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The Top 10 Hollywood films, 2013

Last updated on: January 02, 2014 16:30 IST

The Top 10 Hollywood films, 2013

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Aseem Chhabra in New York

The year in Hollywood has been very good. Here's a look at the top 10 movies of 2013. Many of them may just make it to the Oscar nominations list.

Inside Llewyn Davis

The Coen Brothers’ 16th feature film won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

While it was successful, it also divided the audience because the lead character Llewyn Davis (played with such honesty by Oscar Issac) is not a very likeable person.

Davis is a struggling musician and living on the edge. He uses his charm to find friends who will let him sleep on their couches even when he is not necessarily nice to them.

He is angry at the world, but that is what makes Davis so believable and real. We all know people like Davis.

The film takes us inside New York City’s folk music world in the 1960s.

There is a lot of quirky good humour, a terrific supporting cast, and a sub-plot about a cat that had me laughing out loud (and I have seen the film twice).

I was enthralled by the cat and the rest of the film’s wacky characters and I did not want it to end.

Please click Next to see more.


Image: Oscar Issac in Inside Llewyn Davis


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Her

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From the hugely talented mind of Spike Jonze (who is also an actor and directs videos) comes a very romantic, heartbreaking sci-fi film for our times.

Her is set in the not so distant future where a geeky, lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with the voice of his operating system (Scarlett Johansson’s sexy throaty voice).

For all of us tied to technology, especially our smartphones and computers, and often cut off from the real world, Her seems like a possibility.

The film is beautiful to look at. The production design and the costumes enrich this world.

Phoenix, coming out of a set of strange films -- especially his rather offensive 2010 mockumentary I’m Still Here -- is utterly charming when he falls madly in love with what is obviously not real.

Some people may find Her disturbing, but I like its honest vision of a world that we can relate to. Maybe we are really heading in the direction of Her.


Image: Joaquin Phoenix in Her


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American Hustle

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After last year’s Silver Lining Playbook, which to me was David O Russell’s most mainstream film, the director has given us a wild ride into the world of the Abscam scandal, where the players are all tied up in one con game after the other and they all end up losing a little bit -- at least their sense of self respect.

O Russell works with a brilliant cast led by Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence (her career best role that may get her a second Oscar before she turns 24) and two of the most intelligent actors of our times, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper. 

American Hustle is a perfect period piece, set in the late ’70s and like Inside Llewyn Davis, it is a perfect study of its time.

With the energy that often reminds the viewer of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (but minus all the violence of that 1990 mobster drama), American Hustle may be the most entertaining American film of the year.


Image: Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper in American Hustle


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Fruitvale Station

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The story of Fruitvale Station was known to me. I had followed the 2008 New Year’s Eve tragedy in that part of California.

The 27-year-old filmmaker Ryan Coogler’s feature debut is a gripping and compelling drama about the racial divide that still exists in America and how young black men have the additional burden of proving their innocence.

Coogler walks us through the last day in the life of his protagonist, 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who goes through the mundane and the serious.

We know the tragedy that awaits him and yet we hope that somehow the magic of cinema will undo it all and make things better.

Fruitvale Station is very indie in its mood but it boasts of rich, deeply felt performances by Michael B Jordon as Grant and last year’s Oscar winner Octavia Spencer as his mother.

There is no option but to cry at the end of Fruitvale Station, but that is what real life is like.


Image: A scene from Fruitvale Station


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Gravity

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In Gravity, Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón works on a script he wrote with his son, Jonás Cuarón and uses some of the finest technology available to filmmakers -- from shooting in a weightless environment to creating a rich 3D IMAX look.  

Cuarón adds to the film’s visuals some of the most stunning views of the earth from outer space.

The idea is simple -- one woman lost in space has to make her way back to earth.

In one way, Gravity is a thrilling adventure (whether one is a fan of Sandra Bullock or not), a race against time for its protagonist.

But it is also a quiet spiritual journey of how alone a human being can be in infinite space.

Gravity is quite unlike any film made by Hollywood in a long time. It is a rare emotional experience that only cinema and technology can provide us.


Image: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in Gravity


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Nebraska

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In Alexander Payne’s world, human beings are essentially good-natured creatures with minor idiosyncratic flaws that we love to laugh at. The director has a special bonding and love for the characters that he writes and then brings to life on screen.

This time, working on a script by Bob Simon, Payne takes us on a road trip with an eccentric old man (an excellent Bruce Dern who could possibly win an Oscar for the role) and his son.

They travel through Middle America to collect his winnings from a sweepstakes contest. Along the way, the father-son duo meet many other lovable and eccentric characters -- family members and others.

Nebraska is beautifully shot in black and white by Phedon Papamichael, who gives the film a look similar to the series of pictures taken by the American master Ansel Adams.  

The film has a simple feel to it -- perhaps because of the characters who reside in it. But it is a textured and humane document about the vast country called America.


Image: Bruce Dern in Nebraska


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12 Years a Slave

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British director Steve McQueen’s first two films dealt with the harsh experiences of IRA prisoners (Hunger), and the sexual addiction of a lonely man in Manhattan (Shame).

Both those films were very strong, but nothing had prepared McQueen’s fans for the ensemble piece 12 Years a Slave, a saga on a grand scale of a free African American man, living in upstate New York, who is abducted and sold into slavery.

It is a harrowing story told very effectively from the point of view of the protagonist (played by the British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his counterpart, a racist slave owner (McQueen’s regular actor, Michael Fassbender).

The reception the film has received in the US is clear indication that the country still grapples with its dark past. In that regard, 12 Years a Slave is one of the most significant films of the year.


Image: A scene from 12 Years a Slave


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Before Midnight

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Eighteen years ago, writer-director Richard Linklater introduced us to Jesse and Celine -- a young couple who met in a train in Europe and then spent a romantic night together in Vienna (Before Sunrise). 

They were back again in 2004 spending a day in Paris (Before Sunset), catching up with their lives -- their loves, their failures.

In the third instalment, Before Midnight, the most mature of the three films, Linklater along with the good looking and perceptive actors, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, give us less heartbreak, more romance, but most of all the realities of middle age, learning to compromise and finding happiness with the cards that have been dealt. 

Before Midnight is as real and thoughtful as Hollywood gets.


Image: Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in Before Midnight


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Philomena

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The only British film in this list, Philomena is a sweet story about an old Irish woman, who sets out on a journey with a journalist to search for her son who was given up for adoption when he was four. 

Philomena is directed by Steven Frears and based on a script by actor and comedian Steve Coogan (who also plays the role of the journalist Martin). The film boasts of two very powerful and heartwarming performances, by Judy Dench and Coogan. 

Dench won a best supporting Oscar for her 13-minute performance in Shakespeare in Love.

Her Oscar nomination in Philomena is almost assured and she could give stiff competition in the best actress race to Blue Jasmine’s Cate Blanchett.


Image: Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in Philomena


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Blue Jasmine

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Woody Allen is so prolific -- making one film a year -- that every so often his work tends to slip. But then along comes another masterpiece -- Blue Jasmine this time -- and we forgive him his past mistakes.

In Blue Jasmine, working on the modern day adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire and layering it with what could be the story of Ruth Madoff (wife of convicted financier Bernie Madoff, played by an excellent Cate Blanchett).

Allen has created the complex world of a New York socialite who is now going through troubled financial and emotional times.

Blue Jasmine is a lovely blend of humour packed with a lot of sadness, a true Allen film.

The film’s closing shot has to be one of the best in an American film this year and only someone as accomplished as Allen could give us so much pathos after a crazy journey that has been Jasmine’s life.


Image: Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine


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