2013 In Review: Top Ten Films

Gravity

2013 was a fantastic year for film. It’s as simple as that. Technological boundaries were broken, Disney made a triumphant comeback with not one but two wonderful animated releases, Noah Baumbach proved what could happen when you make a film on a shoestring budget and in black-and-white, and Steven Soderbergh bid a fond farewell to the cinematic world with the fantastic one-two punch of pharmaceutical drama Side Effects and outlandish Liberace biopic Behind The Candelabra.

Of course, there were duds here and there (many of which will be addressed in my Worst Ten Films list), but 2013 was as good a year as cinema fans far and wide had been praying for, with a solid mix of mainstream blockbusters, quieter art house far and colourful animation adventures. All that’s left to say is that if 2014 is half as good as 2013, then we’d better buckle ourselves up and prepare for our emotions to be tore to shreds and pieced back together all over again. Also, that my top ten films of 2013 can be found below:

10. Frozen

Frozen

Early in 2013, Disney released Wreck-It Ralph in UK cinemas, and many were blown away by its astonishing visuals and effortless fusion between 21st century wizardry and old-school heart and soul. The same can be said for Frozen, a beautiful and laugh-out-loud adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s dark fairytale The Snow Queen. It’s true success comes from its ability to adjust the classic Disney formula to suit a modern story – one that’s rooted in the relationship between two sisters. [Review]

9. Frances Ha

Frances Ha

No one really knew anything about Frances Ha until it landed in cinemas. From writer and director Noah Baumbach, Frances Ha is a superb film that takes a frank look at what happens when a twentysomething is forced to grow up when the comfortable rug is pulled from under her feet. It’s unflinching truthfulness captured through Baumbach and rising star Greta Gerwig’s spot-on screenplay is undercut by an infectiously buoyant tone that awards the film a remarkably light and engaging sensibility. [Review]

8. Mud

Mudfilm_zps285e9a97

Matthew McConaughey’s career has seen a startling resurgence over the past few years, and Mud continued that trend with the actor delivering a profound performance alongside young actor Tye Sheridan in Mud, an exceptional coming-of-age drama set against the backdrop of rural Arkansas. Told through the perspective of an untainted adolescent’s eyes, Mud plays out in an almost lyrical, dream-like state that hooks the audience from the get go and carries them through throughout, even when the film shows its dark side. [Review]

7. Blue Is The Warmest Colour

Blue Is The Warmest Colour

As heartbreaking as it is, Blue Is The Warmest Colour is also a vivid and captivating drama that captures the overwhelming forces of life and first love through protagonist Adèle’s desirous eyes over the course of several years. Anchored by Adèle Exarchopoulos spectacular performance, the film is a remarkable depiction of the wonderful highs and devastating lows of love and, despite a not as good finale, emerges as one of this year’s most honest films that will leave you in a state of wonder long after the credits roll. [Review]

6. Before Midnight

Before Midnight

Rounding of what has been one of the most rewarding, agonising and downright extraordinary trilogies of all time, Before Midnight did what Toy Story 3 did for the Toy Story franchise and made it invincible. It’s a difficult film to talk about without revealing some of the riches that erupt over the course of its short, yet sweet narrative. It’s hard-hitting in its honesty and desire to depict a true to life relationship, warts and all. But it’s also a film to embrace, scrutinise and soak up.

5. Stories We Tell

Stories We Tell

I saw Stories We Tell at the Edinburgh International Film Festival after reading reviews declaring it a documentary not to be missed upon its debut at the Toronto Film Festival, and it’s safe to say I wasn’t disappointed. Emerging as the only documentary to make it onto my top ten list (I missed out on The Acts of Killing and Blackfist), Stories We Tell sees actor-turned-director Sarah Polley create a film about her family that holds universal value and is both richly rewarding and deeply candid. [Review]

4. Captain Phillips

CaptainPhillips_zps18102534

A couple of films made me cry in 2013, but none more so than Captain Phillips. Based on an unbelievable against-all-odds survival story, Paul Greengrass’ thriller-at-sea is a truly distressing piece of cinema that features knock-out performances from Tom Hanks and newcomer Barkhad Abd. The film hits a couple of snags towards the middle, but it’s the final 20 minutes that make Captain Phillips something special and ensured I was a blubbering mess when the cinema lights came back on. [Review]

3. Blue Jasmine 

Blue Jasmine

Woody Allen’s career over the past two decades has been a mixed bag at best, but Blue Jasmine represents the director at the very height of his career. With a startling performance from Cate Blanchett at its core, Blue Jasmine is a sharp, perceptive and deeply honest drama with a realistic sprinkling of humour that tracks Blanchett’s Jasmine on a downward spiral following her husbands arrest. It may be light narratively speaking, but Blue Jasmine is a triumph thanks to Blanchett. [Review]

