2013: A Year in Film


by Joanna Orland

I have seen a large quantity of films this year, and to ensure that all of my movie viewing has not been in vain, I present to you – 2013: A Year in Film – for your reading pleasure.  I will unfortunately have to exclude a few of the films I have seen this year, including some of the delightful independent ones such as those that I saw at Raindance Film Festival.  By keeping it more mainstream, I can actually finish this daunting task that lies ahead of me.  I shall also be ranking them in order of enjoyment.  Now don’t get me wrong – this is not an Oscar prediction list nor do I think my ranking lays claim to any grand best film lists, but these are the ones that I personally felt were the best of the year, in my humble opinion.

Filth – Starring James McAvoy in a career-defining performance, this Irvine Welsh adaptation reminds audiences what was so good about Irvine Welsh in the first place.  Remember the first time you saw Trainspotting in 1996?  It’s gritty, it’s funny, it’s dark and it’s the best film I’ve seen since Fight Club was first released in 1999. 

Nebraska – Alexander Payne’s finest film is a funny and sentimental road trip movie about a father and son.  Bruce Dern’s performance is the one to beat at this year’s Oscars.  His portrayal of patriarch Woody Grant is a revelation.

Inside Llewyn Davis – Not an immediate Top 3 film, but the soundtrack becomes a permanent fixture on any good 2013 iTunes Playlist.  This film is worth seeing for Adam Driver alone and his star turn in the musical number Please Mr. Kennedy.  Oscar Isaac is also captivating as title character Llewyn.  The only flaw in this Coen Brothers work of genius is the usually brilliant John Goodman who plays the comedy more slaptstick rather than the preferable straight which is how everyone else is doing it.  A grower, but a good un.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug  – Welcome back to fine form Mr. Peter Jackson! This film is like a trip down memory lane to a time when films were fun and special effects were impressive.  Forget all about the first film in The Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug is more reminiscent of Jackson’s more impressive Tolkien work from the original LOTR.  There is a void in this film caused by the lack of Gollum and Andy Serkis’ brilliant performance.  Luckily, Benedict Cumberbatch as the dragon Smaug fills this void – with terror and awe.

Kill Your Darlings – The suprise indie hit of the year.  Better known as a wizard boy, Daniel Radcliffe takes on the role of Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg in this story of the young Beats and their involvement in a horrendous murder scandal.  Michael C. Hall finds himself the other side of the knife for a change, with a breakout performance by future huge movie star Dane DeHaan.

Captain Phillips – Director Paul Greengrass and acting legend Tom Hanks team up to bring us the wonderful and tense action/thriller/drama Captain Phillips. Tom Hanks really wants another Oscar, and sets himself up for a potential nomination with this moving and brilliant performance.  Best action film I’ve seen in years.

Gravity – Arthouse cinema goes mainstream and sci fi in this seriously tense and beautiful film.  George Clooney’s annoying face didn’t even annoy me – that’s how good this film is!  It is a technical feat and beautifully executed.  Don’t forget to breathe while you watch it.

Blue is the Warmest Colour – The most intimate film of the year.  A beautiful and sensual character study of a young woman named Adele as she discovers herself and her sexuality.  Not for the close-minded.

Under the Skin – Another arthouse approach to film-making with Jonathan Glazer’s adaptation of the novel Under the Skin.  It will be one of the most divisive films to come out next year.  It is an ambient beauty to watch, but it does make very little overt sense.  Nothing is spoonfed as it is more of a moodpiece than fully explored narrative.  My imagination interpreted it as a Frankenstein story of an outsider wanting to belong.  Think a more artistic version of the Mary Shelley story, or along the lines of AI, The Man Who Fell To Earth and Tree of Life.

Locke – Tom Hardy makes (or breaks) this film.  The format is a ship-in-a-bottle approach, using only one location as the setting.  And in this case, only one on screen actor in the form of Tom Hardy who plays Ivan Locke.  This character study is masterful and gripping.  Even mundane subject matter such as the concrete industry becomes gripping in its drama.  I have no idea how they made such an interesting film about a man driving.

