Matthew Parkinson has watched over 100 films in 2013. Over the next two weeks he’ll select his picks for the best and worst films of 2013.
All is Lost
All is Lost tells the almost dialogue-free tale of an elderly man who winds up having to survive on his own at sea. Robert Redford stars as the unnamed man. Redford reminds us with his performance here that he can capture the screen by himself, and does so by turning in one of the best performances of the year. The film is intense, dramatic and kind of beautiful.
A breezy and funny movie that takes us back to the 1970s, American Hustle brings us a fantastic cast who turn in great performances, a strong sense of place and time and a sharp script. It might not tell the truest of tales — the story is based on the FBI’s ABSCAM operation in the ’70s and ’80s — but it’s a very enjoyable one to watch play out on screen.
Blue is the Warmest Colour
The first of two films on this list that played at the Calgary International Film Festival this year, Blue is the Warmest Colour is a heartfelt drama that is in French and plays for a minute shy of three hours. Its characters feel real, and it provides such an intimate portrayal of their story and love that it’s almost impossible not to be drawn into their lives. It’s emotionally compelling and justifies its lengthy running time.
Director Spike Jonze is known for unconventional films and Her is no different. Set in the near-future, a man falls in love with his computer’s operating system. The premise could easily be played for laughs, but Jonze manages to make it one of the most gripping and powerful movies of the year by making its love feel real and by working in commentary on all types of relationships, not just the one it portrays.
Inside Llewyn Davis
The best films get better the more you think about them and an appropriate example of this is Inside Llewyn Davis, which tells the story of a wannabe folk singer played wonderfully by Oscar Isaac. The tone is melancholic, the songs are great, the symbolism is everywhere and becomes fun to look for, and there’s even a cute cat that acts more than just as a plot device.
The best foreign film of the year (and another CIFF-screened film), The Past is the best foreign-language film of the year. From A Separation director Asghar Farhadi, it tells the cross-culture story of an Iranian man, his soon-to-be ex-wife and her new beau. It has great performances and a story that continues to surprise.
Prisoners is a thriller done right. It manages to maintain suspense and tension for its surprisingly lengthy running time, and is anchored with intense and powerful performances by Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. It holds up on closer inspection and it brings with it genuinely shocking reveals.
Short Term 12
From the realistic depiction of a foster-care facility to the heartbreaking performance turned in by Brie Larson and the supporting cast, Short Term 12 is such a wonderful experience. It may never be fun to watch, but it’s so emotionally captivating that you can’t stop watching it after it begins.
The English-language debut of Park Chan-wook (2003’s Oldboy, not this year’s remake), Stoker is an absolutely gorgeous movie depicting some very wicked content. It has an aesthetic style all its own, works as well as a drama or as a horror film and leaves you with some haunting imagery. This was the best film of the year for several months.
The Wolf of Wall Street
One of the funniest films you’ll see coming from one of the greatest directors of all time, The Wolf of Wall Street provides a look into the moral corruption that comes from wealth, telling the true story of Jordan Belfort. It’s absolutely hilarious, very graphic and delivers three hours of depravity.
Runners up: 2 Guns, August: Osage County, The Book Thief, The Conjuring, The Croods, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Kings of Summer, Mud, The Place Beyond the Pines, Rush, The Spectacular Now, Spring Breakers, We’re the Millers, and The Wolverine.
Notable films not seen: 12 Years a Slave, Blue Jasmine, Frozen and Fruitvale Station.