Caleb Master’s Top 5 Movies of 2013
Seven years after delivering the modern masterpiece “Children of Men” director Alfonso Cuarón finally returned to the big screen to deliver a very different film going experience. This movie wasn’t going for a political sci-fi commentary as much as it was very personal look at a human who is fighting insurmountable odds to survive. It’s a character study with various bits of moral and spiritual ideas sprinkled throughout to give it just enough ambiguity to leave audiences leaving the theater with questions. What makes “Gravity” truly exceptional aside from it’s great performance from Sandra Bullock and unbelievably long takes is the visceral experience the IMAX 3D experience creates. More than any other movie released to date, “Gravity” makes a compelling argument as to how the technology can be used to create experiences unlike anything made in 2D. It’s not just a movie, but also an unforgettable experience that will be remembered for years to come.
4. The Wolf of Wall Street
“The Wolf of Wall Street” isn’t shy of problems. It’s far too long, probably lays the debauchery on a little too thick, and may or may not be a little too crazy and a bit morally confused. All of these things aside, I couldn’t help but admire the fact that legendary director Martin Scorsese still had it in him to make a movie of this caliber that was in parts disgusting, hilarious, and even deeply pathetic. In the days that have followed that movie I’ve found that I can’t get it out of my head. I felt dirty and unclean after leaving the theater. After having some time to chew on the ideas, I think that the movie is demonstrating the absolute evil of greed and the darkest levels of depravity it can lead to when people aren’t even aware of how much control it has on their lives. Leonardo DiCaprio turns in another Oscar worthy performance(that will surely be overlooked) that is equal parts repulsive and mesmerizing as the unreliable(and ultimately villainous) narrator Jordan Belfort. There is a lot to be said about what is going on in this movie, but the reason it cracks my top 5 is because I believe that in many ways this is the “Goodfellas” of Wall Street and the 21st century.
3. Don Jon
When I was making this list I knew from the start “Don Jon” would make my top 5, but I also hadn’t realized just how much this movie stuck with me. Joseph Gordon Levitt made his directorial debut by tackling an incredibly touchy subject in relationships. Porn. The movie takes a serious look at what porn and the expectations they create can do to people in serious relationships. It may sound down and dirty, but Levitt(who also stars and writes the script) brings some comedic diffusion that gives the movie a very healthy balance between drama and comedy without sacrificing the ideas and sharp criticism the movie is trying to present. Porn addiction is something Jon struggles(or doesn’t) with, but at its core, the movie is really taking on the false and unhealthy expectations people put on relationships based on the culture we live in. This movie guns for the over romanticized relationships Hollywood perpetuates just as much as it does the porn addicted internet. This was a bold, fresh, and effective debut for JGL and it made for one of my favorite movies of the year.
2. Twelve Years A Slave
“Twelve Years A Slave” is delivering a movie that this country(and the world to some degree) has needed for years. It’s a brutal, gritty, and demoralizing tale that goes inside some of the darkest days in American history as Solomon Northup is taken from freedom and thrown into slavery. Everything in this movie is top notch. The acting is fantastic(with Michael Fassbender delivering an especially exceptional performance), Steve McQueen’s visual direction is fascinating, disturbing, engaging with a story that is both personal and universal.
This movie stays grounded with Northup’s journey, but speaks to the larger issues of human worth and why we choose to separate ourselves as humans. “Twelve Years A Slave” is doing for slavery what “Schindler’s List” did for the holocaust; it’s creating what may remembered as the dirty and “definitive” version of American slavery. The questions that kept coming back to me was “why do we deem different inferior and why do we always act out of fear instead of understanding?” The movie is unflinching in its portrayal and messaging, but this is a story that needed to be told so that people can remember both how far we’ve come in human rights and how far we have yet to go in the twenty first century.
1. Inside Llewyn Davis
“Inside Llewyn Davis” is not a movie I had a particularly strong reaction to when I finished it. I liked it, but it didn’t “light a fire” in my mind and heart as a truly powerful movie. After chewing on the movie for nearly a month, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a movie that in many ways connects with me on a very personal level. This is unusual because I’m not really a musician and while I casually enjoy some folk music, I can hardly call myself a fan. The character Llewyn Davis is a self centered mooch with no plan, few friends, and only one real hope. None of these traits are true are true for myself(at least I hope not!), but what really connected with me was his struggle to live day in and day out just so he can have a hope to find a way through his self manifested tragedies. It was his dedication to his passion and struggle to find his place in this world along with his desire to have a better life that really hit home the movie for me.
Aside from my own personal connection with the movie, this is a fantastic Coen Brothers movie that captures all the best aspects of their sublime direction and odd yet irresistible sense of humor. It’ll be hard to argue that this is their best movie because it is so much different than any of their others, but it reigns exceptional on its own merits. The cast is perfect(with fun little roles for JT, Garrett Hedlund, John Goodman, and Adam Driver), the soundtrack is fitting to a tee(and I’m not even the biggest folk fan), and the washed out visual style is unlike anything I’ve seen in the last few years. It’ll be a heated debate between movie goers and critics to see what is the most remembered movie of the year(it’s been a great year), but in my mind “Inside Llewyn Davis” is one that will stick around in the minds of cinephiles for years to come.