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  • Linc’s Top 25 Films of 2013 | #1-5

    By | December 27, 2013

    5) Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

    I know it is only January, but I suspect that the masterfully subdued performances by Rooney Mara, Ben Foster and Casey Affleck will be some of my favorite performances of 2013. It is the quiet naturalism on behalf of these actors that turns Ain’t Them Bodies Saints into something that is truly believable. There is absolutely no dramatic showboating, this beautiful entry into the world of slow cinema is purely an exercise in subtlety and realism. (Check out Don Simpson’s full review of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. Also see my interview with director David Lowery.)

     4) 12 Years a Slave

    In his triad of films about human pain and suffering, McQueen observes the relationships between punishment and dehumanization. These films are not intended to be enjoyable entertainment pieces; McQueen’s intent is clearly to affect the audience, to make the viewer think and feel. These films truly are fully immersed, psychological studies of crumbling human fortitude. Then, for American viewers, 12 Years a Slave packs a crushing wallop of historical guilt as McQueen’s outsider perspective invites us to learn from our nation’s past mistakes and inform our future with those lessons. (Check out Don Simpson’s full review of 12 Years a Slave.)

     3) Mud

    Mud takes a long hard look at what it possibly means to be a man in the modern world, how traditional ideas of masculinity clash with a changing culture, and the importance of male mentorship. As always, Nichols draws out brilliant performances from his entire cast, unsurprisingly when it comes to actors such as Michael Shannon (who I consider one of the finest actors currently working) or Matthew McConaughey (who has recently made a brilliant return beyond even his early form), probably most evident in the strong naturalistic acting of young leads Sheridan and Lofland. Told through their eyes, the story expertly weaves touches of the supernatural into the generally realistic tale, leaving the viewer at times wondering what is real and what is imagined but never less than fully entranced. (Check out my full review of Mud. Also check out my interview with director Jeff Nichols.)

    2) Short Term 12

    I can’t say enough about Larson’s beautiful turn as Grace, perfectly embodying a vacillating combination of damaged fragility and scarred indifference. But her performance is easily rivaled by Stanfield’s emotionally devastating Marcus, a young man whose level of creativity and intelligence is only rivaled by the level of despair and fear an uncaring world has created in him. Writer/director Cretton displays impeccable timing as he masterfully pulls back layer after layer from each character, until ultimately their fragile and damaged hearts are revealed and in the process I came to unashamedly love each of them in proportion to the depths from out of which they’ve managed to climb. (Check out my full review of Short Term 12.)

    The scenarios and conversations within Cretton’s film shimmer with such a high level of authenticity that I find it nearly impossible to believe that Short Term 12 is not a documentary. This is due in no small part to the amazing ensemble cast and impeccable writing. Brie Larson, for one, is astounding; proving herself to be one of the most talented twentysomething actors working today. (Check out Don Simpson’s full review of Short Term 12.)

    Simply put, this film is beautiful. It touches on many emotional boundaries that lie deep within its characters as their evolving lives converge. Writer/Director, Destin Cretton’s (I Am Not a Hipster) remarkable direction matches his equally profound dialogue to create something truly great. (Check out Dave Campbell’s full review of Short Term 12.)

    1) Inside Llewyn Davis

    And that’s the beauty of the character and the film. This is not Bob Dylan, the driven genius who is equally hard on people and things but whose talent will lead to forgiveness for all his sins. Instead, Davis is just as flawed but less talented and barely driven at all. And the prospects for his changing and finding success are slim at best. Unlike Dylan, who is waiting in the wings, Llewyn Davis is a mere mortal. And that’s exactly what makes Davis a much more perfect vehicle through which to spin a yarn of 1961 Greenwhich Village and it’s cast of loveable losers, all trying to make a place for themselves in a cold, hard world. Despite his flaws and failures, every now and then Davis picks up his guitar and sings a song, and for just a short while, all the cares of the world, both his and the listeners’, disappear. (Check out my full review of Inside Llewyn Davis.)

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