2013 wasn’t just a fantastic year for Hollywood; it was also Kabooooom’s very first year with a Movies section! To celebrate the best of this year’s cinematic offerings, along with our first year of existence, we present to you a round up of our favorite movies of 2013.
12 Years a Slave
by Shannon Hsu
Recent weeks have seen their fair share of Oscar contenders, but few films from the season are as emotionally compelling as Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup, a free man from New York who is forced to witness and experience unspeakable cruelties after he is kidnapped and sold into slavery. For twelve long and excruciating years, he moves through various plantations and works for several different masters while clinging to the hope that he might one day return home.
Ejiofor gives a heart-wrenching performance all on his own as a man who loses his identity, family, and freedom, but he is also joined by a stupendous supporting cast that includes Lupita Nyong’o and Michael Fassbender. Based off the memoir of the historical figure Solomon Northup himself, 12 Years a Slave is an unflinching and unforgettable look at one of the darkest periods of American history. While a story about slavery is inevitably a display of the human capacity for cruelty, and the film certainly contains scenes that are not for the faint of heart, 12 Years a Slave is also a story about mankind’s will to endure, survive, and triumph over adversary.
This is not a film that one should see merely because it has garnered so much Oscar buzz – with its incredible performances, powerful story, and underlying history, it is easily a film that can stir the basest emotions in even the most stoic movie-goer and it simply should not be missed. I often ask myself why I bother shelling out exorbitant amounts of money for movie tickets, and I’ve discovered that films like 12 Years a Slave are the answer.
by Erik Radvon
There are several elements at play in Frances Ha that flirt with trendiness– its Manhattan style black and white cinematography, a David Bowie-infused soundtrack, and the self-aware spotlight on indie darling Greta Gerwig—but those trappings are balanced out and surpassed by a sweet, funny, and at times somber, core. Director Noah Baumbach and star Gerwig, who co-wrote the screenplay, center the film on the decidedly unhip doldrums of awkward adulthood growing pains. Late 20s wannabe dancer Frances is too old to be young and too young to be serious. She meanders from one disappointing, uncomfortable situation to the next, providing the audience a front row seat for her intertwining bouts of hubris and humility, which are equal parts cringe-worthy and hilarious. New York City apartments, prestigious dance studios, Christmas trips home to the parents in California, and even a desperate venture back to college all yield the same result—“There’s no room for you here, Frances. You’ll figure it out, though.”
The territory Frances Ha covers is not typical movie fare. The alternate reality of Hollywood has a tendency to blithely skip over the real world’s grinding, confusing, and at times painful transition from youth to whatever’s next. Frances Ha dives into the awkwardness headfirst, delivering one of 2013’s smartest, funniest, and most charming films.
by Caroline Albanese
Frozen is a film that firmly cements the modern age for Walt Disney Animation Studios (with major pats on the back going to John Lasseter, the Pixar co-founder who took over Disney’s animation operation in 2006, but that’s a different article.) Though staring two princesses and loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson tale “The Snow Queen,” this film is far from a fairy tale. Elsa, the ice powered older sister to protagonist Anna, is one of studio’s most compelling and inspiring female characters in its history.
With its beautiful score, setting and animation, Frozen proves that even with CGI, when it comes to quality Disney’s animators will reinvent the medium if necessary. Just as the studio had to develop its own software to animation Rapunzel’s 70 feet of hair in Tangled, the diligence taken to nearly perfectly animate every instance of snow and ice during this film is remarkable.
Much like freshly fallen snow, Frozen‘s beauty is best appreciated by going into the movie cold. Though difficult during the age of internet spoilers, the heart and humor of this film is so enchanting that I wish that I could forget it if only to experience it once again.
by Ron Ackner
The hallmark of a great movie is its ability to bring out an intended emotion in its audience. No movie in 2013 was more effective in this pursuit than Alfonso Cuarón’s technical masterpiece, Gravity. Cuarón puts audiences at the edge of their seats for the entire ninety minutes of time Sandra Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone spends in space, and left audiences emotionally drained afterwards with the weight of what they just experienced. The film is visually stunning, combining 3D technology and high-tech special effects with traditional effects to create an enthralling world. The virtuoso camera direction of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki gives the film plenty of room to perform, but also never lets the audience forget the stakes.
Speaking of Sandra Bullock, Gravity is easily a career high for an actress who already has an Academy Award on her mantelpiece. This may be the defining role of her career, and it’s a turn that demonstrates her ability to carry a movie dramatically. George Clooney is also not to be forgotten as her companion, Lt. Matt Kowalski. Clooney has played this kind of charming character many times before, but when he pulls it off as well as he does it’s hard to find fault in it.
Gravity is more than just a movie. It’s a terrific cinematic experience that deserves to be experienced in front of a large screen.
The Place Beyond the Pines
by Isabel Hsu
March isn’t always the most fertile month for movies, but 2013 was good to us in the form of The Place Beyond the Pines. As director Derek Cianfrance’s narrative feature follow-up to Blue Valentine (2010), The Place Beyond the Pines treads in some of the same waters of character portraiture, fate, and inevitability, opening up into a sprawling, 140-minute story spread over two generations of fathers and sons.
Visually, the movie is remarkable, with a raw, physical grittiness that could only be achieved by shooting on film stock. The setting and characters feel lived-in and world weary, and there’s a real moody, nostalgic quality seeping through the entire movie, aligning with its story of legacy and family history.
Many critics disliked the The Place Beyond the Pines for its uneven pacing, and it’s not hard to see why — the first hour is packed with bank heists, motorcycle stunts, and police chases, while the rest of it feels like a heavy downhill slope. But that perfectly-encapsulated slow burn is exactly what makes the movie so compelling — the first hour focuses on actions, and the remaining run time is weighs heavy with consequences. The Place Beyond the Pines is not meant to be an action thriller; it’s a three-part character piece examining the lives of two men on opposite sides of the law, and how their actions and choices are passed down to their sons. It’s not the lightest fare offered up by cinemas this year, but certainly one of the best.