So, a new year is upon us. 2014. Did you all have a good one? Disappointingly, some guy called Dave still hasn’t gone into space, evolved into a giant space baby, and achieved the next level in human existence by humping a planet or something, as posited in 2001: A Space Odyssey. And we’re 13 years overdue for BBC12 as well.
But what did I watch in 2013? Well, I watched a fair number of films, though probably not as many as I would’ve liked. When creating a top 10, there a couple of films that if I had watched them, would no doubt have ended up as a favourite. But I can only pick the films I’ve seen, right? Right. So that’s what I’ve done. And in no particular order, as I hate putting things in order.
(These are films that got a UK release date in 2013, although there’s a couple of cheats, that were released very close to the end of 2012, but I doubt anyone in the UK saw them until 2013 anyway.)
1. Django Unchained
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino.
Tarantino may never reach the heights of Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction again, but even as he slips further and further into pastiche, raiding old movies for ideas more blatantly than ever, there’s at least a guarantee of dazzling violence, larger than life characters, and dialogue that crackles. Samuel L. Jackson gets the role of a lifetime as an outrageously despicable “Uncle Tom” that has to be seen to be believed.
2. Safety Not Guaranteed
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow.
Inspired by a real classified advert that read as follows: “WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. Safety not guaranteed.” If you thought we didn’t need another time travel movie, think again. Aubrey Plaza and two other journalists head off to investigate the advert. Is it real or fake? A light, fun, indie drama that helps Plaza extend her range beyond the misery guts she plays in Parks and Recreation.
3. Spring Breakers
Directed by: Harmony Korine.
Spring Break, bitches. The pre-release hype for Spring Breakers will have put a lot of people off. It’s just a bunch of girls frolicking around in barely there bikinis, right? Right. But also wrong. Whilst there’s no getting away from the fact that Harmony Korine leers over the acres of flesh on display, there’s darker, more serious, undercurrents. Especially when the four girls hook up with a crazy gangster. If the girls were having fun at the beginning, by the end, two of them aren’t. What’s disturbing, is that two of them are.
4. The Bling Ring
Directed by: Sofia Coppola.
Based on the true story of a bunch of college kids who checked Google Maps to find celebrity’s homes, and then their blogs and twitter feeds to see when they were out, before popping over to ransack their extensive wardrobe collections. Amazingly, most of them left a door open. Or in Paris Hilton‘s case, a key under the doormat. Coppola directs with a cool, detached style. If you’re of a nihilist bent, watch in a double bill with Spring Breakers above, and go to bed with your world view confirmed.
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón.
Seven long years since Alfonso Cuarón‘s excellent Children of Men. I doubt few of us expected him to do a disaster movie in space as his next project. The trailers showing Sandra Bullock‘s astronaut adrift in Earth’s orbit were suitably tense. Could that tension be sustained for a 90 minute film? Amazingly, yes. Gasp, as disaster piles upon disaster. Lack of oxygen and fingertips just out of reach has never been so exciting.
6. Pacific Rim
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro.
Yes, it’s that robots punching monsters movie, that got nerds the world over who love nothing more than watching robots punching monsters, super excited. In the hands of anyone else — Michael Bay, for example — it could have been a disaster. Luckily, Guillermo del Doro directs, and plunders his anime collection to glorious effect. The story’s simple, but it has to be. There are monsters that need punching.
7. Robot & Frank
Directed by: Jake Schreier.
Sometimes it’s the smaller movies that take you by surprise. Robot & Frank stars Frank Langella as a former safe cracker (called Frank) who lives alone, but is struggling to cope, thanks to old age and lapses in his memory. To avoid putting his dad in a care home, his son buys him a robot companion. What follows is a truthful, sometimes sad, sometimes funny, exploration of what it means to get old, as Frank and the robot embark on a series of mini heists. A cool little movie that shouldn’t be missed.
8. Miami Connection
Directed by: Woo-sang Park, Y.K Kim.
I could have watched every single film released in 2013, and this would still be in my top 10, even though it’s a bad movie, a really bad movie. But it’s also a really good movie. In among all the cheesy rock songs, ninjas, and awkward dialogue, there’s a lot of heart. You can tell these guys had a fucking good time making it.
Directed by: Franck Khalfoun.
Now, this is a strange one, as I didn’t really “enjoy” Maniac, so to speak. But I wanted to include a horror film in the list. It’s a grotty, repulsive movie, in which Elijah Wood plays a guy three sandwiches short of a picnic. But it’s smarter than your average slasher, especially when Nora Arnezeder arrives on the scene as potential girlfriend material. It’s also a beautifully shot movie, with a killer (no pun intended) soundtrack. Ultimately, a horror film should horrify you, and here is where Maniac succeeds, thanks in large part to Wood‘s creepy performance.
Directed by: Neill Blomkamp.
Neill Blomkamp had a lot riding on Elysium after the amazing District 9. It feels like more of the same: spacecraft kicking up dust in perfect CGI, downtrodden slums, and near future weaponry. Except this one’s about free healthcare, rather than immigrants. Whilst Matt Damon is great, he’s overshadowed by Sharlto Copely tearing up the screen as one of the film’s villains, the bearded, incredibly scary (and funny) Kruger. Not as good as District 9, but still an action classic.