PG Cooper’s Top Ten Films of 2013

Posted: February 6, 2014 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists, PGCMAs

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson PGCMA 2013*The above image represents 2012’s PGCMA Best Director and Best Picture winner; Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master.

And here we are, the conclusion to the PGCMAs and my farewell to what I consider a strong year in film. My top five are my nominees for Best Director and Best Picture, with the number one film being the winner of both. To everyone who has enjoyed the PGCMAs this year, thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy this list too.

10. Captain Phillips

captain-phillips-domestic-posterWritten by: Billy Ray

Directed by: Paul Greengrass

Number of PGCMA Nominations: 7 (Best Shootout, Best Chase, Best Editing, Best Supporting Actor, Best Action Film, Best Breakthrough Performance, and Best Actor)

Number of PGCMA Wins: 1 (Best Chase)

Based on the true story of the Maersk Alabama hijacking, Captain Phillips sees the title character as he attempts to save his crew and cargo from Somali Pirates.

Captain Phillips is a prime example of how a great director can really elevate material. Though the real story is interesting, it ultimately isn’t of too much importance and is also a story where the audience knows the ending. Yet Paul Greengrass manages to craft such a tense and exciting film in spite of this. Through camera work and editing, Greengrass effectively builds a lot of tension and the man also crafts a lot of really memorable scenes. He also keeps a balance of both sides of the conflict where he never vilifies the actions of the pirates, nor does he make heroes out of the U.S. Navy. Instead, Greengrass depicts the situation with as little judgement as possible. Credit is also due to lead performers Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi who both do great work.

“There’s got to be something other than being a fisherman or kidnapping people.”

“Maybe in America, Irish, maybe in America.”

9. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

DVjv46AsKGx4mn_3_lWritten by: Bob Goodman

Directed by: Jay Oliva

Number of PGCMA Nominations: 7 (Best Fight, Best Shootout, Best Set-Piece, Best Score, Best Animated Film, Best Action Film, and Best Adapted Screenplay)

Number of PGCMA Wins: 2 (Best Fight and Best Animated Film)

After a ten year retirement, Bruce Wayne returns to the streets as The Batman in order to continue his war on crime.

Frank Miller’s original graphic novel of the same name is in many ways the ultimate Batman story and to see it brought to life on screen is a real treat. They key to the work’s success is the filmmakers remain very loyal to Miller’s original book. This means the dark story has been adapted with minimal changes, the satirical and political elements are still heavily prominent, and the film even attempts to emulate Miller’s art style. The film is full of memorable moments and even if one disregards the larger themes, this still functions as an effective action movie; one with a darker edge than other Batman films. I know a pick like those shows my bias, but I don’t care. To see one of my favourite comic stories faithfully brought to life was truly awesome and the team from DC animated did a great job.

“In all the years to come, in your most private moments, I want you to remember the one man who beat you.”

8. American Hustle

AMERICAN-HUSTLE-Poster-620x918Written by: David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer

Directed by: David O. Russell

Number of PGCMA Nominations: 10 (Best Hair and Make-Up, Best Costume Design, Best Soundtrack, Best Use of Source Music, Best Supporting Actress, Best Comedy, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Actor, and Best Cast)

Number of PGCMA Wins: 1 (Best Hair and Make-Up)

After being apprehended by the FBI, a pair of cons who are romantically linked agree to help expose political corruption in order to save themselves.

It seems there has been a backlash against American Hustle recently, which is a shame because this is a damn good movie. The basic story is pretty interesting, but it’s not actually at the forefront of the story. What is at the forefront are the characters and their relationships, which are fascinating. Every actor cast does a fantastic job and each performance is raised through interaction with others. The film also has a really good sense of humour, the production values are strong, David O. Russell’s visual style, and a great soundtrack too. The film certainly gets messy from time to time, but the great performances, humour, and memorable scenes make American Hustle worthwhile.

“Sometimes, all you have in life are fucked up, poisonous choices.”

7. The Place Beyond the Pines

the-place-beyond-the-pines-posterWritten by: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, and Darius Marder

Directed by: Derek Cianfrance

Number of PGCMA Nominations: 6 (Best Chase, Best Use of Source Music, Best Trailer, Best Supporting Actor, Most Underrated/Underappreciated Film, and Best Original Screenplay)

Number of PGCMA Wins: 1 (Most Underrated/Underappreciated Film)

The film is a chronicle of legacies which starts with Luke Glanton, a motorcyclist who becomes a bank robber to provide for his son.

I see The Place Beyond the Pines as the little movie that could. I saw the film back in April, really liked it, but overall didn’t think it would make much of a splash in my year end honours. But as the months went by, I found myself thinking about the film more and more. The characters, the story, the drama, it all stuck with me in a really powerful way and I eventually came to realize The Place Beyond the Pines is a much better film than I initially gave credit for. Not only does the ambitious plot structure give the film a unique feel, but it effectively displays the themes of legacy and consequence by giving events a sense of importance over a long time span. The cast all does really strong work, particularly Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, and Dane DeHaan. This isn’t a film which beats you over the head with its greatness, but one that’s greatness sneaks up on you over time.

