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February 6, 2014

Guest Spot: Favorite Films of 2013

Recently, we were invited to participate in the end of the year roundtable discussion on Outside the Cinema. According to IMDb, there were 8984 movies released in 2013. Here are 20 of those that we saw and enjoyed.

Rob St. Mary's Top Ten List:

10. Gravity - This film belongs to the second tier of the existentialist space movies. If 2001 and the original Solaris are the gold standards for using space to help us meditate on smaller and larger aspects of life, Gravity is a peg or two lower. The opening of the film is true eye candy. But, by the time we are left alone with Sandra Bullock, we start to understand more about the motivations, losses and fears of life. It fumbles at times, but I like that CuarĂ³n didn't cheat the ending. Bullock's performance almost redeems her in my eyes... almost. I only hope she gets better pictures in the future and continues to grow as an actress in her 50s and beyond.

9. I Always Said Yes: The Many Live of Wakefield Poole - Wakefield Poole was there and did the work. Today, it's not so well known. His career as a dancer and a Broadway chorographer was great. But, his turn as a pornographer opened the door for sexual liberation of not only gays but straights as well. Releasing The Boys in the Sand in 1971, Poole was reviewed in Variety, ran ads in the New York Times and set the "blew print" for Deep Throat a year later. Not only that, Poole says he was told many times that his film helped to bring many gay men to come out of the closet and live authentic lives just a few years after the Stonewall Riots in New York. His later work, "Bijou" and "Bible", also shows what kind of a, now, forgotten talent Poole truly is in the world of film. Jim Tushinski should be commended for taking the time to tell this story.

8. I am Divine - Jeffrey Schwarz look at the career and life of Divine make me miss him even more. What's great about I am Divine is that Schwarz goes far beyond the John Waters fare to give us a look at Divine as disco diva, off-Broadway actor and more. It's a wonderful portrait of someone who helped to open the door for gay culture to become mainstream.

7. The Wolf of Wall Street - This, again, is Goodfellas. But, I feel that Scorsese lost his focus a bit, in parts. At 3 hours, it's a bit rambling. At the same time, I might feel better about this film if I get a chance to see the full 4 hour version - it might actually flow better. Anyhow, I have to thank a good friend for getting me to look at this film as the final part of an acknowledged trilogy. Goodfellas (the street criminal seeks to ascend), Casino (the street criminal ascends and starts to go legit) and The Wolf of Wall Street (the street criminal is now the suite criminal with the blessings of legitimacy) are all connected. I read that Leo based his characterization on Malcolm McDowell in Caligula - that makes sense and is a great concept.

6. American Hustle - Yes, I know it's Goodfellas... but I felt David O. Russell did a better job with that structure than Scorsese did with his film this year. This is my favorite Russell film since "Three Kings" because it has the look, smell and attitude of that era. The actors give amazing performances and we feel like we are back in the 1970s. Plus, if you want side boob... you have it by the wagonload in this.

5. Blue Jasmine - This is the Woody Allen we love. But, instead of being the comedy we expect, it's a great balancing act between his drop dead funny films and his dramas. Cate Blanchett gives a performance that makes you want to smack her or hug her, moment-to-moment. Great stuff!

4. Nebraska - Alexander Payne's latest film is a beautiful meditation on old age, family and Midwest desperation. Bruce Dern gives a sterling performance but also consider June Squibb. If she fails to get the Supporting Actress Oscar, there is no fairness in the world. Standouts also include two comedians doing great dramatic work - Will Forte and Bob Odenkirk - and the return of Stacey Keach. Shot in beautiful black and white, it's a joy to behold.

3. Tim's Vermeer - The shorter, quiet half of Penn & Teller gives us a documentary about a friend who is not a painter who believes he discovered the technological secret to how Vermeer painted his masterpieces. An amazing story of art, technology and inspiration - makes me want to pick up by brushes again.

2. Her - Much like Blue is the Warmest Colour, Her asks us to realize what we get from our relations, real or imagined, and how we can be better for it moving forward. Also, I think that Spike Jonze owes Chris Ware a big debt. The design, especially the office set, looks like something out of Ware's Jimmy Corrigan or Building Stories.

1. Blue is the Warmest Colour - You could take the controversial sex scenes out it and it would still be a wonderful meditation of love, loss and what we learn from losing love.

Mike White's Top Ten List:

10. Birth of the Living Dead
9. Pain and Gain
8. My Father and the Man in Black
7. Pacific Rim
6. White Reindeer
5. Haunter
4. I Always Said Yes: The Many Lives of Wakefield Poole
3. Riddick
2. I Am Divine
1. Bettie Page Reveals All

Listen to the episode here:

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