Top Ten Films of 2013

Top Ten Films 2013

2013 has been an above average year for films. 2013 is an excellent vintage for a film to have. In the future you can pull a DVD off the shelf, note that it was made in 2013 and be assured that there is a good chance you are buying a top quality film. Film works like wine, right?

I have agonised over the list below; there were so many films I wanted to mention but had to leave out in favour of films that either tried something a little different or spoke to me personally. I’ve tried to have a good mix of genres and styles and yet the majority seem to feature an in-depth look at human emotions, three have pivotal scenes involving a piano, and two were shot in black & white. On with the list:

10 – The Comedian

10 - The Comedian

Funnily enough this was the hardest position on the list to decide on as whatever film doesn’t make this slot doesn’t make the list at all. In the end I settled on Tom Shkolnik’s debut film about a young man living in London. Protagonist Ed is unsatisfied in his job and his love life and finds himself a little lost in his life in London. The film has no strict plot but instead features authentic feeling improvised scenes and simply offers a glimpse into a short period in the life of a character. I related to the film on a very personal level which earned it a place in my top 10 but which also makes me a little nervous to recommend it. Like another film much higher on this list The Comedian gives us a little peek at human relationships and does it in such a realistic way I couldn’t help but love it. More gushing in my review.

9 – A Field in England

9 - A Field in England

And now for something completely different… Over the past four years Ben Wheatley has made four films and cemented himself in the world of British film as a man who can produce low budget films filled with unbearable tension, extreme violence, and surprisingly real characters. His fourth film took a strange turn as he produced a black & white piece set during the civil war in which all manner of horrors occur in a field in England. The film was released in cinemas and on TV, DVD, Blu-Ray, and VOD all on the same day but that is far from the most remarkable thing about it. I couldn’t begin to explain the plot of A Field in England or the relatively tame but somehow harrowing visuals it contains. This is bold, brave British film-making; something we could do with a lot more of.

8 – Breathe In

8 - Breathe In

Two years ago Drake Doremus’ debut film Like Crazy was released and despite it being an impressive first film there was something about it I couldn’t quite get behind. In his follow-up, a story of infidelity and temptation starring Felicity Jones and Guy Pearce, Doremus has utilised his improvisational style to produce a fantastic feature. This is a film of lust and longing, and not being satisfied with the cards life has dealt you. What is most impressive is that Doremus manages to create scenes of incredible sexual tension and sensuality without ever needed to show anything more than a longing look or a gentle touch. Worth an entry on this list for its ability to replace sex scenes with piano duets without losing any of the sexiness.

7 – Philomena

7 - Philomena

2013 has definitely been a great year for films and specifically a great year for Steve Coogan. Four of his films were fighting for a position in my top ten but ultimately I could only allow myself one on the list. Philomena gets this most coveted position for being the only film of the four to bring me to tears. The story of an old woman searching for the son she was forced to give up 50 years ago is a heartbreaking one but the script, co-authored by Coogan, manages to be hilarious too. As we watch the unlikely pairing of Coogan’s uptight journalist and Judi Dench’s kind-hearted and deeply religious pensioner the film explores faith, family, and forgiveness in and even handed and enjoyable way. Ultimately the story of Philomena, deeply based in fact rather than fiction, is not a happy one but she isn’t going to let it get the best of her so neither should you. Full review here.

6 – Stoker

6 - Stoker

Stoker completely passed me by when it had a cinematic release in March of this year but in an effort to fill in some of the gaps in my film watching I caught up with the film over the Christmas break, and I am glad that I did. Stoker is written by Prison Break star Wentworth Miller and directed by Korean legend Chan-wook Park and is a stunningly shot gothic thriller. Mia Wasikowska plays a young girl coming of age who has just lost her father and is getting to know her previously unheard of young uncle, Matthew Goode, who comes to stay with her and her mother. The film has strangely vibrant yet artificial looking visuals and some brilliantly arch performances from its leads which allows the film to have its characters behave in a way that is slightly otherworldly. Stoker manages to maintain a strange tension throughout which created a sense that sex or violence could erupt at any moment. This film also features a second sensual scene focusing on a piano duet but things get slightly more extreme, as is so often the case with Stoker. A totally unique modern thriller that Hitchcock wouldn’t be ashamed to have directed.

5 – Saving Mr. Banks

5 - Saving Mr. Banks

At number 5 we have a very personal choice for myself. I really can’t tell if Saving Mr. Banks is actually a good film or just a load of sentimental nonsense as I am so blinded by all the baggage I am bringing to the film. Saving Mr. Banks is the story of the battle between Walt Disney and the author of Mary Poppins P.L. Travers as he tries to obtain film rights for the books from a woman who hates cartoons, musicals, and Dick van Dyke. As someone who grew up on a heavy dose of Julie Andrews singing there is something bizarrely nostalgic about this film set twenty years before I was born. Combine this with another fine performance from Emma Thompson and the result is me in repeated floods of tears at a press screening. If you love Mary Poppins then no doubt you will love Saving Mr. Banks, otherwise I probably wouldn’t bother. Full review here.

