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The Velvet Café’s top list of 2013

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Bloggers make their top lists of the year earlier and earlier. Publishing them in the beginning of December is not unusual. I insist on waiting until the year is over before I do anything about my list. However this year I’m a little later than usual, for no good reason. I’ve just been busy and haven’t come around to it.

I don’t expect anyone else to be particularly interested in my list at this point. But I don’t make it for you, I make it for me, because it gives me a sense of order and because I’ve found that those year lists are pretty useful as reference material. So here I go anyway. Late, but dedicated.

The rules
My rules are the following: movies that either had their first theatrical release in Sweden or were released directly for DVD can be taken into consideration. Screenings at film festivals don’t count, since they’re so limited and out of reach for most of us, including me.

If you wonder why I haven’t included a certain movie, chances are that I haven’t seen it yet. Here are some examples of movie which will be 2013 films as far as I am concerned, either I’ve seen them or not: Her, Only Lovers Left Alive, American Hustle, August: Osage County, Inside Llewy Davis.

Needless to say this was hard. Like super hard. And if you asked me tomorrow, the list would have shifted into a different shape. It’s mood relatd.

And now ladies and gentlemen – bring on the list!

Honorable mentions
First a few movies that didn’t make it into the actual list but which I want to give a nod:

blingring
The Bling Ring

I felt emotionally disconnected from Sofia Coppola’s movie, but it worked for me at an intellectual level.

Liv and Ingmar
This might be old news for Bergman experts, but to me this documentary put the relationship into a new light.

world war z
World War Z

The film is pale compared to the book it’s based on, with little more than the title in common. But I give it as much as that the mass scenes with zombies were awesome.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Another round of Battle Royale. It was enjoyable but I hope they’ll get do something different in part three. This was basically more of the same.

Foxfire
One of three movies this year about gangs with criminal girls. My initial sympathies for them faded pretty quickly.

Trance
OK, I admit that it was forgettable even if I dislike the word. But it was fun as long as it lasted

30-50

about time
About Time
It was a milk chocolate movie, for days when all you want to do is to hide under a blanket and comfort yourself with huge amounts of TV and sweets.

Anna Karenina
Oh, the dresses. The dresses!

Django-Unchained
Django Unchained

Five minutes was all it took for Django to win me over. Those five minutes didn’t just introduce the heroes – the bounty hunter Dr Schultz and his to-be partner Django, former slave. It also contained the main features of the movie I was about to see: a well balanced mix of drama, comedy and stylish, choreographed over-the-top violence.

Don Jon
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s debut as a director  holds a lot of promise and if he decides to go on with a career not only appearing in movies, but also making them, I’ll be in line to watch them.

desolation
The Hobbit: The desolation of Smaug

A little bit better than the first one, partly thanks to Tauriel, badd-ass elf woman.

Mood Indigo
The first half of the movie is just one long visual crazy party. It’s like having sparkling champagne straight into your veins

Mud
The gaze of a child gave it the shimmer of a fairy tale. Next time I’d love to see a female protagonist though.

Tom Cruise in Oblivion
Oblivion

Many claimed Oblivion was bad in different ways. I didn’t notice. I was too busy having fun watching it.

Only God Forgives
Only surface? Perhaps. But what a surface!

pacific rim
Pacific Rim

I didn’t have a good excuse. But I fell in love with it nevertheless.

Promised Land
Gus van Sant’s latest movie just disappeared. I wonder why. Could it be about politics?

philomena
Philomena

Judi Dench defies the natural laws. She only gets better the older she gets.

Ruby Sparks
From my review:
“Ruby Sparks is by no means a profound movie, but I thought it was pretty damned fun, and considering how picky I am with “fun”, that is high praise. But there’s more to it than just the light hearted comedy; it puts its finger on easy it is to get into a mode where we try to reconfigure our loved ones and how unwise such attempts can be.”

Rush
Rush

This was surprisingly enjoyable – even for someone who couldn’t care less about formula one.

Side Effects
This made me think of director such as Alfred Hitchcock. It’s got the ingredients: a conspiracy, a battle of wills, cunning plans that are so entertaining that you forgive them for being implausible and women who are as dangerous as they’re beautiful. Besides it’s got Jude Law, who keeps aging with grace and dignity. In the absence of James Stewart, he’s a perfect fit for the role.

Silver Linings Playbook
This film did for mental illness what 50/50 did for cancer: took a bit of the drama out of it with humour.

Spring Breakers
The party went on and on and I didn’t know what point it tried to make. But it was pretty.

tom at the farm
Tom at the Farm

Xavier Dolan, the Canadian wonder, made it again. He’s got talent you could die for.

Warm Bodies
Braiiins! I was charmed.

wadjda
Wadjda

A punk girl in Saudia Arabia and her drem of a cycle. Infuriating with a little rim of hope.

10-30

Beasts of the Southern Wild
The story of Hushpuppy – my hero!

Mitt_liv_med_Liberace
Behind the Candelabra

It was a shame that this was marketed as a TV movie.

