Following on from my previous post counting down from numbers 20-11 which can be found here, these are my ten favourite films of 2013:
Set entirely in a toilet stall during a zombie outbreak at a Work Christmas Party, Stalled is a low-budget wonder bursting with creativity that sounds ridiculous and really shouldn't work but somehow manages to breathe new life into a somewhat stale genre. If Shaun of the Dead is your thing then this is essential viewing as, despite the apparent limitations of the budget, Stalled has enough laughs and plenty of gore to please even the most avid of zombie fans.
Incorrectly believing he has won a million dollars, an alcoholic old man is determined to reach Nebraska to claim his prize, despite the better wishes of his frustrated wife. His estranged son is left with no choice but to take him on a road trip to Nebraska to claim his prize in one of the most humorous and heart-warming films of the year.
Following on from the incredible success of The Matrix, the Wachowski brothers (although maybe they shoud now be referred to as the Wachowski siblings?) have struggled to emulate its success, and whilst Cloud Atlas did not fare as well at the box office as it deserved, it is still an astounding piece of film-making. Choosing to adapt a supposed ‘unfilmable’ novel was a brave move, and with six interweaving segments based in different time periods encompassing the past, present and future, Cloud Atlas is one of the most ambitious sci-fi films of recent years with a truly epic scale that needs to be seen to believed.
7. Only God Forgives
Those expecting Drive 2 were understandably disappointed as Only God Forgives is an altogether different beast from Nicolas Winding Refn's previous outing, but it is still a stunning film that rewards a patient viewer. The beautiful choreographed violence and sumptuous Bangkok settings provide the audience with a visual feast that needs to be experienced more than once to be truly appreciated.
Haunting, tragic, and unforgettable, Prisoners is a masterpiece of film-making that cements Denis Villeneuve's position as one of the finest directors of our time. Powerhouse performances from Jackman, Gyllenhall and Dano ensure that this dark thriller will still be playing on your mind long after the end credits are rolling.
5. Frances Ha
At the core of this heart-warming tale of a twenty something struggling to find her way in life lies one of the most loveable characters of recent times; Greta Gerwig is perfectly cast as Frances, a disorganised dancer with no plans for the future and an inability to keep hold of men. Noah Baumbach's decision to shoot in black and white adds to the charm of the picture and France's foibles are guaranteed to induce smiles from all but the most cynical of viewers.
4. Django Unchained
Tarantino has been teasing fans for years that he will eventually turn his talents to a Western, and with Django Unchained he has mastered another genre in a single stroke, proving that his dialogue heavy scripts can be tailored to almost any setting. The unmistakable presence of Tarantino's black humour balances perfectly with the harsh brutality of his wild west, which is clearly heavily influenced by the spaghetti westerns of Corbucci and Leone. Once again under the direction of QT, Christoph Waltz took home an Oscar for best supporting actor, and rightly so, but that's not to diminish the equally astounding performances from Jamie Foxx and Leonardo Dicaprio that bring this epic tale of revenge to life.
3. Captain Philips
Tom Hanks has had a fantastic return to form this year with his performances in both Saving Mr Banks and Cloud Atlas reasserting his talent as an actor, but it is his role in Captain Philips which will inevitably be recognised at the Oscars early next year. Newcomer Barkhad Abdi is suitably impressive as the leader of a gang of pirates that board Philips ship, and the ensuing events will leave your heart palpating vigorously; even more so when it sinks in that this is based upon a true story. The hand-held shooting style favoured by Paul Greengrass lends itself to the dramatization of real life events by placing the audience amongst the action, and with Hanks riveting portrayal at the helm it is difficult to pick fault with this incredibly tense and emotional voyage.
The finest horror film of 2013 was due to be at the top of my list up until October when it was narrowly beaten into second position by Gravity. A limited release early on in the year meant that Maniac passed by relatively unnoticed but is now available on Netflix for all to see. This is one of the most brutal and inventive horrors of recent years with an outstanding central performance from none other than everyone’s favourite Hobbit, Elijah Wood. Filmed entirely in POV, and with a slick soundtrack not too far removed from the 80’s synth infused pop made popular by Winding Refn’s Drive, those who can stomach the violence will be rewarded with a stark insight into the mind of a twisted serial killer.
An unmissable masterpiece, and one of the best films of the past five years, if not THE best. Read my spoiler-free review here, and then pre-order the film on Blu-Ray, you won’t regret it. Those who have already seen Gravity, and only those who have, should check out this amazing companion piece created by none other than the director’s own son, Jonas Cuaron, which is a beautifully made short film.