You may have caught Stephen’s top 10 films of 2013 in last week’s episode ‘2013, In Memoriam’. However, Stephen, being the golden souled love boat that he is, has gone on and articulated his personal highlights in a format more forgiving to the hearing impaired. As in he’s written it down. Read on, and check out the podcast to hear Jason and Gerry’s reactions to Stephen’s (awful) choices…
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10: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Dir: Francis Lawrence, Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Jena Malone and Donald Sutherland. Grossed: $847+ Million
An extremely enjoyable film.
2013 in my opinion was definitely the year of Jennifer Lawrence. Despite being one of the standouts in the Oscar worthy American Hustle (which could very easily be on this list), I feel like Hunger Games: Catching Fire is overall a better representation of the quality that Lawrence delivers.
She returns as female heroine Katniss Everdeen and absolutely mesmerises in the role. I enjoyed the original Hunger Games but with Catching Fire they put the Twilight-esque love triangle in the background to concentrate on making this a more grown up affair, while tackling themes of injustice in a dystopian world. The film is perfectly paced, with a brilliant supporting cast filling out it’s well realised universe. In conclusion, I loved it and will definitely be rewatching!
9: Saving Mr.Banks
Dir: John Lee Hancock, Starring: Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Colin Farrell, Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman, BJ Novak, Paul Giamatti. Grossed: $79+ Million
A heartwarming and sentimental affair.
First off, the performances in Saving Mr. Banks are fantastic. Let’s start with Emma Thompson’s portrayal of the very complex P. L. Travers, simply put — magnificent. It’s only when you hear the original tapes of Travers that you realise how great a performance this was. Thompson gives us a woman who has conflicting emotions that we love even though at times we want to shake the shit out of her.
Hanks is solid as per usual and particularly tear jerking towards the end. He hasn’t been as prominent in recent years and I’m glad to see more stand out roles this year. The support cast is probably the strongest of any of the films I’ve seen this year, with Colin Farrell happily standing out portraying Traver’s fatally flawed father.
8: The Place Beyond the Pines
Dir: Derek Cianfrance, Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, and Ray Liotta. Grossed: $40 Million
Ambitious yet poignant.
This film is ambitious as it spans generations, weaving its story through fathers and sons, and how the choices and decisions we make today can have negative and everlasting effects on our children. While The Place Beyond the Pines is ambitious, it is so to a fault, as each act could be trimmed to rein in that slightly long running time.
I found the film to be utterly poignant with rich performances, particularly from Gosling who unsurprisingly stands out. Bradley Cooper is underrated here, especially considering he has to carry the story for most of the film’s running time. I can’t help but think that if this film had been released after his Oscar nominated turn in American Hustle, this role would have been better received. The film is quite heavy and a little too long but it resonated with me and I genuinely look forward to what Cianfrance tackles next.
7: The Way Way Back
Dir: Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, Starring: Liam James,Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, and Maya Rudolph, with Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet. Grossed: $23+ Million.
I sat in the cinema smiling from ear to ear as I fell in love with this film. So much so that I gave serious thought to staying for the next showing. Every year we are treated to a steady flow of coming of age stories and this year is no different. For me The Way Way Back stands apart from the crowd due to a super funny script and some warm and heartfelt performances.
The extremely loveable Steve Carell invites you to loathe him as the stereotypical asshole stepfather. The energetic and all round wonderful Sam Rockwell plays the affable “manchild” with sheer ease delivering every line as if it was improvised. Duncan, played by Liam James, is our anchor through this story and is as loveable as you would expect a character of his nature to be.
6: Frances Ha
Dir: Noah Baumbach, Starring: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner. Grossed $8+ Million
A pleasant surprise.
I love when a film surprises you and surpasses expectations. Frances Ha was one of those movies. Smart use of David Bowie’s “Modern Love” in the trailer had captured my interest and word of mouth—particularly from Gerry—piqued that interest. Frances Ha is a delightfully, refreshingly funny and future cult film classic.
Greta Gerwig performance as Francis is pitch perfect, and it has to be—it’s vital that we take to her regardless of some of the characters annoying traits. Gerwig gives her such heart and levity that Francis surpasses ‘would be’ caricature and comes to life and prominence in a film that is light on plot.
