Best of 2013

TOP 10 FILMS OF 2013

10. Short Term 12

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Director : Destin Crettin

Cast : Brie Larson, Frantz Turner

Short Term 12 is the ultimate indie sleeper hit of the year, this is 2013′s Beasts of the Southern Wild, ultimately this is a beautiful depiction of human emotion and our characteristics. This is a small-scale film at it’s best, a film with a huge heart capturing a topic and world rarely displayed on-screen. You have never seen life from the eyes of todays troubled youth but this gives you a background insight into their world. Short Term 12 never focused on one character on its own but weaved in the stories of the whole ensemble cast from the care workers themselves. At times the realism would reach such a high scale I would feel as if I were watching a documentary, which proves the story has the strength to pull in its viewer. The script is funny, smart and moving; all the factors that play to its advantage and handled perfectly. Then comes cinematography which was also a surprise and quite beautiful, simplicity is the key to a film like this and Short Term 12 came out on top. I loved how none of the stories were completed with a happy ending, nor a sad ending; they were all left at cliffhangers with little to no resolve. Meaning we were giving a snippet into the lives of these characters and not a whole life story. This small insight was all we needed to understand our characters, what they are like and what made them this way. Expression is noted as a difficulty for these children so when they do express their life it is told in the form of a story or a song.  Jayden’s story was told in the form of a kids book but it still brought out so much emotion from the audience with her story being a metaphor for her own suffering. However one of the film’s pinnacle scenes came in the form a rap by Marcus who gave one of the most moving moments in the film and my current favourite original song of the year. Short Term 12 is raw film making, rules of camera work are ignored and the film is plagued with shaky cam close-ups which never distract the tone of the film. The only faults I give this film is the runtime, personally I think a stronger artistic tone and concentration on cinematography would have filled out the emotion more. Short Term 12 is a beautiful film and one of the years best, you will laugh and cry with these characters and you will feel as if they are family.

9. Prisoners

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Director : Denis Villeneuve

Cast : Hugh Jackman, Paul Dano

Prisoners is a very interesting and dark film, the whole film plays on one depressive tone and keeps it going from beginning to end.  This is a useful tactic to emit the story but also the downfall, i found that the single mood kept the film from expressing it’s versatility. Another film that utilised this technique was ‘The Zodiac’ but that film kept slight shifts in atmosphere to make it flow better. Regardless of it’s flaws this film had a very good premise, even if the plot did overcomplicate at times; over complication was its major fault as it was not structured better for a film over 2 hours long.  This is the first Denis Villenueve film i had seen and he certainly has impressed me even if there is room for improvement. Cinematography matched the colour palette of dark browns and greys, it was beautiful in its tone without being too artistic. Prisoners is a big film and a long film, however once the twists have been revealed it feels like a drag to re watch. Similar to ‘The Road’ this is a film to re watch to see the symbolism you missed even if it can be a depressive chore after the first time.

8. The Hunt

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Director : Thomas Vinterberg

Cast : Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larson

This is another small film that i almost looked over but i’m glad I never, The Hunt is one of the years best films with one of the best screenplays I have read. Now this is a small film set on a small-scale in a small town, however it has a big story at its helms and it pulls the film through. The last film I watched with a screenplay this small yet intricate was Asghar Farhadi’s A Seperation which draws some writing style comparisons to The Hunt. This entire premise brings together this small town and portrays the atmosphere as very tense, much like the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The trust between the characters is scarce and you find yourself as Lucas, the innocent prey hunted by the predators of humanity. The subject matter is quite taboo but from the on set it is handled beautifully and the suspense builds and builds to a point were the authorities aren’t in command, it is the general public. This is the first Thomas Vinterberg film I have seen and I cant help but draw comparisons to Asghar Farhadi, these small directors handled small projects on a big scale. This is one of the best films of the year and it is very story driven, you have one character and one simple story in the mix. No side plots are added driving the suspense off path, it all flows perfectly.

