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Best Films of 2013

Space travel is so supremely precise. From inte- against the unforgiving, unbiased nature of space.
rior cabin pressure to launch timing, to the trajec- And in a realm without gravity's anchor, every cer-
tory of multi-megaton machinery, every calculation tainty feels defeated, all emotions weightless, every
must be accurate to the nth degree. The smallest circumstance subordinate to the elements. This is
imbalance poses potential for immense destruc- the film's genius. The ripples of a tiny imprecision
tion. As one of the year's most aggressive and are amplified by the absence of gravity, as Cuar6n
relentless films, Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" cap- removes the safe ground and drops his characters
tures the aftermath of imprecision in its horrific headlong into the destructive elements. What a
sweep of reality. No amount of clever engineering remarkable journey that proves to be.
or genius-level intellect can be sufficient armament -BRIAN BURLAGE

3. "American Hustle"
The camera focuses in on a bulbous, Santa Claus bent on ending political corruption and getting the
belly sticking out over 1970s swim trucks. The shot glory he craves. The film questions the meaning of
rises, revealing first tangled gold chains, then a loyalty, the power of love and the true nature of
scrappy beard, and finally Irving Rosenfeld's (Chris- corruption, but these themes are deeply hidden
tian Bale "Out of the Furnace") sweaty, disarrayed beneath the flashy plunging necklines and outra-
comb-over. This is "American Hustle," and it is a geous bouffants. Russell has made a career out of
masterpiece. In director David O. Russell's film, Bale challenging how we define filmic storytelling, and
and Amy Adams play lovers working a cunningly "Hustle" is a delicious romp into that gray area
low-stakes con operation before (permed) Bradley between drama and comedy.
Cooper enters as a cockily incompetent FBI agent, -NATALIE GADBOIS

4."The Way Way Back"
It starts in the backseat of a 1970 Buick wagon, teen movies like "The Breakfast Club." Enter screen-
and it curb stomps your heart into pieces. Itends in writers/directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. They take
the backseat of that same 1970 Buick wagon, and you a story we've seen a thousand times and inject it with
leave with a smile on your face. That's the beauty of nostalgia, heart and sheer hilarity. Liam James as Dun-
theteen coming-of-age film: like its protagonist, it can perhapsoverdoes itonthe awkwardness,butSam
breaksyou down and builds youup, leavingyou stron- Rockwell and an asshole Steve Carrellgive scene-steal-
ger, happier. One could argue thatthisgenre offilm ing, incrediblymemorable performances. It's areward-
became outdated years ago, and perhaps it might have ing, even perfect film; John Hughes would be proud.
diedwithJohn Hughes, whodirectedallthose'80s -JAMIEBIRCOLL

5. "Captain Phillips"
Tom Hanks shines as Captain Phillips, the diametric worlds, life situations and political
devoted husband, caring father and selfless perspectives. Paul Greengrass, who directed
leader bruised and abused by a money-hungry, the action-packed, true-tale thriller, "United
fearsome foursome of thieves. But the most 93," demonstrates his propensity for building
captivating aspect of the story is the tension excruciating suspense within a historical blue-
between his character and the pirates' own print; Phillips's fate hangs in the balance until
identified "captain," Muse (played by first-time the very end. Batten down the hatches - it's a
actor Barkhad Abdi); A chemistry-infused foil wild ride.
that vividly demonstrates the collision of two -SEAN CZARNECKI

Best Film Characters of 2013

1. Solomon Northrup
The most emotionally intense scene
in film this year involves only a man, a
rope and a weeping willow tree. We see
Solomon Northup as he dangles from
the tree, his scrabbling toes in the
mud the only things dividing him and
death. He hangs there for hours, as the
plantation awakens behind him and
slaves leave their huts, averting their
eyes from the painful sight. Chiwetel
Ejiofor as Northup leaves an indelible
mark on the way we view slavery, not
as an'institutional but a-deeply person-
al experience.
He is not a glossy symbol nor a mini-
mizing caricature - he's not even an
indefatigable hero. Northup is a man
with depth and strength, and as his
twelve years unravel we finally see
slavery not just through the eyes of a
slave, but the eyes of a person tested
to his limit. Even when he almost cracks
- voice shaking and eyes gleaming - he
embodies strength and humanity in ways
that transcend any of our past assump-
tions of what a "slave" is.