5: 12 Years a Slave
Dir: Steve McQueen, Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti. Grossed: $52+
I genuinely don’t know where to begin when talking about this film. I’m a Steve McQueen admirer and I feel that 12 Years a Slave is his best work yet. His artistic choices which are bothersome for some have real reasoning here. He seems to have gained a better understanding of applying his trademark long artistic shots to enhancing thematic issues that are the core of the story. Yet I can’t help but feel irritated and a bit conflicted, as the same stylistic choices I praise him for making I find myself questioning.
Knowing McQueen’s previous work its not surprising how restrained 12 Years a Slave is. As a viewer I felt I needed to have some sort of emotional release that was never offered. Regardless of any issues I had, 12 Years a Slave inspires discussion and reflection and is a utterly tragic film and clearly the work of a great future filmmaker.
Dir: Alfonso Cuarón, Starring: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Grossed: $670+ Million
Simply put, this film kicked my ass. For me, Gravity transcends film and is one of the greatest experiences in a cinema I have ever had. I feel sorry for anyone who experiences this film after its cinema release—you’ve missed an opportunity to witness something truly great. When I think of the work and time that was put into this film and the choices made in relation to the use of sound and camera technique to invoke sheer terror and suspense, it mystifies me. Gravity is revolutionary. My heart was beating fast, my breath held and my eyes teared up. I needed to get outside to give my body the time it needed to recover from the onslaught it had just received.
Critics took issue with the script and upon a second viewing these problems are apparent, but not detrimental to the overall experience. Unfortunately I do feel the experience of seeing Gravity on an IMAX screen in 3D is the only way to see the film. Which means a second life on DVD for me is not likely. Sadly for Bullock, her performance, while impressive, may be a thankless one, overshadowed by the sheer experience that is Gravity.
3: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Dir: Ben Stiller, Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Sean Penn, Patton Oswalt. Grossed $145+ Million.
Not for the cynical.
I place The Secret Life of Walter Mitty so high on my list because I was unashamedly enamoured with it. It’s funny, romantic, inspiring, touching and ambitiously earnest. Everything from the quirky opening to scenes of Walter skateboarding away from an erupting volcano engaged with me and I felt myself smile the entire way through its 2hr running time.
The choice of soundtrack instills wonder and brings vigorous life to every scene. At the heart of it Stiller examines the need for people to experience life and live for the moment. I particularly enjoyed the scenes exploring the pitfalls of technology and how we should live life and not constantly strive to experience it through an instagram filter. While it is hit or miss for some, I was quite happy to go along for the ride. One that I will be rewatching.
Dir: Denis Villeneuve, Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, and Paul Dano. Grossed: $122+ Million
There are few times that I can remember when a film completely sneaks up on me and knocks me for six. Prisoners is one of these films. I absolutely loved this film and spoke quite highly of it in Episode 3: Blink Like A Pro. It is a simple who-done-it procedural story that takes the time to explore themes of morality and religion. This feels like a David Fincher film reminiscent of Zodiac and Seven with its dark and murky undertones and meticulous cinematography.
The performances are very strong and commanding with Hugh ‘Wolverine’ Jackman increasing the volume while depicting an emotionally drained father, and Gyllenhaal outstanding as the impassioned, intense yet controlled detective in charge of the case. Prisoners roped me in from the very first frame and it was a difficult choice to not give it the top spot.
1: Captain Phillips
Dir: Paul Greengrass, Starring: Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi. Grossed $209+ Million
If there is one thing Paul Greengrass can do and do well, its direct the shit out of a suspense thriller. Despite being based on a true story (of events I was unaware) Captain Phillips keeps you at the edge of your seat the entire way through.
Tom Hanks is mesmerising and I defy anyone not to break down and weep in those final scenes. Told from two different walks of life you are morally torn between Hanks’ Phillips and newcomer Barkhad Abdi’s pirate leader. Greengrass effortlessly weaves both walks of life into the story giving greater scope and weight to what could be a very straightforward action thriller. A fantastic cinema experience that thankfully transfers to your living room with ease…I weeped.