This Is The End – The hands down funniest American comedy of the year.  Seth Rogen and his usual band of misfits including James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, and the rest parody themselves in this hilarious silly comedy about the end of the world.  The cameos are probably the best bit – notably Channing Tatum like you’ve never seen him before, and Michael Cera how you’ve always dreamed he would be. The other best bit is the movie within a movie – Pineapple Express 2: Blood Red.  I am crying with tears of laughter just thinking about it.  Pineapple Express is a must watch prerequisite.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues – This film is both awful and awesome.  There are some truly unfunny moments, but some moments of true comedic genius that you can easily forgive the unfunny awkward bits.  For anyone who likes the original Anchorman film, this is a must see!  Brick Tamland has some of the funniest moments in this film, including a St. Patrick’s day incident that is just so well played it had me in tears.  The Legend Continues indeed Mr. Ron Burgundy… indeed….

Short Term 12 – Greatly overlooked by audiences, critics hit the nail on the head when heralding this film with praise.  An indie film with the perfect balance of drama and comedy.  Ridiculously endearing performances and very serious subject matter. I cannot recommend this film enough. If I’m being honest, it probably deserves a higher position on this list.

Frances Ha – The critics’ indie film of the year. Greta Gerwig is charming as always in this intelligent and well written film about a young lady named Frances finding her way in life while hanging out with a lot of hipsters.

American Hustle – I hated Silver Linings Playbook so much that I did not want to like David O. Russell’s latest film American Hustle.  But how can you not?  Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are just so great in it that you can’t help but be charmed.  It’s funny, it’s got drama, it’s got fat bellies and amazing toupees.  It’s also got Bradley Cooper doing a great Louis C.K. impression.  And don’t forget the science oven!  Yeah… as much as I tried not to, I liked it!

Dallas Buyers Club – The film is very good, but the performances even better.  Matthew McConaughey has gone to extremes to lose weight for his role in the movie, and his performance strengths go well above and beyond the superficial.  But it is Jared Leto who shines the brightest in this film.  He’s the one to watch when they announce the Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominees come 2014.  This is his career defining performance.

Behind the Candelabra – A made for TV HBO film in America, but a UK cinematic release.  Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as his younger lover Scott!  And don’t forget – Rob Lowe as a drunken plastic surgeon! EXCELLENT!

Star Trek Into Darkness – J.J. Abrams, Michael Giacchino and Benedict Cumberbatch.  Need I say more?  Yes – Benedict Cumberbatch as KHAN!

The Heat – A hilarious American comedy from the director of Bridesmaids.  Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock take on that Lethal Weapon dynamic for a chick flick with brains and balls.  So much funnier than you’d expect!

Saving Mr. Banks – I did not expect to enjoy a Disney film about a Disney film, but here we are.  I wanted to go fly a kite by the end of it.  Emma Thompson is the one to beat come Oscar time.  A true joy.

Drinking Buddies– The marketing campaign for this film got it all wrong – this is no rom com.  This is a smart indie film by mumblecore icon Joe Swanberg.  This film is the most realistic portrayal of relationships ever to grace the screen.  It is so naturalistic and wonderful I cannot recommend it enough.

Philomena – It lives up to the hype! The perfect balance of comedy and drama.  A bit too safe for my taste, but still….. It is perfectly enjoyable, well written and well performed!

