Posted by: themoviecheese | April 2, 2014

Top 20 Films of 2013

Top 20 Films of 2013

The year is over, awards season is upon us, and it’s that time of year again where film freaks the world over feel compelled to reveal their “best of the year” lists in regards to film. So who am I to not take part? In true “Tom style”, I have once again overcompensated and decided to increase my list to “top 20” (last year it was top 15). I do this because there are films that I see as deserving more than a mere special mention, they deserve a full paragraph. So, here are my top 20 films of 2013. As always, there will be films missing from this list that may make you think “What?! Surely that should be in there!” My reasoning for this is most likely…I haven’t seen it. Because I can’t be expected to see every new film in a year, not every ten star movie makes the final cut.

20. The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears

the strange colour of your body's tears_01

Beginning the list with a real “love or hate” movie, we have the most recent work of bizarre horror duo Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani. After their critically dividing, 70s inspired film Amer, Cattet and Forzani return with a film in which the narrative is equally as exhausting as their previous film, but in which the cinematic beauty that made them so famous has been rammed up to 100. As with Amer (which I also loved), style definitely stands tall over substance, but the style is to blisteringly gorgeous that you are left with a feeling of spellbound majesty. Or at least I was. I have a feeling not many people share this, due to the cut-down-the-middle 50% rating on rotten tomatoes.

19. After Lucia


After Lucia is 93 minutes long. Just one minute longer than that and I am almost certain that I would not be alive right now. My heart beat would of reached an alarming rate, and I would have died. After Lucia contains undeniable amounts of tension that will force you to pause the film half way through and question where or not you want to continue. Featuring some of the most realistic depictions of school bullying I’ve ever seen in a film, it is an ugly film that guides your hand into scenes that you simply do not want to see but find yourself completely incapable of looking away from. The film starts off nice…TOO nice. You know that shit is going to hit the fan, and when it does it’s going to feel like a brick. A very large brick.

18. You’re Next

youre next

I knew I’d love You’re Next. We all get this, that one film that you just know you are going to have a lot of fun with no matter what. You’re Next was actually filmed in 2011 and screened around countless festivals, but only just secured a commercial release in 2013. It is the latest in the “mumblegore” films, a new genre made famous by such directors as TI West (House of the Devil) and Joe Swanberg (VHS). It’s a mash of delirious slasher horror set pieces that amount to one hell of a fun time. West and Swanberg even pop up in cameos, and the film features one of the most memorable central characters of the year. The film is also written by Simon Barrett (brainchild of both VHS movies) and features some of his best and most witty dialogue. Great fun.

17. VHS2


That brings us very nicely into our next film. If you’ve seen the first VHS film, then you know the drill as it is pretty much the same set up here. However, the second outing improves on its predecessor in absolutely every way possible. I was let down by the first VHS because I just felt there was constantly something missing. It also failed as an anthology as every segment seemed to feel almost exactly the same. Thankfully, VHS2 rectifies this and then some. The directors of one of the original found footage films Blair Witch Project direct the Ride In the Park segment and inject some real fun into the zombie genre, whilst Gareth Evans’ (The Raid) segment “Safe Haven” is sheer craziness and definitely the stand out.

16. Cloud Atlas


The Wachowski’s return to Sci-fi with their good friend Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) in tow. Adapting one of the most thought provoking science fiction novels of all time, means we are treated to some of the best visuals the brothers have ever brought to screen, coupled with an absolutely massive story that spans generations. Each member of the film’s enormous cast does an excellent job of portraying their multiple roles (some of them even play opposite genders or different ethnicities). Each time-frame feels like a different genre, with the stand outs for me being the “current time” comedy with Jim Broadbent and the 70s mystery thriller with Halle Berry and Hugo Weaving.

15. Big Bad Wolves


Quentin Tarantino’s favorite film of 2013, Big Bad Wolves comes from Israel directing duo Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado who brought us the equally excellent Rabies. Their follow up film is a piece of work that pushes the boundaries of what is expected of a black comedy. The film centers on two controversial themes: pedophilia and torture. Did I mention it’s a *comedy*? Yeah. Somehow, however, this works. Basing its comedy on several deeply disturbing acts means that we question each time we laugh. You can’t help but laugh, but feel so damn guilty for having done it. The plotting is also excellent, with absolutely no hints of the twist ending right up until the moment it is revealed. It’s easy to see why Tarantino loved the film so much, with a story that is laced with graphic violence plastered with layers upon layers of the darkest humor possible.

14. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa


The entity Alan Partridge fans have been waiting for for years. It’s finally landed and for the fans, it certainly does not disappoint. The film’s greatest strength though lies in its ability to bring in a new crowd; people who have never seen a single episode or barely even heard of the character or Steven Coogan himself. Alpha Papa is a film that anyone can very easily enjoy, not just the hardcore fans. It successfully caters to every film goer, with Steven Coogan reigniting the rubbery comedy that made Partridge so popular and coupling it with a modernized and instantly relatable narrative of forever-changing technology, mindsets and demographic.

13. Man of Steel


Christopher Nolan, David Goyer and Zack Snyder teamed up to return the king of superheros back to your screens. In comics, Superman is the most enduring superhero of all time and these three visionaries were met with the challenge of making Superman still relevant in a film world filled with narcissists (Spider-man, Iron Man) and sociopaths (Batman, The Punisher). Superman is just a guy from a farm who just so happens to be the most powerful superhero that’s ever existed. He’s unstoppable. How do you make something like that relatable? That is the sole reason I regard Man of Steel so highly, because they successfully took the Superman mythos and modernized it whilst still staying very true to the source. Henry Cavill was born to wear the suit, Russell Crowe as Jor El makes Marlon Brando’s overrated performance a distant memory, and Michael Shannon is as intimidating as ever as General “kneel before” Zod. But it is the dual efforts of Kevin Costner and Diane Lane that really give the film meat in the acting department, delivering the absolute best version of Ma and Pa Kent we’ve ever seen on screen. Sure, the second half comes a little too quick and the bombastic final fight scene seems a little out of place and a little too destructive, but this is a starter for a much bigger main course.

12. Pacific Rim


Guillermo Del Toro returns to blockbuster cinema with one of the most anime-wanking films ever made. He could have actually just called it ‘Evangelion’ and probably gotten away with it. Ever single morsel of the film pays homage to anime in one way or another, whether its the fractured hero, the asshole who’s supposed to be on the same team, or the disgruntled general who barks orders but refuses to join the fight. Hell, the female lead is even Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi. And then there’s the Jaegers themselves; big hulking mecha that make the transformers look like, well, toys. Tasked with taking down the invading race of Kaiju, the film’s CGI 3D-enhanced fight sequences really popped whenever these badboys are on-screen. At times, it does still suffer from the same “What the hell is going on” visual problem that plagues the Transformers franchise, but these fight are easily a lot more distinguished. Many critics called it “power rangers for young adults”. I say, just what is wrong with that?

11. The World’s End

the worlds end

Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost bring their “blood and cornetto” trilogy to a close, this time with a homage to the sci-fi end of the world movies of the 1960s (among other things). Featuring the exact same snappy dialogue and lightning speed editing that we have come to love from this trio, The World’s End is a superb final curtain. Pegg and Frost have their usual role-types reversed, with Pegg this time playing the dole-dossing annoyance, while Frost plays the straight-laced hard working family man. This makes for an ingeniously pleasant surprise within the film’s narrative structure and keeps everything fresh, which in turn helps with the film’s pace, especially as it is at least 45 minutes before the sci-fi aspect even comes into play. Once it does though, the film’s best feature is revealed – the fight scenes. Edgar Wright has always been an excellent action director along with the masterful editing prowess of Paul Machliss, but here he shows newly found skills in the fight choreography department. The fights in this film are simply amazing; a blend of messy bar brawls mixed with krav maga. I like to call it “pub fu”. Intriguingly, the film’s “special thanks” credits lists Jackie Chan.

10. The Battery

The Battery movie 2012 pic6

What’s this? A zombie film in my top ten?! The Battery is a new zombie film with a budget of around $6,000…but you’d have never guessed it. Following two former baseball players and best friends as they travel New England after a zombie outbreak, writer/director/actor Jeremy Gardner’s script is extremely witty but also touching. Like the best zombie films out there, The Battery is more about the living than the dead, making the relationship of our two main characters the main focus and making everything else a backdrop. It’s also a very classically made film in general. Gone is the usual shaky-cam ADHD-style of cinematography that seems to plague so many modern horror films. With two incredibly strong performances, and an astonishing final 30 minutes book-ended with one of the absolute BEST ending of the year, The Battery has cemented Jeremy Gardner as a name to watch in modern horror.

9. Django Unchained


Quentin Tarantino returns with one of his most accessible films to date (next to Pulp Fiction of course). It also doesn’t suffer from that common Tarantino trait in that every character talks like Tarantino, in this they have their own personality and act like the person they are supposed to be acting like. Jamie Fox is a brilliant lead and Christophe Waltz once again turns in an excellent performance, as does Leonardo DiCaprio as the villain. But the performance that really struck out for me was definitely Samuel L Jackson; cast completely against type as a (well, I can’t really say), Jackson’s performance is the absolute stand out of the entire film and possibly his career, and that’s a bold statement.