2. Mud
Of all of his roles this year, Matthew
McConaughey's turn as Mud might be
his finest A supporting role despite
being the titular character, Mud.is at
once mysterious, devoted and venge-
ful while subtly revealing a dam-
aged heart, a heart which he wears
on his sleeve next to the snake tattoo
wrapped around his arm.
Mud expresses a certain bravado,
a larger-than-life mentality where
love is all you need, specifically the
love of Juniper, his soulmate since
childhood. But this bravado and
attitude blinds him to the fact he has
lived his life for a woman who does
not reciprocate his feelings, going so
far as to kill a man for her. Yet, Mud
stands for something bolder, greater:
American romanticism itself. Pas-
sionate to a fault, unyielding, troubled
and timeless, Mud is an evocation of
Mark Twain and of Hemingway, a
figure that stands proudly in the ever-
expanding pantheon of American
folklore heroes.

3. Jordan Belfort 4. Rosalyn Rosenfeld

I know that I'm supposed to detest
Jordan Belfort with every fiber of my
being. He's corrupt, smug, manipula-
tive, drug-fueled and cocky. He ruins
the lives of working class Americans
and is proud of it. But I just can't look
away - Leonardo DiCaprio's Belfort
just has this way about him. You hang
onto his every word, every wink and
every howl.
Whether that charisma comes from
his "take what I want" mentality or
from the sheer hilarity of his wild she-
nanigans doesn't really matter. Much
like his excessive cocaine and quaalu-
des use, you're hooked, and you're dis-
gusted by it, by Belfort, by the whole
Wall Street culture that thrives under
our noses. It's no secret that the FBI.
catches Belfort for a number of charg-
es, including stock manipulation and
insider trading. At the film's end, sure,
I was glad this prick got his (sort of)
comeuppance, but I also was a bit upset
the party was over; that's the genius of
Jordan Belfort.

Jennifer Lawrence's show stealing
performance as the train-wreck wife
of con man Irving Rosenfeld proves yet
again Lawrence's acting prowess and
America's obsession with hopelessly
dysfunctional people. Rosalyn's manic-
depressive mood swings switch emotional
tracks like a comprehensive list of emoti-
cons. One of her most iconic moments
spawned demand for a gif that allows end-
lessviewingofher furioushousecleaning/
dance combo routine to the tune of Paul
McCartney's "Live and Let Die." Or what
about that eyebrow raising, cold shower
inducing encounter between her and
Amy Adams's character? Rosalyn's antics
both humor and infuriate audience mem-
bers while keeping everyone asking - is
she just insane or, somewhere in all that
deception and self-deception, does she
know exactly what she's doing? As Irving
himself observes, "She was the Picasso of
passive-aggressive karate. She was bet-
ter than any other con artist I've ever met
including myself. And she had me like
nobody had me."

5. P.L. Travers
P.L. Travers doesn't write for
fame nor does she write for money.
With a dying alcoholic father, an
unloving mother and a world of
isolation, Travers' childhood is
filled with demons of emotion
and sensibility, and writing about
them helps her to safely exercise
her anxieties. Her stories incor-
porate many of the important
figures from her adolescence, as
she grows to understand them
better through writing and learns
to cherish them - both good and
bad - for the roles they shared in
shaping her person.
Travers becomes truly admi-
rable, however, when she surren-
ders her characters to the world,
as she comes to understand just
how cherished they are in the
shaping of others. In this way,
she demonstrates the same empa-
thy as that of her treasured char-
acters. She becomes the hero of
her own story.



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