable. Catching Fire built upon the world we were introduced to in the first film and also nicely incorporated new characters and obstacles. We find Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) dealing with PTSD after returning from the Games. After some unfortunate events transpire, they must return as tributes to the Hunger Games and begin to learn the true meaning of love and trust.

Mud | Jeff Nichols, 2013
Mud begins as two young teenaged boys, Neckbone and Ellis, travel along the Mississippi river to find an abandoned boat that they want to make their own. During their trip, they realize a mysterious (and dangerous?) man is actually living in their boat. The boys are intrigued by this man  (played by Matthew McConaughey) and his plight to reunite with his lost love, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). Meanwhile, the young boy, Ellis, is grappling with his own feelings towards a girl in town and the fact that his parents marriage is on the rocks, which might force him to move from their houseboat into town. Mud beautifully captures this small town in Arkansas, adolescence, friendship, and most importantly the role that true-love plays in our lives.

Pitch Perfect | Jason Moore, 2012
Comedies, in my opinion, are more difficult to get right. Usually they start out promising, but about 2/3 of the way jokes start to become more important than the plot. Pitch Perfect is a musical comedy about the world of a cappella collegiate singing. This movie isn’t without its formulaic qualities, but because the performances are believable, I loved being taken along for the ride. We learn that with a little teamwork, vulnerability, and a lot of harmony anything can be accomplished.

Ruby Sparks | Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, 2012
The directors of Little Miss Sunshine collaborated with Paul Dano and his real life girlfriend, Zoe Kazan, to create a smart, funny, and poignant romantic comedy. Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) is a writer, who as a young man hit the big time on his first novel. Unfortunately, he has been experiencing writers block ever since. He begins to fantasize and then write about the perfect girl of his dreams. One day, to his great astonishment, he finds her in his apartment! Ruby Sparks touches on why we need our partners to challenge us; the fantasy of being able to write the script to our life is more appealing than the reality it brings.

A Separation | Asghar Farhadi, 2011
This film swept the foreign language awards in 2012, winning an Academy Award and Golden Globe (internationally it fared even better winning acting awards). The main characters, Nader and Simin, have been married for 14 years and have an 11-year-old daughter. Simin is becoming frustrated with her life in Iran and desires to move out of the country, but Nader refuses to leave his aging father with Alzheimers. Simin requests a divorce, but the court determines there isn’t adequate ruling to approve the divorce. so Simin moves in with her parents. This change forces Nader to hire a women, Razieh, to watch his father while he is at work. Nadar is a little delusional on how well his father can function independently and due to religious restrictions, taking care of a male, non-family member, causes problems for Razieh. There is a scene where she has to call a religious hotline to seek permission to clean him after an accident. I viewed this film as someone unfamiliar with Iranian customs, but it is a beautiful film about the messy aspects of life are relatable to us all.

Three Colours Trilogy: Blue, White, Red | Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1993, 1994, 1994
I am cheating a little by including Blue, White, and Red as a single unit on this list, but it is hard to separate them. Renowned Polish director and screenwriter, Krzysztof Kieślowski uses the colors and motto of the French flag to weave together these three movies, while neither of them share a storyline.

Blue reflects on emotional liberty as we watch Julie (Juliette Binoche) wrestle with her new identity, free of family ties after personal tragedy strikes. It is hauntingly beautiful.

White hints on the idea of equality by following the journey of Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski), a Polish immigrant living and working as a hair dresser in France. His marriage falls apart and, because of some spiteful actions from his wife (played by Julie Delpy), Karol finds himself with no money. He quickly hatches a plan to return to Poland, rebuild his reputation, and take revenge on his wife.

Of the three films, Red was my favorite. We meet, Valentine (Irène Jacob), a college student/part-time model who, while out driving late one night, hits a dog. She tries to return the dog, but the owner seems weirdly uninterested so she has no choice but to nurse the dog back to health. Throughout the film we see these characters connecting through unlikely circumstances.

What were some of your favorites, old or new, that you saw this year?

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