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Friday, January 3, 2014

Friday's Top 5... Movies That Just Missed Making My Top 10

2013 was an exceptionally great year for movies and performances, which made my list making for the year particularly difficult. Several films which would made my Top 10 in virtually any other year I had to leave out, but I wanted to at least give them a little bit of a spotlight before I unveil my Top 10s of the year next week. So here they are, five films which just missed making the cut:

#5: Prisoners

Denis Villeneuve's abduction thriller was one of the most intense films of the year, featuring a ferocious performance by Hugh Jackman as a man who goes to incredible lengths to find his daughter, and a quieter, but no less skilled, performance by Jake Gyllenhaal as the detective on the case. Playing with War on Terror themes, the film is morally complex and marvelously crafted by Villeneuve, not to mention beautifully photographed by the great Roger Deakins.

#4: Philomena

Although accused of being an anti-Catholic screed, Stephen Frears' Philomena is never that simple. Based on a true story, it's a film about abuse of power and institutional misogyny, and how acts rooted in both ripple through time and generations. Anchored by a strong performance by Judi Dench (one which could easily be included amongst her very best), the film is never one of a woman against a religion, but one of a woman who maintains her faith despite the abuses she suffers at the hands of that religion.

#3: Enough Said

A lovely romantic comedy from writer/director Nicole Holofcener about second love, the kind that's older but not necessarily wiser, and a little bit more tentative and cynical. Starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini (in one of his final roles) as two people still recovering from their respective divorces, the film does suffer slightly from a few sitcomy plot turnings, but ultimately succeeds on the strength of the performances and on Holofcener's typically well drawn characterizations.

#2: Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's brash meditation on white privilege inspired love and hate in almost equal measure. The first time I saw it, I wasn't really sure how I felt about it, but I felt compelled to return to it and subsequent viewings made me certain of its depths and more appreciative of the way it makes its point. Stunt cast with a couple of former Disney stars and James Franco as a rapper who calls himself "Alien," Spring Breakers is sharp piece of satire.

#1: Fruitvale Station

There were times during the last twelve months when it seemed like 2013 was the year of rich white people assuring the world that America was beyond racism. It's unfortunate that those people are the least likely to watch Ryan Coogler's Fruitvale Station, a film inspired by the senseless death of Oscar Grant in 2009. Following Grant during the course of the last day of his life, Fruitvale depicts him as a complicated person with good and bad qualities in equal measure, trying to get his life together for the sake of his family only to be robbed of the chance in the heat of a moment.

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