With the year drawing to a close, I thought it’d be a good time to share the best films that I’ve seen this year.
I’ve seen more films at the cinema this year than I ever have before. Living in a city for most of the year for the first time, with the cinema a thirty minute walk rather than a thirty minute drive away, it’s made it a lot easier. Couple that with friends who get “Orange Wednesday” 2 for 1 cinema tickets and it reasons that most Wednesdays I spent in Aberdeen included a visit to the cinema.
On the whole, the films I’ve seen this year have been great. Some were nominated for this year’s Best Picture Oscar, and some I expect to be nominated for next year’s. In ascending order, here are my top 10 films of 2013:
10. Thor: The Dark World
The first Thor was arguably the weakest of the pre-Avengers Marvel films, but The Dark World take things up a notch. With a plot revolving around fantastical events and Thor’s relationships with his love interest Dr. Foster (Natalie Portman) and brother Loki (Tom Hiddlestone) – it has an emotional core that is a bit stronger in impact than the average action attempt.
It’s got a great sense of humour for a superhero film as well, with Kat Dennings from 2 Broke Girls popping up to provide comic relief throughout. When it comes down to it though, it is a standard superhero film, with great action sequences and special effects, and some good acting performance – but nothing to inspire much more than satisfaction.
9. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Catching Fire is a great action film, building upon the successes of the first film, and being exciting all the way through. A great cast of actors is spearheaded by Jennifer Lawrence, who is just as good in the film as she was in the first. Although very similar in nature to the first film, featuring the same “utopian” world and its’ signature sporting event, it rarely feels stale. It takes a much darker look at the strict government control of Panem. The overall film suffers, in my opinion, from an ending that’s too abrupt – paying more attention to setting up the sequel rather than providing a fitting conclusion to the film. With a more ‘final’ ending, this film could have been much higher on my list.
As a visual effects show, Gravity is the best film of the year. The setting of space is phenomenal, and the use of sound in portraying the tension and emptiness at the same time is particularly impressive. Sandra Bullock gives a decent performance as the lead, but the movie’s cinematographic excellence suffers from a plot that has little depth apart from Bullock trying to get back to Earth, and a little developed sub-plot about her life on Earth, with a daughter that died prematurely and no other family to speak off. It’s a good film to see, especially at the cinema in 3D, but not a classic.
7. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
With a delightful mix of the styles of Jackass absurdity and Sacha Baron Cohen’s fly-on-the-wall films. The film takes the form of old Irving Zissman and his grandson’s road trip across America, and the ensuing antics. The entire film is littered with laughs with several scenes being side-splittingly funny. Johnny Knoxville does a great job as Zissman, with his “grandson” also doing a great job of holding together on some of the more ridiculous of the setups (including asking for help in moving a dead body). On the whole you’ll enjoy the film if you like the crude brand of humour Jackass films typically bring.
Winning the Best Picture Oscar this year perhaps raised my expectations of Argo too high. The recreation of the rescue of American embassy workers from Iran in 1979 is always going to be tense subject matter, and all the way through the movie you are gripped. It’s a film that is free of the more “showy” elements of modern film – there are no explosions and high-speed car chases – but it ramps up the tension in different and interesting ways. The setting of the late 70s is fantastic, and Ben Affleck does a great job as the CIA operative sent to the rescue. In comparing it to a film further on in the list, though, Argo’s plot feels too simple and lacks a certain something that the very top films have. Definitely a great film, though.
5. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
I was apprehensive about a sequel to what is one of the greatest cult comedies of the century, and one of my favourites of all-time. Gladly, though, Anchorman 2 delivers on its’ promise of more antics from the Channel 4 News Team in a way that was both different and in the same style as the original. The story might not be as strong, and the jokes certainly aren’t as quotable – but in terms of continuous laughter, Anchorman 2 does a good job at falling only closely behind its’ predecessor. The film is the funniest I’ve seen all year, and is well worth watching if you’ve seen the first.
Prisoners lived up to its’ billing as a thriller and then some. Hugh Jackman’s daughter is kidnapped, and we see the lengths that a father will go to get their child back. Paul Dano also weighs in with an excellent portrayal of one of the suspects in the case. All is not simple in the world of Prisoners, though. The gripping story will keep you interested all the way, by giving the viewer and Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) breadcrumbs of clues to follow in trying to figure out who is the true kidnapper. The ending is magnificent, tying together many threads in the film in one, with an Inception-style ending, leaving the viewer wondering what happened next…
A definition of zany, you’ll never quite know what’s going on in Filth, and it’s such a good movie because of it. Equal parts funny and disturbing, the quest of James McAvoy’s Detective Bruce Robertson towards a promotion in Edinburgh’s police force shows you a man who is an utter disgrace – mired in drugs, adultery and worse – but still likeable. A great British cast supports McAvoy, in what is feels like a very Scottish film, and a brilliant, eclectic soundtrack adds to the off-the-wall nature of the film. No other film this year felt as much of a thrill ride, complete with parts you’d rather shut your eyes for. It’s a film that will always keep you guessing, and well worth a watch, although perhaps not for the faint-hearted.
2. Zero Dark Thirty
It was a massive challenge for director Kathryn Bigalow to make the story of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden compelling viewing, given that those watching know how it will all end – but Zero Dark Thirty held me in a sense of suspense that no other film managed this year. Jessica Chastain is excellent as lead character Maya, a woman who is brought into the CIA as the hunt begins and never gives up until her mission is complete, despite the difficulties and stresses of the job. The road to Bin Laden was never easy, and you will rarely know exactly what is about to happen in the next scene. The cinematography in the film is brilliant, but it’s the sound that brings this film to life. From beatings to bombs, the audio makes you feel like you are in the room. The close of the film is as exciting a military scene as you will find in cinema. Zero Dark Thirty is an amazing film experience all-in-all.
1. Django Unchained
Django is a film that you must see – pure and simple. It captures a particularly dark period in American culture extremely well, and respectfully, whilst keeping a humour and light tone that make Quentin Tarantino’s films such a joy to watch. The story is strong and believable, showing a freed slave’s journey to reunite with his wife, and lends itself to the classic violent set pieces for which Tarantino is known. Christoph Waltz more than deserved his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing Dr. King Schulz, a man with morals and a razor sharp wit, and I do believe that Leonardo Di Caprio could have won in another year with his stellar performance as the antagonist Monsieur Candy. The soundtrack for the film is top class, adding to the film immeasurably. There’s almost nothing to fault.
It’s the ultimate Tarantino flick, and my favourite movie of the year – it should already have had your curiosity, but it demands your attention.
These are my ten favourite films of the year, but some honourable mentions go to two Tom Hanks films Captain Phillips & Saving Mr. Banks which are both pretty good, and featured good acting performances, but weren’t very exceptional when it came to their plot. I’m sure many will also enjoy The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, and as an action film it was good, but none of the many storylines in the movie are completed, leaving me wondering why I’d watched a 2 and a half hour setup for the third film in the series. Fans of over-the-top action films with a touch of self-awareness would also be amiss not to check out Machete Kills, a movie which would have originally placed 10th on my list if not for films being released in December.
It’s also worth noting that there are a few films that came out this year that I want to see, but haven’t as of yet – including Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, The World’s End and World War Z but to name a few.
Thanks for reading my review of 2013 in film, and feel free to leave a comment below if you agree or disagree with any of my picks.