Focus of New York Magazine’s Movie Critic Frank Ochieng’s Top Ten Best Films of 2013
Top 10 Best Films of 2013 from Focus of New York Magazine’s Movie Critic Frank Ochieng
Well FOCUS readers…another exciting movie season has come and gone. The year of 2013 had quite a few noteworthy gems to consider at your local movie theaters. Indeed, moviegoers were able to embrace some of these excellent big screen offerings with noted anticipation. Thus, I want to offer my distinctive selections for what I deemed the cinematic “top of the crop” for 2013. Despite some cynicism that exists with a selected element of less-than-appetizing cinema, film fans do have a certain responsibility for productively seeking out quality films that reflect a sense of adventure, imagination, poignancy and self-awareness.
So now in alphabetical order I’ll present what I consider the Top Ten Best Films of 2013. Let’s relive the movie magic, shall we? The following noted selections are presented in alphabetical order:
v BLUE CAPRICE: Disturbing, captivating, eerily lyrical and thought-provoking, ‘Blue Caprice’ works effectively on the exposed consciousness because it is a cold-hearted crime caper that is a skillful meditation of outrage, insanity and emptiness in soulful feeling. Writer-director Moors and screenwriter R.F.I. Porto’s salacious script delves into the escalating madness of a couple of wayward men suffering from their instilled brand of disillusionment and depravity. ‘Blue Caprice’ does justice to the true-crime genre as it is armed with potent performances, an emotional and psychological punch to the vulnerable heart and the lingering sentiment about what motivates the impulsive urges of unpredictable evil in broken individuals.
v DALLAS BUYERS CLUB: Director Jean-Marc Vallee and screenwriters Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack collaborate on a first-rate production that poetically stings with indignation, sharp wit, compassion and raw insight. ’Dallas Buyers Club’ is based on the real-life exploits of Texas cowboy/bull rider and self-employed electrician Ron Woodroof whose reckless and carefree lifestyle in drugs and dames led to his contracting the HIV-positive virus during the AIDS epidemic of the mid 1980s.
v ENOUGH SAID: Writer-director Nicole Holofcener’s brilliant middle-aged romantic comedy Enough Said is thoroughly engaging and masterfully crafted with touching sentiments of gentle humor, convincing sweetness and credible flourishes of dramatic heft. Holofcener’s low-key and perceptive narrative honestly captures the heartfelt trials and tribulations of finding true love and companionship between two fifty-something divorced individuals as they enter the empty nest syndrome.
v GRAVITY: In filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron’s enchanting 3-D space thriller ‘Gravity’, we get a dazzling taste of what filmmaking can aspire to when creative storytelling is invested in a stunning display of space-aged survival. Vibrantly adventurous and accomplished, ‘Gravity’ gives hope to the masses out there in Science Fiction/fantasy land that contemporary ‘out-of-this-world’ fables can be viscerally arresting in developmental scope beyond the popcorn-pleasing pap.
v THE HUNT: The Danish psycho-social drama ‘The Hunt’ is gripping and observant about the perils of being falsely accused of a heinous crime. In this case, the alleged violation involving the molestation of a young, impressionable child. Filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (‘The Celebration’) directs an engrossing account of how one’s reputation and vital livelihood can take a serious nosedive at the hands of an out-of-control mob mentality. ‘The Hunt’ is a harrowing account of misguided speculation, mistrust and the misfortune of shattered lives at the expense of kiddie-induced disillusionment.
v THE ICEMAN: Director/co-writer Ariel Vromen’s ‘The Iceman’ will leave audiences cold with its chilling account of a monstrous family man whose balancing act of a level-minded head of household provider and psychotic slayer-at-large will have one scratching their befuddled noggin. Vromen’s stirring portrait of a societal menace in contract killer Richard Kuklinski (highlighted by an astounding and haunting performance by star Michael Shannon) is staunchly affecting. Mesmerizing and sinister in its message about a raving wolf in sheep’s clothing, ‘The Iceman’ is a delightfully probing and perverse exposition about a complex character study of an unstable man set loose among the masses thus becoming our wildest harsh reality imaginable.
v MUD: Nichols, the auteur behind such critical gems as ‘Shotgun Stories’ and the disturbingly wonderful ‘Take Shelter’, presents what is an interesting interpretation on Mark Twain’s classic ‘The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn’ as he examines the unique relationship between two impressionable boys Ellis and Neckbone (‘The Tree Of Life’s Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) and McConaughey’s roguish river-roaming fugitive Mud. Skillfully atmospheric and dripping with reflective conviction, ‘Mud’ is the embodiment of contemplative character studies set against the sleepy Delta summer of discovery. Nichols’s meditative exposition is rich and vibrant while convincingly anchored by solid performances and a powerful message of resolution.
v NEBRASKA: Cornhusker State native filmmaker Alexander Payne delivers another low-key yet top-notch character study of Midwestern malaise and familial detachment in the superb black-and-white glossy gem Nebraska. As usual, Payne skillfully examines his flawed protagonists set against his favorable backdrop of a scenic rural landscape cluttered with quirky personalities, small-time dreams and expectations not to mention the estrangements of broken individuals looking for a sense of completeness. Cleverly witty, profound and touchingly introspective, Nebraska is another off-kilter celluloid Valentine’s Day card to Payne’s observational roots involving the regional loyalties of his displaced homespun catalysts.
v STORIES WE TELL: Immensely thought-provoking and reflective, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Sarah Polley (‘Away From Her’) delivers an enticing documentary about the theme of obligatory dark family secrets and turns her unassuming project into an intimate and compelling jigsaw puzzle of mystery, reminiscence and probing personal discovery. ‘Stories We Tell’ is undoubtedly fascinating in its experimental vibe about one gifted artist’s quest to delve into familial territory and search for an elusive sense of completeness. Polley’s journey — through the storytelling methods of family, friends and associates — is quite compelling, sweet, complicated and revealing.
v 12 YEARS A SLAVE: On those rare, bold and special occasions cinema has a definitive way of capturing the historical hideousness of human despair and demoralization. To examine the underlining evilness and atrocities of humanity and package it in a two hour-plus pathos-ridden presentation of stark and revealing entertainment is indeed an artistic achievement to say the least. The sordid showcase of brutality, indignity and outrage can constructively evolve into something so honest, haunting and even disturbingly heart-warming. Filmmaker Steve McQueen’s (‘Hunger’, ‘Shame’) powerful and piercing period piece drama ‘12 Years A Slave’ is the kind of shocking filmmaking that reminds one of compelling storytelling at its brilliant peak of raw brilliance.
v S#X ACTS: Israeli filmmaker Jonathan Gurfinkel’s raw and penetrating feature debut S#x Acts is a stark character study of adolescent alienation within the provocative realm of sexual acceptance, mischievousness, escapism and manipulation. Thoroughly inventive, disturbing and explosive, S#x Acts examines the desperation and angst-ridden complications of a teenaged girl looking for acknowledgement from her peers during a difficult time of transitioning in her life. Gurfinkel’s probing narrative is one of the most disturbing and confrontational expositions about youth-oriented anxiousness and detachment.