4 – Nebraska

4 - Nebraska

Have you ever received a letter telling you that you might have won millions and that you just need to phone a number or go to an address with your prize code to find out? Nebraska is the story of one man (Bruce Dern) who takes the letter seriously. Worrying that his father will try to take the journey to claim his prize alone his son (Will Forte) agrees to drive him there just to make sure he doesn’t die in the process. Along the way they stop off at the old man’s hometown and old family feuds resurface as people are mocking and jealous of the possible windfall in equal measure. Shot in gorgeous black & white Alexander Payne has made another beautiful film, one that shows the quirks of family and how important and frail dignity can be even as you get older. Funny and touching Nebraska is never inauthentic or cloying. Perfect. Full review here.

3 – Behind the Candelabra

3 - Behind the Candelabra

Having declared his retirement from directing films for the cinema Steven Soderbergh went on to direct this biopic of Liberace (Michael Douglas) and the story of his love affair with the initially young Scott (Matt Damon). In the UK we scuppered his plan for retirement by deciding that the film was too good for TV and gave it a cinematic release instead. In Behind the Candelabra Soderbergh has created a gloriously camp retelling of the life of one gloriously camp performer, and the life of an ego so big that he gives his boyfriend plastic surgery so that he can share more of Liberace’s features. Douglas and Damon are both playing completely against type and doing a fabulous job of it but neither are so brilliant as Rob Lowe who plays the taut faced plastic surgeon who can’t so much as close his eyes any more. The whole film is turned up to eleven and is a real joy to watch. Just don’t go expecting any subtle sexy scenes at the piano as Liberace eschews subtlety in favour of glitter, candelabras, and an on-stage limo.

2 – Before Midnight

2 - Before Midnight

We return to the theme of relationships that runs through this list as we reunite with one of cinema’s best couples and the most enduring onscreen romance. Richard Linklater first introduced us to Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) back in 1995 when the two lovers met, spent a night together, and went their separate ways. 9 years later the pair were reunited in Paris and shared one long real-time conversation before leaving us with a cliff hanger. Since 2004 audiences have been left wondering whether Jesse stayed to spend another night with Celine or went back to America to his wife and child. Their love story is continued in Before Midnight as we drop back into their lives as a proper couple with their own children on holiday in Greece. Through a series of conversations we see that Jesse and Celine are still very much in love but that the years have taken their toll on the young romantics and every conversation has an undertone harking back to an argument years in the making. The Before trilogy is always pretentious, funny, and touching and as theatrical as the lengthy conversations might be the performances never stray far from my favourite adjective; authentic. Here we are watching characters we love struggle in their relationship and it is all painfully real.

1 – Blue is the Warmest Colour

1 - Blue is the Warmest Colour

The only thing that can possibly top a brief trip into the relationship of Jesse and Celine is a film that encompasses an entire relationship. Across the three hours we follow French teenager Adèle as she slowly becomes an adult and discovers her own sexuality through initial fumbles with boys and then her life changing romance with the enigmatic Emma. Director Abdellatif Kechiche has come under a lot of criticism for the film since he and the young stars (Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux) won the Palme d’Or at Cannes but none of that can do anything to stop the resulting film from being so incredible. As the relationship between Adèle and Emma waxes and wanes we see all facets of their relationship. Yes we see their sex life but we see their snotty, blotchy faced arguments too. We see their initial flirtation in a bar and their tragic post-relationship reunion in a cafe. We see their conflicting family dynamics as Adèle is introduced to Emma’s foodie family as her girlfriend and Emma is invited round to Adèle’s as a friend to enjoy some bland spaghetti. The performances at the center of the film are fantastically raw and, all together now, authentic. At the end of my screening Kechiche and Exarchopoulo came out for a Q&A but I couldn’t stay to watch it for fear of ruining the illusion that the Adèle I had been watching was a living, breathing human being and someone whose most intimate moments I had seen laid bare. This marks the third year in a row that a French film has taken my top film title; they must be doing something right. Full review here.

Top 20 Films of 2011
Top 10 Films of 2012

Out Now – 19th July 2013

Breathe In

The World’s End
When Shaun of the Dead was released nine years ago I went with some friends to the cinema on Easter weekend. I distinctly remember buying everyone a Cadbury’s Creme Egg, what a guy! I was so blown away by it that when Hot Fuzz came out three years later I travelled via Megabus from Cardiff to see it at a preview screening at the ICA hosted by Wright, Pegg, and Frost. Now with The World’s End in cinemas the younger version of myself is probably distraught that I haven’t already seen the film at a midnight screening. Ah well, we get older, and I’ll still be seeing it this weekend. EXCITED!

