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Best & Worst of 2013

It's the time of the year for taking stock of the turkeys and your shining stars - what's it to be?

I'm going for The Selfish Giant by Clio Barnard as my best of 2013 film - not only did I look forward to it all year, it really lived up to all the anticipation, and Barnard in a filmmaker who I can't wait to see more of. No by Pablo Larrain comes in as close runner up .

Sad to say that I think the great Danny Boyle's Trance is getting my turkey award. I'm not sure I'll ever quite be able to think about the big plot 'twist', without having a rant about how ridiculous it was.

  • My good surprise was Rush, specifically for the set race sequences which were electric.

    My 'meh' of they year is probably Gravity - it spent lots of effort on being a 3D movie when 10% extra work on the script could have been a cheap way to lift it further.

    Comedy moment of the year I award to The World's End which was much as I'd expected, generally enjoyable, but just as it looked like being a solid story about meeting up with old friends and it not being the same... wallop, off we go on an entirely different storyline.

    Blast from the past - I watched l'Appartement again, it still stands up as romantic comedies go - twisty turning plot, beautiful cast and tight performances.

    5 years ago
  • My best film of the year was Spring Breakers directed by Harmony Korine, totally original, good plot, killer lines, neon bikinis and guns. LOVED IT!

    If this was my own personal oscar ceremony I'd award Michael Douglas as Liberace in Steven Soderbergh's Behind the Candelabra as No.1. Matt Damon and Rob Lowe are both excellent too, and it has the best closing scene of any movie ever. It's a close second favourite film of the year, the only thing that lets it down is the non-existent soundtrack.

    Equally Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects was total trash. Catherine Zeta Jones conducts a few laughably bad lesbian scenes. But ultimately my problem is the motive of the lead character didn't fit right, I didn't believe them.

    The wettest duck for me has to be Bling Ring, not because it was the WORST film of the year, but the biggest disappointment. The story was the stuff of teenage fairy tale but it was an all round boring retelling. They had all the elements in the palm of their hands, Emma Watson, Paris Hilton and Sofia Coppola...What went wrong!? Another film with no soundtrack, and I'm a sucker for a good soundtrack.

    5 years ago
  • Best film that I've seen this year is The Great Beauty. Sorrentino back on form. Love letter to Fellini/Rome, biting satire & mood piece on getting old.

    Struggled through Francis Ha, just.

    5 years ago
  • I've seen almost nothing this year, but lack of knowledge has never stopped me before so...

    "What Maisie Knew" keeps popping into my head weeks after I've seen it, so I guess that makes it one of the better ones for me.

    The worst is oh so easy: "Spring Breakers" (sorry Stephanie). I can't stand Mumblecore, and this was another sad example of the American Film Movement that just won't die already. What takes it out of the traditional Mumblecore is the editing. It uses really tired editing cliches of playing with time, not as a directorial style I suspect, but an attempt to not bore the audience to tears. James Franco says it's the best film he's ever done. Sorry, Danny Boyle.

    Rush, The Selfish Giant and The Great Beauty are on my long list of what I want to see, so thanks to Sarah, Paddy and Stuart for doubling down on those.

    5 years ago
    • Spring breakers was one the best films of the year, certainly one of best lit and shot. It's also not even close to being a mumblecore movie. Harmony Korien has never been assiociated with this genre. The prince's of mumblecore, Noah Baumbach and Joe Swanberg both came out with pretty decent films this year in Frances Ha and Drinking Buddies.

      My other favourites from 2013 are Mud, Rust and Bone, Only God Forgives and In a World.

      5 years ago
    • Spring Breakers is definitely not Mublecore! The opposite, in fact. Mublecore is all about lo-fi aesthetics, realistic "mumbled" dialogue, lesser known actors - this was a acid-coloured trip of excess, fame-seeking and over indulgence with Harmony Korine keeping his tongue firmly wedged in cheek.

