Fordonfilm’s Top Ten Films of 2013
2013 was a mixed bag for cinema lovers; many films disappointed, many films defied expectations. My top ten list has constantly changed right up until writing this, as I just had to knock a film out in order to make room for a new entry. Finally, after much deliberating, I’ve come up with my official top ten films of the year, as well as a few honourable mentions. Enjoy, and let me know if you agree or disagree with any of my picks!
There’s a total lack of horror in my top ten (it hasn’t been a fantastic year for the genre), but two films were worthy contenders: James Wan’s The Conjuring, a retro, old school style horror that made you shiver with the atmosphere before jumping out of your skin, and Barry Levinson’s The Bay, a hideously effective ‘eco-horror’ that made the best use of found footage in years. It pained me not to put Ben Wheatley’s demented, insidious English Civil War film A Field in England in the top ten, but it was perhaps ultimately too confounding and bizarre for me to fully love it. My favourite superhero film of the year, Iron Man 3, was also perhaps a worthy inclusion, but I just didn’t love it enough to give it a place. The same can also be said of Denzel Washington drama Flight, which featured one of the best set pieces of the year, and Richard Linklater’s kooky, charming Bernie, the titular character giving Jack Black his best role in years. Finally, one documentary was incredibly worthy, but just not quite good enough to reach the top ten, and that is the Keanu Reeves produced Side by Side, a fascinating look into the world of celluloid film and the increase in digital filmmaking. Featuring a fantastic array of interviewwes, from Martin Scorcese to David Lynch, Side by Side was a very worthy top ten inclusion, and only just failed to make the cut.
Aside from Behind the Candelabra, Side Effects is Steven Soderbergh’s final directorial effort, and it’s a hell of a way to go out . A twisting, turning, grown up thriller, Side Effects is a surprisingly sinister film about a psychiatrist, played brilliantly by Jude Law, who comes under scrutiny after medication prescribed to a depressed patient (Rooney Mara) causes her to have a ‘violent reaction’. To reveal any more of the plot would be to spoil a surprising film that branches off in unexpected directions, and ties everything up in one long, satisfying climax. Surprisingly forgotten by a large majority of audience members and critics, Side Effects is an underrated thriller and a fine final film by Soderbergh.
Having just seen this the day of writing, this is the latest entry into the list, but I feel it deserves its place. Directed by Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Layburn, Good Vibrations is a true life biopic of Terry Hooley (a thoroughly charming Richard Dormer), a cheery record label owner in the times of the troubles in Ireland. A peace lover and reggae fan, Hooley’s life is changed for the better when he sees his first punk concert, and soon sets about discovering the one band he was ever successful with: The Undertones. Despite some real darkness and pain (a beating by some local skinheads, real footage of bombings and violence), Good Vibrations is one of the most joyous films of the year, and makes Teenage Kicks, a song first released in 1977, seem like the freshest song you’ve heard all year. If you’re a fan of Teenage Kicks, punk, or music itself, you owe it to yourself to see Good Vibrations.
Coming out in January, Django Unchained could have easily fallen by the wayside and been forgotten, if not for the fact it’s a Quentin Tarantino revenge film about a slave teaming up with a dentist to rescue his wife from a petulant man child of a plantation owner and his black, racist servant. If not up there with the best of Tarantino (it runs far too long and occasionally strays a little too far into comedy), it’s Tarantino at his most confident, rewriting history and throwing in ultraviolence, quotable lines and some of his best characters. Throw in another award winning turn from Christoph Waltz and award worthy performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel Jackson and Django was easily one of the year’s best.
The Place Beyond the Pines
No film this year had narrative twists quite as good as Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines this year; turning the idea of narrative on his head, The Place… was an excellent indie drama which ended up being almost nothing like anybody could have expected. Focusing on Ryan Gosling’s effortlessly dreamy Luke, Bradley Cooper’s haunted policeman Avery and Dane DeHaan’s disillusioned Jason, Cianfrance’s beautifully directed film was one of the highpoints of indie cinema in 2013, and though it could just as easily be dismissed as narratively rubbish and poorly marketed, it seems to be an interesting and unusual take on a very standard genre, and for that, it should be applauded.
