My film picks for 2013

Loren RossonNow that most of last year’s films are available on DVD, it’s a great time to catch up on anything you missed in the theater. Here’s my pick list for 2013. I’m afraid The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug isn’t on it; that was by far the most disappointing. My top choice is a foreign film: Blue is the Warmest Color. It’s even longer than The Hobbit, but I didn’t want it to end.

1. Blue is the Warmest Color. It’s a bit sad that this film has gained notoriety for the graphic lesbian scenes, which for the record are tasteful and well used. The pornographic tone fits the early part of the story where the young Adele is discovering herself in wildly adolescent terms. The film isn’t about sex in any case, but the power of love which becomes overwhelming and destructive yet leaves room for later healing. After the break-up Emma is able to forgive and Adele to obtain at least some measure of closure. The film is three hours long but I wanted it to go longer. Listen to Mark Kermode’s review to gauge whether or not the film will be to your liking.

2. The East. An ecoterrorist thriller. Brit Marling plays an undercover investigator for a corporate firm, and Ellen Page plays one of the anarchists being spied on. She’s the daughter of a petrochemical CEO and the most radical of the rebels, even willing to force her father to bathe in the waterway he’s been using as a toxic dumping site. It’s obviously the perfect role for Page, who once played a young teen who trapped and tortured a pedophile in his own home (Hard Candy). The ecoterrorists get in some nasty payback, and it’s huge fun, but it’s the director’s understanding of interpersonal dynamics in fringe groups that make this film so good.

3. Europa Report. This was a good year for outer-space dramas, and don’t be put off by rumors of Europa’s quasi-documentary approach. The film is neither stingy nor confusing in its visuals, and it exudes the wonder and terror a film like this should. Six astronauts embark on a mission to Europa, the moon of Jupiter most likely to support life. This film makes you want to walk on the ice moon, and the luminous organism revealed in the final frame will stay with you forever.

4. The Conjuring. This is one of the rare occasions I disagree with my favorite film critic, Mark Kermode, especially about a horror film (his favorite genre like mine). His review is worth watching for his relentless complaining about obnoxious audience behavior. It’s very amusing, but he apparently thinks that all the theatergoers he sat with at The Conjuring were not horror fans, and that’s the reason they were so terrified while he was not. I have to honestly say parts of this film seriously scared me, and I’m as hard-core a horror fan as he is. Judge for yourself.

5. Before Midnight. I love these conversational exercises between Jesse and Celine. They first met in Before Sunrise (1995) and then found each other again in Before Sunset (2004). Now they’ve been in a relationship for nine years. But their reflections on how they met and how their lives have changed are just as compelling, and so organically delivered by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy that it’s dazzling. Here they arrive at a hotel, have a nasty argument, and entertain breaking up, fearing their direction in life. As in the prequels, the conclusion is satisfying but open-ended.

6. The Day of the Doctor. It had a theatrical run so I’m calling it a film. Doctor Who’s 50th-anniversary special is the best multi-Doctor special in the show’s history, and doesn’t rely on cheap resets when rewriting time. The Doctor has been drowning in guilt over his war crimes for seven seasons and decides to undo his decision. The solution is shrewd, and the interactions between David Tennant, Matt Smith–and the surprise incarnation of John Hurt–are splendid.

7. The Impossible. If you really want to see what a tsunami does to people, watch this scene from the film. Tsunamis are chaotic, filthy-brown, relentless forces of mass destruction, and this is the first movie to portray one with such upsetting accuracy. It’s based on a true account of an English family vacationing in Thailand in 2004, when the Indian Ocean earthquake struck. The tsunami separates the family, and the mother (played brilliantly by Naomi Watts) barely survives. Brilliant performances from everyone, including the children.

8. Gravity. I’m not a big fan of 3D, but once in a while comes a film that demands it, and this is one of them. Gravity affected me in the way I wanted Apollo 13 to back in the 1990s, underscoring the vacuous, beautiful silence of outer space, punctuated with assaults from flying shrapnel and mechanical failures at the right moments. It’s a visually perfect film–and yes, still very good without 3D if you missed it in the theater.

9. The Place Beyond the Pines. This examination of the bonds between fathers and sons is divided into three acts. The first is Ryan Gosling’s character, a stunt-biker who turns to robbing banks to provide for an infant son, until he’s shot by a cop. The second act focuses on that cop, who while a hero finds himself playing Serpico surrounded by dirty colleagues. The final act is set 15 years later, with the sons of the criminal and cop becoming friends not knowing their father’s histories with each other. It may sound contrived, but it toys cleverly with themes of fate and genetic predisposition.

10. The Wolf of Wall Street. I love Martin Scorsese, and while I don’t think this is one of his masterpieces, it’s a guilty pleasure of his indulgences gone wild. It examines the life of stockbroker Jordan Belfort (played by Leo DiCaprio) and his worship of money, chauvinistic womanizing, and drug addiction. As always with Scorsese, the dialogue alone is a roller-coaster. (By now everyone and their mother knows that this film broke the record for having the most F-bombs in any movie.) Mark Kermode, who also likes Scorsese films, has strong reservations, and he makes a good point about the entirely unsympathetic characters. Though I would say that’s much the point.

About Loren Rosson

Loren Rosson heads up the circulation department at the Nashua Public Library. He's worked at the library since graduating from Lewis and Clark College, with the exception of the two years he spent in Lesotho with the Peace Corps, teaching high school.

Comments are closed.