Amy Adams

2013 was a year brimming with fantastic films that both entertained and resonated with audiences — so much so that the films of this year couldn’t be limited to a traditional top 10 list; a list of 10 simply won’t even scratch the surface. Even with 15, and another 10 honorable mentions, there are still another two dozen or so films worth mentioning, and that alone qualifies 2013 as one of the most impressive film years of our lifetimes as of yet. 

The Daily Texan created a list of the top 15 films of 2013, starting with Spike Jonze’s unconventional, futuristic love story, “Her.”

1. “Her”

2013 was a year of great love stories in film, with the authenticity of “The Spectacular Now,” the audacity of “Blue is the Warmest Color” and the bracing realism of “Before Midnight” all shining for their intimate portrayals of relationships. Spike Jonze’s “Her,” though, stands at the top. “Her” is an unconventional romance between a man and his computer executed with wit, heart and intelligence. Bolstered by a stunning duet of performances from Scarlett Johansson and Joaquin Phoenix, “Her” isn’t just a great movie; it’s the best film of 2013.

Jonze crafts a wholly plausible future in which operating systems have evolved far past Siri, programmed so effectively that they become sentient. The lonely, recently divorced Theodore (Phoenix) purchases one on a whim but is surprised when Samantha (Johansson) proves to be a vibrant, inquisitive presence, rather than a product. Despite the massive logical problems, the two fall in love, and, as Theodore wrestles with the concept of dating an invisible presence, Samantha’s thirst for life and knowledge threatens to overwhelm them both.

Samantha starts off as half computer and half therapist, but as she grows, so does the scope of Jonze’s thematic intentions. He gives insightful life to concepts easily taken for granted, such as memory or desire, and every one of Samantha’s discoveries feels like a layer of the human mind, peeled back and examined. Johansson’s purely vocal performance is astounding, and, removed from any physical screen time, Johansson gives her best performance yet. She conveys tenderness, joy and regret with previously untapped depth, and she plays off of Phoenix beautifully.

Phoenix, meanwhile, is quickly emerging as one of cinema’s great chameleons, able to completely immerse himself in any role given to him. His sensitive performance here is incredible, complementing a disembodied voice with wit and creating scenes that are not just believable but human and vital. 

The rest of the women in Theodore’s life are equally well-cast. Amy Adams finishes off a great year of performances with a warm, uncharacteristically funny turn as a friend of Theodore. Rooney Mara, playing his ex-wife, gives a performance defined by its stark juxtapositions — loving and gentle when viewed through the rosy filter of memory yet complex and frustrated in reality and equally authentic in both modes. Olivia Wilde also shines in a short sequence as a wounded young woman set up on a blind date with Theodore. 

Directing from his own script, Jonze brings a graceful, effortless intelligence to “Her,” and every sci-fi concept he introduces is creatively and thoughtfully explored. The future he creates is one that feels realistic but hopeful — every aspect of life a bit sleeker and warmer. The film’s central relationship, the tricky dynamic around which “Her” hinges, is a beautifully observed romance that uses the absurdity of its concept to get at some profound truths about the beginnings and endings of love. Also worth commending are the gorgeous cinematography from Hoyte Van Hoytema, blending the skylines of Los Angeles and Shanghai to create a beautiful metropolis, accompanied with a lovely score from Arcade Fire.

“Her” is a gamble: a film with a laughable concept that works thanks to a wholly honest execution, a script brimming with smart ideas and uniformly excellent, low-key performances. It’s a work of surprising creativity and shattering empathy, and it uses its high concept to tell a nakedly personal story packed with so much wisdom and feeling that it becomes universal. It’s hard to judge what a film’s legacy will be so close to its release, but, if there’s any justice in the world, “Her” will be regarded as a classic, a science-fiction film that wears its heart on its sleeve, and a relevant, heartfelt masterpiece.

