With 2013 already past its halfway point, the moment is ripe to take a look at how this year has shaped up in terms of cinema. While the first few months have already given us plenty to talk about and recommend to fellow movie-goers, the remainder of the year promises to deliver some equally captivating cinematic experiences. With this in mind, let’s take a tentative look at the best movies of 2013 so far and the releases that will be worth keeping an eye out for as we approach the end of the year and the subsequent awards season.
Yes, I went there. If you haven’t yet been privy to the neon-tinted brilliance that is Harmony Korine’s new film, you better get your priorities straight. “Spring Breakers” makes no apologies for its loud, crass, and in-your-face…well, everything. From the slow-motion shots of topless girls partying on the beach to the ritualistic keg-chugging expertly undertaken by crowds of undergrads, it’s hard to say whether Korine has authored a tacky music video or a cult classic encapsulating the voice of a generation. Whether it’s in piano renditions of Britney Spears or costumes David Bowie would slaughter his own stylist for, “Spring Breakers” carefully treads the line between laugh-out-loud ridiculousness and a self-awareness bordering on critique surrounding this annual college ‘cultural’ phenomenon. Throw in a jaw-dropping performance by James Franco as a pimp and some of the most quotable movie lines in years and you’ve got yourself a stand-out hit.
“The Place Beyond the Pines”
In his follow-up to the acclaimed “Blue Valentine”, director Derek Cianfrance has crafted an epic, cross-generational tale of love, fear, and morality. Building on his panache for intimate dramas, Cianfrance has somehow made a film that’s over two hours feel like a tense and captivating half-hour episode. The cast is impressive but made even more so by the excellent performances that Cianfrance extracts from Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Craig Van Hook, and Ryan Gosling in particular. The characters seem accessible and real, erasing the star auras that usually surround these actors. Their intricate stories will haunt audiences long after the closing credits and merit the film a place among the best of the year so far.
Ryan Coogler’s retelling of Oscar Grant’s life and death at the hands of police brutality in the Bay Area chills to the bone. The first-time director garnered the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance for this stunning film, and rightly so. “Fruitvale Station” goes beyond the well-publicized incident of New Year’s Eve 2008 to uncover the elements that defined Oscar’s life – his family, his struggle to find a job – in order to humanize him and explore the implications of needless violence towards an innocent human life. Coogler’s delicate treatment ensures that the film’s power will resonate well beyond this year alone. Bring tissues.
The Best Is Yet To Come
“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” – release date August 16th
Boasting beautiful cinematography and a stunning, addictive score, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” reinvents the western by situating a story of star-crossed outlaw lovers in Texas in the 1970s. Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck assume the lead roles with confidence, allowing the subtlety of David Lowery’s wonderful direction to shine through. The narrative itself is quite straightforward – nothing special, even – but what’s impressive is its careful execution. The hypnotizing way in which events unfold and the palpable tension that builds among the characters ensure that this is one film worth the trip to the cinema.
“The Spectacular Now” – release date August 2nd
Making a splash at Sundance, “The Spectacular Now” manages to achieve that which has somehow always evaded Hollywood- a film that takes teenagers seriously and represents them authentically. Focusing on the blossoming relationship between Aimee (Shailene Woodley) and Sutter (Miles Teller), the film boasts brilliant script writing that alternates effortlessly between moments of intensity and quick, laugh-out-loud dialogue. As if that weren’t enough, the lead actors deservedly received the best actor awards at Sundance; their performances are so laid-back and natural, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a documentary made about kids in high school.
“Inside Llewyn Davis” – release date December 6th
The Coen Brothers’ much anticipated new film promises a celebration of all that is decidedly ‘Coen’ – from eccentric characters to razor-sharp one liners – with a more humanized, softer edge. If the film’s quirky 1960s Greenwich Village setting and addictive folk soundtrack don’t get your feet tapping in excitement, the incredible cast certainly will. From the flawless Oscar Isaacs in the self-titled role, to an extremely irritable and sour Carey Mulligan, to the ever-cartoonish John Goodman, every actor embraces the peculiarities that make Coen characters so characteristic. Not to mention the pure joy of watching Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver performing folk songs like Bob Dylan’s guitar strings depended on it.