So, here it is. 2013 was a damn good year for films if I do say so myself. It was hard reducing this list down to just 20, because any one of my honourable mentions would have had a welcome place in my list. 2013 had some game-changers (in more ways than one), some rule-breakers, and some life-changers. There were plenty of films that came out that you could just tell would live on into the future. We had Alfonso Cuaron defying the restrictions of cinema, Spike Jonze defeating every other portrayal of love in cinematic history, and Leonardo DiCaprio destroying any notion that he's not a proper actor with a singular Quaalude-induced scene. What a time to be alive.
Alas, let's close the book on 2013 before we close the book on May 2014. Because there's no time like the present...
Honourable Mentions: Spring Breakers, What Maisie Knew, Pain & Gain, The Bling Ring, This is the End, Fruitvale Station, Don Jon, Rush, Dallas Buyers Club, Drinking Buddies, Inside Llewyn Davis, Philomena, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Frozen.
"Every thing you do, someone out there can see."Here's one of these films that slips so far under the radar that it is pretty much criminal. This film should be taught in schools. Sure, it gets extremely melodramatic in some places, but the general message behind it is about the only message we've desperately needed a film to cover. Not to mention it has some fantastic performances from Andrea Riseborough, Jason Bateman, Jonah Bobo, Alexander Skarsgard and Paula Patton. Very, very impressive.
"I think anybody who falls in love is a freak. It's a crazy thing to do. It's kind of like a form of socially acceptable insanity."Just as Disconnect shows the dangers of the internet, Her shows the good things it could be capable of in the future...which is also doubled with the bad. This isn't really a film about a guy falling in love with his computer, but about love itself. As I said in my director's post, it was a damn brave film for Spike Jonze to make, and possibly one of the more realistic portrayals of love on film in recent times. Oh, and Scarlett Johansson. That's all.
"I'm not messy, I'm busy."I really like simple films. Frances Ha is a very simple film. Yet, it is one that I constantly feel like watching. There's something special about watching a character who is built by the fact that she's directionless, and we just have to follow her as she resists the need to find a direction. Bolstered by a strong performance by Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha doesn't ask for much, nor does it do a lot, but there's so much to admire about it.
"I have infinite tenderness for you. I always will. All my life long."Much has been said about this film, from the 3 hour running time to the way the director treated his crew to the explicit sexual content. Yes, this is a film worth talking about - but those three things aren't the most exciting things about it. Again, this is a film that works on account of it's simplicity, following a teenage girl through to her first foray into adulthood in such a way that never feels rushed, yet never feels like it is wasting any time. I'm glad that somebody thought that we needed to see Adele Exarchopolous doing a whole lot of every day things, because I could watch her forever.
"Pray for the best, but prepare for the worst."Purely because this is one of those films that I watched and straight after could say "damn, that was one of the best films I've seen in a long time." It doesn't tell a particularly new story (and I'm partial to being terrified by any kind of movie about abduction), yet the way it is constructed is something to behold. From the brilliant performances from an ensemble that includes Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Paul Dano, Viola Davis, Terence Howard and an unrecognizable Melissa Leo, to the careful direction from Denis Villeneuve to the absolutely stunning cinematography from the ever reliable Roger Deakins, Prisoners is a slow-burner that never loses its momentum.
"Do you know why she fell in love with that jerk? Because he looked like you."I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I envy the way that Asghar Farhadi can use words, and only words, to craft a thriller. Following up from his almost perfect 2011 film A Separation, The Past also retreats into the familiar territory of family problems, but in a way that only Farhadi could pull off. There's nothing astoundingly different about the story of the film, it's just the way he tells it. The way he explores the way the past can have an effect on the present, and the horrible ways in which people can cross paths. At the centre is a brilliant performance from Berenice Bejo, who you'd barely recognise in comparison to her energetic performance in The Artist. Quite disappointing how this one missed out on most of the awards contention.
"It's only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all, when you're telling it to yourself or someone else."This is one of the most clever films that we've had recently, narrative wise. Sure, we can fawn over the Nolanesque films that play with narrative structure, but this film is more about the threads that create the narrative. It's so incredibly moving to watch not only the intensely personal story of Sarah Polley's family, but also the way she ponders over the way these stories get told. Creative filmmaking at it's most underrated and also at it's finest.
"I'm tired of being funny."
Again, here's a case of a simple film ticking all the boxes. I was a huge fan of Nicole Holofcener's previous film Please Give, and Enough Said definitely has the same ingredients that make it work. Her sharp screenplay is given some extra zing from the great performances from Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini (with some solid ensemble work from the likes of Toni Collette, Catherine Keener and my girl hero Tavi Gevinson in her first film). It's such a bittersweet film, in all the best ways.
"The world is full of evil but if we hold onto each other, it goes away."
I've seen a fair few depressing films in my time, but I think that this may be one of the most depressing films I've ever seen. Because people absolutely suck. I don't think any other film has ever made me hate people so much. And that's all I have to say about that (but yes I realise it is quite strange to like a film so much that made me hate people so much).
"Depression is an inability to construct a future."
Here's another one of those films that I watched and could only say "wow, that's the best film I've seen in a long time." One of the rare early releases of the year that managed to make a lasting impression, this twisted psychological thriller from Steven Soderbergh was quite a clever one, even though it leaves one feeling a little exhausted by the end of it. To think this was the next film from the guy behind Magic Mike just proves Soderbergh's versatility and talent - and even though I refuse to believe he's retiring, I really don't ever want that to happen.
