Gadi Elkon’s Top 13 Films of 2013 & Best Lists

"The movie's not over till everyone's dead", Denis Johnson.

Click thru for an in-depth look at these 13 films as well as top 5 lists for Best Director, Actor, Actress, Screenwriter, Editor, Cinematographer and upcoming stars for 2013 and beyond.


"What could be lonelier that trying to commnicate", Denis Johnson.

2013 has been quite a magical year in film.  We've seen bold spectacle's capture the beauty of IMAX, films about the folk era that lead to Dylan's introduction, we've felt excess, we've felt loss and most importantly we've been highly entertained.  The video above showcases the films that stood out to me amongst all of the rest.  Films like Gravity, Nebraska Dallas Buyers Club, The Butler, American Hustle and many more were all good enjoyable rides but lacked something in each of them that made me drop them from my list.  But instead of harping on those lost elements I'd rather explain the rationale behind my picks.  Here is a breakdown of what I loved about my top 13 films for 2013.

Top Films of 2013:

#13 – Captain Phillips – Directed By Paul Greengrass

I was so floored by Tom Hanks' peformance I had to see this film twice just to appreciate all the understated elements in the film.  Greengrass was able to make a film that didn't demonize any one group or side and allowed the horror of the events to build the suspense.  The final ten minutes of the film are utterly heartwrenching as we finally see Captain Phillips hit his breaking point.  It's truly one of the most realistic breaking moments every captured on screen.

#12 – Kings of Summer – Directed By Jordan Vogt-Roberts

This fun ride mixes the quick cutting style of Roberts with the speed of the three lead's hope and dreams.  It captures the child-like freedom that made Stand By Me & Goonies so beloved, but does it all in a much smaller landscape.  We see our three leads go through growth that is a refreshing twist to the malcontent material showcased in most films.  It's a pure and honest ride that isn't afraid to fumble here and there.

#11 – The Great Beauty – Directed By Paolo Sorrentino

The opening dance squence made The Great Gatsby look like an old-age Polka concert.  Paolo Sorrentino not only shows us the darkness of his lead character but show us the utter beauty of his Roman surroundings.  Overall the mixture of Italian skepticism is perfectly battled by the aging beauty of Rome and its people.  It's a lengthy tale of a man's journey of discover even if he ends up having more questions then answers.

#10 – Philomena – Directed By Stephen Frears

The way in which this film seamlessly jumps from spontanous real humor to heartbreaking truths is masterfully done.  Steve Coogan steps out of his normal comedic improv style to give us a real standout performance and Dame Dench literally becomes Philomena.  The film doesn't attack the Catholic church and it's horrible actions it rather asks whether you can move on.  It's quite a powerful film that is nicely disguised as an enjoyable buddy film.  Stephen Frears continues to showcase how is direction is subtle and non-invasive, he's a real gem of a director.  An added treat – My interview with Steve Coogan.

#9 – August: Osage County – Directed By John Wells

Tracy Letts explosive play is nicely brought to the big screen with powerful performances.  Meryl Streep embodies an emploading matriach that knows all and yet seems so lost.  The dinner scene alone is worth your time and money.  It holds back nothing and strikes with out warning.  It's the hallmark of Letts' ballsy nature.  He knows us, he really knows us.  And in the end we just can't deal with the truth.

#8 – 12 Years A Slave – Directed By Steve McQueen

I had some issues with the pacing of the film but it couldn't take me out of the beauty of Sean Bobbitt's cinematography.  This film is made by it's amazing lingering shots of nothing and yet of everything.  On top of that you add in Hans Zimmer and the emotion is hard to keep down.  Steve McQueen may not have the bold appeal that Shame showcased, but he's made steps to become a complete director.  This film takes its time to build and that is what makes it so memorable.

My full review from earlier this year –

#7 – All Is Lost – Directed By J.C. Chandor

For all the praise that Gravity has received I can't help but scream – GO WATCH FREAKING ALL IS LOST!!!  Redford is amazing and just so damn captivating.  He doesn't rely on the spectacle, but rather completely opens himself.  We see him coping.  We see him trying to survive.  We see him hurt.  We see him age.  We see him break.  In the end this film allow us to see him.  And that is powerful on all levels.  Forget dialogue, forget everything.  This is a Man, a boat, a lingering hope.  I felt like I couldn't breath throughout this entire film.  It's amazing.

#6 – Inside Llewyn Davis – Directed By Joel & Ethan Coen

Production value is something the Coen brothers seem to know better than anyone else.  They know how to make 1960's Greenwich come to life by merely showing us long narrow hallways and gray snowing roads that never end.  The music is what is important and why this film is so lovable even if our lead is so damn dark.  The circle that is complete at the end of this film is only the beginning and yes it's also the end.  Only the Coen brothers would come up with this story. T-Bone Burnett continues to be a real treasure for the Coen brothers, get to know this amazing man's life.

#5 – The Act of Killing – Directed By Joshua Oppenheimer

This film shows how a documentary can show us the realities of our actions.  I'm not sure how the director and his team survived filming this movie.  I barely survived watching it.  Villians are not mysterious figures in the night they are men and they are worse than any hero's worst nightmare.  This film makes your stomach violently turn against you.  There is a "vomiting" scene that I promise you will make you view life completely different.  This is the boldest and scariest documentary I've ever seen.

