Monday, 23 December 2013

The Skinny's Films of 2013

The current issue of The Skinny includes the film team's top movies of the year - a rather good list if you ask me...

1. Before Midnight (dir. Richard Linklater)
2. Frances Ha (dir. Noah Baumbach)
3. The Selfish Giant (dir. Clio Barnard)
4. Wadjda (dir. Haifaa Al-Mansour)
5. Spring Breakers (dir. Harmony Korine)
6. The Act of Killing (dir. Joshua Oppenheimer)
7. Gravity (dir. Alfonso Cuaron)
8. Zero Dark Thirty (dir. Kathryn Bigelow)
9. Beyond the Hills (dir. Cristian Mungiu)
10. Ain't Them Bodies Saints (dir. David Lowery)

And I wrote a couple of wee right-ups for numbers 2 and 8.

Zero Dark Thirty
Incurring criticism from both ends of the political spectrum, director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal’s forensic dramatisation of the decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden proved something of an ideological Rorschach test: torture apologia to some, soft liberal indictment to others. Fittingly, the film’s true character lies somewhere in the murky, contestable hinterland, with more room for debate than either flank of the anti-ZDT pincer allowed, as Jessica Chastain’s hard-nosed CIA agent homes in on her elusive white whale. For all its simplifications and elisions, it’s a marvel of narrative engineering, with years of global turbulence and knotty sleuthing trimmed to fit a thriller format that rivets in the moment but leaves you chewing over its content long after.

Frances Ha
Visiting her former roommate Frances’s new dwellings – dwellings that change multiple times during Frances Ha, as the eponymous 27-year-old drifts across the five boroughs and beyond – BFF Sophie delivers one of the film’s numerous arch zingers: “This apartment is very… aware of itself,” she sniffs. The same could be said, less derisorily, for Noah Baumbach’s seventh feature, which self-consciously offers familiarity in its themes (everyday embarrassment and the quarter-life crisis) and execution (with a monochrome NYC underscoring the Woody Allen parallels). But in the title role, co-screenwriter Greta Gerwig offers something fresh: not that indie staple of a kooky fantasy to fall for, but a gauchely charming hero to root for, with neuroses balanced by a vibrant joie de vivre.  

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