8. Nebraska


Director Alexander Payne returns after The Descendants and Sideways with Nebraska, a hilarious character piece. It has to be said, however, that the entire film belongs to Bruce Dern. Playing central character Woody as he travels to Nebraska with his son to claim a million-dollar sweepstake prize, Dern is an absolute joy to watch. Placing the film in black and white was an interesting move and one that I can’t quite put a finger on in terms of reasoning. Nevertheless, Nebraska’s characters are fantastically written, with the father/son study forming the central root.

7. A Highjacking

A Hijacking_

A Highjacking is a brutally realistic – so much so it verges on documentary – film depicting the hijacking of a Danish-owned freighter by Somali pirates. Not to be confused with the Tom Hanks film Captain Philips, A Highjacking is a totally different beast. The entire film has an almost obsessive sense of realism, the whole film was filmed on an actual freighter, and not just any old freighter, but one that had actually at one point been highjacked. Knowing this before you watch heightens the film’s already almost unbearable levels of tension. Each shot within the tight walls of the freighter are met with an incredible “Holy shit, this actually happened” sense of dread. A richly-layered, uncomfortable and utterly gripping film.

6. A Field In England


I was lucky enough to catch a preview of this stunning masterpiece. Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers) has once again proven that he is the most versatile director that Britain has to offer. Revealing a film that is art before it is entertainment, he has crafted a story that is every bit beautiful as it is bewildering. Hellish battles, hallucinogenic visions, alchemy, resurrection and witchcraft. These themes all ooze through the seems of Wheatley’s and Amy Jump’s (Wheatley’s wife) script. Once the credits are rolling, you may not be entirely sure of what you have just seen, but please do not let that put you off. As with all Wheatley films, A Field In England also has a wonderful but cryptic sense of humor.

5. Gravity


Yes, Gravity isn’t number one. I’m a travesty and an embarrassment to all film critics everywhere. Okay, now that’s out of the way, let’s get on with my constructive O.P.I.N.I.O.N shall we? Gravity was 2013’s Avatar, a big blockbusting 3D movie that took the format into new heights (literally). Brought to screen by one of my favorite directors Alfonso Cuaron. Cuaron once again proves he is the master of suspense, employing his usual long-take style of film making bringing us the exact same stress that Bullock and Clooney are experiencing on screen. You feel like you are floating, panting for air, struggling to grasp for your life. This is full 3D immersion like we have never seen before. The only problem I have with Gravity is that I genuinely can not see it translating so well to 2D. It will still be an expertly directed and acted film with some of the best visual effects of this decade, but I fear that a large portion of the immersion – and therefore tension – will be lost. That aside though, it really is still a solid 9/10 movie with a career best performance from Bullock. Like I said when I came out of the cinema, if she doesn’t win an Oscar, I’ll eat my testicles.

4. Blue Is the Warmest Color


Blue Is the Warmest Color is Romance in its purest form. So many words will go through your head when watching this. Beautiful, exquisite and refined film making. An art film lacking the usual pretentiousness of art house cinema. Three hours absolutely breezes by in a film that feels half the length of what it actually is. That’s an amazing feat in itself for a romantic drama. Adele Exachopoulos delivers the most riveting and authentic performance of the year. Her journey from confused young teen to a young woman discovering confidence, sexuality and responsibility. Yes, as you’ve probably heard it is fairly explicit, but it is never distasteful and it is always authentic. Rather than portraying sex as a cheap thrill, it’s showing us these two people really are in love. The first time they make love is astoundingly shot, focusing on their obvious animalistic nature, furious shot composure that focuses on the emotion rather than the body parts. Easily the most eye-wateringly beautiful film of 2013.

3. All Is Lost


The third survival film in just as many months (Captain Philips in October, Gravity in November, this in December). Redford’s lifetime is absolutely chock full of stupendous performances. So to say he has delivered the very best performance of his entire career is a bold statement, but it really is true. All Is Lost is an absolute powerhouse performance on which the entire film is reliant. Don’t get me wrong, JC Chandor’s directing is outstanding and the cinematography is some of the best of the year, but “Robert Redford” is what you’re all going to be reading about in the various PR and reviews. He pile drives the entire film with the kind of “one man army” precision that only an actor of his caliber can deliver. He owns the role to the point where I can’t imagine ANY other actor portraying this level of everyman emotion. Not only does he have the grueling task of portraying his entire performance through his facial expressions (there are 3 sequences of actual spoken dialogue, and one of them is but one word), thanks to the excellent screenplay he also has the devilishly unique task of portraying the delivering the film’s entire narrative through his face as well. If ever there is a storm brewing, we are told through the “Oh fuck!” moments plastered all over Redford’s eyes. It’s inevitable that people will compare it to Gravity, and it’s so unfair to do so (even though it’s admittedly unavoidable), as they are two very different films. Whereas Gravity is a visual spectacle of CGI mastery that attempts to pluck your heartstrings, All Is Lost is an emotional drama that doesn’t just pluck your heartstrings, it rips them from your body and twists them around before trying to shove them back in. That’s not to say that All Is Lost doesn’t contain its fair share of excellent effects. At least 95% of them are practical, with director JC Chandor opting for real water on-location settings and sets. When Redford sees those storms, you get some amazing scope, and you’re right there with him, bobbing in the water fearing for your life. I think at the end of it, it comes down to one thing: All Is Lost genuinely made me cry. Gravity didn’t.