2. “The Spectacular Now” 

The year’s most authentic romance perfectly captures the soaring highs and shattering lows of first love and growing up, anchored by two incredible performances from Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley. Teller, in particular, is fascinating, harnessing his character’s self-destructive impulses into a hurricane of boozy charisma, while Woodley’s unguarded vulnerability and warmth allow the two to build a tender, fragile intimacy. Supporting work from Bob Odenkirk, Brie Larson and Mary Elizabeth Winstead bring melancholy touches, but the movie’s most profoundly emotional moments come from these wounded, delicate kids finding something to love in each other.

3. “Short Term 12”

Brie Larson’s natural, warm, perfectly calibrated performance as Grace, a supervisor in a halfway home for at-risk kids, is only the beginning of what’s great about “Short Term 12.” The film brings viewers into the lives of these kids and plays out with genuine emotion, effortlessly breaking our hearts with something as simple as a character detail clicking into place. Keith Stanfield, Kaitlyn Dever and John Gallagher Jr. all stand out in a stacked supporting cast, their arcs playing out with an eye for powerful moments that truly bring us into the characters’ psyches, each big scene hammering home what a fantastic, big-hearted film this is.

4. “Gravity”

This is movie magic in its truest sense, taking Hollywood actors to space without ever leaving Earth. After Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is set adrift in space, her struggle to survive makes for the year’s most essential cinematic experience, a dazzling advancement of technology that redefines what film can and can’t do. Director Alfonso Cuaron cultivates a consistent sense of panic, drawing both wonder and terror out of the depths of space. Bullock shines as a rookie astronaut in a horrible situation, while George Clooney is tailor-suited for the role of the unflappable veteran astronaut that helps her along. 

5. “Stories We Tell”

It takes true fortitude for a filmmaker to turn the camera on themselves, but Sarah Polley did just that in “Stories We Tell,” a fascinating documentary that’s equal parts memoir and mystery. As Polley tries to find out who her true father is, she also unearths interesting, candid truths about her family and about storytelling in general. It’s a meticulously structured, nuanced and effortlessly wise work that not only tells the story of a family but even examines some of the underlying themes in Polley’s own work. “Stories We Tell” is a reflective documentary that never becomes self-impressed, but it does establish Polley as one of the most interesting filmmakers working today.

6. Before Midnight

Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater’s third installment in the “Before” trilogy finds Jesse and Celine’s relationship straining under the weight of a few years, and the collaboration between the three has never been stronger. Both characters are so completely realized by Hawke and Delpy that their performances barely register. These are real people who only happen to exist in celluloid. A lengthy argument between the two late in the film is one of the year’s most harrowing sequences, with Delpy turning in a bold, passionate performance and Hawke perfectly blending frustration and flippancy, before ending on a heart-warming, surprisingly optimistic note.

7. The Wolf of Wall Street

A perfect example of everyone involved in a film firing on all cylinders to make a spectacular, pointed critique of one of America’s self-assigned blind spots. This kinetic, wildly entertaining work from cinematic master Martin Scorsese condemns through staging moments of hilarious debauchery with stunning precision. Leonardo DiCaprio does the best work of his career as Belfort, including a spurt of physical comedy that will go down in the history books, but Jonah Hill comes stunningly close to stealing the show with his hilarious brand of improv.

8. Inside Llewyn Davis

The Coen Brothers are at their most melancholy with “Inside Llewyn Davis,” a quiet look at the folk scene of the 1960s. Oscar Isaac wholly embodies the lead character, effortlessly and perfectly bringing every frustration, regret and rare moment of self-awareness to life. John Goodman and Carey Mulligan are both suitably acidic as comedic foils the universe throws at Llewyn, and frequent musical collaborator T-Bone Burnett lends his talents to the year’s best soundtrack, a soulful collection of authentic folk songs as catchy as they are memorable. 