“You know something, Luke? If you ride like lightning, you’re gonna crash like thunder.”

6. Man of Steel

man-of-steel-character-poster-supermanWritten by: David Goyer

Directed by: Zack Snyder

Number of PGCMA Nominations: 12 (Best Fight, Best Chase, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography, Best Score, Best Villain, Best Action Film, Best Sequel/Prequel/Remake, Most Underrated/Underappreciated Film, and Best Adapted Screenplay)

Number of PGCMA Wins: 3 (Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Action Film)

As the planet Krypton faces doom, the planet’s final child, Kal-El, is sent to Earth as an infant. From there, he will grow up to be Superman and protect the people of Earth.

We live in the age of the comic book movie. Every year many adaptations of comics make it to the big screen. I enjoy most of these films, but the truly great ones have proven to be the exception. Man of Steel is such an exception. Once again telling the Superman origin story, the film sidesteps the trappings of similar films by having a darker and more serious perspective then previous Superman films, and by focusing on only the most important aspects of the backstory. The result is an engaging story which has a sense of importance to it. A lot of effort was also clearly put into the craftsmanship of the film. Man of Steel has a unique look, excells in production value, and also features a great score from Hans Zimmer. Additionally, the cast is very strong and the action scenes are awesome. Most importantly though, Zack Snyder and David Goyer take the character very seriously, and the film as a result takes the audience seriously. I appreciate this, particularly in an era where most blockbusters feel very light. Is Man of Steel a perfect film? No, but it’s ambitious, and it inspires a sense of awe in me that most of its peers don’t.

“You can save her, Kal. You can save all of them.”

5. Gravity

gravity-imax-posterWritten by: Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón

Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón

Number of PGCMA Nominations: 10 (Best Set-Piece, Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Score, Best Poster, Best Horror Film, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Picture)

Number of PGCMA Wins: 4 (Best Set-Piece, Best Visual Effects, Best Score, and Best Horror Film)

Astronaut Ryan Stone makes a desperate attempt at survival when she and her team have debris rain down upon, plunging them into the darkness of space.

It took seven years, but Alfonso Cuarón returned to filmmaking in prime form with Gravity. The film tells a very straightforward story where a character is merely trying to get from point A to point B. Because of this, the execution needs to be strong. The execution here is not only strong, but brilliant. From a technical stand point, Gravity is a masterpiece. The visual effects and cinematography are so seamlessly merged you almost believe the film was shot in space. Steven Price’s score is excellent and is perfectly ingrained within the film. There’s also a lot of strong imagery which speak to some themes. The human element is not ignored either. Sandra Bullock’s gives a great performance and her character’s arc is genuinely touching. To all the filmmakers who aim to make an experience over a story, this is the film you should be looking to for inspiration.

“Life in space is impossible.”

4. Inside Llewyn Davis

InsideLlewynDavisFirstTeaserposter1Written by: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Directed by: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Number of PGCMA Nominations: 11 (Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography, Best Soundtrack, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cameo, Best Comedy, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Cast, Best Director, and Best Picture)

Number of PGCMA Wins: 4 (Best Cinematography, Best Soundtrack, Best Cameo, and Best Original Screenplay)

Over the course of a few days, struggling folk singer Llewyn Davis is frequently tested and must decide his future.

As the year wrapped up and the various major awards contenders were released, this quiet Coen brothers film sort of snuck its way into theaters. Though a modest film, Inside Llewyn Davis is one of the best of the year. Despite the low key nature of the story, the Coens craft such interesting characters and scenarios that the events end up having a feeling of major importance. The film is also beautifully shot and well put together by the now master filmmaking team who clearly are at the top of the game. The cast is great here too, as is the music from T-Bone Burnett and Marcus Mumford. Plus, even with all the drama, the Coens still effectively inject a large amount of wit to the proceedings. It may not be a laugh riot, but Inside Llewyn Davis is still a very funny movie. This isn’t a film for everyone, but for its audience, Inside Llewyn Davis is more or less perfect.

“Life ain’t worth living without the one you love. So fare thee well, my honey, fare thee well.”

3. The Wolf of Wall Street

WolfofWallStreetNewposterNovrlsfull1Written by: Terrence Winter

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Number of PGCMA Nominations: 12 (Best Fight, Best Editing, Best Poster, Best Trailer, Best Supporting Actor, Best Comedy, Best Breakthrough Performance, Best  Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Cast, Best Director, and Best Picture)

Number of PGCMA Wins: 3 (Best Editing, Best Comedy, and Best Cast)

A film depicting the years Jordan Belfort ran Stratton Oakmont and made a fortune through fraud.

