Some of the memorable films I saw in 2013.

I’m not a conversationalist. It’s just not a strength of mine. I’m good at questions though and have a far more enjoyable time listening to conversations flow as opposed to initiating them. More often than not, I end up second guessing all of my input. It’s a funny trait to have when you’re an interviewer though, because the interview depends on you starting discussion. It takes a lot of preparation to start an interview and if I have that foundation, I’ve found fascinating elements that *I* need answers too.

It’s very hard for me to do that spontaneously.

Since film critiquing, I find myself often confronted with this question during social situations: “What films do you recommend?” or especially right now, “What are your favourite films of 2013?”

My brain immediately freezes and I can’t even remember the last thing I saw or if I even have eyes. It’s ridiculous. My theory is that I’m both paralyzed that someone asked me a question in the middle of parsing people’s conversation, and a huge influx of information temporarily floods my brain, “What if I forget about that movie that I think everyone should see? How many films did I see this year?” And so on and so forth.

This is the first year, as a reviewer, that I’m voting for film awards. This time it’s for Next Projection. As I parse my library for selections, I’m going to jot a few down here as my personally memorable ones. Hopefully, people will see them, or at the very least will help me as I’m faced with the year end questions.

(Keep in mind, these are SOME of the memorable films I saw in 2013, which means they are either from this year or made in 2012, but I saw them this year regardless.) As of today, I will be watching Inside Llewyn Davis, Her, Philomena, Prisoners, and The Wolf Of Wall Street.

(Note: Linked reviews below either by me or some of the very talented critics I enjoy.)

1.  upstream_color_xlg

Upstream Color: Trailer

You HAVE to see Upstream Color! Shane Carruth is one of the few filmmakers that has the guts to still push the envelope. Much of the film is a snippet compilation of images and occurrences. Our main characters search for a mutual truth within their obscured memories. In that search is a world of a new kind of science fiction, a new perspective on the search for meaning, and most of all, the most subtle cinematic film catharsis I’ve ever experienced. You will be rendered. You will be sampled and find yourself upstream.

Amy Seimetz  is fascinating to look at. Her character’s anxieties surface as quirks, but the fact that this is Carruth’s second feature film ever after Primer, and he had no film or classical film making experience before that (he was a math major and worked on flight simulation software), makes this masterpiece even more intriguing.

My non-spoiler review: http://lemonhound.com/2013/06/13/jacqueline-valencia-two-short-takes/  My spoiler laden analysis: http://jacquelinevalencia.com/2013/05/23/upstream-color-my-impression-analysis/

2.
OnlyGodForgivesNeonposterGosbig3

Only God Forgives: Trailer

Nicholas Winding Refn is a master at visuals. After the Pusher trilogy and Bronson, I could just watch any of his films with no dialogue. Actually, Only God Forgives is like that. However, there is story, and much like Upstream Color, it’s a bit of a maze to decipher. The film itself is infused with great tableau vivants that allow the audience digest the hyper aware emotional settings and colors coming out of the screen.

Ryan Gosling is a blank canvas for Refn and I’m totally ok with that in this film. We’re looking at provocative images and the tale of someone finding the possible monsters within himself. Whether that is Refn’s search, I’m not entirely sure, but the film is a feast for the eyes. Only God Forgives gives us the creepiest karaoke singing villain (maybe the only one) ever in Vithaya Pansringarm . If you miss Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch at their finest, then watch Only God Forgives.

Alan Jones‘ defense of the film (thank you!):  http://torontostandard.com/culture/only-god-forgives-and-the-merits-of-pushing-at-the-edges-of-acceptability

My spoiler laden analysis: http://jacquelinevalencia.com/2013/07/23/only-god-forgives-my-analysisreview/

3.
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Amour: Trailer

This film came out at the very end of last year and I saw it then as well, so I’m cheating. My blog. My choice. The reason I include it is because it is a film that affected me in many ways.

First off, the month that this film came out, my grandmother has passed away. I needed to get out of the house and joined my friend at the last minute to see this film. I had no idea what it was about. Oh it was a devastating reveal.