9. Spring Breakers

A film about lifestyle more than characters, Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers” is the year’s most entertaining indictment. The woozy spring break plays like a half-formed memory at times, its disorienting dialogue and neon-drenched aesthetic coyly disguising its sharp critique of modern youth. James Franco has received lots of attention for his absolutely demented performance as Alien, a sleazy drug dealer who doubles as Korine’s thesis statement. He truly energizes the film, even lending his dulcet tones to a hilariously bizarre rendition of Britney Spears’ “Everytime” that gives the film its most memorable sequence.

10. 12 Years a Slave

This quietly horrifying account of America’s most despicable history is an undeniably vital film. Chiwetal Ejiofor gives the sort of soulful performance that defines careers, and Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson and newcomer Lupita Nyongo all do essential, often painful but effective work. John Ridley’s script is equally strong, appropriate to its period setting but never antiquated, and Steve McQueen’s direction is perfectly measured, capturing the horrors of slavery without reveling in them and balancing its most painful moments with the smallest of triumphs.

11. The Conjuring

A modern horror classic, “The Conjuring” is a masterpiece of craft, with each bone-chilling horror piece immaculately constructed and populated with likable characters. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga nail the procedural elements of their ghost hunter characters, but it’s Lili Taylor’s battered performance as a haunted mother that gives the film heart and stakes.

12. The World’s End

For a melancholy rumination on adulthood and alcoholism, “The World’s End” is also a ton of fun. Simon Pegg’s manic performance grounds an impressive ensemble, but Nick Frost emerges the year’s most unlikely action hero once the film’s creative, challenging science fiction concerns come to the surface.

13. Mud

Jeff Nichols’ deliberate script and lush visuals made the familiar riveting again in his Southern-twanged coming-of-age story. Matthew McConaughey continues his rise to one of Hollywood’s best actors as a snaggletoothed fugitive, while Tye Sheridan perfectly embodies reluctantly fleeting innocence as the boy who agrees to help him. 

14. Stoker

Chan-wook Park’s American debut was a gleeful perversion of Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt,” an exhilarating visual puzzle with atmosphere to spare and some of the year’s most memorable images. Mia Wasikowska fearlessly comes into her own as a young girl struggling with her father’s death, while Matthew Goode chills as her predatory uncle.

15. American Hustle

It’s all about the performances in David O. Russell’s endlessly entertaining caper. Amy Adams leads an excellent cast with a performance of pure confidence, while Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper both do electric work and heat-seeking missile Jennifer Lawrence takes her handful of scenes by storm. 

Honorable Mentions

The Act of Killing - A tough but essential documentary

Blue is the Warmest Color - An admirably epic love story

The Broken Circle Breakdown - A rollicking heartbreaker

Captain Phillips - Tom Hanks’ finest hour

Frances Ha - Greta Gerwig beats Lena Dunham at her own game

Fruitvale Station - Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler single-handedly drive up tissue sales

Furious 6 - Top-notch action film with extra cheese

The Hunt - Sobering, fascinating study of a community in chaos

Prisoners - Tough, moody, and gorgeously filmed procedural 

You’re Next” - Pulpy, surprisingly witty horror fun 

Director/producer Ben Affleck accepts the award for best picture for "Argo" during theOscars at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday Feb. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Photo Credit: AP Exchange | Daily Texan Staff

This live blog was written during the 2013 Academy Awards.  It is a live, slightly snarky feed of everything that happened and did not happen at this year's Academy Awards. 

11:01 In the most annoying way possible, the 2013 Academy Awards end with the ever grating Kristin Chenoweth and Seth MacFarlane. They sing some horrible song which reminds us only of how horrible things were before they started awarding the good statues. 

10:54 The Oscar for BEST MOTION PICTURE is awarded to ARGO presented by Michelle Obama. These producers are all strange men who don't know where to stand. Oh, except best beard George Clooney who's looking great.  Ben also has a beard. He could be nominated. He makes Jennifer Garner cry, and all of us cry, and even himself cry a little. 

10:52 Jack Nicholson announces Michelle Obama on screen from the White House. Rocking her bangs and a beautiful silver dress, Michelle deserves this honor. She should probably win. She plugs how important arts are to our country, and she is right.

