CK’s Top 10 Films of 2013 – pt. 1

2013 was a pretty shitty time for cinema but every year has its gems and, of course, I didn’t get round to seeing every film I should have.
For that reason I can’t rate films such as Captain Phillips, Mud, Blue Jasmine, or Francis Ha.
Also, I’m Australian which means some of my most anticipated films of 2013 have not yet been released here. Due to such international intrigue, the following films will have to compete in my 2014 lineup…
Her, The Wolf of Wall Street, Blue is the Warmest Colour, 12 Years a Slave and Inside Llewyn Davis.

Taking into consideration all of the above bullshit, here are my Top 10 Films of 2013 (well, at least films #10-#6 for now)…

#10: John Dies at the End

Damn, I really wanted to "meat" her...

Damn, I really wanted to “meat” her…

Don Coscarelli
Genre: Comedy/Horror

There’s no easy way to describe this riot of a film. Writer/Director, Coscarelli, of Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep fame, adapts the surreal, dark comic novel of the same name and presents us with the stoner film of the year.
The story can be vaguely described as a twisted tale about a young man who recounts a series of bizarre and unbelievable events to a reporter, played by Paul Giamatti, and there’s a monster made of pieces of frozen meat!
Bear in mind that John Dies at the End is a small film and with that you won’t be getting Guillermo Del Toro quality CGI, but this is a perfect example of ambitious story-telling and inventive filmmaking triumphing over big budgets.
Watch this film if you wanna see some crazy shit and have a good time!

 #9: Magic Magic

I speak Chilean now, bitch!

I speak Chilean now, bitch!

Director: Sebastián Silva
Genre: Drama/Thriller

Another limited release of 2013, Magic Magic is a beautifully shot Chilean-American indie psychological thriller. We follow Alicia, a young, timid woman played mesmerisingly by Juno Temple, into the South of Chile for what is meant to be a holiday but what begins as an awkward fish-out-of-water drama slowly but magically evolves into a demented psychological trip. A remarkably unique and challenging indie-drama filled with seamlessly naturalistic dialogue and plenty of “WTF” moments; Magic Magic is essential viewing for those who desire a break from the mainstream. Hell, it’s even worth the watch just to see Michael Cera speak Chilean! The film also showcases how well Cera can perform in a drama, and now I shall watch what the future holds for him with great interest.

#8: Only God Forgives

"I don't need no mirror to tell me how good I look."

“I don’t need no mirror to tell me how good I look.”

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Most people hated this film, but I hate most people. Nah, Only God Forgives is a trying film and I can certainly see how it turned people off. If you’re looking for a dense story with twists and turns then this film isn’t for you, in fact, what are you doing watching a Refn film at all? Remember Drive? That was one of my favourite films of 2011 but it wasn’t on account of its plot. Refn’s films, at least his later works, tend to be all about atmosphere and Only God Forgives is dripping with it. Refn’s directorial flare and Gosling’s stoic performance and boyish good looks were a dynamite combination in Drive and this time round Refn jacks the atmosphere up to 11 and builds Gosling’s character up only to be broken, therefore shitting on our expectations. There’s not a whole lot of dialogue in Only God Forgives and for that reason people shrug it off as having no story, but if you allow yourself to be consumed by the film’s deliciously nightmarish atmosphere you just might find yourself on the dark, surreal journey that I didn’t want to return from once the film was over. If you think you could be seduced by sexy cinematography, hyper-stylised lighting and sublime soundscapes then dive into the macabre wonderland of Refn’s latest effort, otherwise watch Captain Phillips or something else that’ll probably get an Oscar or two.

#7: Prisoners

Can I come too?

Can I come too?