Martin Scorsese is 71 years old. Most of the great directors die, retire, or simply don’t have the talent anymore by this time. Not only does Scorsese “still have it”, but he’s at the top of his game, and The Wolf of Wall Street is a fine example of just that. This is an impeccably crafted epic comedy which is hilarious and highly satirical. On a technical level, the film is extremely well-edited, seamlessly bringing seven debaucheries years into a coherent story and Scorsese really knows how to move a camera. The cast is also excellent. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have been rightfully praised, but really everyone should be proud of their work. I don’t think a minute passes in The Wolf of Wall Street without something awesome happening. Whether it be an excellent scene, a great line of dialogue, a funny gesture from one of the actors, or an interesting cinematic decision on Scorsese’s part, there’s always something to note. One of the best and most entertaining films of the year by far.

“Let me tell you something. There’s no nobility in poverty. I’ve been a poor man, and I’ve been a rich man. And I choose rich every fucking time.”

2. Before Midnight

before-midnight-posterWritten by: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke

Directed by: Richard Linklater

Number of PGCMA Nominations: 6 (Best Cameo, Best Sequel/Prequel/Remake, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Picture)

Number of PGCMA Wins: 2 (Best Sequel/Prequel/Remake and Best Adapted Screenplay)

Picking up nine years after Before Sunset, Before Midnight follows another day in the lives of Jesse and Celine was we learn what’s become of them since we last saw them.

I saw the first two entries in the Before series in early 2013 and was not even aware a third chapter was due for release. Once I found out, the film quickly became my most anticipated of the year and man did it live up to my expectations. This is a great film feels like an effortless continuation of Jesse and Celine’s story. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy slip back into the roles like an old pair of shoes and completely embody their characters. Their conversations are still thought provoking and funny, but there’s more conflict between the two, which puts their relationship in a place we haven’t seen before. The film’s larger themes regarding love and ageing are profound and never feel overbearing. Visually, Richard Linklater does a great job keeping things interesting while never taking attention away from the story. Speaking of which, the story here really is great and it’s amazing how much is said through only conversations. Then there’s the ending which, while I won’t spoil, I will say I love. I don’t know if Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke plan on coming back to these characters, but if this is the end then they’ve gone out on a hell of a high note. I couldn’t have asked for a better sequel.

“I assure you, that guy you vaguely remember, the sweet, romantic one you met on a train…that is me.”

1. 12 Years a Slave

12YAS-Poster-ArtWritten by: John Ridley

Directed by: Steve McQueen

Number of PGCMA Nominations: 12 (Best Costume Design, Best Editing, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cameo, Best Villain, Best Breakthrough Performance, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Cast, Best Director, and Best Picture)

Number of PGCMA Wins: 6 (Best Supporting Actress, Best Villain, Best Breakthrough Performance, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture)

An adaptation of Solomon Northup’s memoirs, 12 Years a Slave depicts the timespan where free man Solomon Northup was kidnapped and sold into slavery.

I saw a lot of films in 2013, I even saw a lot of great films, but no film hit me like 12 Years a Slave. This is a brutal and honest depiction of slavery told with masterful skill. I applaud Steve McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley for finding a balance where the material is powerful but not overly so. The film never feels like it’s trying to preach the obvious message of “slavery is bad”, but is instead an exploration of the abuses dehumanization slavery created. The performances are all excellent. Much of the supporting cast does great work and I’ve already sung their praises extensively throughout my awards. Still, it can’t hurt to say when more time that Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, and Chiwetel Ejiofor all give incredible performances. In addition to being a very powerful and important film, 12 Years a Slave is expertly crafted. From the cinematography to the production values to the score, the film just feels very professional while remaining an artistic edge.

12 Years a Slave is a significant achievement. It’s a film that excels in every area and one that is also incredibly moving. It isn’t always an easy watch, but what Steve McQueen and everyone else involved in the production have accomplished is important and deserves to be recognized.

“I don’t want to survive. I want to live.”

  1. moviebuff801 says:

    Great list. Don’t be surprised if there are a few correlations with my own list. ;)

  2. brikhaus says:

    You made good choices for what 2013 had to offer. I think it was a weak year for movies in general. While you did pick some of the best, the options to choose from were poorer compared to previous years. I hope 2014 fares better.

  3. pecknt says:

    I think this may be the best list I have read in terms of Top 10 from 2013. However, not including Grown Up 2, Movie 43 and A Good Day to Die Hard really was mind boggling to me. Some of the best films of the year, bar none. To each their own aye? ;)

    REALLY THOUGH. I love the inclusion of The Dark Knight Returns and Man of Steel. Man of Steel is a lot better than most give it credit (you are on point with everything in terms of production and design). The Dark Knight Returns is NOT talked about at all, and I think that might be the best DC animation movie since Mask of the Phantasm. It wonderfully captures, emotes and personifies the Batman character and mythology. Great list man.

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