Part 3 of this list varies from the latest Studio Ghibli film to a first time director’s raunchy starting piece. Not only that but this list has films by four well respected directors, each of them changing up their styles. Here are numbers 30 – 21.
30. From Up On Poppy Hill – The most recent Studio Ghibli film is unlike their regular fare. It doesn’t have monsters or the supernatural, hell there are no heroes or villains. From Up On Poppy Hill is a pretty conventional drama about two students, both holding immense responsibilities as they both try to protect their school clubhouse from being torn down. It sounds juvenile but the film marries beautiful visuals with a story that is influenced by the Korean War and it turns this trivial struggle into something more important, more necessary. A little emotionally manipulative at times, this is some good Ghibli.
29. 42 – This American baseball drama about African American baseball player Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) is exactly what you think it is. A film about the first black player in Major League baseball and all the animosity and hatred that came with this honour. The film follows a set course, one that is easy to predict but through its many top notch performances, Jackie’s story comes to life. Director Brian Helgeland carefully controls the racism in the film to guide viewers and Boseman makes an excellent Jackie. However the real highlight is Harrison Ford as team manager Branch Rickey, a deeply principled man driven by more than money. He elevates the whole film to a biopic with guts and gravitas.
28. Don Jon – Joseph Gordon Levitt’s directorial debut is a sordid affair. A film about the obsession of porn and its after effects is a much more sombre film than I expected it to be. The film follows Jon (Levitt), a bartender looking to move up but carry on with his obsession of chasing women and watching porn. His relationship with Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) makes his routine impossible. Featuring some great performances by Levitt, Julianne Moore and Tony Danza, Don Jon keeps you on your toes through a rather conventional romantic comedy in an interesting way and the end product feels acceptably grimy, unhinged and messy to make the whole film feel right.
27. Frances Ha – Shot in black and white and directed by indie director Noah Baumbach, Frances Ha is the story of growing up in a city built on dreams, no matter how unachievable. The film tells the story of Frances (Greta Gerwig) and her relationship with the Big Apple and her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner). Frances is a fascinating creation. She is equal parts frustrating, lovable and naive. She has a dream, one that keeps slipping through her fingers and watching her scramble, completely unsure of herself, into a new world where nothing makes sense is both thrilling and terrifying. Gerwig makes it easy to like Frances even though she might take a lot of patience and in the end you might even love her, just a little bit.
26. Rush – Ron Howard brings his own touch to a subject he knows nothing about and the result is slightly magical. Rush is a wonderfully vivid and colourful film with some of the best racing direction in a long while. The films story about the rivalry between racers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) is a great jumping off point to display a world of constant risk, constant pushing of the limits. Both Hemsworth and Bruhl understand their characters, their flaws and imperfections shine through the tough exteriors these drivers had to develop to survive. These two men are fascinating creatures and the film’s final moments bring about the strongest material as the two finally face each other knowing everything and it’s well worth the wait.
25. Flight – Robert Zemeckis hasn’t done a live action film in quite some time. In fact Flight is his first live action film in 12 years. Flight shows that in all that time he didn’t miss a beat. Flight is a shocking, devastatingly real look at alcoholism and the crumbled lives that a drunk can help and hinder. The film follows pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), a semi functional alcoholic who on one of his routine flights encounters a malfunction and through his skills he manages to land the plane. However when the investigation begins he finds himself trapped between a lie and his soul. With one of the best performances by an actor in years, Flight is shown the way through Washington and he delivers in spades with a brave and gutsy act no one else could have pulled off.
24. Lincoln – Steven Spielberg is well known for science fiction, dinosaurs, Tintin and the second world war to name but a few themes but his most personal film may just be Lincoln, a picture that looks at Abraham Lincoln’s (Daniel Day Lewis) struggles to pass the 13th amendment of the US Constitution. Spielberg contains the action to the amendment despite the films many other themes. Day Lewis becomes Lincoln so absolutely that it would be hard to tell the difference between him or the real thing. Strong supporting roles by Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field and David Strathairn keep things rolling and a strong comedic role by James Spader provides some much needed levity to the sullen, wartime proceedings. All in all the film is a look into a man of principle but one who was more than willing to cheat the system if he had to.
23. The Butler – Despite Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy making it’s way onto my Worst 25 of the year at number 20, his other 2013 release is nothing short of excellent. A White House drama from the perspective of one of the butlers is both a stark look into civil rights over the years and a moving family drama. The film follows Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) and his wife Gloria (Oprah Winfrey) and their struggles through a hostile America as they try to care for their two sons. Whitaker makes Cecil brim with unsaid hatred, an anger hidden beneath the calm service exterior he had built for years as Winfrey vice filled Gloria is a mess of conflicting emotions, each one used perfectly by Winfrey. Together they make a strong film better as they find the nuances in Danny Strong’s often whimsical script. It’s a look into a shocking time but the film itself and the people it represents is crafted with love and it shows.
22.The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Peter Jackson’s second instalment in his Hobbit trilogy is a shocking improvement on its predecessor as it finally makes the exploits of Thorin (Richard Armitage), Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and co seem important. The first film felt like a playful kids film but The Desolation of Smaug turned up the tension and torment. With some excellent action sequences, a new relationship to rival the tepid Aragorn Arwen material from the The Lord of the Rings and a new, cunning villain in Benedict Cumberbatch’s Smaug. Jackson has proved himself a dynamic storyteller and chapter 2 in this trilogy is a captivating action film that paves the way for an excellent and unconventional final act.
21. Filth – I don’t think there is a film this year like Filth. The name is apt for a film thats story is comprised of sex, drugs, drinking, swearing and any other depraved and slightly taboo thing you can imagine. The film follows Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) as he tries to get the promotion he always wanted while dealing with his own twisted mind and sense of loyalty. McAvoy makes Bruce understandable, a mess of a man pushed forward by his own mental issues. However the film uses this to its advantage as it shows the twisted visuals that Bruce has in his head and most if not all of them are completely fantastic. The film has a sick sense of morality, something to be expected by a film based off an Irvine Welsh novel, and it never lets you go for the entire run as Bruce crumbles before you in the most playful way possible despite the horrific things that are happening to him and those around him.
Were there any films you hated on this list? Leave a comment and let me know.