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My 12 for ’13: Honorable Mentions

Over the next few days, I’ll be revealing my favourite twelve films of 2013. I suspect that it will be a slightly quirky and eccentric list – I doubt anybody but myself will agree on every choice, but I hope that encapsulates the diversity and brilliance of the year that we’ve had. Indeed, I was actually quite impressed with the quality of films that were released in 2013, from large tentpoles through to more intimate and low-key film-making.

In fact, I was so impressed that I thought I’d put together a list of brief honourable mentions of the films that didn’t quite make the cut for my top twelve films of 2013.

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Broken & Updating a Classic

My little sister is studying To Kill a Mockingbird in school. It’s one of the most wonderful novels ever written, a truly timeless exploration of the experience of childhood. Mark O’Rowe, working from Daniel Clay’s book, found a wonderful way to update that story to the modern day, demonstrating just how accessible that coming of age narrative is, and just how relevant and vital the core of that story remains.

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Byzantium & Making a Female Monster Movie

Horror movies have a bit of an unfortunate gender bias. One of the reasons that Ellen Ripley remains so iconic is because she is sadly so exceptional. Vampires are a particularly masculine monster – sinking their fangs into a victim’s throat is really just a penetrative form of necking. With Byzantium, director Neil Jordan manages to craft a subversive and wryly feminine vampire story, exploring and playing against the gender issues inherent in the genre.

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Captain Phillips & Suspense in a True Story

We all know how Captain Phillips must end. After all, we have all heard the story. The beauty of Paul Grengrass’ adaptation of this true life story is that it invites the audience to doubt the inevitable outcome. Greengrass and his leading actor manage to wring an impossible amount of suspense from a story the audience already knew well before they sat down in the cinema. It’s a triumph of technical and narrative skill.

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The Conjuring & Classic Horror

The Conjuring is the culmination of a “back to basics” approach towards mainstream horror that has been taking place quietly in the background over the past few years. Director James Wan helped redefine modern horror with Saw, a superbly inventive and unsettling film that prompted a host of inferior sequels and imitations. The Conjuring feels like the end point of the seventies style approach of horrors like Insidious and Sinister, favouring camera trickery over cheap gore.

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug & Class Warfare

The Hobbit is a much smaller story than The Lord of the Rings, despite the somewhat over-extended theatrical release it is getting. Thankfully, Peter Jackson seems to remember it with The Desolation of Smaug, presenting a vision of Middle Earth that is too busy dealing with its own problems to notice the gathering storm around it. Jackson creates a fascinating microcosm of fantastical class culture, giving us our first female lower class character (thanks to Ross for pointing that out!) and substituting siege warfare and falling kingdoms for dirty brawls on shady side streets.

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Robot and Frank & Growing Old Gracefully

One of the most beautiful things about science-fiction is the way that it holds a mirror up to ourselves, and provides a vehicle to explore personal and philosophical questions that might otherwise be ignored and overlooked. Despite its futuristic trappings, Robot and Frank is a decidedly personal story about a man struggling to deal with his own deteriorating mental health, and the value that we put on our own independence and autonomy. Throw in a fantastic performance from Frank Langella, and it’s hard to resist.

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Side Effects & The Return of the Trashy Twisty Thriller

Side Effects requires a pretty significant suspension of disbelief. Indeed, it’s sort of like Law & Order meets House, starring Jude Law. That’s a beautiful hook right there, and enough to forgive just about any plot holes or logical gaps. More than that, though, Scott Z. Burns’ script feels like a welcome throwback to the sorts of crazy convoluted twisty thrillers of the nineties. As somebody who decided to study law after watching Primal Fear, it’s hard not to love that aesthetic.

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Trance & Movement

Trance feels like something of a companion piece to Side Effects. Both are decidedly pulpy pieces of fiction, with a lot of the risks and ambiguities that stem from that. However, Boyle and Soderbergh are directors working at the very top of their game. Trance is a movie that flies along, realising that if it stops long enough for the audience to ask questions, the whole thing will fall apart. So there’s an endearing devil-may-care attitude to all of that.

Our top twelve films of the year:

Honourable Mentions

12.) Blue Jasmine

11.) Lincoln

10.) Much Ado About Nothing

09.) Iron Man 3

08.) Philomena

07.) Only God Forgives

06.) Star Trek Into Darkness

05.) Stoker

04.) Gravity

03.) Rush

02.) Django Unchained

01.) Cloud Atlas

6 Responses

  1. I haven’t seen a lot of these, but the ones I have (Captain Phillips, Side Effects and The Conjuring) all received above average grades on my site. I think The Conjuring the best (it is actually still in my top ten, at tenth). Captain Phillips would be just short of my top twelve, maybe 13th-15th. I like Side Effects, but I also think it flawed, so that would be a bit further down my list.

    I intend to see Trance. And Robot and Frank before the Oscars air. Hopefully I can get to some of the rest of these as well.

  2. Have to say I really enjoyed Broken, Eloise was so great in it.

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