Blue is the Warmest Color
This movie quickly got a reputation for its sexual content. But far more interesting than the sex scenes is to see how the relationship evolves and what a struggle it can be to overcome class differences.

Blue

Blue Jasmine
Cate Blanchett was magnificent. The movie as such was good too. Regardless of the debate about Woody Allen’s person.

Café de Flore
A delicious movie for everyone who loves the bittersweet. Strangely it never got any cinematic release in Sweden; it went straight for DVD.

Frankenweenie
A 3D movie in black and white? Not a hit with the big audience, it appears. I was alone in the theatre watching this, which didn’t make it less enjoyable. Oh, Sparky! Movie dog of the year!

Frances_Ha
Frances Ha

Some movies have a “soul”, if you get what I mean. Others don’t. Frances Ha has it. And it has New York City. And Greta Gerwig, who is wonderful.

Fruitvale Station
From my review:

“I was reminded of that behind every news headline you see about someone dying in a crime or violence related incident, there’s also a hidden story about the people involved. There are children who lose their parents, mothers who lose their sons, partners who lose their loved ones. And each one of them is a human being, not as different from me as I may think as I throw a glance at them from the other side of the platform at the subway station.”

the-great-gatsby-the-green-light-on-the-dock
The Great Gatsby

I thank Baz Luhrmann. God knows how many more years I would have waited to read the book if it wasn’t for the beautiful, sparkling and loving (and actually surprisingly faithful) introduction he made with his movie.

Hotell
I’ve seen it twice now. This is probably the funniest Swedish movie of 2013 – and at the same time it’s very gripping. Remake, anyone?

the-impossible1

The Impossible
You enter the theatre annoyed by an issue with your computer, and you leave it with tears and a new spark in your eyes, grateful of what you have. Grateful of your family, grateful of your health, grateful of living in security. Grateful of being one of the winners in the lottery of life.

The Master
From my review:

“ The Master is the kind of movie that begs you for revisits. I would happily come back again to it, to enjoy the cinematography, which is stunningly beautiful, even if you haven’t had the opportunity to see it in 70 mm format, to once again be captured by the score and – above all – the outstanding acting performances.”

lesmiserables

Les Miserables
From my review:

“Les Misérables is big, beautiful and shamelessly sentimental. I can understand that it’s not for everyone, but it is for me.

I left the theatre, satisfied as if I’d just had a delicious five-course dinner with the freedom song of the rebels ringing in my ears. This is a meal I’d be happy to eat again.”

Lore
A movie about nazi children that manages to not sort people into boxes. It stayed with me for a long time after watching it.

prisoners
Prisoners

From my review:

“When I left the theatre I felt exhausted and a bit bruised. It’s not just because the running time is long (over 2.5 hours); it’s also that there’s so much to take in as a viewer during those hours. I couldn’t have been more tired if I had been binge watching an entire season of a TV series.”

The Reunion (Återträffen)
This film about bullying really got me thinking about what took place at my high school so many years ago.

startrekintodarkness2
Star Trek Into Darkness

Beautiful lens flares and Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain. Perfect.

Stories We Tell
Sarah Polley took a trip into the family swamp of myths and lies and got us all thinking about the stories we tell.

The Way, Way Back
The Way Way Back

Growing up can be a pain, especially in the neighbourhood of jerks like Trent. But it gets better. But it gets better.

We are the Best!
I was a punk rocker in the early 80s, so basically this is a movie about me. How could I possibly not love it?

1-10
Captain Phillips, film of the week

10. Captain Phillips
Why Tom Hanks didn’t get an Oscar nomination for this is incomprehensible.

brokencircle

9. The Broken Circle Breakdown
Leave your inner cynic at home.

placebeyondthepines

8. The Place Beyond the Pines
A hard hitting, beautifully constructed drama in three acts. I bought each one of them.

zerodarkthirty

7.  Zero Dark Thirty
Opening in the very beginning of the year, this movie made such an impression that it lasted through the entire year to appear in the top 10. Not bad.

cloud atlas

6.  Cloud Atlas
It breaks my heart to think about how badly this movie made in the box office so I avoid thinking about that part. I’ve seen this movie twice now, and it only gets better. This was a bold and beautiful movie.

Still from the documentary The Act of Killing

5. The Act of Killing
If you’ve seen it, you know why I’m tempted to give up on the future of humanity. I can’t recall any documentary that is anywhere near as disturbing, as horrifying, as nauseating as this one was. The villains are unspeakably evil and make the bad guys in ordinary action movies seem like decent people in comparison.

12 years a slave

4. 12 Years a Slave
From my review:

“This is so much more than a monument over people’s suffering in the post, more than a history lesson about something that you “should know about”. It’s also a movie about the present, about the uglier features of the human nature. It points out mechanisms that are still in use if we open our eyes. And this is what makes it such a tough – and important – movie to watch, relevant not only to an American audience.”

beforemidnight
3. Before Midnight

With every conversation another layer is added. I want to grow old with the Before-movies.