      5 years ago
    • @Helen Jack agree I don't see the mumblecore thing! Harmony Korine did a great Q&A at BAFTA which is really worth a listen as he's amazing (also may or may not include a question asked by yours truly sounding very shaky and nervous...!) -

      5 years ago
    • Sorry kids. It's mumblecore, or the next phase of it, only because it had a budget. Mumblecore isn't about budget or lighting or not known actors. That's like saying film noir is defined as shadowy and black and white. Mumblecore IS handheld cameras, improvisational acting, flawed and/or lost twenty-something characters, 20 or so minutes of actual plot filled out by bored youth trying, sometimes desperately, to find a slot in which to fit. Genre is certainly not defined by who directed it.

      "Spring Breakers" was hailed as edgy and subversive, which is why I went to see it. If this is what passes for "subversive" nowadays, I will stay in bed with the covers over my head. Studio execs are often, and rightly, accused of not knowing film history. I am also finding this true of young filmmakers (though Korine is only young emotionally). True subversives are filmmakers like Frank Ripploh (Taxi Zum Klo), Luis Bunuel, or more currently, Daniele Vicari (La Nave Dolce) or Shion Sono (The Land Of Hope). These filmmakers have a point and a point of view.

      I'll admit that I am probably too old to "get" Spring Breakers. But that also means I grew up in an era when truly great filmmakers were trying to break new ground. I mean, damn, Robert Downey's "Greaser's Palace" was released by a studio. Now that's subversive.

      5 years ago
    • @Dan Selakovich Dan, I respectfully disagree. Harmony Korine and mumblecore - I just don't see it at all.

      Did you see any of his previous films? I'll admit I'm not sure how I'd approach Spring Breakers had I not seen what he's done up til then... But he is extremely cine-literate... if you haven't seen them I would advise checking out Julien Donkey Boy (starring Werner Herzog) and Gummo - they're both very different to Spring Breakers, extremely experimental and anti-commercial. And pretty much anti-narrative. Spring Breakers is a little odd in that it's by far his most commercial thing so far, and kind of plays with that idea of commercialism - hence the Britney Spears singalongs and Disney club actresses. It obsessed with the idea of surface (to the extent that he requested his DoP to make it look like every scene 'is being lit by skittles')

      I feel what you feel about a whole lot of new filmmakers, but it feels like you've picked the wrong one to accuse of lack of point of view - even if you don't like what he's seeing :)

      5 years ago
    • (I will add to that devil's advocation that I don't think Spring Breakers is especially subversive, compared to his others. I get the impression he would have pushed it way further had there not been a lot of money behind it and big-brand stars involved. But what can I say, I love everything he does)

      5 years ago
    • @John Maloney Yes, I have seen "Donkey" and "Gummo" and liked them for the most part. In "Donkey" he took the aesthetic of Dogma 95. Gummo is just disturbing, and stays under your skin long after it's over. He somehow gets beyond shock value for shock value sake. It's German Expressionism for a new generation. Borrowing from film movements is kind of what Korine does. But I try not to compare a filmmaker's films, and take each one as they come. I found "Spring Breakers" simplistic and boring, very much sticking to a Mumblecore aesthetic, and I think that sunk him. (And to be clear, I wasn't saying Korine has no POV, I'm saying is film has no POV--which I guess was his point if I'm going to be generous about it). It might have been great, actually, if he had just let go of Mumblecore (sorry, to me, it was painfully obvious), and gotten out of that old, hackneyed editing.

      But hey, it wasn't made for my generation. I didn't know any of the actors were Disney Darlings, have never heard a Britney Spears song to my knowledge, and I will never understand Mumblecore. And I'm fine with all that.

      5 years ago
  • I'll go with Rush as my pick of the year but, then again, I am biased towards the subject matter (also having once met James Hunt and finding him to be a superstar).

    Turkey of the year...simple. Movie 43. No contest.

    5 years ago
  • To The Wonder. No question - saw it 3 times and improved every time. Terrence Malick is so exciting at the moment.

