Sunday, 16 March 2014

Top 13 Films of 2013

2013 Minimalist Film Art

In the year 2013 I finished my final year of high school and was given, as reward like thousands of students across the country, 3.5 entire months of idle reckoning, of freedom. I, in much realism feared I would spend the entire summer wasting away - partying until exhaustion, nauseousness and smeared makeup be commonplace. My mind shouted insults of recklessness, inadequacy and general uselessness at my self-esteem - "what do you have to count for 18 years of being alive?" I scrambled of course in panic to realise what I could achieve in the space of 3 months before my life would be consumed with the academic indulgence of university life. Summer - a concept I once longed for in the insanity of year 12, became upon reproach a nightmare of unrealised and impossible expectation. So I abandoned idle thoughts of long dark nights in fake bright lights with 'new friends', beaches decorated with bikinis, tanning oil and barely audible music on our iPhones. I chose to indulge myself in material perfection. Because we can all exist in movies but life is effort. I switched the reality where films were the truth and life was cloying with fakeness. It is this type of thinking of course that breeds anti-social behaviour - writers and artists, appreciators of non-existent cultures will always be pretentious. We carry grace only in our mediums but stumble around in life. We're all pseudo-intellectuals begging for attention.  

People can say its sad, because I chose not to have a real life but live in the lives of others, ones that might not even be real. But that's the irony and beauty of insanity. It's my reality... so in my world you're only lying. 

So here it is: the top 13 films responsible for my insanity in 2013

13. The Way Way Back

Innocent and beguiling - it is that childhood summer adventure we all had. Nostalgic to a fault, The Way Way Back is so familiar yet strangely original - the overwhelming everythingness of growing up is captured exceedingly well. We have an unlikely role model and mentor dishing out a memorable comedic performance (Sam Rockwell), a teenager more reasonable than the perplexingly selfish adults around him and a sweet, more worldly young girl who serves nicely as our love interest. There's a certain authenticity to every character - none being formulaic or rounded, each concealing flaws and issues and each with a story to tell.

12. Dallas Buyer's Club

What really pushed this film up the ranks into the top 13 for me were the stellar performances by both Jared Leto and Matthew McConaugheyMcConaughey's character, Ron Woodroof, is constructed in magnificent style - the development of his character from a homophobic degenerate who indulges himself in debauchery to an invested advocate of the LGBT community is not only convincing but poignant and hopeful. A memorable scene from the film is its primary pivotal point when Ron, in Mexico to purchase his next round of drugs, wanders into a research room filled with butterflies. The light flickers and the scene then cuts almost instanteneously to Leto's character.  

11. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

An impressive adaptation of an impressive novel, the film makers of this dystopian vision have managed to tap into the minds of readers and create an altogether entertaining and valuable screen tribute. Unfortunately undermined by its primary demographic: a strong force of teenagers, this film has been widely snubbed by critics with its notable absence in top 10 lists of 2013. Visually dazzling and well-acted, Catching Fire is a cinema experience which demands to be encountered.   
Now is the time of the utopian/dystopian obsession and The Hunger Games is most certainly the King of it all.

10. Spring Breakers

Novelty and originality are two things which are right up Harmony Korine's alley and Spring Breakers is no exception. Upon its release, it was hailed by critics to be an instant cult classic. In similar fashion to his work in Gummo and the highly controversial exploitive flick Kids, Korine treks into uncharted territory when he engages in a dangerously sympathetic view of criminal glory. It's messy, delirious and delicious. Youth revolt has never simultaneously looked this good and this real. And who could forget James Franco's insanely, addictive "look at all my shiiiiiit" monologue? 

9. The Bling Ring 

Sofia Coppola is yet to fail me. The surreal social commentary of The Bling Ring fascinated me no end - from the eerie long shot views of the night robberies in action to the smooth yet natural dialogue between the teens. The variation of camera filters and the unique unabashed portrayal of teen glamour was a refreshing vision delivered in true Coppola fashion. Emma Watson proved once more to be a real asset to modern cinema, aiding magnificently in the study of human condition in her representation of a bona fide American princess. The presence alone of newcomer Katie Chang is electric to say the least. Her haunting delivery of speech is enough to make anything sound quotable. "We're in L.A. Don't be such a little bitch!"

 8. The Spectacular Now

Two intriguing, original characters made for an incredible film. What really distinguished the teen flick was the unique sympathetic portrayal of its protagonist Sutter Keely, a young teenager who lived the good life. Peaking at high school, he is in every coming-of-age film and novel but never the subject or point of focus. Clean faced, Amy Finecky is refreshing both for Sutter and its audience. Both characters are enthusiastic and endearing - everything that teenagers should be but often are not.  
I cannot remember a film with more naturally delivered dialogue or honestly portrayed events in a life we all live. It is the fragility of our happiness that is questioned in this film. 

Read the full review here

7. Gravity

Astoundingly edited, everything from sound mixing to its cinematography is scarily close to technical perfection. Incorporating awe-inspiring performances by both Clooney and Bullock, Gravity fully embraces the idea of a cinema "experience" and leaves you dazzled, exhausted and harbouring a greater appreciation for the technological aspect of film-making. The characters played by Clooney and Bullock are rich, deftly crafted personalities. Something I really appreciated about Gravity was how so absolutely unpredictable it is. 
My favourite scene is the dream sequence - where in the mind of Ryan Stone we see an imagined revisitation of Matt - rescued and transpiring a critical opportunity for Ryan's survival. It is both a moment of awe and heart-break when Ryan awakens, struggling to breathe, frightened and very much alone. 

