Welcome! + My favourite movies of 2013

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Welcome! I’m often told I see way too many movies and musicals (although, seriously you guys, seeing Wicked three times in a thirteen month run is NOT that much- others saw it 100+ times). I’ve decided that my passion for film and theatre should be put to some use in the form of a regular blog where I will review those films or productions that I feel like I have something worth writing about. I realise that lumping film and theatre together might seem a bit broad for some (especially those weirdos that “hate musicals” – way to generalise by the way) but film and theatre are related in many ways and I will do whatever I damn well please! I may also add in the occasional television-related post as I’m an avid TV fan also.

I did some subjects in cinema studies in undergrad, but I am by no means a high brow cinephile. Don’t expect too much focus on cinematography, editing, score, etc. beyond the basics. Don’t expect too much emphasis on art-house cinema, or films where nothing much happens. Same goes for straight theatre- I only see the occasional play and it’s not quite my thing, although plays can be fantastic and I always say I would like to see more. I like some really lame stuff too. And you shouldn’t write-off Legally Blonde the Musical before you’ve seen it. Just sayin’.

One of my pet hates is when reviewers give away way too much of the storyline in their reviews. I’m referring to those that give a summary of the first half of a film and think that’s alright because at least they haven’t told you the ending. Um, no. Not cool. I will endeavour to provide reviews with as few spoilers as possible unless absolutely necessary. Let’s see just how difficult this will prove… (I’m not sure whether this will be as much of an issue for musical theatre as I don’t think many people see musicals for the storyline- at least, I don’t).
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Seeing as it is the New Year and a new blog I thought what better way to start than with a post on my favourite films of 2013. I will try to keep each one short as there are a fair few to mention. Enjoy! If you agree/disagree feel free to leave a comment.

Top Films of 2013:

Behind the Candelabra (Steven Soderbergh, 2013)
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Bio-pic about Vegas showman, Liberace (Michael Douglas), and his younger lover, Scott Thorson (Matt Damon). It’s really disappointing to hear that this didn’t get a cinematic release in America because it was considered “too gay” by Hollywood movie studios. And yet Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005) was a critical and financial success? Soderbergh has said he was stunned by this reaction and it truly is ludicrous. On the upside, being relegated to US television meant that this won a shitload of Emmys, and deservedly so. Michael Douglas and Matt Damon are outstanding. I wanted to yell “MATT DAMON!” at the screen repeatedly (Team America-style). Michael Douglas did a fantastic job evoking pity for a man who seemed like a bit of a bastard. It was amazing to see just how over the top Liberace was. How people genuinely didn’t realise he was gay astounds me. How he thought he could realistically shoot that rumour down is also amazing. Worth seeing for the brilliant performances- Rob Lowe is also a highlight as the plastic surgeon.

What Maisie Knew (Scott McGehee & David Siegel, 2012)
Shown from the point of view of seven-year-old Maisie (Onata Aprile), the film details her experience of her parents’ divorce and custody battle. Julianne Moore plays Maisie’s aging rock star mother, Susanna, with Steve Coogan as international-travelling art dealer father, Beale. Every scene is shown from Maisie’s perspective, meaning that adult conversations and extra-marital affairs are unseen, demonstrating the confusion that a young child must experience in such a situation, without being confusing to adult viewers who can read between the lines. That’s not to say Maisie isn’t exposed to a great deal more than what a seven-year-old should be. The parenting skills on display are pretty disgraceful and it is the Steppies (Alexander Skarsgård and Joanna Vanderham) that step up to the task of caring for Maisie. Great performances all round and a unique take on a child’s experience of divorce.

Prisoners (Denis Villeneuve, 2013)
This might make me sound like a bit of a weirdo but I love stories that are somewhat disturbing. This actually made me feel… icky for want of a better word. The story centres around two young girls who go missing in their neighbourhood and the resulting investigation. Hugh Jackman is in fine form as the father of one of the girls, along with Jake Gyllenhaal as the Detective assigned to the case. A stellar supporting cast includes Terrence Howard, Maria Bello, Viola Davis, Melissa Leo, and Paul Dano. One thing I found frustrating was the tendency for scenes to be cut short far earlier than would be anticipated. On hindsight this was in fact a great choice, as we can easily fill in the gaps ourselves, rather than adding to the already long (153 minutes) running time. However, I did often get irritated by this, as I do enjoy that extra obvious material sometimes, especially when it’s the final scene. Without giving too much away, this film does involve plenty of violence and moments that may make you feel ill, but if like me you’re into that sort of thing then definitely give this a watch.