    Other ones... Simon Killer (hugely overlooked, only had a small release), Mud, The Hunt and Blue Is The Warmest Colour were all amazing dramas... The Great Beauty, Spring Breakers and Upstream Color twisted my brain in the best cinematic way (still not certain whether the latter is a great film or not... it's baffling)... but To The Wonder is my #1.

    5 years ago
  • The Act of Killing was definitely my favourite film of the year (sorry to lower the tone with being all serious!).

    I loved Gravity, despite some of the naff storylines and questionable heroine. The spectacle was amazing and it made me truly terrified of space travel - a fear I didn't know I had.

    I thought Captain Philips was really thrilling and a ripping good yarn.

    Before Midnight didn't disappoint.

    Agree with Steph - Behind the Candelabra was really fun. Rob Lowe's unmovable face was the highlight.

    Turkeys of the year.

    Filth - hate, hate, hated it. Walked out in fact, which I've not done in years.

    Frozen - the new Disney. In my defence, I thought it was a Pixar film. Couldn't be further from the truth. Absolute bollocks.

    5 years ago
  • Top marks:
    (Agree with Helen) ACT OF KILLING comes top throughout, as did BLACKFISH. Drama-wise, top marks to RUSH. BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR, THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY and UPSTREAM COLOR. Also Way Way Back brought smiles to my face.

    Hated SIDE EFFECTS and FILTH. Side Effects was just completely forgettable nonsense and Filth was a strange attempt to recreate Trainspotting buzz. I thought the acting was good but otherwise I really disliked it. Interestingly, I had a chat with Irvine Welsh in Cannes at a Filth-related shindig (don't ask, we just ended up next to each other) and he, ever the modest and shy legend he is, said "just between us, I'm not sure about it."

    Paddy mentioning L'Appartement — love it! I've always felt I'm the only one who adores that film whilst nobody else knows it. That's where Vincent Kassel and Monica Belucci met by the by.

    Strange that nobody mentions Diana...

    5 years ago
  • Worst films: Great Gatsby was disrepectful to its audiences intelligence and to that of its actors. Oblivion was just garbage, Enough Said was the like a non existent whimper that was lacking in all departments. Saving Mr Banks was a sickeningly sentimental Disney propaganda film.

    5 years ago
  • Dan! I think maybe you should google mumblecore and actually find out what it is before you write off a whole sub-genre. It's given us some pretty interesting filmmakers.

    5 years ago
    • Don't have to. Lectured on Mumblecore. I've seen the films and studied the movement more than I ever cared to. It's the first America Film Movement, after all. Filmmakers and films are two different things. Some have pulled themselves out of the movement (Duplass brothers), some relish in it (Joe Swanberg) simply because it's easier than doing things properly. I call it the "Andy Hardy Movement". As in "Hey, kids, Judge Hardy has some old lights in the attic, and mom can help us make costumes. We can use the old barn and put on a show! Yaddya say?!" But when Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland put on a show, it was good. Just because technical advances have made it possible to make a film, doesn't mean you should.

      5 years ago
  • My favourite film of the year is my film "Nina Forever", mainly because of the amazing performances. I'm also a huge fan of the film's photography by Oliver Russell and of Damian Creagh's elegant design.

    My least favourite film of the year is my film "Nina Forever" because it has stopped me seeing almost every other film in the world and it's still not finished. Also I think the directors might be idiots.

    5 years ago
  • To play properly... of the films I have seen I thought "Gravity" was perfect. If you judge a film by how well the intention behind it is realised then I don't think there's much room for complaint. I didn't love it though as I'm not a huge fan of disaster movies.

    I did though love "Frances Ha". Not perfect but in many ways its flaws made it stronger. Yes both the film and central character can be a bit smug and self regarding but both have just enough awareness of this for these qualities to seem almost charming.

    "Frances Ha" was also my least favourite film of the year because I found its simplicity and clarity awesomely daunting and it made me very depressed about my own work.

    My other actual least favourite film of the year was "The Place Beyond The Pines" which had none of the self awareness and double the self regarding smugness of "Frances Ha". I'm also really tired of Ryan Gosling playing that character. He's too good an actor to get away with playing the same note again and again.

