2013’s best movies part 1

By Karsten Burgstahler

2013 was an amazing year for film. So amazing, in fact, that creating a top 10 list was an excruciating affair, and the movies that top this list are so close that the rankings may not do them justice.

Usually, one or two movies stand out as Best Picture potentials. This year, at least three movies have good chances of winning and others aren’t too far behind. Numbers 10 through two have already been revealed on Twitter, and the number one pick will be revealed in Tuesday’s issue. So without further ado, 10 through six:

#10: “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”


“Catching Fire” is proof a popcorn blockbuster can be so much more, and the film’s stellar cast is one major reason. Start with Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence in the lead as Katniss Everdeen. It may not be her best work, but she’s infinitely better here than most heroines aimed at youth. Add in veterans Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jeffrey Wright and “Catching Fire” becomes a dystopian tale much brainier than its young adult brethren. The scenes between Sutherland and Hoffman as they plot Everdeen’s demise are chilling.

#9: “Her”

Quirky director Spike Jonze, creator of the brilliant fever dream “Being John Malkovich,” has only made four feature-length films in his career, but each one takes moviegoers on journeys only he could have imagined. Or maybe his most recent work is a journey we could see come to fruition, and that’s the hook of “Her.” Jonze gives us Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a greeting-card writer who falls in love with a not-too-futuristic operating system named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). It’s a crushing tale of how no matter how much we may want to control our vision of love, it’s never going to be perfect. It is also a commentary on how technology rules us that will have audiences talking. And really, that’s the whole point.

#8: “The Place Beyond the Pines”

This Bradley Cooper-Ryan Gosling flick flew under the radar back in the spring, and that’s a shame, because it’s an effective thriller about how children must atone for the sins of their fathers. Gosling plays Luke, a motorcycle stuntman who takes to robbing banks to support the child he left behind with his old flame Romina (Eva Mendes). Bradley Cooper plays Avery, a cop trying to track down Luke, who must deal with corruption once his co-workers get their hands on Luke’s money. Their sole encounter in the movie is a shattering scene, and it’s interesting how everything builds to and then deconstructs from that one moment. “Pines” is certainly a heavy drama, but it tells one of the finest stories of the year.

#7: “Dallas Buyers Club”

Speaking of fine stories, Matthew McConaughey helps bring one to life with the best performance of his career. He plays Ron Woodroof, a homophobic, sexist druggie who contracts AIDS through his fast lifestyle. After leaving the country to get unapproved treatments, he sets up a buyers club to provide AIDS medications to the outcasts and the oppressed back in Texas. “Dallas” is an enthralling story that addresses touchy topics by drawing in audiences with a well-written screenplay. Jared Leto pretty much has the Best Supporting Actor Oscar wrapped up for his performance as Rayon, a transgendered woman who helps Ron run the club.


#6: “Nebraska”

No movie has portrayed small-town life better in the past few years than “Nebraska,” director Alexander Payne’s latest road-trip movie starring Bruce Dern as Woody Grant, a man who believes he has won a million dollars but in reality just received a spam letter from a Publishers Clearing House-style outfit. His son David (Will Forte—in a performance Oscar voters would do well to consider), although knowing it is all fantasy, agrees to drive him to pick up the prize. Along the way they stop in Woody’s hometown to meet with family and “friends” who will do anything to get their hands on the prize money. The way Dern allows us to feel his character’s pain and develop with him is nothing short of riveting, and the film is both heartbreaking and hilarious.

Check back Tuesday for write-ups on numbers five through one!

Karsten Burgstahler can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @kburgstahler_DE or 536-3311 ext. 254.