10:45 Meryl Streep arrives in a very sparkly dress to present the award for BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE. The Oscar goes to Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln over Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook, Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables, Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, Denzel Washington in Flight.  He is the first actor to win three Oscars in the BEST ACTOR category. There is a standing ovation, and he looks so happy he almost looks miserable. Unlike our girl Lawrence, Day Lewis has his speech together. He thanks Abraham Lincoln.

10:40 The Oscar for BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE goes to Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook over Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty, Emmanuelle Rivera for Amour, Quvenzhane Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Naomi Watts for the Impossible. She almost falls in her hurry up the stairs and receives a standing ovation. "This is nuts," she says, and nuts it is. Every Oscar pool is ruined by this point. Jennifer Larence looks incredible, Bradley Cooper looks so proud. Lawrence is totally scattered and has no speech. She was obviously not expecting that. 

10:32 Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas arrive to present the Oscar for BEST DIRECTOR to Ang Lee for LIFE OF PI for their FOURTH Oscar of the night. Lee thanks the movie god and thanks the 3,000 people who worked with him on Life of Pi. 

10:26 BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY is awarded to Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained. Tarantino is a total bozo. He's rambling about character choosing, and calling himself awesome for his casting choices. He "peace out"s the audience.

10:22 Seth. Please stop. Dustin Hoffman and Charlize Theron arrive with a massive height disparity to present the award for BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY goes to Argo by Chris Terrio.  He apparently sprinted to the stage. What is this bad situation? Can you tell us that story? 

10:08 The cast of Chicago appears on stage to present the Oscar for BEST MOVIE SCORE to Life of Pi. Richard Gere makes a joke. It's funnier than anything MacFarland has said. Which is to say, marginally funny. Life of Pi is sweeping up Oscars. Norah Jones arrives on stage she looks nothing like herself. Is she even famous anymore? The Oscar for BEST ORIGINAL SONG goes to Skyfall by Adele who apparently has a last name. It is her first Academy Award. She cries immediately. Some other bro is there. He did something. He does not cry. 

10:01 Another not Beyonce arrives, this time in the form of Barbara Streisand. She receives a standing ovation. Take that Adele.

9:57 Beard number 1 aka George Clooney arrives for "In Memoriam." He says we could dedicate an entire show to it, you know, a show that NO ONE would watch. 

9:50 Selma Hayek looks like she tried to dress up as Cleopatra for a sorority Halloween party. They recap some Governor's Awards, which goes to people who love movies and have done great things for film. No one explains why they are called "Governor's."

9:48 Daniel Radcliffe and Kristen Stewart arrive on stage. Fittingly, the Harry Potter music plays. Stewart looks like she walked through some brush backstage and got her hair sucked into a whirlpool. They present the Oscar for PRODUCTION DESIGN to Lincoln. Christoph returns to the screen from earlier, and we still love him. 

9:43 Nicole Kidman shows us the next three Best Picture nominees with Silver Lining Playbook, Django Unchained, and Amour. Despite Argo's editing win and thus my prediction for best picture, Silver Lining Playbook was by far my favorite of the nominations. 

9:35 Jennifer Lawrence introduces Adele to sing "Skyfall." Adele looks like the sky fell onto her dress. There is no standing ovation for Adele. She is the first singing number to not receive one. The COLD SHOULDER award goes to Adele.

9:32 Sandra Bullock presents the award for FILM EDITING goes to William Goldenberg for Argo

9:29 The Academy Preseident takes the stage and explains a future Oscar museum. It will be the "first of it's kind." It sounds like a museum. REPRESENT. Jennifer Brofer of UT AUSTIN is on the stage!

9:23 Anne Hathaway thanks everyone and bows to her competitors. She is--as she has been since her transformation into Princess Mia--eloquent, elegent, and beautiful. She thanks her husband, who is teary. Who knew Anne Hathaway had a husband!? 