    On the plus side "Place Beyond The Pines" did stop me watching "Only God Forgives" so in some ways it actually becomes my favourite film of the year...

    5 years ago
  • Must admit I was surprised to see Noah Baumbach down as mumblecore; the mumblecore films I watched in the mid-late 2000's were extremely low budget, what appeared to be non-actors or very inexperienced actors and the films of variable production/script quality, and I can't see how THE SQUID AND THE WHALE would fit into that category. I thought GRAVITY was terrific - I have been sent so many scripts to read, and here's a story that starts in an extremely dangerous environment and then keeps increasing the stakes. But then I am accustomed to taking a stance opposite the larger critical community. I thought Behind the Candelabra, End of Watch, Stoker, Good Vibrations, Blackfish, The Place Beyond The Pines all well worth a watch. Prisiners probably my stand-out film in that - and this is rare - the story went off at tangents I did not expect, and I had no idea how it was going to turn out, and I LOVE when that happens. RUST AND BONE also stood out but can't recall if that was 2012

    5 years ago
    • Noah Baumbach is considered Mumblecore? Nonsense. He definitely is not. Oh, saw "Dallas Buyer's Club". Thought it amazing. I'm wondering though: will people under 40 appreciate it. The 80s were a completely desperate time with the AIDS crises. Not sure if that came across unless you were alive at the time and old enough to realize what was really going on.

      5 years ago
  • I have just seen "blue is the warmest colour" and got immediately at the top of the best movie I have seen this year. The main actress is just amazing. From beginning to end she s so natural, realistic, captivating... I loved her completely. And the movie is so deep and intense. Three hours that flow smoothly. Definitely a masterpiece. Great choice by the Cannes festival to give it the prize.

    5 years ago
  • Jumping onto this Spring Breakers bandwagon. Absolutely Adored It. Not as seemingly subversive as Korine's previous - but what a queasy, transfixing, brilliantly candy-coloured apocalypse. Korine doesn't want to give you answers - he plucks questions out and leaves it up to you, skittering ideas about with abandon. If you want filmmakers to be didactic, then you'll probably think Spring Breakers was a cop out. If you don't, and you like the looseness of how Korine undercuts and plays with corrosive truths, it's freaking brilliant.

    One not mentioned here yet - Stranger by the Lake - a gay crusing/crime flick that played at London Film Festival. Gripping and nuanced and totally OUT THERE. Shame for me about the ending, film kinda loses the plot (aka John Malkovich) but it's deeply original and absorbing.

    5 years ago
  • To Andrea Gambadoro:

    Of course you love Blue is the Warmest Colour, it is a film made by a man for men but about girls....
    I don't know any man who disliked this film! See my review in Shooting People (forgot when)

    5 years ago
  • Like Ben spent this year editing my film 'Reali-tease' so I share his sentiments of best and worst film moments!! and not got to the cinema so much....
    Enjoyed 'Spring Breakers' and the contrasts of opinion it inspires both here and on facebook. Korine does know his film history. Thought it fun, exciting and bright and joyful, more 'Cinema de look' than mumble core.... and provocative film, whilst next minute carefree thus making the audience make own judgements. Great Gatsby the comic book style worked well rather than going for wordy faithful attempt at a grand book. 'Trance' was more fun, energetic and nutzo. Thought 'Blue Orchid' was another great film, a more serious and thoughtful Woody Allen film than recent years. Thought 'Gravity' was successful in achieving what it set out to do, best 3D since 'Hugo' and some of the shots in space, when characters looked out to the horizon -gorgeous. Really enjoyed 'Perks of being a Wall flower' - technically last year but saw it in a cinema this year - under rated and who cares if they love first hearing 'Heroes' everyone and every group of friends their own songs. Happy Holidays everyone

    5 years ago
  • It's been an interesting year for me, many ups and downs! I was very impressed by Rush, Captain Phillips, Blue Jasmine, Blue is the Warmest Colour and About Time. A few 'let downs' however, Oldboy reboot, Side Effects, After Earth, Diana, Pacific Rim - unfortunately this list could go on for a lot longer! Nevertheless, it hasn't been a bad year at the movies!

