After giving the Oscar’s time to bask in the spotlight its time once again for HD Eyes to roll out the red carpet and take over the awards season. Given that we haven’t seen every film due to life/soul sapping jobs, can’t remember half of the ones we have seen due to severe drinking problems, and don’t really have a valid opinion on such things, it can be safely assumed that this is far from the definitive list.
2013 was meant to be the year Science Fiction swept aside the living nightmare which is the Comic Book adaptation fad, yet all but a couple of the hotly anticipated big budget epics fell flat. Despite Idris Elba’s Shakespearean efforts, Pacific Rim managed to shock with its Phantom Menace levels of simplicity and childishness. Elysium wasn’t too bad but went for 80s action cheese over District 9’s visionary originality. And to top things off World War Z wiped its bloated $200 million arse with pages from the classic source book.
Elsewhere, Anchor Man turned out to be a mostly pointless and inferior reference-fest of the original, while Sin City didn’t even bother to turn up. Did we mention how shit Pacific Rim was?
Despite being a bumper year for crushing disappointment and skulking home from the cinema with our heads dropped, the year did somehow manage to see an unprecedented number of unexpected gems rise to true greatness and make 2013 one of the most exciting in memory.
Film of the Year: 12 Years a Slave
Though wanting desperately to pick something the Oscar’s overlooked to prove how alternative and film savvy we truly are, this Terrance Mallick-esq wonder of lingering close ups, composition of light, protracted silences, and uncomfortable scenes of extreme brutality is an unstoppable force of excellence and deserved winner. Director Steve McQueen’s background as an artist is betrayed in every carefully framed shot, and his total disregard for conventions of pace for entertainments sake. Horrifying to behold but necessary to help comprehend.
Acting Chops of the Year: Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips
A truly remarkable year of performances from James McAvoy in Filth, Wakakalin Pheonix in Her, Leo in Wolf of Wallstreet, and many others – it was a man drawing on his vast wealth of experience from Big, Splash, and that scene in Turner and Hootch when it makes you think the dog has died, who truly rose highest and produced the performance of his life. Though understated for much of his role as Captain Phillips, Hanks turned the everyman shtick into a terrifyingly realistic portrayal of a decent man expected to take control during a terror crisis. Just try not to blub in that final scene.
Blockbuster of the Year: Gravity
Into Darkness came close as the Prince of Popcorn, but it was the unexpected triumph of Gravity and its spell binding mastery of all three of the most popular dimensions which left us as giddy as a school kid. A short, breathless, roller-coaster ride full of space things smashing into bigger space things, breaking up into small things which cut people into smaller things… and all in swishy, swirly zero gravity. Despite George Clooney’s cheesy grin flying out of the screen, and some religious nonesense which passed us by as we craned our necks to see every inch of the IMAX screen, Gravity was a much needed reminder of the escapism possible through cinema.
Comedy of the Year: Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
By no means a bumper year for comedy, 2013 none-the-less saw the splendid The World’s End being closely pipped by the long awaited screen début of Steve Coogan’s legendary character Alan Partridge. Not quite up to the sky high standards of the older TV series it still managed to defy the trend of TV to cinema adaptations via the simple trick of sticking to the scale and pace of the TV show and packing it with enough gags to stretch out to an hour and a half. Simple.
Demented nightmare of the Year: Filth
James McAvoy gives the performance of his career, somehow managing to transform his mild and slight features into a grizzled and weathered Scottish cop who looks like he could hold his own in a Glaswegian pub car-park scrap. Relentlessly dark, trudging through the detritus of human corruption and vice, and disorientating with its wildly unhinged hallucinogenic nightmare sequences. Despite being a head fuck Filth somehow manages to maintain a strong air of humour.
Ron Howard’s standard biopic film of the Year: Rush
Despite being a bit of a boys film full of cars, easy girls, fisticuffs, and sporting hero worship, Ron Howard’s first good film in ages wowed with its intense racing and the ultimate clash of characters rivalry. Thor did a decent job as the reckless and provocative upper class English Lothario which was James Hunt but German actor Daniel Brühl steals the show as the complex and compelling Nikki Lauder – an almost stereotypical Germanic man of efficiency and discipline, fired by an indomitable competitiveness. Somehow made F1 look breathlessly exciting and accessible for all.
Documentary of the year: The Act of Killing
A mesmerising nightmare of surrealism as difficult to watch as it is to comprehend. Indonesian gangsters who carried out mass murders are given free reign to re-enact the events by filming a variety of stylistic reconstructions. Believing the results will be a complete feature film to be shown in the West, the gangsters are actually being made the unknowing victims of a surreal farce. Unfairly exploitative or do this bunch of sick and deluded bastards deserve it?
The “you’ll either love it or want to punch it in the face” film of the year: Only God Forgives
What was expected to be a a similarly flash and accessible follow up to indie-hit Drive turned out to be an abrasive and arguably over stylised art house indulgence – a no doubt intentional move from Nicolas Winding Refn weary of his flirtation with the mainstream. Mistaken by many to be a clever parody of sorts, anyone familiar with Refn’s earlier work Valhalla Rising will recognise and appreciate the almost impenetrable and abstract approach of a director not afraid to be accused of pretentiousness.
Ryan Gosling Film of the Year: The Place Beyond the Pines
The true spiritual successor to Gosling’s breakthrough Drive was this surprisingly underrated inter-generational crime thriller. Despite boasting the two most hired mugs in Hollywood (Gosling and the computer generated actor Bradley Cooper), a similarly fantastical and epic story of crime, fast stunt driving, and beautiful art-house cinematography, it somehow failed to achieve the same cult status. In time it will be considered at least the equal of its bigger brother.