Lists, Uncategorized

THE 100 BEST FILMS OF 2013 | #20 – 11

20 - 11_1

Previous: #30 – 21   |   Next: #10 – 1

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blueisthewarmestcolour1_1

Three-hour homilies on the bliss and anguish of romantic love don’t get much better than this. Adèle is a student looking for connection – but instead of men, her attentions lean naturally toward other women, and one blue-haired bohemian in particular. Once her and Emma’s relationship begins its rise (and eventual fall), it’s apparent that – regardless of sexual orientation – this is a piece of work that has a refreshingly honest stance when it comes to depicting the real motivations behind its grand, reckless declarations of love; Blue is the Warmest Colour posits that carnality is the thing that can bring us closer together, but also rip us apart, and realistically sees its conclusion less as a resolution and more as an acceptance. Stunning filmmaking by all accounts, it’s a magnificent snapshot of 21st century love.

‘To love.’

worldsend1_1

The other apocalypse comedy on this list, Edgar Wright continues to weave his spells of innovative editing, tight plotting, and razor-sharp insight into British culture with the third film in his ‘Cornetto’ trilogy. A group of old friends, played by stalwarts Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman and others, reunite for another shot at the ‘Golden Mile’ when, twenty years prior, they botched the fabled pub crawl and have resided in ennui ever since. But this time, there’re aliens; another elegant send-up of genre tropes like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz before it, the film achieves its true resonance because of its ease to relate with. We’ve all had those glimpses of immortality through the heady cocktail of the sheer obstinacy of youth, and pint after pint with your mates. Minus the aliens, of course.

‘Get back in your rocket, and fuck off back to Legoland you cunts!’

goodvibrations1_1

Terri Hooley is one of music’s least celebrated heroes, but even the biggest stars rarely get a picture as fantastic as Good Vibrations; this underdog story chronicles his life as a record store owner in the heart of Belfast (geographically and politically), and as a catalyst for its punk rock scene. A star-making turn from Richard Dormer anchors the film’s off-kilter tone with a sense of humour and optimism to spare, and whenever an ‘important’ moment – be it Hooley’s first listen of The Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’, or a cameo from John Peel – comes around, it never fumbles, opting for subtlety and invention rather than meekly mythologising its history by relying on audience familiarity to make an impact. It’s jittery, excitable, and note-perfect all the way.

‘Money couldn’t buy what we’ve just done.’

pacificrim1_1

Giant robots! Massive monsters! Explosions! Fighting! Shouting things! Or if those poster pull-quotes don’t attract you, try; Superb characterisation! Deft world-building! Inspired creature design! Genuine entertainment! Guillermo Del Toro brings an innate sense of fun and adventure to his preposterous monster movie, which turned out to be one of the most pleasurable cinematic experiences of the year. The plot, while basic enough, is brought to life by a sense of humour that constantly shoots knowing glances at its own B-movie credentials, while it wears the influence of Godzilla and other creature features on its sleeve during its epic battle scenes, orchestrated as if Del Toro were waving a conductor’s baton to the tune of the apocalypse. In a time when Transformers rule the Earth, it’s nice to know we have the Mexican magician’s mechs to fight back.

‘Today, we are cancelling the apocalypse!’

no1_1

The medium is most certainly the message in Pablo Larraín’s innovative and illuminating drama concerning the evils of the Pinochet regime in Chile. Shot on the same format as the 1988 adverts that eventually turned the tide of opinion to vote the dictator out of office, No is an eloquent ‘message’ movie, but never one-sided or one-dimensional. A career-best from cultural crossover hit Gael García Bernal leads us through this heroic campaign, which made marketing a force for good, while never letting its intense focus on socio-political ideologies feel like a lecture; No instead gracefully opens up to us a culture blighted by an oppressive government, but with the kind of fire in its blood that could fuel a revolution. The revolution this movie is concerned with is the most important kind; a revolution in the head.

‘I… think that this… this doesn’t sell.’

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Want to feel resolutely harrowed to the bone for days, perhaps weeks? A single viewing of A Hijacking should do the trick; half of the events in this singularly tense, haunting picture take place on a simple cargo ship, while the other half sees the corporation responsible for the boat and the crew make negotiations with the pirates who come to invade. Not only is this the most nerve-wracking movie of the year, but it’s also a potent social commentary. It’s debatable as to where the true story lies; with the captive crew, or with those huddled round the boardroom table, countless miles away? This sublime seafaring fable is as precise as a surgical instrument, and just as chilling to the bone.

‘It’s my job to bring back my men.’

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Mercurially written, astonishingly acted and bracingly honest, this American independent gem looks at the lives of kids who exist on the fringes of society, detached from the adults who have failed them. But their housing officers are also emotionally fractured, manifested most apparently in Grace, a role that will follow Brie Larson far into her career. Short Term 12 takes its exquisite characters round and round in the same circles, until glimpses of breaking through to something better appears; so while their redemptions are beautifully rendered, they come with a fair share of obstacles. Short Term 12 is life as we know it – but it also offers some solutions on how to deal with it.

‘I told her father we’d take good care of her.’
‘I take good care of everyone.’

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To follow the laconic, sublime fade out at the end of Before Sunset may have been a foolish move – thankfully for us, Richard Linklater decided he wanted to find out whether Jesse stayed in Celine’s apartment, or caught his plane, just as much as us we did. The rest is film history; like the two perfect movies before it, Midnight expands on cinema’s greatest romance with more of the same heart, humour, and insight that made us fall in love with the couple almost as much as they did each other. But the series’ greatest aspect is Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, who effortlessly deliver performances that give a whole new meaning to the term ‘naturalistic’; when they’re onscreen together, it feels as if watching the film is an intrusion of their privacy. And who wouldn’t want to hear these two talk forever and ever?

‘To passing through.’

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Stick figures and existentialism. Not a conventional combination, by any means, but in Don Hertzfeldt’s remarkably gifted hands, this genre-smashing symphony of psychosis, ennui and the spirit of (stick)mankind, it opens the doors on a search for meaning via a medium not used to such lofty ambition. But that’s exactly why it works; it’s like watching the scrappy doodlings of a five-year old, but through the corner of the eye, the presence of an ageless, cosmic entity can be glimpsed. Could God be found in its celluloid? Hertzfeldt’s peerless observations into the human condition, the very experience of living and breathing, are enough to tear your perceptions of space and time apart – which is a good thing indeed.

‘The past never vanishes away, and the future has already happened.’

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When you see Paul Greengrass’ latest, in which Tom Hanks stars as the titular seafarer who undergoes the horror of a pirate invasion on his and his crew’s cargo ship (no, it’s not A Hijacking again), there’s a solid chance you may exit with no fingernails. Orchestrating layer upon layer of increasing drama with delicately nuanced performances, turning tension into a full-blown artform unto itself, it’s remarkable Greengrass keeps such a level head when it comes to the morally rocky waters Phillips’ boat navigates. It’s superbly crafted, and sports a transparency that’s absolutely vital to modern times, whether you’re sailing round the horn of Africa or sitting at home. And the final few minutes, in which we witness Phillips’ emotional reaction to the events that befall him, are Tom Hanks’ finest.

‘I’m the captain now.’

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Previous: #30 – 21   |   Next: #10 – 1

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About GaryGreenScreen

Freelance film critic.

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