For the most part, these aren’t movies that made our Top 10 lists, either individual or site-wide, but they’re movies that stuck with us for one reason or another, quality films that, if they’re the sort of movie that tickles your fancy, are definitely worth checking out.
Pitch perfect casting in the selections of both Steve Coogan and Judi Dench. A bit overly sentimental at times, but then maybe I’m just a bitter heel.
— Erik Paschall
The Kings of Summer, Mud, and The Way Way Back
ON THE KINGS OF SUMMER: Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ sparkling and playful coming of age indie premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and opened in the early dog-days of summer without much fuss or ado, but it is as smart and crisp and wonderfully realized as nearly every film that came out this past year. Unassuming but confidently made and acted, the film chronicles the adventures of three teenage boys who head to the woods and build a summer dream house for themselves. What starts as a small act of rebellion becomes a drive for independence, yet the film is told with a such an artful, weird, and truly funny eye that it marks the hopes for a spirited beginning to more than a handful of careers including Vogt-Roberts, screenwriter Chris Galletta and young actors Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, and Moises Arias.
— James Tisch
All three of these films are coming of age stories featuring strong performances from young actors. The Kings of Summer and The Way Way Back mix overt comedy with their dramas while Mud is more tense, but these three high quality independent summer releases are inextricably linked in my mind, a portrait of at least my personal 2013 movie landscape as much as any of the more high-profile movies which saw release this year.
— Tim Falkenberg
The Wind Rises
A retrospective on 2013 is not complete without at least a mention of the final feature from anime master Hayao Miyazaki. Beautifully drawn and mythically woven, I loved the way the picture blended imagination and metaphor with reality to give a fuller understanding of the characters and their world. The best example I can think of is when an earthquake hits. It’s depicted not so much by a familiar shaking screen, but by a literal wave moving through the land, throwing up houses and train tracks in a fashion reminiscent of Loony Toons, only with a tone that is unflinchingly serious. U.S. audiences will get a second chance to experience this movie when the English dub comes to theaters February 21.
— Tim Falkenberg
To the Wonder
Terrence Malick’s latest movie is so very much not a movie for everyone. If The Tree of Life was too slow and artsy for you, To the Wonder isn’t going to be any better. It’s much maligned for being to slow, but for me, this is part of what makes the film able to so forcefully deliver its denoument, which speaks powerfully to the daily struggle of life even in a world where forgiveness and grace ultimately reign supreme. If The Tree of Life is a painting or a sculpture, To the Wonder is a poem.
There’s one shot in particular I keep coming back to whenever I try to tell someone why I love this film. There’s a point when one of the characters is about to cheat on her significant other. She’s at a cheap motel, and she and her soon-t0-be hook up have to go up to the second floor to reach their room. At the stairs, the character never hesitates – why should she, they’re just stairs – but the way the camera moves through the scene communicates exactly what the stairs represent: the point of no return. This is a beautiful movie.
— Tim Falkenberg