From the 300+ feature films I saw this year, these are the films that most excited, inspired, moved and challenged me – restricted to films that got a theatrical release in Melbourne, Australia, where I am based.
Top ten favourite films of 2013
1. Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)
By stripping back any aspects of film style or narrative that feel false or constructed, Haneke ensures that everything that happens between Anne and Georges is an act of intense kindness and personal sacrifice shared by people who love each other unconditionally. Full review
2. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, 2013)
Not only is Gravity a celebration of what cinema in the current era can achieve, but it is a celebration of what humans are capable of. Full review
3. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, 2012)
A genuinely heartfelt, gorgeous and beautiful celebration of youth, friendship and grappling with all the contradictions and challenges that life throws at us. Full review
4. Mystery Road (Ivan Sen, 2013)
An effective neo noir film that uses key characteristics of the genre to critique the abuse of power and how it affects vulnerable and innocent people, especially in a culture of gender, racial and class inequality.
5. The Rocket (Kim Mordaunt, 2013)
An extremely rewarding and entertaining film made all the stronger for the integrity and cultural details that underpin it. Full review
6. Broken (Rufus Norris, 2012)
By framing such universal issues such as the power of forgiveness, redemption and love through a coming-of-age narrative of a generous and kind 11-year-old girl, Broken delivers a moving and thoughtful cinema experience. Full review
7. No (Pablo Larraín, 2012)
An extremely perceptive and intriguing examination of the effect that media hype and spin have on the political process. Full review
8. Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen, 2013)
One of Allen’s cleverest and most compassionate films, making it also one of his greatest. Full review
9. Stoker (Park Chan-wook, 2013)
Not everything is what it seems in Stoker and its strength lies in how much it undermines expectations by taking a revisionist approach to gothic fiction conventions. Full review
10. The Paperboy (Lee Daniels, 2012)
The film has both an old fashioned yet otherworldly feel, in keeping with its subversion of film noir style and themes. Full review
Every one of the following ten films (and a few others) were close contenders for my favourite ten list. I’ve simply listed these ones alphabetically as it was hard enough to order the previous ten by preference.
The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012)
Behind the Candelabra (Steven Soderbergh, 2013) Review
Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2012) Review
The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg, 2012) Review
Life of Pi (Ang Lee, 2012) Review
Oh Boy (Jan Ole Gerster, 2012) Review
ParaNorman (Chris Butler and Sam Fell, 2012) Review
Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)
Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2012) Review
Stranger by the Lake (L’inconnu du lac, Alain Guiraudie, 2013)
Favourite ten films not given a full theatrical release
The following films were screened publically in Melbourne, Australia, in 2013, but not given a full theatrical release. And to the best of my knowledge at the time of publishing this list, these films are not yet confirmed to get a theatrical release in 2014. Listed alphabetically.
Bastards (Les salauds, Claire Denis, 2013)
Blue Ruin (Jeremy Saulnier, 2013)
Cheap Thrills (EL Katz, 2013)
The Day of the Crows (Le jour des corneilles, Jean Christophe Dessaint, 2012)
The Interval (L’intervallo, Leonardo di Costanzo, 2012)
Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel, 2012)
Nothing Bad Can Happen (Tore tanzt, Katrin Gebbe, 2013)
Starlet (Sean Baker, 2012)
The Weight of Elephants (Daniel Borgman, 2013)
What Richard Did (Lenny Abrahamson, 2012)
The following is a television miniseries, but it is one of my favourite things that I saw this year:
Top of the Lake (Jane Campion and Gerard Lee, 2013)
And that’s what I loved most about cinema in 2013! I feel this was a really strong year for films and there were several titles that I fell bad about leaving off these lists, not to mention the titles that don’t get released in Australia until early 2014, which I have to hold off on listing until this time next year.
As always, I’m happy to hear your thoughts via the comments, just please focus on the positives as the spirit of this list is celebratory!
Thomas Caldwell 2013
This list was originally compiled for the Senses of Cinema 2013 World Poll
Many thanks for this extensive list, particularly of films that never made it to the theaters where I live, and which I’ll seek out from other sources. I do try to see what I can in a theater, since independent and foreign films are increasingly endangered species here.
Amour was a wonderful film, which I almost remember as a documentary for the reasons you cite: its economy of style and absence of artifice. Blue Jasmine captured the spirit of its times here in a way that will be valued even more as time goes by.
And thanks for this blog and for the Podcasts of Plato’s Cave. Very much followed and appreciated.
A good new year to you!
Thanks Tom and I continue to appreciate and value your comments, as they consistently add to the discussion and provoke further insights.
A good new year to you as well!
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