DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Best of 2013

Tuesday 31 December 2013

Best of 2013

As always I tend to worry most about what films I leave off this list. I remarked yesterday about the vast number of quality films to see right now in the theatres at the end of this year. In particular American Hustle which somehow just doesn't make this list. Same with Peter Berg's Lone Survivor which is terrific but hasn't been released yet theatrically. Sadly this stayed off the list. The Sundance films this year were terrific, with Upstream Color finding its way onto this list. I wish there were room for the absorbing Before Midnight, or Fruitvale Station or The Spectacular Now. Two films I questioned most were Stoker and The Place Beyond the Pines both released earlier in the Spring. Stoker may not hold up to future viewings as say, Before Midnight but it remains on this list for it's surprisingly gleeful impact it had me when I saw it in the cinema for the first time. And the best moments of The Place Beyond the Pines far outweighs its narrative failings.

1. Inside Llewyn Davis
Like the unflashy Fargo the greatness of Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen Bros’ story of a struggling folk singer in the 60’s, sneaks up on you, only to realize long after the picture is over you've just watched a masterpiece which you need to watch again and again.

2. Frances Ha
The choice of shooting black and white for this picture is key to its warm feelings of cinematic nostalgia and the seemingly effortless naturalism. There’s an instant timeless quality to Frances Ha, recalling the works of Woody Allen (Manhattan), Jim Jarmusch (Stranger Than Paradise), François Truffaut and other New Wavers. Perfectly in sync with Boambach’s freeform style is the grand presence of Greta Gerwig whose lively personality is the raison d’etre for this picture. And recalling Diane Keaton’s performance in Annie Hall, we should expect Greta Gerwig to have similar award accolades during award season.

3. Gravity
Alfonso Cuaron’s desire to tell a largely single person survivalist film in space adhering to the laws of real-world physics is inspirational, but his ability to execute the impossibly complex conceptual challenge with perfection and panache makes for a rip-roaring adventure picture for the ages. Whether it’s trying to unscrew a bolt in space, or using booster jets to control one’s movement, there are obstacles to getting home at every turn and one scene of high stakes jeopardy after another which compound for a near relentless 90mins of remarkably sustained tension.

4. Springbreakers
Harimine Korine's audacious girls-gone-wild romp of crime through Daytona Beach culture features some of the best eye candy of the year. But it's Korine's gloriously satirical dreamlike tone which elevates this picture to high art. The grandiloquence of Springbreakers is exemplified in the film's best moment, the montage heist sequence set to James' Franco's interpretation of Britney Spears' candy-coded pop ballad, 'Everytime'. Everything that is great about this picture exists in  this scene.

5. Prisoners
Denis Villeneuve executes Prisoners with same kind of bold cinematic panache as the best of the genre, namely 'Seven' and 'Zodiac', but with a moral complexity which separates this picture from Fincher’s cold clinical approach. But it's the very last moments of this picture which make the biggest impact on the audience. No film this year had a better last frame than Prisoners.

6. Upstream Color
Years after Carruth’s cult hit Primer, Carruth’s finds himself playing in the same field with many of the same toys. But with an even more deliriously cryptic plot under a truly horrific mind-bending sci-fi concept, Carruth’s absolutely validates himself as an astonishingly original and inspired cinematic auteur. Part of the thrill of Primer was the combination of brilliant stylistic flourishes and narrative unconventionality under his palpable low budget feel. Like the aesthetic connections of Malick's work over the decades, and when so much of the technical tools of cinema has changed, Upstream Color is cut from the same cloth as Primer. And admirably Carruth pushes his aesthetic even further to the edge, pushing the boundaries of genre and narrative conventions.

7. The Wolf of Wall Street
Scorsese delivers one more sprawling crime picture, in this case a film which acts like a capper to a trilogy including Goodfellas and Casino, three pictures connected by the director's blistering cinematic pace, it's fascinating viewpoint into three segments of high stakes crime and corruption and it's sympathetic portrait of three contemptible characters

8. Her
While the idea of a lonely man developing a genuine relationship with a Siri-like talking Operating System, is the stuff of high concept science fiction, Spike Jonze’s trumps the intimate character study of a heartbroken lonely man looking for love in the most unlikely of places. Once again Jonze turns in a film so unique, original and bold, and yet remarkably accessible and identifiable to almost anyone.

9. Stoker
In the long history of Asian genre directors crossing over into English-language films, Chan-wook Parks’ Stoker, a deliriously directed noirsih thriller, is the cream of the crop. Unlike this year’s other Korean-directed thriller Jee-woon Kim’s The Last Stand, Park’s devilish film about nebbish teenager disturbed by the arrival of her long lost Uncle bristles with cinematic ingenuity and with a kind of inspired unconventionality not seen since the bombastic heyday of Brian De Palma.

10. The Place Beyond the Pines
A tad clunky in the ambitious sprawling narrative of this picture, Derek Cianfrance’s unbridled ambition to push his storytelling abilities above and beyond Blue Valentine is a wholly admirable risk. Despite a rickety third act, which pulls together the 20 year journey of two characters on either side of the law, Pines is a thrilling auteur cinematic exercise reminscient of the ambitious blue collar dramas of the late 70’s specifically Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter.

No comments :