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My Favorite Films of 2013

Now that we have albums out of the way, it’s time to look at the movies of 2013. 2013 has been a very strong year for movies with releases from some of my favorite filmmakers. Here is a small sampling of some of my favorites. Check back soon for a very special look at the two of my absolute favorites of last year and what I’m looking forward to in the upcoming year.

5. Frances Ha

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Less of a straight story and more of a series of day-life-the-life vignettes, Noah Baumbach’s latest deals with the hapless, struggling Francis Halladay, played by Greta Grewig. Stories centering on young people working, struggling, and trying to survive in the big city can be found any which way you turn, but thanks to Baumbach’s grounded direction and, definitely moreso, Grewig’s performance, places Frances  Ha  above the pack. Grewig, who also served as co-writer, brings a nonjudgmental, honest performance to the movie. Grewig’s definitely the highlight of this often awkward, hilarious yet melancholic look at young city life and trying to make it out in the real world.

 

4. The Act of Killing

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The most uncompromising, gut-wrenching, documentary of the year. The Act of Killing follows filmmaker Joshua Oppenheier as he travels to Indonesia to cover the mass killings that took place after the failed coup of the 30 September Movement in 1965. The film mainly focuses on gangster-turned-death squad leader Anwar Congo. Not only does the documentary take a masterful look at the Congo’s life, his methods, anecdotal history, and the social-political impact, but Oppenheier reflects these factors with an unconventional twist. Congo is asked to recreate his actions, memories, and dreams for the film. What follows is a series that encapsulates Congo’s headscape and surreally reflects the world and history around him, all leading to an emotionally-draining conclusion.

3. Computer Chess

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Computer Chess is about a group of computer programmers who meet at a hotel to compete in a contest to see who has the best computer chess program. It doesn’t sound all that exciting, but Andrew Bujalski’s latest is one of the most original, intelligent, and downright weird films this year. The cast of oddball, awkward eccentrics are thrown into a film that is one part comedy, another part faux-documentary, and some lo-fi sci-fi thrown in for good measure. When all mixed together there really is nothing else like it. Computer Chess explores human connectivity and the ever-expanding role of technology, all dripping with an undercurrent of heady paranoia.

2. 12 Years a Slave

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Arguably the strongest Oscar contender this year, Steve McQueen’s film, based on the autobiography of the same name, covers the life of Solomon Northup, who was a free black man that was kidnapped and sold into slavery. What follows is a harrowing, brutal look at slavery in America and one of the more powerful, amazingly shot films of the year. This is all anchored by a fantastic, compelling performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor, definitely giving the performances of his life so far.

1. Upstream Color

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Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color might be slightly less impenetrable and difficult than his first feature, Primer, but it still will leave you scratching your head at what you just witnessed. Instead of time travel intrigue, Carruth delivers an emotionally powerful, metaphysical love story. Upstream Color tells the story of how two people are brought together by a tragic incident as they try to piece their tattered lives back together. That’s the simple explanation. Upstream Color shows the unseen world around us, what brings us together, what drives us, and the entire life cycle of a microscopic organism that surrounds it. Like Primer, Upstream Color is a movie that refuses to hold your hand, from its minimalistic narrative that doesn’t give direct explanations to a fair share of dreamy, almost inexplicable scenes, which might serve as a turn off to people, but those that stick with it will find a film that is beautifully shot and packed with raw power. It was a movie that washed over me, dragging me deeper into its hazy world, leaving me drained and speechless at the end. Upstream Color is difficult to understand, but there is something deeper that digs into an unconscious level– the pure visceral emotions will dig into the mind no matter what.

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