KIRO Radio's award-winning movie critic shares his top 10 favorite films of 2013...
1) Short Term 12. Watch the trailer.
About as modest a movie as there could be, with a tiny budget, an unknown director, and no name actors, but this film (about the staff at a foster care facility for emotionally troubled kids) packs an emotional wallop, precisely because it doesn't try to overstate or sentimentalize the difficulties. The brilliant acting, especially by Brie Larson, gives "Short Term 12" an almost documentary-like feel, and that's meant as the highest of compliments.
2) 12 Years a Slave. Watch the trailer
British director Steve McQueen is such an analytical and aesthetically rigorous director that his movies often seem powerful but devoid of emotion ("Hunger," "Shame"). But with this particular slave narrative, he has found a subject matter that allows for both analysis and emotion.
3) Blue is the Warmest Color. Watch the trailer
This 3-hour Cannes Film Festival winner is getting caught up in the controversy over its extended lesbian love scenes and that's a shame, since they're mostly a distraction from the real story of one particular French girl's coming of age. I don't know if there's ever been a more closely observed account of first love, nor a more nuanced portrayal of it by first-time actress Adele Exarchopoulos.
4) Blue Jasmine. Watch the trailer
Woody Allen has written a sly and engaging riff on "A Streetcar Named Desire" that gives Cate Blanchett a role worthy of her talent. A great supporting cast includes Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale, and Louis C.K.
5) Frances Ha. Watch the trailer
Speaking of Woody Allen, this is a gorgeous black and white film set in New York City that seems intentionally reminiscent of Allen's "Manhattan." Greta Gerwig stars as a bright but direction-less 27-year-old who is a bit overwhelmed by life. Director Noah Baumbach's take is both comic and gentle.
6) Before Midnight. Watch the trailer
In its own way, Richard Linklater's trilogy of films about a decades-long relationship is as impressive as the blockbuster trilogies like Christopher Nolan's Batman films or Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies. Maybe even more so, since there was never any intention of revisiting this couple when the first film was made. "Before Sunrise" charts a chance romance between a couple of 20-somethings, "Before Sunset" shows them re-uniting in their 30's. And now, in "Before Midnight," the two of them deal with life in their 40's. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy star in all three, of course.
7) The Wolf of Wall Street. Watch the trailer
Frankly, I thought the Martin Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio combo was getting a little tired, so imagine my surprise at seeing this exuberantly cynical take on a real-life penny stock scam artist. With its similarly cocky first-person voiceover, this movie is like a "Goodfellas" for Wall Street.
8) American Hustle. Watch the trailer
Would make a great double-bill with "The Wolf of Wall Street": con artists of the 70's and 90's respectively. Making a comedy about Abscam, a long-forgotten political scandal, would seem to be a risky venture but maybe director David O. Russell was inspired by the crazily risky ambitions of his film's protagonists. Although everyone in the film seems a bit too much, the cast (Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Jeremy Renner) clearly relishes their exaggerated roles.
9) Her. Watch the trailer
I'm not sure if this film will seem hopelessly outdated a few years from now, or brilliantly prescient, but for right now, the timing seems perfect. Joaquin Phoenix plays a man in the very near future who falls in love with an operating system designed to respond to his every conversational need. The OS calls herself Samantha and is voiced by Scarlett Johannson. How normal this ends up seeming is just part of what makes this film so insightful and alarming. Another typically inventive film by Spike Jonze.
10) Sing Me The Songs That Say I Love You: A Concert for Kate McGarrigle. Watch the trailer
The Coen Brother's "Inside Llewyn Davis" is getting raves for its recreation of the 60's folk music scene but I think I prefer the real thing. Folksingers Kate and Anna McGarrigle wrote and performed for 40 years. This tribute film to Kate (who died just a few years ago) consists of her family and friends singing her songs in front of a live audience. Family members Rufus Wainwright (son), Martha Wainwright (daughter), and Anna (sister) are joined by such luminaries as Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones, Jimmy Fallon and many, many others in what seems like the perfect memorial send off. A very moving and emotional film.
There are a few more honorable mentions that should be on your watch list too: "Nebraska," "Gravity," "Enough Said," "The Place Beyond the Pines," "Stories We Tell," and "An Act of Killing."