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Annual Top Films Lists

Best of 2013: Nicholas Bell’s Top 10 Films (Picks 5 to 1)

Continued from yesterday’s 10-6 countdown, here are my picks 5 thru 1:

10. Fruitvale Station – Ryan Coogler
9. Her – Spike Jonze
8. Gravity – Alfonso Cuaron
7. 12 Years a Slave – Steve McQueen
6. Go For Sisters – John Sayles

Bastards Claire Denis Nicholas Bell Top 10 for 20135. Bastards – Claire Denis

The amazing, the lovely, the extraordinary Claire Denis is the only female filmmaker to find a spot in my top ten theatrical releases this year. Her works are always must see cinema and she’s an auteur I tend to favor. This year, she returned to dark subject matter with this Faulkner inspired tale of depravity, featuring a disturbed family harboring perverse secrets. Another killer score from her long time collaborators Tindersticks made me want to immediately see it again right as it hits its final frames. Bastards should have played in the main competition at Cannes, and it happens to remain what I consider one of this year’s bigger cinematic slights. [October 23rd NYC Release – IFC Films]

A Touch of Sin – Jia Zhangke Nicholas Bell Top 10 for 20134. A Touch of Sin – Jia Zhangke

At the end of the day, I’m still surprised at the affecting violence of Jia Zhangke’s latest, a quartet of stories set in modern China of lives touched by it. Zhangke won Best Screenplay at Cannes, usually an award reserved for difficult or controversial material. Stylistically, A Touch of Sin plays a lot like a bizarre sister film to his 2004 film The World, which marked the sixth generation filmmaker’s first state approved venture. Even more fascinating is that, considering the subject matter, Sin still has state approval. But political issues aside, it’s a fascinating quartet of modern day stories, all the more compelling as they’re based on incidents from actual events. [October 4th NYC & L.A Release – Koch Lorber Films]

Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen Nicholas Bell Top 10 for 20133. Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen

And so Woody Allen has managed to make one of his best films of all time with this modern re-hash of A Streetcar Named Desire, only Blue Jasmine is all about Blanche. Cate Blanchett gives a devastatingly funny yet strikingly melancholic turn as an unbent socialite that’s fallen on hard times, forced to depend on her blue collar sister in San Francisco, played by Sally Hawkins. It’s Blanchett’s show all the way, and one of the most rewarding films of either the director’s or the star’s filmography. July 26th NYC & L.A Release – Sony Pictures Classics]


The Great Beauty – Paolo Sorrentino Nicholas Bell Top 10 for 20132. The Great Beauty – Paolo Sorrentino

Called pretentious by some, empty headed by others, Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty – a spectacular homage to Fellini (at least, that’s what it felt like to me) also reunites him with star Toni Servillo, here a once famous novelist turned journalist who lives off Rome’s bizarre night life, filled with a plethora of strange personalities. But, as he turns 65, he finally realizes that time is not forever, and so he should focus on things, people, activities, that he actually enjoys. And so begins a melancholy search for elusive great beauty. Electric, bombastic, energetic and entrancing, Sorrentino’s saddest, funniest, film to date is burned into my mind. [November 15th Limited Release – Janus Films]

Blue is the Warmest Color - Abdellatif Kechiche Nicholas Bell Top 10 for 20131. Blue is the Warmest Color – Abdellatif Kechiche

At this point, the Palme d’Or winning, NC-17 rated, epic emotional drama from Abdellatif Kechiche has already run the risk of becoming overrated in the eyes of many. The subject of many heated debates, mostly surrounding the very graphic nature of its sex scenes, and the now very public behind-the-scenes drama between the director and his two lead stars has also shadowed its reception in some circles. But while the film may be a tired topic amongst film critics, and conservative audiences most likely avoided it altogether, I’ve personally been most offended at the legions of gay men that have refused to see the film because they’ve heard of the graphic, lesbian sex (and then let’s not even get into the lesbian outcry pertaining to the depictions at hand). Anger, ignorance, and insolence have marked most of my conversations urging people to see the film, which perhaps has the most realistic depiction of two people in the throes of romantic entanglement that I’ve ever seen on feature film. I would have been personally disappointed had there not been some sort of tangible effect on these two actresses during the making of this film. As someone brought up in conversation, it’s rare, outside of the documentary format, that something can seem so viscerally real between actors in a fiction feature. Whatever the ignorant consensus that has worked toward despoiling or discounting Blue Is The Warmest Color, I’ve not seen anything else that lands as remotely close to being so thoroughly realistic as this portrait of a young woman’s awakening through her sexuality. [October 25th NYC & L.A Release – IFC Films]

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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