Andrew’s Best 10 films of 2013

So it’s that time of year again, when the Monday Movie Show takes a look back at the last 12 months of movies to pick out the best and worst of the movies of the year. A combined list of both Stuart’s and my own is announced in the end of year Monday Movie Show awards special, but here is my own personal list of the highs and lows of 2013, a year which was certainly an improvement over 2012, so much so that at one point I considered making this a top 20 rather than 10, there were that many good movies this year.

In some cases, these may not have been released in 2013 in some countries, but this list goes by UK release dates.

10 – Zero Dark Thirty

Director Kathryn Bigelow manages to tell the true story of the search for and subsequent killing of Osama Bin Laden with an incredibly unflattering look at some of the tactics used by the American government as they interrogated suspected terrorists. A gritty look at perhaps numerous times when the line was not only crossed but flat out ignored, with the main character played by Jessica Chastain headstrong into the search for Bin Laden over a decade, that originally saw the movie end with him still wanted until real life events dictated a change to the entire ending of the movie. Fantastically tense, and filled with great performances, some found torture scenes were too much, but like Saving Private Ryan’s opening of D-Day, this doesn’t glamourise it, it shows the gritty tasteless truth and how ineffective it is.

9 – Django Unchained

You’ve got to hand it to Quentin Tarentino, he knows how to write great characters, great dialogue, and how to get great performances out of his actors. Slightly less reserved than Inglorious Basterds, this revenge western is filled with great performances from Jamie Foxx, and in particular from Christoph Waltz and most surprisingly Leonardo DeCaprio, and despite it’s over two hour running time and extreme moments of racism, is a joy to watch from start to finish. Like Zero Dark Thirty, this doesn’t shy away from the dark subject of slavery and racism as they were in the past, and serves to only strengthen the audience’s connection to the main characters. Not quite at the levels of Tarentino’s masterpiece Jackie Brown thanks to some unfortunately distracting musical choices, but pretty damned close. A highlight can also be found in the very humerous scene with a group of klu klux clansmen as they plan an attack.

8 – Captain Phillips

Paul Greengrass tackles the true story of the captain of a cargo ship that is boarded by Somali pirates before they leave the ship kidnapping him in the process. A fantastic performance from Tom Hanks is largely at the centre of the movie, but also an equally superb performance from newcomer Baked Abdi, who more than manages to go toe to toe with Hanks in all of their scenes – no small feat for a newcomer. Greengrass’ documentary style of filmmaking helps to create a sense of claustrophobia and tension throughout whilst keeping the movie from feeling too Hollywoodised, and builds to a incredible conclusion that is sure to bring a fair number of Oscar nods and possibly even put the movie in contention to win three of the big four Oscar categories.

7 – Don Jon

Joseph Gordon Levitt not only writes and stars in but also makes his directorial debut about a man who is obsessed with porn. Through this the movie deals largely with the subtext of the perceptions people have, with a group of interesting yet broken characters including Joseph Gordon Levitt and also actors Scarlett Johannsen and a fantastic (as ever) performance from Julianne Moore, as they affect each other. Not only a fantastic piece of writing as it manages to be brutally honest and humorous at the same time, especially given the tough subject matter, but also commendable that the movie manages to avoid getting lost in its story and  descending into the farce it could have been. Bravo Mr Gordon Levitt, bravo.

6 – The Impossible

A gut wrenchingly well adapted true story of a family caught in the midst of the tsunami of 2010. Great performances from Niomi Watts and Ewan Mcgreggor but most of all from young actor (Tom), as the movie follows all members of the family in the wake of the disaster, trying to find each other again. Director Antonio (*) puts together a staggeringly emotional story that will not leave a dry eye in the house and rightly so. Especially impressive given the movie’s budget being smaller than it appears on screen and some truly brutal and shocking moments that perhaps should have warranted a stronger rating than a 12A at the cinema.

5 – Rush

Director Ron Howard tells the story of the lengthy rivalry on and off the track between F1 racing drivers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Nikki Lauder (Daniel Bruhl). Filled with great performances including a scene stealing one from Bruhl, the movie is a powerhouse mix of drama and kinetic energy from its racing sequences. Be sure to see this on the biggest screen with the sound and the bass well and truly turned up to 11 for best effect.

