GGC's Best of 2013: Films

I wanted to post this several weeks ago but there were still a stack of films I wanted to see. Now that I have seen (almost!) all of them, I'm ready to share my top ten eleven movies that moved me and changed me and inspired lengthy conversations with people I love last year/this year. 

1. Stories We Tell
This was, for me, the most powerful film of the year. The fact that it wasn't nominated and American Hustle was nominated TEN times is just... I mean... how in the what? Stories We Tell is as much about a father's journey as it is a daughter's... It is a film about empathy, love, and finding inspiration in unexpected and potentially devastating circumstances.

Whether we recognize it or not, we live for the stories. We wake up for the stories. We point our children in the direction of the stories."Bring back the moral," we say."Find the meaning and put in your heart."We sit down every day with the hope that we can find them within ourselves and outside ourselves and somehow smash them together to make something that matters.

If you haven't already seen it, please do. Sarah Polley is a voice that complements the very soul of its listener.

And speaking of listening...

2. Her
Her is a brilliant love story, first, but it's also about everything else. On the outside, Her is about a man who falls in love with his operating system (who calls herself Samantha) but that isn't really what it's about at all. I didn't see Her as a cautionary tale about humankind and its relationship to technology, but instead a story about humankind and its relationship to itself. "Samantha" means listen and that, in a word, is this story. LOVE is the art of listening. To ourselves and other people and voices that can't be quantified... voices that exist in our heads and hearts...  that stay and leave and come back... And listening has become somewhat anomalous in a world where everyone is talking over one another. (I also felt that Spike Jonze's Her was very much a response to Sofia Copola's Lost in Translation which further intrigued me. Copolla and Jonze were married and both cast ScarJo in the films that are clearly referencing each other which is just. so. mindblowingly interesting. The clear story behind the story makes this film that much more. Like reading the "fiction" of Miller and Nin simultaneously/trying to figure out how they fit into each other in the periods and question marks and quotations.)

At its core, Her is about being HE(A)Rd. That's all we really want at the end of the day, right? And while some of us are innately gifted listeners, most of us are reactive in our communicative efforts instead of proactive. Social media has enabled us to exhale more than we inhale, to talk more than we listen... to pull out of conversations before they're finished because something new and shinier has come up...

Her is about connection. It's about our basic human need to be listened to. Speaking is the easy part. Sharing is what we do best and although an essential (and beautiful) part of the human experience, listening (to our partners, children, friends, selves) is the very foundation of love.

And speaking of names that are all-theme...

3. Inside Llewelyn Davis
The power of names was strong this year and Inside Llewyn Davis, like Her, wins all the awards for names that tell the story of the story within the story names names names everything names. (Peter Llewelyn Davies was the real life boy behind the character, Peter Pan.) Inside Llewyn Davis is a folk song come to life. It's Breakfast at Tiffany's if Holly Golightly was a singer/songwriter/man. Watching Llewyn Davis was like falling into a song and watching every lyric play out like a dream sequence. From the ex-lover in Akron to the dad with dementia, Llewyn Davis is the battered spirit we glamorize because he's true to his art. (True to his art, false to everyone else.)

What happens in(side) Llewyn Davis does not stay in Llewyn Davis... that's the beauty of this film. The inner workings of our hero are happening outside of him as well. He is the projector, tripping through the darkness with a broken mirror and a lightbulb, and for 105 minutes, we get to wade through a lost man's found poem.

Speaking of found poem:

4. Nebraska
Nebraska is an homage to the gray that happens when black and white find their balance in an often unfair and broken-hearted world. And it's beautiful. And ugly. Hopeless and hopeful, like an argument when both sides are telling opposing truths. This is a film of battling contradictions. Hope vs cynicism, love vs angst, fact vs fiction, insanity vs lucidity, youth vs age, freedom vs imprisonment, father vs son... which in the end proves that "contradiction" is just another word for "complement."

Speaking of fathers...

