Los Angeles, California
Everything about Stoker is odd from the character’s behavior to the focus on off-putting sounds to the way the movie is filmed to look like it exists in a time all its own – but that is also what makes Stoker such a stand out. Chan-wook Park creates a unique world that keeps you on edge while never allowing you to look away. Tied together with beautifully haunting score from Clint Mansell and fearless performances from the entire cast, Stoker is one of those rare films that embodies the fear of human nature while still depicting it in a compelling way.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Coming across like a fever dream, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints takes the story of an outlaw and turns it into a slow dance. The film is an aching tale surrounded by beautiful cinematography as Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, and Ben Foster play characters we have seen before, but in a whole new way. The story may have familiar elements, but the way director David Lowery approaches the narrative strips things down to their bones and what is left is endlessly captivating.
Short Term 12
Brie Larson had a breakout year, and her performance in Short Term 12 proves why. Larson seamlessly sinks into the skin of Grace and creates a character that feels real, but is amazing to watch as she tackles so many different emotions in a single scene without ever going over the top. Larson is surrounded by a solid cast that take this simple story of life in a foster care home and turn it into something more.
12 Years a Slave
Steve McQueen knows how to tackle a difficult story and proves his skills once again with 12 Years a Slave. He rounds up some of this year’s best performances and sets them against ironically beautiful backgrounds as we watch the brutality happening within them. 12 Years a Slave will make you feel anger, sadness, hope, and horror – sometimes all at once – to create a palpable film-going experience. (Something McQueen is the master at doing.)
First time director Ryan Coogler creates a slow burn of a narrative that packs one of the most intense emotional punches of the year. Based on the true story of Oscar Grant, Fruitvalle Station is driven by Michael B. Jordan who proves he is a talent to watch as he delivers a layered performance of this troubled young man with a target on his back. Real and raw, Fruitvalle Station never shies away from its combustible subject matter, but still leaves you wanting to know more.