Gangster Squad, The Last Stand and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. No, that's not a best-of list; far from it. Those are the movies I reviewed waaaaay back in January 2013.
Since that time, we've seen our share of historical epics, true-life stories, smash-em-up superheroes, crude comedies and an avalanche of Oscar contenders. These are the ones that rose to the top and lingered: simply, my favourite films of 2013.
I have seen the future and it looks like an Apple commercial: perfect and antiseptic, filled with clean streets and beautiful people. But beneath this serene, sci-fi setting is a love story starring Joaquin Phoenix as a man whose aching soul is pinned to a screen and a disembodied voice, in all its gushing glory.
9. The World's End
A clockwork comedy with the best bits of Guillermo Del Toro and Paul Thomas Anderson. In year of a lazy sci-fi spectacles, director Edgar Wright put the brains back into blockbuster.
It doesn't open theatrically in Canada until January, but Gabrielle was Canada's pick for the Oscars, so I'm squeezing it in. It's an unequivocal cry for independence and a film filled with insight and intimacy .
7. 20 Feet from Stardom
Some might say the documentary The Act of Killing was more revolutionary, but I couldn't get the songs or the artistry of this behind-the-scenes rock-n-roll tale out of my head.
6. Spring Breakers
"Come on y'all. Why you acting s'picious?"
5. Fast and Furious 6
Sometime the simple things in life — say a tank chasing cars on the highway — are the best.
4. Before Midnight
We're back again with Jesse and Celine, who talk, laugh and argue. The film's hotel room blowout alone would be reason enough for inclusion on this list. But beyond that, this third instalment from director Richard Linklater is a movie brimming with honesty about the messy space between romance and reality.
3. Upstream Color
A film that feels like the mutant spawn of David Lynch and Terrence Malick, this Möbius strip of a mystery by director/writer/composer Shane Carruth is heady stuff. Drink deep.
2. Frances Ha
In black and white and light as air, Greta Gerwig is a dancer who stumbles and gently seduces us with her voice, humour and irrepressible energy.
1. 12 Years a Slave
Rich in both contradictions and beauty, Steve McQueen's masterpiece transports us — body and soul — back into the days of slavery. The air is heavy with sweat and the chirp of cicadas. Chiwetel Ejiofor's anguish rushes forth like a river in this potent reminder of the power of cinema.
Runners-up: American Hustle, Warm Bodies, Blackfish, Blackbird, Blue is the Warmest Color, Enough Said, Gravity, Leviathan, The Manor, Dallas Buyers Club, The Place Beyond the Pines, The Sapphires, The Great Beauty, This is the End, The Croods and Picture Day.
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