As 2013 draws to a close, it’s time to reel off One Room With A View’s Top Ten Films of 2013. Each writer will list their top ten and we’ll reach an ultimate list at the end. To achieve this, we’ll be using a simple points system so that a film placing 10th = 1 point, 9th = 2 points and so on until whichever film finishes top gets a perfect 10. The film with the most points at the end of our lists is our film of 2013.
With all that sorted, it’s time for Chris D to give us his top ten of 2013.
MUD: Part thriller, part coming-of-age story, Mud is the latest from Jeff Nichols, creator of Take Shelter. Matthew McConaughey proves he is a magnetic screen presence, while young protagonist Tye Sheridan steals the film with a brilliant performance as Ellis. Although the ending is overdone, the simple honesty of much of the film, the characters’ interrelationships, and Ellis’ attempts at making sense of his feelings and the world around him combine to form a simple yet effective drama.
GRAVITY: While the film ultimately feels like an old-fashioned 1970s sci-fi thriller, the astonishing visuals, score and terrific performance from Sandra Bullock make it wonderfully tense, exciting and enjoyable. The majesty of its camerawork and cinematography are rightfully praised, which makes it an even greater shame that the symbolism is employed in such a heavy-handed way. One for the big screen, this is nonetheless simple B-movie cinema at its best.
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS: Shot in Paul Greengrass’ vérité style, this stylish thriller about a hijacked cargo ship and its eponymous Captain’s attempts to keep his crew alive is engrossing yet emotionally exhausting. The pirates are portrayed with humanity, while Hanks gives one of his best performances in years; the final scene is devastating and definitely one of the year’s – and his – best.
MEA MAXIMA CULPA – SILENCE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD: No documentary – indeed, no film – has ever made me as angry or upset as this. Following a group of deaf men (voiced in the film by recognisable actors) seeking justice for their childhood abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest, the film reveals just how high-up knowledge of child abuse scandals goes in the Church. While not an enjoyable viewing experience, the film – like Blackfish – shows the power of filmmaking to investigate, inform, infuriate and inspire a strong emotional reaction.
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR: Shot almost entirely in closeup by director Abdellatif Kechiche, Blue is the Warmest Colour is an intense watch, and at three hours in length it verges on being too long and self-indulgent. However, the performances are completely believable and engrossing, especially by the utterly flawless Adèle Exarchopoulos, and the running time is used to observe everyday events in beautiful detail that captures the characters apart from the more clearly orchestrated scenes. But when those scenes of sexual self-discovery, lustful expression and honest love come they make for some of the most mesmeric cinema of the year.
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG: After the enjoyable An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson takes us into new and exciting territory with the second instalment of his Hobbit trilogy. The influence of his involvement with TinTin is evident in the visually complex and fantastically enjoyable action sequences, especially the barrel escape scene. Jackson’s team realise the worlds of Tolkien with levels of detail that surpass all other fantasy films, yet rarely does it eclipse the characters or story. Hugely enjoyable and endlessly entertaining, this was one of the few landmark releases this year that didn’t disappoint and I loved it from start to infuriatingly-abrupt finish.
LINCOLN: Daniel Day-Lewis delivers another powerhouse performance as the hat-wearing hero of American history. Spielberg and John Williams’ numerous attempts to overwhelm the drama with sentimentality and symbolism occasionally threaten to undercut an otherwise flawless drama, but terrific performances and a superb script that refuses to dumb down for the hard-of-thinking gives us a enthralling glimpse into the past. This is also thanks to Janusz Kaminski’s exceptional cinematography, using light to beautiful effect in creating silhouettes, evoking the seasonal setting and dark, lamplit interiors. If only it had ended two minutes earlier before it turns to melodrama with the subtly of a sledgehammer it would have been perfect…
DJANGO UNCHAINED: After repeated homages to spaghetti westerns in his previous films, Tarantino tackles the genre head-on, creating a wonderful pastiche while simultaneously making something unmistakably personal. Foxx may take a secondary position to the supporting cast, but when they are portrayed by the likes of Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio and given some of Tarantino’s best dialogue to date, we can’t begrudge the imbalance. Yes, it’s too long, has pacing issues and changes tone faster than Django shoots – it is nonetheless a riotously enjoyable and visually beautiful treat that for fans of the Western – like myself – is a welcome new addition to the genre.
TO THE WONDER: Now more prolific than ever, Terrence Malick’s second film in as many years is visual poetry at its most transcendent. Through his use of moving cameras he captures the freedom and expansiveness of the landscape to express the sensations his characters struggle to describe in their whispered voiceovers. While Affleck, McAdams and Bardem fit seamlessly into this impressionistic style of filmmaking, Olga Kurylenko simply shines; against Malick’s awe-inspiring cinematography her beauty and performance evocatively shape an incredible piece of cinema. I was so close to making it my film of the year, but that goes to…
ZERO DARK THIRTY: Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal reteamed for this tense, brutal and compelling thriller, with Jessica Chastain delivering a superb yet subtle portrait of obsession and dehumanisation. Bigelow’s use of closeup and incidental detail in the editing creates richly realistic environments, while the pacing brilliantly alternates between tension and brutality, or else lulls us into a false sense of security – making this a nerve-shredding experience. But what raises Zero Dark Thirty above others is its uncompromising nature; it doesn’t simplify the complexity of its narrative, succumb to sentimentalism or melodrama, or ignore the moral and political ambiguity of its topic to satisfy audience demands. It shows cinema can simultaneously be smart, thrilling, thought-provoking, politically engaged and emotionally raw. For me, this is the film of the year.
SCORES (after Round 2)
Django Unchained – 16 points
Gravity – 12 points
Zero Dark Thirty – 10 points
Rush – 9 points
To The Wonder – 9 points
Captain Phillips – 7 points
Cloud Atlas – 7 points
Lincoln – 7 points
The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug – 6 points
Iron Man 3 – 6 points
Blackfish – 5 points
Blue Is The Warmest Colour – 5 points
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God – 4 points
Pacific Rim – 3 points
The Spectacular Now – 2 points
Frozen – 1 point
Mud – 1 point
What do you think of Chris’s choices? What are your top ten films of the year? Tell us below!