Captain Phillips (Paul Greengrass, 2013)

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This was the best movie I saw this year, although I’m not sure whether I’d use the words “favourite” or “enjoyed” to describe this cinematic experience. Detailing the real-life experiences of Captain Richard Phillips, whose cargo ship was hijacked by Somalian pirates in 2009, this was INTENSE to say the least. There was no juxtaposition with lighter moments to be had. Rather it was a good ninety minutes of ongoing intensity that refused to let up. Watching this was draining. But definitely worth it. Tom Hanks’ performance in his last scene alone is enough reason to see this. I cried and it was partly because I just couldn’t believe just how phenomenal his acting was. It was also partly because of the effect you realise this experience would have had on this man. Absolutely insane. See it.

The Spectacular Now (James Ponsoldt, 2013)
There are plenty of crappy teen movies that get made, but this offered a really fresh take on the genre, and will appeal to a wider audience than simply the teens it represents. Miles Teller plays Sutter, the sort of character usually found on the periphery and painted as a one-dimensional jerk. Here much greater depth is given to this type of individual- the slightly arrogant, popular, but ultimately vulnerable guy who loves to drink and party, and who has little regard for the consequences of his actions. The film explores his developing relationship with the innocent Aimee (Shailene Woodley) whose naïve love I genuinely identified with. Not your average run-of-the-mill teen movie. I strongly recommend, if for no other reason than remembering what it’s like to be a struggling teenager.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Francis Lawrence, 2013)
Jennifer Lawrence stars so that’s reason enough to be on the list. She. Can. Do. No. Wrong. But coolest woman in the world aside, I LOVE The Hunger Games so hard! I saw the first installment before reading the book and I can say that reading the book really does help with understanding why there would be such a situation where teenagers are forced to fight to the death in a televised competition. I loved Gary Ross’ first installment, and Francis Lawrence’s Catching Fire certainly does not disappoint either. So many interesting psychological and political ideas, and a strong female lead. Way better than that Twilight crap. Also, Stanley Tucci is killer awesome as always.

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The Hunt (Thomas Vinkerberg, 2012)

A Danish film starring the magnificent Mads Mikkelsen which definitely made you think. What do you do when a child alludes to sexual abuse? Can you trust a child to tell the truth? Should we be suspicious of all men involved with kids just to be safe? Such a tricky issue and this film handles it excellently. Currently short-listed for Best Foreign Film category at the 2014 Academy Awards.

The Place Beyond the Pines (Derek Cianfrance, 2012)

Worth seeing for the acting alone. I don’t know if anybody quite predicted that Bradley Cooper would go from type-cast roles in Failure to Launch (Tom Dey, 2006), He’s Just Not That Into You (Ken Kwapis, 2009), Valentine’s Day (Garry Marshall, 2010), and The Hangover films (Todd Phillips, 2009/2011/2013) to absolutely amazing Oscar-worthy performances in Silver Linings Playbook (David O’Russell 2012), The Place Beyond the Pines, and American Hustle (David O’Russell, 2013). I expected Ryan Gosling to be good, but Cooper floored me. He plays a character who, in the first half of the film is meant to be about 10 years younger than himself and does so to perfection. Ben Mendelsohn does Australia proud in a supporting role- that guy is CRAZY-good. And Gosling, naturally, is stellar. The storyline is hella depressing- made me nervous about (one day) having children because of the potential to screw them up so much. Something happens one third of the way through that I was NOT expecting. You will figure it out when you watch it. Have fun. Don’t slit your wrists afterwards.

Other great films of 2013 in a sentence:

The Rocket (Kim Mourdaunt, 2013): Australian-made, Laos-language heart-warming film

Stoker (Chan-wook Park, 2013): Creepy as hell film about a couple of psychopaths, shot beautifully

Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen, 2013): Cate Blanchett at her neurotic best

Happiness Never Comes Alone (James Huth, 2013): Thoroughly enjoyable French film with cute kids, Broadway references, and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments

Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, 2013): One thing is for sure: I never want to go to outer space

The Best Offer (Giuseppe Tornatore, 2013): Geoffrey Rush and intrigue

The Butler (Lee Daniels, 2013): Emotional bio-pic that reminds us how far we’ve come, despite having still some way to go with racial issues

Adoration (Anne Fontaine, 2013): Incestuous, but not

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller, 2013): The ending was kind of predictable but god I loved it

Next post: My worst films of 2013

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3 thoughts on “Welcome! + My favourite movies of 2013”

  1. Given me a list of must see movies! I’m very like you in that I like the obvious material, particularly at the end – I want to see the happy (or depressing ending) not imagine it!!

    1. You would probably like The Spectacular Now, Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Happiness Never Comes Alone, The Best Offer, Blue Jasmine & The Hunt. Not sure if any are out on DVD yet- perhaps Happiness never comes alone & The Hunt? Both will be in the foreign section.

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