7. Dallas Buyers Club

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Director : Jean-Marc Valle

Cast : Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto

Dallas Buyers Club has quite a simple story but it weaves in many different worlds into one, the film covers three main topics though. The first being the darker side behind the FDA and American Government, real medicine that aided people suffering from H.I.V and Aids was restricted from purchase in the United States. This shed a light on the morality of the law and how although it use was a positive it was not technically legal in America, Dallas Buyers Club tied in small scenes of the F.D.A but every bit was handled perfectly; painting a picture of their role. The second topic was the homophobic behaviour towards homosexuals, Jean-Marc Vallee didnt base his film solely towards homophobic abuse but showed the realistic but subtle segregation of them in everyday life. However the main role of the film was about the H.I.V/Aids virus and societies view on the subject in the 1980′s. Everything from the realistic science in the story to the side effects of medication and the virus were handled perfectly. This just brought the realism forward into the film and made us forget that we were watching actors acting out symptoms on-screen. One of the main flaws of the film was its lack of cinematography, I know this is a very story and acting driven film but some artistic flair would have brought Dallas Buyers Club to a higher rating. Also a decent score would have sufficed well with the film also and brought out the emotion in some of the more emotional scenes. A few directing hiccups are present but this does not detract attention away from the heart of the film and it’s near perfect script.

6. Before Midnight

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Director : Richard Linklater

Cast : Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

I must admit i am a huge fan of Richard Linklater’s ‘Before’ film’s and this final piece to the trilogy is another beautiful addition. Before Midnight ignores the ethics of the previous film’s with the couple meeting after nine years because in this it seems they have been together for the past nine years. It’s what made the previous films beautiful, them meeting and catching up on life. However in a way it still worked and the whole film felt nostalgic and even though they ignored the original premise i was still happy they were together. Linklater and the two lead actors have created such a beautiful on screen chemistry that really cant be matched. The reason these films work so well is because they have intellectual conversations about life and the current state of their relationship. Maybe i related less to this film because i myself am not in their position but maybe when I’m older i will appreciate this film more. Regardless of this fact i still felt the raw emotion and realism in each conversation they were having. Linklater has a habit of doing long single take’s of pure conversation which would bore the average viewer but if you really look into the film it is quite sad yet beautiful. The previous films in this trilogy had beautiful shots of the cities in which they were based but i feel as if Linklater ignored the cinematography of Greece and focused more on the lead actors. This is why Before Sunset remains my favourite of the trilogy, the ambient feeling of Paris and the symbolism of the city towards their lives was just beautiful. Before Midnight on the other hand is still an amazing film with beautiful dialogue and an amazing ending. A raw look at relationships and their problems, Linklater has created an almost perfect trilogy and if you have the patience you should check out these amazing films.

5. Inside Llewyn Davis

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Director : Joel & Ethan Coen

Cast : Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan

The Coen Brothers are regarded as some of the greatest directors of modern times but I hadn’t seen their genius. No Country for Old Men was their best effort in my opinion but even that wasn’t a masterpiece in my eyes. Inside Llewyn Davis was the film that made me fall in love with their film’s for the first time. Everything was perfect about this film apart from its appeal to wider audiences because of their unconventional use of this script. The Coen’s capture simplicity and master it, simplicity in this film became a film that never really went anywhere. It never focused on the past and never revealed the future, the film simply focused on the present time; giving us an insight into a week of this characters life. This is not a rags to riches story and nor is it generally a happy film, everything is just neutral and dull; but the dullness isn’t a flaw, it’s a perk in the script. The directing was beautiful with the overblown glow on the lenses throughout to the neutral blues, greys and browns surrounding the film and its locations. Then comes the music which was beautiful, capturing the essence of the character and his inner feelings through song. The struggle, the depression and the sheer determination is expressed through the words. Llewyn Davis had two major flaws for me which brought this film away from being a perfect masterpiece, the first being Carey Mulligan’s character and her theatrical acting; the second being the Please Mr. Kennedy song which felt out-of-place and unrelated to the beauty of this world created. Inside Llewyn Davis is a masterpiece but not a film for everyone, it is like many of the Coen’s other films a hard watch. However once you are drawn into this world you get lost in the folk music and depression to gain notoriety, you become Llewyn Davis.