2. The Selfish Giant

The-Selfish-Giant-film-st-010_zpsc71ca4df

There were plenty of stand-out British films in 2013, but none struck a chord as much as The Selfish Giant. Inspired by Oscar Wilde’s short story of the same name, Clio Barnard’s follow-up to The Arbor is a difficult, but nonetheless beautiful watch – one that seizes the audiences attention from the off and barely lets up, making its denouement all the more earth shattering. Conner Chapman and Shaun Thomas are superb as two friends prepared to do silly things for a better life. [Review]

1. Gravity

Gravity

When it was announced that visionary director Alfonso Cuarón was to spend a vast chunk of his life developing a film set in space, many were unconvinced that he would pull off such an enormous task. Alas, he did, and in October audiences far and wide were blown away by Gravity, a beautiful, intense and heart-stopping thrill ride set against the desolate backdrop of space. It’s – literally and figuratively speaking – a film that’s out of this world, and the best film of 2013. [Review]

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11 Comments

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  1. Reblogged this on Jessie Spencer's Blogspot.

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  2. Reblogged this on Living Art.

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  3. Great picks! But in my opinion you are missing Saving Mr Banks was such a great movie! Follow my account for more lists and reviews 🙂 I would apreciated. gamingblocksite.wordpress.com

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  4. I haven’t managed to see any of these films. Well, I’ve seen Gravity. It was really great. That being said, my top film of the year is easily 12 Years a Slave.

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    • I think 12 Years a Slave is a solid piece of filmmaking about a tough subject, but not quite the exceptional film everyone has claimed. Plus, it isn’t released officially in the UK until 2014, so couldn’t include it on my top ten films of 2013 list.

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      • It’s one of those movies that really got to me, seeing as I am both black and american. It’s the only film (to gain popularity, at least) that has been so honest about the subject. What really made the movie, in my opinion, was the performances. Especially that of Chiwetel Eljifor. I can probably handle 12 Years not winning best picture at the Oscars this year, but Eljifor has got to win for acting. Was there anything specific that took away from 12 Years for you?

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      • There was a distinctive lack of a bond between me and the material. Sure, it was terrifically acted and probably one of the best films about slavery there’s ever been (it really hits the nail on the head how torturous those times were for black people), but McQueen’s style was too stiff and abstract to allow you to really emote with what the characters were experiencing. It’s like there was some sort of invisible block between the viewer and the character, like if McQueen had maybe loosened up his style a little, there would be more time for the audience to soak up in the characters’ own worlds and, in turn, truly experience what they were experiencing.

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      • See, I had some similar observations. So I definitely see where you’re coming from, and your observations make complete sense. But, rather than take away from the film, those things added to it. I didn’t find his style stiff, but it did feel a bit abstract at times. I’ve found he tries to get across in empty space and facial expressions or just noises what he can’t (or shouldn’t) get across in words. His movies are almost representations of emotions, and if you fail to connect with these emotions or these times, then that’s it. I am very much an in-between-the-lines type of person, so for me this sort of abstractness is one of the few ways a film can really get to me. I thought it was brilliant, but at the end I did feel a bit like I had missed something. Like somebody had a bit more to say. And, for some reason, I tend to like that. It gives me room to consider what the film did not fully present. If that makes any sense at all.

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      • See, I get that too, and McQueen did the same in Shame – came at the subject from the outside looking in. Yet with Shame, it felt like you sort of knew Brandon and that things were being said about sex addiction that maybe hadn’t been said before. But with 12 Years a Slave, I found it to be impersonal in a way that removed me emotionally from the film, and there wasn’t any big insights raised, just more of what we already knew – that slavery was brutal and controversial and should never have happened.

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      • That makes sense. Some of the bits I liked about the film were that even the ‘kind’ slave master would not listen, that there were whites working with them and being paid who also would not listen, and it took a man from Canada to get him out. While we know that slavery was brutal, no one ever wants to go into specifics. Oftentimes it will be presented as ‘kind’ slave masters or the slaves trying to run away over and over again – the survival bit was fresh in that sense, as was the idea that he started off a free man in a nation that did not want him – as this was something America would even do to it’s citizens. At least from my side of the pond, there was a ton of new insight. For me, when it gets down to it, I find McQueen’s films extremely honest. The level of honesty in his films is one thing I think that really turns some people away.

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