Movies • Lost at sea, or in space, or trapped in other horrific situations.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
With a year that gave us governmental gridlock, smothering inversions in Utah, killer tornadoes in the Midwest, a bombing in Boston, and the NSA knowing more about us than it should, it seems the only thing good to come out of 2013 is us, alive and in one piece.
As it turns out, the best movies of 2013 were about survival.
Some of the stories are direct tales of a person under extremes. One man survives an ordeal at sea. Another must endure the brutality of slavery in pre-Civil War America. A woman has to use her wits to get home after a disaster in outer space.
For others, it's surviving a tough environment, such as the ups and downs of show business or the tumult of a divorce. Some must deal with the buried guilt of not only surviving genocide but causing it. Or it's about surviving heartbreak, by finding a friend as close as one's computer.
Here are the top 10 movies of 2013, movies that made it possible to survive a tough year.
1. "All Is Lost" • Filmmaking at its most primal and least cluttered, as writer-director J.C. Chandor and star Robert Redford tell the story of a solitary sailor using his wits to survive when his sailboat is damaged in the Indian Ocean. Redford, barely uttering a word, uses his wits and tenacity to seek a way home.
2. "The Act of Killing" • Joshua Oppenheimer's daring, genre-busting documentary follows two former death-squad leaders in Indonesia who re-create their killings using the styles of Hollywood gangster flicks and Busby Berkeley musicals. The results are harrowing, as the men unabashedly account their heinous acts until the amassed guilt of many deaths hits one of the men like a freight train.
3. "her" • In a romance for the 21st century, writer-director Spike Jonze imagines a not-too-distant future in which a lonely writer (Joaquin Phoenix) recovers from a breakup and begins a relationship with his computer's operating system, dubbed Samantha (and voiced by the sultry Scarlett Johansson). By turns funny and poignant, the movie speaks volumes about what it means to fall in love. (Opens in Utah on Jan. 10)
4. "Blackfish" • Gabriela Cowperthwaite's hard-hitting documentary, exposing the treatment of killer whales at SeaWorld and other marine amusement parks, will change the way you think about animals and make you reconsider where to go on your next vacation.
5. "In a World…" • In this funny and sweet comedy, a would-be voice-over artist (played by Lake Bell, who also directed and wrote) tries to bust the glass ceiling in the world of Hollywood trailer narration. The movie is lovably loopy, as Bell uses off-kilter humor and a hilarious cast to make a sly commentary about show-business sexism.
6. "Gravity" • Director Alfonso Cuarón uses all the technological tricks in this whiz-bang thriller about a disaster in orbit that leaves two astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) stranded in space without a vehicle to make it home. But for all of Cuarón's visual flair, what holds us glued to the screen is the humanity Bullock brings to the story.
7. "No" • Chilean director Pablo Lorrain brilliantly captures the exhilaration and fear of his country's 1988 public vote on the Pinochet regime by focusing on the advertising expert (Gael Garcia Bernal) who engineered the anti-Pinochet campaign.
8. "12 Years a Slave" • The best movie nobody wants to watch. Director Steve McQueen's perfectly composed dramatization of America's greatest sin the enslavement of human beings before the Civil War grips the audience with stark, unflinching details of a free black man (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the deep South.
9. "Much Ado About Nothing" / "What Maisie Knew" • Two classics, adapted smartly for modern times. One, Joss Whedon's bubbly version of Shakespeare's romantic farce, plays like a scintillating cocktail party. The other, an update of the Henry James novel by directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel, heartbreakingly shows the damage done by a divorcing couple (Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan) on their young daughter (Onata Aprile).
10. "Upstream Color" • Writer-director Shane Carruth imagines two people, played by Carruth and Amy Seimetz, trying to rebuild their lives after the ultimate identity thief has taken everything from them. How these two connect to each other, and to the central mystery of an organism in an endless life cycle, is the best time you'll spend scratching your head in wonder.