My grandfather died of complications from Alzheimer’s a few years before my grandmother. We saw him go from being an extremely active man to just a shell of a person at the very end. We were lucky to get glimmers in his eyes in his last few hours. My grandmother watched as the love of her life (they’d been together since they were kids), fade away. My grandmother died of heart complications. She’d suffered long, but clung on until she saw all of her great grandchildren. These two deaths deeply imprinted me with how fleeting a life is and the cruel finality of death. Thus, after watching this film, I both mourned the loss of my grandparents, but saw the beauty in the end of it all. I couldn’t review it then because it was just too much. As it is, this little write up elicits the same emotions I felt then.

Amour is the portrayal of a couple who love each other deeply. One day, one them starts to fade into senility. The film is mostly set in the rooms of one apartment and in its claustrophobic way, it gives us the true horror of how it is to lose someone you love. Michael Haneke lets Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva play out the sparse script creating a palpable portrayal of romance, friendship, and touching partnered rituals. Quiet moments seem so real that it may seem that they are left open to interpretation, but upon closer look at scenes, there is no hidden meaning; things are what the characters produce them to be in their reactions. Shots of Anne sitting in her living room looking at her unused piano or Georges looking lovingly into his wife’s unfocused eyes, they’re all too intimate views of unsurmountable situations.

I want to recommend this film, but I warn that you’ll feel like you’ve just seen a horror film, so take a close friend or loved one. It’s a must see for it’s superb realism.

Chris Knight’s review:  http://arts.nationalpost.com/2013/01/10/amour-reviewed-love-hurts-those-in-michael-hanekes-film-and-those-watching/  

4.
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Manakamana: Trailer

Not everybody loved this film, but I found so much charm in watching travellers go back and forth in the sky car. Some of them reminisce about the times when they had to travel several days to get to their temple, others sat in silence looking at the lush views that surround them, and sometimes the animals had more to say than the humans.

If you love documentaries and if you love true everyday stories, explore Manakamana. It’s nothing more than a silent commute in the sky, but then again, don’t we silently commute every day?

My spoiler free review: http://nextprojection.com/2013/09/13/tiff-2013-review-manakamana-2013-np-approved/

5.

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Berberian Sound Studio: Trailer

At first, I was more intrigued with the soundtrack to this film than I was to what the film was giving me. The workings of film sound engineering are so vast and complex and that’s not even scratching the surface at all of the production that goes into making a film. I’ve never wanted to be filmmaker and I’ve never been trained for it because the amount of project management that goes into a film is way too much for this already insane multi-tasker. Peter Strickland offers up a tribute to sound engineering, but also an audio retrospective of old giallo films.

I love giallo flicks for the sinister sets and visceral portrayals of slasher gore. I was never big into the slashing and dicing of women in it, but stylistically, the genre is an archetypal foundation to many of the films that came after it to this day. Sound effects featured hugely in the unseen, the world of the film in the mind can only be created fully with sound and setting. You can create entire feature with just set and sound. This film attempts that and it’s my opinion that it succeeds in its task. Much credit is due to Toby Jones touching work as a man on edge.

My spoiler free review: http://nextprojection.com/2013/06/13/review-berberian-sound-studio-2012/

6.
MV5BMTAxNzE5NzU0MDleQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDY4MzU3NDAx._V1_SX640_SY720_ Les Salauds/Bastards: Trailer

I’m a big fan of Claire Denis. Chocolat is in my top films that I’ve ever seen. It’s a simple film, but one that visually connects personal recollections a part of history itself. Denis is an expert at painting emotive visuals that are nuanced in their delivery. With Bastards, Denis takes all of her skills and gives us a sensually provocative image collage that gets under your skin.

I’m not going to lie, I’ll rewind and re-watch Vincent Lindon and Chiara Mastroianni bumping bodies together. It has been one of the highlights of this movie season. The film is markedly complimented by the Tindersticks soundtrack that seeps into the film as if it were another character itself.

