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The 13 Best Movies of 2013

1. 12 Years a Slave

Director: Steve McQueen
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Paul Dano, Alfre Woodard, Garrett Dillahunt

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Through three, high-minded, challenging, arthouse-oriented films, Steve McQueen has proven himself an uncompromising filmmaker, using his keenly developed eye as a video artist to examine the extremes of human suffering. Not surprisingly, McQueen’s preoccupations have opened him to accusations that he’s a sadist, interested, if not outright obsessed, with punishing his audiences (for unnamed transgressions, presumably), but viewed dispassionately, McQueen’s films reveal him not a sadist, but a humanist. Whether it’s an ideologically or politically driven hunger strike, trauma-created sex addiction, or the unimaginable suffering of slavery and the corrupting, corrosive effects of the institution of slavery, McQueen dares audiences, challenges audiences to see, to hear, to experience (albeit at one step removed) what they’d otherwise happily ignore or pretend doesn’t (or didn’t) exist. Through 12 Years a Slave, we see every aspect of slavery from the point-of-view of Solomon Northrup, a free man sold into slavery in the early part of the 19th century.  – Mel Valentin

Filmmakers often turn to history as a reliable source of drama, often thinking that they can provide some sort of visual enhancement of a psychological human narrative.  The brilliant thing about 12 Years a Slave is its rejection of this type of hokum.  Instead, the film opts for a matter-of-fact presentation about the horrors of American slavery in the story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free man abducted from the North and forced into labor on a number of Southern plantations.  With a sparse, unflinching style, 12 Years a Slave comments on knotty issues of racism, morality, and identity by distilling them into the day-to-day actions of human beings.  History isn’t a blunt instrument of education here – it’s a prism used to challenge and perplex us, truly fulfilling the noblest artistic intentions of cinema. – Eric Ambler

There are some movies that are absolutely enthralling and fantastic, yet you don’t really ever want to watch it again. That is how I feel about 12 Years a Slave. The story is heartbreaking, and the only thing more heartbreaking and enthralling are the performances by all the main actors, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o. This was a movie going experience that I will never forget, as much as I may have wanted to at times. Truly incredible.  – Kevin Taylor

Read our review.

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The Author

Kristal Bailey

Kristal Bailey

With a soft spot for movies that fall into the “So Bad They’re Good” category, Kristal Bailey regularly watches B-movies, 80s comedies, and sci-fi from the 50s and 60s. She also refuses to grow up if that means she has to hide her love for Disney and Pixar films.

In her free time, she enjoys reading graphic novels or books that are soon to be turned into movies, watching hours and hours of television, and spending way too much time on Twitter.