PG Cooper’s Top 30 Non-2013 Films Viewed in 2013

Posted: January 3, 2014 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists

2013 is over, and already critics and internet bloggers are rapidly working on year end lists and honours. I’m not quite ready to do this. There are still a few major 2013 releases I want to check off first. However, like last year I wanted to put together a list of the best non-2013 films I watched for the first time in 2013. Last year I did twenty films, but I saw so many great films in 2013 I had to expand to thirty. Let’s dive in…

30. The Haunting (Watched October 12th)

the-haunting-1963-posterThis year, I saw two films from director Robert Wise, a filmmaker who I had no prior experience with. While The Day the Earth Stood Still is a more important film, I find The Haunting to be an overall better film. The plot follows a group of people who move into a supposedly haunted house to prove whether it actually is. Though the story is pretty standard haunted house fare, the execution really elevates the material. First off, the film plays with the ambiguity of whether or not the house is haunted very well. It never flat out answers one way or the other but also provides enough set-piece moments to keep the film interesting. There’s also some really good acting here, particularly from Julie Harris who handles her character’s mental degradation very well. Wise gives the film a very chilling atmosphere and the film builds to a very powerful climax. It can be a slow burn, but The Haunting is highly rewarding and one of the best horror movies I saw over Halloween.

“Look, I know the supernatural is something that isn’t supposed to happen, but it does happen.”

29. The 39 Steps (Watched March 9th)

39_steps_FILM_MOVIE_CINEMA_POSTERI loved The 39 Steps on first viewing and while time has lessened my esteem for the film slightly, this is still a great film. An innocent man is mixed up into a tale of murders and spies and must clear his name as well as expose the truth. The 39 Steps has everything that makes Alfred Hitchcock great. It’s a highly suspenseful film with some colourful performances, well-staged set-pieces, humour, romance, and the whole film is just a ton of fun. For anyone seeking a good example of escapism, this is it. While similarities to the plot of North by Northwest hurt the film, this is still a really great thriller and a highly entertaining film.

“What are The 39 Steps?”

28. The Man Who Wasn’t There (Watched March 19th)

148114.1020.AOne of The Coen Brothers’ underappreciated gems, The Man Who Wasn’t There follows a local barber whose life falls out of control thanks to crime and greed. This is a really fascinating and low key film-noir from the brothers, and one which dwells on a number of important themes. The plot is an intriguing yarn of ironies and mistakes which continuously build and it’s great to see such a simple tale made complicated by simple mistakes. The film is shot in very stylish black and white and I love the film’s deliberately slow pace. Dark as the film is, the Coens also bring their signature wit to the proceedings. I’m not sure I entirely understand certain elements of the film and I also don’t think it’s particularly memorable, but dwelling on The Man Who Wasn’t There makes me realize just how strong a film it is.

“No, I mean it’s growing, it’s part of us. And we cut it off. And we throw it away.”

27. Black Dynamite (Watched March 22nd)

black_dynamite_ver3For anyone who hasn’t seen it, the trailer for Black Dynamite is a work of art and I was worried the movie couldn’t live up to it. Thankfully this is not the case; Black Dynamite is all kinds of awesome. The film is a Blaxploitation parody which follows Black Dynamite as he avenges the death of his brother at the hands of the man. Movies like this live or die by their humour, and Black Dynamite is hilarious. Whether it be from Michael Jai White’s delivery, the colourful supporting cast, the clever writing, or director Scott Sanders comedic timing, this film constantly has me laughing. This is the kind of absurd comedy not everyone will embrace, but I found a lot to laugh at and I admire the creativity. Michael Jai White is really great in the lead role and while the film probably goes too far near the end I can’t complain too much given how funny and thoroughly entertaining it all is.

“Who the hell is interrupting my kung fu?”

26. Throne of Blood (Watched March 11th)

1232705239-m2012 was the year Akira Kurosawa came to my attention as one of my favourite filmmakers with films like Ran, Rashomon, and Seven Samurai. This year I saw a lot more Kurosawa films, but few which approached the lofty heights of the aforementioned films. Throne of Blood is one of the few. The film is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the story of a warrior who is driven to seize power by mysterious forces and the encouragement of his wife. Shakespeare’s story is historically a dark one and Kurosawa really embraces this. Many of his films are about the evil humanity is capable of, but none handle the theme as pessimistically as Throne of Blood does. This is a very dark meditation on the nature of power and greed. The art direction and cinematography are excellent and Kurosawa crafts some really awesome scenes. The film has some great performances as well, notably from Toshiro Mifune in the lead role, Isuzu Yamada as his wife, and Chieko Naniwa as the witch. The film also has an unforgettable ending which makes a change to Shakespeare’s play which may upset purists but which I loved. I do feel like Throne of Blood feels a little bit rushed, but there are far too many excellent elements to be ignored.

