1. Top of the Lake (Jane Campion): Campion’s mini-series seems to play out like a 21stCentury reimagining of the cryptic small town setting and abject weirdness of Twin Peaks, but turns out being much darker than one could have imagined. The difference between something like Peaks and Lake is that Campion never shrouds the evil of humanity in a metaphorical evil spirit. She plays everything much closer to reality and the evil that Top of the Lake confronts is rape culture. It’s pervasive, creeping and around every corner of the world these characters live in, and I’m not sure if a more poignant film came out this past year.
2. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach): A film about Female friendship as platonic soul mates, economic frustrations, arrested development and dance all wrapped up in a nice French New Wave inspired package. This film lives and dies on the strength of Greta Gerwig and luckily she’s at a career best. It’s telling that so many people relate to Frances. I think in part it’s because she serves as a kind of mascot for the current generation of post-graduates who are trying to find their way in the world. Baumbach and Gerwig capture those feelings of plowing ahead through uncertainty perfectly. Although there should have been more dance. More dance in movies in 2014 please
4. Drug War (Johnnie To): Johnnie To’s brand of film making has often been compared to Jazz at times (especially in the case of something like Sparrow, and rightfully so), but in Drug War it’s a little different and I’m more prone to compare his work in action to thrash metal. The way everything is so tightly constructed, the way the action viscerally moves from one scene to the next without losing the rhythm of the movement. It’s anything but rigid, and like thrash metal it moves over you like a machine and pummels everything in it’s way.
8. Wolf Children (Mamoru Hosada): Making me cry is a common theme of the films I tend to fall in love with and it was no different this year. Wolf Children left me in a pool of tears. The melodrama is incredible and the single parent-motherhood narrative mixed with it’s identity politics really hit close to home.
10. Lesson of the Evil (Takashi Miike): This may very well be the most nihilistic film of the lot, but I can’t help but fall in love with Miike’s craft, the colours he uses and the black comedy inherent within slasher films to once again show everyone who the best in the world is at making horror films. (This might have been undistributed. It had a NY festival date so I’m counting it)
The other films I loved this year
11. The World’s End (Edgar Wright)
12. Fast & Furious Six (Justin Lin)
13. The Punk Singer (Sini Anderson)
14. Laurence Anyways (Xavier Dolan)
15. Viola (Matías Piñeiro)
17. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)
18. Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski)
19. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)
20. The Heat (Paul Feig)
21. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
22. The Grandmaster (Wong Kar Wai)
23. Leviathan (Lucien Casting-Taylor, Verena Paravel)
24. Frozen (Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck)
25. The Past (Asghar Farhadi)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Adepero Oduye (12 Years a Slave)
Mattew McConaughey (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Melissa McCarthy (The Heat)
*I would have liked to have written something about their performances, but I quickly realized that is not my forte and it would have quickly devolved into cliche acting buzzwords so I’ll spare you all from that.
Runner Up: Claire Denis: Bastards
Best Cinematography: Benoit Debie: Spring Breakers
Runner Up: Emmanuel Lubezki: To the Wonder
Best Screenplay: Dan Sallitt: The Unspeakable Act
Runner Up: Joel and Ethan Coen: Inside Llewyn Davis
Best Usage of Music (this means ALL music): Laurence Anyways
Runner Up: Inside Llewyn Davis/Bastards/Spring Breakers
Best Undistributed Film: Blind Detective (Johnnie To) *Sammi Cheng gives maybe my favourite performance of the year as well. Here is hoping it gets a 2014 release
Most Quotable Movie: Frances Ha (Ahoy, Sexy! Frances Undateable)
Runner Up: The World’s End (Oh, Fuck Off! You Big Lamp! Smashy Smashy Eggman)
In closing I just want to say I had a great year, and each year in cinema always opens itself up to more viewings and reworking your favourites over the years. Life through cinema is a never ending journey and this post is only a checkpoint, a timestamp of my opinion at this moment, because I still have so much more to see and to discover and I can’t wait to find out. I know 2014 will bring just as many riches.