4 – Byzantium

An alternative vampire movie, with Saoirise Ronan starring as a girl older in years than her appearance would suggest, as she retells the story of her life and her mother, played by Gemma Arterton who relishes every scene. Not the typical kind of movie you expect when you think ‘vampire’ with a focus on the characters and the drama of their difficult lives rather than graphic gore and violence, which it DOES still have, just with a level of reserve rarely seen nowadays in this genre.

3 – Cloud Atlas

How do you take a novel which is set in 6 different time periods, and bring it successfully to the screen? This is how. Lana and Andy Wachowski, teamed up with Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer, pull off the adaptation of a book many considered unfilmable, not only managing to successfully tell all six storylines, but also interweave them together with a cast including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarrandon, each playing a part in all six stories. At three hours long it’s a bit lengthy, but well worth the time spent to watch.

2 – Mud

This coming of age drama owes a lot to the likes of Stand By Me, but also brings a lot more to the table, with fantastic performances by the two relatively unknown young actors (NAME & NAME), as well as a performance from Matthew McConehey at the top of his game. Mud is an original script that is so rich with character and drama that it feels like it’s adapted from a best seller novel, it’s that good.

1 – Gravity

With Gravity, director Alfonso Cuaron has taken cinema that one step further. This isn’t just a movie, this is an experience. A ballet of special effects which overwhelm thanks to perhaps the best use of 3D seen in film yet. Essentially a disaster movie set in space, the movie runs for 90 minutes and does not overstay its welcome, and has some truly mesmerising moments that cannot be ignored as some of the most incredible and beautiful shots in recent years.

Honourable Mentions

Looking back to earlier in the year, for Drama, one that stands out is Robert Zemeckis’ Flight, which though similar in style to his other movies was notable for it’s hard look at alcoholism and in no small part due to Denzel Washington’s incredibly hard-hitting performance. Tom Hanks was also on top form as in Captain Phillips in Saving Mr Banks, but the real star of that movie is Emma Thompson, who deserves to at the very least be nominated for best actress at the Oscars, not to mention Colin Farrell, who most surprisingly should be nominated for best supporting actor. It was narrowly edged out of my top 10, and part of the reason I considered a top 20 instead. Then there’s Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln, which instead of focusing on the point in the President’s life most movies focus on, focused on his struggle to bring about the end of slavery, and then there’s the movie that hung on to the top spot of the U.K. box office for weeks, Prisoners, which is a long emotionally draining but fantastically assembled story of two families torn apart by an abduction, and the detective looking to solve it.

2013 was a great year for indie movies, with The Way, Way Back being a great drama that just hit all the right keys about a boy who goes on vacation and finds himself in a water park helped by a great performance by Sam Rockwell and an against-type dark turn by Steve Carrell. Song For Marion, a British indie movie with a great cast including Gemma Arterton, Vanessa Redgrave and the great Terrance Stamp barely left a dry eye in the entire house, and there was a small comedy/drama from actress director Lake Bell was a nice surprise later in the year – In A World – about the movie industry of voiceover was an enjoyable round to the indie year. Chan-Wook Park’s Stoker, though a dark and disturbing story about death was another outstanding visual tour-de-force, and if there were an award for OCD direction, it would have won.

The Great Gatsby saw Baz Luhrmann use a mix of contemporary music and classic setting that should not have worked, but did, as well as bringing out the year’s second fantastic performance from Leonardo DiCaprio in a movie that I really did not expect to love as much as I did. And as far as musical goes, you cannot watch Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables without being mesmerised throughout by the great performances of Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman (and yeah, though his voice isn’t great, you give Russell Crowe a pass for trying).

Rounding out the year are a couple of fantastic foreign movies, A Hijacking (Kapringen), a Danish movie that was released far earlier than Captain Phillips and centring on a similar situation, saw the story drawn out over a much longer and gruelling period, and also showed us the perspective of the negotiators. Populaire, the French movie about the battle for best typist in the world during the 1960’s was a wonderful drama, filled with great performances from Déborah François and Romain Duris and another that was a complete surprise.

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Posted on December 28, 2013, in Features and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I agree with many of your suggestions. Less so with others, but that doesn’t matter. Good list.

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