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Genre: Thriller

Phwoar! There’s nothing quite like a well executed mainstream procedural thriller. Hugh Jackman’s kids get kidnapped and Jake Gyllenhaal is the detective assigned to crack the case. A clear suspect, creepy Paul Dano, is identified but there’s no substantial evidence to keep him in custody. Enraged by all this bureaucracy, Hugh Jackman goes rogue and starts doing questionable shit to find his daughters. If I haven’t sold you on the premise already it’s probably ‘cos you’re sick of mainstream thrillers being shit. Well, this one isn’t, it’s actually great. The script is tight, the film is beautifully directed and the cast are electric, particularly Hugh Jackman in his most serious role to date. Like I said, there’s nothing like a good thriller, and Prisoners is the undisputed mainstream thriller of the year, probably even the last 3 years!

#6: Pain & Gain

Let's get a protein shake.

Let’s get a protein shake.

Director: Michael Bay
Black Comedy

If Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines is the morally questionable yet musically irresistible song of the year, then Pain & Gain is the same for the films of 2013.
Pain & Gain hilariously depicts the outrageous, real life, exploits of 3 body builders who kidnap a corrupt franchise owner to benefit from his wealth.
You really have to be in on the joke, or at least open to appreciating the film’s superficial irony, to enjoy this movie. Despite being based on a true story, the film’s bubble-gum-pop visuals and dark sense of humour would make one think otherwise. I guess that’s where the controversy comes into play. Is it morally insensitive to indulge in the hilarity of these strange and brutal circumstances if they are, in fact, real life events? That’s for you to ponder and not for me to answer.
To exacerbate matters, Pain & Gain is directed by none other than Michael Bay! If you’re a Bay hater, never fear, this film stands out from the rest of his work as being “the arty one”. If, on the other hand, you’re a fan then it’s time to get excited about what is definitely the best Michael Bay film since The Rock (1996)!


#95: Touch of Evil


Is that a cheeseburger? Or are you just happy to see me?

Director: Orson Welles
Year: 1958
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

A couple drives a car through the U.S.-Mexican border. The car explodes on American soil killing the couple within. An honest Mexican drug enforcement official, Miguel Vargas (Charlton Heston), and a bitter old police Captain, Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles) face off to close the investigation before the other one can. How far will Vargas go to ensure a just investigation and protect the integrity of his country? And how many rules will Quinlan break to put the case to rest as quickly as possible?

Touch of Evil is the last great Film Noir and one of Mr. Welles’ masterpieces. SEE Welles himself give an electrifying and unforgettable performance as alcoholic and magnificently overweight police Captain, Hank Quinlan. FEEL the fear and paranoia Janet Leigh went through before her iconic role in Psycho. LICK the rich textures of the film’s stunning black and white cinematography. And DON’T fall off the edge of your seat when you’re experiencing the many thrilling set-pieces Welles constructed.

There is one unfortunate downfall in that the protagonist, Miguel Vargas, is supposed to be quite Mexican but he’s portrayed by none other than Charlton Heston. Whilst the man is a fine actor, his being cast in that role is a silly and racially patronising choice by today’s standards. Such a decision would be unforgivable today but as Touch of Evil is a 50’s film, Heston’s portrayal can be laughed off as nostalgic charm.

Touch of Evil is a sophisticated investigative thriller with a touch of freshness and Orson Welles is that touch. A typical Welles film promises striking black and white cinematography, a sly sense of humour, and a dark and slightly twisted sensibility towards its drama, which to me is most effective in the Film Noir genre, hence why Touch of Evil is my favourite of his films.

#80: L.A. Confidential


So that’s what Hollywood money looks like!

Curtis Hanson
Year: 1997
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

L.A. Confidential is a neo-noir epic of police corruption and Hollywood scandal set in 1953. Crime, sex and glamour are shaken seamlessly together to form this cocktail of a mystery/thriller that you can’t afford to miss.
Don’t be fooled by the taste, this cocktail is strong. You will have to use a small part of your brain to process the somewhat complex and involved plot surrounding three LAPD officers delving into a realm of conspiracy.
The film is by no means slow though, and its glitzy setting, slick direction and hot performances are sure to keep you watching.

