Friday, December 27, 2013

Top Ten 2013

Blancanieves - Snow White just sounds better in Spanish. Well it would if this weren't a silent movie. Not only a highly refreshing new take on an old story but one that used an antique form to do so. That's winning against the odds. That's before you get to the sheer bloody charm and effectiveness of it. Best film of MIFF and the year.

Tabu - Did the only thing that I wished Blancanieves had done and been less reverent to its period. Some aspects of silent cinema were genuinely updated as the second half, a personal memoir, is told with only image, ambient sound and narration but not a word of dialogue. Extraordinary!

Gravity - Ineptly criticised for not being science fiction when it was set in space, this white knuckle survival tale gave us an IMAX 3D extravaganza whose substance only ever had to be a B movie. And who could care about that once the  dizzy action started. Very pure cinema.

The Act of Killing - The buzz title of MIFF, Act was shown in its endurance-test cut which was so easy to resist that when its mounting substance threw the curtain aside and revealed the horror that had been visible all along it became a juggernaut. More like Matthew Barney than Werner Herzog, this film was not interested in letting its audiences get too cosy. Why should they with any subject matter, after all, let alone this true life horror?

Zero Dark Thirty - Like a documentary into the psyche of the empire this piece rises with quiet sobriety into deadly action. The torture scenes are an admission rather than advocacy. When their leader publicly denies what we've seen them do, the sight of their blank faces watching him on the tv sends a chill. More strong and edgy stuff from action-champion Kathryn Bigelow.

Spring Breakers - Harmony Korine arrives at genuine cinematic accomplishment despite the film's clear links to his bad boy beginnings. Spring Breakers is symphonic and refreshingly modern (and not post bloody modern).

The Bling Ring - Sofia Coppola arrives with a tale both public and unavoidably personal and makes a film as accomplished as her first but with none of the shortfalls of those in between.

A Hijacking - I dislike reviews that bemoan what films aren't rather than judge what they are. I don't need to do this in the case of Captain Phillips as this Danish outing made for a fraction of the blockbuster's cost goes far further into the complexities of the situation and lingers longer. As strong an action film as Captain Phillips is it just can't compete with this.

American Hustle - For surprising me by presenting a tale of perception and its costs in the guise of a caper movie. Very clever but good in spite of that.

Rhino Season - 90 minutes of mostly dialogue free imagery manages to compel like few other things I saw this year. If you can do that you get on this list.

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