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.
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!
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.
1 CLOUD ATLAS
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!