My top 10 films of 2013

Some really good films appeared this year, and yet again it’s been difficult to select the final 10. But without further ado, here they are, with links to longer opinions if you want to take a peek.

Number 10 – Behind the Candelabra

Blingingly touching story of Liberace and his relationship with a younger man, with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon giving remarkable performances.

Number 9 – Good Vibrations

Uplifting account of the making of the music which came out of the troubled Belfast and Derry of the 70s. A film with a huge heart.

Number 8 – The Broken Circle Breakdown

Desperately sad but with a brilliant soundtrack, the film shows a marriage collapsing under the pressure of dealing with a seriously ill child.

Number 7 – Like Father, Like Son

Hirokazu Kore-eda with the first of his two films in the list – two sets of very different parents discover that their sons were swapped in hospital just after they were born, and the decision must be made as to how the situation should best be resolved. Gentle exploration of parenthood and blood ties, and I just hope the rumours about Spielberg getting his hands on it aren’t true.

Number 6 – Kuma

Traditional meets modern, as a young woman from a small Turkish village is married as a second wife to an older Turkish man now living in Vienna. Startling and poignant at the same time.

Number 5 – Gravity

Best use of 3D ever! Won’t be the same on DVD, but on a huge cinema screen it’s visually like no other film you’ve seen before.

Number 4 – Wadjda

Interesting insights in to aspects of Arabic culture, as we follow a resourceful young girl who finds a way to circumvent the conventions of her society to fulfil her dream.

Number 3 – I Wish

Kore-eda’s second film in the list, so he wins 2013! Delightful look at a childhood belief in miracles and a longing for the world to be a nice place.

Number 2 – The Act of Killing

Jaw-dropping documentary in which former hit men are invited to re-enact their misdemeanours in whatever form they choose. The truth of what happened over 40 years ago slowly begins to dawn on some of them, with remarkable consequences.

Number 1 – No

Gael Garcia Bernal in my number one film of the year – yet again! Ad exec is tasked with preventing Pinochet from being re-elected in 1980s Chile, and succeeds against all the odds. Excellent historical insight, great performances and a catchy jingle! Perfect!

Agree or disagree? Let me know – would love to know your top films of the year! You can find the whole list of 2013 films I saw this year ranked here on Letterboxd.

The worst films I’ve seen in 2013

As ever with this annual list, these are probably not the worst films, but the ones which have angered, irritated or disappointed me the most this year. Click the film title where there’s a link to find out what I thought just after seeing the film.

Number 5 Renoir

Airy fairy nothing happens not very interesting characters: opportunities for a decent storyline squandered.

Number 4 – Thérèse Desqueyroux

*blows out cheeks and sighs heavily*  A right bucket of sunshine. Emotionless and generally unlikeable characters with whom it is difficult to engage. Tedious.

Number 3 – Gangster Squad

Starts well, but the all-star cast are wishywashy, and Ryan Gosling appears to be wearing too much lipgloss. Shallow.

Number 2 – Post Tenebras Lux

Overly self-indulgent, and pretentious even by my threshold. Probably suffers from the fact that I was anticipating it too much.

Number 1 – Frances Ha

Oh. My. God. A film populated by self-centered, old enough to know better, aimless twenty-somethings who basically need to get over themselves. Hipster twaddle.

In which I take part in a film podcast

Fun times! I’ve been listening to the New Zealand-based Cinematica film podcast for a couple of years now, and am a bit of a fan.

So I was delighted and honoured to be invited by the Cinematica team to be part of their end-of year podcast!

On the off-chance that you are interested in hearing me talk about my top films of the year, and other movie-related chat, then you can tune in here. Better still, why not subscribe to the podcast?

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

When I commented on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey last year, I said I would try out more films in the higher frame rate when they appeared. One year on, and this is the next opportunity which arose.

I think the 3D HFR technology has been tweaked a little since the last one – it’s still not perfect, but is distinctly better than before. The light loss is much less obvious, and I didn’t get a 3D headache, which is always a bonus.

The film mildly entertained me but I am a bit confused as to why the only actual Hobbit in the film didn’t really get much to do, and why the old man with the long grey beard kept sending the group off on dangerous journeys and then disappearing just when they needed his help. Mean old thing.

The best bits were with the dragon, and it was only at the end of this second film that I began to think that something was actually going to happen – which is a bit much after 6 hours of film time.

It’s certainly dragging it out a lot – I think the overarching title for the trilogy should be “The Hobbit: Are We Nearly There Yet?”

La vie d’Adèle – Blue is the Warmest Colour

Such a lot of hype surrounded this controversial film of a young woman discovering her sexuality that I was in two minds as to whether to even go and see it. As usual, however, I decided that I should go and see it and make my own mind up.

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way to start with. Firstly, the scenes of sex between the two women are indeed explicit, and although I can partly see the relevance to the emotional ties between the characters, there is no need for the scenes to be quite so long.

Secondly, the performance of Adèle Exarchopoulos is quite extraordinary,, and deserves all the praise being meted out.

However, not only was I at times very bored with what was happening, the more I reflect on what I have seen, the angrier I get.

Director Abdellatif Kechiche is having a laugh. He has managed to pull the wool very firmly over the eyes of many viewers by playing out the fixations and desires of his own mid-life crisis on-screen and couching it as an arty coming of age story that only the French can do.

There’s even a scene where a rather pretentious man opines to a captive female audience on the subject of men envying female sexuality, and a character, sympathetic and even a little flirtatious with Adèle, who is a bit-part actor of North African heritage – very much like our director.

Kechiche could just as easily have put up a huge sign saying “Try Women, Choose Me(n)” and I would have taken the same message from the film.

Directorial self-indulgence.