Thehunt
2. The Hunt

This movie hit me like a punch in my guts when I watched it in the beginning of 2013.  I haven’t recovered completely yet. What’s most troubling about this film isn’t how the neighbours, family and friends treat xx when wrongly is accused of child molesting. It’s that I can’t rule out that I would do the same if I was in their situation.

gravity

1. Gravity
Am I a shallow person for loving Gravity slightly more than 12 Year a Slave? Maybe. But is my comfort blanket and biggest fear in equal measures. I neglect it, I ignore it, I forget about it at times. But it’s always present. Gravity reconnected me to space, and thus to myself. Besides it was a hell of a ride and I’ll never think of 3D the same way again. I don’t regret putting it as my number one. That’s how I felt about it, and there’s nothing I can do about it. My only regret is not watching it multiple times in a theatre when I had the chance.

My international 2013 list

Finally: here is another version of my top 10 list, where I’ve removed the films that are considered 2012 releases in most countries and included the ones that I’ve had the chance to see.

1. Gravity
2. The Hunt
3. Before Midnight
4. 12 Years a Slave
5. The Act of Killing
6. The Place Beyond the Pines
7. The Broken Circle Breakdown
8. Captain Phillips
9. Blue is the Warmest Colour
10. Prisoners

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Did the critic who gave Only God Forgives a 5/5 rating suffer from sunstroke?

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onlygodforgivesmovie

Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian gave Only God Forgives a 5/5 star rating after watching it in Cannes.

The unanimous verdict by the Swedish film critics was that he suffered from sunstroke and clearly had lost his mind.

They on the other hand hated it, passionately. They sighed at the over-the-top violence, they despised Ryan Gosling’s quietly staring appearance, calling it a parody on himself, mocking him for the all in all 17 lines he had in the movie (I haven’t counted it myself, but it seems plausible.) And they loathed it for being so pretty and stylish, considering it a bimbo movie, which looked great but was void of any substance, soul or meaning.

Why I hesitated
Of course I didn’t let this stop me from watching it. People booed at it at Cannes, so what? It doesn’t necessarily mean anything. They’ve raved over movies that I’ve hated as well for that sake. Festival audiences seem to be a kind of their own and highly unreliable when it came to guidance about what to see.

What did make me hesitate was the idea of Ryan Gosling and Nicolas Winding Refn teaming up again for yet another violence packed movie. I shivered as I thought back at our last encounter, Drive. While I ended up appreciating it for the excellence in craft and execution, it was a struggle for me to get through it at all. Since my company had taken cover in fetal position, refusing to look at the screen, I felt it as an obligation to keep looking so I could relate it to her afterwards. The sound that a scull makes if you jump on it until it breaks was still clear in my memory. Deep down I was a squishy. So why would I want to expose myself to that kind of thing again?

To that I don’t have any clear answer. It probably was a combination: one part the attraction of Ryan Gosling’s presence, one part the memory that I actually had given Drive a 4,5/5 rating, despite my quandaries, one part rebellion against the establishment. If it was Peter Bradshaw against the world, he could use some assistance. I needed to find out for myself if it was as bad as they said.

More arthouse than action
If anyone thought that violence was an important selling argument, you might want to reconsider. As far as I remember, there were five of us in the theatre, or rather four and a half. There was this woman who seemed to be undecided whether to stay or leave. Most of the film she spent standing at the end of a row, with her jacket on, as if she was about to evacuate the room any second. (I assumed that she was nauseated by the blood and gore and needed some air, but thinking closer about it I realize now that she might not have intended to leave at all. Perhaps she just had a pain in her back and needed to stand up for a while.)

In any case it was clear that it wasn’t a huge box office hit. The story isn’t overly complicated: two sides take vengeance on each other by killing, chipping off body parts with a short sword or simply smashing the other one into a bloody mess, depending on the art of the wrongdoing and grade of guilt. But it’s told in a manner that is too slow and strange to attract a wide audience. More arthouse than action, which is exactly the reason why I liked it as much as I did.

The night club settings make me think of David Lynch and blood colour carries a reminiscence of Suspiria: intensely red and abundant to the degree that you can’t really believe in it, engage with it or get genuinely upset about it (especially since there’s no character in this movie to root for, not even Ryan Gosling, despite his kind, yearning eyes). In some perverted way you stll enjoy watching it because it’s beautiful and haunting.

Modern art installation
I can definitely understand and sympathize with those who consider it as speculative and superficial. I see where you’re coming from and I admit that I’m not capable of providing any deep and clever interpretation of what all this means either.  This movie reminds me of modern art installations, like the one at the Modern Museum of Art in Stockholm a few years ago: raw red meat hanging in hooks from the ceiling. It’s up to the viewer to provide a “meaning” to the object.

The critic who gave Only God Forgives a 5/5 knew what he was doing. No sunstroke there. On the other hand I’d say the same thing about those who gave it a 2/5. I hear you all guys, regardless of where on the scale you are.

For my own part I’m siding with The Guardian (although a litle bit more restrained in my rating). I thought it was excellent. Style over substance? Maybe, but there’s something condescending about that expression, isn’t there? I’d rather say that the style in this movie IS the substance. And there’s nothing wrong about that.

Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2013) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

June 18, 2013 at 12:53 am

Posted in Only God Forgives