“Ambition is false fame and will fall, death will reign, man falls in vein.”

25. Take Shelter (Watched July 5th)

takeshelterI really liked Take Shelter on first viewing, but it’s only as time has gone on that I’ve realized how great a movie it is. Michael Shannon plays a family man living in a small town who becomes plagued my apocalyptic visions. He becomes obsessed by building a storm shelter to protect himself and his family. He had made a film before, but it was with Take Shelter that director Jeff Nichols really established himself as a rising talent. He gives the film a really eerie atmosphere and while his visuals are restrained, there is a unique look to the film. The dream sequences are also excellent. Michael Shannon gives what remains his best performance and Jessica Chastain’s work is strong as well. I also love the score. I’m still not fond of the film’s ending, but this is a great film and a far better one than I initially gave credit for.

“You think I’m crazy? Well, listen up, there’s a storm coming like nothing you’ve ever seen, and not a one of you is prepared for it.”

24. The Invisible Man (Watched October 27th)

the-invisible-man-movie-poster-1933-1020141475One of the classic Universal Monster Movies, The Invisible Man follows a scientist who develops a potion which gives him invisibility but also has driven him insane. Here’s the thing about The Invisible Man; it’s a very flawed film. There’s some really bad acting from the bit players, there are some silly moments, and the ending is a bit of a cop out. And yet, I still love the film. There’s just something so entertaining about the film that I can’t help but be won over by it. A big part of that is the pace. While most of the Universal Monster films are pretty slow and dreary, The Invisible Man is really fast paced as well as being loaded with humour. Claude Rains is also great as the titular character, being menacing, funny, and even tragic. It’s an over the top performance, but in the best possible way. Finally, the special effects used to pull off the invisibility are pretty inventive and ahead of their time. James Whale may always be remembered for Frankenstein, but in its own way, The Invisible Man is just as good.

“Suddenly I realized the power I held, the power to rule, to make the world grovel at my feet.”

23. About Schmidt (Watched April 4th)

about_schmidt About Schmidt was a movie I really liked when I saw it back in April, but I wasn’t sure I loved it. Time is filled in the blank for me; I love this film. The film follows Warren Schmidt, an elderly recent retired man. There’s definitely a plot here, but the events that happen are pretty minimal and it’s more about Schmidt reflecting on his life. Being an Alexander Payne film, there’s a significant mix of comedy and drama. The comedy here is pretty funny, especially Kathy Bates. However it’s the drama of Schmidt’s journey that really excels. There are some really moving moments and thought provoking ideas. A big part of the success comes from Jack Nicholson’s performance which is one of the best of the actor’s career. He plays completely against type and it’s a captivating performance. The film just captures a really human experience and the ending is extraordinarily touching. It’s a film of modest greatness, but greatness none the less.

“Dear Ndugu,”

22. The Insider (Watched May 3rd)

insider_ver1Michael Mann is a filmmaker best known for movies like Heat and Collateral; intense films with cool criminals and a looming threat of violence. It’s a testament to Mann’s craft that The Insider, a film consisting almost entirely of dialogue, is just as thrilling and intense as the aforementioned films. The film revolves around the true story of Jeffrey Wigand, a tobacco company employee who released information to the press and the consequences which followed. The film just shines with professionalism. The movie is well-shot and tightly edited and Mann displays measurable control throughout. Al Pacino and Christopher Plummer give great performances, but the scene stealer here is Russell Crowe who was just starting to show the world how good he is. The script by Mann and Eric Roth is well-structured and features a lot of great dialogue. The Insider isn’t a movie that really blew me away, but it is so well-executed on every level it has to be admired.

“I never left a source hang out to dry, ever! Abandoned! Not ’till right fucking now. When I came on this job I came with my word intact. I’m gonna leave with my word intact. Fuck the rules of the game!”

21. Black Hawk Down (Watched February 26th)

MPW-37550Black Hawk Down depicts the true events of the Battle of Mogadishu. This is a film which is all about the filmmaking. It has an interesting story, but also a very straight-forward and simple one. It also has a good cast, but the focus here isn’t really on the characters. So everything falls on the talent behind the camera and since it’s among the 30 best first time watches of the year, you can imagine that talent is pretty strong. Ridley Scott brings his usual attention to technical details to the forefront of the film and also brings a lot of energy and intensity to the film. This is a very visceral experience. The cinematography and editing are both great and the fact that Ridley maintains the action without numbing the audience to it is in itself an accomplishment. The key here is that Ridley gives the characters moments to speak. They may not be super fleshed out, but they do have personalities. If this were a film from a lesser director, it would likely be little more than a foot note. But a master filmmaker like Scott makes Black Hawk Down a major work.

“When I go home people’ll ask me, ‘Hey Hoot, why do you do it man? What, you some kinda war junkie?’ You know what I’ll say? I won’t say a goddamn word. Why? They won’t understand. They won’t understand why we do it. They won’t understand that it’s about the men next to you, and that’s it. That’s all it is.”

20. Carrie (1976) (Watched October 15th)

poster-Carrie-1976With a hip new remake coming out earlier this year, it seemed the perfect time to finally see Brian De Palma’s 1976 film. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I ended up really embracing the film. The titular character is an odd, shy high school teenage outcast who also possesses telepathic powers. The key to Carrie’s success is the performance of Sissy Spacek in the title role. She’s appropriately scary when her powers are unleashed, but it’s in the earlier scenes where her work truly shines. Spacek truly does feel like a weird, almost alien-like person and, sad as it is to say, you understand why she’s such an outcast. However Spacek also does a great job generating sympathy for the chracter, and De Palma never goes for the easy ways to do that either. Piper Lauire also gives a strong performance. De Palma’s style is restrained but his flurishes highly effective, and the obvious themes are very relevant. There are little flaws which add up, but when taken as a whole they’re mostly easy to ignore. Of all the horror films I watched for the first time over Halloween, this is my favourite.

“They’re all gonna laugh at you.”

19. Incendies (Watched November 18th)

incendies To me, these lists are important because they chronicle the best of my cinematic education. I find it amusing then that Incendies is the only film from my film course to crack the list. Anyway, Incendies opens with an elderly woman dying and leaving her children two letters to be brought to their father and long last brother. The film then switches from the daughter seeking answers to the mother’s story from youth. Most of the film is set in the Middle-East and many have been quick to comment on the political thematic ideas running through the film. These elements are certainly there and are certainly interesting, but where this film really shines is as a thriller. This is an impeccably well-crafted movie and the intercutting stories play well. Dennis Villeneuve’s direction is very professional and the man stages some very well thought out scenes. The film is also very tense and the performance from Lubna Azabal is quite good. This is top-notch craftsmanship and I expect great things in Villeneuve’s future.

“To a notary, Mr. Marwan, a promise is a sacred thing.”

18. Cape Fear (Watched March 16th)

Cape Fear posterAfter years in prison, Max Cady is released and seeks revenge on his defense lawyer who he feels wronged him. What we have here is a remake with a simple story that was definitely more of a studio film than a passion project for the filmmaker. So how did it end up on the list? It’s all about the execution. Martin Scorsese takes the story here and injects it full of style and energy. This is a film full of interesting choices visually, musically, and in editing. The way te tension gradually builds is also highly effective and there are a number of great scenes, Nick Nolte and Juliette Lewis are both good, and Robert De Niro is unforgettable as Max Cady. It may not be a particularly deep film, but Cape Fear sees one of the best actor/director teams of all time working in peak form.

“Counselor! Come out, come out, wherever you are!”

17. Modern Times (Watched August 10th)

Modern_Times_posterThis year I finally started watching some Charlie Chaplin films and while I saw a lot of great ones, Modern Times is the absolute greatest. The film sees Chaplin’s Little Tramp driven to the brink by industrialization. The film is one of the greatest examples of how to use comedy to make larger statements. Chaplin’s satire of industrialization and the poor economic status of the time is very bold and extremely biting. The movie has a lot of obvious satirical touches, such as the Billows Feeding Machine, as well as subtle ways like the way sound is used. On top of that, the film is hilarious and extremely entertaining. The aforementioned feeding machine, Chaplin consuming cocaine in prison, the rollerblading scene, it’s all just a ton of fun. Not every plot development works for me, but considering how smart and how funny the film is, there was no way it wouldn’t be on the list.

