The Top 10 Films of 2013 (So Far)

Top10

By Simon Miraudo
June 27, 2013

With six months (and six James Franco flicks) behind us, it’s time to reflect on the best movies 2013 has offered thus far. Can we make any sweeping generalisations about the half-year that was? Well, considering that Fast and Furious 6 was very close to cracking this particular Top 10, we can at least say that there’s room for improvement in 2013’s third and fourth quarters. That, however, is no diss to the following fine films, which were all excellent in their own, often weird ways. Before likely yielding to late 2013’s bigger and better releases – we have high hopes for Rush, Catching Fire, The Wolf of Wall Street, Anchorman 2, and, obviously, Nymphomaniac – here’s a chance to pay tribute to those who entertained us from January to June.

NB: To be considered for this list, a movie had to be screened theatrically in Australia between January 1 2013 and June 30 2013 (hence the inclusion of some long-delayed 2012 releases: we had no opportunity to see them last year!). This does not include films that debuted at festivals within that frame, which is why Before MidnightStories We TellUpstream ColorFrances HaThe PastPrince Avalancheand Behind the Candelabra have been excluded. Nothing from my Best of 2012 lists could be included, so no Django UnchainedLincolnor Zero Dark Thirty either.

10. Cloud Atlas

10CloudAtlas

Andy and Lana Wachowski teamed up with Tom Tykwer for this nutso endeavour; an adaptation of David Mitchell’s generation-spanning, gender-swapping, soul-evolving epic, in which Tom Hanks played a cockney London gangster, Halle Berry donned whiteface, and Hugo Weaving popped up as a busty female nurse. Sure, it sounds silly when you say it out loud, but Cloud Atlas came in a “compelling, uncynical, often thrilling package, the likes of which we’ve never seen before.”  Review.

9. Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God

9SilenceInTheHouseofGod

Alex Gibney‘s doco Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God eviscerated the Catholic Church for its failures over the last few decades to adequately deal with its numerous child abuse scandals. The picture is framed by the harrowing trials of the boys preyed upon by the nefarious Father Murphy at St. John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee. Gibney sets his sights higher than simply that one villainous character, eventually making a convincing case that even former Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI were guilty of obfuscating evidence. Harrowing. Review.

8. Star Trek Into Darkness

8StarTrekIntoDarkness

J.J. Abrams‘ proved his sci-fi mettle once more with Star Trek Into Darkness; as convincing an audition video for Star Wars: Episode 7 we’d ever needThough it has some narrative issues (discussing them would fall into spoiler territory) it was nonetheless a “magnificently orchestrated spectacle,” and, at this point in the annual big-budget blockbuster season, it is yet to be topped. Review.

7. Compliance

7Compliance

Craig Zobel‘s controversial Compliance incited catcalls when it first played Sundance in January of 2012. It took a full year to arrive in Aus and it was worth the wait. This was inspired by a baffling true tale, in which a prank caller pretended to be a police officer and convinced a fast food manager to strip search – and sexually abuse – their employee. Compliance is one of the year’s scariest flicks, despite having “no sudden frights, no gore, and not a single scream.” It’s scary because it’s “a surveillance video, capturing [humanity] with all our blemishes; a reminder that how we see ourselves is so rarely in line with the truth.” Review.

6. Mud

6Mud

The McConaissance continued with MudJeff Nichols‘ coming of age tale set in the swamps of Arkansas. Matthew McConaughey plays the title character; a hopeless – and homeless – romantic on the run from the law, waiting to be reunited with his sweet Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). Tye Sheridan stars as Ellis, the boy that befriends Mud and carries messages back and forth between the doomed lovers. Cut from the same cloth as “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, and even Great Expectations, [Nichol’s]  tale feels timeless yet still wholly original.” Review.

5. The Place Beyond the Pines

5ThePlaceBeyondthePines

Writer-director Derek Cianfrance re-teamed with his Blue Valentine star, Ryan Gosling, for this father-son saga. Gosling plays a motorcycle stuntman turned bank robber whose momentary run-in with a cop (Bradley Cooper) sets both of their families on tragic paths. Broken up into three chapters, Pines also stars Eva MendesDane DeHaanRay Liotta, and Ben Mendelsohn. “It all amounts to a memorable, thoughtful tale; a thriller with real meat on the bone.” Review.

