Saturday, December 28, 2013

Five Films Worth Seeing - 2013 Edition

The new year is almost here and that means it's the season of lists. I can't possibly make a definitive top ten since I haven't seen nearly enough of this year's films (I'm going to watch 12 YEARS A SLAVE soon, I swear!) But I am at least qualified to offer up five movies that I really enjoyed during 2013.

And so, in no particular order, here are my five favorite films from the last 12 months...


EUROPA REPORT

Oh man, I want to see more science fiction like this! Yes, it's a fake documentary and we've all seen a lot of those at this point, but that didn't keep me from loving it. The characters seem like real people who are brave, loyal, sometimes frightened, sometimes lonely and bored, but above all absolutely committed to what they're doing. And what they're doing is science!

Sent to Jupiter's moon Europa to look for life under the ice, the multinational crew risks everything to send back a report of what they've found and expand the frontiers of human knowledge. I dare anyone with even a drop of biophilia (hopefully that's everyone) to watch this movie and not be enthralled.



ALL IS LOST

Hmm, there seems to be a preponderance of "people adrift" films this year. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is another example, and a good one, but not as good as this. Robert Redford gives an amazing performance in a film that has almost no dialogue but plenty of action and pathos. May play as extra scary if you're terrified of big waves, as I am. Extra points to screenwriter (and director) J.C. Chandor  too, for pulling off such a daring script.





COMPUTER CHESS

What an incredibly odd movie. Set just 30 years ago but during an era that seems increasingly ancient when viewed through the lens of modern technology, this story feels less like a film and more like some little con that you may have once attended. There are great character moments, rampant social anxiety and awkward interactions, and even some bizarre speculative fiction dealing with artificial intelligence thrown in. And all those cats! What was that all about? I could make a guess, but I was too busy wondering if Michael Papageorge would end finding a place to spend the night. In short, don't try to figure out what this film is about. Just watch it and worry about that later.




HER

Another film about artificial intelligence? Goodness, this year is full of themes! I really didn't expect to like this one. Yeah, yeah, a guy is disconnected from his fellow humans and falls for the disembodied voice of his computer. Yawn. But... It wasn't like that at all. I mean, yes, that was basically the plot, but the story didn't ever go where I expected it to go. It was actually romantic, and sad, and funny. Not to mention the fact that it had great art direction. Now that's a version of Los Angeles that maybe I'd like to live in, despite the high-waisted pants that seem to be all the rage in the near-future. Also, I really hope we all get to have tiny wallet-sized computers some day that don't even pretend to be phones. Isn't it time for that revolution?




UPSTREAM COLOR

Hands down, my favorite of the year. I was a total sucker for PRIMER, Shane Carruth's previous twisty, engrossing film. This one though, this is something else. Sad, beautiful, and almost hopeful, it's like nothing else I've seen. I won't even try to describe the plot, which involves some sort of parasitic, will-sapping organism, a desperate romance, and a lot of pigs. It's dreamy, creepy, lovely, and made me cry. Just take my word for it, see it if you haven't.

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