“Remember, if you wish to keep ahead of your competitor, you cannot afford to ignore the importance of the Billows Feeding Machine.”

16. Y Tu Mamá También (Watched June 29th)

y-tu-mama-tambien-movie-poster-2002-1020213965In 2013, Alfonso Cuaron scored a huge hit with Gravity. However I was geeking out over Cuaron’s talent months before when I watched Y Tu Mamá También for the first time. The film follows two teenage boys who go on a road trip with an older and very sexy woman. What I admire the most about Y Tu Mamá También is the layers. On the surface, the film is a coming of age story heavily tied to friendships and sexuality. These aren’t new themes to coming of age movies, but there’s honesty to Y Tu Mamá También that make these themes more profound. On a deeper level, the film is really about the way the higher classes are so absorbed on their own problems they don’t see the suffering of the less fortunate, even when it’s right in front of them. The film also features some great acting from the three leads and while Cuaron’s visual work isn’t as mind blowing as later works such as Gravity and Children of Men, it’s still quite impressive. This is the coming of age film to end coming of age films.

“Life is like the surf, so give yourself away like the sea.”

15. Eyes Wide Shut (March 1st)

eyes_wide_shutEyes Wide Shut was the last major Stanley Kubrick film I had to see (at this point all I have left is his first three efforts). As you can probably guess, the film lived up to Kubrick’s lofty standards. The film follows a young doctor who goes through a strange, sexually charged journey after a riff comes in his marriage. I say sexually charged journey but that label is somewhat misleading. The fact is we never actually see the protagonist have sex and his journey is of blue balls is almost the joke of the film. In some ways, Eyes Wide Shut is a mystery with the Tom Cruise character becoming swallowed in a web of conspiracy. In other ways, it’s a trance-like meditation on love, marriage, and sexuality. Kubrick’s direction is of course brilliant. He gives the film a peculiar tone where it as at once a fantasy and an erotic film, but there’s also something deeply unsettling at the core of it all. His musical choices are inspired and the cinematography, particularly the lighting, is very effective. Also, the famous orgy scene is one of the most memorable scenes of the director’s career. Overall, while I don’t understand every little bit about the film, it is still a mesmerizing one that has stuck with me and I look forward to revisiting it.

“No dream is ever just a dream.”

14. High and Low (Watched March 13th)

high_and_lowEarlier I mentioned how I saw a lot of Kurosawa films in 2013. There were a lot of good ones and a few great ones, but the absolute best has to be High and Low. The film revolves around a business man being tormented by kidnappers for a ransom. The twist here is due to a mix up, the kidnappers have taken a friend of the man’s son and not the son himself. What follows is a film which works on many levels. This is a thriller, a procedural, an ethical dilemma, and a study of class relationships. The fact that the film works on so many levels so seamlessly is a testament to Kurosawa’s craft. I also admire Kurosawa and the other screenwriters for never simplifiyng the characters based on their class status. This is a complicated tale with no absolutes. And as I’ve come to expect from their collaborations, Toshiro Mifune gives a great and nuanced performance. While none of the Kurosawa films quite matched the ones I saw in 2012 like Rashomon and Seven Samurai, this one can pretty damn close.

“I’d rather be told the cruel truth than be fed gentle lies.”

13. Fail-Safe (Watched August 11th)

failsafeonesheetFail-Safe will likely forever be remembered as the other nuclear disaster movie from 1964, always in the shadow of Dr. Strangelove. This really is a shame since Fail-Safe is a damn good film in its own right. Both films essentially have the same premise; an error leads to an American bomber being sent to Russia with the intent of deploying a nuclear weapon. The film than follows various politicians and military personnel as they try to find a solution. The difference is that while Stangelove is a comedy, Fail-Safe is deadly serious. While the first ten minutes didn’t really work for me, once the movie gets going it’s great, and only gets better and better as the time goes by. The tension is extremely palpable and the open conversations are stunning in their brutal honesty. Great performances all around and Sidney Lumet keeps the film visually interesting in subtle ways. Then there’s the ending, which is one of the bleakest, shocking, and powerful I’ve ever seen.

“Even if we do survive, what are we?”

12. Metropolis (Watched December 30th)

Metro_001The last film I watched in 2013 proved to be one of the best. Metropolis is the classic silent film which depicts a future where the wealthy live in vast towers while the workers are poor slaves living in the depths of the city. That sentence alone pretty clearly declares the film’s social meanings but that doesn’t make them any less important or relevant. Another major theme of the work is the advancement of technology and the possibility of it replacing humanity, a theme which can be felt in a plethora of science-fiction stories since. Beyond that, the film is also a staggering achievement in art direction. The sets and miniatures are awe-inspiring and it’s clear by looking at future the films the tremendous influence the film had. It’s hard not to admire the work Fritz Lang clearly put into the production. Special credit is also deserved for Brigitte Helm who gives a great performance. Metropolis’ plot has issues, but as a technical achievement it is ground breaking.

“There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator.”

11. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Watched January 5th)

MPW-40399This is not a film for everyone. Adapted from Hunter S. Thompson’s novel of the same name, itself based on Thompson’s personal experiences, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas chronicles Raoul Duke’s drug infused experiences in Las Vegas. It’s a wild, bizarre, and unforgettable journey that many people hate. I freaking love it. There are three reasons this movie works. The first is director Terry Gilliam’s visual style. The film constantly has this unique and aggressive look, but there’s also a lot of energy and dare I say sense of fun at times. The second reason is Johnny Depp’s performance. It’s a ton of fun to watch and the way Depp completely embodies the character is amazing. This is my favourite performance from the man. Finally, there’s Thompson’s original writing which really shines. This movie is just loaded with tons of memorable and interesting lines. I think Doug Walker (of Nostalgia Critic fame) said it best when he described the film as, “both so much fun to watch and yet also so hard to watch.”

“What was I doing here? What was the meaning of this trip? Was I just roaming around in a drug frenzy of some kind?”

10. My Neighbor Totoro (Watched January 20th)

my_neighbor_totoroA family moves to a new home and two young girls make friends with mystical creatures called Totoros. This is a really hard film to write about since not much actually happens in plot and there really isn’t much conflict to speak of. And yet it still finds a very high place on my list, trumping masters like Kubrick, Kurosawa, and Hitchcock. They key to the film is in the sense of wonder it inspires. There’s something very touching about the image of Totoro and the girls waiting at the bus stop or the Cat Bus which appears at the end. These scenes also show a lot of creativity from director Hayao Miyazaki. The film also has some beautiful moments and feels real in spite of the fantastical elements. Really it’s a miracle such a simplistic film works as well as it does, but there is just so much creativity and heart to My Neighbor Totoro that it inspires real joy in me.

“Trees and people used to be good friends.”

9. Hannah and Her Sisters (Watched April 14th)

hannah_and_her_sistersIn 2013, I watched a total of nine Woody Allen films for the first time (the only director I watched more of was Kurosawa at ten). I enjoyed all of these films to an extent, but rarely would one reach the heights of a Manhattan or an Annie Hall. Hannah and Her Sisters is one of the few exceptions. The film follows a plethora of characters all related through family. Highlights are the drama between the title characters, Elliot (Michael Caine) contemplating an affair with his wife’s sister, and Mickey (Woody Allen) being depressed and finding answers to the big questions. This is a film which speaks to all of Allen’s favourite themes, notably infidelity, dysfunctional families, relationships, and death. What really makes Hannah and Her Sisters stand out though are the various stories and the great cast. Michael Caine, Barabara Hershey, Dianne Wiest, Mia Farrow, Max Von Sydow, Allen himself, and several smaller actors all do great work. The film is also very funny and has an incredibly good ending. This may not be Allen’s best films, but in many ways it’s his ultimate one.

“I know maybe is a very slim reed to hang your whole life on, but that’s the best we have.”

8. A Prophet (Watched on May 18th)

a-prophet-movie-poster-2009-1020490514A young man named Malik arrives in prison, weak and unable to read or write. As time goes by, he becomes sucked into the organized crime of the prison and begins to rise in that world. It’s so hard to make a memorable crime film these days. So many classics have raised the genre standards so high that good films are often punished for not being great. But A Prophet is a great film. Watching Malik’s turn from mild and weak to cold and calculating is always interesting. Tahar Rahim gives a great performance as Malik. His transformation is a very subtle one and it’s the subtlety which helps distinguish A Prophet from comparable films. Another thing that distinguishes it from other crime films is the prison setting, both visually and thematically. I also love Niels Arestrup as the head crime boss. Director Jacques Audiard knows when to employ style and when not to and the man crafts some brilliant scenes. Overall, A Prophet is a great film and one that only gets better the more I think about it.

