Now that you’ve taken a gander at films 10 through 13 on my list of favorite films from 2013, let’s take a look at slots 6 though 9, shall we? Getting ever and ever closer to the top five!
6. HER (Dir. Spike Jonze) // One of the most original ideas I’ve seen come to the screen in years, Her is an astoundingly human story despite relying on a very non-human premise. What I found most interesting about my viewing experience was not only that I found empathy for Phoenix’s character, but also that I could understand the things he did. That interests me because it then begs the question - is that a good or bad thing? Should we be able to watch this film and so easily accept that this could be a real situation? Honestly, I feel like that’s not the point. The point is that the characters (yes, even the operating system) are so well developed and feel so weighty and real that it can only provoke a purely human emotional response to the film making it a poignant love story for our modern age. (4.5/5)
7. MUD (Dir. Jeff Nichols) // Layered with textural hints of Great Expectations, parables, and Southern gothic fare, Mud marks a fantastic third entry into Nichols’s filmography. With an eerily effective performance by McConaughey paired with the two boys, this calls to mind Stand By Me meets Mark Twain. The shots and colors of the film are as rich as the story, and while its third act gets a little jumbled, the rest of the film more than makes up for it. It’s not nearly as affecting as Take Shelter, but consider this a coming-of-age story, maybe it shouldn’t be. Yet somehow, I still felt that same element of mysticism that Nichols usually infuses in his films, and made it an unforgettable film for me, solidifying the notion that this is going to be one our generation’s greatest directors. (4/5)
8. JAGTEN a.k.a. THE HUNT (Dir. Thomas Vinterberg) // From the get-go this startlingly haunting film doesn’t try to spend its time fooling you with whodunnits. In fact, we know there’s no whodunnit - he didn’t do it. The intriguingly intelligent device this film uses is to set up that there is no crime that’s ever taken place, but how a village reacts despite that. The film postulates about the role of children in our society and how their word is the only pure word - but what if it isn’t? It creates a slightly disturbing paranoia, calling into question what we see as some of the most innocent elements of ourselves - our children and see and believe the world through their eyes and as they convey it to us. Needless to say, it’s also one the best performances of Mikkelsen’s career. (4.5/5)
9. MUSEUM HOURS (Dir. Jem Cohen) // Quiet, non-invasive, drifting, dreamy, contemplative, adoring. nostalgic, inspiring. Once could argue that this is the ultimate companion piece to Russian Ark, and I wouldn’t argue with you. The dialogue isn’t fantastic, but it’s real, it’s simple narration, and it’s effective. It’s the life of the museum and the life of all the paintings it houses that truly make this a human experience though. Most of the time, through each generation, we see ourselves, our culture, our legacy in our art, and as the film asks you to simply observe the brushstrokes of a Rembrandt self-portrait or satirical Brueghels, it becomes very apparent why this is a movie that doesn’t push any agenda on you, yet manages to be an extremely effecting and important film nonetheless. (4/5)