My Top 5 Films of 2013

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 24th December 2013.

As a certified cinefile and your favourite film critic, I’ve seen 190 films so far this year. Not bad, but down from last year’s haul of 230 movies. As the year winds down, it’s now time to look back and reflect on the year in film. Here are my top 5 films of 2013.

5. Searching for Sugar Man – Seventies folk singer Rodriguez had poor sales all over the world, except in South Africa, where his records resonated with the growing anti-apartheid movement. Long presumed dead, two fans set out to find the truth behind this enigmatic musician. Don’t read any more about this great documentary, or you’ll spoil the experience.

4. Silver Linings Playbook – Jennifer Lawrence certainly deserved the Best Actress Oscar for her depiction of the mentally unstable Tiffany in David O. Russell’s fine romantic dramedy. With a cast to die for, including the surprisingly good Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker and Australia’s Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook is a superb examination of how life doesn’t always go to plan.

3. The Rocket – This heart warming Australian drama, set in Laos, is adapted from director Kim Mordaunt’s own documentary, Bomb Harvest. The impending construction of a new dam sends a boy, his emotionally scarred father and bitter grandmother on a journey in search of their new home. Their only hope for a bright future is winning the prestigious but dangerous Rocket Festival. Completely spoken in Lao, The Rocket is an outstanding Australian film. A big shoutout goes to my friends at the Orange Film Society who brought this and many other fine arthouse films to local audiences this year. I look forward to an exciting 2014 program.

2. Zero Dark Thirty – Kathryn Bigelow’s nail biting thriller depicting the search for and capture of Osama bin Laden is finely crafted, with an all star cast including the brilliant Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong and Australia’s Jason Clarke. Originally written to conclude with bin Laden’s escape from the battle of Tora Bora, the screenplay was altered to include his capture and assassination in Pakistan. It’s in this final act that Bigelow deftly manages to keep the audience on the edge of their seats, even if the conclusion is common knowledge.

1. The Way Way Back – I rarely rewatch any film, but I have already enjoyed this bittersweet coming of age comedy three times. Introverted 14 year old Duncan (Liam James) is forced to go on summer vacation with his mother (Toni Collette) and her overbearing new boyfriend (Steve Carell). Stumbling across the Water Wizz water park, Duncan finds a kindred spirit in Owen (Sam Rockwell). Written and directed by Oscar winners Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the film is well paced and perfectly encapsulates the growing pains of adolescence. Rockwell is an absolute standout in a talented ensemble cast, as is Allison Janney as the acerbic alcoholic next door neighbour. I’ve never experienced an American seaside summer vacation, nor worked in a water slide park as a teen, but The Way Way Back resonated with me. Highly recommended, it will leave you wanting to spend more time with the characters, a feat any screenwriter should be trying to achieve. The soundtrack is a killer too.

Notable mentions – Django Unchained, Lincoln, Argo, The Imposter, Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z, Evil Dead and The Lone Ranger


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