best film: Ida from Paweł Pawlikowski
- Pawlikowski’s photographical accomplish in Ida ranks among the best of the decade
- Arri Alexa 35mm, 1.37: 1 box aspect ratio- influences Paul Schrader’s First Reformed among others
- another Pawlikowski trademark- his 80-90 minute running time
- Gorgeous rural road with trees overhanging
- Actors framed in the doorway
- The level of detail in the compositions—meticulous- very light, every detail in the car
- The window sequence is haunting
most underrated: The TSPDT should be commended for largely getting it right when it comes to 2013. There are so many deserving films and they do have most of them close to the right slot. Two notable exceptions are Enemy from Denis Villeneuve. The consensus has it as the #44 film from 2013 and that is a mistake. The slightly larger mistake would be Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives which did not make the 21st century top 1000 list (so at least outside the top 44 of 2013) at all.
- There is much here to admire formally—the spiders as an ongoing motif and recurring construct
- Fantastic silent opening—bizarre and erotic—reminiscent of Eyes Wide Shut
- Recalls Cronenberg’s work—particularly Crash—eerie slow-burn (also set in Toronto)– and Cronenberg’s aptly named Spider from 2002
- Doppelganger, paranoia—largely silent- moody and atmospheric—strong sense of dread the entire film—no narrative drive like most of Villeneuve’s other work
- The upside down naked woman with spider head is exactly half-way through the film—not a formal coincidence
- Love the windshield broken as a spider web
Only God Forgives
- Like 2009 with Valhalla Rising, the most underrated film of the year belongs to Refn. Again, the film is not mentioned among the many from 2013 on the TSPDT 21st century list. This one was also booed at Cannes and has a 37 on Metacritic. It is closer, from a narrative standpoint, to Valhalla Rising than Drive. Drive is a bit of an irregularity for Refn in many ways- it is the only film he has not written- he is not usually so accessible.
most overrated: With only one viewing of the film under my belt, the door is not closed on Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger by the Lake but for now it does sit as the most overrated film of 2013. The consensus has it as the #4 film of 2013.
trends and notables:
- Both Pawlikowski and the Coen Brothers really deserve to be the story and for different reasons. Pawlikowski is a rising star. The Woman in the Fifth in 2011 hinted at his potential, but it would seem unlikely that anyone saw something the size of Ida coming from him. For Coens it is the opposite. Their staying power since their debut in 1984 is remarkable and Inside Llewyn Davis is one of their best films.
- 2013’s great depth of quality films is almost more the story of the year in cinema than the two films at the top . Thirteen years into the new millennium at this point, coming up on 100 years since DW Griffith and certainly cinema as an artform is in a fantastic place if films like The Immigrant, Nebraska, Snowpiercer, Her, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Only Lovers Left Alive cannot find a spot in the top ten of the year. These are all quality works made by auteurs with a unique voice.
- The Coen Brothers and Linklater are extremely prolific- but 2013 features films from those that rarely make films like Alfonso Cuaron and the ever-increasingly reclusive Jonathan Glazer. Gravity is Cuaron’s last film since 2006. Under the Skin is Glazer’s last film since Birth in 2004 and last film of the 2010s decade. Cuaron would add one more of course- Roma in 2018.
- with all the unofficial and official trilogies out there it is difficult to keep track of and rank the best- but, undoubtedly, Linklater’s “Before” trilogy (Sunrise in 1995, Sunset in 2004 and Midnight in 2013- all nine years apart) ranks needs to rank near the very top.
- Denis Villeneuve is heating up with two archiveable films in 2013: Prisoners and Enemy- but his run is really just getting started.
- As far as first timers in the archives, Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan feel destined for greatness and pair together here in 2013 for the first time in Fruitvale Station. Miles Teller lands in the archives for the first time in The Spectacular Now and LaKeith Stanfield got his start in 2013 as well with Short Term 12, which is his true debut.
- As far as box office in 2013 it is all Iron Man (continuing the Marvel dominance) and Hunger Games (Jennifer Lawrence is getting awards and box office love now in back to back years) but for cinephiles- it is Cuaron’s Gravity that is both an artistic feat and a big-time moneymaker.
- In 2013 it is also worth pausing to appreciate the start to Steve McQueen’s career. From Hunger (2008), to Shame (2011) to 12 Years a Slave (2013) this is a meteoric rise.
gems I want to spotlight: Sticking with a color theme here in the two titles- Blue Ruin from Jeremy Saulnier is one that is not terribly close to the top 10 of the year but I revisit and recommend to people often. Blue is the Warmest Color from Abdellatif Kechiche deserves this slot as well. 2013 is a year of incredible depth in the world of film- there are not many years where Kechiche’s film does not land in the top 10 of the year.
