When people put together any list, things are always forgotten. Films of a particular year are no different and anyone who’s anyone has an opinion. I rank mine on the watch-againability spectrum and whether they are actually great works of film.
If you think my list is missing anything, please let me know!
Sandra Bullock and the Visual Effects team are the stand out here. She holds the film together perfectly and is sure to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Actress when the nominations are released in January.
In some instances the film does rely too heavily on spectacle and not on story but in these cases you have to give Cuarón credit, this film is all about the cinematic experience and all of the attractions that comes with it. As such you can overlook the repetitiveness of the narrative and uncover the sheer brilliance of the art work.
11) The Way, Way Back
Sometimes you just need a good coming of age story and the ‘The Way, Way Back’ is just that. With shades of Little Miss Sunshine and Juno, this indie gem released in the first quarter of the year almost got overlooked, just like its protagonist. Following the young Duncan, who discovers his own self-worth during a summer trip with his mother and step Father he soon realises who he wants to be for the rest of his life.
Bittersweet and heart-warming this film has great performances by Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Amanda Peet and AnnaSophia Robb.
10) The Great Gatsby
Sometimes a little escapism is good and who better to provide that than Baz Luhrmann. Based on the literary classic by F Scott Fitzgerald and updated by a Jay Z produced soundtrack, this box office hit proved that people really did want decadence. The economic recession has hit us all, and as such, we don’t want to mope around in the cinemas watching despair. Yes, the narrative isn’t wholly upbeat but everything else sure is!
You know, we brits really do make good films and Philomena is proof of that. Tackling strong themes of childhood, the crimes of the Catholic Church and injustice, Stephen Frears film isn’t an entirely light film to view, however what makes up for this is a cracking script by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope. Laughter and tears merge together beautifully in a film that should expect big things come BAFTA time.
8) Captain Phillips
Has Tom Hanks ever made a bad film? Well, I can’t think of one. In a performance rivalling his in ‘Philadelphia’ he plays Captain Richard Phillips, a man who commands an unarmed container ship passing through the coast of Somalia. Paul Greengrass’ film equally balances the narratives of Phillips and the main captive Abduwali Muse, excellently portrayed by Barkhad Abdi. Tense, taught and full of action this is a biopic everyone has to see.
Chock full of great performances this film pushes the boundaries of the procedural drama and opens itself up to questions of living in a post 9/11 America. Denis Villeneuve’s direction is pitch perfect throughout and really makes the film all the more disturbing and absorbing. Not for the fainthearted, Prisoners will have you on the edge of your seat. Roger Deakins also needs special mention as his cinematography really brings everything together.
6) Saving Mr. Banks
Hollywood loves making films about Hollywood. It was Argo last year and this year’s representation is Saving Mr. Banks. Following the troubled production of Mary Poppins and having Emma Thompson portray P.L Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney what is there not to like? A much more meaningful film than the marketing suggested, the film is an absolutely fine-tuned biopic that never veers into kitsch.
The first documentary in the list plays more like a Hollywood crime thriller than a straightforward Doc. Set in the world of commercial whale baiting for SeaWorld, it chronicles how a trainer was murdered by the killer whale Tilikum. As the narrative progresses, it becomes clear that these creatures are at their most dangerous when in captivity. Not only have SeaWorld denied the allegations that these whales are capable of murder, they also refuse to set free their most prized possession, Tilikum. A thought provoking watch that will leave you questioning all kinds of animal entertainment.
Disney is back on top form. In a year where Pixar slightly lost their edge, Disney proved that they have still got it. If anyone is going to do a film that centres on two princesses and do it well it would be them. Adapted from Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Snow Queen’, the film follows two princesses Elsa and Anna who bond through Elsa’s magical powers to turn everything into ice and snow. As years pass, Elsa flees her kingdom after plunging the land into eternal winter. With funny supporting characters and animals in tow and a killer soundtrack, this new fairytale is bound to become a modern classic.
3) The Act of Killing
The second documentary on the list is The Act of Killing, a Danish – British-Norwegian co-production which documents the Indonesian of 1965-66 through the memories of those who committed the murders. Borrowing from surrealist cinema, the filmmakers wanted the perpetrators to re-enact their personal killings in any way they wanted, be it through music, dance or filmed theatre. A raw and sometimes gut wrenching watch, this documentary reinforces the power of this genre of filmmaking.
The first feature film to be entirely shot in Saudi Arabia is a tale of a young girl’s transgressive attitude to the society around her. Little Wadjda only wish is to own a bicycle so that she can race her best friend Abdullah, who taunts her. However, it is frowned upon for girls to ride such devices and as such she tried to raise the necessary funds herself by any means necessary. A children’s film at heart, this uplifting tale of overcoming barriers is a must see and hopefully the first in a long line of films from this part of the world.
1)12 Years a Slave
Ok, so it may not be technically released until 2014, but it was at the BFI Film Festival in October 2013, so it counts! Steve McQueen’s electric and awe inspiring adaptation of the life of Solomon Northup is nothing short of stellar. Bringing together blinding performances with the brutal nature of slavery there is nothing not to like about this film. Yes, at times it might be a bit raw for some, but this really should take home the majority of praise come Awards season as the film of the year.