Top 13 Fraking Favourite Films of 2013

stoker2

 

I FRAKED UP!: Normally I would be speaking in absolutes, stating a subjective opinion as though it were fact. Confident in the knowledge I had seen all the ‘important’ films of the previous year and possessed an informed overview of the entire cinematic spectrum. This year I have to declare my ignorance. To put it in other words, amongst numerous titles, I haven’t seen GRAVITY, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, WOLF OF WALL STREET, HER, AMERICAN HUSTLE or INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, six films that seem to be atop many people’s list for ‘film of the year.’ So there it is, glaring omissions in screening aside, here are my 13 fraking favourite  films of the 2013. (In Alphabetical order only)

 blue caprice

BLUE CAPRICE is a fraking compelling and observant real life thriller.

Painfully non-judgmental Director Alexandre Moors debut feature is nothing short of profoundly devastating. The clinical detachment in tone creates a documentary reenactment authenticity as the script careens towards an inevitable confrontation with carnage.

Focused exclusively on the perpetrators the film recounts the events that led up to the tragic 2002 Beltway Sniper Attacks. The raw realism bores into the troubled bond as it forms between an unstable surrogate father and an abandoned, directionless teen. Exceptionally performed, the stomach knots build in deceptive, subtle ways and by the time the pair purchase the automobile that the title is referring the dread teeters on unbearable.

The kind of film that presents a thorough look at its difficult subject, yet for all its microscopic character discoveries leaves you still struggling to comprehend senseless tragedy. As it should be.

 

behind the candelabra

BEHIND THE CANDELABRA is fraking flamboyant fabulousness.

An exuberant, rhinestone studded biopic that connects on an emotional level. All the more impressive as the film doesn’t shy away from Liberace’s lechery and manipulative nature yet still conveys the genuine love and affection he had for a man 40 years his junior.

Proving again that Soderberg is one of the finest filmmakers alive, the way he harnesses and shifts tone is as dazzling as anything else in this sparkling gem. What begins a lavish comedy soon becomes an intimate drama that deftly humanizes a misunderstood showman that seemed to be pure fairy floss.

 

 maniac

MANIAC (Remake) is a fraking surreal nightmare through the deranged eyes of a repulsive killer.

The Michael Myers P.O.V. camera, obscure angles and a pulsing retro-synth score create an unsettling atmosphere. The practical gore FX and Director Franck Khalfoun artistic nastiness elevate this above the average horror film for me, let alone horror remake.

Unsurprising to anyone who saw SIN CITY or PAWN SHOP CHRONICLES, Elijah Wood’s inner Gollum is a truly frightening thing. His largely behind the lens performance was this year’s most chilling for me because of its gentle delivery that let you hear the insecurities that shape the monster. (Woody Harrelson in OUT OF THE FURNACE would be a close second.)

A squirming peak into psychological torment that has stayed with me ever since I walked out of the cinema and hastily followed the streetlights straight home without looking back, MANIAC is the kind of complete horror that penetrates the senses, burrows under the skin and seeps into the bloodstream.

Personal note: Remember to not listen to the soundtrack while out walking at night like you did last week.

 

 mud

MUD is a coming of age, riverbank drama turned slow burn thriller that’s fraking true to location and life.

The natural performances against the Mississippi backdrop and localized script had me caught in this films spell, complete with outlaw love on the run and bounty hunters.

Matthew McCognauhey brings the dangerous charm of FRAILTY and KILLER JOE to the fugitive Mud and the chemistry with the two boys who stumble upon his Island hideaway is convincingly loaded. In the part of Ellis, Tye Sheridan’s laidback confidence and  understanding reminded me of Lucas Black on AMERICAN GOTHIC, which puts him immediately on my radar. The legendary Sam Shepard’s grizzled presence always makes me sit up and take notice. Both this and OUT OF THE FURNACE show he is continuing to mature as an actor…appropriately more like aged whisky from the barrel than fine wine from the bottle.

I was gut punched by Director Jeff Nicol’s two earlier films SHOTGUN STORIES (On Netflix, check it out) and TAKE SHELTER, MUD was a different  but no less affecting work. An impressive addition to a filmography I plan to follow closely.

 

 

now you see me

NOW YOU SEE ME is popcorn slight-of-hand entertainment that’s fraking, um, well, entertaining.  

This magician come benevolent heist may not have the quirky charm of BROTHER’s BLOOM but it does have a similar acrobatic plotting that makes it almost impossible not to pick a card and play. The enjoyable script bounces along and aside from being arguably too smart for its own good in the payoff manages to fly along thanks to the charismatic cast (Harrelson and Ruffalo shine) and colorful direction.

An exercise in misdirection like most tricks (illusions Michael), if over-analyzed the mechanics maybe revealed, but all that does is make the abracadabra vanish…and we all want to be wowed by the PRESTIGE, don’t we?

