The Year in Film

30 November 2013

More than ever, it seems that audiences are staying in and watching the latest episodes of Breaking Bad and Suits rather than venturing from the comfort of the couch to the local cinema. Yet 2013 was a great year for film, particularly smaller studio pictures and independent films, which were rife with originality, compelling stories, intriguing characters and powerful performances.

Despite some really awful blockbusters, Hollywood got it right with a handful of lower-budget films that made big waves at the box office. Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg made This Is The End, a wild and ridiculous ride that let us inside James Franco’s house to watch a bunch of actors try to survive the apocalypse. Visionary director Alfonso Cuarón created Gravity, a captivating thriller that sees Sandra Bullock lost and floating around in space. The film features inventive and stunning visuals, as well as the most effective use of 3D technology to date. For once it didn’t feel like a gimmick for studios to justify higher ticket prices. Equally good was French director Denis Villeneuve’s fast-paced, whodunit thriller Prisoners, starring the ensemble cast to end all ensemble casts—Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Melissa Leo, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard and Paul Dano.

Independent filmmakers however were responsible for the year’s most compelling and intriguing stories (in my humble opinion). Some of the films I hope you saw include Mud, Behind the Candelabra, Blue Jasmine, In a World… (if you were lucky enough to catch its ONE screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival), The East, Sleepwalk with Me, the mind-bending Upstream Color, and Danish film A Hijacking. This year was also a fantastic one for documentaries. Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell was born out of the writer/director/actress’s curiosity about her mother, Diane, whom she lost to cancer as a child. The result is an incredibly moving, genre-twisting documentary, which mixes constructed footage of her mother and interviews wit extended family. Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing is also a completely unique work. Moving far from the traditional style of the genre, Oppenheimer documents the lives of Anwar Congo and his friends—all ex-paramilitary in Indonesia who massacred over one million ethnic Chinese, intellectuals and ‘communists’ in the 1970s—as they make a movie recreating the brutal murders they conducted.

With so many good films that have already graced our screens, who would guess that there were even more to come? In the lead up to the Oscar season, we will see a new Coen Brothers film, a three-hour emotional epic in Palme D’Or winner Blue is the Warmest Color and a trek for a million dollars across the United States in Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, to name just a few. Moreover, it seems that because much of this year’s Oscar bait seems to stem from the theme of survival, we will see many well-known actors in some terrifying circumstances. From Robert Redford as a solo yachtsman adrift in sea in All Is Lost to Chiwetel Ejiofor as a free man sold into slavery in Steve McQueen’s excellent 12 Years A Slave, prepare to crumble to a pile of nerves in your seat this December.

So what can we expect next year? George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have predicted that in coming years, the movie industry will “implode” and move away from mega-budget blockbusters in favour of smaller, quirky projects. If that’s the case, then we have a lot to look forward to.

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