Monday, 30 December 2013

My 2013 Top Ten films.

This has been a really exceptional year. I don't recall another time when there have been so many strong and worthy contenders jostling to be included in my ultimate 10 (out of 89).
Firstly, I chose the 20 to which I'd given my highest ratings. Then weeded them down to 10 (with some notable films falling at this hurdle - 'Gravity', 'Les Mis.', 'Quartet', 'Lincoln', 'Captain Phillips', to name but some). Then I juggled with placings for the select remainder until I settled on what looked 'right' in accordance with my own personal tastes for what I consider good and satisfying entertainment, eventually coming up with (in ascending order)-

10 Saving Mr Banks
Thoroughly absorbing take on the transfer of Mary Poppins from book to film. The fact that Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks didn't look much like the originals of the characters they were portraying robbed the film of nothing. A film which could have been shallow but wasn't, especially in the Colin Farrell episodes, portraying P.L.Travers' father when she was a child.

9 Le Weekend
Exceedingly well-observed story of ageing English marrieds (Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan) trying to rediscover romance on a brief return visit to Paris. The occasional sour exchanges between the two alleviated with some lighter moments makes for an engaging hour and a half - dented only by Duncan's exasperatingly inaudible delivery at more than one crucial moment.

8 Much Ado About Nothing
One of the real pleasant surprises of the year. Low-budget, b/w, American cast in modern dress, set entirely in one house and its grounds - and it all comes together to work a treat.

7 The Great Gatsby
Baz Buhrmann pulls off yet another sizzler. All high energy with loads of visual and aural assaults - yet still basically faithful to the book, standing up easily in comparison to the 1970s Clayton version, with Leo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire all in outstanding form.

6 Enough Said
Another one that really came out of the blue, though boosted in audience terms by news of the death of James Gandolfini shortly before its release. A gentle romance with some quite amusing nail-biting moments. But overall, a delight.

5 Nebraska

Original story, superior script, brilliantly cast, high level of acting throughout - this has it all. Plus it's another black-and-white film, as it just had to be. Marvellous!

4 Philomena

Judi Dench, perhaps over-exposed regarding her numerous film appearances, nevertheless at the top of her game in this heart-rending tale of a mother searching for her out-of-wedlock-born son whom she was forced to give up through the policy of the Irish Catholic authorities. Steve Coogan, as the writer assisting her in the search, is as impressively convincing in a serious role as one could wish.

 3 The Hunt

Danish film, gripping drama, of primary school teacher being falsely accused of improper conduct with one of the young schoolgirls. Troubling situation which only brings to the fore worries we have of the extent to which this still happens - and no one seems to have any idea how to prevent it recurring, when a child's testimony is believed above that of the protestations of the accused. Mads Mikkelsen is extraordinary as the accused, already undergoing divorce proceedings while trying to maintain custody of his own son.
It's a testimony as to what regard I have for this film in that I place it so high despite it having two scenes which would have disqualified me from seeing it at all had I known beforehand. (The film's very opening shows the shooting of a deer - and later, there's a gruesome sequence involving a dog.)
Incidentally, this film has received by far the most hits on my blog than any other film I've ever reviewed - over twice as much as the next most viewed ('The Way Way Back' - also quite unexpected). At least 'The Hunt' strongly merits its curiosity-popularity.

2 Blue Jasmine

Just loved this! I can't imagine anyone who's even half the admirer of Woody Allen that I am, not liking it a lot. Cate Blanchett, with a superiority-complex, as she's never been seen before, all snidery and snobbery - with Sally Hawkins also putting in an amazing turn as her feet-on-the-ground 'sister'. The frequent shifting back and forth in time between NY and San Fran works well, with no difficulty in following what's going on. A film like this shows how Allen can still come up with the goods despite most critics thinking that he's produced many more disappointments in the last twenty years than fine efforts (though I'll still re-watch any of them). But this one is unarguably top drawer stuff.


Yes, I've thought long and hard whether to nominate this as my 'Film of 2013' but I'd be dishonest if I hadn't made it so. I'm quite aware that the film has had not a few detractors as well as rather more reactions of puzzlement, but I'm not compiling my list in accordance with what others think it ought to be, therefore this is the one which takes my personal top slot. 
A perfectly valid interpretation in cinematic terms of an extraordinary book. I did have the advantage(?) of having read the original David Mitchell novel before seeing the film - and have read it again since. The form is quite different for this film but with this bold re-visioning of the source it shows exactly how the medium of cinema can stand up on its own terms. With actors playing multiple roles (Tom Hanks again leading the field) in a multi-strand, time-jumping work, it succeeds with honours. It's over 10 months since I saw the film yet after all this time it still leaves a deep impression. It's a bold, risk-taking venture - and the result is that it comes out as extraordinary as it aspired to be. 

Congratulations to 'Cloud Atlas' for winning the esteemed 'Raybeard Golden Award for Film of 2013'! Well done to all concerned!

(Oh, and my 'Stinker' of the year? I give you 'A Song for Marion'. Look up my review if you want to be bothered. I can't!)

Now, here's to hoping that 2014 can serve as many nuggets as we got in the last twelve months. Bring 'em on!