    5 years ago
  • It's got to be 'The Great Beauty', which overwhelmed me with its vigour, depth and technical mastery. The party scene near the top made me want to jump up and down in my seat! This film took me back to the excitement of discovering Godard and Resnais and Pasolini in my teens - visionary film-makers with something to SAY. The ancient nun who could manifest the flamingoes was perfect. And it had heart too.
    But I'm a afraid. although as a lover of metaphysical films, I deeply admired Mallick's 'Tree of Life', his 'To the Wonder' gets my Turkey. What was all that dancing about about? Mr M was clearly in love with his gorgeous heroine. But such soppiness does not make for great cinema.
    Saw 'Selfish Giant' last night and admired the boys' performances and the sensitive direction but felt Clio Barnard was travelling over very well-trodden ground here. And frankly Ken Loach and Andrea Arnold do it so damn well. Has anyone bettered Andrea's short,'Wasp', for a visceral evocation of urban misery? A good film but I guessed the outcome from the start and therefore found the journey a bit dutiful.
    But on your recommendations, guys, I will see 'Spring Breakers' when it makes its way to mid-Wales.

    5 years ago
  • Five 5* films for me so far this year...

    "Emmanuel and the Truth About Fishes"
    A creeping indie from Sundance London, kept me guessing throughout.

    "A Hijacking"
    I've not seen Captain Phillips but I'd not be surprised if this Danish thriller pushed it all the way for best piracy film of 2013. The building of tension between the experiences of the victims on the boat and the negotiators in the owners boardroom is true edge-of-the-seat stuff.

    "Only God Forgives"
    A visceral step-up from the visceral Drive, Only God Forgives made me squirm more than any other film this year. Its strength is the blurring of lines between protagonist and antagonist; the audience asked to question story-telling norms.

    "Upstream Colour"
    Ten years after Primer, Shane Carruth's follow-up is a visual treat. Devoid of exposition, it is left to the viewer to decide how the interweaving narratives are to be pieced together. A cerebral delight.

    "The Great Beauty"
    A simply stunning film; the opening fifteen minutes, up to the introduction of our protagonist, are arguably the best in cinematic history.

    And just the one 1*...

    "To The Wonder"
    Sorry Terrence, I'm afraid, for me, this offering was completely dull and lifeless.

    5 years ago
  • For me, number one film this year has to be Spring Breakers. A crazy neon filled nightmare. I had been watching the buzz building for months and walked in thinking it would be utter twaddle but no it was as crazy and imaginative as I had hoped.

    5 years ago
  • Films that disappointed me this year:

    Trance - I thought the ending just went beyond naff. It had so much potential, but didn't keep me gripped and totally lost me with the ending they opted for.

    The place beyond the pines - It was split so that we had two films I didn't care enough about. Again, lots of potential with the cast, but found it completely lacking.

    Films that I really enjoyed:

    Welcome to the punch - Yes, it could have been better at moments, but I still enjoyed it plenty and it is nice to see British films not caving in to Hollywood.

    A highjacking - Not sure if Mr Phillips got the idea form this one, but it is brutally honest to the point that you empathise with them more as if they were the subjects of a documentary.

    Anchorman 2 - Because you need laughter in your life

    And the never ending list of films that I will catch up with in the next 12 months.

    5 years ago
  • Another indie that I loved was 'After Lucia' it centres around teenage bullying. It is difficult as it is fantastically acted and the ending is perfect and chilling to the bone!

    Highly recommend it!

    5 years ago
  • No 1 was The Selfish Giant for me though there are some I haven't seen yet. I'm a big fan of Korine but Spring Breakers was disappointing for me. Its not a Mumblecore film though - none of his films are. I thought Juno Temple was great in Killer Joe.