Out of the Furnace – I didn’t see this one coming.  It’s a solid drama with an excellent performance by Christian Bale who is arguably our generation’s greatest actor.  I’m hoping the Oscars recognize this too and have Bale VS Bale (Out of the Furnace Bale versus American Hustle Bale) fight it out for Best Actor – which will inevitably go to either Bruce Dern or Chiwetel Ejiofor.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – British critics hate this film.  Americans love it.  I’m Canadian – where do I stand?  Well, I’m a devout Ben Stiller fan who, on the strength of Zoolander alone, is willing to forgive the Museum and Parents films.  Also, I love everything about this movie.  I reckon it is far too life-affirming for a British audience to appreciate.  It’s the least bleak drama of the year.  There is nothing gritty about it.  And that’s ok.  Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Adam Scott and Patton Oswalt charm their way through this film which has a very positive outlook on life.  Why should I deprive myself of a film that has me walking out of the cinema with a fuzzy feeling in my tummy and a smile on my face?  Get over it cynics!

The Wolf of Wall Street – So similar in feel to American Hustle (overlong, obnoxious, despicable conmen, bad fashion), but The Wolf of Wall Street is less enjoyable.  Leonardo DiCaprio is hilarious and does some very admirable physical comedy.  But this film is just so darn long!  It has laughs aplenty, but not quite enough to fill the 3hour length.  There are also notable continuity errors that are distracting.  If it were a shorter film, it would be much higher in my rankings.

Her – I do love Spike Jonze.  I don’t love Her.  It’s too flawed to be a true favourite, and boy does it drag.  It’s also very trying to watch Joaquin Phoenix mumble his way through yet another flat performance.  But this film has the usual Jonze charm and a wonderful soundtrack by Arcade Fire and Owen Pallett which is perhaps its saving grace.  It’s also great to see Chris Pratt in a small role.  There is just something lacking in this film.  A lot of nice ideas with a wonderful Jonzian style, but just a bit off the mark.

Rush – I know nothing about race car driving and the true story behind Ron Howard’s filmic version of the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda.  What I do know is that this film is fast-paced, fun, and Chris Hemsworth is a revelation.  I’m also a huge fan of Daniel Bruhl and his turn as Lauda is great, minus a few questionable voiceovers.

12 Years A Slave – Hype hype hype.  Some very good performances though.  Brad Pitt’s beard makes this film.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – A sequel that’s better than the original.  Very fun, but lacking substance.

The Railway Man – A schmaltzy story based on a harrowing reality.  Colin Firth plays Eric Lomax who reflects on the time he was kidnapped and tortured by the Japanese during the war.  The saving grace of this film is Jeremy Irvine as the young Eric, as well as Hiroyuki Sanada as Nagase, the older version of Eric’s torturer whom Colin must confront to deal with his lingering PTS.

Blue Jasmine – I originally held this latest Woody Allen film in higher esteem as one of the year’s better films.  After all, Woody Allen is back on form making a proper Woody Allen film.  Over time my fondness has worn off, but I still highly recommend this film as it is brilliant, albeit not everlasting in its impression.

The Double – Richard Ayoade is back in the director’s chair with his follow up to the quirky dark SubmarineThe Double is also a quirky dark film from the British comedian turned director.  Where his first film took most of its influence from Wes Anderson, The Double throws much Lynchian influences into the mix.  Jesse Eisenberg subtly plays Doppelgangers James and Simon, distinguishable from each other with merely a glance.  In spite of Eisenberg’s monotonous acting chops, he manages to pull it off well.  And Ayoade is refreshingly original as always.

Prisoners – A harrowing drama about the kidnapping of two children and what lengths a parent will go to to protect their child.  Very bleak and very powerful.

Tom a la Ferme – The darling of French Canadian cinema – Xavier Dolan – follows up his wonderful film Laurence Anyways with the less than impressive Tom a la Ferme.  Dolan is a captivating star and a superb director.  Sadly the characters are too flawed to make them empathetic.

The Armstrong Lie – Finally the truth about Lance Armstrong is out and this documentary is the most intricate and absolute portrayal of the story.  You need not be a cycling fan to find this story and Lance’s character fascinating.  He is the Walter White of cycling!

Parkland – I don’t know why I was so moved by this film, but the story of the ordinary folk surrounding JFK’s assassination really had me and my colleague ferklempt when we saw it at the Venice Film Festival.  It’s a very flashy drama with an excellent cast.  Even with such a vast cast, each character arc felt fully developed and satisfying.