  1. I can't believe it
    But I have only seen ONE of these films

    1. Well, what pleasures in store for you on your catch-up then, J.G. I envy you!

    2. I have been so lax at cinema this year
      2014 will be the year of making the effort

    3. You've certainly not been lax about consulting my blog, J.G. and for that alone I'm flattered. But it would be nice to hear your own opinions, most especially on films which I hadn't seen at that point.

  2. wanna see #10, and saw #2. that's all, folks! :)

    1. I think you might like more than just 'Mr Banks', A.M. - and I'd suggest both 'Enough Said' and 'Philomena' as being those on the list most likely to impress you. But, well, we all have our own individual little quirks, don't we?

  3. loved cloud atlas. I would give that a 9/10.

    1. Yes, as you can see I also found it most remarkable. I'd love to see it again on the big screen, though that's quite unlikely now. But I'll certainly read the book for a 3rd time.

  4. I loved that you placed the films in ascending order. It really heightened the suspense. "Mr. Banks" at No. 10 surprised me. I thought that would come in at No. 2 and "Philomena" at No. 1. I still haven't seen No. 3, "The Hunt." It didn't make it to the theaters here, but is now on VOD. I want to see it, but I don't want to see it, if you understand what I mean.

    Studying your list, I have to agree that they are all excellent choices.

    Now, let me share three of my choices:

    No. 1. "The Wolf Of Wall Street." Maybe it's because I saw it less than a week ago that it is still in my mind. This is one of Scorsese's best. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a brilliant performance - comedy drama and farce. Just loved it and would see it again.

    No. 2. "Before Midnight." To really appreciate this movie, you had to have seen it's predecessors, "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset." I watched both before I went and it being fresh in my mind, I was truly amazed at the change in Delpy from charming in the previous films, to bitter and hostile in this one.

    No. 3. "Five Dances" Really not much of a story.But it takes place in NYC, beautiful dancing and the adorable Ryan Steele. So what's not to love.

    And my STINKER

    "The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug" Should never have been made. The film has a murky look and fails on every level. Enough said.

    It would be very interesting if your readers also shared their favorites and least favorite. You never know. You might discover a great movie that you might have missed.

    1. First, your own choices, Paul.
      I haven't seen any of them, though the trailer for 'Wolf' has now started playing and it looks really promising. It's on my 'must see' list, as would be anything by Scorsese.
      Never heard of 'Five Dances'. I see it was shown at the London Film Festival last April but so far there's no news of a UK general release, which could mean that now it won't get one. If so it's a shame because I'd now like to see it.
      I've heard so much good about the 'Before' trilogy, but was put off from seeing the first when it came out all those years ago as sounding like cosy, rather soppy, smug hetero romance - at least from the bits I'd seen on TV. For that reason didn't bother with Part II - and now the third has appeared and I wish I could sit down and watch them all in succession now - but it's very unlikely I'll be able to do that (I've never yet rented a film, and I still can't play DVDs.).

      Re my list - after the top 3 or so there is very little difference between the rest so I think a lot of the placings I've given them could be exchanged with no appreciable effect on the whole.

      I'd really like to have your opinion of 'The Hunt' - but I suggest you start watching it after the first five minutes (you won't lose anything) - and then immediately you see that something has happened to the dog either turn away or f/f it while maintaining a detachment, if possible. But the body of the drama itself feels so truthfully handled yet also deeply troubling. It's one that lingers in one's mind forever.

      'Smaug' really your worst? That's quite taken me aback. You know that I wasn't that keen on it but this year alone I've had more than a few far more dire cinematic experiences. But this is all about being honest, ain't it?

      Now, hoping to see another film today, in the fading hours of 2013. Took a chance that it wouldn't be upsetting my Top 10. If it does I'll eat my hat - plastic flowers and all!

  5. Great list! I have only seen 5 of the films on your list so I can start the year off right by seeking out the others. In a way I already have done. I saw Saving Mr. Banks today before reading your post.

    1. Given that my advanced age testifies to the fact that I'm well outside the film-makers' target audience, it's reassuring to know that my views can have some value to fellow-bloggers, H.K. But, as I always stress, they are my own personal reactions, and therefore cannot be definitive verdicts on any film's success per se or otherwise. I would be concerned, though, if any negative opinion I gave put another person off from seeing something which they might have enjoyed.

  6. Indeed!
    We just saw Mr. Banks and both of us thought is lovely.
    I particularly liked Emma's pithy lines.

    Happy 2014 !

    1. Yes, Dr Spo, the script of 'Banks' was a cut above the usual. It's a quality to which I'm always particularly attuned, though I get the impression that for a many in the audience it's subservient to the visuals. But it was a good and a very different kind of film in any case.

    2. And, of course, a wonderful 2014 to you too - yet again, but one can't give or receive TOO many good wishes, can one?

  7. Are you sending the producers a prize for coming first?

    I dare you!

    1. Naw. On this occasion I'm hoping that my own bloggie 'pat on the back' will suffice. Besides they'll already have so many awards what difference would another one from 'umble li'l me make?