Best of 2013

Reel Review Roundup’s Best Films Of 2013

It has been pointed out to me that there is a distinct “penile” theme to my best of list. Perhaps Michael Fassbender launched a trend by exposing his lengthy member in 2012’s Shame, because this year we saw more wang on the screen than we have seen in the last 10 years combined. And three of those penis featuring films ended up on this list. Coincidence, I swear. But if you want to go looking for themes in a list, you might also notice a couple of James Franco-related entries. The prolific actor/director has been so busy lately that something was bound to stick. In case you are wondering why critically acclaimed films such as Blue Is The Warmest Color,  Short Term 12, Nebraska, Her and Fruitvale Station are not on here, it’s not because I have turned my back on quality films, it’s because I haven’t seen them yet. Here are the ones I have seen, and loved:

10) Stories We Tell – actress/director Sarah Polley rummages through the skeletons in her family’s closet and films it for everyone to see. But this is much more than someone with a camera airing their dirty laundry. Playing with the techniques of documentary film making, Polley examines how we perceive our family and the blurred line between truth and perceived truth. By the end, Polley’s candid family feel like our family.

9) Django Unchained -in true Quentin Tarantino style, a serious historic event is fictionalised and given a revenge fantasy spin. And yet it is one of QT’s most mature work (alongside Jackie Brown). QT shows that there is merit in recapturing the horrors of slavery and giving it a popcorn spin for a moving and though provoking blockbuster. His biting script and stellar cast (Christoph Waltz scored his second Oscar under QT’s direction) allow for deeper appreciation on re-watch.

8) Cloud Atlas – a flop upon USA release, a super delayed Australian release, three hours long, multiple story lines. Cloud Atlas came with some baggage. It was epic, ambitious, and not only an achievement in cinema, storytelling, design, editing, make up, acting (I could go on), but it was the cinema event of the year. Sometimes confusing, but it all comes breathtakingly together. A reminder why we love cinema so much.

7) White Reindeer – you know those feel good family Christmas-themed movies that leave warm fuzzies? This is the antithesis. Yet, it sustains a sharp sense of humour as a woman comes to terms with the infidelity and death of her husband at Christmas. Her journey of self discovery is filled with some of the most memorable scenes of the year. And the reveal of her new stripper friend’s real name – one of the best lines of the year.

6) Before Midnight – this trilogy just gets better and better with each installment. Linklater, Hawke and Delpy tapped into something universal (not once, but three times!) as we catch up with this couple every nine years and watch their relationship blossom, develop, evolve and sometimes take a dive. Making us feel like our own lives have been used to inform this story, this makes the uncanny achievement of having something that everyone can relate to.

5) Stranger By The Lake – an eerie thriller set at a secluded and picturesque French lake that is used by gay men to engage in anonymous sex. One reckless young man flirts with danger as he continues a sexual relationship with a man he witnessed drown a lover. Focusing on this gay sub-culture uncovers universal truths about relationships in general, one-night stands, sexual gratification, lust and how it can blur ones rationality. Simply presented but stunningly evocative.

4) Spring Breakers – a group of small town college girls dream of the glitzy, drug and alcohol fuelled experience of spring break, but as the old saying goes: be careful what you wish for. At times repetitive, this tale of girls going really wild is a comment on teenage rebellion gone wrong and a trippy, nightmarish mirror held up to scantily clad American teens who have been desensitised by violent video games and movies and their debaucherous habits.

3) Gravity – my chair arm rests had never been gripped so tight, my breath never held so many times nor my jaw rested on the floor for so long during a film before as rookie astronaut Sandra Bullock overcomes every conceivable obstacle to make it back home to Earth after a debris shower renders her stranded in space. Clunky dialogue aside, this is a ripper thriller and a moving journey of human resilience and determination.

2) The Final Member – I laughed, I cried, I cringed. I experienced so many emotions watching this quirky and, most importantly, non-judgmental documentary about the world’s only penis museum and its curator’s search for the one specimen he does not have – a human penis. It’s also about the two men desperate to be the donor of that human specimen. This is a moving and heartbreaking story about completion, validation, achieving your dreams and for someone in this scenario, when that dream does not come true.

1) Interior. Leather Bar. – James Franco’s fascinating, meta, multi-layered 60 minute feature film slash mockumentary slash vanity project slash experiment documents his attempt to recreate the reportedly graphic scenes eliminated from William Friedkins’ Cruising, staring Al Pacino. Endlessly thought provoking, I had this film tumbling around in my mind for weeks after seeing it as Franco tackles the little discussed or explored topic (in film, anyway) of the representation of homosexuality in films and society’s reaction to it.

Honourable mentions:

The Act Of Killing


West of Memphis

Laurence Anyways

Zero Dark Thirty

Frances Ha

A Gun In Each Hand

Much Ado About Nothing


You’re Next

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