Fruitvale Station – This film is a hard watch.  A beautiful film and an important true story that needs to be told, but it is not an easy one to digest.  The majority of the film is just a day in the life of Oscar Grant, played beautifully by Michael B. Jordan.  The film depicts the events leading up to his untimely death at the hands of the Bay Area police at Fruitvale Station one fateful New Year’s eve.  It’s an outrage and a tragedy.  We were left feeling horrible after watching it, but only because of how distressing this situation is.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone – This came and went, but it was actually hilarious.  Jim Carrey was on top form and made this film.

Tracks – The true story of Robyn Davidson and her trek in the Australian Outback which was documented by National Geographic.  Mia Wasikowska is captivating, but Adam Driver in his supporting role as Nat Geo photographer is the scene stealer as always.

Palo Alto – I was skeptical as this film is based on a James Franco book (he’s a writer too you know).  Luckily it is directed by a Coppola (Gia) and not Franco himself, which is why this film is enjoyable.  The story is a classic one about teenage turmoils and barely socially surviving the angst of high school.  Set in Franco’s hometown of Palo Alto, this film is truly good, in spite of the cringeworthy character played by James Franco himself.

Lone Survivor – This is a very oddly made film.  On one hand, it is a gritty and horrific war movie where the audience watches an entire Navy Seals troop get slaughtered on the battlefield, save one Lone Survivor.  Alongside this Saving Private Ryan style of graphic warzone violence is this beautiful soundtrack composed by ambient band Explosions in the Sky.  The contrast is confusing, but makes the horror of Lone Survivor a bearable watch with an emotional affect on the viewer.  It may be tear-inducing in its delivery and foundations on a true story, but it is not necessarily one to watch.

Enough Said – A posthumous performance by James Gandolfini playing against a more charming than usual Julia Louis-Dreyfus.  It is genuinely funny, charming, and interesting.  Great support is offered by actress Toni Collette.

Love Is All You Need – I never thought I would like a Danish romcom starring Pierce Brosnan – but I do!  In fact, I love it!

A.C.O.D. – Adam Scott can do no wrong and continues to do none in this sweet indie dramedy A.C.O.D..  A great supporting cast fills this film out nicely and there are plenty of giggles to be had in this sweet story.

Mud – Matthew McConaughey can do no wrong this year.  Every one of his performances has been of the highest calibre, including this slow burner Mud.  Directed by the director of Take Shelter, Mud is a more interesting watch with McConaughey carrying the whole story on his shoulders.

The Comedian – This film didn’t do much at the box office, but it was an amazing portrayal of a sad character as he struggles with finding himself in the cut throat city of London.

What Maisie Knew – A heart-wrenching/warming subtle drama starring Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan and Alexander Skarsgard who is fitter than ever in this film.  Jeez….  Anyway, the poor child known as Maisie is certainly getting the short end of the stick as her parents battle it out for custody with Maisie as their pawn.  A very bittersweet drama.

Stoker – Potentially style over substance, but this film is so unique and interesting in its style, story and allusions that you can’t help but keep thinking about it months later.  A true success from writer Wentworth Miller (Prison Break) and director Chan-wook Park (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance).

Iron Man 3 – Does what it says on the tin (pun intended).  And does it well.

The Punk Singer – A must-see for fans of Riot Grrrl movement co-founder Kathleen Hanna or any incarnations of her music including the bands Le Tigre and Bikini Kill.  An in depth look at her musical and personal histories, as well as the crippling disease that forced her to quit music.  It features a seriously awesome soundtrack!!!

All is Lost – Robert Redford’s no-named character just can’t catch a break in this dialogueless, seasickness-inducing film about a man trying to survive a shipwreck all by his lonesome.  I had to take a Gravol to get through the lapping visuals of this film, but it is an aural/visual feast that is often flawed in its attempts at bleakness.  But who isn’t happy watching Robert Redford and only Robert Redford get all physical in his acting for an hour and a half!?