 

 

only god forgives2

ONLY GOD FORGIVES is a fraking beautifully flawed experiment.

Echoing his earlier work VALHALLA RISING Writer/Director Nicolas Refn-Winding seems less concerned with narrative to draw you into his hallucinatory vision than he is sculpting visual metaphor. Crafting a vibrant, foreboding atmosphere and violent abstractions that dwell on character rather than plot this is undeniably the work of a bold artist daring to push himself and his audience. Once you surrender to the ambiguities Only God Forgives becomes a rich tapestry of revenge, retribution and repercussions.

A colorful meditation that confounds while never loosening its hypnotic headlock on the senses, I may not have understood it completely upon the premiere screening but with each subsequent viewing the riddles answers materialize. The manic energy, sumptuous cinematography and combustible, volatile performances engross completely.

Sure it suffers from a shifting pace and momentary missteps but the idiosyncratic intensity of this film made it the cinema experience that I have thought about the most this year. A tormented treat that I can see revisiting for atmosphere and mystery till the day I die.

 

 

Prisoners Banner

PRISONERS’ is a crime thriller that asks tough fraking questions.

Destined to be a DVD sleeper hit this abduction nail biter had me invested on every  level for the majority of its running time. There is a density to the material that early on reminded me of the gritty Dennis Lehane adaptations GONE BABY GONE and MYSTIC RIVER but the film soon became its own animal.

Read my complete FilmFrak review HERE

 

side effects

SIDE-EFFECTS is a Hitchcockian thriller that manipulates its audience with a fraking cinematic precision to make the master of suspense proud.

Director Steven Soderberg and regular writer Scott Z Burns inject SIDE-EFFECTS with the same easily related, all too believable pharmaceutical realism that made CONTAGION as much raw emotional drama as it is classy psychological thriller.

Rooney Mara is outstanding, showcasing her daunting range with alluring, diminutive skill. Jude Law convincingly brings a Wiley James Spader like charm to his psychiatrist part. The grand, sweeping cinematography and dramatic scoring ensure the film keeps its prestigious feel and I relished every moment of its way-they-used-to-make-em engineering.

If Soderberg’s 2013 goal was to make his final two films testament to his craftsmanship and have me lament the loss to cinema even more, then kudos sir, you have succeeded.

 

 

sightseers

SIGHTSEERS is British black comedy, a road trip from social awkwardness to macabre dysfunction that fraking amuses.

Morbid laughs, obviously influenced by WITHNAIL & I, SIGHTSEERs acidic wit and tainted world view tickled. Dejected and neglected Tina jumps at the chance to escape her dreary existence in a holiday camper romp across the idyllic English countryside with her newfound boyfiend Chris. Alice Crowe’s plays the downtrodden Tina with understated goodness and as the homicidal bearded slob Steve Oram makes Chris a loutish oaf that still endears.

Allowing time to smell the roses and soak up the scenery while always moving forward, this gentle comedy with a serrated edge left me looking forward to where Director Ben Wheatley decides to take us next.

 

 

Stoker

STOKER is a fraking perverse psychological thriller oozing in American Gothic atmosphere and forbidden temptations.

Feeling like Hitchcock’s wayward son got into daddies bag of tricks but just couldn’t get rid of the finger prints, Chan Woo-Park’s English language debut is gorgeous to look at and dripping in the melodramatic intent that we have come to expect from the maker of OLDBOY. The plotting may have been influenced by Hitch’s SHADOW OF A DOUBT but this is still very much the vision of a singular artist whose talent with malevolent darkness makes for twisted intrigue and absolutely stunning cinema.

Less extreme than his earlier films I still found myself wide eyed at the audacity and moody diversions, like everyone squirming at the under currents Mia Wasikowska and Mathew Goode conjure at that piano and unblinkingly engrossed in every frame.

 

THE WORLD’S END /IT’S A DISASTER/THIS IS THE END are an apocalyptic comedy triple bill that all achieve their goals fraking admirably.

Evidently 2013 was the year we could finally laugh at the total annihilation of our species. Earth’s destruction, be it by human hand, extraterrestrial or the Holy trinity not only provided the best laughs of the year but something more, heart.

worlds endTHE WORLD’S END, the third part of Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ) snuck up on me with its relevant commentary on nostalgia and free will. A self referential reunion of cast and crew, the way dialogue nods past chapters and sci-fi classics while still adding substance to the self contained universe was impressive. I laughed, I cried, I reflected on my own youth, now it’s off to the pub for New Years too party like it’s 1999.

  

this is the endTHIS IS THE END is as much a sly satire of modern Hollywood zeitgeist as it is a gross out exercise in metatainment. The most low-brow of the three is also the one that made me laugh the loudest and longest. Enjoyment of this is largely based on how big a laugh boner James Franco and his cronies manage to generate in your humor zone. Repackaging bad taste and self indulgence, it’s like a rat pack reincarnation shooting their own OCEANS 11, except instead of taking over Vegas these guys try to survive biblical apocalypse, all the while seeming be a bunch of famous pals goofing around on and off camera.

