This is the best movie of 2013. Or maybe the best of all the movies of 2013. Or maybe they're the same thing.

Notes from the editor:

If you wanted to get some insight into why I made certain choices in the video, here’s a wall of text just for you.

Part 1: Words

Every story starts with a teller. Every movie begins with a script. The idea of creating a rhythm of tapping keys was an exciting and risky prospect – not to start with music at all, just the sound of typing: the sound of a movie taking shape.

“Words are life. If your eyes could speak, what would they say?” this line from The Book Thief encapsulates why I think self expression (and films as an extension of that) is so important. Words are a social agreement between people to share the otherwise inexpressible.

Some people don’t feel like they have a story to tell. They’ve “never been anywhere noteworthy or mentionable.” But that’s not really true. And so begins a journey into the places we have been…as transported by film.

Part 2: Origins

I’d be remiss if I didn’t take full advantage of all the pretty scope-y space shots from this year’s movies, amirite? For this section I wanted to start grand and slow. Show the genesis of the world. The world was there and then we showed up, self-aware and asking questions about our own existence.

Part 3: Evil

Evil is at times cartoonish in film – externalized to the point where right and wrong are as simple as black and white. Of course we hate evil, it is ugly and repulsive. Of course we love our hero, he is attractive and Tom Cruise. What I tried to do here is to probe further and look at our natural vulnerability to evil.

Short Term 12 was one of my favorite films from 2013, and I knew right away that I wanted to use Marcus’ rap somewhere in this piece. “Look into my eyes so you know what it’s like.” We all know what it’s like to crave the wrong things for the wrong reasons and to make excuses to justify hurting others. Visually, I run through the seven deadly sins: greed, pride, lust, gluttony, sloth, wrath, and envy.

Part 4: Death and Love

“If you ride like lightning, you’re gonna crash like thunder.”

Here’s where we take a look at death and what it means to us.

“They say we die twice: once when the breath leaves our body, and once when the last person we know says our name.”

When we go, we’ll be missed most by those who truly knew and loved us. Using Fruitvale Station here was deliberate, as the film tells the story of Oscar Grant whose life was tragically taken by a police officer in 2009, leaving behind a young daughter.

So we are left, and lonely. And we dream of a better life. Evil’s still kicking around in the world and oppression happens. Broken people breaking others, creating a vicious cycle of suffering, revenge, and fear. The only hope we have of breaking out of it is something innate in all of us: our irrational impulse towards love and forgiveness.

And indeed love is found everywhere, across every genre from action blockbusters to independent art house flicks, and it’s that mysterious force that holds us together and pushes us beyond our limits. The strangest thing of all is that true love is paradoxically also death – death to yourself. A willingness to ignore selfish desires and to sacrifice everything you have for the good of others. It’s absolute insanity and yet we don’t doubt that it exists, that we spend our whole lives looking for it, and that to find it is to find our life’s purpose.

Part 5: Time

I’d always wanted to play with the concept of time and aging, and found the lyrics to St. Lucia’s “The Way You Remember Me” to be perfect for it (plus the song’s just super happymaking). We’re constantly dealing with the passage of time, whether we’re goading it onwards as kids or fighting against it as adults. Tied to our relationship with time is the concept of memories: we create memories through time – they shape our identities and our motivations, but we also become them in time – we are part of other people’s memories and help shape their lives. The question then, is what do we do with that kind of power?

“If you destroy an entire generation of people’s culture, it’s as if they never existed.” This line sets up the stakes – culture is a way we remember ourselves, and that’s why it’s important to preserve it.

The whole run of life stages was super fun to cut. It’s quick and incessant to illustrate the fleeting and unstoppable quality of time. Eventually, old age strikes and you’re sitting around wondering, “what did I do with all that time?”

Ultimately, it’s all about the memories you create and the impact you make on the people around you. And the point is…a life worth living is a life given to others. Filmmakers have given their talent, time, and energy to entertain us, to widen our scope, and to teach us things. What’s our way of passing that on?

    AuthorSheffield Leithart