Armando's Favorite 25 Films of 2013

Fellow member of The Third Act Podcast Armando Rivera has fashioned a list of his 25 favorite films of 2013 that's an ace mixture of genres, spanning the indie/mainstream barrier with aplomb. But will his list play? Will it hit? Will it linger in the hearts and minds of ardent cinephiles everywhere?


Gimme the Loot

Ty Hickson and Tashiana Washington ooze charisma and shine in this charming slice of life film about two best friends who also happen to be graffiti artists trying to make a name for themselves in the Bronx. Writer/director Adam Leon is a name to watch.


Inside Llewyn Davis

Another year, another notch in the belt for the Coen Brothers' already decorated filmography. Oscar Isaac is a revelation as Davis, a Dylan-esque troubadour with legitimate talent and little regard for anything, including himself.


The We and The I

Michel Gondry takes a diverse ensemble of Bronx teenagers with little or no acting experience on a bus ride home, where high school facades are explored and exposed with a refreshing naturalism and immediacy.


All Is Lost

J.C. Chandor offers up a breathtaking use of the big screen in this visionary survival epic. Alex Ebert's brilliant score perfectly underscores the vast danger, dread, and perhaps spiritual subtext of hope, while Robert Redford wordlessly conveys every moment perfectly.



This highly experimental documentary set aboard a New England fishing boat directed by Lucien Castaing Taylor and Verena Paravel features no voiceovers whatsoever, only ingenious uses of deftly placed cameras capturing both the nightmarish and eerily gorgeous sights and sounds of the boat's machinery, the ocean, thousands of slaughtered fish, and the blankly nameless seaman. 




Fruitvale Station

Michael B. Jordan ("The Wire", "Friday Night Lights") breaks through with a layered, tender performance chronicling the true story of one day in the life of Oscar Grant, whose fateful run-in with BART transportation security made national headlines. Ryan Coogler shows exceptional restraint and control for his feature-length debut.


Behind The Candelabra

Michael Douglas' transformative portrayal of the iconic Liberace is deservedly a toast of the awards season, but Matt Damon is even more impressive as the lost, troubled, much younger love of his life. The complex love story is elegantly presented by the ever-versatile Steven Soderbergh.


Stories We Tell

While Sarah Polley's inventive documentary's central aim is a very personal endeavour to determine the identity of her biological father, it unfurls into a stunningly universal statement of memories and familial secrets.


The Hunt

Dogme 95 stalwart Thomas Vinterberg tackles a most challenging subject (alleged pedophilia) through the prism of a classic witch hunt. With razor-sharp direction of mood, and a towering Mads Mikkelsen, who modulates flawlessly throughout.


Frances Ha

Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig's black and white ode to mid-20's stasis and French New Wave is a whip-smart comedy, dominated by the awkwardly beguiling Gerwig in a winning, "exceedingly dateable" turn.


The Great Beauty

Finally, a film worthy of being deemed "Fellini-esque", Paolo Sorrentino's visually stunning tale of an aging man taking stock of his life while passing through the decadence of Rome's social and artistic elite is more than worthy of comparison to the old master.


Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?

The musings of legendary thinker/linguist Noam Chomsky and the wondrous animations of Michel Gondry are a perfect match in this deeply immersive labor of love.


Blue Is The Warmest Color

Few films have handled first love and sexual awakening in a more honest (and yes, explicit way), anchored by two incredibly natural performances by Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux. 




Post Tenebras Lux

Carlos Reygadas' impressionistic odyssey throughout different social classes and countries defies summary capsulization. Suffice to say, he takes on no less than life, death, murder, and a red demon entering bedrooms at night.



Matteo Garrone's profoundly contemporary and perceptive tale of a working class family man obsessed with landing a spot on reality TV, highlighted with one of the most satisfying final shots in recent memory.


Lee Daniels' The Butler

Lee Daniels' ambitious and sprawling portrait of White House butler Cecil Gaines is not without flaws (jarring cutting and awkward tonal shifts), but is grounded in loving detail and the commanding presence of Forrest Whitaker.


I Am Not A Hipster

Dominic Bogart is outstanding as a thirty-something indie rocker simultaneously dealing with grief, artistic distrust, and his own crippling malaise. Director Dustin Cretton has a sure hand, and former "Pick Up Artist" contestant Alvaro Orlando is surprisingly effective in a supporting role.


Before Midnight

The third installment in Richard Linklater's collaboration with stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy finds independent cinema's favorite couple (again, largely improvising dialogue) married, with twin daughters in tow. The truthfulness and magic is still here, albeit now combined with the sobering beats of a strained marriage.


Upstream Color

Auteur/supernova Shane Carruth returns from a 9-year absence with perhaps the most mind-bending and confounding film of 2013. Pigs, field sound engineers, Thoreau, and a haunted Amy Seimetz blend to weave a hypnotic tapestry that warrants multiple viewings.


This Is Martin Bonner

Paul Eenhoorn and Richmond Arquette share a rich, understated chemistry as two men crossing paths at key moments in their lives. Beautifully patient and observant, it's one of the year's most unexpected and pure gems.



Matthew McConaughey is better than ever, yet this is Ty Sheridan's story, and he is every bit as good in Jeff Nichols' intelligent, coming of age Southern.


Laurence Anyways

Xavier Dolan legitimizes "wunderkind" with this sweeping, achingly poignant love story between a woman and a man who decides he wants to be a woman. Two leads give performances as good as any this year, directed with intoxicating bravura by Dolan, who is shaping up as a major talent.



The dream pairing of Spike Jonze and Joaquin Phoenix does not disappoint, as Her is an oddly touching, clever, and sweetly insightful vision of the near future. Beneath the science fiction veneer is a core concern with loneliness, loss, and the eternally imperfect search for connection.


12 Years A Slave

Steve McQueen delivers a masterpiece on par or perhaps exceeding any in the American slavery canon. Unsanctimonious, brilliantly acted and emotionally devastating, few films earn the "important" moniker to this degree.


The Act Of Killing

Joshua Oppenheimer's daring, nearly unbelievable documentary centered around a now elderly former hand of Indonesian genocide is harrowingly jaw-dropping and surreal in its reality as film-going experiences get. No less than a singular document, staring into the absurd darkness of mankind's capabilities.