 

Its a disasterIT’S A DISASTER is a scathing comedy zeroing in on modern relationships, toxic personalities and as so often happens with Sunday brunch, the end of life as we know it. The dry quips, uncomfortable mood and sardonic attitude along with the ensemble theatrics had me long before the first hazmat suit arrives. David Cross is his usual brilliant self and America Ferrera as the intellectual who grasps the gravity of peril long before the others is worthy of a vodka chaser salute.

 

 

 

 

 

RUNNERS UP: As soon as I began putting together this list Runners Up I realized 2013 has been a great year for films. here are a few exceptional titles that I still enjoyed but in the end for one reason or another were omitted. (Read: Time restraints for a top 16 and screening films right up till last night.)

OUT OF THE FURNACE

A PLACE BEYOND THE PINES

EUROPA REPORT

MAN OF STEEL

IRON MAN 3

ZERO CHARISMA

RESOLUTION

WORLD WAR Z

TRANCE

STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS

PACIFIC RIM – Read my complete PACIFIC RIM review HERE

ELYSIUM

AMERICAN MARY

COMPUTER CHESS

JOHN DIES AT THE END

5 comments to Top 13 Fraking Favourite Films of 2013

  • Jason King  says:

    Third attempt = great for the entire comment to disappear twice!!

    I love the list – very very JD 🙂

    Films in your list I really need to see:

    It’s a Disaster
    Blue Caprice (like the look of this one)
    MUD (have a copy on DVD to watch)
    Only God Forgives (so many mixed thoughts from the Kernels on this one)
    Prisoners
    Sightseers (love the look of this one)
    Stoker (m’eh)

    Have no interest in The World’s End

    I am really surprised you had Now You See Me and Prisoners in your list – just never thought they would be films you would like that much.

    And sorry but sadly I did not like Maniac as much as yourself, was not much of a fan at all, I did like the creepy 70s/80s of it all but it never really got me enthralled.

    Love the John Doe of all in your list you oddball 🙂 And now just to spam you mine and the Kernels top 20 lists………………

    http://saltypopcorn.com.au/lists/top-20-films-of-2013/

  • FilmFrak  says:

    Thanks for being the second comment EVER Jason.

    Not a fan of Edgar, Simon and Nick? The film has way more to say than you might think.

    I was surprised at how much I enjoyed PRISONERS too. The third act tripped over itself but it still resonated strongly as a powerful work.

    I’m a huge fan of magic films and heist films, just neither is done well that often. NOW YOU SEE ME was a little disappointing in its silly resolution but over all solid popcorn fun.

    ONLY GOD FORGIVES comes down to what the viewer considers a satisfying cinematic experience. For me, mesmerizing and exceptionally crafted.

    If I had ranked the films STOKER may have been #1, certainly in the Top 3.

    Don’t be fooled by two Soderberg’s on the list BTW, it isn’t blind fanboy love that they are there 🙂

  • Shaun  says:

    Damn, I’m so far behind! Since June, I’ve been out of it. I also recommend you check out Blue Jasmine, it’s one of Blanchet and Allen’s best ever, and Blanchet’s performance has glimpses of glimpses of echo’s of Gena Rowlands in it

  • Bryn  says:

    Our tastes are somewhat Muddivergent for 2013 …
    Mud and Stoker left me cold. None of the characters moved me in any way.
    I saw Maniac in 2012, my favourite horror for that year.
    I haven’t seen Blue Caprice.
    I heard Now You See Me was terrible from several people.
    Side Effects I enjoyed for the first half, but it fell apart for me in the second half.
    Prisoners I’m looking forward to.
    Only God Forgives I have issues with, but I loved the atmosphere, and it still featured in my own faves list.
    At World’s End I haven’t had much interest in.
    Sightseers I very much enjoyed.
    Your Runners Up list is also a mixed bunch for me.
    But hey, it’s one person’s trash is another’s treasure that keeps it interesting.

  • FilmFrak  says:

    It’s our differences that make it interesting.

    Now You See Me is good popcorn fun that tries to be a little too smart but I prefer that to lowest common denominator type fare. I did enjoy Elysium, Man of Steel and Iron Man 3 in a similar way but in the end the big films were overpowered by the more esoteric works this year. A lot of personality in them.

    ****************SPOILERS***************

    SIDE EFFECTS I loved for the misdirection almost like Janet Leigh in Psycho. The first half is the misleadingly intimate exploration/parable of modern psychology and then Soderberg dares to shift the film onto a far grander stage. (The fact we feel as betrayed as the husband is part of the majesty that leaves me in awe) It’s that “easily related, all too believable realism” in a B grade genre film with A grade production that I relished most.

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