I didn't think I would ever find a more depressing read than the book, Microwave Cooking for One by Marie T. Smith. However, the top 10 list of the highest grossing films of 2013 far supersedes that and is enough to make you do a Sylvia Plath in a more conventional form of oven.
Only two films out of the 10 are originals. One is Alfonso Cuaron's remarkable Gravity and the other is the Brad Pitt zombie flick World War Zzzzzz, sorry I nodded off there. The remaining eight are either superhero films or superfluous substance-free sequels all with their greedy eye on the big fat cash cow that's waiting annually to milk your purse and its own throbbing teat bone dry.
We, the audience are the only people to blame for this. It is the accumulating pounds that show our appreciation for this constant source of formulaic poppycock. It seems we will lob our money at anyone in a cape or costume, anything that explodes and anything we're already familiar with. With this in mind, I have compiled my very own top 10 list that's based on quality, quintessence and originality as well of course as entertainment.
The following list is not recommended for people who refuse to watch films with subtitles because they 'can't read and watch a film at the same time' or for people who 'don't do' black and white.
1. Blue Jasmine (Dir. Woody Allen)
Cate Blanchett stars as a stone broke New York socialite struggling to get to grips with her independence and lack of labels. Riding the zeitgeist, Woody Allen proves he's still got it in abundance with this incredible tragicomedy that shows Blanchett in the greatest role of her career.
2. Upstream Color (Dir. Shane Carruth)
This cerebral sci-fi mystery is once seen, never fathomed. A wholly original and complex tale of a parasite that consumes identity and the mess it leaves in its wake (I think). Beautifully filmed and intricately composed, Carruth's sensorial sophomore piece is a puzzle for those who don't necessarily want to switch their brains off whilst watching a film.
3. Lone Ranger (Dir. Gore Verbinski)
A box-office flop and widely slated for its tonal inconsistency, Lone Ranger is one of the biggest and most surprising films of the year. Filmed amidst breathtaking landscapes and packed with wonderful performances and action sequences that will leave your seat wet with excitement. This is the most thrilling and epic film of the year.
4. Frances Ha (Dir. Noah Baumbach)
If the sperm of Woody Allen's Manhattan (1979) was blended with Hal Hartley's and placed in the ovaries of Lena Dunham's Girls, nine months later Frances Ha would be the beautiful bouncing baby that nobody puts in the corner. Greta Gerwig totally rules in the titular role of Baumbach's fancy free and feel-good fest. If you stop smiling, you're not paying attention.
5. Django Unchained (Dir. Quentin Tarantino)
Tarantino is back with several hundred bangs as he forces slavery into the fore of Hollywood's conscience. A slow burning and tense revenge thriller that Tarantino brings to the boil with his trademark bloodshed and a soundtrack so cool it will make you want to jump on a horse and pop a cap in the nearest ass.
6. No (Dir. Pablo Larrain)
The citizens of Chile are asked by the government whether or not Pinochet should be re-elected for his presidency. Gael Garcia Bernal stars as the advertising exec in charge of the 'No' campaign. Armed with a great idea and full of faith in himself, he is doubted by all around him. Larrain's No is a rewarding and powerful film that shows you exactly what you can achieve if you have the courage to believe in yourself.
7. Folie a Deux: Madness Made of Two (Dir. Kim Hopkins)
This British documentary follows the story of a husband and wife team who take the biggest risk of their lives when they buy a bedraggled stately home in the centre of York and begin turning it into a 72-roomed luxury hotel. The financial crisis of 2008 throws endless spanners into the works, all of which are captured here. Gripping, tragic and hilarious, if Mike Leigh were told to re-imagine Grey Gardens (1975) this would be the result.
8. A Field in England (Dir. Ben Wheatley)
The British director continues to prove his worth with this piece of civil war psychedelia. A tribute to the kind of fare you'd find on a late Sunday night on BBC2 in the 80s. As mad as a bag of Hammer horrors, the mighty Wheatley delivers a memorable mind-fuck that will make you cross mushrooms off your grocery list forever.
9. Behind the Candelabra (Dir. Steven Soderbergh)
Michael Douglas is revelatory as the flamboyant pianist Liberace in this darkly comic and high camp biopic. Matt Damon too put in an impressive performance as his heavily manipulated partner Scott Thorson but it's Rob Lowe's small cameo role as a tight-faced Hollywood surgeon that really steals the show. An exceptional return the big screen for Soderbergh who, in recent years has been spoken of in past tense only.
10. Blackfish (Dir. Gabriela Cowperthwaite)
You'll watch this documentary and wonder why it has taken so long for this story to break or question your own ethics, particularly if you've ever participated in the "ooooooh"ing and "aaaaaah"ing as a whale has jumped in and out of water. This gripping documentary will shock you with it's expose of Seaworld management and their treatment of Killer Whales. Brilliantly constructed and passionately told by former trainers, It acts like a reverse Jaws (1975) and will ultimately leave you cheering for the whales and booing the savage bastards that "own" them.
So that's it, my top 10 of the best films of 2013 and although they're numerically ordered, to me they're all equal. This list won't appeal to everyone and if you enjoyed Despicable Me 2 or the Thor sequel, you probably won't enjoy any of them. Then again, if you enjoyed either of those films I can guarantee that either your television is much bigger than your bookcase or you're well under 10 years of age.
To conclude, I'll leave you with my also recommended top 10 list, in no particular order these are the films that I loved but failed to make the final cut...
Gimme the Loot (Dir. Adam Leon)
Beyond The Hills (Dir. Cristian Mungiu)
Before Midnight (Dir. Richard Linklater)
A Hijacking (Dir. Tobias Lindholm)
American Mary (Dir. Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska)
The Paperboy (Dir. Lee Daniels)
Shell (Dir. Scott Graham)
The Place Beyond The Pines (Dir. Derek Cianfrance)
Filth (Dir. Jon S. Baird)
Simon Killer (Dir. Antonio Campos)
Coming soon, the top 10 films that didn't make it to my 'Also Recommended' list...