A deeply individualized list of the best films and tv shows I watched in 2013. (Disclaimer: Some of the list came out pre-2013 and I have yet to see all of the big 2013 films.)
This list is a combination of great things I saw in theatres, at home, alone and with friends. I sought out some films based on my adoration of the filmmakers past work (The Grandmaster, Upstream Color). Others I happened upon because of the excellent programming at cinemas like the Siskel Film Center (The Angels’ Share) or just by flipping through Hulu Plus (History is Made at Night).
This is Not a Film: It could have been a heavy and claustrophobic film about filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s struggle against the Iranian government. Instead, it’s an inspiring and at times humorous statement about film, government censorship and even what dads do when they’re stuck at home with their daughter’s iguana.
Stories We Tell: Filmmaker and actress Sarah Polley (Watch: ‘Take This Waltz’) looks at the stories told by her own parents. The less you know about the movie the better, so I’ll say no more (bring a hankie).
Versailles ‘73: American Runway Revolution: I went to this film because it involved Versailles, fashion and was free with my Facets membership. It was a complete happy surprise. Interviews with models and designers looks back at this fashion show from 1973 where the American designers and African American models brought life and fun to runway shows.
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel: Another fashion doc and like ‘This is Not a Film’ this doc focuses on one person: influential fashion editor Diana Vreeland. It showcases her pure love of fashion, designers and models. It is also directly responsible for me wearing red lipstick.
TV…only one of these shows was watched on broadcast television with the others coming from online sources….so here’s my list of favorite episodic programs
The Hour: Best show to watch while on a MegaBus. Follows the producers of a new 1950s TV news show. Plenty of romantic and political intrigue. Excellent actors, excellent costumes.
Orange is the New Black: Is it fair to assume that everyone has watched this show? If not, block out a long weekend and watch. Netflix is better at TV than TV.
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: Stumbled upon this one via the Crackle app on Roku. Works for both my love of comedians and love of cars.
Burning Love: There is no way I would have predicted watching a hilarious show via Yahoo.com. Terrible email system but good choice in comedy shows. It’s a spoof of all those terrible dating shows with strong comedians in the roles.
The Mindy Project: Each episode is worth repeated viewings for the hilarious throwaway lines given to background characters.
American Hustle: It’s a movie-movie and by that I mean there’s a heavy soundtrack, loads of tracking shots and actors are given room to ACT. Plus, it makes me want to wear wrap-dresses and pouf out my hair.
The Grandmaster: I will watch anything that Wong Kar-Wai does, including this kung-fu film. Watch to see how beautiful he can make fighting in the rain.
The Angels' Share: This film reminded me of the gems I used to find when I watched billions of family-friendly inspiring films as part of my job at the Heartland Film Festival. It’s a good little film and you can watch it with your parents.
Upstream Color: I loved this film but I have trouble recommending it to friends. It is weird but it is the weird I like. If the weird that you also like involves: unclear narratives, fantasy elements in everyday settings and rich colors then you will also love this film. If you need clear structure and defined symbolism, then back away from this one.
History is Made at Night: My one word description of ‘History is Made at Night’ is: bonkers. It’s a Criterion classic which seems to only be available via Hulu Plus. It stars Jean Arthur and Charles Boyer (France’s answer to Cary Grant before Cary Grant existed). It contains a jealous ex-husband, callous murder, Hollywood’s version of France and at one point Boyer communicates via a face drawn on his hand. BONKERS!
Written on the Wind: Melodrama all over the place. I saw it at the Siskel Film Center and had to buy the DVD. There’s something about a 1950s Technicolored Douglas Sirk melodrama that makes me very happy. Plus, this one includes Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall and Robert Stack (Yes, the America’s Most Wanted Guy).