Tuesday, 9 July 2013

2013's Best in Film (so far)

When it comes to film, 2013 may have had a disappointing start, but 8 months in, and there are lots to choose from. Here are my top 9. (In no particular order)

Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine)

Spring Breakers had a wafer-thin plotline, an arrogantly adolescent soundtrack and was borderline misogynistic.
But no, it has not been added to the wrong list. There is something hypnotically satisfying about Harmony Korine’s chaotic filmmaking that makes for an unforgettable rollercoaster. Though there is very little character development, we still develop an affinity and understanding with Selena Gomez’s Faith, rooting for her escape from the farfetched and ridiculous situation she has found herself in. And while his character is never likable, James Franco’s Alien is the most enchanting lunatic you will watch all year.
     You’ll never listen to Britney Spears in the same way again.

Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)

When nothing happens in a full 95 minutes of film and you still come out of the cinema feeling changed, you know you have witnessed something masterful. This slots perfectly into the Before Sunrise/Sunset trilogy, but more importantly works as a film in its own right. Never has a relationship drama felt so painfully honest - when you watch these two, not entirely likable people laugh and fight you realise that you are these people inside your own current or past relationships.
Without for one second being tacky, patronising or working in clichés, Richard Linklater gives us a very personal lesson in what love really is.

Behind The Candelabra (Steven Soderbergh)

When you think of the great onscreen romances you think of Kate and Leo or Fred and Ginger...You would not expect to add Matt Damon and Michael Douglas to the list. This biographical account of piano-legend Liberace and his long and complicated relationship with his partner Scott Thorson is as vibrant and fun as it is tender and touching. 

Though this was not originally meant to be a motion picture, and instead a TV-film, it shows the great skill and depth that Soderbergh possesses, and this is truly his last feature it is a great shame, as no other film screams “Oscar” louder than this. Soderbergh clearly still has a great deal to give.

Star Trek into The Darkness (J.J. Abrams)

Man of Steel, World War Z and Iron Man 3 are among some of the action blockbusters to hit our screens this year – but one stands above them all. This sequel to the solid 2009 reboot is packed full of action, while never once becoming repetitive or dull. The sci-fi epic still manages to spend enough time focusing on the character development of its well-known protagonists - led by a faultless performance from Zachary Quinto as the iconic Spock and a fully on-form Benedict Cumberbatch, who spooks us as the menacing Khan. Bring on the third instalment.

The Place Beyond Pines (Derek Cianfrance)

It may not have been as tragically gripping as Blue Valentine, but Derek Cianfrance’s latest feature is still one to watch. The indie-drama is separated into 3 separate sub-plots and, admittedly, some characters’ stories are more interesting than others. Gosling, though treading on familiar ground, still gives a remarkable performance as Luke, while Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes provide strong backup.
Cianfrance recreates Blue Valentine's haunting sense of stillness in this atmospheric crime drama. It is exciting to anticipate what this budding-auteur might do next.

Mud (Jeff Nichols)

The trailer was less than inspiring. Matthew Mcconaughey and Reese Witherspoon did not appeal as leads. The plot looked done. But one cannot argue with 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, so, begrudgedly, I went to see what the fuss was about.
           Luckily, the performances were solid and refreshing and the story was believable and well structured. It may have been a slow burner, but the audience's perseverance is rewarded with an action-packed finale. 
         Cinema’s most pleasant surprise of 2013.

Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley)

Sarah Polley has shown a lot of promise as a director in the past few years, but none of the stories she has told have been as interesting as her own. Though at a first glance, this interview-based documentary is just about family, you soon realise that it also studies memory, character and forgiveness.
          It is an intensely emotionally and revealing experience, told from the point of view of Polley’s nearest and dearest. One of this bibliographical picture’s biggest triumphs is the reincarnation of Polley’s mother – Diane McMillan, through vague re-enactments and with the interviewees’ various recollections, we feel as if we know her - a struggle many directors have with characters they actually have dialogue for.  

          Stories we tell is never just a Documentary. It is an investigation, an experiment and most importantly, a story.

The Bling Ring (Sofia Coppola)

As an admirer of Sophia Coppola’s work, there was a sense of relief when the credits rolled. The Bling Ring is an effortlessly executed yet also profoundly complex investigation into the shallow world of celebrity fascination. Fortunately, though this is arguably Coppola’s most commercial picture to date, she does not lose the unique style of film-making which made her past four features so poignant: throughout the mayhem of this satirical-drama, Coppola manages to project that dreamy and somewhat detached sense of wonder that made Lost in Translation and The Virgin Suicides so aesthetically appealing.
            ‘America has this sick fascination with the whole Bonnie and Clyde kind of thing’, one of her protagonists proclaims, but it is not just America, it is everyone, and that is what makes this such an intriguing picture. Coppola does not go down the obvious directorial path – we are not compelled to judge these people; instead with are invited inside of her bling ring so that we can live the events amongst them.

Much Ado About Nothing (Joss Whedon)

After The Avengers became the third highest grossing film ever, it is hard to believe that Joss Whedon’s next cinematic release would be a micro-budget Shakespearean adaptation filmed in black and white and shot over 12 days in his own house mostly using the cast of Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse.
         Well, it was, but of course Joss can do no wrong.
         This is a charming, vibrant and snappy little film and may well be the best Shakespeare –to-film we have had since Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet.

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