4. Gravity

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Director : Alfonso Cuaron

Cast : Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

Gravity was one of the most anticipated film’s of 2013 for me, then after the amazing critical reception the hype went through the roof. The answer is yes, it met up to my expectations and was one of the beautiful films i have ever seen. Comparing a film to 2001 is usually blasphemous but in this case after decades i can safely say Sci-Fi is back on track. Alfonso Cuaron gave us Children of Men which was noted as a great Sci-Fi film but i found it very over rated so i was still unsure about Gravity. For a film lasting 90 minutes Cuaron really took the pacing slowly and in my opinion this worked really well and gave an avante-garde feel to the film whilst retaining its Hollywood quality. Cinematography was 100% perfect which was no surprise when cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki (of Tree of Life fame) at it’s helms. Along with that the sheer effort gone into creating the technology to make this film was impressive. Pushing technological boundaries further than films like Avatar and Life of Pi this really raised the bar high. Gravity is an accomplishment in film making that is being recognised world wide now and i am sure the Academy Awards will recognise this come voting season. Story really took a backseat from the visuals which is what made this a flawed masterpiece, the symbolism seemed forced instead of being cryptic like it should of been. Dr Stone’s backstory did not feel fleshed out enough but i guess this kept the claustrophobic atmosphere Cuaron tried to created. Atmosphere is what kept the film moving forward with a tense suspense from beginning till end. The viewer was on the edge of their seat like that character themselves that created a relationship to the screen which is rarely created in film. Gravity is a pinnacle in film making that will be remembered and analysed by people for decades to come.

3.  Her

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Director : Spike Jonze

Cast  : Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson

This was my number 1 most anticipated film of the year with one of my favourite actors Joaquin Phoenix, everything seemed perfect from the trailer; this truly looked like Spike Jonze’s return to the Being John Malkovich days. Her is better than John Malkovich and Spike Jonze’s greatest contribution to cinema, as well as one of the most beautiful films of the year. You have the perfectly created dystopian future, nothing extravagant like other depictions of the future on-screen. Everything is subtle and quite toned down, the costume designs are all plain; every character you see on-screen wears the same plain styled garments. The colour palette of the world is full of whites giving this new-found future a sense of purity. Back to costume designs and the colours are quite vivid, full of earthy tones and bright colours; colour co-ordination is not a key factor in the fashion of Jonze’s future. This leaves the whole clash of the films palette as a juxtaposition. Cinematography was beautiful and one of the years most beautiful pieces, the principal photography seems very vague and plain but when you mix that in with the script and the score you are left with an emotional final product as each piece of cinematography captures this world and its emotion. The future of Jonze’s world is very calm and volatility is almost ignored by the general public. A calm inhabits his world but even without the oppressed peace you see shades of the real pain peeking through, the pain of loneliness and the pain of love. Theodore is not a singular character, he signifies every one of us, he is the loneliness in our hearts and the happiness hidden in our minds. We at one point in our lives will feel like Theodore and although this shows love in the form of an O.S you can still understand the relevance of love throughout time. Or maybe this was a silent ode to our love and reliance on technology, maybe our love has become tainted and materialistic; many factors shadow over Her but you decide which to believe. In my opinion one of the most apparent themes was the sense of masculinity or the lack of it, you could see the Theodore required a submissive wife to match his every emotion at the exact same time. The result of the film being that nothing will be submissive not even something such as an A.I; acceptance is what will bring us further. Her explores so many themes from such a small film and although it handles them well its own simplicity is its flaw. In certain situations the story seems to be weighed down by the elements and symbolism. That being said your mind does get thrown off track with the bizarre themes of the film, there are some very odd elements that just fall into place with this world and surprisingly not stand out as a flaw. You could call these elements part of the surrealistic aspect created but it’s as if in this futuristic world surrealism has become acceptable as realism. Aspects such as relationships/friendships with O.S’s have become socially acceptable and this provides an even bigger backdrop for this new world order. Everything about Her is peculiar and once you capture the symbolism behind the film it draws you into a world that looks like your own future. It’s a silent poem towards humanity and the evolution of emotion in our species, Spike Jonze has created his greatest gift to cinema.

2. 12 Years a Slave

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Director : Steve Mcqueen

Cast : Chiwetel Ejiofer, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender

Steve McQueen has been one of my favourite new coming directors and his previous film ‘Shame’ was in my opinion a masterpiece. 12 Years a Slave is his chance to break out of his small art house openings onto a wider audience, with the addition of becoming an Oscar front-runner. Many things played through my mind when watching the film, the first was the toned down version of visual storytelling, cinematography did not play as big of a part in this film, unlike McQueen’s previous efforts. There was a very large script involved and the translation onto screen was perfect, I saw no structural problems and the 130 minutes runtime went by smoothly. The second thing I noticed was the nightmarish tone created in this film, reminding me quite of a classier sense of Cronenberg’s atmospheric tones. You would think this is a Historical biography film, however it is the complete opposite; this is at its heart a horror film. These Cronenberg-esque tones bring out the horror in the movie with a dark industrial score washing over the movie side by side with beautiful classical pieces.  Cinematography was beautiful as usual with McQueen’s film’s and he embodied Solomon Northup’s character into every viewers consciousness.  12 Years a Slave is a very disturbing film and hard to watch , yet it is the greatest depiction of Slavery on-screen. A powerful film that doesn’t hold back on the horrific details of this era, a film that will go down in history as one of the greats.

1. Blue is the Warmest Colour

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Director : Abdellatif Kechiche

Cast : Adele Exarchopoulos, Lea Seydoux

Every so often a film comes along that changes your life and this is one of them. In my honest opinion Blue is a film almost at perfection, but regardless it is one of the decades best films. The entire filming style was raw because of it giving off a Werzner-esque documentary vibe. This made all the characters seem as realistic as possible on-screen, I heard of the directors story of following around Adele with a film camera during her day-to-day activities; and  this gave off the rawer side to her character. Blue is a lifetime film and it is very long clocking in at three hours, regardless, it all flows so well the time flies by. I loved the way the transition from chapter one to two was handled with Emma’s hair colour change. Lets get to chapter 1: It was a beautiful depiction of teenage sexuality and confusion, even if you may not have experienced the same events as Adele you can still relate to the confusion as you grew older. Adele’s character holds the innocence and purity in a teenager, with a view of life tainting her innocence as she progresses. You fall into the film so much by this time you feel as if you are her, you feel her every emotion and wonder of life. Then with the meeting of her lover you get thrown into another stage of teenage maturity where you see all the stages of their progression together, from the chase to the love.  Then comes Chapter 2: By now the film shifts into different territory with the insecurities in a relationship, you see the jealousy, paranoia and problems. The natural drift when comfortable is showcased and their chemistry just gets stronger and stronger. Then you reach a point were you are so into the characters you feel like you’ve fallen into the film and forgotten reality. This is a hard trait to encapsulate on a viewer, to make them forget about their world around then and isn’t that reason we watch film; to escape reality. Cinematography was quite minimal but the shots were it shone were pretty breathtaking, Kechiche basically turned this into a mockumentary without that parodic form. Handy cams were used quite a lot but it just added to the guerilla style of filming, everything about this film was realistic as cinema can get. Most of the criticism surrounding this film was the explicit sex but I see no problem with it, it was quite raw but this just brought out the realism to a whole new level. Sex is part of our nature and this film showed that it was nothing to hide, Blue made itself a serious film. The locations to the people you meet through the film are all memorable like they are part of your own life experiences. What has been created with this film is rare and truly breaks the barriers between homosexuality and love. Blue is the Warmest colour is one of the best film’s I have ever seen and certainly a film going experience you will never forget. It conveyed the story that majority of us have lived, with the progression into love and it’s outcomes. You cry with the characters you laugh with the characters and it’s simply as if you are them.

Honourable Mentions :

The Wolf of Wall Street

August : Osage County

Broken Circle Breakdown

Captain Philips

Fruitvale Station

Best Director of 2013  : ALFONSO CUARON – GRAVITY 

Alfonso Cueron

Runners Up

 Abdellatif Kechiche – Blue is the Warmest Colour

Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave

Spike Jonze – Her

Joel & Ethan Coen – Inside Llewyn Davis

Best Actor In A Leading Role  : MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY – DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

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Runners Up

Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave

Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street

Mads Mikkelsen – The Hunt

Bruce Dern – Nebraska

Best Actress In A Leading Role  : ADELE EXARCHOPOULOS – BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR

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Runners Up

Meryl Streep – August Osage County

Sandra Bullock – Gravity

Amy Adams – American Hustle

Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine

Best Actor In Supporting Role : JARED LETO – DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

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Runners Up

Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave

Bradley Cooper  – American Hustle

Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips

Jake Gylenhaal – Prisoners

Best Actress In A Supporting Role : LUPITA NYONGO – 12 YEARS A SLAVE

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Runners Up

Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle

Julia Roberts – August Osage County

June Squibb – Nebraska

Lea Seydoux – Blue is The Warmest Colour

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