Bastards is disturbing and gorgeous. I now require all of the Tindersticks I can possibly consume.

José Teodoro‘s Bastards review and interview with Claire Denis: http://cinema-scope.com/cinema-scope-online/sanctuary-claire-denis-bastards/

7.

MV5BMTQxNTc3NDM2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzQ5NTQ3OQ@@._V1._CR28,28.649993896484375,1271,1991.0000305175781_SX640_SY720_ Don Jon: Trailer

Is it Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s smug face that keeps my friends from watching this movie? I know the trailer doesn’t do this film justice. It was a pleasant surprise to me overall at how much I enjoyed it.

It’s a smart and charismatic take on romantic comedies. Don Jon is addicted to porn. Are the ladies addicted to rom com? This is either an uncomfortably hilarious date movie or a good conversation starter.

Sabrina Maddeaux‘s review: http://www.torontostandard.com/culture/tiff-13-review-don-jon

 

 

 

 

 

8.

MV5BMTQ1MjQwMTE5OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjk3MTcyMDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_ Frozen: Trailer

I didn’t want to see this movie. I mean, *stomps feet* I didn’t want to see this movie. The trailer made it unappealing in the same “this all that Disney can offer now” way. We had an icestorm here in Toronto which left my family without power for a couple of days so we had to find something to do to keep the kids entertained. It was a gamble because my youngest will not sit still for long in a theatre. It takes a lot preparation, a keen interest on her part for the film, and sometimes her autistic tics aren’t conducive to a quiet theatre crowd. Luckily, she was in the mood for anything new that day. We headed into the theatre with our huge boxes of popcorn and candy and I was ready to focus on keeping my daughter in her seat for almost two hours.

Thank you for the surprise Disney. This in no way redeems previous features where the plot depended on women hating each other and tacky plots to make us believe that life is so hard for the privileged (I know, IT’S JUST A DISNEY MOVIE. A CARTOON!), but when you have a kid and you have a conscience, you have to think about the candy floss you put before impressionable minds.

Frozen has two strong female characters who are sisters that love each other immensely. Men come to save them, but in the end, it doesn’t work out that way. The charm and clever subplots earns this film a top spot in my memorable picks because who knew that Disney could renew itself? And who’d a thought a snowman singing about summer would be so touching?

Linda Barnard’s review:  http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/movies/2013/11/27/animated_frozen_will_warm_your_heart_movie_review.html

Special mentions (links to reviews):The Oxbow CureBlackfish, Call Girl, Pepper’s Ghost, La Ultima Pelicula, Big Bad Wolves, A Field In England, and Beyond the Black Rainbow. Oh and Short Term 12! (That Kiva Reardon review parses it with good bite).

Favourite interview conducted:Pirjo Honkasalo

Movies I disliked and bear mention because they were so awful (links to reviews):

The Canyons, Hammer of The Gods, and Passion.

As for shows, I got nothing much because I’m still catching up with everyone else, however, I’ve suddenly become a huge Dr. Who fan because of my son.

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Happy Holidays movie watching folks. Keep warm and stay safe.

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4 thoughts on “Some of the memorable films I saw in 2013.

  1. Thanks for the list.

    To my embarrassment, of the eight you identify, I’ve only seen Only God Forgives and Amour in their complete form. I keep meaning to watch Upstream Color and my sister insists on my watching Frozen…

    If you take requests, I would be very interested to read your reaction to “Aint Them Bodies Saints”.

    BTW, I don’t think Chang from Only God Forgives is intended to be experienced as villainous. More importantly, condolences on the death of your grandmother. First Christmas without her?

    KW.

    • There are quite a few missed this year myself and even then, still trying to catch up.

      Do so watch Upstream Color. Not enough people have seen it. 🙂

      I do take requests and will watch Aint Them Bodies Saints this week.

      Depends on what we’re defining as villainous. Although he was very much a provoker and “god” he was definitely creepy. For a mainstream audience he is a villain.

      Thanks. My grandma passed last year before Christmas. It’s been a year of collecting my thoughts on the whole process.

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