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12 Great Movies You Might Have Missed In 2013

26 December 2013 | Features, Film Lists | by David Zou

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2013 is coming to its end and you might have already read some top 10 film lists online. Instead of commercially successful movies and big Oscar nominees, our list puts more focuses on indies, documentaries and foreign films. We also did not include films that are being shown in theaters currently(Nebraska), or films that will come out next year(Her). If you have missed any of the fantastic films on this list, this holiday vacation is the best time to make it up.

 

1. Blackfish

Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s emotionally powerful Blackfish documents a shattering reality far removed from both the sensationalistic horror of the 1977 Richard Harris Jaws imitator, Orca, and the cuddly fantasy of Free Willy. For anyone who has ever questioned the humaneness of keeping wild animals in captivity and training them to perform tricks for food, this will be trenchant, often harrowing stuff. Perhaps even more so for those who have never considered the issue.

Unapologetically designed both to inform and affect, Blackfish, uses the tragic tale of a single whale and his human victims as the backbone of a hypercritical investigation into the marine-park giant SeaWorld Entertainment.

The documentary strongly suggests that the animal is not wholly to blame. SeaWorld is portrayed as one obvious villain, but the film can’t do much to stop it. Heck, even OSHA may ultimately not be able to.

The other guilty party, the film suggests, is the people who pay to see marine-animal acts and who keep the parks in business. That’s where Blackfish can be effective. It’s hard to imagine anyone coming out of this movie and not swearing off the next vacation trip to Orlando, San Antonio or San Diego.

 

2. The Act of Killing

The Act of Killing takes more than a little getting used to. It’s a mind-bending film, devastating and disorienting, that disturbs us in ways we’re not used to being disturbed, raising questions about the nature of documentary, the persistence of evil, and the intertwined ways movies function in our culture and in our minds.

38-year-old filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer undertakes a similar inquiry in The Act of Killing as Claude Lanzmann’s landmark documentary “Shoah,” his dogged, inventive, profoundly upsetting and dismayingly funny documentary about the Indonesian massacres that began in 1965 and claimed, by some estimates, as many as 2.5 million lives over the next year.

The Act of Killing is exemplary as a history lesson, a character study and a powerful argument for confronting the past. But what really elevates it to the status of masterpiece, and what has earned it raves from the likes of Werner Herzog and Errol Morris, is its surreal juxtaposition of the fictional and the real.

 

3. The Great Beauty

As its name promises, The Great Beauty is drop-dead gorgeous, a film that is luxuriously, seductively, stunningly cinematic. But more than intoxicating imagery is on director Paolo Sorrentino’s mind, a lot more.

Rome is the Eternal City, but it is also one of the great cities of cinema, which means continuous change and flow. The Great Beauty plunges headlong into the current. All you can do is plunge in there with it and clamber out two and a half hours later, sopping wet, gulping the air and perhaps having lost a shoe.

Can The Great Beauty really stand alongside classics like Rome, Open City and La Dolce Vita? Check back in half a century. Until then, all that matters is that it might, and theoretically could.

 

4. Frances Ha

With its homages to modern French classics, music cues from Truffaut films, and a veritable Paris holiday in the middle, Noah Baumbach’s 2013 film—which he co-wrote with its star, Greta Gerwig—links the already classic themes and moods of New York independent filmmaking to those of the New Wave and its successors.

Frances Ha has no narrative development in the customary sense. It’s a succession of skilfully observed scenes, simultaneously funny and embarrassing, that illustrate her offhand humour, her self-deception and the web of little white lies that sustain her.

This film has the joy of slightness — of being a non-definitive slice of its heroine’s life, more a passing shower of surmountable disappointments. If films were gestures, this one would be a perfectly timed shrug, with the smile to match.

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  • Bruno Daniel Uribe

    I liked also “We are the best” of Lukas Moodyson.

  • Graham Carter

    Hey pretty good list guys, nice mix of fiction and documentary, English language and foreign. Bravo. I only know Post Tenebras Lux by reputation and am keen to see it AND am prepared to be either amazed or bored… but that is the adventure of it.

  • vaishno

    You forgot “The Lunchbox”

  • Ana

    “If films were gestures, this one would be a perfectly timed shrug, with the smile to match.”
    What a great line! And a great list – looking forward to ferreting these out and watching them. Thanks.

  • http://www.allthingskevyn.com/ Kevyn Knox

    Great list and some great films. Actually, half of these films are on my Best of 2013 list. that I’ll be publishing at my blog this coming week (shameless plug).

  • Dustin Ω

    Room 237 was shit. It’s a bunch of people who are reading WAY too much into a movie, because thats all it is.