Top Ten 2013: Movies

Josh Larsen

10. The Spectacular Now

A must-see for anyone who works with church youth, The Spectacular Now is a precise portrait of a particular kind of kid: the life of the party whose future grows increasingly dim as high-school graduation approaches. (Miles Teller is incredible as the lead.) Teen alcoholism is just one of the topics the movie explores with uncommon honesty and empathy.

9. Beyond the Hills

This art-house exorcism movie from Romaniadetails the medieval treatment a troubled young woman (Cristina Flutur) receives when she visits her friend (Cosmina Stratan) at a monastery and refuses to submit to its strict way of life. Unsettling from start to finish, the movie is a harrowing depiction of two young women lost in the shadowy ground between superstition and faith.

8. This is the End

A raunchy, ramshackle comedy in which a bunch of movie stars (including Seth Rogen and James Franco) hole up in Hollywood as the world burns, This is the End is undeniably crude and built upon questionable eschatology. But give me a mainstream comedy in which John Bobbitt gags exist side by side with debates about the Trinity, and I’m in.

7. Nebraska

How do we care for aging parents and grandparents, especially the irascible ones? This deeply Christian question is at the center of Nebraska, the wryly comic and sobering story of a distant and angry older man (Bruce Dern) who forces his son to take him on a road trip to claim a $1 million prize everyone else realizes is a marketing gimmick. The movie’s answer? Bestowing dignity is a good place to start.

6. The Wind Rises

A lament about the way this broken world tends to corrupt our greatest gifts, The Wind Rises is an animated biopic about Jiro Horikoshi, the brilliant and creative engineer who designed the Zero fighter planes used by Japan in World War II. Legendary director Hayao Miyazaki, in his supposed last film, charts how Horikoshi’s God-given potential became the stuff of “cursed dreams.”

Give me a mainstream comedy in which John Bobbitt gags exist side by side with debates about the Trinity, and I’m in.

5. Pain & Gain

Like This is the End, this one should come with a warning label. Bad Boys action director Michael Bay (unwittingly?) parodies himself with this based-on-fact story about dim-bulb bodybuilders who embark on an ill-advised kidnapping scheme. As I wrote earlier on TC, amidst the hedonistic bombast is a sly satire about American entitlement. Read between the lines and you’ll see that Pain & Gain subversively champions the Christian virtue of contentment.

4. The Act of Killing

Documentarian Joshua Oppenheimer revisits the political mass murders carried out in Indonesia in 1965-66 by interviewing the unapologetic killers, who still hold positions of power. The men reenact the atrocities and even stage musical fantasy sequences in which they appear as heroes. Justice of any kind, let alone the Biblical variety, seems out of the movie’s grasp until the final moments, when one of the subjects wrestles with his conscience so viscerally it feels as if an exorcism is taking place.

3. Enough Said

Most romantic comedies focus on who we love under the assumption that happiness lies in finding the right person. This wise and witty romance, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini as divorcees who begin a tentative relationship, recognizes what we know from Christ’s model: how you love is more important.

2. 12 Years a Slave

A rough go for many reasons, as this tells the based-on-fact story of a free black man (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who was kidnapped and enslaved in the antebellum American South. Among the hard-to-swallow elements is the movie’s recognition that the institutional Christian church of the time was one of the culprits. Watching a plantation owner quote the Bible to justify his dehumanizing actions will make you gag.

1. Leviathan

An immersive, experimental documentary set on a commercial fishing ship and consisting largely of abstract motion, sounds and images, Leviathan opens itself up to various interpretations at any given moment. One lasting impression, though, is that of voracious mankind – all cranking gears and consuming nets and gutting hands – ferociously despoiling the natural creation. Leviathan is many things, some of them affirming, but it’s also the Fall as cinema.

Topics: Movies