Thursday, January 2, 2014

Favorite Movies of 2013

Lots of folks have been asking me what films I loved in 2013.  Here are my favorites in no particular order.  I've limited myself to ten words or less reviews.  Titles link to the trailers.

Mud.  Rural people shown with dignity. Best movie of the year.

American Hustle.  That cast.  That director.

Blue Jasmine.  Because: Cate Blanchett.

12 Years A Slave.  Powerful, devastating, visceral, beautiful.

Catching Fire.  Loved the book, loved the movie.  Plus:  Jennifer Lawrence, duh.

Captain Phillips.  Complex, gripping, human.  Tom Hanks disappears into the character.

Prisoners.  Realistic portrayals of working class people and great twist.

Inside Llewyn Davis.  The Cohen Brothers made it.

Shadow Dancer.  Ireland's Troubles with great performances and a taunt script.  

The Conjuring.  Great scary movies are rare.  Hands clapping on the stairs.

The Bling Ring.  Terrifying, stylish, funny without ever glorifying the crimes.

Stoker.  Not perfect but interesting.  Plus:  Matthew Goode and Mia Wasikowska.

Nebraska.  Alexander Payne is one of my favorite directors.

Addendum-Favorite Music of 2013

I jumped the gun on my favorite albums of the year because I hadn't heard these gems when I composed my list.  These were released in 2013 and are among my favorites, too.  

Ben Sollee's The Hollow Sessions is a beauty that finds Sollee covering artists like Tom Waits, Otis Redding, Paul Simon, Fiona Apple, Gillian Welch, Harry Belafonte, and others.  The album was recorded in a little house situated in a Kentucky holler and conjure up the rural summertime with birds, wind, crickets, even water wending their way into the music.  Sollee's cello and vocals are in top form and this piece of land brings out the best in him.  In the press kit he says:  “It’s a place to recharge and be still between the manic pace of the road. Over the years I’ve written songs, ballets, and film scores while visiting and thought it would be a special palce to share, at least sonically. We really featured its voice on the recordings. It is a magical place and I tried to let it conduct me.”

The album is available in hard copy as vinyl only but is also available as a free download (!!!!) at the link below.  But there is a button for leaving Sollee "a tip".  Don't hesitate to leave what you think is fair for the album.  After hearing it you'll know it was worth every dollar, and much more.  It is so, so fine.  
Free Download of The Hollow Sessions here
Amos Lee's Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song has blown me away.  I received it for a Christmas present and I've been listening to it nonstop pretty much ever since.  I'm not just saying this:  every song is excellent. I can't recommend this record highly enough.  Go. Get. It.  The title track features Patty Griffin and will slay you.  But every track on the album will.  
I left this next one off my first list because I was thinking of it as a reissue but I don't know what I was thinking.  It's simply a collection of songs never before released, so it belongs on my favorites list, too.  That'd be the latest one by Daniel Martin Moore, Archives Vol. 1. Moore's singing and picking is gentle and soothing and can smooth our your whole day.  This album is a balm.  Here's one of the tracks, this one featuring Joan Shelley (other guests on the album include Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Ben Sollee, Dan Dorff, and others).  
I can't believe I didn't originally include The Quiltbox Sessions by Dan Dorff and Ronnie Kuller because it really sustained me throughout this year and has been a favorite ever since its release earlier this year.  The reason I left it off my first list is simply because I had it in my head that it was released in 2012.   It's the perfect record for writing.  Or driving.   Or anything, really.  These meditations on piano, fiddle, and accordion are the perfect soundtrack for your day.  Here's a favorite (a tango) from the album:
And you can download the whole record here.  
Last but not least is one of the most rocking, emotional, and fun albums of the year.  Marshall Chapman is a firecracker, and her latest offering, Blaze of Glory, showcases all of her raw talent in a steady stream that will have you stomping your foot and maybe shedding a tear, too.  American Songwriter hailed it as one of the finest singer-songwriter albums of the year, and I couldn't agree more.  Although Marshall is one of my favorite singers, songwriters, and people I hadn't heard the album properly until recently.  And now I can't stop listening to it. Buy it! 
I hope you enjoy the wealth of great music out there that never gets played on the radio simply because it's too real and good for mainstream taste.   

People like Jason Isbell, Nicki Bluhm, Valerie June, Jim James and others show up on Part One of my Favorite Music of 2013.