“The idea is to leave here a little smarter.”

7. Three Kings (Watched September 23rd)

three_kingsThree Kings is some sort of weird masterpiece,” This is how Roger Ebert chose to start his review and I can’t think of a better introduction. The film takes place at the end of the Gulf War. A group of soldiers discover a map leading to a stolen fortune and venture off to steal it themselves. I’m actually amazed this film isn’t a total mess. Three Kings is a political satire, an action film, and a comedy all at once. On top of that the film is under two hours and moves at a breakneck pace. With all of this, you’d think the film would become a complete cluster fuck but it never does. The political satire is always biting, the action well-staged, and the comedy funny. The secret is these elements don’t feel separate but are all integrated together. The cast are also all very likable and David O. Russell cuts loose stylistically in a way he hasn’t since. This is a great film, one which is sadly under-appreciated.

“Are we shooting?”

6. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (Watched March 19th)

before_the_devil_knows_youre_dead_ver3Speaking of under-appreciated films, we have Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. The film starts as a crime gone wrong film in the vein of the Coens with two brothers botching the robbery of their parents’ jewelry store. However as the film goes on, it evolves into a family drama with many intersecting lives. The script can be pretty complicated at times but there’s an emotional through-line that keeps you invested. The film also has a lot of great actors delivering powerful performances. Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman are especially great as the two brothers and play off each other very well. Carter Burwell’s score is also excellent. Director Sidney Lumet pulls every thread together very effectively and the end result is a film which is gripping, emotional, and masterfully executed. It’s a shame more people haven’t seen this film. It’s the last film from the great Sidney Lumet and in my opinion it’s one of his best.

“Sorry aint’t gonna pay the bills, chico.”

5. The Truman Show (Watched May 22nd)

truman_show_ver2Truman Burbank does not realize it, but his entire life has been planned by a TV producer and his existence has been streamed 24/7 his entire life. However Truman begins to see the holes of his world and uncover the truth. This is a great, brilliant film. The story here is ingenious and there are several major themes that are played with in interesting ways. The Truman Show can be seen as a story of man vs. God, a meditation of simulated reality, a tale of justified paranoia, and of course a biting satire of reality television. That last theme is particularly noteworthy and all the more relevant in the celebrity obsessed area we live in populated with “reality” programming. The movie also earns a lot of points for not exploring these themes in a heavy handed way, but an entertaining one. The Truman Show is very funny in addition to being thoughtful. The cast is great as well with Jim Carrey giving his first great performance and I also really liked Ed Harris. An all-around excellent film.

“Good morning, and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!”

4. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Watched March 24th)

close-encounters-of-the-third-kindA friend of mine has said that Steven Spielberg was born to make science-fiction films and Close Encounters is one of the best examples of this. The film depicts alien visitors coming to earth and in particularly focuses on one man seeking out the truth. It’s also one of Spielberg’s best movies. This is a very well-made film with incredible special effects, gorgeous cinematography, and several great scenes. I also love the way Spielberg grounds the science-fiction by using a small town setting and the characters and family dynamics just feel real. What really sells the film for me though are the ideas. This is a film that really plays with the idea of life beyond earth in a unique way and really evokes a feeling of awe. And while the film has dark moments, I love the optimism it has that if visited by aliens, humanity would not seek violence but understanding and to learn from them, and that they would seek the same from us. The last twenty minutes are particularly amazing and a dare say some of the best cinema I’ve ever seen.

“’This means something. This is important.”

3. Before Sunrise/Before Sunset (Watched May 16th/May 28th)

before-sunrise-before-sunset-richard-linklater_mediumI thought about ranking these separately, but that would require forcing them to compete and I just couldn’t do that. Plus the films are made better by each other. In Before Sunrise, Jesse and Celine are two strangers who meet on a train and spend a romantic evening together. Before Sunset returns to the characters nine years later and we see where they’ve gone in the time between films. These are really simple films which both essentially boil down to two people walking around talking. Because of this, the writing and acting need to be spot on. Thankfully, the dialogue in both films is superb and Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy perfectly embody their extremely likable and interesting characters. The conversations Jesse and Celine have also touch on a lot of interesting topics it’s fascinating to listen to. The thing is they don’t just talk about interesting things, but their conversations reveal details about their characters and advance the story of these two. Richard Linklater also deserves a lot of credit for the long takes and other ways he keeps the films visually interesting. How much you get out of these films will depend entirely on your emotional attachment to the material, and I’m very attached.

