Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, stated that “experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.” This quote lingered within my thoughts for the majority of the 2013 movie year because there is a remarkable number of films that confirm Huxley’s statement with shocking clarity. During 2013 the majority of characters in cinema experienced a relentless assault of either irrepressible physical violence or emotional turmoil, resulting in each character clinging to their lives, praying that they won’t become defeated. Characters had to either sink or swim. No film provided for them a middle ground that would grant them an easy way out or provide a buoy for them. Characters had to act, and act fast.
In Gravity, becoming disconnected from her partner in the infinite void of space, Dr. Stone had to gain composure quickly or endure an onslaught of debris and isolation. In The Place Beyond the Pines, a cop had to rely on his survival instincts and the ramifications of his decision reverberated throughout generations. In Blue is the Warmest Color, a confused teenage woman, utterly love-sick, discovers the throes and pangs of first love and is left even more confused after the indelible experience. In Dallas Buyers Club, an AIDs victim with a guaranteed death-sentence uses his situation to give hope to thousands of other AIDs victims. And in The Counselor, a man’s experience overwhelms him and he is soon exposed to the most unsavory circumstances that are beyond his control and the most heinous individuals.
Without further hesitance, the best 2013 had to offer.
2013. 365 days. 163 films. 326 hours. That’s 13.58 days I’ve dedicated this year to watching new releases. 2013 was a great year for film – and I’m pretty comfortable with this list I’ve put together, even if I have missed a few releases here and there. The art of list-making is fluid – you can never cover as much ground as you would like, and it’s possible I’ll continue discovering this year’s great films well into 2014.
The annual ritual of narrowing down hundreds of titles to just 25 is a cruel but necessary discipline as a film critic. There are a lot of movies I wanted to include here, but couldn’t find room for – films like Prisoners, Maniac, Spring Breakers, The Bling Ring, About Time, and Before Midnight all appeared on this list at one point or another.
Anyway, let’s get down to the business of celebrating the cinema of 2013. Here are 25 moving pictures that moved me this year.
12 Years a Slave Director: Steve McQueen
Screenwriter: John Ridley
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt Fox Searchlight Pictures
Rated R | 134 Minutes
Release Date: November 1, 2013
Directed by Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame), 12 Years a Slave is an adaptation of the 1853 autobiographical memoir by Solomon Northup, who was kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery.
Written by John Ridley (U Turn), 12 Years a Slave stars Chiwetel Ejiofor (Children of Men) as Northup, a free black man living with his wife and children in Saratoga, New York. Northup is a respected member of the community there, earning a living as a masterful violin player.
He is kidnapped by a pair of men (Scoot McNairy and Taran Killam), drugged, and sold into bondage. In chains, Northup (now called “Platt”) is transported to Washington D.C. where he is purchased by slave owner William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch).