HMZ Film’s Top 10 of 2013


2013 will be remembered as a golden cinematic year which has produced a dizzying array of memorable films, many of which will go on to become classics in their respective genres.

Here is a selection of my top ten favourite film of 2013 along with a number of honourable mentions which were considered (Note: this list has been made based on UK release dates)

1. The Act of Killing: The Director’s Cut

ActOfKilling poster Joshua Oppenheimer’s inventive and thoroughly disturbing documentary on the Indonesian genocide in the 1960s will render you speechless. Prepare for a descent into depravity. This is one to experience than necessarily enjoy but it stands for far more than just entertainment.

Here is a link to my full review and an extract below

”The Act of Killing is the most important film of the year and quite possibly the last decade…a journey through the perverse imagination of the killers. Oppenheimer hasn’t crafted a condemnation of the paramilitary leaders, their corrosively vacuous actions lend to their self- destruction. The director duly questions the fundamental nature of genocide, are the political and social drivers that allow it to continually repeat itself enduring facets of human existence? There is no single answer to the question; the act of killing fellow man for political gain is endemic. Scenes in this film will leave an indefinite mental scar; the power of Oppenheimer’s harrowing documentary will render you speechless. Prepare to stare into the face of evil”

2. The Place Beyond the Pines

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The most under-rated film of 2013 by some distance and my top fictional film of the year. Derek Cianfrance’s script is underpinned by themes prevalent in classic Greek tragedy. An exploration into the relationship between father and sons and the impact of a single moment across generations.

Here is a link to my full review and an extract below

“The Place Beyond the Pines’ is a drama which transcends time, it sprawls over generations and unfolds into an elegant triptych. A trilogy which exudes scale of mythological proportion, a tale where the journey is more important the final destination. There is no question that this is daringly ambitious film-making, which takes risks and demands attention. Ultimately, you can’t help but be engrossed in its epic nature…The Place Beyond the Pines raises important spiritual themes as well as enthralling audiences in a truly cinematic experience. Cianfrance has crafted a bold vision which will certainly stand the test of time and is this year’s must see film”

 

 

3. Django Unchained

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Django Unchained is certainly one of Quentin Tarantino’s finest films, a contemporary classic that is complimentary to the likes of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. An entirely original script, Tarantino’s signature swagger is back with a vengeance. Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio are at their very best in a tale of redemption, justice and exploitation. The slavery backdrop charges the Western with an intensity that culminates in a blistering finale. Although slightly too long; the witty dialogue and sensational soundtrack make Tarantino’s love letter to classic Westerns a sure fire entry into this list.

 

 

 

 

4. A Field in England

A-Field-In-EnglandMemorably released simultaneously at selected cinemas, on DVD and Film 4, Ben Wheatley’s pyschedelic masterpiece is a devastatingly haunting film and is one of the most of the memorable of the year. This is not to all tastes but those that appreciate the abstract imagination will be in their element. A Field in England is a testament to the power of independent film

Here is a link to my full review plus my write up of the Q+A with Wheatley. Below is an extract from my review

“A Field in England is the most abstract, audacious and ultimately mesmeric piece of cinema to eminate from the British Isles in years. Wheatley invites audiences on a psychedelic headtrip which oscillates between the polar extremes of the human psyche. It suffocates and liberates in almost equal measure, never losing its vivacious grip of its captive audience whilst smoldering in its aphotic glory. It is a film which must be met halfway, it must be experienced rather than necessarily enjoyed, those looking for a linear plot and conclusive finale will be left frustrated by Wheatley’s most transcendent outing to date”

 

 

5. Only God Forgives

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Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling’s second outing after the brilliant Drive (2011) takes them to neon-lit Bangkok. Only God Forgives is the most stylish film of 2013 and one of the most thought provoking. 

Here is a link to my full review and an extract below

“Only God Forgives trades blows with ‘Valhalla Rising’ and is victorious in affirming its status the Dane’s most existential, art-house and confounding work to date. It is unfathomably stylistic, neon-lit Bangkok provides a scintillating yet infernal backdrop to the ultra-violent, revenge psycho-drama which transpires. Framed as a gangland vengeance thriller, Refn has crafted distinctive sub-layers to Only God Forgives: it is a blood-soaked fable of a twisted Freudian relationship between mother and son whilst also depicting man’s eternal tussle with God’s will… Whilst the immediate aftermath leaves the viewer in a state of flux and overwhelming confusion, Only God Forgives has a more subtle, permeating impact which iteratively crystallises itself upon further reflection. Backed by one of the the most eclectic and blistering soundtracks of the year, Refn has imagined a hellish world of intoxicating beauty where violence dances with art whilst fury meets forgiveness”

 

6. Gravity: IMAX 3D

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Alfonso Cuarón’s landmark space thriller is one of the most awe inspiring cinematic experiences of the year. A landmark tour-de-force which will largely be remembered for it’s revolutionary use of 3D, Gravity is underpinned by a powerful metaphor on the mental state and spiritual rebirth.

Here is a link to my full review and masterclass with Alfonso Cuarón. Below is an extract of my review.

“Believe the hype. Gravity is a mind blowing cinematic experience. Cuarón has crafted astonishing feast for the senses that must be experienced on the silver screen. Gravity is a riveting spectacle that is equally mesmerising and nerve shredding in its cosmic glory. A visual milestone of contemporary cinema, the landmark picture bears likeness to that of Kubrick’s timeless 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) or more recently the likes of Cameron’s Avatar (2009) and Nolan’s Inception (2010). Although the SFX are drawing worldwide acclaim, it is the emotional core that radiates a heart rendering sensibility that gives meaning to the splendor on display. In absence of such resonance, the longevity of a film comprised largely of special effects would soon be cast into doubt”

 

 

7. Prisoners

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One of the most gripping and memorable thrillers in years, Prisoners is enthralling in every sense of the word.

Here is a link to my full review and below is an extract

“Seeping through every pore of Prisoners is an insurmountable power which casts an unyielding grip upon its captive audience. Villeneuve’s work has slow-burning, engrossing qualities that draws the viewer in to an intricate game of hide and seek. Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) progressively untangles a web spun by the villain. The Midas touch of legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins has beautifully captured and crystallised the stark, rural Pennsylvanian landscape. With superb heartfelt performances all round, Prisoners transpires into one of the most gripping thrillers in recent memory… It is not since Mystic River (2003) that a thriller has made such a searing impact. Guzikowski’s powerful script coupled with fine direction from Villeneueve has leveraged the power of an almighty cast. Jackman, Howard and Gyllenhaal are at the peak of their powers. Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free. Rarely has the classic Shawkshank Redemption tagline been so fitting”

 

 

8. Captain Phillips

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Paul Greengrass’s action packed biopic will be remembered for Tom Hanks’s superb turn as Captain Phillips. A well paced and thoroughly entertaining depiction of a hijacking which deserves great credit for showcasing both sides of the struggle.

Here is a link to my full review and below is an extract

“Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi produce Oscar worthy turns as the two lead protagonists, the captive and captor are bought to life by a gritty sense of realism. Hanks plays the role of the sternly heroic captain with the trademark vulnerability seen in the likes of Castaway and The Green Mile. A family man thrust into the role of omnipotent protector of his crew, at first bravely resisting the hijackers, the captain iteratively loses control of proceedings before eventually being taken captive. Whilst the Forrest Gump star is partly expected to perform at such levels, it is newcomer Abdi who takes the screen by storm. Remarkably working as a chauffeur when cast in the role, Abdi is superb as the menacing pirate. From the initial attempts to hijack the ship through to his negotiations with US Navy, Abdi exudes confidence and commands attention. ‘I am the captain now!’, a line sure to be immortalised a classic. Captain Phillips will certainly rank as one of the years highlights, more docu-drama than action thriller, Greengrass has produced an enthralling spectacle backed by performances to savour from a stellar cast”

 

9. The Conjuring

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James Wan’s The Conjuring is one of the horror highlights of 2013. This is a classic haunted house tale which exudes fear and suspense throughout. A welcome reminder that horror is best when kept simple.

Here is a link to my full review and below is an extract

“The Conjuring is an atmospheric genre piece which harks back to a bygone era, a truly haunting vision reminiscent of classic horror films such as the Poltergeist (1982) and The Haunting (1963) rather than the recent wave of gore-laden mainstream horror infestations. This is slow burning, nerve jangling cinema which is discomforting in its sustained terror. Despite offering little originality, Wan executes classic scare tactics with mastery and precision which has been lost through the ages… The devil is in the detail and often lack of it, scenes iteratively build in suspense and dread whilst tension simmers beneath the surface. Even when the story begins stretching itself into occult territory in its latter stages, it feels a natural progression. An intended crescendo and culmination of the frightening episodes which precede it rather than a far fetched effort to shock”

 

 

10. The Hunt

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Released in the UK in 2013, Thomas Vinterberg’s Danish drama is a rare breed of cinema that asks more questions than it answers, it compels you to confront uncomfortable moral dilemmas. Set in a small and tightly knit community, the superb Mads Mikkelsen plays a teacher accused of paedophilic activities towards one of his pupils. An emotionally draining investigation unravels with quite shocking consequences. Will his friends stand by him or turn their backs based on a child’s accusation? An incredibly raw and thought provoking piece of filmmaking which will leave a lasting mark.

Honorable mentions go to Ron Howard’s high octane F1 thriller Rush,Terrence Malick’s beautifully crafted To the Wonder and the Wachowski’s epic Cloud Atlas which narrowly miss out on my top 10.  

Here are list of films which made my shortlist (my top 5 festival picks will appear in a seperate list) : Stoker, Mud, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, About Time, Maniac, Blue Jasmine, Frances Ha, Kings of Summer, Ain’t them Bodies Saints, Philomena, The Iceman, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Impossible.

Thanks for following and I look forward to hearing if you agree with my favourite films of the year!

HMZ Film

 

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