    5 years ago
  • So far this year I have seen nothing with the impact of Winters Bone a couple of years ago but here goes. Best - Selfish Giant, a simple story told well. Rush, American Hustle, Byzantium, How I Live Now and Nebraska. Worst - so many but Hummingbird tops the list ... and 12 Years A Slave - you know the end from the get go because Solomon wrote the book. Paul Dano does his loopy turn and Fassbender goes over the top, we don't see enough of Cumberbatch and the cruelty verges on the voyeristic.

    5 years ago
  • Loved The Selfish Giant, Metro Manila, Nebraska for powerful indie authored drama at its most moving and personal.

    Pleased to say I loved some big budget action; Gravity, Captain Phillips and Rush.

    Impressed to see Michael Douglas throw his star persona out the window and get Behind The Candelabra. All Is Lost, loved it for its simplicity and exploring the concept to its fullest, bold filmmaking.

    Very disappointed by Coogan and Winterbottom for The Look of Love, dull film that never committed to understand its central charecter or his world.

    I have to go against popular opinion on Blue Is The Warmest Colour, it was too long by an hour – knockout performances and engaging idea. All could have been said with more power in two hours.

    5 years ago
    • Almost forgot the indulgent old school block-buster fun I had watching Star Trek Into Darkness!

      5 years ago
  • And not forgetting Captain Phillips (fairly harrowing)

    5 years ago
  • Best:

    The Act of Killing (very harrowing)
    After Lucia (harrowing)
    Beyond The Hills (a little bit harrowing)
    Only God Forgives (icky)
    Django Unchained
    Frances Ha
    All is Lost
    The Great Beauty
    Before Midnight
    Behind the Candelabra

    Filth (I walked out with Helen up above)
    Man of Steel

    Being poor I can only really afford to see films that I'm almost certain I'm going to enjoy - hence the small worst list.

    5 years ago
  • BEST: All is Lost.

    5 years ago
  • Metro Manila - a terrific movie.

    5 years ago
  • Right favourites would have to be Prisoners, Jackman's and Gyllenhall's best work. 12 Years a Slave, love Steve McQeen. Trance, great cast and Danny Boyle can do no wrong. Great Gatsby, DiCaprio was born to do that role.

    Worst - gonna split this between didn't like and biggest dissapoinment.

    Didn't like Gravity, felt it was lacking in story yet effects were wonderful. The Fifth Estate, liked the topic but as a whole didn't grab me.

    Dissapointments: The Councillor. Such promise. Some of the greatest actors one of the best directors of our time, and it just fell like a lead balloon. Left that screen a broken man.

    American Hustle, some of the best acting ever, but a very boring story.

    Now to wait for Wolf of Wall Street.

    5 years ago
  • I spent much of 2013 watching old films, but of the year's crop I was impressed with The Act of Killing despite (or perhaps because) it being a very problematic film. I look forward to the sequel. In fiction I was breathtaken by The Great Beauty; so rich and complex. It's easily my best film of the year and one of the best in recent years.
    I saw it on New years Day so I guess it just gets in to my 2013 list for me anyway but The Life of Pi gets my award for worst film EVER...

    Blue Jasmine I did not like,

    I saw a bunch of summer movies and can't remember a single one.

    I spent some time making my subjective list of Best Films Ever:

    5 years ago
  • Metro Manilla and The Act of Killing were my two best as I couldn't think of how they could have been bettered in their own contexts.

    I loved Her but too long and American Hustle - a bit messy but Russell's films are an all you can eat buffet. Not always the best quality but there will be parts you like, parts you love and things you dislike but the point of it is that there is so much more than most other filmmakers think of having.

    Worst film has to be The Counselor, the Actors have good things to do but the only man who could have broken it to great novelist McCarthy that he doesn't have a clue how to write a script was Ridley Script who never cares about scripts other than as opportunities for great visuals.

    5 years ago
  • Sublime: A Field in England
    Ridiculous: Man of Steel

    I found Gravity quite captivating as well.

    5 years ago