Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Best Films of 2013

The first half of any year is normally catching up with the previous year’s films which slowly make their way across art house cinemas or DVD/VOD. This was certainly the case earlier in the year when 2012 titles dominated the best of 2013 year list but in the last few weeks, a few worthy 2013 titles have started to fill the darkness in cinemas. Plus, the fall film season is just around the corner and with it comes The Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) & some of the best new global cinema. So this list will change in the next few months but for now, here are the films that have left quite an impression.

1. Neighbouring Sounds (2012, Brazil, Kleber Mendonça Filho) 

A rich sound design layered with stunning visuals results in an immersive experience.

2. Leviathan (2012, USA/France/UK, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel) 

The fluid style jolts the senses forcing one to experience the world in a new light.

3. Before Midnight (2013, USA, Richard Linklater) 

Before Midnight depicts a perfect way to make a trilogy as the characters grow off-screen and each film allows the audience to catch-up with events in their lives, just like old friends do when meeting after a long gap.

4. The Act of Killing (2012, Denmark/Norway/UK, Joshua Oppenheimer)

Even though the documentary is rooted in Indonesia, it is universal in depicting how men kill with the aid of media and politicians. The depiction of torture/killing could easily be set in Latin/South America/Africa while the media manipulation applies to most nations. But no individuals will ever admit their crime with such brutal honesty as those in The Act of Killing, making it a living digital document. The killers walk about the city freely, sometimes boasting about their murders. Such honesty ensures the film hits like a ton of bricks but it is one of the most essential and relevant docs ever made.

5. A Hijacking (2012, Denmark, Tobias Lindholm) 

Just like his previous film R, Tobias Lindholm uses a double perspective to paint a complete picture of events. And he does so without using any violence or even having a hero in the film. The entire film instead focuses on tense hostage negotiations which end up becoming bargaining sessions stretched over weeks and months.

6. Frances Ha (2012, USA, Noah Baumbach) 

Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig have created a memorable character whose honesty puts her in many foot-in-mouth moments but those awkward moments only add to the film's bittersweet style.

7. Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns (2013, India, Tigmanshu Dhulia) 

Tigmanshu Dhulia has managed to take the strongest aspects of the first Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster (2011) and elevated it with seductive sexual and political elements. Jimmy Shergill continues to thrive in what may be his finest on-screen role to date.

8. In Another Country (2012, South Korea, Hong Sang-soo) 

Hong Sang-soo's easy flowing style incorporates Isabelle Huppert's whimsical character perfectly resulting in plenty of humor.

9. Fruitvale Station (2013, USA, Ryan Coogler) 

Devastating cinema! Even though one knows the end, the verite style allows one to be drawn into Oscar's life (Michael B. Jordan, perfect) resulting in a gut-wrenching feeling when the final credits roll.

10. Computer Chess (2013, USA, Andrew Bujalski) 

A playful look at various computer programmer personalties, ranging from the very shy to those whose supreme confidence borders on arrogance. The black and white visuals coupled with the video footage give the film a 1980’s look and feel, at a time when computers were bulky machines that required some effort to transport from room to room. The humor is derived from the collection of eccentric personalities and as a result, the scenarios feel natural and not forced. As a bonus, the film also literally depicts HAL's birth.

Honorable mention

Lootera (2013, India, Vikramaditya Motwane) 

At first, Lootera looks like another Bollywood love story but thankfully, the love story is a facade which gives way allowing a Bengali inspired technically rich film to emerge. The sound design in Lootera is mesmerizing & allows everyday sounds to filter through the frame when needed.


Sam Juliano said...

Sachin, as always a post of scholarship and exceeding taste. At this point of 2013, I would have to say without any question that THE ACT OF KILLING, A HIGHJACKING, FRANCES HA and FRUITVALE STATION are of the first rank, and would be on my own list. I haven't taken a close look at the year thus far, but films like MUD, THE HUNT, TO THE WONDER and BEYOND THE HILLS would also be near the top of my list.

Great to see LOOTERA as a sturdy honorable mention, as I really liked that one too, and well remember your glowing recommendation to me.

Terrific round up!

Sachin said...

Thanks a lot Sam. I did expect a few of the same titles to show up in your list as well. I am still waiting to see Mud, The Hunt, To The Wonder & Beyond the Hills. Also, I would put Blue Jasmine in this list as well as I recently saw it & found it an incredible film.

Sam Juliano said...

Yes, BLUE JASMINE is one of the Woodman's greatest films and I also loved it and agree it does really belong on the list.