6. The Great Beauty 

More extravagant than the enviable crazy of The Wolf of Wall Street and any Martin Scorsese film in fact is the innovation of our 2013 Italian award-winning film - The Great Beauty. The most widely revered foreign language film of the year, director Paolo Sorrentino attacks its audience with an incredible introduction of mystery and wonder. The intellectual banter is enthralling - a script really like no other. The city-wide inspection from a cultural point of view where we as viewers see ancient buildings, modern art demonstrations (a.k.a a small child throwing paint at a massive blank canvas in a fit of rage and passion) and overall a rather depressing yet enlightening view on contemporary living. 

5. Her

Quiet melancholy in a modern world of emotional disconnectedness is something we can all relate to. It is the irony of loneliness that is so prevalent in cities of advanced communication where we struggle to obtain a tangible connection with something, anything. Spike Jonze paints us a subtle, innocent portrait of our need and desire for companionship in all forms. Notable cinematography and a futuristic tone that is plausible and a wonder to look at work together to translate mundane human emotion into something universally significant.   

4. The Past

The Past is one of the most under-appreciated films I have ever had the privilege of seeing. Receiving a very limited release worldwide and in Australia, this French film tackles the genre of drama with diligence and grace whilst dishing it to its audience like a thriller. It quickens your heartbeat in a though-provoking manner that is both skilful and wondrously rare. It is that character study that makes you squirm in the uncomfortable truth of it and smile upon realising its accuracy and skilful representation. I award The Past not the finest film of the year, but the most memorable, haunting, quintessential and exemplary ending of any film in 2013. I see that hidden tear, that tightly grasped hand against that crisp white sheet every day.  

Read the full review here

3.  Inside Llewyn Davis

There was something ruthlessly honest and quietly powerful about the little indie flick Inside Llewyn Davis. Everything about Llewyn's life is a disappointment - you can see that his raw talent was once his envisioned path to glory, now only a bitter burden of duty and inadequacy.  Accompanied by an incredible soundtrack of remixed classic folk songs, this Cohen brothers film is strangely entertaining, comedic and insightful. It is a look at the dreary conventionality of the 50s tailor-made for a modern 21st century audience. Oscar Isaac approaches his role with incredible prowess supplying viewers with something of a bravado performance, perfectly complemented of course by Carey Mulligan's redeeming escapade staging of the unfaithful girlfriend.   

2. 12 Years A Slave  

It is Steve McQueen's pure artistry and the proficiency of the cast which has this film deemed a "cinematic essential" by critics everywhere. Films are an art form and so it is often viewed as something of a luxury to dub a film "important". Here, 12 Years A Slave has struck that perfect balance of portraying significant history whilst never abandoning to address its cinematic medium. This film never ever cries for attention. It doesn't demand to be felt. You could lose one of your senses and still have elements of this film running wild in your mind. This film qualifies far and beyond for one of the honorary Best Films of 2013.   

Read the full review here

1. Blue Is The Warmest Colour

2013 was a substantial year for me in that I first truly began to understand and appreciate the wonder of minimalist film-making. In the past, I revelled solely at extravagant production designs, such as those found in Anna Karenina, which I of course still value and admire - but I have learnt to hold the more natural course of film-making in higher esteem.   Especially one done so inexplicably beautifully as the masterpiece crafted by Tunisian-French director Abdellatif Kechiche. It was those tenuous, astute and highly understated features of this love story that slowly crept up on me. 

When I first saw this film, not a month back - it had not quite settled in my mind. When I walked out of the cinema the weight and power of the film had not yet impressed up on me. I simply acknowledged it to be a good piece of modern cinema. But as the days following this screening progressed, I found myself thinking not less about this film (as usually happens) but more, much more. 
One of the true treasures and merits of the film is how intricately and precisely each of the characters are imagined and then brought to life by each amazing actor and actress. It is that strange feeling of knowing someone that you've watched onscreen - something that often only characters of television shows can transcend upon its audience, owing to its lengthy screen times. The star, Adele Exarchopolous, unadulterated, pure and true, is nothing less than magical - audience members can feel her presence with them days, weeks after. 
It is Blue that reminded me that it is not a singular outstanding scene that you are searching for in film, but a masterpiece, a euphoric product in perfect composition. 

Read the full review here

Honourable Mentions: 

Speaking of honourable mentions, I would like to thank my dear friend Clea Moon, whom accompanied me to the cinemas so often. Always allowing me to pick the venue, the film, time, dates and any events I wished to attend I could not have wished for a better movie bud.


  1. I just saw your mention at the end, thank you so much! I look forward to seeing many more films with you in the future!

    1. No worries Clea! It's been amazing summer hanging out with you and living in cinemas

  2. Great list! A lot of these made my Top 10 of the year as well. Blue was such a beautiful and heartbreaking film. A “a euphoric product in perfect composition,” as you so eloquently put it. Also love seeing some love for Spring Breakers. I thought that film was perfectly insane. Seriously, I really liked this post!

    1. I'm so glad to hear how much you liked Blue as well. I'm only now beginning to understand and appreciate French cinema and let's just say that Blue was the perfect education. Spring Breakers was undeniably original and yes "perfectly insane"! Thank so much for reading and commenting Alex :) And ditto! I seriously loved your top 10 list