In no particular order, these are all the movies I gave a "5 star review" to. I recommend them all!
1. Side Effects:
This is a thriller that succeeds on every level. Clever, well-written and well acted with interesting twists and turns. I love Steven Soderbergh's movies typically and this is one of his best. I don't want to go into the plot too much and give things away because I think it's best if you go into with no preconceived ideas. But there is an interesting topic here regarding big pharma which I think we should all be a little more frightened of than we are.
2. The Place Beyond The Pines
This movie was not exactly what I thought it would be - but I still really thought it was good. I thought Gosling was so perfect in this role. It's a generational story that gives you pause and has a theme that sweeps across time. Besides everything else I liked about it, I thought that the photography was beautiful.
3. The Silence
This foreign thriller is really good. More or less it's a detective piece to determine the murderer of a young girl. I took my teenager to this with me, and although she initially protested going to a foreign film, I won her over with the storytelling and the tension of a well written and acted thriller. I promise you won't mind the subtitles.
4. The Kings of Summer
An awesome coming of age film that really just spends two hours pondering the wonders of being young. I loved it. And again, it was beautiful besides being a sweet little story. Charming and endearing, I think you'll love it too.
5. Frances Ha
This is one of my favorites of the favorites - shot in black and white, the story telling is excellent, the photography is great, and the message is superb. Sensitive and endearing it's all about figuring out how to become and adult. And some of us still haven't figured that out. But some of the realizations Frances has are both global and personal at the same time. I HIGHLY recommend this one.
Another foreign film, this one packs a punch. Set in the days just before Nazi Germany began to crumble, this story takes a look at things from the perspective of the left-over germans who were Nazi or Nazi sympathizers. Seen through their eyes, we don't actually know how to feel half the time. Revulsion and a sneaky sense of compassion this movie plays roller coaster with your emotions. The photography is to die for. This is a quiet one, watch it alone when you have no distractions because you need that with this one. (or with someone you trust will be quiet enough to let you really have it wash over you)
The Way Way Back
Another one of my favorite favorite faves of the year. So good I think I've seen it 3 times now (maybe 4?). Absolutely awesome coming of age film from the perspective of a slightly nerdy teen boy who figures out who he really is and learns to stand up for that self as well as have some perspective on the adults in his life. Toni Colette is awesome here, as is Steve Carell even though you hate him. SUPER highly recommend this film to anyone with a heart.
8. In a World
Can they all be favorite favorites? Cause I love this one too. Great story and original ideas here, Lake Bell (writer, director and actor of this film) does an outstanding job! There are some really funny scenes and moments here and it would not have been the same without Dimitri Martin. This is another one I saw multiple times because I kept taking people to go see it. A great message in this movie for girls also.
Short Term 12
This movie just really hit me in my heart. This film is really about the same kids that I work with every day. Everything in this movie resonated and felt so true it made me cry A LOT. It's absolutely fantastically well done and I'm sad not very many people will see it. I feel like it explains in such a simplified way the issues that face young kids in the foster care system or the behavioral health system and all the challenges that they face.
Probably the only really romantic comedy I liked all year - this is a great little film with a lot of heart. Superbly acted by James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. If you want a rom-com but hate that they all end the same way with the exact same plot, then this is the movie for you. I also liked that this was a rom-com for the over 40 age range, which is sometimes hard to find.
11. What Maisie Knew
I loved how this was told completely from the standpoint of little Maisie. A movie about a custody battle, but it's really about the ways in which this turmoil visits itself on the little people involved without the adults understanding the toll. Although this sounds like a depressing premise, I really thought it was a lovely and beautiful film.
12. Dallas Buyers Club
Although the subject matter here is rough to watch - and I don't recommend it for anyone with squeamish sensitivities - this is an excellent film. Jared Leto is stunning, McConaughey is at his very best, and the story is compelling even if it is hard. The basic premise is that McConaughey's character develops AIDS and then has to resort to illegal means to obtain the drugs needed to survive because they aren't legal in the U.S. In the meantime he ends up overcoming some (though not all) of his homophobia as his friends become those who he helps to get the drugs and treatment as well. Based on a true story.
Another awesome one. Another black and white. Parts of this, being from a small town myself, felt so darn real it almost made me uncomfortable and claustrophobic. EXACTLY what it feels like to live in a small town. I thought this movie was just excellent story telling with some stellar acting. A little bit about aging, but a lot about family. And even in family's imperfections, some greatness can be found.
Look you guys, NO ONE can make me laugh like Melissa McCarthy. I saw this 3 times and laughed every single time.
Blue is the Warmest Color
I know. But hear me out. Darned if this isn't gorgeous and excellent. I'm obviously not recommending it for anyone who is going to be upset by sex scenes. And there are quite a lot of them. And they are long. I'm glad I saw this though - I thought it was really beautiful.
That's it - there were several movies that ALMOST made the list, but I tried to keep it to 10 and I couldn't even do that. 2013 was a good year for movies!