One of the most emotionally devastating dramas of the year, J.A. Bayona’s story of the 2004 Tsunami that killed thousands of people was at times almost unwatchable in its realistic gore, distressing scenes and sheer emotion. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor made an engaging screen couple, whilst newcomer Tom Holland made a phenomenal impression on the audience. It occasionally risked straying into melodrama and was clearly made to win awards, but who can argue with a film this powerful and upsetting?
The World’s End
Rather infamously, I was not a big fan of this film the first time I saw and reviewed, and have since had to admit I was wrong. Despite not quite living up to the standards of the hilarious Shaun of the Dead and the amazingly clever Hot Fuzz, The World’s End was both very funny, very well acted (especially from Simon Pegg, who gave his best performance yet as antihero Gary King) and, surprisingly, very emotional. Even with it’s flaws, Edgar Wright’s final film in the Cornetto Trilogy was the high standard for comedy films this year.
Robot and Frank
Perhaps the most criminally underrated film of 2013, Robot and Frank was a warm hearted, original and very, very funny comedy drama about a retired cat burglar (played beautifully by Frank Langella) who, when forced by his son to accept a robot helper, begins to use him for one last job. Despite being short and seemingly superfluous, Robot and Frank was actually a rather moving and sweet story of old age, dementia and losing the one thing in life that you thrive at. Langella, now aged 76, seems to keep getting better with old age, and Robot and Frank was one of the few films of the year that I can’t imagine anybody disliking.
What has happened to Matthew McConaughey? Once, he was a laughing stock, a man only known for surfer films and chick flicks. Yet, in these last few years, with Killer Joe, Bernie, Magic Mike, The Paperboy and Mud, as well as upcoming appearances in Dallas Buyers Club, The Wolf of Wall Street and Interstellar, it seems like he’s finally reached his potential. Of all his recent films, however (not including DBC or TWOWS), Mud is definitely the best. A classic American story of two boys who travel to an island in an old wooden boat and meet mysterious drifter Mud (McConaughey), the film sounds rather simplistic and dull, but is actually a brilliant look at the life of teenagers, and the wonders of childhood. Director Jeff Nichols captures many beautiful images, and the cast, especially young actor Tye Sheridan, all give wonderfully realistic performances.
The number one choice for many critics worldwide, Gravity has certainly taken the prize for most critically acclaimed film of 2013, and honestly, who can blame it? The greatest 3D film of all time and possibly the best visual FX ever, Gravity is a stunning, beautiful and often terrifying space odyssey in which Sandra Bullock’s astronaut becomes unconnected from her space shuttle and, along with George Clooney, becomes trapped floating in space. Despite there being plenty of cool set pieces and two great leading performances, the real reason to see Gravity is sheer spectacle; on the biggest screen possible, the film is the closest experience 99% of us will ever get to floating through space, and it thoroughly deserves the many Oscars coming its way, not least to director Alfonso Cuarón.
The Act of Killing
The scariest film of the year and one of the few films to give me shivers down my spine, Joshua Oppenheimer’s chilling documentary sees several killers involved in the 1965 Indonesian massacre being given the chance to discuss the events and recreate them through film. Some choose musical numbers, some use bright colours, and some choose to simply show the horrible murders as they were. Leading interviewee Anwar Congo, seemingly the only person affected by his crimes, makes for a chillingly charismatic subject, and there are too many disturbing scenes to count. Despite its heavy subject, awful scenes (three of the men appear on a daytime chat show, happily discussing the murder of innocents) and incredibly dark tone, The Act of Killing earns the title of best film of the year simply because it is the most important film of the year, and one of the greatest documentaries of the decade.
Thank you for reading the official Fordonfilm Top 10 films of the year, and I hope you will join me soon for my year end awards!
By Harry Ford
- Posted in: End of Year Review
- Tagged: 2013, alfonso cuaron, baftas, best films, bradley cooper, christoph waltz, dane dehaan, django unchained, documentary, drama, edgar wright, eva mendes, ewan mcgregor, frank langella, george clooney, good vibrations, gravity, ja bayona, james marsden, jamie foxx, joshua oppenheimer, jude law, leonardo dicaprio, matthew mcConaughey, mud, naomi watts, nick frost, oscars, quentin tarantino, reece witherspoon, robot and frank, rooney mara, ryan gosling, samuel l jackson, sandra bullock, science fiction, side effects, simon pegg, steven soderbergh, the act of killing, the impossible, the place beyond the pines, the world's end, thriller