Movies of the Year 2013

Did not make it to the flicks as often as I would of liked this year – mostly because I was watching so many older films – but what I saw I generally liked. As ever this is based on UK release dates therefore cannot involve Oscar bait like 12 Years a Slave, Inside Llewyn Davis etc.

So, in no particular order…

Before Midnight

Before Midnight
Almost impossible to rate as a standalone piece of work rather than the third part of a series I hope will keep running forever. Nine years after we last saw Jessie and Celine we meet up again on a dreamy Greek island and quickly realise emotional cracks have started to develop between them. The first two chapters of this story showed us how easy it is to fall in love; this tells how difficult it is to stay that way.

In the House

In the House
A jaded teacher in a French high school takes an interest in a short story written by one of his students, intrigued by the sign off ‘to be continued’. To keep the story going he encourages the student to cajole, tempt and antagonise his subjects, which soon leads to events getting out of control. Thoroughly gripping meta theatre from François Ozon.

Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers
The film that most exceeded my expectations in 2013. This could so easily have been an empty, goofy, insulting piece of exploitation but managed to make a trip to Florida by four teen airheads pretty mesmerizing. I’m not going to claim this had some profound insight into the American condition but when one of the characters intones “I wish we’d be able to buy a house here together… We could freeze life…Freeze it and say: this is how it’s gonna be forever” it’s difficult to disagree.

Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine
Kate Blanchett steals the show and delivers probably the best performance of the year as Jasmine, a formerly high flying socialite forced to slum it with her working class sister now the money’s run out. Her callousness and near total self delusion should make it hard to capture the audience’s sympathy but she somehow manages it. Woody Allen proving he can still, occasionally make movies like he used to.

Blancanieves

Blancanieves
The legend of Snow White by way of 1920s Spain, this had fun re-imagining all the familiar elements – the wicked stepmother, the seven dwarves, the poisoned apple – in a world of bullfights and decadent pre-war glamour. Filmed in black & white it was silent too, which only added to the charm.

Gravity

Gravity
If Hollywood wants to combat piracy it could do worse than making a lot more movies like this. Gigantic in scope and scale; only really appreciated on a big (or better yet, massive) screen and truly doing justice to 3D, this film also had heart and was a breakneck journey from opening long shot scene to final crash landing.

Ain't Them Bodies Saints

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Back on Earth this was the most beautiful movie of the year. Rural Texas the background canvas for young lovers Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck whose participation in a botched robbery leads to arrest, a jail break and cross country pursuit. This largely avoided cliche: the men are not macho, the women not helpless and the violence not fetishised, instead it fused a nostalgic yearning for 70s westerns with a devastating story of denied love.

Side Effects

Side Effects
Rooney Mara was also rather captivating in this, a very twisty and turny drama that was not so much a whodunnit as a whydunnit. There were scams within scams and a victim forced to fight back and turn the tables on their tormentor in an enjoyable drama that kept you guessing right to the end.

The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines
A stunt rider at a travelling funfair finds unexpected purpose in his life when he realises the one night stand he enjoyed a year before has resulted in a child. Initially shut out of what should be family life he starts robbing banks, which eventually leads to a dramatic encounter with a cop that will shape not just his life but his son’s too. The beauty here is that just as we are settling into the plot, the story skips to the next generation and totally changes focus. That it does so with such fluidity is an indication of what an assured filmmaker Derek Cianfrance is.

The Act of Killing

The Act of Killing
“I’ve tried to forget all this with good music…daning…feeling happy…a little alcohol…a little marijuana…a little ecstasy” states Anwar Congo, one of a host notorious Indonesian gangsters who over the course of two hours relate and reenact their roles as extra-judicial killers during the 1965/6 communist purge. Still in privileged positions and affirmed by the state the shamelessness of their confessions is quite breath-taking.

Just Missed Out

  • A Band Called Death
  • Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
  • American Hustle
  • Blackfish
  • Made of Stone
  • Mud
  • Post Tenebras Lux (wonderful to look at and delightfully weird but vaguely annoying)
  • Stoker

Enjoyable Rubbish

  • The Heat
  • Star Trek Into Darkness
  • Iron Man 3
  • The World’s End
  • World War Z