Monday, 30 December 2013


For some film reviewers, 2013 was one of the best years for movies in quite some time, and there is merit in such an argument. As always, my film viewing year was topped and tailed by 2012's Oscar contenders and 2013's crop of awards hopefuls. But was it a great year? It was certainly a very strong one but as with last year, for me it was the smaller films which won me over while bigger and more anticipated titles failed to impress.

2013 was a year where Gosling went 0 for 3 (I still love you, Ryan!), animated features reached a nadir, and I somehow managed to see just one Australian film (unless you count The Great Gatsby?). A year when one of my all-time favourite books became a far from favourite film (Gatsby again), and Cate Blanchett gave an award-winning performance in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine. And yet, the best female performance of the year (Julie Delpy in Before Midnight) is unlikely to receive an Oscar nomination.

My Best of 2012 list actually cut-off at January 10, 2013, so after much to-ing and fro-ing, I have decided that my Favourite Films of 2013 would be limited to films viewed for the first time in 2013* (see list to the right of screen) regardless of Australian release date. (*Classics such as Badlands, The Godfather I and II, The Shining and Goodfellas, which were also viewed for the first time in 2013, are ineligible).

Much to the chagrin of some, I'm sure, I have made my list alphabetical rather than numerical. But to appease those sticklers for (arbitrary) rules, I have conceded to name a favourite film separate to my Top 10.


BEFORE MIDNIGHT: The near perfect conclusion to a perfect film trilogy. Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and especially Julie Delpy are in fine form here as Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy), nine years after the events in Paris, come to the end of a summer in the southern Peloponnese and a crossroads in their 20-year relationship. It's movie-making magic and in a perfect world, Before Midnight would be winning all of the awards (Delpy IS the Best Actress of 2013).

CLOUD ATLAS: By no means a masterpiece or even perfect -- not all of the connections between the six different narratives and timelines are seamless or even tenuous -- but for whatever reason, I fell in love with the Wachowskis' (Lana and Andy) and Tom Tykwer's adaptation of the David Mitchell novel which boasts an impressive cast (some switching genders and races) and a daring we see all to rarely in today's films.

ENOUGH SAID: At last, a rom-com for grown-ups. But it isn't all smooth sailing in Nicole Holofcener's look at love the second time around, where the laughs come with the pang of truth. Those laughs (and tears) come courtesy of two terrific performances by Julia Louis Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini.

THE HUNT: When a little girl tells a lie about her teacher (an excellent Mads Mikkelsen), his world is turned upside down as his friends and neighbours turn against and upon him. Hysteria and suspicion take hold in Thomas Vinterberg's gripping drama where the presumption of innocence is the first casualty and mateship soon follows.

MUD: A little bit Great Expectations, a little bit Huck Finn, Jeff Nichols' third film is a wonderfully original tale of a boy's gradual transition into adulthood over the course of a few summer days on the banks of the Mississippi. When Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and his pal, Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), discover escaped convict Mud (Matthew McConaughey), they decide to help him reunite with his love (Reese Witherspoon), learning all manner of life lessons in the process.

THE ROCKET: The best Australian film of 2013 (although truth be told, the only Oz film I saw this year) and one of the year's best. Period. This Laos-set tale of a boy out to prove that he is not the family curse, is undeniably feel good but in the best possible way. It will leave you with a huge smile and a heart full to bursting.

RUST AND BONE: Marion Cotillard is, of course, terrific but it's Matthias Schoenaerts who is a revelation in this Beauty and the Beast tale: he's a streetfighter struggling with fatherhood; she's a whale trainer who's suffered an horrific accident, yet these two broken people find an unlikely -- and beautiful -- kinship with each other.

STORIES WE TELL: Canadian actress-turned-director, Sarah Polley, follows up the wonderful Take This Waltz (2012) with a documentary examining the secrets and lies within her own family and the very question of her paternity. An intelligent, fascinating and moving blend of interviews and recreations, truth and memory made for my favourite documentary of the year.

UPSTREAM COLOR: I won't even begin to posit what I think writer-director-cinematographer-composer-star Shane Carruth's film is about, lest I say that it involves abduction, worms, mind control, romance, pigs, and soul transference (possibly?). Simultaneously elusive and beguiling, Upstream Color may just be the biggest -- and best -- film riddle of the year.

THE WAY, WAY BACK: A typical coming of age-one memorable summer film, and yet The Way, Way Back (written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash) boasts so much heart and warmth -- and laughs. They're mostly provided by Sam Rockwell whose man-child Owen becomes the mentor to young Duncan (Liam James), who is out to prove his mum's boyfriend wrong: that he's so much more than a '3 out of 10'. And so is the film.


What could have been a stuffy period drama about America's most beloved president, Abraham Lincoln, is, in fact, history brought to life. That's thanks in no small part to playwright Tony Kushner's impressive dialogue, a colouful cast of character actors, and, of course, the Oscar-winning performance of Daniel Day-Lewis as the man determined to pass the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery. Lincoln is easily one of Steven Spielberg's best films and my favourite of 2013.

Disagree with any of my choices? Fine, but I don't care to hear about it; this is a list of what I loved. But I'm happy to hear what you watched and loved at the movies in 2013. Comment away!

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