Jan 14, 2014

Favourite Films Of 2013

Somehow 2013 felt a mixed year for film. No absolute masterpieces but surely many fine ones. Not a great year for Australian film but some great releases in the American and European independent scene. Argo started the year by winning Oscar for Best Picture. Then later in the year Gravity proved that a big Hollywood film can be successful both critically and commercially. Terrence Malick gave us a new film and it divided critics. I thought it was pretty great although not his best work. Some smaller films I really enjoyed were Fruitvale Station, Mud and Short Term 12. But they just finished outside my top ten. My number one film of the year was one I saw at the Sydney Film Festival. It later thankfully received a small cinema release. Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell was an emotional and cinematic journey that stayed with me for days. There are a stack of films to look forward to in 2014. Let's hope for greatness.

1. Stories We Tell, directed by Sarah Polley.
A near perfect and deeply moving documentary from the great young filmmaker Sarah Polley. Polley has crafted a multi layered and very personal look at her family history, told with humour, pathos and perspective. It is warm, funny, direct and emotional. It is about stories and history and then so much more. It questions, probes and seeks truth in an original and enlightening way. Filmed with great care and heart.

2. Life of Pi, directed by Ang Lee.
The most visually stunning film I have ever seen. The mix of CGI and 3D is at a level never seen before. The mystical, fantastical story of Indian boy Pi lost at sea with a Bengal tiger is wondrous and sublime. It's a fantasy film with heart and smarts rarely seen. It explores the various aspects of spirituality without ever becoming preachy. This is an easy film to love for many reasons.

3. Frances Ha, directed by Noah Baumbach.
Completely superb and totally endearing. A charmer in every sense of the word. Great Gerwig is luminescent as Frances, a young woman navigating through the travails of modern day life in New York. Her comic timing is uncanny in this finely tuned and impressively written gem of a film. Shot in glorious black and white it is honest, truthful, funny, sad and utterly winning. A win for heart and soul in modern day cinema.

4. American Hustle, directed by David O. Russell.
Ambitious and just flat out hugely entertaining. David O. Russell has done it again. He always tackles varied subjects and directs films that are full of flair, humour and heart. This latest one is no different. The cast is amazing. Lawrence and Bale are just flat out great and Bradley Cooper is perhaps even better as the FBI agent trying to entrap corrupt government officials. A great soundtrack just makes it even better.

5. Zero Dark Thirty, directed by Kathryn Bigelow.
High quality, compelling cinema. Kathryn Bigelow has directed her greatest film about the long process to find Osama bin Laden. Over 10 years we follow Maya and the CIA as they painstakingly follow clues and use detainees to finally find their target. This is slow burning, meticulous drama that treats its audience with utmost intelligence. A fine cast, led by Jessica Chastain, adds up to a satisfying and imperative film.

6. Rust and Bone, directed by Jacques Audiard.
Spectacularly honest and brutally real it packs an intense emotional punch. Jacques Audiard is a great film maker who has triumphed again. Marion Cotillard is superb as Stephanie who has to overcome an horrific injury. She befriends Ali, a brute of a man who is unloving but extremely compassionate. This film strikes a chord all the way through with its depiction of loneliness, belonging and trust.

7. The Hunt, directed by Thomas Vinterberg.
Powerful, disturbing and compelling drama. This superb film depicts a teacher in a small Danish town who's life is turned upside down when he is accused of child sexual abuse. Mads Mikkelsen shines in the lead role as a man who is persecuted and left to fend for himself. Gripping and sad all at once this film will leave you angry at how lies are spread and truth distorted when better judgement should be used.

8. Silver Linings Playbook, directed by David O. Russell.
David O. Russell has always imbued his films with a strong vein of humanity and offbeat kind of humour. He does it again here with an extremely well written and carefully directed film about mental illness and bonds of family and love. He has leaped into the mainstream, but still gives us intelligence and hard edges. This is not a romantic comedy but rather a tough drama with comedic touches.

9. Django Unchained, directed by Quentin Tarantino.
Bold, brazen, wildly funny. Exciting. Everything you expect from a Tarantino film and more. The story of Django, a rescued slave in 1860, set on revenge is a thrilling cinematic ride. Fox is excellent as Django as is Waltz as bounty hunter Schultz. This is filled with all the Tarantino trademarks. Snappy and intricate dialogue, perfectly staged action scenes and violence.

10. The Spectacular Now, directed by James Ponsoldt.
This beautiful and generous film exceeded my expectations. It is so honest and open that by the finish I was in open awe at its excellence. Sure it's another teen coming of age story, but this film is handled with such surety and skill. Sutter is the popular kid who's basically a goofball. Aimee is the shy intelligent girl who he accidentally meets. In the end, after many trials and tribulations, they are extremely good for each other.

Films I plan to see in 2014-
Her
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Wolf Of Wall Street
12 Years A Slave
Dallas Buyers Club
Nebraska
The Past
Blue is the Warmest Colour

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