When it comes to compiling this list each year there is one moment that I look for. It’s that split second in the theatre where you find yourself leaning in, thinking “This is not what I expected”. It was that spark, that moment of shock that I looked for. Some of these movies were slow-burners, I perhaps didn't think as much of them at the time I first reviewed them. These were the movies that pushed me to the edge of my chair, pulled me closer to that screen and stayed with me since.
As always this is an inevitably subjective list so please be kind. Also, quite a few Oscary sorts like 12 Years a Slave, Her, The Wolf of Wall Street and Nebraska won't come out til 2014 in Australia. Without further ado and in no particular order... here goes:
Mainstream cinema is now the inferior artform to mainstream tv. It's partially a business/demographic thing but it is the reality we have to contend with. What Gravity provided was a cinema experience that TV couldn't. Yes, it was all plot and no character but I liked how that focused of the storytelling: every element was driving your attention into the immediate nightmare. 3D effects and intricate sound design filled you with the dread, scale and terror of space.
There’s been very few romantic comedies in the last few years that didn’t utterly suck. So when one comes along with wit, heart, playfulness, empathy, creativity and Ron Weasley's older brother hooking up with Regina George... you pay attention. More than anything About Time actually made me think differently about how I approach life. If only for a week, I treated each day with the calmness of having lived it once through. It made me appreciate life more and yes....okay, I can hear you judging me as you read this and you can just fuck right off.
My biggest complaint with Cloud Atlas remains the cosmetics. Hugh Grant with a tribal face tattoo, Hugo Weaving as a fat female British nurse and an orientalised Jim Sturgess. But every re-watch has made Cloud Atlas better. It's a family of souls re-occuring throughout time and space, making the same mistakes in different ways, edging towards escape (be it from eurasian robot slavery or a nursing home). Yes, its occasionally cheesy but every time I watch this film I I get something different from it.
Rust + Bone
Rust and Bone is the story of an amateur boxer, his son and Marion Cotillard as an unfortunate SeaWorld employee. It takes it’s own sweet time to build up the landscape of characters but I will simply never forget that moment where Eastern Europe’s answer to the Incredible(ly fond of casual sex) Hulk fought through a slab of ice with his bare, bloodied hands. It's a film about frailty and strength in it’s many forms. Physical, emotional, financial and sexual. Director Jacques Audiard sneaks shocks, gasps and laughs right up to you when you least expect any of them. Also he makes the best use of a Katy Perry song this side Masterchef.
When Django Unchained was first released there was a lot of commentary suggesting that it was an inaccurate portrayal of slavery... which, to me, is a bit like saying that Superman is an inaccurate portrayal of mild mannered reporters. Django and Inglourious Basterds’ Jewish Nazi-hunter Death Squad are essentially Tarantino's fan-edits of history. The man is obsessed with rewriting our world with the folk heroes that should’ve existed. He’s creating mythical superheroes for the most brutal, unjust periods in humanity. Sure, I personally would’ve edited a few chunks right out of it but Django remains of of Tarantino’s best.
This horrifyingly realistic rendition of the Asian Tsnami was one of the more underrated films of 2013. I will admit that the focus on the token white (though actually Spanish in real life) family instead of the thousands of far worse-off locals made me slightly uncomfortable. Also The Impossible is just a shit title. Race politics & marketing-fails aside The Impossible was a visceral, terrifying, stunningly well-shot and brilliantly acted film. And certainly the most nightmarish, exhilarating and devastating vehicle I’ve ever seen for Naomi Watt’s considerable side-boob.
This Is The End
The insanity of This Is The End starts at the very concept and it pretty much doesn’t let up until the apocalypse of narcissistic neurotic hollywood stars has moved onto another plane of existence. What’s really surprising though is how well made it is beyond the jokes.The meta-celebrity characters have interpersonal conflicts that ring alarmingly true. Co-directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg contort genuine scares into shocked laughs and then back again. This Is The End is juvenile fun made by people who really know how to make juvenile fun.
The lights go out. The outside world is shut off. The screen turns on. In an instant all of your attention is focused on this giant window into another world and you are in someone else head.
This is the power of watching movies in a theatre; A power wielded amazingly by Stoker. In his first English language film South Korean Director Park Chan Wook pulls you right into Mia Wasikowska’s hypersensitive mind. Stoker excels at using confusion as a storytelling tool. You know something awful going on under the surface and you find yourself leaning in waiting for that other shoe to drop.
The Place Beyond The Pines
You either loved this or you hated The Place Beyond The Pines: Derek Cianfrance’s epic about two families getting comeuppance across generations. Yes, it kinda was 2 or 3 movies in one. And there was that moment when you thought someone had sat on the remote and you were now watching some completely different flick. But the performances from Dane DeHaan, Eva Mendes and Rose Byrne are just stunning. Mostly, I loved the symmetry of it. Seeds sown by parents are reaped by children. It’s the sort of film where where lofty ideas like destiny and fate get fleshed out by seemingly ordinary everyday people.
Iron Man 3
There’s only one thing that Robert Downey Jr plays better than a charismatic swaggering dick. That’s an emotionally scarred charismatic swaggering dick. He uses great humour to cover festering psychological wounds. In doing so, he’s finally given the Marvel universe the emotional core that it had been missing (I’d give you Agent Coulson’s death in The Avengers except well…the fucker didn’t die, now did he?). As good as RDJ was, the real star of Iron Man 3 will always be Ben Kingsley. And probably also Gwyneth Paltrow’s abs. I loved the plot-twists, I loved the entirely pointless skydiving barrel o' monkeys scene and I loved this film. Iron Man 3 was my Blockbuster of 2013.
How I live Now
Saoirse Ronan, (Hanna, Atonement) is an obnoxious anorexic Manhattanite with voices in her head. She’s been sent to live with her cousins in the green, peaceful hills countryside England just in time for WW3 to explode on the horizon. Which is…. kinda fine. There’s no parents, plenty of campfire marshmallows and sexy sun-bathed sexy cousin sex.
So, this is basically a not-shit version of Tomorrow When The War Began but with Northen Hemishphere accents and slightly more inbreeding. Director Kevin McDonald keeps everything really fluid: the camera is always in motion from the glowing summer days to the bleak horror of when war. And I mean 'bleak'. Expect ethnic cleansing, martial law and worse as McDonald brings the world crashing down on these kids in ways that you don’t honestly think he has the balls to do.
Life of Pi
Act of Killing
The Way Way Back
Zero Dark Thirty
We Steal Secrets
Secret Life of Walter Mitty
The World's End
World War Z
If only there were as many jokes in this film as there were testicles hanging off Hugh Jackman's face. Not only is this the worst film of 2013 it's also a fucking mystery how it was made.
Somehow worse than the "Alien Twilight" I was expecting.
Everyone involved in this should go fuck themselves immediately.
"Ooh! I have an idea! Lets cast the world's most charismatic movie star as a guy with no personality on a planet without people!" - Guy Who Is Now Fired
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Because big hair is an acceptable substitute for jokes! I'm not saying there aren’t laughs. There are. You can count em the one hand...of a person who lost several fingers in a freak meat cleaver accident.
Ripping off Men In Black never looked so hard until you saw this.
Kick Ass 2
Way to fuck up a really wonderful first film. *slow claps*
The Hangover Part 3
The only person more bored than me in the cinema was Bradley Cooper on the screen. It's actually the worst kind of sequel where the producers just expect you to laugh because you remember the characters were funny once. It's insulting.
A Good Day to Die Hard
This actually would've been a pretty good movie if they cut out all of the plot/dialogue/attempts at nuclear science and just edited together all the explosions.