Top 10 Movies of 2013 (Chris Bumbray)

And so another year is in the books! It can't be denied that 2013 started off badly . The first two months of the year were a wasteland of crap, with us being deluged by some truly horrendous films like GANGSTER SQUAD, MOVIE 43, A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD, and worse. Luckily, the year redeemed itself in a big way, with great movies like THE WORLD’S END, BEFORE MIDNIGHT, UPSTREAM COLOR, BLUE JASMINE, MUD, THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES and more coming out before the summer's end. And guess what? Those movies aren’t even on my top 10! Why? Blame the insanity of the fall movie season, which was kicked off in high style by the Toronto International Film Festival- in one of its best years ever. These last four months have been an oasis of brilliant films, leaving 2014 with a mighty fine year to live up to.

2. American Hustle

AMERICAN HUSTLE may not be the “best” film of 2013, but it’s easily one of the ones I had the most fun watching. An affectionate, Scorsese style period epic, turning a satiric eye on the real ABSCAM scandal of the late seventies, AMERICAN HUSTLE is an all-out blast. Remember what I wrote earlier about not watching films more than once? Before the film even got it’s wide theatrical release I went out of my way to watch it twice. That’s how much fun I had with it. HUSTLE feels like one of those rare movies I’ll be watching over and over again throughout the years to come.

3. Inside Llewyn Davis

There’s something oddly perverse about the fact that- of INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS’ beautiful song-score-the novelty tune ‘Please Mr. Kennedy’ is the one that’s broken-out and gotten so much award consideration. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know that Oscar Issac’s titular character treats that silly song with contempt, and struggles to find an audience for his own soulful ballads. As it is on celluloid, as it is in life. To me, this is one of the all-time best films to come from The Coen Brothers, and it’s one whose stature will grow and grow over the years to come.

4. Prisoners

I’m disappointed that PRISONERS doesn’t have more Oscar buzz as it goes into the awards season, as to me Denis Villeneuve’s epic child-abduction drama is masterful. Throughout the 160 minute running time, I was on the edge of my seat as Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal each gave career-best performances. PRISONERS works on every level- be it a serious, adult drama, or a crowd-pleasing edge of your seat thriller. I gave this one a 10/10 and dammit, I stand by that grade.

1. The Wolf of Wall Street

But alas, there can only be one king, and that king is Martin Scorsese. This is the great man working at the very peak of his ability. Forming a loose trilogy with GOODFELLAS & CASINO, WOLF examines the real gangsters in modern day America- the guys on Wall Street. In a way, DiCaprio's Jordan Belfort may be an even more irredeemable creature than Jiimmy Conway, Tommy DeVito or Henry Hill in GOODFELLAS, or Nicky Santoro in CASINO. At least they have the sophistication to know they're not respectable. What makes Belfort such a chilling creation (I pray the real Belfort isn't as demonic as he's walking around a free man) is that it never even occurs to him that what he's doing is wrong. And the genius of Scorsese's film that that we get so wrapped up in the debauchery, neither do we.

To this end, what exactly Belfort is doing is deliberately left vague, and we're invited to revel in the chaos. WOLF is like being at an insane party. You'll have so much fun that at some point you'll be exhausted and worn out, and it's here- the sobering up period- when you realize exactly who Belfort is and that Scorsese has been leading you to this realization all along. Truly, this is the work of a man with a mastery over film that cannot be rivaled by many other (living) directors.

8. Short Term 12

Destin Cretton's SHORT TERM 12 is probably too small of a film to ever get the kind of acclaim it deserves. In a perfect world, star Brie Larson, as the abused head of a shelter for troubled kids, would be on everyone's short-list as a sure fire front-runner for best actress. Truly, hers is one of the year's great performances. If you haven't seen this one, make sure to keep an eye out for it on VOD/Blu-ray. It's the kind of small film you're bound to fall in love with.

7. Out of the Furnace

The fact that OUT OF THE FURNACE came and went from theatres so quickly earlier this month in disheartening. I like to think that there's always going to be a place for dark, challenging fare like this in today's marketplace. Maybe the problem was that it came out opposite so many other quality films looking for Oscar buzz, that it just got lost. In any case, this is a dark, brilliant piece of work with a surprisingly subtle turn from Christian Bale, and an incendiary performance by Casey Affleck as his wounded vet brother.

9. The Spectacular Now

THE SPECTACULAR NOW was one of the gems I saw at Sundance early this year. I was already impressed with director James Pondsolt's previous film SMASHED. This one actually has a lot in common with that, in that both movies are about young alcoholics, with Miles Teller's star-making performance as Sutter Keely, a kind of alcohol-fueled Ferris Bueller. Like last year's THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, this is the type of teen film that John Hughes would have been proud to have made.

10. Dallas Buyers Club

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB is one of the few movies that came out in 2013 that I liked so much I had to watch it twice. When your job happens to be reviewing movies, there's LOTS to see. It's rare that I take the time to watch something recent for a second time unless I really loved it. Suffice to say, I really loved DALLAS BUYERS club. Matthew McConaughey has been on a roll this year, but as good as MUD was (and it was great) DALLAS BUYERS CLUB is something else. He lost an insane amount of weight to play a bigoted Texas good ol'boy dying of AIDS in the eighties, and he was absolutely extraordinary, as was Jared Leto as his transvestite- friend. Both men deserve to walk away with Oscars.

6. Gravity

Alfonso Cuaron's GRAVITY was the ride of 2013. Even more than blockbusters like MAN OF STEEL, GRAVITY captured the public's imagination by giving them a film that- heck- made you almost feel like you were in space along with stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. In a marketplace that's increasingly filled with movies that seem optimized for home viewing, GRAVITY was defiantly theatrical, and the kind of big-screen spectacle that simply can't be done justice in someone's home theater- no matter how impressive their setup is. This is big-screen or bust.

5. 12 Years A Slave

Without a doubt, 12 YEARS A SLAVE is the most important film of the year. I think everyone would agree that as far as movies about the African-American slave experience goes, 12 YEARS A SLAVE is downright definitive. After HUNGER & SHAME, we already knew director Steve McQueen was a genius. Here, he establishes himself as an all-out master. More than any other film on this list, 12 YEARS A SLAVE is required viewing. Being at the TIFF world premiere of this was a special experience.

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