The Best Films of 2013, 10-2

December 16, 2013 by Simon Kinnear in Features, Opinion with 1 Comment

Long-term readers of this blog will know that I’m deeply sceptical about the process of making snap judgements about the ‘best’ films of the year, when it’s virtually impossible to see everything, and when a ‘year’ is itself an arbitrary marker.

However, since I’ve now been asked twice for my list – Julian Allen’s #12FilmsAFlickering project on Twitter, and my colleagues at Total Film – I figured I may as well share it.

Here, then, are positions 10 through to 2.  I’ll post a full-length review of my #1 film later this week.

10. Stoker (Park Chan-wook) – If somebody told you, say, five years ago, that the director of Oldboy would come to Hollywood to film a script written by the star of Prison Break, chances are you’d think they were mad. Yet that’s exactly what has happened with Stoker, the kind of one-off that comes once in a blue moon. It’s a film that goes against any kind of prevailing mood in Hollywood, going its own way as surely as writer and director have obviously done.

9. I Wish (Hirokazu Koreeda) – In childhood, everything is magnified. The good times are exhilarating: learning, playing, hatching plans with friends. Yet the bad times are agonising, especially if there is trouble at home.  I Wish captures these feelings perfectly – without melodrama, manipulation or cynicism, but simply by presenting a scenario where the extremes arise naturally.

8. Beyond The Hills (Cristian Mungiu) – Cinema is one of the most meditative and spiritual of art forms, perhaps because the experience of sitting in the dark in rapture at the events on-screen is so like being in church.  Yet cinema seldom does religion well, since it is far easier to blow stuff up.  Occasionally, though, a film comes along with the weight to tackle this big subject, and Beyond The Hills is just such a beast: a remarkable portrait of seclusion and devotion.

7. Beyond Midnight (Richard Linklater) – There’s a reason they call them movies– because, usually, they’re always in such a hurry. But with the Before trilogy, Richard Linklater has pioneered the joys of waiting. As the titles suggest – and confirmed by a character in this concluding part – if you’re in a rush to get to a specific moment, be it a sunrise, a sunset or midnight, you’ll most likely miss it. By concentrating on the Before, you’ll get much more out of it, and maybe find another definition of movies – because they also move us emotionally.

6. The Selfish Giant (Clio Barnard) – Just when you think British kitchen-sink drama has been done to death, along comes a film that reminds you why the social realist tradition is something to be proud of.  The Selfish Giant, in its barest outline, conforms to every cliché in the genre – poverty, despair and tragedy – but it’s all in the telling: soulful, sensitive and an implicit criticism of the society that produced it.

5. Filth (Jon S. Baird) – Variety is usually the enemy of a successful project.  It’s not uncommon for production companies to hold a tone meeting before embarking on a shoot to ensure that cast and crew are singing from the same hymn sheet. If a story has coherence and clarity, it is more manageable and marketable… but it’s also potentially blander. Thank goodness, then, for Filth, a film about a bi-polar protagonist which makes the sensible decision to become a bi-polar film.

4. Blue Is The Warmest Colour (Abdellatif Kechiche) – What makes a great film great?  A strong story to hold the attention?  Ravishing cinematography to thrill the eye?  A directorial vision to impart wisdom?  All of these things, of course, but chiefly it’s down to the actors to provide that spark of emotion, the connection to draw you in and hold you there.  And yet seldom are actors regarded as the auteurs behind their films – at least until the Cannes Film Festival broke with convention and made Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux joint recipients of the Palme D’Or with director Abdellatif Kechiche.  Blue Is The Warmest Colour is a three hour lesson in how performance matters.

3. Neighbouring Sounds (Kleber Mendonça Filho) – Neighbouring Sounds arrives with immaculate timing, given that major protests have swept through Brazil over rising discontent with the gap between the haves and have nots, a division laid bare by the escalating costs of the forthcoming World Cup and Olympics.  Kleber Mendonça Filho’s not-quite thriller taps into the same anxieties but with enough lucid detachment to feel like an urgent state-of-the-nation address. This isn’t something that can be ghettoised like favela classic City Of God; this is about the whole of Brazilian society.

2. Captain Phillips (Paul Greengrass) – Pirate films, it has to be said, are usually played as hokum. After several centuries of Chinese whispers and folk tales, the geo-political ramifications of having colonial powers raided by entrepreneurial thugs has got lost in favour of the glamour of adventure. Maybe one day the exploits of modern-day pirates will become similarly rose-tinted. Until then, we have Captain Phillips, which shows what a pirate film would have looked like if they had made in the 17th Century.

As for the film at #1? Click here to find out.

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One Comment

  1. The Best Film Of 2013: The Act Of Killing » KinnemaniacDec 17, 2013 at 11:31 amReply

    […] it is.  Having listed the rest of my top 10 films of 2013, here is the film that beat everything else this year.   As I wrote for Total Film, […]

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