9:20 MacFarlane tries to convince us the Von Trapps are coming. His jokes are all bad. I am not laughing. Christopher Plummer joins us on stage. People laugh at his jokes. He says he has 30 films coming and we are ready for all of them. He presents the Oscar for BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE. It goes to Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables over Amy Adams for the Master, Sally Field for Lincoln, Helen Hunt for The Sessions, and Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook. 

9:17 The JAWS wrap it up music is old. 

9:09 Facial hair is really back. Everyone is bearded. Beards, beards, beards, beards, beards. There is some learning going on now which is kind of a bummer, but not as much of a bummer as MacFarlane. Mark Wahlberg comes to the stage with some bear that was in a movie that no one saw. The Oscar for BEST SOUND MIXING goes to Les Miserables. The Oscar for SOUND EDITING  is a tie. WHAT? Is this soccer!? This is art. Can't we just be judgement about these subjective things.  The first goes to Zero Dark Thirty and the second goes to Skyfall.

9:01 The musical tribute moves to Les Mis. Hugh Jackman's voice is still not good enough for this role. Also, facial hair, facial hair everywhere. Anne Hathaway is beautiful. Her lip quivers with "One Day More." Samantha Barkman looks like she could be the American Kate Middleton. The entire cast of Les Mis is on stage, and they look just as upset as they did in the movie. French flags drop from the ceiling. They receive the second standing ovation of the night. 

9:00 Still "not Beyonce" continues to sing. Girl's got pipes, but no Blue Ivy. 

8:53 John Travolta lists 1,000 names for a tribute to great musicals. He mispronounces Catherine Zeta Jones's name, but it doesn't matter because she's on stage, and she looks awesome.  No one knows why someone who is NOT BEYONCE is singing the Dreamgirls tribute. Where is Beyonce? Where is she? 

8:49 Seth MacFarlane compares the Oscars to church, which is maybe possible since he's offending everyone. Jennifer Garner is wearing all the diamonds. BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM goes to AMOUR which is unsurprising because, I don't know, they're nominated for best picture. He thanks his wife and its adorable. 

8:42 Ben Affleck is bringing facial hair back. The Oscar for BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE goes to Searching for Sugarman by two men whose names were not on the screen for long enough for me to figure out how to spell them. The JAWS theme song returns, and they leave. 

8:37 Liam Neeson gives us three more previews for best picture with Argo,  Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty. Liam Neeson could have probably also played Lincoln. 

8:32 Kerry Washington and Jamie Foxx arrive to present BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM to Curfew by Sean Christensen. He notes his short time window, salutes someone, thanks his "devishly handsom father," and leaves. The Oscar for BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT goes to Inocente by Shaun Fine and Andrea Nix Fine. They talk about supporting the arts and the music plays even though Amy Adams eyes are welling and we all love her so much. 

8:21 Hallie Berry appears to celebrate the 50th anniversary of James Bond in motion pictures. There is, of course, a play by play of Bond girls in bikinis, some explosions, some car chases, and more Bond girls. Some lady appears dressed like an Oscar statue to sing about Bond. My guess is that this is about the time for Meryl Streep to arrive late with Starbucks in hand during the standing ovation.

8:16  Seth MacFarlane looks like a longer-haired Ken doll, and has about the same sense of humor. Channing Tatum and Jennifer Aniston arrive on stage, thank god. No one looks good in this lighting. The Oscar for ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN goes to Jaqueline Duran for Anna Karenina.  Who is all of our hero since she also did Atonement and Pride and Predjudice. The Oscar for ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP AND HAIR STYLING goes to Lisa Westcott and Julie Darnell for their face dirt application in  Les Miserables. One of them appears to be wearing pink jeans. Who doesn't know Oscar dress code!? 

8:09 The award for ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS, which is maybe the same award as cinematography with totally different nominees(?), goes to Life of Pi again, because it was beautiful. The first of these award winers tries to make a joke about meta-reality, literally no one laughs.  He keeps talking over increadibly loud "wrap it up music" because despite the Oscar's faking love for visual effects, they really don't care. 

