Well the sun has set on another year in cinema land. Films came, films went. Some exceeded expectations, others went away quickly never to be watched again. But if you are looking for the cream of the crop in 2013, then these are this writer’s favorite ten films.
“Django Unchained” – This is a borderline film for most people’s Top Ten lists this year. In some countries it opened in 2012, in other countries it opened in January 2013, so let’s call it a 2013 film. “Django Unchained” was director/screenwriter Quentin Tarantino at his absolute best. The script sizzled with great one liners and brilliant characterization and while the film did lapse a little (incidentally at about the time that Tarantino himself appeared on the screen), the film did more than enough to be one of this year’s best films. As if the script wasn’t enough to win you over, you then have some marvellous performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson that make this film a must see.
“The Way Way Back” – Every now and then a coming-of-age film comes along that reminds you just how good this genre can be when it is done the right way. Directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash certainly go the formula right when they put together “The Way Way Back.” The film saw Steve Carell play one of the best against-type roles of all time as he played the emotional abusive father of Duncan (Liam James) while Sam Rockwell put in one of the finest performances of his career as he played the fun-loving owner of a water theme park. If you didn’t get to see “The Way Way Back” when it hit cinemas make sure you check it out when it reaches shelves on DVD.
“Mud” – There was a time when actor Matthew McConaughey was considered a joke. He acted in poorly written romantic comedies that used him more for his looks rather than acting ability. As a result people started to believe that McConaughey was a poor actor, but he turned that around with some great performances in “Bernie” and “Magic Mike.” 2013 saw McConaughey deliver another powerful performance in “Mud,” a small-time drama in which he plays an escaped convict using an island as a hideaway who uses two local boys Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) to help him escape. Director, Jeff Nichols, manages to make this drama an intense thriller by drawing the audience in and making them wonder exactly what Mud is hiding or willing to do in his escape.
“Rust And Bone” – When people talk about some of the acting performances of 2013, it is surprising how many people seem to skip right over Marion Cotillard’s performance in French film “Rust And Bone.” In what is at times a harrowing film Cotillard plays Stephanie, a young woman who loses her legs in an accident involving a killer whale at the marine park at which she works. In an extraordinary piece of screenwriting, Stephanie’s life is completely turned upside down when she meets Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts), an out-of-luck guy who loves to get involved in backyard fights. “Rust And Bone” may have been a gritty drama, but it is also one of the most intense romances to have surfaced in 2013, making it one of the most underrated films of the year.
“Prisoners” – One of the biggest surprises of this year has been the fact that when all the talk of Oscar nominations has been circulating, the film “Prisoners” hasn’t been getting more love. To be blunt “Prisoners” is one of the best crime thrillers to have surfaced since “Silence Of The Lambs.” Director, Denis Villeneuve makes this an intense thriller that sees Australian Hugh Jackman play Keller Dover a father who is pushed to the absolute extreme when his daughter goes missing along with her friend. Out-acting Jackman, just, is Jake Gyllenhaal who plays one of the most intriguing script cops of all time in Detective Loki. This is one crime thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end.
“Flight” – With “Flight,” cinema goers walked into the cinema expecting to see another disaster film. Denzel Washington would play a pilot who had to save a plane load of people as something went wrong … it would be a simple film right? Director, Robert Zameckis surprised everyone by delivering a film that opened with pilot, Whip Whitaker (Washington) snorting cocaine and drinking before boarding a flight. The film then became a well-written thriller after the plane crashes and the investigation tries to work out whether Whip is a hero or a villain. Sensational writing and a great performance by Washington makes for one hell of a film.
“The Paperboy” – One of the other big surprises of 2013 was the film “The Paperboy.” Zac Efron doesn’t normally spell one of the films of the year but this time the young actor really delivered. Efron plays Jack Jansen, a young boy that works at his father’s local newspaper who teams up with his older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) who is a journalist working on a racial murder case. Director, Lee Daniels, gets the absolute best out of his cast. Efron and McConaughey are sensational and are well supported by Nicole Kidman and John Cusack, who both act against type remarkably well.
“Broken” – Just when it looked like it was going to be a lean year for British films along came “Broken.” Directed by Rufus Norris “Broken” was a nasty little film that showed British society at its absolute worst. Told through the eyes of a young girl named Skunk (Eloise Laurence), “Broken” tells the story of the violent events that occur at the end of what should be quite English street. From a man who accused of being a sexual monster, to a broken marriage that is affecting some young children and a father who simply cannot cope any more, this is a film where the audience is left wondering who (if anyone) is going to be left emotionally okay (or even alive) by the final credits. “Broken” is British drama at its best.
“What Maisie Knew” – Another surprisingly good film for 2013. On the surface “What Maisie Knew” looked like it would be a film that should be on the Hallmark channel. Instead it became a gritty drama told through the eyes of a young girl named Maisie (Onata Aprile). This young girl becomes the victim of a bitter custody battle between her washed up rock star mother, Susanna (Julianne Moore), and her proud art-dealing Dad, Beale (Steve Coogan). The film had the power to emotionally affect anybody watching it as it soon becomes painfully plain that neither parents want the girl; they just don’t want their ex-partner to have her. “What Maisie Knew” delivers one of the most emotional scripts of the year.
“The Railway Man” – Rounding out the top ten is a late contender with the Australian/British co-production “The Railway Man.” Over the years a lot of filmmakers have told the story of how men cope when they return from war. Few, however, have focused on a story where a victim returns and faces the man who tortured them. Based on a hit novel, “The Railway Man” centers around Eric Lomax (Colin Firth), a man whose war demons come to the surface after he has married Patricia Wallace (Nicole Kidman). As the ghosts who have haunted him since he was a POW forced to work on the Thai Burma Railway come to the fore, Patricia inspires him to return to the scene of the crime, unaware that it will result in a tense standoff with Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada). The scenes of the two men confronting each other made for some of the best cinematic moments of 2013.
It would be neglectful not to also mention the following films when talking about the best films of 2013. Also worth a look is “Thanks For Sharing” (with a surprisingly good performance by Pink), “Lygon Street: Si Parla Italiano,” “West Memphis Three,” “Trance,” “A Place Beyond The Pines,” “Performance (A Late Quartet),” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Compliance,” “The Impossible,” “Warm Bodies” and “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.”
Now that 2013 is out of the way, it is time to wait and see what new gems film lovers can uncover in 2014. Bring it on!