Film Feature: Chad’s Top 10 Films of 2013

by Chad Liffmann on December 28, 2013

Spinning Platters film critics Carrie Kahn and Chad Liffmann present their Top 10 Films of 2013.  Here’s Chad’s list, presented in the order of which he feels they deserve to be ranked (1 being the best, 10 being pretty damn good too!)

1.) Inside Llewyn Davis
"If it was never new and it never gets old, then it's a folk song"

“If it was never new and it never gets old, then it’s a folk song”

The Coen brothers newest film is a hilarious, thought-provoking, darkly intelligent, musical journey into the 1961 New York folk music scene.  Featuring masterful performances under the direction of master filmmakers, Inside Llewyn Davis is a documentary of sorts — accurately capturing a time period and a historical mentality…yet its message is timeless.

2.) Much Ado About Nothing
A toast to brilliant Shakespeare adaptations!

A toast to brilliant Shakespeare adaptations!

Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing is exactly the type of adaptation I’d like to see more of.  It’s modern, loyal, and tonally spot on.  There’s something to be praised about Whedon’s band of brothers, his previously tried and proven cast choices, that he continues to employ in his work, of both high and low budgets, because the chemistry is phenomenal and it shows.

3.) Her
The new, romantic, iHer.

The new, romantic, iHer.

The daring sincerity that prevades Spike Jonze’s Her is the film’s greatest achievement.  Her challenges the relationship we have with technology and provides some fascinating insight into a possible future.  Sure, Her is sad and many viewers will be unable to separate the beauty and emotions of the film from the underlying creepiness of the premise, but for those that can, they shall be richly rewarded.

4.) Gravity
Sandra vs. The Universe

Sandra vs. The Universe

If you think there was a movie this year more worthy of inflating ticket prices, I’d sure like to know.  (Note: Ticket prices, these days, are ridiculously stupid).  Gravity represents a high point in technical achievements.  It’s jaw-dropping cinematography and long takes are unprecedented, and these elements are just as critical to the film’s success as Sandra Bullock’s excellent, frantic performance.  If you think there’s a more deserving director for the directing Oscar this year, I’d like to know that too.

5.) Nebraska
Bruce Dern's Woody and Will Forte's David make their way through Alexander Payne's Nebraska.
Bruce Dern’s Woody and Will Forte’s David make their way through Alexander Payne’s Nebraska.

A family film as only Alexander Payne can supply.  Nebraska is filled with heartbreaking truths about aging and regret, family histories and opportunities lost.  I was supremely impressed by the two male leads, especially Will Forte, who may now start getting more dramatic scripts at his doorstep.

6.) Catching Fire

Why the worried look?  You're a box office smash and one of the best sequels of all time!

Why the worried look? You’re a box office smash and one of the best sequels of all time!

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire may go down in history as one of the best sequels of all time.  It raises the stakes.  It expands the plot.  It has a phenomenal middle-part story arc.  And, it’s belly full of solid performances, no-nonsense direction, and emotional gravitas.  Yes, it’s basically the Empire Strikes Back of this decade.  Oh, yeah, and it has one helluva cliffhanger! (Sorry Hobbit 2, your cliffhanger was awesome but this one was at the end of, how should I say…a much better film.)

7.) Before Midnight
Not exactly the trilogy one usually considers when thinking of the best trilogies ever... but it should be.

Not exactly the trilogy one usually considers when thinking of the best trilogies ever… but it should be.

Speaking of sequels, Before Midnight caps off one of the greatest trilogies of all time, unbeknownst to many.  It may be hard to watch — audiences don’t always feel like going to the movies to experience the troubles and struggles of real life and love.  However, for those that have grown with Celine and Jesse over the past 18 years, the latest check-in can be sad but also delightful, and can pull tightly on our heartstrings.

8.) 12 Years A Slave
"Psst...I'm the lead Best Picture contender."

“Psst…I’m the lead Best Picture contender.”

The harrowing true story of Solomon Northup is brought to life in 12 Years A Slave, arguably the most realistic depiction of slavery ever to be put on film.  There’s no forced sentimentality and there’s rarely a moment of respite, and every brutal moment serves a purpose.  It’s an important film to see and will easily end up on the shelves at most high school libraries, right beside Schindler’s List, Ghandi, and The Last Emperor.

9.) Blue Jasmine
Cate Blanchett calms her nerves in Blue Jasmine.

Cate Blanchett calms her nerves in Blue Jasmine.

Woody Allen returns his cinema backdrop to San Francisco in this tragicomedy about a stressed-out New York transplant, played by Cate Blanchett.  The usual Allen ingredients are at play, including varying levels of neurosis amongst characters, troubled romances, and a high degree of witty banter.  The end result is an entertaining, albeit disturbing, character study about a woman on the brink of a breakdown.

10.) Ernest & Celestine
"Psst...why am I not a lead Best Picture contender?"

“Psst…why am I not a lead Best Picture contender?”

I’m not exactly sure when Ernest & Celestine will be released into theaters, but this little French animated gem is worth keeping an eye out for.  It’s a whimsical tale about the unlikely friendship between a mouse and a bear.  The watercolor artistry is gorgeous and the script is a complete delight.  I had a big grin and a happy soul when I finished watching this film, and hope that others can experience that too.

Honorable 2013 mentions:  American Hustle, Blackfish, C.O.G.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Marie Carney December 28, 2013 at 11:06 pm

I’m glad Before Midnight keeps making everyone’s top ten lists. I keep having this weird fantasy that it will get Oscar nominated. Keyword being fantasy.


Chad January 2, 2014 at 9:33 am

It will likely get nominated. I think it has a shot at a nomination for screenplay, for sure. Long shot for an actress nomination. Winning, however, is a different story.


Ashlee April 5, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Love this list…there are def a few I haven’t seen yet, thank you for the recs!


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