Lists, Uncategorized

THE 100 BEST FILMS OF 2013 | #30 – 21

30 - 21_1

Previous: #40 – 31   |   Next: #20 – 11

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Gracefully directed with precision by Stephen Frears, this is prestige picture-making only on a surface level; despite it commendably casting a clear-eyed rumination on the role of the Catholic Church in Irish history, Philomena is a fantastic picture thanks to one reason. Well, two actually; both Judi Dench and Steve Coogan bring their A-game as Philomena Lee and Martin Sixsmith respectively, the former an adorable old woman searching for a son that was taken from her, the latter a blustery journalist somewhat jaded and looking for fresh purpose. This could have easily turned into a syrupy buddy road movie, but it defies both sentimentality and genre pigeonholes thanks to its constant focus on its fascinating true-life story.

‘Thing is, I didn’t even know I had a clitoris Martin.’


When Cristian Mungiu returned to the cinematic fray after his barnstorming, Palme d’Or-grabbing masterpiece 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, it’s fair to say that breath was certainly bated. Thankfully for us, its follow-up Beyond the Hills turned out to be an intimate epic, layered with the same attention to political and personal detail that are Mungiu’s best qualities. It follows the reunion of two women who grew up together, but are now very, very different – especially as one of them is now part of a religious convent. The film is a glacially paced, magisterial work of art that scrutinizes religious ideology within a modern society.

‘God doesn’t belong to you!’


Also known as, ‘That’s More Like It!’ From the instant Gandalf’s historically mischievous grin spreads across his face during the film’s prologue, The Desolation of Smaug is a non-stop adventure tale that goes from one stirring encounter to another, ramping up the suspense and action every part of the way. Peter Jackson’s masterstroke in the second chapter of his Hobbit trilogy (and fifth film set in Middle-Earth) is to expand the world in terms of locations and characters, the fate of which we quickly come to care about. Extraordinary action sequences (barrels!), familiar faces (Legolas!) and one unforgettable encounter (dragon!) add up to make this finely-tuned slice of fantasy entertainment a worthy companion to the original trilogy.

‘Come now, don’t be shy… step into the light.’


Preceding the bomb that was The Fifth Estate, this little-seen documentary is a hard-hitting look at the roles Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have played in the information war we find ourselves in today. Dense to the point of overflowing with facts and figures, We Steal Secrets always keeps it grip on Assange’s journey from lowlife hacker to lowlife data champion, and the enigma that goes with it (for good and for bad). The indictment that was forced upon Bradley Manning, upon his breaching of American intelligence laws to uncover the horrors his country’s military had been keeping at bay, hasn’t been given as balanced, as articulate or as moving a portrait as in this contemporary – but vitally timeless – documentary.

‘This was the biggest leak in the history of this particular planet.’


Shane Black, writer and director of Iron Man 3, took so many risks with this billion-dollar franchise, it could have – should have – fallen apart much earlier. Thankfully, in Black’s hands, Tony Stark’s latest solo outing was an absolute blast because of those risks; with Stark out of the suit for much of the time, a child sidekick, and a plot twist that would see comic fans marching over the hills with torches and pitchforks, it was – on paper, at least – a misjudged mess. But with a formula-alternating blend of pathos, tone-perfect humour and a knowing glint in the eye (plus really satisfying explosions), Black let loose the best solo Avengers movie since the first Iron Man. It may also be the series’ first real comedy.

‘Seriously, I don’t even like working here. They are so weird.’


What do you do when you discover a long-unknown secret about your family? Sarah Polley, responsible for last year’s tremendous Take This Waltz, dealt with her own experience by making a whole movie about it. The magic of this intimate documentary is its deconstruction of how we listen to stories, and how we individually interpret them. Its reliance on meta theatricality may have come across as precious, but it’s insistence on the importance of perspective lifts Polley’s deeply personal yarn to something bigger than its minutiae.

‘What would you say this documentary is really about?’


The best buddy picture of the year? In the near future, robots are becoming a bigger part of our everyday life, from mobilization, through libraries, to tasks in our own homes. Frank Langella plays (you guessed it) Frank, a retired jewel thief looking for a purpose in his older age. What starts as a plot-driven comedy naturally blossoms into a meditation on memory, friendship and family, with many tender laughs along the way. It’s also an unalloyed delight to watch Langella on as fine form as he’s ever been, developing an unexpected connection with his mechanical onscreen counterpart – the source of the only unconditional love he’s ever experienced.

‘Hello, Frank. It is a pleasure to meet you.’
‘How do you know?’


A sprinkle of Woody Allen magic here, a dash of A Streetcar Named Desire there, and a magnificent performance from Cate Blanchett whisked in for good measure. That’s the recipe for the kind of excellence Blue Jasmine extols on every level of its superbly crafted bodice; it’s a glowing exercise in melancholy, charting the titular Jasmine’s fall from grace (and wealth) when her husband is uncovered as a fiscal crook. And that’s where the Blue bit comes in; her ill mind continues to spiral down a plug hole while she desperately attempts to find a footing in a new, unglamorous life. It may not have the brightest outlook, but this realism circumvents the more idiosyncratic jollities of Allen’s writing to make it one of his best for a long time, trumping even Midnight in Paris.

‘For some reason my Xanax isn’t kicking in.’


David O. Russell’s magnum opus is colourful on many levels; aside from the sensational hues of Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper’s outfits, American Hustle turns a kaleidoscope on ‘70s America where everything is bigger, brighter and a goddamn lot more funny than real life. Espousing big hair and a cavalier attitude, Russell’s kinetic direction sports an unconcern toward period verisimilitude, and gives an electrifying portrayal of a cast of characters you’ll want to spend more than a mere 138 minutes with. It’s neither social comment, cat-and-mouse thriller, caper comedy, or ensemble drama; it’s simply one of the most purely entertaining movies of 2013.

‘People believe what they want to believe.’


During the climactic race in Ron Howard’s Rush, there are a few things happening. Firstly, James Hunt and Niki Lauda’s rivalry is crystallising into something far beyond mere competition. Secondly, your heart is trying to escape your chest. Thirdly, you come to realise Howard’s achievement; making a subject, the round-and-round-and-round sport of Formula One, something you care about, if only for two hours. The pulsing core of Rush is the deft characterisation off-track, as a never-as-excellent Chris Hemsworth and a career-defining performance from Daniel Brühl get their respective racers to oscillate against one another, like oil and water, or a high-speed yin and yang, coalescing in an philosophically tinged dichotomy of fun versus hard work, commitment versus talent. And really, really fast cars.

‘The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel.’

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Previous: #40 – 31   |   Next: #20 – 11

About GaryGreenScreen

Freelance film critic.


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