Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking Back: The Best and Favorite Films of 2013

A few words of explanation-

I can't conform to typical the best of the year requirements. I see so many films from all over the film map that it would be impossible just to have films from one year on a list. Instead I group all the films I see in a year together because that's when the film came into my view. These are the best films I saw in 2013, released, unreleased whatever.

The number of films here is way more than ten. I can't try to clip everything to an arbitrary number. These are the films I think are best or if not the best the ones that are my favorites and which hung with me, which is probably about the same thing.

I've also made a list of some of the best moments and pieces of the film year.

Actually the best part of any film year is just going to the movies with my friends. Going to the movies with my friends tops any movie. In all seriousness you can give me a bad movie but if I get to hang with any of the Unseen Films crew and it's extended and growing family of film fans I'm thrilled. You see the names in the sidebar and you see them mentioned in the reports and going to the movies is infinitely better for having them around to kibitz with before during and after every film. I love everyone dearly and I wouldn't trade them for the world (or even a new puppy)

The best film related moments:

Kathleen Hana sitting down with the the high school girls after The Punk Singer screening at DOC NYC was wonderful. She had engaged the girls during the Q&A and then sat down with them when it was over as if she was one of them. All celebrities should be like that.

Getting to interview Donnie Yen with Hubert was something I still can't believe happened. He's a hero for me and one hell of a nice guy. It was the second time meeting the great man and it was joy.

I saw Jackie Chan three times in two days. I was inches away from someone I admired for decades and he was as charming and as wonderful as I hoped. Yea I'm a fanboy some times

The post film discussions at Tribeca and every other film festival. Who said movie going wasn't a social activity?

The best film bits:

The intermission of Holy Motors is great music- what a great interlude

The end of Les Miserables makes what doesn't work on stage work on film. Feel the goose bumps.

Final moments of Zero Dark Thirty- too bad it took two and a half hours to get there

The Discovery of Simon Yam as film director

Anthony Wong in Ip Man Final Fight. And of course Oscar won't notice.

Tony Leung Ka-fai-in Cold War. Another performance that Oscar will ignore.

The Best Films of 2013 in no particular order

Padak- thoughtful animation about life and death and a whole lot more. Sure it will scare the kids but it will move the adults.

Libido from ABC's of Death talk about dark and disturbing and really really wrong.

Ernest and Celestine- Charming and wonderful and one of the best animated films of the last 10 years- at least. Lets hope Oscar notices...

Day of the Crows- Out Ghibliing Ghibli that kicks ass and takes names at the end. The best Ghibli film they never made and better than most of their production from the last few years. Would someone please release this film in the US?

Flying Guillotine 2/Return of the One Armed Swordsman- These sequels out did the originals (Yes I know Flying was last years list  but I'm doing it as a paring)

Before Midnight Third in a series works completely independent of the series. One of the best films on relationships you'll ever see. Don't worry that you haven't seen the first two films, just see this because its that damn good

Byzantium- is the vampire film that Interview With A Vampire should have been. It puts to shame every recent film, and many going back decades. Its all character as it should be and less interested in style and bloodletting.

Trials of Muhammad Ali-The greatest film on The Greatest I've ever seen.

Frankenstein's Army one of the best monster films ever made.

My Afghanistan- the real situation in Afghanistan filmed by the people who live there. What the hell are we doing there? They don't need us.

Camp 14 life in and out of a North Korean prison camp. The reality will curl your hair.

Hank and Asha A lovely romance all by video letters, yea it get a tad messy at the end but its still wonderful.

The Day God Slept proof great things come in small packages. A mind bending thought provoking film is as good as filmmaking gets.

Behind the Camera- what happens when a director decides to direct a film in Korea while staying in Los Angeles. I can't say enough about the OH WOW factor of this cool documentary.

Decelerators is a film that single handedly ends the debate as to whether a film has to be long to be great.  Its five minutes long and simply one of the greatest films I've seen...ever. (Which kind of puts it past being quantified or ranked)

Sion Sono's Bad Film is an almost 3 hour tone poem that is just god damn amazing. Its just a must see.

Burning Buddha Man- There is nothing like it- anywhere, ever. And if it there its never been this compelling.

Thantomorphoes-gross disgusting and disturbing. Talk about body horror

Captain Phillips- Tom Hanks is just- WOW.

Europa Report- to hell with Gravity, this is the real deal. The best space film you've never seen

1 - The history of Formula One through the need for safety. Its just one of the best racing films I've ever seen

The Immigrant when you hit that final image and it all comes together you realize how wonderful and weirdly hopeful it all is your jaw drops and you realize you've seen magic. When is this getting a release?

Last Safari-the images from this film on the big screen will blow you away

Broken Circle Breakdown- I refused to put this on my best of Tribeca because this was too damn sad. On the other hand it is too damn haunting not to say its one of the absolute best of the year. Even the soundtrack breaks my heart

Touba- what a fantastic experience-its like being there

A World Not Ours- It's as if Woody Allen does a film about Palestine and makes you think

Things Left Behind- THE BEST FILM OF THE YEAR HAND DOWN and one of the greatest anti-war films I've ever seen

Beautiful Waste- The beauty under the streets on NYC

Flutter- the story of a man who love butterflies. A perfect marriage of sound and image.

On:Blooming Art Portrait of an artist

The Act of Killing not sure if this should be here because it's been over-hyped but its damn good

Revenge of the Meekons- Still debating where this belongs but consider a room full of critics applauded when it ended.

Big Joy- The Adventures of James Broughton- a beautiful explanation as to why we all need to twirl more often.

Better Things: The Life and Choices of Jeffrey Catherine Jones is a great look at an artist who did what he/she had to do to be happy. Its a great look at creativity and how we all must follow our own path. I did do a piece to help finish the film be funded back in October but there has been no formal review due in part to battles as to who was going to review it and stalled interview with the director that was to run in tandem with the review. Its getting, I was told, a release in 2014 and you owe it to yourself to see it.

Late addition to the list is Another Day Another Time:Celebrating the Music of Llewyn Davis- a damn close second best film of the year played on Showtime. a chronicle of the concert at New York's Town Hall of music from Inside Llewyn Davis and that inspired it. It makes me glad I missed the concert because this has random jam sessions in the halls and dressing rooms.... pure musical joy.

I'm not sure if I should put The Congress on the list for 2013 or the on for 2014. I saw the film in 2013 for a film festival for in 2014. Ari Folman's follow up to Waltz with Bashir is a flawed masterpiece.  A heady film about reality, media and life this film has enough food for thought for about 80 other films. Based, loosely, on a novel by Stanislaw Lem who gave us Solaris, this is a film that is easily matches up to Tarkovsky's Solaris and Stalker. I'm going to review the film in a couple of days- but until then if you're going to be in New York on January 11 you may want to consider going to see this at the New York Jewish Film Festival.

Bending Steel - Marvelous film about finding what you're good at and thus finding yourself in bending steel.  The best thing I can say about this film is I don't know anyone who doesn't love it.

That's it for 2013- onward and upward to 2014

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