4. The Great Gatsby

4TheGreatGatsby

Budget blowouts be damned. Whodathunk that a Baz Luhrmann directed adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary classic The Great Gatsby could become a $300 million grossing blockbuster? Even stranger, whodathunk it would have been any good? Luhrmann relays the tale of self-made millionaire Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his obsessive efforts to reclaim lost love Daisy (Carey Mulligan) through the eyes of war vet Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire). Sterling performances, vibrant visuals, and smart soundtrack choices aside, Luhrmann’s Great Gatbsy works because he gets Jay Gatsby. “As a portrait of a man unwilling to let go of the past, and obsessed with a future that, as Fitzgerald puts it, ‘was already behind him,’ it’s potent.” Review.

3. Side Effects

3SideEffects

Steven Soderbergh supposedly bowed out of the filmmaking game in 2013, leaving us with two features to remember him by. The first was the “squalid, sordid, serpentine Alfred Hitchcock pastiche,” Side Effects (the second, Behind the Candelabra, is even better; exempt from this list though). A hollow-eyed Rooney Mara plays a depressed woman dealing with the return of her husband (Channing Tatum) from prison. Her psychiatrist (Jude Law) puts her on a course of anti-depressants. She begins to sleep walk. I dare not spoil the twists and turns that follow from that point onwards. Fun, sexy, super-trashy, and very clever, Side Effects is much more enjoyable than its bland marketing campaign suggested. Review.

2. No

2No

Pablo Larraín brought to life one of recent history’s most inherently cinematic moments: the ousting of General Pinochet from his dictatorial position in Chile. His picture takes the road less travelled, however, coming at it from the perspective of the innovative ad man (Gael Garcia Bernal) who helped devise the successful marketing campaign that inspired Chileans to say ‘No!’ to the despot. Shot on video, in 4:3, it melds seamlessly with real footage from the era. “Larraín’s script is punctuated by dark bursts of humour, and the filmmaker knowingly navigates his audience to a nail-biting – though never cloying, and fully warranted – climax.” Review.

1. Spring Breakers

1SpringBreakers

Only one picture this year (so far) stayed with me long after the credits rolled. Only one brilliantly skewered America’s hypocritical puritanical beliefs. Only one was a cutting satire of Western Civilisation; from its forgiveness of ‘rape culture’ to its grotesque celebration of excess. And only one was also a bold, bizarro “pop art collage wherein Disney princesses force Oz the Great and Powerful himself to perform fellatio on their AK-47s.” That was Harmony Korine‘s girls-gone-wrong phantasmagoria Spring Breakers. Not only did it feature James Franco as a rapping drug dealer named Alien (easily the best thing he’s ever done), but it broke out Selena GomezVanessa HudgensAshley Benson, and Rachel Korine in a big, big way. They play college students who break bad in Florida (their crimes escalate from robbery to murder); Alien is the Willy Wonka-esque character who bails them out of jail and accepts them into his harem. “The graphic content may prove to be too much for some. Harmony Korine probably isn’t sorry, nor should he be. Not when the final product is this good, this thoughtful, and this entertaining.” Review.

2 Responses to “The Top 10 Films of 2013 (So Far)”

  1. Definitely agree with Side Effects, Cloud Atlas was different in a good way. I am looking forward on watching Spring Breakers, haven’t had the chance yet though. I am not sure about Compliance, first of all it came out in 2012 so it wouldn’t fit in your 2013 list. Furthermore I don’t think the movie showed the circumstances intensely enough. It seemed like they just had to lead everything to the forced felatio, but they made it look like she just did it, as the scene started like that. Very weird. But it is bad and disturbing enough that this whole incident actually happened.

  2. great list! agree with all of them though I would perhaps put them in a different order (cloud atlas would probably be my number one) and I have yet to see ‘no’..
    thanks for such a diverse list of 2013’s must see’s!

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