8:06 Samuel L. Jackson is in a red velvet blazer. The Avengers present the award for ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY, aka pretty movie award, to Claudio Miranda for Life of Pi. He is rambling about how much he loves his movie and getting teary. "Oh my god, I can't even speak," he says, which is kind of true.  

8:00 Reese Witherspoon joins us with perfect hair waves. She talks about the Best Picture Nominees. We see previews for Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Beasts of the Southern Wild. MacFarlane calls Jennifer Lawrence old, and makes jokes on the expense of the nine year old.  He is the worst, but he welcomes six of the Avengers, which we like--mostly because he's leaving. 

7:55 Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy join us with the gold envelope for some jokes. The award for BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM goes to "Paperman" by John Kahrs. It is his first Academy Award and nomination. His speech is short and sweet, he's no Christopher Waltz. The BEST ANIMATED FILM award goes to Brave  Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman. Andrews has on a kilt, which no one "just happens to be wearing." 

7:47 We finally get Octavia Spencer with a gold envelope for ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE. And the Oscar goes to Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained. He bows to his competitors and tears up in his speech behind his thick rimmed black glasses. He looks genuinely surprised, and gives an inspiring speech.   Everyone falls in love with Christoph Waltz.

7:45 This intro is still going. It shouldn't be.

7:38 There is an inappropriate "fake" musical number titled "We saw your boobs." This intro is rough. MacFarlane asks how to fix this and the answer is hidden from everyone. He introduces Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron to dance to "The Way You Look Tonight."  Channing Tatum can dance, but MacFarlane still can't sing.  He welcomes Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt to dance and sing with him. I'm ignoring everyone but Gordon-Levitt.

7:30 We are welcomed to the Oscars by our host Seth MacFarlane. For the first time, the Oscars has a theme "music in films." Probably because Adele is here. MacFarlane makes a couple of jokes that do actually seem funny, but he introduces the Oscars with some sort of roll call that allows him to make these jokes. He makes a slavery joke. Is this okay? He moves on to Django Unchained and also makes a Chris Brown Rihanna reference. A screen descends behind him with Star Trek's Captain Kirk to stop him from "destroying the Academy Awards." Kirk asks "why can't Tina and Amy host everything?" which is really all any of us want. 

7:22 Every red carpet host is incredibly awkward. At the five minute mark we are inside some producing truck where everyone looks awkward. Queen Latifah manages to interact with them like they are normal, and it is an incredibly feat of acting on her part. They are now sitting down, and the real show will start soon. Chenoweth brings up Texas football, and it's horrible. 

7:15 Jamie Foxx really embarrasses his 19 year old college daughter who looks very uncomfortable and unhappy. She looks like someone stole her smile while her father hits on the interviewer. The camera cuts away from some of the most brilliant television drama the Oscars has seen thus far to visit Daniel Day Lewis who is a snooze in comparison.

7:12 Anne Hathaway gives us a preview that the cast will be performing. Kristin Chenoweth's voice still feels like a cheese grater. Especially as she tells Hathaway akwardly that "her hair is growing back nicely." There is a "magic" box they are trying to get us behind. Anne Hathaway guesses that Dorothy's slippers are in there, and people say bad things about the Smithsonian and I cry. 

7:05 George Clooney is unamused with everyone's antics because he's been in Berlin. He promises to drink and makes snarky faces at the hosts, but looks very very nice in his tux.  When Sandra Bullock is interviewed, there are a lot of weird things going on with the sound including Kristin Chenoweth's weird mousy voice. 

7:01 Jennifer Anniston calls the Oscars, "ya know, a magical piece of time," but does say that she will only be attending only one party in her red Valentino dress. The only important people thus far are named Jennifer. The Garner Jennifer claims that she's "just a puddle," which is kind of what the back of her purple dress looks like.   

6:55 Best Dressed has gone to Jennifer Lawrence. No one is quite sure who decided this. Amy Adams and Anne Hathaway were given honorable mentions.