The Best Movies of 2013: The Staff Picks


Adam Bellotto

Richmond, Virginia

Inside Llewyn Davis

Finally, a movie for the cat lover in all of us. Llewyn Davis’ feline counterparts mean so much, they represent his hero’s journey and his loss of innocence, draw parallels to James Joyce and Homer, and even inspire a tasteful scrotum joke or two. Of course, Inside Llewyn Davis has other merits, too. It’s unbelievably well acted, running the gamut from the subtle (Oscar Isaac and Carrie Mulligan) to the screamingly unstable (John Goodman). It’s also a deft blend of A Serious Man‘s dark comic weirdness and O’ Brother Where Art Thou‘s adventurous musical weirdness; a film that runs dry and somber, only to sing out its true emotions in gorgeous song… and the occasional cat scrotum.


That 17-minute long take at the start of Gravity does what so many have tried (and failed) to do: make something legitimate out of the 3D craze. The 74 minutes that follow do something even more incredible: they’ve converted me into a Sandra Bullock fan, after years of scoffing at The Blind Side and Crash and Miss Congeniality. Now if only Gravity would get an Oscar season re-release, and it could legitimize that too.

Pacific Rim

Is Pacific Rim well-acted? No. Well written? Not really. But when Guillermo Del Toro picks up his 2,000 ton, $100m action figures and starts to play pretend, Pacific Rim is the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater in years. It’s pure, unadulterated entertainment, and a worthy successor to the crown Destroy All Monsters has been holding for decades.

The Act of Killing

Watching The Act of Killing is a little like being held hostage by a movie screen. It delves into the ugliest humanity has to offer; a world where a man fondly chuckles to himself as he recalls finding his stepfather’s mutilated corpse, or where women and children volunteer to be horrifically assaulted on film. The film’s bright pink hues and its goofy surrealism threaten to make the film lighthearted (clearly an effect of Stockholm Syndrome), but then Anwar Congo or one of his many colleagues will laugh off another war crime and you’ll go right back to being disgusted and fascinated all at the same time.

12 Years a Slave

What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? Chiwetel Ejiofor delivers a that far outclasses the most unfairly stacked cast in recent memory. Steve McQueen applies his chilly, unflinching eye to the Hollywood epic (and a subject that’s normally met with sappy sentimentality) and comes away with a perfectly realized vision of American slavery. There’s a reason critics were falling over themselves to proclaim 12 Years a Slave the greatest movie about slavery ever made.

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