You may be put off by the presence of Russell Crowe in the featured screen shot, don’t be. Before Gladiator (2000) exploded his ego and exposed some of his yuckier flavours, Crowe was one of the juicier actors on the scene. L.A. Confidential sees him in one of the finest performances of his career as a thuggish officer who starts to realise that not everything is as it seems. Guy Pearce has the lead role of the ambitious by-the-book nerd who investigates bad smells because he’s the only one who cares to notice. This is also one of Mr. Pearce’s finer performances and the energy between him and Russell is dynamite. Our two Aussie stars are also joined by Kevin Spacey, at his suavest, Kim Basinger, in her Academy Award winning role, and Danny De Vito.

L.A. Confidential is a classy as fuck mystery/thriller with an apetising plot and a very delicious cast. If you don’t see this movie, I’d keep that shit “off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush.”

#92: Se7en

Everything’s fucked.

Director: David Fincher
Year: 1995
Genre: Thriller

7 reasons to watch this film…

1. It’s a Mystery/Thriller. There’s nothing like a great detective story involving serial killers.

2. It’s directed by David Fincher. Se7en is the first and best example of Fincher’s slick, gritty directorial style, if we ignore his debut effort, Alien 3. Most people prefer Fight Club, but I think, like many other films released in 1999, whilst it is a great film, it has dated. When Fight Club first came out in 1999, I would have said that it is the superior film to Se7en. However, when I watched it again 8 years later, I found that Jack’s “profound” narration came across as annoying and wanky, and Fincher’s CGI transitions had become rather tacky.
Se7en, on the other hand, an older film released in 1995, is not dated. In this one, Fincher did not rely as much on trippy transitions and CGI to express his directorial artistry – probably due to the more straight forward narrative and the fact that this was only his 2nd feature film.

3. The screenplay, written by Andrew Kevin Walker, is masterful. The plot is cleverly woven together in the most realistic way possible, especially considering its high concept. A film about a killer who kills 7 people, each one resembling one of the 7 deadly sins, could have easily turned into a cheap, gimmick-thriller like the Saw sequels (2004-2010), but Walker’s script uses naturalistic dialogue and focuses enough on tedious police procedures to be taken seriously.

4. The Opening Credits. Se7en boasts one of the best opening title sequences in cinema history, up there with Superman (1978), Vertigo (1958), and Watchmen (2009). Constructed by this generation’s Saul Bass, Kyle Cooper, Se7en‘s title sequence is made up of original footage specifically shot for the sequence. The sequence takes us into the mind of the serial killer by presenting us with close ups of his hands preparing various messages for his crime scenes. The actual credit titles were etched into the film itself by Cooper, providing an iconic gritty font and effect that will not age due to it being organic as opposed to computer generated. This sequence also marks the beginning of Fincher’s love affair with Trent Reznor as the accompanying music is none other than Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Closer’. Some may think that there is nothing more dated than the 90’s industrial aesthetic, and I would agree most of the time, but when Fincher and Reznor work together, it’s magic.

5. The cast. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are equally compelling as the typical detective duo of the young ambitious rookie (Detective David Mills) and the wise old veteran awaiting retirement (Detective Lt. William Somerset). Pitt has always been a great actor, but as most of his films over the last decade have been either quirky or arthouse, it is often difficult to relate to his characters. Se7en gives us Pitt in perhaps his most three-dimensional, sympathetic, human role. A true landmark in his career and a must-see for any of his fans. Se7en also presents us with Morgan Freeman in his last great role before he went on to play various caricatures of himself. Whilst Freeman playing a wise old detective is a cliche in itself, Detective Somerset is a true, flawed and relatable human being, and not some “Magical Negro”, eg. The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Unforgiven (1992). The killer, John Doe, gives a truly unforgettable performance. If you have not seen the film, I hope you have not had the casting choice of the villain ruined for you. To reveal his identity now would would be a sin.

6. Gruesome! For those gore hounds out there, there are plenty of fucked up corpses and inventive murders – ‘7 different ways to showcase a corpse’. We only ever, really, see the aftermath of the murders, but it adds to the mystery and probably creates even more disturbing images in your mind as you visualise how the bodies ended up in the state they are in.