“I remember that night better than I do entire years.”

2. Amores Perros (Watched March 10th)


I’ve long been a fan of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel and was excited to see his first effort Amores Perros. Not only did the film live up to the standards of Babel but it actually surpassed them. The film tells three stories of love in Mexico City divided by age and class with all three stories being linked by a central car accident. This is truly great filmmaking which marked the arrival of one of cinema’s most promising talents in the last decade. The three stories here are all very interesting as are the thematic ties that bind them. Each story depicts a different kind of love; romantic, domestic, and familial. Given that the title translates to “Love’s a Bitch”, you can imagine the film’s musings on love aren’t the most positive. There’s sincerity to the film’s messages though and a gradual progression in the way the ideas develop. Additionally all of the performers do great work and I found myself very invested in their stories. The film is also very well directed, featuring great cinematography, a great score, and great use of source music. I should also note that later in the year I saw Iñárritu’s sophomore effort 21 Grams and while it’s also very good, Amores Perros is just something else.

“If you want to make God laugh tell him your plans.”

1. 12 Angry Men (Watched February 3rd)

18208I saw a lot of films in 2013 and I loved a lot of these films. The best film? Simply the story of twelve pissed off dudes arguing in a room together. Okay, that plot description is a bit misleading, let me back track. The film opens with a court case where a young man has been accused of murder. The jury goes off to make a verdict. We follow them and eleven of the twelve presume this is a closed case of guilty. One believes not guilty and gradually begins to sway the others. This is the kind of film that needs really exceptional talent to be pulled off well. I joked earlier, but this movie really can be summed up as twelve guys in a room arguing. In lesser hands, that easily could have become tedious and boring, but 12 Angry Men never does. The script is truly fantastic. The dialogue is great, the characters are well-defined, and there are so many issues the film touches on. The cast is also great here. It’s easy to highlight Henry Fonda as the highlight, but really all twelve actors are fantastic. Sidney Lumet’s directorial hand is subtle, but he adds a lot to the film. He’s able to get so much tension out of the dialogue and I love the way the film begins to feel more claustrophobic the longer they stay in that room. I saw a lot of great movies in 2013, but 12 Angry Men is one of the few I can call perfect.

“I just think we owe him a few words, that’s all.”

  1. le0pard13 says:

    Quite a list, Daniel. Well done!

  2. vinnieh says:

    Excellent list, The Haunting is such a chilling film.

  3. moviebuff801 says:

    Excellent list. I’m so glad you’ve gone up on your opinion of Take Shelter. The more I think about that film, the more sure I am that it would now occupy the #1 spot on my Top Ten of 2011 list. Also, I’m thrilled to see The Truman Show in the Top Ten. That said, though, I AM a little disappointed not to see a certain film you saw over the summer and gave an A to. I wonder if you can guess what I’m talking about? ;)

    • PG Cooper says:

      Man on the Moon, right? Had I compiled the list sooner after seeing it, it would have for sure made it. The film hasn’t stuck with me as much as I would have thought though.

      • moviebuff801 says:

        Really? I myself find it’s stuck with me very much. When I made this list last year, I had it at #1. But, to each their own.

  4. Awesome stuff! My Neighbor Totoro in your top 10 and number 1 being one of my personal faves, 12 Angry Men is amazing. Love it! :)

  5. CMrok93 says:

    Wonderful list! You and I saw a lot of the same films this year and while I wouldn’t say that we came to the same conclusions on most of them, I’m glad to know that somebody else has just as much of an eclectic taste for movies as I do.

  6. Jon Harrison says:

    Awesome list! I’m going to have to check some of these out! I’m glad to see Take Shelter is high up there because I’ve been wanting to watch that for some time now, same with Close Encounters, and some Kurosawa films. Hopefully 2014 is good for you as well man!

  7. Epic list, man. Really glad you dug Take Shelter, Y Tu Mama Tambien and My Neighbor Totoro, especially.

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