The Best Films of 2013

Another year passes – another year of watching films and writing about them. But which did we enjoy the most? It is only two and a bit months until the movers and shakers vote for their favourites at the Oscars, but here are our top films of 2013.

John Parrot’s favourite films of 2013

One of my favourite films of the year has to be Nebraska and this isn’t just because I have a short memory and it happens to be a good film released in December (I hope). Director Alexander Payne hasn’t made a bad film, but I’d put this up there with Election and Sideways as his very best. Poignant melancholy and well-observed humour are his forte, and in this film Will Forte is just one of the great acting talent making it so watchable.

Of course Gravity has to qualify for a movie that perfectly balances eye-popping spectacle, palm dampening tension and heart-warming human interest. So, a very human movie then, despite being set in space. Another Autumn highlight was François Ozon‘s Jeune et Jolie – sexy, disturbing and thought-provoking in equal measure.

I love documentaries and New Hollywood films, and Milius was a fascinating introduction to the work of the maverick director John Milius. Targeted assassinations, drones and CIA funny business were exposed with terrifying clarity by investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill in Dirty Wars. One of the most urgent films of the year and on the medium list for the docs Oscar. Investigating the Berlin-based eco warriors who raise money through making porn, Fuck for Forest had to be one of the most unexpected documentaries of the year.

On an infinitely lighter note – Populaire was a delightful French romantic comedy that also looked heavenly. Let’s not forget Arbitrage as an example of a young director making a big splash – and getting a great performance out of Richard Gere to boot. Finally, in terms of the re-issues, Billy Liar has to be my favourite. Kitchen Sink but with added flights of fantasy, and the lovely Julie Christie.

May Sollawn’s favourite films of 2013

I’m a sucker for a good rom-com, and when Richard Curtis is behind it, the chances that I’ll love it increase dramatically. About Time did not disappoint. Some might say the story about the man who travels in time has been done to death but, much like most of Curtis’ work, the focus was lesser on the time travel and more on Tim’s relationships with his family and the love of his life Mary. Genuinely funny, touching and cosy.

A surprise favourite of mine was Warm Bodies. In a postapocalyptic world where zombies roam and people live behind a wall for protection, a zombie called R slowly becomes human again when he falls in love with a human girl called Juliet. It was the humour which sold me on this slightly bizarre take on Shakespeare.

In terms of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, Leonardo DiCaprio’s heartbreaking take on Gatsby, the pulsing beat of a soundtrack produced by Jay Z and the extravagant and bedazzling sets, made for a worthy adaptation of the classic novel.

The fear is always that a sequel will not live up to the original, but The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was put in the capable hands of Francis Lawrence. And with Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence at its centre, it was bound to be a hit. The length pleased the book lovers, while the meaty and action-packed plot engaged the general masses. Truly a sci-fi story worth telling.

My love for Studio Ghibli is well documented, but every now and then you come across a movie which puts your problems into perspective. Grave of the Fireflies was that movie for me this year. Stunningly animated, it tells a deeply moving tale about a Japanese brother and sister, homeless and orphaned, fighting for survival during World War II. Your heart may break more than once.

Chris Tosan’s favourite films of 2013

For me, this was a year where my favourites were really mixed. Gone is the mainstream list of generic favourites (sorry, Thor 2), and in come the documentaries. I’ve been immersed in that area of filmmaking this year, especially in the last few months, and I’ve absolutely loved it. Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer is a given for me, as it’s an incredibly comprehensive look into the Pussy Riot outfit using interviews from many of the viewpoints involved. Really educational and riveting given all of the events are true.

For me, though, film of the year goes to Muscle Shoals. The documentary, chronicling the rise of the Alabama-based recording studio, features some of the most famous musicians in the world talking shop, and about what makes Muscle Shoals the most powerful place to record in the world. At one point, one of the interviewees remarks that the soul at Muscle Shoals comes up out of the Alabama mud. Combining a beautiful soundtrack with shots of the gorgeous countryside around the studio makes for a documentary that celebrates music, nature, soul, passion, and the unintentional comedy of Keith Richards’ manner of speaking. A must-watch for music lovers, and fans of the documentary form in general.

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