Category Archives: Best of 2013

Best Movie Posters of 2013

Most movie posters are mediocre, but this year saw some really great artwork. (And also its fair share of eyestraining dreck and truly awful Photoshop hatchet jobs.) Here’s a look at some of the best posters for 2013 movies, along with a bit of commentary about some noticeable trends in the artwork.

(You can click on any of the pictures to see a full-size image of the poster.)

Sometimes you can make a big impact with a single simple image. The posters for Blackfish and Man of Steel both depicted a familiar, almost iconic image in a new light that stopped me in my tracks with their elegant simplicity. Meanwhile, Blue Caprice and The Jeffrey Dahmer Files were coyer with their posters and required a bit of background knowledge on what the movie is about. But if you do know what they’re about, both images are absolutely chilling. All of these posters kept text to a minimum, letting the images speak for themselves.

Some of the year’s best posters forgo photography altogether and opted for more traditional mediums. The ABC’s of Death and Stoker both played with familiar childhood imagery to sell very dark films. The ABC’s of Death capitalized on its simple concept and the result is one of my absolute favourite posters of the year. Stoker meanwhile created fairytale-inspired imagery, which actually suits the film and its themes quite well. The Kings of Summer had a a number of lovely illustrated posters, but I think this one best evoked those warm fuzzy feelings of childhood. On the other hand, Fruitvale Station‘s beautiful watercolor poster hinted at some of the melancholy and foreboding tone of the film (though I could have done without the big quote at the top).

Instagram-inspired posters have been all the rage for the past couple of years, and sepia-toned posters were back once again in 2013. Not everyone did it well, but Dallas Buyers Club did a nice job of creating a striking image and getting their star in the frame without overwhelming us with Matthew McConaughey. Spring Breakers had a whole slew of great posters, and this one perfectly evokesd the hazy tone of the film. The Charlie Countryman poster was garish and colourful in a great way, while Coldwater offered some nice lens flare and totally caught my interest and made me wonder what the film is about.

Sometimes just a face is all it takes. These four faces say something different and all represent their respective films perfectly. The close-up on Sandra Bullock’s worried face set up the urgency of Gravity. The bandana over Dane DeHaan’s mouth was a nice nod to his silent character in Metallica: Through the Never while his hoodie, leather jacket, and piercing gaze let us know this Metallica concert film was going to be badass. Rooney Mara’s expression said a lot about her state of mind in Side Effects, and the prescription-style credits at the bottom and nearly imperceptible Jude Law in the background were telling touches, too. And while we may have only gotten a silhouetted profile of Bruce Dern on the Nebraska one-sheet, his fuzzy wisp of hair, half-open mouth, and glasses said it all.

Other posters took a busier approach, experimenting with geometric shapes, symmetry and repetition. Spring Breakers hit it out of the park again with this accurate representation of its characters’ road trip essentials. The Bling Ring (which drew comparisons to Spring Breakers in more way than one) also did a nice job of cleanly laying out the mindset of its characters by showing their possessions. You’re Next, on the other hand, presented us with a very clever floorplan of the horrors within the film, while Only God Forgives embraced its own over-the-top style and garishness and completely pulled off the usually hokey “neon” trend that’s been popping up in pop culture marketing lately.


Top 10 Movies of 2013

Alright, so there’s still a lot from 2013 that I haven’t yet seen. BUT I’ve also seen some fantastic movies as it is, and I’m getting swept up in the end-of-year lists, so here’s my top 10 movies of the year at this point.

(Just know that Spike Jonze’s Her would probably be on this list, but it doesn’t get released near me until mid-January.)

Honorable Mentions: Blue Jasmine, Star Trek Into Darkness, Before Midnight, Stoker

10. Fruitvale Station

Yes, the movie can be a bit heavy-handed, but overall, it does a great job of showing who Oscar Grant was as a person. We see so many little interactions that seem innocuous on their own but are fascinating to watch and ultimately add up to something much bigger by the film’s heartbreaking end.

9. Nebraska

This is a film that I certainly enjoyed at the time, but it has really grown on me in the weeks since I’ve seen it. It’s funny, touching, and dark all at the same time, boasting great performances and a pleasantly offbeat visual style.

8. Dallas Buyers Club

McConaughey and Leto turn in career-best performances, completely inhabiting the complex characters they are given. But there is more to Jean-Marc Vallee’s film than the sum of its actors. He tells a tender underdog story, refusing to be morose and instead filling every inch of the screen with genuine warmth and an effective visual tone. It’s grim, but it’s also inspiring.

7. Something in the Air

Olivier Assayas’ latest film follows a group of teenagers living in France during the aftermath of the May 1968 protests. While its opening half hour is haunting for the depiction of the violent demonstrations that our protagonists become involved in, the film really falls into its groove after that point, when it shows the fracturing of the group of friends upon graduation. They shift and detach from each other in subtle ways, and Assayas expresses this beautifully, enveloping the film in a warm, hazy sense of nostalgia.

6. Gravity

I’ve seen a lot of people trying to oversell Gravity as a deeper film than it is, but if you accept what is actually given to us, it’s a heck of a lot of fun. Sandra Bullock is charming, exasperating, and relatable all at once, turning in an amazingly layered performance considering that she is not given all that much to work with. And indeed, Cuaron has crafted something truly special in the film’s visuals. The scope is something to behold, and Gravity is no doubt a highly impressive and entertaining achievement.