best performance male: In 2010 it was Natalie Portman in Black Swan. In 2011 Michael Fassbender in Shame- and, undoubtedly in 2012 it was Joaquin Phoenix in The Master. Well, in 2013 it is Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis ahead of the rest. Isaac is a revelation—a young Pacino in the making. He could go on to be the best actor of a generation and could still never top this. His Davis has heavy eyes—“I’m tired”… “I thought I needed a night’s sleep but it’s more than that”- tragic. He is quick to give up- beaten down by the death of his partner, the cold winter, and…it is the Coen’s world of course… fate (or bad luck). Isaac is one hell of a musical performer as well and the film does not work if he cannot both act and sing. Leonardo DiCaprio deserves mention in 2013 for his work as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street. DiCaprio is a tour-de-force. He makes the character and film so much more complex because of his inarguable charm. It is a prime role, lots of speechmaking, drug use, and DiCaprio shows off his comedic (especially physical) talents as well. I do not like going off the top ten films of the year to grab a worthy performance for this category but DiCaprio sort of had a mention he was due here for being left off in 2012 for Django Unchained. Toni Servillo pairs with Paolo Sorrentino again in 2013’s The Great Beauty. Servillo and Sorrentino burst onto the scene in 2008’s Il divo and The Great Beauty marks their finest work to date as both director and actor. This is their Fellini/Mastroianni La Dolce Vita. Christian Bale is a chameleon- but his work in American Hustle is more than just bad hair and a big gut. Bale is one of the greatest actors of his generation and this is certainly one of his best performances. He apparently gained over forty pounds for the role (going the other way from his previous collaboration with Russell where he lost a bunch for The Fighter in 2010). Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender are both terrific in McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. Ejiofor is empathetic and intelligent– and Fassbender is horrifically mesmerizing- akin to Ralph Fiennes work in Schindler’s List. It seems that there were doubters of his talent for decades, but Ethan Hawke continues to prove he is one of Generation X’s finest with his work alongside Linklater and Julie Delpy in Before Midnight. The final mention goes to Jake Gyllenhaal for his work in Enemy. Gyllenhaal was omitted here in this category back in 2005 for Brokeback and he is also strong in 2014’s Nightcrawler so this feels like a fitting spot to reward him for three years where he is just on the fringe (and he is excellent in Denis’ other 2013 entry as well Prisoners).
best performance female: This is the best year in this category since 2000 or 2001 and even those years did not have the depth of great acting performances 2013 does. There are years where we are scratching and clawing to get two to three names listed. There are ten very worthy mentions here in 2013. Ida starts off 2013 and showcases phenomenal acting turns from both Agata Kuleza (as Wanda) and Agata Trzebuchowska (as Anna). These are complex characters wearing the baggage of their history. Wanda is a skeptic, an alcoholic, nihilistic. She is angry (and justly so). Wanda (with Trzebuchowska’s soft, black eyes) is naïve and sheltered yet goes through quite a transformation. Every decade or so now (every nine years to be exact) both Hawke and Julie Delpy show up in the “Before” films remind us all that no list of the best actors is complete without them. This is their Scenes from a Marriage film. Sandra Bullock has been a star for nearly two decades by 2013 but turns in easily her finest work in Cuaron’s Gravity. In the film she serves as the driving action in the story- and also have a heartfelt emotional breakdown an hour into the film. Lupita Nyong’o has to be here for her work (her film debut) as Patsey in McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux unquestionably deserve spots here for their work in Blue is the Warmest Color. Scarlett Johansson quieted what few doubters she left in 2013 (Lost in Translation was a decade in the rearview) when she triumphed again in Under the Skin. Amy Adams is in familiar territory in this category again in 2013 for American Hustle after appearing here in 2012. Adams is on a roll that will continue through 2016. The tenth and final mention is for Marion Cotillard in James Gray’s The Immigrant. Cotillard could get a mention either here or for her work in The Dardenne Brothers’ Two Days, One Night but probably not for both- so this is as good a spot as 2014.
- Inside Llewyn Davis
- Before Midnight
- The Great Beauty
- 12 Years a Slave
- Under the Skin
- Only God Forgives
- American Hustle
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|A Touch of Sin- Zhangke Jia||R|
|Ain’t Them Bodies Saints- Lowery||R|
|All is Lost- Chandor||R|
|American Hustle – D. Russell||HR/MS|
|Before Midnight- Linklater||MS/MP|
|Behind the Candelabra– Soderbergh||R|
|Blue Is the Warmest Color – Kechiche||HR/MS|
|Blue Jasmine- Allen||R/HR|
|Blue Ruin – Saulnier||R|
|Captain Phillips- Greengrass||HR|
|Dallas Buyers Club- Vallée||R|
|Enemy – Villeneuve||MS|
|Enough Said- Holofcener||R|
|Exhibition – Hogg||R|
|Fruitvale Station- Coogler||R|
|Gloria – Lelio||R|
|Gravity – Cuaron||MS/MP|
|Hard To Be a God – German||R|
|Ida – Pawlikowski||MP|
|Inside Llewyn Davis – Coen||MP|
|Joe- Gordon Green||R|
|Night Moves- Reichardt||R|
|Nymphomaniac- von Trier||R|
|Only God Forgives- Refn||HR/MS|
|Only Lovers Left Alive – Jarmusch||HR|
|Out of the Furnace- S. Cooper||R|
|Prince Avalanche- Gordon Green||R|
|Prisoners – Villeneuve||R|
|Short Term 12- Cretton||R|
|Side Effects- Soderbergh||R|
|Star Trek into Darkness- Abrams||R|
|Starred Up- Mackenzie||R|
|Stray Dogs – Ming-liang Tsai||R|
|The Bling Ring- S. Coppola||R|
|The Conjuring – Wan||R|
|The Grandmaster- WKW||R|
|The Great Beauty- Sorrentino||MS|
|The Great Gatsby- Luhrmann||R|
|The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Jackson||R|
|The Immigrant- Gray||HR|
|The Past- Farhadi||R|
|The Spectacular Now- Ponsoldt||R|
|The Tale of Princess Kagulaya – Takahata||R|
|The Wind Rises- Miyazaki||R|
|The Wolf of Wall Street– Scorsese||HR|
|The World’s End- E. Wright||R|
|The Zero Theorem – Gilliam||R|
|Tom At the Farm – Dolan||R|
|12 Years a Slave – McQueen||MS|
|Under the Skin- Glazer||MS|
|Upstream Color – Carruth||R|
|We Are the Best! – Moodysson||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-See- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives