We continue to work our way through the best-reviewed films of 2013, and yesterday we watched two which immediately found their way onto my revised best-of-2013 list. Highly recommended if you can find them.
Mud (imdb | rotten tomatoes) flew completely under my radar. I don’t even remember hearing about it when it came to Canada last May. What a damn film, though. Textured, real, with this feel of being so familiar but practically on another planet (or, I guess, southeast Arkansas). Also: I don’t know what spirit quest Matthew McConaughey went on in 2010, but man did it do him some good. After a whole string of shite romantic comedies (culminating with Ghosts of Girlfriends Past in 2009) he started a tear in 2011 that included The Lincoln Lawyer (not great, but not bad either), Bernie, Killer Joe, Mud, Dallas Buyers Club, and The Wolf Of Wall Street. OK, fine, The Paperboy and Magic Mike happened in there too, but at least they were edgy. Ish.
Fruitvale Station (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was director Ryan Coogler’s first feature, though you wouldn’t know it. He told the story of Oscar Grant‘s shooting at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland so expertly — fiction and fact intermingled, certainly, but skilfully — that you’d think him a veteran director. Also very impressive: Michael B. Jordan, who I only knew from Friday Night Lights, Chronicle, and (vaguely) The Wire. He pulled off something amazing: despite knowing what happens — the film opens with the now-public cellphone footage of the shooting, which can also be found on YouTube — Jordan makes us, over the course of the flashed-back day prior to the shooting, understand and like and empathize with Grant so much that we root for time to unfold differently, for the shooting never to happen. But then Coogler guides you through it, and it’s just wrenching.
Cover photo by Wayne Hsieh, used under Creative Commons license