Turns out we have even more friends than we thought! It's like Valentine's Day every day here at Charlemagne Films. Except today is actually Valentine's Day. WE'RE FEELING THE LOVE. Feel even more love with these Top Film Lists from even more of our pals:
BRENDAN ROSS: CO-EXECUTIVE FILM FUN SPECIALIST
Here's my Top 10 of 2013 that I threw together, but failed to work up the energy to actually rank. Picking them was hard enough and now I’m tired. And for the record, some of these are actually 2012 titles that were not available to me until 2013. Please don’t yell at me.
The Act of Killing (dir. Joshua Oppenheimer)
It’s pretty hard to believe that a film this harrowing and absolutely sickening can actually be – dare I say – kind of fun? I feel strange saying that because the reality of the atrocities shown is nothing to be taken lightly, yet I found myself getting charmed and engaged by these murderers while they gleefully retold stories of their heinous actions as if they were old high school football stars reliving their glory days. At times I even caught myself laughing along with them, which invoked a whole new disturbing emotion I’m not sure I’ve ever felt before. In fact, I would say the fact that it is actually kind of funny rather than just unrelentingly morbid only serves to make it that much more unsettling.
Blue Ruin (dir. Jeremy Saulnier)
I sure do love a good vigilante flick, and this one caught me totally off guard. I am completely in love with the fact that the hero is kind of a bumbling doofus, but in a film that has a somber, almost Terrence Malick-esque tone to it. Surprising at every turn, this is easily the best revenge tale of recent memory.
The Brass Teapot (dir. Ramaa Mosley)
The Brass Teapot isn’t really a great movie in the traditional sense, and I guess that’s why I love it. For me it just reminds me of the 80’s comedies I loved back in the day. You know, the kind that weren’t afraid to run with an outrageous concept like that of a magical teapot that produces cash money when its possessors invoke self-inflicted harm to themselves. Remember when dumb comedies were actually kinda smart? That’s what this is. A smart dumb comedy. Or a dumb smart comedy. Whichever sounds better.
The Double (dir. Richard Ayoade)
I’m sure many will argue that Richard Ayoade’s sophomore feature is a little too style-over-substancey, but those people can ‘eff right off because the style IS the substance. Ayoade fully commits to his bizarro surrealist vision and never loses his handle on it. The Double is easily the most visually awesome film of the year, and I stand by that comment fully aware that Gravity exists and that I have not watched it.
Her (dir. Spike Jonze)
There really is little I can say about this masterpiece that will properly justify the emotional power this it had over me. Spike Jonze just gets it. What it is to be in love. What it is to be alone. Afraid. To want more. And most importantly he has a visual approach to his storytelling that speaks so much louder and clearer than words ever can. He just gets it. And he has the gift of being able to display his images so that we get it too.
Iron Man 3 (dir. Shane Black)
When Iron Man 1 came out and everybody was shitting their pants over it I just didn’t understand the praise. It was kind of funny and sort of charming I guess, but the whole thing seemed like such a rushed mess that I didn’t even really find it fun to watch. Then of course part 2 came out and Jesus Christ was that ever an unwatchable bag of toe-nail clippings. So I begrudgingly went to see part 3 solely because of my boy Shane Black, and man, just when I thought I was done with the summer blockbuster a movie like Iron Man 3 comes along and TOTALLY REDEEMS ITSELF. This movie is PURE Shane Black, from it’s razor-sharp dialogue to actual fleshed-out characterizations given to even the most minor of characters. Sure I could have done with a little less Gwyneth Paltrow and fire-breathing, but I digress.
The Rambler (dir. Calvin Reeder)
Sometimes you just need some utterly random southern weirdness to soothe your soul. And sometimes said weirdness is a film starring Dermot Mulroney as an ex-con making his way across New Mexico with a crazed scientist with a homemade dream-to-VHS converter. Now if that sentence doesn’t make want you to watch this movie immediately we probably can’t be friends. Spoiler alert: IT ALSO MAKES NO GODDAMNED SENSE AND I’M 1000% OK WITH THAT.
Spring Breakers (dir. Harmony Korine)
Probably like many others, I wasn’t completely sold on this one until the Britney Spears sing-a-long scene. At that moment the whole universe just made sense, ya know? Recommendation: try watching when you are just a little dozey. It’s the best movie to kind of drift in and out of.
The Wolf Of Wall Street (dir. Martin Scorsese)
Yeah I have some problems with watching douchebag moneymen being celebrated for despicable behavior. But on the other hand – yayyyy despicable behavior is fun to watch!! I dunno, I think the fact that Jordan Belfort wrote the material and was closely involved in the making of the movie makes me feel a little gross in a I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell kinda way. But that’s all retrospect, and didn’t take away from the fact that it was one of the most fun cinematic experiences I’ve had in a long time, and was easily the shortest 3 hours movie I’ve ever seen. I’ve never heard of this Martin Scorsese before, but after this movie I’m confident that he’s going to go places.
You're Next (dir. Adam Wingard)
Why it’s taken this long for somebody to turn Home Alone into a horror movie is beyond me. You’re Next is great because it starts off as a generic home invasion thriller. So generic that you think you know how everything will go down, which is what makes the following twists and turns oh so delightfully entertaining. Huge bonus points for introducing me to Dwight Twilley Band.
MAYA BANKOVIC: CINEMATOGRAPHER
Full Disclosure: I haven't seen most of the Important films of 2013 yet. Sorry. So in no particular order, the films of 2013 I did see and love were...
Such elegant filmmaking. Celine and Jesse become more complex and relatable with each instalment in this series. I hope Linklater keeps these characters going into their 80's.
Part of another brilliant trilogy. Ulrich Seidl's films are incredible hybrids of fictional characters and situations shot in stunning, sustained compositions that lend themselves to loosely-scripted long takes. This one centers around sex tourism in Kenya and it's incredible. It's visually spectacular in a really understated way. It may be from 2012 but whatever, you should see it.
I saw it at Lightbox with Alexander Payne himself leading a Q&A. It's not my favourite of his films (Election wins) but it was very charming.
Spring and Arnaud
A beautifully crafted documentary and an unforgettable love story. All artists should see this, including those who may simply consider themselves artists at heart; Arnaud began his artistic practice in his 40's, and in one scene Spring is brought to tears at the mere thought of giving up her own.
I guess it's also from 2012 but I saw it in 2013 and I don't understand why it hasn't gotten more respect. Murderous college girls instantly disarmed by Britney Spears singalongs? James Franco showing off all his cheesy possessions? Vile characters reading sentimental voiceover in hushed tones? Masterpiece.
I'm a big Holofcener fan. I'm always impressed by the sleight of hand with which she packages her films as mainstream rom-coms while actually packing so much depth into her critiques of Western consumerism, class and relationships.
Inside Llewyn Davis
Stylistically it's overdone by my taste (I wish it looked less like plastic, and I wish they'd lost the filters) but that's not what's important. I truly love the narrative structure of the hero's journey and all of the unanswered questions it leaves you with. Also, amazing to see F. Murray Abraham on the big screen again.
I love Noah Baumbach. GG is endearing and I appreciated that she was able to steer clear of succumbing to the character tropes of twenty-something women we so often see (you know the one). Very refreshing.
I need to show some love for my compatriots here. This film is so, so bold. It takes courage to put something like The Dirties into the world. The arc of this story unravels delicately and sensitively, and switches tone on you in a way that doesn't leave you feeling blindsided... it earns the switch in a big way.
Cutie and the Boxer
Kind of the antithesis of Spring & Arnaud. It's another doc about an artist pair, except this one focuses on the challenges of being one another's closest allies and, on some level, fiercest competitors. At times it's a beautiful love story and at others it's a cautionary tale. It's not afraid of the grey area, which is what makes it powerful. It's also beautifully shot - the director, Zachary Heinzerling, was largely a one-person crew from what I understand. He also doesn't speak Japanese, yet almost the entire film is in that language. That takes instincts!