"All the bright precious things fade so fast...and they don't come back."
Hello, my name is Stevee Taylor and in 2013 I went through a harmful addiction to a certain film called The Great Gatsby which I loathed as an adaptation but loved as a film. Yes, I watched the film every month since I first saw it in June. I haven't seen it at all this year, though. I just really enjoy Baz Luhrmann's extravagance. And Leonardo DiCaprio's face. And Elizabeth Debicki's everything. But I'm getting over my addiction, slowly.
"If you ride like lightning, you're gonna crash like thunder."
This film threw me off a bit. I wasn't really expecting it to go into the places that it did, but I'm damn glad it did. I loved how this film was a triptych that explored every possible reaction instead of focusing on the main drama. I loved how damn ambitious it was, and not in the way that we usually throw the term "ambitious" to - it was ambitious in it's narrative. Also, we don't talk enough about how great Bradley Cooper was in that film.
"Maybe in America, Irish, maybe in America."
Possibly one of my biggest surprises from last year. Tom Hanks is totally in control. Paul Greengrass is totally in control. Barkhad Abdi was probably one of my favourite discoveries from last year. And this is a film that I'm geared not to like - but it has had such a profound effect on me that I don't think I'll ever be able to watch it again.
"Anxiety, nightmares and a nervous breakdown, there's only so many traumas a person can withstand until they take to the streets and start screaming."
95% of the reason why I love this film so much comes down to the amazing, awe-inspiring, intense performance from Cate Blanchett. It is easily one of the best performances we've had in years. She's an absolutely flawless masterclass in how to maintain control over an uncontrollable character. Not to mention that this film is a loose modernisation of A Streetcar Named Desire, so I was bound to love it from the very beginning.
"I like to think there's more to a person than just one thing."
Just call this my The Perks of Being a Wallflower for 2013. But mostly because I saw this film just as I had finished high school and found myself connecting to it in more ways than one. Aimee Finicky is literally me. It's so scary. Weird connections with my life aside, the film is an utterly beautiful rumination on the confusion of being at high school before you step out into the big wide world, and also the confusion of love as a teenager. Everything is so damn true in this film that it hurts.
"I apologize for my appearance. But I have had a difficult time these past several years."
Steve McQueen makes utterly perfect films and I want to know how. It doesn't need to be said that 12 Years a Slave is one of the most important films ever made. The best thing is that it isn't so aware of how important it is and doesn't try to hammer its message home by dousing it in melodrama. McQueen directs it with a raw and unflinching power, backed up with performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong'o, Michael Fassbender and Sarah Paulson that are a little bit soul-baring.
"Look into my eyes so you know what its like to live a life not knowing what a normal life's like."
Again - another simple film. But a film that is so incredibly powerful. Destin Cretton's feature debut takes a look at the time he spent at a foster care facility, turning the experiences he had there into a film. At the centre is Grace (Brie Larson), a woman who cares for everybody before herself, who doesn't take her own advice and who is completely broken. Through her, we see an array of broken characters from broken homes, and we see how desperate Grace is to restore the peace in their lives. This is an extremely special film that never asks too much or creates too little. I can't wait until I can finally buy it and watch it over and over again and just cry for hours. Even Keith Stanfield's rap is enough to make me cry.
"But if you want true love, then this is it. This is real life. It's not perfect, but it's real."
We really underestimate Richard Linklater's status as one of the best working filmmakers around today. His filmography is so vast and prolific, and almost always great. Before Midnight is one of his best films in years, though, just as the whole trilogy is probably the biggest highlight of his career (though Boyhood may challenge that - GIVE THAT FILM TO ME NOW). If this is the end of Celine and Jesse for us, we can be happy. The film effortlessly portrays Celine and Jesse after all of the romance and instead shows them in their well settled life. The things they talk about are as always, absolutely beautiful. While this one is probably the most depressing entry to the series, it is probably the most realistic. As much as I'd love to see Celine and Jesse again in another nine years, this was enough.
"Hey Ryan, it's time to go home."
Simply because I can't wait to be able to tell my grandchildren that I saw this film twice in the cinemas back when I was younger, and it changed my perspective on cinema. This is one of the few films that I'm happy to call "ground-breaking" in terms of the technology used, especially because Alfonso Cuaron uses everything available to him in the best possible way. For a 90 minute film, this feels like a marathon, which is something that we don't really experience too often. I can't bear to watch it on anything smaller than a gigantic cinema screen, but I will cherish the memories of experiencing this on the big screen. Even if that experience gave me serious anxiety issues.
"Oh my God, the emperor of Fucksville came down from Fucksville to give me a pass!"I seem to have to defend my love for this film an awful lot, but here it is: this film is one of the most perfect portrayals of society that I've ever seen. That scene where Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) sits on the subway after bringing down Jordan Belfort and realises that he's just another person is possibly the most unfortunately true realities of the world we live in. Who is really the hero here? Martin Scorsese has created a film that is so disgustingly fun that it's as equally easy to like as it is hard to like. The film is iconic and moronic, fun and sickening, mindless and mindful. Everyone is in control of this film even though it is telling a story that is wildly out of control. And just for one final time: LEO WAS ROBBED.
What do you think of these choices? What were your favourite films from 2013?