Best of 2013
By Linc Leifeste | December 27, 2013
Note: This list does not reflect the opinion of Smells Like Screen Spirit. The official Smells Like Screen Spirit “Top 10 Films of 2013″ will post next week.
25) The Counselor
No doubt there will be a lot of voices declaring this film a disaster. And this is not a film that a huge chunk of the movie-going-audience should flock to. It’s not film-as-joyous-escape or film-as-mindless-entertainment, nor even film-as-cautionary-tale. It’s dark, depressing and ugly but it’s also a film that rings true to me in certain ways, even if its truth is filtered through the male-centered worldview of older, white American men. And for fans of Cormac McCarthy’s writing, this film is graced with dialogue that will make your ears perk up before it worms its way through the recesses of your mind, even if it won’t warm your heart. (Check out my full review of The Counselor.)
Kid-Thing is a dream-like fable about Annie (Sydney Aguirre), a young tom-boy growing up devoid of parental guidance or societal integration, allowed to run wild and uninhibited in the woods on the outskirts of Austin, her activity only limited by her stamina and imagination. Told through Annie’s eyes, the story fittingly veers between the realistic and the fantastical, told primarily visually. The Zellner’s combination of oddball moments with quirky humor and visually striking aesthetics struck a chord with me but it is Annie’s character and Aguirre’s striking performance that truly carry the film. Her mix of uninhibited childish enthusiasm, youthful angst and occasional slight menace are a joy to behold. (Check out my full review of Kid-Thing.)
23) To The Wonder
I only saw Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder one time and didn’t feel one viewing sufficiently prepared me to write a review, so I didn’t. It’s a moving film to take in but it’s a mixed bag. On the plus side, it’s stunningly beautiful but then it features Ben Affleck. Deeply philosophical. Ben Affleck. You get my drift. But ultimately, while this is my least favorite of Malick’s films, it’s still a new film by Terrence Malick and honestly, no more need be said (and Ben Affleck is in the type of role for which he’s best suited for, a man of few words).
The film operates with minimal dialogue, a tiny cast, and a whole lot of ambient music and tasteful 3D, offering a minimalist experience that is almost shocking in its melding of beauty and horror. Cuaron knows what he is doing, and the kind of sense-loss that he wants to evoke; he makes the camera float and bob, spin idly, or jerk suddenly in reaction to the environment of “Space.” The result is that the viewer feels almost disturbingly present. The opening sequence, for example, is mild in subject matter but gives the viewer an introduction to the feeling of weightlessness, of lack of control, of nausea, of the light and dark, the lack of sound and the power of movement in zero gravity. (Check out Jessica Delfanti’s full review of Gravity.)
21) It’s a Disaster
It’s a Disaster is an impeccably-written, dark-as-a-moonless-night satire that hearkens back to the glory days of classic comedy. Existing in the surreal ether somewhere between Preston Sturges and Woody Allen, Berger takes on disaster films as well as the trope of trapping characters in one location; all the while, Berger and cinematographer Nancy Schreiber beautifully choreograph the on screen events to Altman-esque precision. (Check out Don Simpson’s full review of It’s a Disaster.)