2013 films I'm still looking forward to seeing the most:
The Act of Killing
JAYME KEITH: UNEMPLOYED
1. A Field In England
When this started I was wondering why in the world anyone would have ever recommended this to me and I was thinking "Oh no, a historic war film. ABORT!" The visuals kept me watching. Next I was confused as to whether I should have been laughing at the parts I was laughing at (I am not always quick to grasp British humour). My confusion intrigued me further and I continued watching. Then suddenly I knew exactly why it was recommended to me and I had the best trip I've ever had without being high myself. I had all the feelings happening at once and It felt REEEEAAAALLY FUCKING GOOD.
2. Frances Ha
As a former somewhat-decent-but-not-the-best-modern-dancer who still has no direction in her life this was the most painfully relatable film I have ever watched. Her jealousies with her best friend's seemingly perfect and happy life without her were enough to make me cringe at recognizing my own insecurities. The beautiful thing was realizing that almost anyone can see Frances' insecurities in themselves. It's like the Catcher in the Rye for the 24-30 year old. I feel I should add that I do that exact same running, turn, jete move through any empty hallway. I was like "THAT'S MY MOVE!!" (said every used-to-be-dancer ever).
3. Upstream Color
Do not watch this film while you are drawing a portrait of an elf prince. Once it ended, I had to "rewind" it all the way back to the beginning and re-watch the first 45 minutes to grasp what I had just experienced. Turned out I missed EVERYTHING. I didn't regret the instant re-watch at all. Thanks for the recommendation, Netflix, sometimes you get me.
I went into this knowing I was going to like it and I was right. The colours, the extremely probable future, Jaoquin's eyes. Anyway, everyone who was ever born has reviewed this film so I won't clog the internet's pores with my own. I will just add one thing: it was too long. There.
5. Dallas Buyers Club
This is the kind of movie I am never in the mood to watch. It happened only because someone highly recommended it to me. I can't think of anything I didn't like about it. Give me anything set in The South in either the 70's or 80's and I will watch the shit out of that. Throw in some nice pastel coloured station wagons in a dusty trailer park and I'll marry it.
This falls under the "I Watched It So Long Ago That I Don't Really Remember Much About It file". I will try my best. I loved the cinematography, I love creepy uncles, incestuous sexual tension, and I especially love a sinister ending. I even love a little Kidman now and then (when she's cast in the right role). A perfectly slow, creeping evil.
7. The Purge
Holy shit, a horror film set in the future! Those are my two favourite things combined. It is set in a future America where crime is down to 1% due to one night a year where anything goes with no legal consequences. Neat and horrifying idea. The casting felt like they just pulled two names out of a hat but whatever, it worked. Was it just me, or where there a couple nods to Funny Games?
8. Spring Breakers
Another one I won't clog with more reviews of. It's a wild ride inside a teenager's fantasy. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in there.
9. This Is The End
I'll say two things:
2. They somehow managed to pull off a rape joke that I laughed at. I feel like a disgusting piece of shit just saying that.
10. Prince Avalanche
When I started this list this wasn't going to make it. As I was watching it I expected it to have a lot more to it. I gave it a couple days to sink in and the more I thought about it, the more I realized the simplicity of the story and the setting was one of the reasons this was so great. It is also made my list because I loved the characters WAY more than George Clooney as "George Clooney" in Gravity. I wish Paul Rudd could be in every movie.
ANNY GOMES: MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST
1 . The Act of Killing
The Act of Killing works brilliantly on many levels, capturing like no other documentary I have seen, like no other film I can imagine, the fevered insanity of those awful times in Indonesia.
Not for the faint-hearted, but this is as explosive a mix of documentary, cinema, human condition, and horrors of prejudice as you will ever see. Gut-wrenching is definitely an understatement.
2. The Great Beauty
The Great Beauty is easily one of the most visually compelling films I've seen in the past year, which is customary when shooting in a location as beautiful as Roma. A crazy world of parties and well-groomed facades in which quiet desperation is guarded by cocktails, plastic surgery and botox. This film pulsates with life and energy, undercut by a feel of yawning emptiness that recalls the end to Fellini's 8 1/2, Sorrentino's transcendence remains earthly - not a move towards the divine, but an embrace of artifice as the only path to the expression of real beauty.
