It's that time of the year: time for top 10 lists, time to start gearing up for awards season, and picking the contenders and ensuring we shout their names in all caps from behind our laptops, and a time for critics to champion our favorite movies and performances -- which is why I think it's time to take a look back at my favorite female-centric (and gender politic-centric) films and female performances of 2013.
Neil LaBute's 'Some Velvet Morning' stars Alice Eve as Velvet, a high-priced escort treated to a surprise afternoon visit by her former love interest, Fred (Stanley Tucci), who has just left his wife. But as the afternoon progresses and the history between the two comes into focus, a darkness blooms. This clever, jarring film examines the expectations placed on women, the roles we choose for ourselves, relationship ideology, and if our allowances entitle others to more than we are willing to give.
'S#x Acts' ('Six Acts'), the Israeli drama so provocatively named as to immediately and directly conjure the title 'Sex Acts,' follows teenager Gili, a new high school transfer who sets about trying to charm the boys at her school by seducing them. Her story is told in chapters, punctuated by sexual encounters that escalate in their increasing intensity and discomfort. 'S#x Acts' is a subtle film that provokes questions about female agency and pressure, and investigates what happens when the lines between "want," "desire" and "should" on a young woman's moral compass become hopelessly blurred.
Your imaginary best friend/girlfriend/not-so-imaginary idol Jennifer Lawrence is making the press rounds to promote 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' this week, and home girl is being asked your typical redundant questions by the pop press -- What is up with your hair cut? What's it like to have an Oscar now? What is up with your hair cut? What's it like to work with such amazing actors? What is your fitness regimen for 'The Hunger Games'? But really, what is up with your hair cut?
There were a couple of questions Lawrence was asked this week that stood out -- female-centric questions, of course -- and that further prove that actresses aren't being asked the same questions as their male peers. And that's not really fair.
The movie may be called 'Thor: The Dark World,' and fans are certainly buying tickets to see Thor and Loki get into some serious Asgardian action, but it's the women of the film who are really kicking ass. The clever Jane Foster, the warrior Sif, Thor's mom, and even comedic relief Darcy are dialed into the action much more this time around, giving them equal stature among their male counterparts and proving once again that when it comes to female heroes, Marvel does it right.
'You're Next,' which hits theaters today, is an inventive, fresh, clever and incredibly engaging new horror film from Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard. While it has so much going for it to make it one of the most original horror films in recent memory, there's one crucial element that sets it apart (and above) its horror forebears: the reinvention of the "final girl" trope. Goodbye, final girl. Hello, final woman.
Richard Linklater brings his 'Before' trilogy to close this week with 'Before Midnight,' in which we pick up with Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) 10 years after the second film. 'Before Sunrise' found our characters making an unlikely, serendipitous connection; 'Before Sunset' examined how they evolved 10 years later, and whether that initial connection could stand the test of time; and 'Before Midnight' gives us an incredibly honest portrait of relationships.