Jeff & Sara's Top Ten 2013: Number 6

Posted 5:25 PM January 1st, 2014 by Binh Ngo

2014 is here and so are Jeff & Sara's number 6. Gravity and Charles Bradley: Soul of America are their picks for this spot.

Gravity is Alfonso Cuaron's long-awaited movie after wowing audiences with 2006's Children of Men. Sandra Bullock plays a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission. George Clooney as a veteran astronaut accompanies her for the ride. An accident left them stranded in space, tethered to nothing but each other.

Charles Bradley: Soul of America is documentary about singer Charles Bradley, who at 62 years of age released his debut album No Time for Dreaming, after performing James Brown covers for nearly half a century.

With a Tomatometer at 97%, Gravity is one of the best-reviewed movies of 2013, which is impressive considering it's big-budgeted blockbuster made for mass consumption. With a worldwide box office of over $642M, Gravity is also one of the top grossing movies of 2013 as well.

As for Charles Bradley: Soul of America, the only way to see it is on VOD services like iTunes and Amazon. I don't believe it was ever released in theaters outside the film festivals.

Here are the trailers:

Charles Bradley

Binh: Gravity is going to win a couple of awards this year, so I'm not surprised it's on your list, Sara. Tell us why it deserves a spot on your top ten list.

Sara: I know I wasn't alone being blown away by Gravity and I don't think my reason for putting it on my 10 is so special or personal, but I do think it's a stunning picture, one that often made me feel like I was on a theme park ride I really wanted to get off--and the film's only like 89 minutes long or something. Gravity's calculated moments of transcendence and error (water on the lens) were meant to create the sensation of wonder in life and it was just dreamy--and effective. In many ways it reminded me of It's a Wonderful Life--but with a lot less crying and no community to speak of.

Binh: Wow, Gravity is a more minimalistic It's a Wonder Life. Okay! Why am I not surprised, Jeff? Charles Bradley: Soul of America is deserving because...?

Jeff: What can I say, guys? This was a great year for music documentaries. Charles Bradley: Soul of America has a little less music than most -- in fact, I'd argue it's almost more of a social documentary, in that it follows its subject's journey through a gut-wrenchingly sad childhood, his struggle through ongoing poverty, and what seems to be an against-all-odds singing career, all while highlighting Bradley's kindness and overwhelming compassion. He sleeps on a mattress and can barely read, and I think anybody watching this movie can learn from Bradley...while thinking about what his story means for the country as a whole. As I wrote in my review:

"When he takes the stage late in the film and kicks off a performance of his song 'Why Is It So Hard' -- with its opening line, 'Why is it so hard to make it in America?' -- it doesn't register as a complaint, but a piercingly honest question. In a country where simple dedication and honest labor are supposed to be your keys to the gateway of success, and where God-given talent is supposed to be held at a premium, why are we only just now hearing the music of Charles Bradley? Soul of America is an inspirational movie, but it's also a damning indictment of the status quo."

Binh: Sara, most memorable scene in Gravity?

Sara: It had me gripped at the opening shrapnel shower. Poor Indian dude.

Binh: And the scene for you in Charles Bradley, Jeff?

Jeff: The first time we see Bradley in his neighborhood, surrounded by squalor and violence, establishes some powerful context -- especially after the opening scenes, which find him belting out James Brown tunes as part of his longtime tribute act.

Sara: If Capra had directed Gravity, it'd be entirely set in a family house. The ghosts would be sweet.

Binh: Jeff, Sara says we're going with Frank Capra for this one, so Capra it is. WWFCD?

Jeff: If Capra had directed Charles Bradley, I'm actually not sure he'd change much! Much like It's a Wonderful Life, it finds beauty in a grim setting and ends on a heartwarming final note.

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