#4 – The Wolf Of Wall Street – Directed By Martin Scorsese

Scorsese shows us the bad people in such an enlightened way it's hard not to want to be them.  Wolf is about excess in all its beauty and horror.  Scorsese and his amazing editor Thelma Schoonmaker continue to shock and captivate with each breath of their films together.  Leo deserves recognition for traveling past the rich life and into the dark drug-fueled terror.  This movie also shows how sad it is that people like The Wolf of Wall Street never get the real punishment they deserve.  Money can buy anything and everything, don't let anyone fool you.  Money is the root of all evil.

#3 – Natan – Directed By David Cairns & Paul Duane

At this year's Dallas Videofest, founder Bart Weiss kept talking about this doc.  He said it was unlike any he'd seen before.  The narrator is our dead lead character aka the title of the film, Bernard NATAN.  This dark narrator takes us through a journey that is sad and just unbelievable.  Can history forget a man?  It has happened.  It will happen and this films shows you exactly how.  It's heartwrenching and unforgettable in the same token.  I pray more people learn of who Bernard Natan really was, because who he is claimed to be is just so wrong and evil.  History is a cruel beast that waits for no man.

#2 – A Way, Way Back –  Directed By Nat Faxon & Jim Rash

This writing duo really has a wonderful heart and a great sense of humor.  Mix in a stellar ensemble cast and you have easily the most feel good film of the year.  All this from a mean horrible statement.  A real statement to Jim and to our lead character.  It's amazing how parents can love us & they can also scar us so well.  A wonderful coming of age film that houses so many truths of our life.  Oh and Sam Rockwall is freaking genius!

My interview with Jim and Nat from earlier this year –

#1 – Mud – Directed By Jeff Nichols

The first time I saw this film, it was in a PACKED house at the Angelika Dallas at the Dallas International Film Festival.  I left that screening knowing I'd seen a young writer/director pour his own soul onto screen.  They say don't direct children and animals in your films, well for Jeff Nichols' third feature he directed two growing kids, a group of evil snakes and Sam "The Beast" Sheppard (My nickname).  Jeff Nichols is a filmmaker to keep your eyes, ears and mind on.  He's honest, he's truthful and he's bold.  This film is all about life's firsts.  First kiss, first love, first heartbreak, first death, and first mystery.  Tye Sheridan is a gold-mind waiting to be unleashed and this is also the best Matthew McConaghey of the year.  If you haven't seen MUD, you've missed out on something quite magical.


Best Director:

HM. Jordan Vogt-Roberts – Kings of Summer

5.  Woody Allen – Blue Jasmine

4. J.C. Chandor – All Is Lost

3. Joel & Ethan Cohen – Inside Llewyn Davis

2. Joshua Oppenheimer – The Act of Killing

1. Jeff Nichols – Mud

Best Actor:

HM. Oscar Isaac – Inside Llewn Davis

5. Toni Servillo – The Great Beauty

4. Tom Hanks – Captain Phillips

3. Robert Redford – All Is Lost

2. Chiwetal Ejiofer – 12 Years A Slave

1. Leonardo Dicaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Actress:

HM. Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Enough Said

5. Mia Wasikowska – Stoker

4. Dame Judi Dench – Philomena

3. Brie Larson – Short Term 12

2. Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

1. Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine

Best Supporting Actor:

HM. James Gandolfini – Enough Said

5. Steve Coogan – Philomena

4. James Franco – Spring Breakers

3. Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

2. Sam Rockwell – The Way, Way Back

1. Matthew McConaghey – Mud

Best Supporting Actress:

HM. Amy Seimetz – Upstream Color

5. Sarah Paulson/Lupita Nyong – 12 Years A Slave

4. Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine

3. Julia Roberts – August: Osage County

2. Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle

1. June Squibb – Nebraska

Best Screenwriting:

HM. Bob Nelson – Nebraska

5. Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, & Kim Krizan – Before Midnight (whole trilogy!)

4. Joel & Ethan Coen – Inside Llewyn Davis

3. Spike Jonze – Her

2. Woody Allen – Blue Jasmine

1. Tracy Letts – August: Osage County

Best Cinematography:

HM. Bill Pope – The World's End

5. Luca Bigazzi – The Great Beauty

4. Phedon Papamichael – Nebraska

3. Frank G. Demarco – All Is Lost

2. Emmanuel Lubezki – Gravity

1. Sean Bobbitt – 12 Years A Slave

Best Editing:

HM. Mark Sanger & Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity

5. Joe Klotz – Lee Daniels' The Butler

4. Terel Gibson – Kings of Summer

3. John Wilson – The Book Thief

2. David Lowery/Shane Carruth – Upstream Color

1. Thelma Schoonmaker – The Wolf of Wall Street

Newcomers to keep an Eye on:


2. Matt Johnson – The Dirties

1. John Krokidas – Kill Your Darlings


2. Liam James – The Way, Way Back

1. Tye Sheridan – Mud


2. Sophie Nelisse – The Book Thief

1. Lindsay Burdge – A Teacher


2. Bradford Young – Ain't Them Bodies Saints

1. Reed Morano – Kill Your Darlings


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