Lists, Uncategorized

THE 100 BEST FILMS OF 2013 | #40 – 31

40 - 31

Previous: #50 – 41   |   Next: #30 – 21

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thesessions1_1

Even though it’s fallen off the radar since its early 2013 release, The Sessions hangs in the memory as an incredible achievement for multiple reasons. One of them is John Hawke’s heroic – yes, heroic – performance in the lead role as Mark O’Brien, a man with crippling disabilities so bad he can’t leave his iron lung for more than an hour. The second is the frankness in which director Ben Lewin treats the scenes between him and sex therapist Cheryl (a flawlessly naturalistic Helen Hunt), their sexual encounters breaking down our walls of reticence concerning what goes on in the bedroom, and crafting a dignified ode to a man whose life was as vibrant as any other.

‘I have a feeling that God is going to give you a free pass on this one. Go for it.’

selfishgiant1_1

In 1888, Oscar Wilde published a collection of short stories for children. One of them was called ‘The Selfish Giant’; now, over a hundred years later, its themes of adult ignorance and pre-adolescent freedom are still present in Clio Barnard’s new vision which shares the same name, but takes place in some of Britain’s more unsavoury (and sweary) locations. It’s bravura, boisterous, tender and deeply, unrelentingly moving; the core friendship between Arbor and Swifty is almost a force of nature. Not only is The Selfish Giant a great film on its own merits, but is a wake-up call for the independent film landscape in the UK.

‘He’s at school. He’s better off there than hanging round here with you.’

whatricharddid1_1

Another homegrown achievement, What Richard Did is a tale that couldn’t feel smaller if it tried; one unforgivable action by privileged South Dublin teenager Richard throws his world into gut-wriggling uncertainty, casting a dark new light over his carefree life, and ripples toward his family and friends. To see What Richard Did is a chance to witness some of the finest acted scenes of the year, especially from lead Jack Reynor – so sit down and get on the hype train before Transformers: Age of Extinction comes round and turns him into yet another poster boy.

’Were you there?’

alanpartridgealphapapa1_1

Life-long fans of Partridge breathed a sigh of relief (and laughed quite a lot, too) when the long-talked about big screen debut of everyone’s favourite Norwich DJ finally arrived. Glorious screenwriting, both in terms of pacing and an output of gags that matched the best from the original series, made sure that this beloved character got a movie that built on the same humour that still makes our sides split today, but was also entirely its own enterprise – and all without an ‘Ah-hah’ in sight.

‘You know who I am, I’ve not been off TV for that long!’

nebraska1_1

The Alexander Payne roller coaster doesn’t show any signs of stopping soon. The success of About Schmidt, Sideways, and The Descendants propelled the director to a level where he could get his ‘black and white’ movie out of his system; the result is a typically brilliant, frills-free character piece that combines road movie and personal resolution. While it insightfully, and hilariously, exposes the many faults in human nature when Woody (Bruce Dern) and his son David (Will Forte) travel to collect a million dollars from a supposed internet lottery win, it’s Payne’s juggling of heart-piercing drama with non-stop laughs that makes it yet another jewel in his crown.

‘I never knew the son of a bitch even wanted to be a millionaire! He should have thought about that years ago and worked for it!’

savingmrbanks1_1

Walt would be proud. Taking the legendary children’s classic Mary Poppins and mythologising it with directorial aplomb from John Lee Hancock, a finely tuned script that paints back story almost as main narrative, and a helping hand from Disney in a rare frankness from a large studio, Saving Mr. Banks becomes a singular story about personal redemption – even the kind that takes years. The result of these equally miraculous parts is a moving account of a middle-aged woman (how many of those get to be the protagonist in today’s studio films?) still learning lessons in life, including in how to let go. If you end up making a deal with the mouse, money is the result – but magic, also.

‘Mary Poppins is not for sale! I won’t have her turned into one of your silly cartoons.’

springbreakers1_1

‘Look at my shit’, indeed. While James Franco’s Alien, the decade’s most likeable white trash gangster, makes such declarations of material indulgence, it’s director Harmony Korine’s subtle expounding of the truth behind such Americanized excess and moral vapidity that’s the real star. By turning the male gaze into a mockery, it’s the year’s greatest and most effective satire, something that was entirely missed by a lot of mainstream audiences upon release; it’s either porn for the masses, or a fever dream for those willing to go deeper into the neon shadows of Korine’s dangerous and exciting adolescent underbelly.

‘Every time I try to fly I fall…’

brokencirclebreakdown1_1

Some have claimed that The Broken Circle Breakdown doesn’t fulfill its lofty goals. But that would be to not see its resounding successes; using the cathartic nature of grassroots music as a frame on which to hang astounding levels of grief, Felix Van Groeningen charts the romantic rise and fall of two lovers – musicians, leftists, and parents of a child with cancer. TBCB is never opportunist or manipulative, and constantly spouts disarmingly beautiful statements on the nature of living and loving in an indifferent universe, while the central performances from Veerle Baetens and Johan Heldenbergh bring a universality to a niche story. Lofty goals? Consider them fulfilled.

‘I am an ape. And I’m afraid.’

startrekintodarkness1_1

Since its release earlier this year, there’s been a snowballing chorus of negativity toward the second installment in J.J. Abrams reboot franchise. Yes, it fails the Bechdel test (which, as a method to measure the inclusion of female characters in fiction, is void from the start); yes, it has a pointless shot of Alice Eve in her underwear; yes, the main villain’s reveal is entirely obvious. Yet it’s still a spectacle-filled, character-driven adventure story, replete with memorable set pieces and a smart reworking of a previous entry in a beloved franchise. And when Abram’s flair for theatrics and humour hit their highest points, it threatens to be just as good as the first.

‘KHAAANNNN!’

prisoners1_1

In 2010, Denis Villeneuve released the haunting and critically acclaimed Incendies. He then took the same savagery and dark atmosphere and translated it for his English-language debut, a brooding thriller that boasts two of the best performances of Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal’s career. Every level of Prisoners works; the screenplay that offers up red herrings not as deviations, but as thematic discourse for the characters’ ailing minds, almost matches the sophistication in the depiction of two families struggling through grief after their daughters go missing. It constantly asks with complete clarity and zero judgement; what extremes would go to for your loved ones?

‘They only cried when I left them.’

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Previous: #50 – 41   |   Next: #30 – 21

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About GaryGreenScreen

Freelance film critic.

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