Breathe In
The two head honchos here at Mild Concern have harboured entirely professional crushes on Felicity Jones and Guy Pearce for years and so the combination of their acting talents in Drake Doremus’ second feature about forbidden desire is too tempting for us to pass up. I couldn’t bring myself to harm a pixel in the image above. I am so weak.

The Frozen Ground
Alaska State Trooper Nicholas Cage is on the hunt for serial killer John Cusack with the help of Vanessa Hudgens who managed to escape his clutches. Also starring 50 Cent as Pimp Clate Johnson. I don’t know if he is a pimp or just has a very unfortunate first name.

Roman Holiday (limited re-release)
Classic comedy starring Audrey Hepburn gets re-released 60 years after its original arrival. Winner of three Oscars and a U certificate; beware the “very mild fight scene”.

Wadjda (limited release)
“An enterprising Saudi girl signs off for her school’s Koran recitation competition as a way to raise the remaining funds she needs in order to buy the green bicycle that has captured her interest.” Apparently in a recitation competition you have to memorise a poem or passage. “Twas brillig…”

Easy Money (limited release)
Serbian crime thriller with a plot synopsis that confused me greatly. Suffice it to say that drugs and guns are involved. And Martin Scorsese too somehow.

Eden (limited release)
“A young Korean-American girl, abducted and forced into prostitution by domestic human traffickers, joins forces with her captors in a desperate plea to survive.” Sounds like an aggressive adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.

Suspension of Disbelief (limited release)
IMDb annoyingly lacks any plot details about this film from Paul Higgis but the Guardian tantalisingly describes it as “a self-deconstructing movie-within-a-movie about illusions, reality and falsehood”. This sounded incredibly tempting until I saw that they had also given it just two stars. Ah well.

Hipster Guide to Summer Cinema – July Edition


And we’re back with the second part of our Hipster Guide to Summer Cinema. If you want to avoid superheroes and romantic comedies and need help seeking out the films that won’t damage your hipster credentials then this is the guide for you as we look ahead to July.

5th July 2013The Bling Ring

Not only is this the painfully cool, and genuinely brilliant, Sofia Coppola’s fifth film as writer and director, it is also Emma Watson’s first “grown-up” role since Harry Potter, which most hipsters grew up reading and so struggle to raise their usual level of scorn for. What’s more the film takes a stance against the materialistic world of celebrities and the manner in which they are simultaneously put on a pedestal while highlighting their every flaw. Scoff at pop culture while indulging in it, what does a hipster do better?


A Field in England

Ben Wheatley has carved a niche for himself in making low budget, brutally violent, searingly funny, and outlandishly truthful British films as he brought us gangsters, hitmen, and serial killers. Now with his latest film set during the English Civil War he breaks all the rules and releases it simultaneously in cinemas, on DVD, and on Video on Demand. A historical film with a most modern distribution method. What’s not to love?

12th July 2013

Monsters University

Much as hipsters grew up reading Harry Potter they were still children when Monsters, Inc. first came out in 2001. Besides, Pixar is a film studio that somehow transcends all segments of society as children and adults, hipsters and chavs all laugh and cry together as the animated pixels tell stories on-screen. For me Monsters, Inc. was my first ever DVD, one which I had to take to a friend’s house to watch, so this prequel will be warmly welcomed into the Pixar oeuvre.

We Steal Secrets The Story of Wikileaks

WikiLeaks is a fascinating organisation that strives to reveal the secrets of the world for the good of its citizens. It’s founder Julian Assange is similarly intriguing with his sex scandals and slightly creepy air and the fact that he has spoken out against this documentary, which covers two decades of his crusade, makes the film all the more intriguing.

19th July 2013The World's End

From the early days of Spaced the combined efforts of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg have inspired an intense cult following. As my movie maths has shown Simon Pegg is not so good when Edgar is not around so fans will have been sitting patiently through Star Trek, waiting for this momentous day and the release of the third and final instalment in their genre bending Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy. This time around a pub crawl becomes a fight for humanity’s survival.

Breathe In

Two years ago Drake Doremus came from nowhere and brought us the beautifully shot, impressively improvised, and ultimately frustrating drama about a doomed long distance relationship. More importantly Doremus brought us 90 minutes of almost non-stop Felicity Jones, something he is repeating in his second feature; an improvised drama about an exchange student who falls for the father of her host family.

The rest of July is much less inspiring with films like The Wolverine and The Smurfs 2 coming out and scaring the hipsters away. If only Darren Aronofsky had followed through and directed The Wolverine, it might have qualified.