5. 12 Years a Slave

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave is not only an “important” film, but also an impeccably crafted one. It is his most accessible film yet, but it still offers his signature visual grit and no-nonsense take on some very dark subject matter. Every scene in this movie feels vital, and it all adds up to a punishing but ultimately emotionally resonant epic. Led by a completely electric Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave is a film that everyone should make the time to see.

4. Lore

In Germany during the aftermath of WWII, teenage Lore is forced to bring her four younger siblings on a trek across the German countryside after the disappearance of their Nazi parents. Along the way, they meet a young man who challenges the hatred that has been instilled in them, adding another layer of tension to an already very taught film. Lore doesn’t pull its punches, and it feels something like Winter’s Bone crossed with a Michael Haneke film. It’s stark and beautifully aching, boasting revelatory performances from its two young breakout stars, Saskia Rosendahl and Kai Malina.

3. Prisoners

Prisoners is an unrelenting thriller that sits somewhere between arthouse and mainstream. This seemed to make it an unfortunate mismatch for a lot of moviegoers, and despite its star-studded cast, it failed to make much of a dent in the public consciousness. This is a real shame, as Denis Villeneuve has created a visceral, often brutal near-masterpiece here. Partly thanks to Roger Deakins’ impeccably icy cinematography, Villeneuve seems to relish keeping the audience tense and on their toes to an extent that few films manage to achieve. Jake Gyllenhaal turns in the best performance of his career here, and Prisoners is a rare film that plays its suspense perfectly and left me completely satisfied as the credits rolled.

2. Mud

I love Dazed and Confused as much as the next person, but I have seen (and, in many cases, avoided) enough post-2000 Matthew McConaughey rom-coms to sour any goodwill stemming from one movie that came out 20 years ago. Yet here we are in 2013, and somehow McConaughey is one of the most interesting actors we’ve got working. And his first great performance of the year came in Mud, Jeff Nichols’ follow-up to the eerie critical favourite Take Shelter.

Mud is a somewhat nostalgic look at youth in the vein of Stand By Me. Young star Tye Sheridan is completely believable and often heartbreaking as Ellis, a good-hearted kid from poor circumstances. But it’s McConaughey as the enigmatic titular Mud that gives the movie
a unique wildcard. It’s a surprisingly toned-down performance from McConaughey, and his on-screen chemistry with Sheridan is a treat to behold. There’s something so sturdy and sad about their relationship. That combined with Nichol’s languid look at small town America and the loss of youthful innocence makes Mud a quietly beautiful and piercing ride.

1. The Place Beyond the Pines

As I walked out of the TIFF screening of The Place Beyond the Pines in September 2012, I knew I’d seen something special. A genuine achievement in filmmaking at a point in time where a lot of movies seem to blur together. And while I saw many other good and very good films over the course of 2013, none of them could quite touch my early TIFF favourite. (The same thing might just happen for me again in 2014 with Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves.)

I went to see The Place Beyond the Pines again during its theatrical release and loved it just as much the second time around. The plot turns may not have been surprising this time, but knowing what was coming made the movie even more urgent and aching. I’d initially thought that the second third of the film (which revolves around Cooper’s character) was the film’s weakest aspect. But knowing where that storyline leads only amplified the damage of his character and it made me appreciate that storyline and Cooper’s performance far more.

This is a sprawling movie that explores a lot of heady territory when it comes to family, the consequences of our actions, and legacy. I’ve found it’s impossible to do The Place Beyond the Pines justice with a simple plot description, and I think this is a testament to the film’s power. On the surface, the story and themes of this movie aren’t groundbreaking. Yet, the way that it’s constructed and its tone almost turn it into something completely different, and the results are breathtaking.

There’s almost a dampness to this film that just sort of…seeps in as you’re watching and long after the film ends. It’s difficult to explain. But regardless, this is a movie that’s sat with me for over a year now, and it’s impacted me in a way that very few films do.

What’s your favourite movie of 2013 (so far)?


We’re well into July, and with some of the year’s much buzzed-about weightier offerings, like Fruitvale Station and The Spectacular Now (both of which I’m dying to see), starting to open, this seems as good a time as ever to look back on the first half of the year. Here’s my list of my favourite 2013 films I’ve seen, including a one-sentence review for each. Be sure to leave your own list in the comments!

  1. The Place Beyond the Pines – A truly impeccable cinematic treat in terms of acting, visual style, and structure.
  2. Mud – A hazy, atmospheric look at corrupted youth, featuring brilliant performances from McConaughey and Sheridan.
  3. Lore – Haunting visuals and two fantastic first-time performances from its leads make for a gripping viewing experience.
  4. Before Midnight – Seeing Delpy and Hawke reunite once again is magical, and Linklater takes the series in a darker but equally honest direction.
  5. Star Trek Into Darkness – It betters the first installment thanks to tight plotting, amazing action sequences, and a deliciously villainous turn by Benedict Cumberbatch.
  6. Stoker – Park Chan-wook offers some of the most memorable images of the year and has plenty of fun embracing Stoker‘s batshit crazy tendencies.
  7. Side Effects – Though I preferred the film’s moody first half to its increasingly pulpy second half, Side Effects is successfully suspenseful and features strong lead performances from Mara and Law. 
  8. Iron Man 3 – Way more fun than it had any right to be, thanks in large part to Shane Black’s whip-smart writing and directing style.
  9. This is the End – Rogen and co. hold nothing back, making everyone wonder why nobody thought to make this sort of film sooner.
  10. Byzantium – It may not be groundbreaking, but Byzantium still has bite (pun intended) and Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan prove to be more than game to take on the vampire genre.