2. Final Cut: Ladies & Gentlemen


I can confidently say that not one of us has ever watched a film like this. Utterly unique and ingenious in every possible way. Now bare with me, because this is going to be difficult to explain. “Final Cut: Ladies & Gentlemen” is essentially a love story featuring two central characters who’s story is spliced together using over 450 clips and audio cues from hundreds of popular movies throughout the decades. It would be ludicrous for me to name any of the films used. Basically think of your favorite film of all time, chances are it’s in this movie in some capacity. At first I thought this film would be mind-numbing and delirious, but in actual fact what I got was one of the best and most entertaining films of the entire year. The whole thing is an absolute joy – seeing John Travolta’s “Saturday Night Fever” walk/strut cut straight into Oh Daesu from “Oldboy” practically reduced me to tears. Whether you have fun spotting which films are used or whether you simply appreciate the absolute staggering amount of work that went into creating this film. I can’t even begin to imagine just how pain staking the editing process of Final Cut must have been. An absolute masterpiece.

1. The Wolf of Wall Street


Mr Scorsese, a film maker with such a revered career. When a film enters with his name on the poster, it almost certainly scores big with critics. Director of such classics as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas. And yet…I’ve just never been all that fond of him. Don’t get me wrong, I love “retro” Scorsese, Goodfellas remains my favorite gangster film of all time. But this new wave Scorsese (Shutter Island, Hugo, The Aviator, even The Departed) just has me lost and yearning for the Scorsese I once knew. I caught a select preview of Scorsese’s new film The Wolf of Wall Street at the back end of 2013. I wasn’t expecting much. It has the same Scorsese lead (DiCaprio) with a few new additions thrown into the cast. I genuinely did not know what to expect. If anything I was expecting another self-indulgent film about how bad the central subject is. I neglected to realize that 90% of the time, going into a film in such a blind state and induce a reverse critical effect. I absolutely fucking adored The Wolf of Wall Street. The entire three hours felt to me like 10 minutes as I sat completely enthralled by DiCaprio’s performance and the Goodfellas/Casino-esque style of narrative. I simply did not want it to end. How wrong was I about those pre-film fears of a woe-filled film? TWOWS is hilarious, riotous and infectious. A film that neither glamorizes nor chastises its subject matter, but rather attempts to seat itself somewhere in the middle, becoming (in my opinion of course) the most entertaining film of the entire year. I genuinely never thought the day would come that I would say this, but it brings me great pleasure to do so: my absolute favorite film of 2013 is the latest film from Martin Scorsese and one he can add to his list of “masterpieces”, The Wolf of Wall Street.

How I Rated Everything Else (excluding the shit films)

American Mary 7/10
Les Miserables 7/10
VHS 7/10
The King of Pigs 8/10
The Last Stand 6/10
Antiviral 8/10
Bullet to the Head 6/10
Mama 7/10
The Bay 7/10
Stoker 8/10
Robot & Frank 7/10
Side Effects 8/10
Maniac 8/10
Compliance 8/10
Oblivion 7/10
The Place Beyond the Pines 8/10
Evil Dead 7/10
Iron Man 3 6/10
The ABCs of Death 6/10
Bernie 7/10
The Look of Love 7/10
Ernest & Celestine 8/10
Dragon 7/10
I’m So Excited 7/10
Star Trek Into Darkness 7/10
Mud 8/10
The Iceman 7/10
The Seasoning House 8/10
Hummingbird 7/10
This Is The End 7/10
Citadel 7/10
We Steal Secrets 7/10
Kick Ass 2 6/10
Elysium 7/10
Riddick 6/10
No One Lives 7/10
Rush 8/10
Filth 7/10
Rurouni Kenshin 7/10
Thor: The Dark World 8/10
Cold Eyes 8/10
Painless 8/10
Ghost Graduation 8/10
Computer Chess 8/10
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 8/10
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues 7/10
American Hustle 6/10

Coming next week I’ll be posting my “Top 10 Most Disappointing Movies of 2013” list. And then the fun really begins 😀

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