3. The Wolf of Wall Street
Leonardo DiCaprio and Scorsese blow me away every single time, man. How is that even possible? Just like Taxi Driver examines the world of crime, prostitution and the depravities of the people in the streets of New York the life of a cab driver, The Wolf of Wall Street does the same only in the corridors of Wall Street and through the life of a stock broker. It's a movie about excess and morality, or the lack thereof. Sex, drugs, reckless behavior film resonates in this modern culture tale as we watch the main character compromise everything for money.
4. The Hunt
White lies and unsubstantiated rumors can have powerful, far-reaching consequences. The fact that am still so conflicted about the effect of this film on me speaks volumes of its brilliance.
The haunting themes and complex performances of the film are all wrapped up in great cinematography. The director utilizes simple camera work to effectively capture the quiet and close relationship that the town has with nature. Nevertheless to say, the mesmerizing performance from Mads Mikkelsen made me want to take him home, can I?
5. Like Someone in Love
I was absolutely blown away with this. Like Someone in Love tells a story of an elderly Japanese man and a girl he meets through an escort agency in Tokyo. The director’s visual sense is beautiful, and he portrays the ambient sights and sounds of modern Tokyo very effectively, the shift of reflected neon across a taxi passenger’s face, school songs floating from an open window, even just the drone of traffic passing down the street. The benefit of such directorial sensitivity is to make the screen seem less like a barrier or projection, and more like a window into lives other than our own. This movie had my heart in its hands after fifteen minutes. So as I write, I am heartless. Ask this escort to give it back to me.
6. Blue is the Warmest Color
Blue is the Warmest Color is a tale of love and how it changes you. Such a brilliant film, I was amazed to see this in a packed theatre that clapped ferociously as soon as it finished.
7. Frances Ha
Frances Ha is a representation of all of us. I am sure you also could see yourself in her dancing shoes at some point in your life, or even right now. How long can we sustain the act of “figuring it out” until this becomes the "thing you were supposed to be doing all your life"? Through her personal journey, I can see several of the fixings Frances tries to apply in her position in my own life; visiting family for the holidays, taking a trip to Paris in a desperate attempt to do something drastic, and clinging to her best friend’s sleeve as she falls in love and becomes significantly less of a presence in her life. I just want to watch Frances keep trying to figure it all out again.
8. A Touch of Sin
A Touch of Sin is a true story well-known in China about four incidents which occurred in recent years: three murders and one suicide. Since China is dramatically changing and looking wealthier and more prosperous each year that passes, there is a major gap between the classes, this uneven spread makes individuals strip their dignity at any time or any cost. This movie depicts the anger of these people that need to be heard and are ready to fight back.
“Blancanieves” literally translates into “Snow White,” and this silent film is a retelling of the classic fairytale, transported to 1920s Seville and the world of bullfighting. The inspiration for the film began when writer-director Pablo Berger saw a photograph of bullfighting dwarves. Do I really need to say anything else? It's a beautiful film.
10. Post Tenebras Lux
Post Tenebras Lux was the most challenging film of 2013, at least for me. It was a movie that asked me a lot of questions and while it was getting its answers, the picture turned dark and gritty but oh, so good. This movie was constantly in my head for weeks, sometimes I quickly glance at my reflection in the mirror and thought I saw that little devil in the poster right behind me, you know that feeling? It means that whatever it was trying to do, it delivered. Post Tenebras Lux is a darkly poetic wake-up call about people who have lost their humanity, should these people allow themselves to succumb to complacent entitlement? Either way, I would love to sit down and have a cup of coffee with the director and ask him all the questions that are still in my head.
Jodorowsky’s Dune, Before Midnight, The Broken Circle Breakdown, Stories we tell, Inside Llewyn Davis, In the House, Ilo Ilo, The Grandmaster, Upstream Color, A Field in England.