Best Films of 2013 So Far: The Halfies

Today is 1 July 2013. We are halfway through the year in film. In another six months, I'll be handing out the Sketchys for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence. But why wait until then? There are some great films that will undoubtedly be forgotten by year's end and not make anyone's list, myself included.

These are the nominations and awards I would hand out today if the film year ended 1 July. I'm limiting the nominations to things that I assume would hold up at the end of the year, so I will not go to five or 10 nominees just to have five or 10 nominees.

Today we're going to look at the Best Films of 2013 So Far. This is the start of the Halfies. They're just like the Sketchys, only much shorter.

10: Much Ado About Nothing, Release Date: 7 June 2013

Much Ado About Nothing Halfies Film

Joss Whedon strikes gold in a hilarious and deeply emotional adaptation of Shakespeare's famed comedy. The slapstick humor fueled by non-stop liquor sets the text off perfectly. The only thing greater than the comedy is the execution of the tragic downswing at the wedding before the requisite happily ever after.

Original Review, 7/10

9: This Is the End, Release Date: 12 June 2013

This Is the End Halfies Film

No, I did not anticipate a comedy where young Hollywood actors play heightened versions of themselves during the Apocalypse to be any good. It is. It's very good. It's funny, it's sharp, it's incredibly stylish, and the structure of the story is sound. The moral is never preachy and is used to great comedic effect as the characters begin to learn lessons when all hell literally breaks loose in the third act.

Original Review, 7/10

8: Mud, Release Date: 26 April 2013

Mud Halfies Film

Mud is not the most adventurous film on the list. It has great cinematography. The acting is superb. It's one of the more inventive slice of life/coming of age stories to come out in a long time. It's just a little too slow and safe to punch its way further up the list.

Original Review, 8/10

7: The East, Release Date: 31 May 2013

The East Halfies Film

Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij are a perfect artistic partnership. Their shared vision comes across for a second time with a brilliantly directed piece of suspense/thriller cinema about an anarchist collective called The East. Aside from an overplayed and ineffective romantic subplot, the film is tight as a drum and haunting in the best way possible.

Original Review, 8/10

6: Trance, Release Date: 5 April 2013

Trance Halfies Film

This quiet little psychological thriller about an art heist that went so smoothly the thief forgot where the hidden painting is stashed is stunning. From the supersaturated underground crime circle to the neo-Realist dream landscapes and galleries, it's a gorgeous film. The acting is top-notch and the twist in the screenplay is unpredictable but not so random it detracts from the integrity of the piece.

Original Review, 8/10

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5: Resolution, Release Date: 25 January 2013

Resolution Halfies Film

Resolution is a mind-bending horror film about perception. How much of reality do we see because we choose to see it that way? If someone showed you video footage of your own life immediately after you lived in a moment, would it change how you view reality? And what if the footage continued past the present and into the future? Could you change it if you wanted to?

Original Review, 8/10

4: The Iceman, Release Date: 3 May 2013

The Iceman Halfies Film

It's been quite some time since we've had a mob drama this good released in theaters. The Iceman delivers on the promise of telling the story of one of NJ's most notorious hitmen. Everything is held together by the effortless trio of Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, and Chris Evans. The period and location authenticity raises it above so many other mafia stories that feel too generic to be threatening.

Original Review, 9/10

3: Warm Bodies, Release Date: 1 February 2013

Warm Bodies Halfies Film

Sure, Warm Bodies is Romeo & Juliet retold during the zombie apocalypse. Yes, the lead characters are named Juliet and R. Yes, it is an adaptation of a YA novel that I mocked for years because zombie/human romance is a ridiculous concept. Yet, writer/director Jonathan Levine's spin on the zombie and romance genres is a breath of fresh air in two flatlining genres. If every horror and romance film was this well-executed (great style, excellent music, perfect casting, committed background actors, subtle CGI effects, actual stakes to latch onto), the Oscars would be forced to nominate them more often.

Original Review, 9/10

2: Frances Ha, Release Date: 17 May 2013

Frances Ha Halfies Film

This one is totally personal bias and I won't apologize for it. I fell hard for a really honest look at a struggling artist trying everything she can to make her dreams come true. It's the quintessential NYC experience all the performing arts schools in the world don't want you to know about. We're not all going to make it when we graduate no matter how talented we are. If we never learn to survive outside of the artistic sphere, we're never going to grow. France Ha captures that with a wry wit and expressive black and white cinematography.

Original Review, 9/10

1: Stoker, 1 March 2013

Stoker Halfies Film

Chan-wook Park is a wonderful director who finally had a chance to direct a film specifically for English-language markets. Look at the talent he attracted to this project: Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman, Oscar-nominee Jacki Weaver, and new Hollywood it-girl Mia Wasikowski to name a few. Park set his sights on bringing Wentworth Miller's brilliant remix of Edgar Allan Poe (the film riffs on "The Tell-Tale Heart," "Berenice," and "Ligeia," among others) to life with excess. The lead can see and hear things better than anyone else, allowing a flower dancing in the wind to sound like a tornado and the color of the sky to be so bright it burns. It's a brilliant approach to modern Gothic and all the pieces fall together perfectly.

Original Review, 10/10

What are your favorite films of 2013 so far? Share them in the comments below.

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