5.  Fruitvale Station 
Fruitvale Station (based on the true story of 22 year old Oscar Grant who was shot in the back by a BART police officer) is a day in the life story about a man, eager to make change in his life, who spends his New Years Eve (and last day on earth) doing all he can to try. Michael B. Jordan and Melonie Diaz are flawless and while this film was terribly difficult to watch, it was also full of hope and humanity. Fruitvale is a love letter to an unfair world, an homage to a very human man, a reminder that race is VERY MUCH an issue in this country.

6. Prince Avalanche 
Prince Avalanche is a love story about friendship. There was so much beauty in this film, it watched like a poem. Two men painting lines on a road, separating only to merge, or, if you will, "Frozen with dudes. Who aren't brothers. But are still brothers." There's a particular scene in the film that is so poignant and I didn't know until recently that the scene wasn't acted... it was real. There was an actual woman sorting through the charred remains of her house after a fire and even though it wasn't part of the script, Joyce became a part of the story. She became part of THEIR story and that solidified the entire thing. She was the Prince Avalanche guardian angel and I think that is just the coolest, most amazing thing. Anyway. Please see this. It's beautiful and hilarious and moving and, well, Joyce.

7. 12 Years a Slave

I only watched the first twenty minutes because I couldn't stomach any more but Hal and I spent two hours in discussion afterward (It seems pretty unbelievable how few slavery films exist. America loves to play the hero and yet...) which is why I'm including it here. In Hal's words (he watched it alone), "this is the most important film of 2014, a must-see if you can stomach the imagery." The screenplay was written by a man named John Ridley, who I first met at a book function during my Chicken Soup/High School years. My senior year of high school, I sent John a stack of poems from my journal and he kindly read them and told me to keep writing even though he could have very easily (and understandably) laughed in my face. (I mean.) John introduced me to the coffee shop I've been writing at for fifteen years and became my first mentor. Amazing man, incredible writer, thinker, listener, human being.

8. Frances Ha
It is a joy to watch a muse at work and that is what this movie was... It was a case study in directors and their muses. Noah Baumbach never disappoints and Greta Gerwig was flawless in this film about a lost and meandering woman who feels estranged from the world around her. (And she's not wrong.) Frances operates in the "almost" space that so many (all?) of us find ourselves in at some point.

-The almost career and
- the almost relationship
- and the almost dream...

Frances is an unfinished song she is writing herself. Better yet, she is the out-of-tune voice singing as she goes. Top of her lungs style. (And yes, technically it came out in 2012, but it didn't get a theatrical release until 2013.)

9. Philomena 
Philomena was another film that was excruciating to watch. Based on the book, "The Lost Child of Philomena Lee," Philomena tells the story of a woman who as a teenager finds herself pregnant and is sent to a nunnery to give birth (and essentially work as a slave in the convent) as her child grows. The nuns give her child up for adoption against her will and on what would be her son's 50th birthday, with the help of her daughter and a former BBC newsperson, sets off to find and meet him. What happens next is as heartbreaking and maddening and extremely powerful... Philomena is essentially a film about faith and forgiveness.

10. About Time
Full disclosure, About Time/Universal sponsored a post on GGC. (AKA they paid me money to write a post inspired by the film I went to see. Which is what all sponsored posts are, btw. They are paid prompts and in my experience are ALWAYS in my voice and NEVER edited by the brand who pays me to write them. There seems to have been some confusion about this lately and I want to make it clear that I only work with brands who I already support and recommend. Moving on!) I was not expecting to love this movie or even like it. I cannot stand Love Actually and while Four Weddings and Notting Hill, I like very much, About Time I LOVED. It struck a chord in me unexpectedly and while there was a certain amount of predictability and moments of "ick" it was the best Romantic (Comedy?) since Crazy Stupid Love and deserves to be lauded with the year's best. Highly recommend this one with two thumbs up (and two nostrils full of kleenex). 

11. Frozen 
I know I already wrote about Frozen (and your comments were genius, thank you) but I had to include it here in this list as well. Because even though it had some clunky plot issues, it's shattering of the princessglassceiling deserves a standing O.


Films I have not seen but can't wait to include:  In a World, The Kings of Summer, Short Term 12, Enough Said. (Hal's in the Producer's Guild so what didn't come this year as a screener, I more than likely have not seen.)

What movies moved you in 2013?