The Selfish Giant – Far too gritty of a drama to be enjoyable, but a very well made film.  Bleak to the core.

In Fear – If I liked horror films, I would rate this film highly.  As it stands, it nearly induced a heart attack in me.  A surefire British horror classic.

Gloria – A middle-aged Chilean woman named Gloria is on a journey of self-discovery.  A journey that I am happy to accompany her on.  She is fascinating.

How To Make Money Selling Drugs – A great documentary, very tongue in cheek.  Some crazy interviews with people who should be afraid to show their faces.

The Fifth Estate – What a flop!  Benedict Cumberbatch is good as Julian Assange, but what a stylistic mess!

Touchy Feely – A great independent film featured at Sundance Film Festival!  I love Ellen Page!

The Paperboy – I felt physically sick after watching this grim and vile film.  But it was well made in some respects, with a great turn by John Cusack.

Afternoon Delight – A mildly entertaining indie film.  Kathryn Hahn is usually excellent in support roles, but finally she gets her chance as a strong lead.

In A World… – My expectations were way too high for this film.  It had no chance of pleasing me.  It is about one thing I am most familiar with – sound recording.  It also features most of my favourite comedic talents including Demetri Martin, Nick Offerman and Ken Marino.  All of these people are underused and the film falls flat.  I’d expect more from the majority of the Childrens Hospital cast.

The Bling Ring – Sofia Coppola has made a high octane fashion heist film as superficial as the real life criminals it depicts.  A guilty pleasure!

Cupcakes – An Israeli musical about Eurovision Song Contest.  It is low brow and bad, but so darn charming.  A guilty pleasure!

The Book Thief – A terrible film with dodgy accents.  Slightly redeemed by a brilliant Geoffery Rush.

The Counsellor – Known as “The Counselor” in some parts of the world, the title is the least confusing aspect of this film.  What the eff is going on here!?  Written by Cormac McCarthy and directed by Ridley Scott – where did it all go wrong?  A strong, if not the strongest contender for this year’s Razzie Award, this is an appalling piece of work with some high profile cast members giving awful performances.  Michael Fassbender and Penelope Cruz manage to scrape by unscathed, but Brad Pitt just clocks it in, Javier Bardem is doing all of his acting with his hairstyle, and Cameron Diaz – oh boy, where do I begin?  But perhaps the fault is with script and direction rather than the acting.  I mean, at one point I was genuinely convinced that this film was going to turn into a cheetah revenge film.  None of it made any sense.  There is also the most memorable quote of the year featured in this film:  “Truth has no temperature”.   It’s true – it doesn’t.  Y’all just got Fassbent!  #SoBadIt’sGood

Grand Piano – Whereas The Counsellor is playing it serious, Grand Piano knows it’s so bad it’s good.  It’s basically the film Phone Booth, but instead of a phone booth, there’s a grand piano.  Easiest script treatment ever.  Amazingly fun film.

The Canyons – Another terrible film by a well-renowned author.  Bret Easton Ellis has possibly written a movie adaptation of Melrose Place?  Not sure what the heck he is thinking with this one.  Lindsay Lohan and her terrible performance make this film even worse.  At one point I thought there was going to be a horrific truck accident.  Sadly, there wasn’t.  Another film that is so bad it’s good!  2013 is totally the year of So Bad It’s Good!

Village at the End of the World – A touching documentary about a remote village in Northern Greenland, with a population of 59.  The central teenage character is very endearing.  Imagine being the only teenager in the village!

Broken – A very British drama about a very broken Britain.  Excellent performances, the wonderful Cillian Murphy, and very serious subject matter.  However, it leaves no lingering feelings.

Side Effects – A surprisingly good thriller from Steven Soderbergh with surprise twists abound.  Again, the impression is not long-lasting.

