Thursday, 12 December 2013

Top 10 of 2013

Yes, you've guessed it, it's that time of year when film fans - not content with having enjoyed a year's worth of movies - feel the need to then draw up a list of their favourites.

How else will we know, in years to come, which was our favourite? And how else can other people take issue with our choices and point out all the ones we got wrong?

It's what loving films is all about.

This year, in a change to the format, we'll be starting at 10 - because it's Christmas, and who doesn't like being kept waiting for the big reveal? No scrolling to the end now...

Oh, and just to maintain the suspense a tad longer, lets take a moment to remember the turkeys. It is Christmas after all.

January set the bar high with Movie43, a diabolical waste of everyone's time and money that failed to raise so much as a titter as a plethora of stars looked embarrassed and bewildered by the unfunny sketch they had to perform. Presumably at gunpoint.

Hansel And Gretel - Witch Hunters fell just the wrong side of stupid, taking a half-decent idea and then stomping on it with an anvil, while The Host proved that Stephanie Meyer should have stuck to vampire love triangles.

Spring Breakers and The Bling Ring also took good ideas and ruined them, with Dark Skies happy to prove that having all the ingredients of a thriller is not enough - you need to actually do something intelligent with them.

Of the 'blockbusters', May and June struck out, serving up both The Great Gatsby (which wasn't) and Man Of Steel (the dullest superhero film made to date). Not that July did any better, as Now You See Me made people wish they hadn't. And the less said about World War Zzzzzz the better.

After that things seemed to pick up - right up to the point The Fifth Estate came along. Benedict Cumberbatch was as good as ever, but even he couldn't save this mess. Still, at least he wasn't in The Counsellor.

Movie43 was still the worst, though. And that in a year Machette Kills was unleashed.

Anyhoo, that's enough negative wossinames, let's get to the chart. Feel free to put on Yellow Pearl or that jazzed-up Whole Lotta Love while you read this (assuming you're old enough to actually remember Top Of The Pops).

Nestling just outside the Top 10 we have Midnight Son, Stoker and Robot And Frank - any one of which would have been in the 10 in a lesser year.

Anyway, right, yes, the actual 10. Play the music...

Katharine Isabelle plays a medical student who finds an alternative way of paying her student fees, utilising skills that come in damn handy when revenge is called for. Luxuriously shot, superbly performed and garishly brutal, it's the shot in the arm an increasingly tired horror genre has needed.

A recurring theme this year - the task of making a despicable character likeable. Something James McAvoy pulls off here with aplomb. In a year that saw him shine in both Trance and Welcome To The Punch, this is the film that stood him out from the crowd as he played a corrupt police officer drinking and snorting his way through a breakdown. And making you laugh as he did it.

The first of two films with young stars at the centre of the action, Lore (pronounced Laura) tells the tale of a young girl (Saskia Rosendahl) who has to take over as the head of the family after the Third Reich falls, taking her high-ranking Nazi parents with it. Touching and sensitive while never shying away from the brutal truth of the new situation, it was a spellbinding piece of filmmaking.

At a time when big corporations are coming under greater scrutiny and suspicion, Britt Marling's look at a gang who target companies who have wronged innocent people could not have been better timed. Tense, gripping and with a stellar supporting cast, The East took you inside the action, forcing you to question who was right and who was wrong.

One that really did divide the critics (the American Film Institute had this in its 10 worst films of the year), OGF was not an easy watch by any stretch. Rich in colour, the story of a screwed up family and bonkers cop all out for revenge was so slow-paced you could feel dust settling on you as you watched. But watch we did, gripped and enthralled by the dark, twisted tail - and entranced by Kristen Scott Thomas' stunning portrayal of the mother from hell. And yes, Ryan Gosling was Ryan Gosling, but in films like this he fits in just fine.

Yattter, yatter, blah, blah, Woody Allen returns to form etc etc - but wait, here he actually has. Breaking his own box office records, Cate Blanchette's portrayal of an unlikeable woman who is the architect of her own downfall was heartwarming and captivating. Oh, and Sally Hawkins is amazing in it as well.

A small British film that deserved a much wider audience, Broken saw the debut of Eloise Laurence, who performance as Skunk was simply astounding. Hard to explain but easy to enjoy, Broken is the tale of converging lives on one inner-city housing estate. It's violent, it's funny, it has an ending not everyone agrees with (we loved it), and it has more quirk than most films have a right to. It's simply beautiful.

Only Joss Whedon could decide to take a bunch of mates, mess about at home for 12 days with a Shakespeare classic, shoot it in black and white, and make it this good. A front runner for film of the year after its premiere at the Bradford International Film Festival, it's only been edged out by late contenders. If I could have a triple-header at 1 I would, but I'm a stickler for my own rules. Much Ado is one of the finest Shakespeare adaptions you'll ever see.

It's got a cast of barely two, it's been shot in 3D and the whole thing takes place in space. There is no way this can be any.... Oh. It can. And is. On paper this film shouldn't have worked, but thanks to a stunning performance from Sandra Bullock and some ground-breaking effects, Gravity just pins you to your seat for 90 minutes. I was still catching my breath half an hour after it had ended.

So what does it take to push the other members of the top 4 down a place? Well, a Belgian film full of bluegrass music that looks at love, loss, grief and religion. Obviously. OK, that doesn't sound like a winner, but it's the way you fall in love with the characters from the off, the way even the darkest moments lift your soul, the way a genre of music you probably wouldn't touch with an extra-long banjo all come together to just wrap you in love and warmth that makes this stand out from the crowd. There isn't a bad performance, there isn't a mis-step, there's just a sublime cinematic experience that we are still telling total strangers about now.

Right, just The Hobbit 2 and Walter Mitty to go, and then we can crack on with 2014...

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