Alright, here we go, my top 10 films of the year. It’s time for the annual onslaught of tweets and emails telling me that I’m too stupid to live.
As usual, my top 10 list is entirely subjective and in no particular order, and if I was doing a top 50, your favourite would probably be in there. But there are only 10 spots, so like Nick Clegg deciding on whether to force a smile by pinching his leg or biting the inside of his cheek, tough decisions had to be made.
Sometimes one scene is all it takes to elevate a film from being an also-ran to a sure-fire member of my coveted Top 10. And so it goes with Captain Phillips. Paul Greengrass’ true-life tale of ship captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) as his vessel is boarded by pirates moves along slowly, but is always tense, and Hanks’ final scene is some of the best acting of the year, if not ever. I can’t not mention Barkhad Abdi as Musa, one of the pirates, whose lack of acting experience only makes him more impressive.
The best zombie-fuelled Romeo & Juliet adaptation of the year. Ironically for a film where half the cast are dead, it’s got a lot of heart. A growling, slurring Nicholas Hoult proves that he’s more than just ‘that lad from Skins’ while Teresa Palmer sparkles despite being covered in grime and zombie goo. It’s funnier than you’d expect, too.
As soon as the film opened with Ben Folds’ The Luckiest, I knew this was a film that was going to treat my heartstrings like a knock-off Fender Stratocaster. Richard Curtis’ film isn’t his standard rom-com fare, but a beautiful story about fathers and sons with a time-travel twist. About Time was gorgeous, touching, and maybe the biggest surprise of the year. Stop making me think about it. Is someone cutting onions in here?
Frothing with blood and bristling with racism, in Django, Quentin Tarantino continued the revisionist approach to history he started in Inglorious Basterds. As an evil plantation owner, Leonardo DiCaprio has never been slimier, while Christopher Waltz again proves that he’s one of the best actors working in cinema today.
Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity is 90 minutes of virtuoso acting, astonishing special effects and smart, subtle writing. Sandra Bullock is absolutely stunning in this unbelievably tense story of a woman adrift in space. It’s been on my most-anticipated list for three years, and it didn’t disappoint.
What’s more, in a year where it has generally been overused and unnecessary, the 3D in this film is the best since Avatar.
As ever, here’s the film that will cause people to email me and call me an idiot.
Fact is, 2013 has been a weak one for comedies, but The Heat surprised me. Labelled as ‘this year’s Bridesmaids’ it was far, far better and relied less on the goofy, gross-out stuff that got Bridesmaids attention. If Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy want to make silly films together forever, that’s fine by me.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Two months ago, I did not expect this to be on my list. However, after the first film smashed apart all that “it’s the next Twilight” shit, Catching Fire was able to kick back and do its own thing. What we were given was a darker, nastier sequel, where Jennifer Lawrence proved again that she can handle action just as well as anyone else, while also delivering a powerful, realistic performance.
Jeff Nichols’ film flew under the radar, but if you saw it, you’ll know that it deserves a much wider audience. Delivering an elegance often missing from the Southern Gothic genre, it plays out like a grittier, modern-day Whistle Down The Wind. Matthew McConaughey completely embodies the mysterious titular character who forms a bond with a pair of troubled teenage boys, and it’s testament to his performance that he overshadows Oscar-winning co-star Reese Witherspoon.
Almost a year after it came out, there are still some people out there with tears in their eyes, humming I Dreamed A Dream.
With Les Mis, director Tom Hooper’s masterstroke was to have his cast sing live on set, a bold move that gave what could have been an overblown melodrama a steely reality. Alright, Amanda Seyfried’s voice sounds like her insides are full of drunk mice, and Eddie Redmayne seemed to be mimicking a sleepy trombone, BUT then there was Hugh Jackman and Samantha Barks and Russell Crowe (yes, he was good) and Anne Hathaway.
Les Mis was a hugely ambitious gamble that paid off.
Robot and Frank
It looks like a daft, quirky comedy, but it’s not. Robot and Frank is a wonderfully sweet and thoughtful film exploring a near future where the elderly and infirm are helped by domestic robots. Frank Langella plays a former safe-breaker, sliding into dementia, who is assigned a robot assistant by his well-meaning son, and is a touching treatise on the pitfalls of ageing and the dangers of writing-off the elderly.