Oz The Great And Powerful – Dear Hollywood; please stop remakes, reboots and reworks.  This doesn’t hold a candle to the original 1939 film set in the land of Oz.  Albeit, this has a very good, clever and fun title sequence.  A fun visual feast, but not an iconic Oz film like ones of the past.

The Way, Way Back – An indie film with a superb cast, but it just falls flat and fails to charm.

The Great Gatsby – An epic failure on every level except Leo.  Leonardo DiCaprio makes the best cinematic Gatsby yet, but this film is even more vacuous than the book it is adapted from.  Terrible performances from everyone else including an awful Carey Mulligan and an appalling Tobey Maguire.  The flawed soundtrack of Jay-Z’s hip hop tunes may be a metaphor for the superficial life Gatsby leads, but it truly does not work.  It’s also way too long as a cinematic experience.  Thank goodness for Leo.

Labor Day – If this is a comedy, it’s great!  If this is a drama, well, it’s hilariously flawed.  The stuff about the pies is classic.  An otherwise terrible film by the usually brilliant Jason Reitman.

We’re The Millers – Funny moments and a great cast including my hero Nick Offerman and Jason Sudeikis.  It just lacks substance and genuine laughs.  It’s also annoying.

Man of Steel – Why do they keep ruining Superman movies!?  At least this new Superman actor is hot – Phwoar!

Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes – I enjoyed this suspenseful drama at the time, but I completely forgot about its existence since I first saw it.  It doesn’t stay with you, but an interesting watch at the time.

The Family – Luc Besson, Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones and a terrible script.

The Spectacular Now – A disappointing teen indie film with a very annoying lead.  It’s never good when you want to punch a kid in the face!  This film need not exist.

Oblivion – I have no idea what is going on in this film.  I sort of half-watched it, so any proper review would be unfair.  It looks and sounds good, but seems to be utter nonsense.

Child of God – James Franco directs this Cormac McCarthy novel adaptation.  James Franco casts himself in ridiculous cameo.  James Franco thinks he’s a master of all trades.  James Franco should stick to acting in non James Franco movies.  James Franco talks way too much at Child of God press conference.  James Franco redeems himself with Bound 3.  #JamesFranco

Gangster Squad – This movie actually happened.  I totally forgot about it.  It was poop.  Saw it on a plane and fell asleep.

In the House – A French drama starring Kristin Scott Thomas.  You know what to expect and you get it!

Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises) – Hayao Miyazaki is an animation legend as the founder of Japan’s Studio Ghibli.  He has produced some of the finest animation work of our time.  With the announcement of his retirement, Miyazaki bows out of the animation business with his final effort Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises).  An unfortunate end to an otherwise brilliant career.  The film is too long and too vague to rival some of Miyazaki’s finer pieces including Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and My Neighbor Totoro.  I am saddened not only by his career coming to an end, but by his final bow.

A Good Day To Die Hard – I would like to pretend that this film was never made.  Thank you.

I’m So Excited – Pedro Almodóvar has lost his mind!?

Night Moves – The dullest film of the year, with some of the dullest performances by Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard.  YAWN.

Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s – An infomercial in the guise of a documentary.  Propaganda for high end consumerism.

The Congress – This film is the second worst piece of crap to come onto our movie screens this year.  It is a huge mess.  As a follow up to the wonderful Waltz With Bashir, I’d expect more than nonsensical rubbish from Ari Folman.  This is nearly the animated equivalent to Darren Aronofsky’s atrocity known as The Fountain.

The Zero Theorem – Only Terry Gilliam and a movie this awful could lead to bad performances by amazing actors such as Christoph Waltz and Matt Damon.  This is no Twelve Monkeys, that’s for sure.  Zero interest.




2 Responses to “2013: A Year in Film”

  1. This is extremely attention-grabbing, You’re an extremely qualified tumblr. We’ve registered your current feed and look in front so that you can in the track down excess of your great write-up. Also, I’ve truly contributed your website within my social networking sites

  2. Celeste says:

    Can you tell us more about this? I’d care
    to find out some additional information.

Leave a Reply