The Best of 2013

The top ten

Upstream Color
Frances Ha
Like Someone In Love
The Act Of Killing
Before Midnight
Only God Forgives
Blue Is The Warmest Colour
Post Tenebras Lux

Film Of The Year
Upstream Color

“From its angelic score to the sun-bleached visuals, the film slides through the viewer’s mind as though airborne, weightless and in some way transcendent. I’m aware of exactly how precious that sounds, but it’s hard to understate. This is cinema sent from the heavens.”

So far ahead of anything else this year that it’s a little bit ridiculous, Shane Carruth’s intuitive science fiction drama is as graceful as it is deep, as light as it is troubling. Jeff and Kris are kindred spirits in a film which dares to have a soul, kindling synaptic connections to primal responses. Fear, love, loss, need… Carruth presents us two human beings struggling to hold themselves together following a devastating personal invasion. The body horror concept may lure in the genre fans, but Upstream Color has far greater ambitions and makes achieving them seem effortless. If you surrender to it, it will consume you. The best film of the year. And of the decade so far.

Frances Ha

“… you may occasionally want to stage an intervention within the film, this at least shows that you’re invested. You want this character to get what she wants, even when she is making an ass of herself.”

Noah Baumbach’s film is his best yet, but the real winner here is Greta Gerwig, for whom this showcase is superb. It flirts with hipster dalliances, but more than anything Frances Ha is a crowd pleaser that deserves attention from the masses. It’s also one of recent cinema’s greatest love letters to New York.

Like Someone In Love

“Background characters reveal themselves to be more than just extras, frequently moving into the foreground and taking over whole scenes. Information is doled out sparingly through the always-precise camera work and cannily constructed screenplay.”

Returning to Like Someone In Love has revealed a film of rich pleasures, from the near-perfect cinematography through the exquisitely judged performances to the deft reveals of the script. Kiarostami’s movie plays as a superb comedy of misunderstandings and discoveries, as characters shift roles depending on their companions. One to savour.

The Act Of Killing

” I have truly never seen anything quite like this film. It’s appeared like an aberration. The whole project seems so unlikely and the result so staggeringly disarming as to beg disbelief.”

The shell shock hasn’t worn off, and revisiting The Act Of Killing reveals that, yes, this is a profoundly shocking and thought-provoking piece of documentary filmmaking. The ominous list of ‘anonymous’ credits suggest how on the nose this film is, as Indonesia’s ugly recent history is delved into. But more than that, The Act Of Killing is the exposé of one man’s closeted conscience, it’s slow reveal will leave you speechless.

Before Midnight

“The good news is that this addition to the series doesn’t feel forced or out of place, merely the next step in an unfolding journey.”

It’s just wonderful. Linklater plays on nearly twenty years of history, acknowledging the past and, in a thrilling move, threatening the future. In the end though, the winning formula which made Before Sunrise and Before Sunset such pleasures are what works here yet again. Delpy and Hawke are so comfortable, so good at this, that Before Midnight sells itself from the very beginning.


“Payne offers the prospect of gentle comedy, only to underpin his stories with heartfelt depth and wryly subversive observations. He seems particularly adept at reflecting the humdrum of everyday life, while at the same time celebrating it.”

Not enough time has passed to tell if my strong affection for Nebraska is a flash in the pan, but I doubt it. Amid the washed out skies, open fields and rusted farming machinery, Payne romanticises the Mid West with this tale of one man’s fool’s errand. Bruce Dern hits a late career high, but the cast overall is flawless. 

Only God Forgives

“This is not mainstream cinema, and the way in which Refn’s film has been set up as just-another-action-thriller will lead many to lose patience or actively berate this film. Only God Forgives is an impeccably crafted, wholly successful ‘audience fucker’.”

It’s easy to see why so many people were upset; Only God Forgives is not Drive Part 2. It’s richer, more grimly fascinating than that. Gosling is a shadow, too long lost in his own nightmare scenario. There are no easy exits here. Refn’s film deconstructs Western masculinity and the perceived righteousness of vengeance. A hypnotic, intoxicating experience.

Blue Is The Warmest Colour

“… presents us a long, thorough dissection of what it is to feel love, to be in love, to make love, to share it, and to risk losing it too. Kechiche has chosen this aspect of the human condition and decided to give it full focus, in all it’s pain and glory.”

Still fresh in the mind, Blue‘s sprawling three-hour documentation of young love is as all-consuming as it’s subject matter. This already feels like a classic of French (or Tunisian) cinema, and it ought to put Adèle Exarchopoulos on the map. Her performance is the real revelation here, elevating the film to easily the year’s most emotionally engaging piece of work.


“You can read into the film if you wish to (personally speaking, it felt to me a lot like the story of a traumatic birth), you can delve into the character and empathise for Stone and her emotional limbo, or you can take it all at surface level and experience Gravity first and foremost as a theme park ride.”

Time will tell as to whether Gravity will impress quite so greatly when it is reduced to the small screen. For now though this remains 2013’s technical tour de force. A film that demands it’s audience turn up at the cinema to witness it. In an age of people watching films on mobile phones (don’t get me started on that one), I’m all for Cuarón’s event movie reminding people of the power of the big screen.

Post Tenebras Lux

“Like a devil creeping about the house in the dark when you’re asleep, Reygadas’ film is here to preoccupy you on an almost subliminal level long after the waking world is blurred out at the edges.”

Post Tenebras Lux is film as art. Brimming with ideas, backed with indelible, provocative images, it paints a picture of Mexican life, class and family with as many shades as a rainbow. Reygadas’ work may confound, but when separated from the typical sensibilities of narrative cinema, it is bold and entirely freeing. His is a cinema of endless possibilities and the high points here are transcendent. Boundary-pushing stuff.

The best of the rest…

You’re Next
American Mary
Zero Dark Thirty

Something In The Air
Spring Breakers
Django Unchained
Pacific Rim
V/H/S 2

Our Children
Cloud Atlas
Much Ado About Nothing

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