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The Velvet Café’s top list of 2013

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gravity2
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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Swept away by The Impossible

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the-impossible1Watching The Impossible, I thought to myself: “I’ve seen this before”.

Technically I knew I hadn’t since the movie just had opened the other night. But the images were so familiar that it felt as a revisit to a place where I had spent a lot of time. The shattered hotels, the flooded area with cars and trees and rooftops floating in it. Row after row of bags, each one with a heartbreaking content, affecting many peoples’ lives. Survivors getting increasingly desperate with every day that passed, searching for their loved once among bodies in decay.

I had seen this movie before as it played on TV over the months that followed on the tsunami in 2004, countless of times.

The Swedish experience
Thailand was – and still is – a hugely popular tourist destination in Sweden. Compared to its population, Sweden was one of the most affected tourist countries in the catastrophe with 554 deaths. During the first confused days the estimated number was ten times higher and obviously this threw the entire nation in a shock. Everyone knew someone who had been directly or indirectly affected. My husband, who is a teacher, had several pupils who were spending Christmas in Thailand and it took a long time before we knew their whereabouts.

The media coverage was enormous, news broadcasting more or less 24/7 during the first days. Mostly we watched the same few sequences, over and over again. Five times. Ten times. A hundred times. We were as hypnotized as we tried to grasp what just had happened and understand what the people on spot had gone through. Some of the survivors became familiar faces after occurring in media so many times. Like characters in a documentary series, only so much darker. The man who lost his whole family and kept searching for weeks and months for his wife and kids reminded me a lot of the characters in The Impossible.

Swept away
I hadn’t thought about the tsunami for a few years, but as I watched The Impossible everything came back to me, the way I remembered it from TV, only a bit closer, reaching under my skin. Tears welled up in my eyes as the family was tore apart when the first wave hit. I was completely swept away by it and experienced their horror and pain as if it had been my own.

The focus is on the situation of the individuals, particularly the children, who experience things that force them to grow up way too early in their lives. They’re in a constant state of chaos and confusion, emphasised by a camera that basically never stops shaking.

The movie is at its best when it leaves room for the natural sounds and silences. In the second half  it goes into a mode where it’s a little bit more on the nose, as the violin score instructs me when it’s time for a good cry. While it doesn’t ruin the film to me, it seems like overkill to me: tears would have come naturally anyway.

Spanish, Indonesian or English
There has been some criticism against the film because of its focus on western tourists instead of the 130 000 Indonesians who lost their lives. I don’t share this view. This is not a documentary aiming to give the whole picture. Its perspective is the personal experience: what it was like to be there and it’s easier to make this work if the audience can identify with the people on the screen. It’s a Spanish movie. It’s unreasonable to expect a Spanish film producer to make movies about Indonesian experiences when you have a story worth telling nearby. Besides, there’s a thriving Asian film industry. If there isn’t already a tsunami movie out there told from their perspective, there might be one in the future.

I find it more bothersome that the Spanish family in the all-Spanish movie was cast with British actors rather than Spanish. As much as I loved the performances by Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts and the child actor Tom Holland, it’s sad to see that the Spanish film makers felt compelled to hire English actors in order to make their movies successful abroad. It was the same thing with Buried, where Ryan Reynolds was casted to make it more appetizing to an English speaking audience. But I guess at least it has the advantage that no one will be tempted to come up with a remake.

Why I love those movies
In the end you may wonder what draws us to movies like this. Why would you voluntarily see people going through horrible things that you know have happened for real? Don’t you rather want to wind down from your job and everyday worries thinking about something nice or fun?

I think my own obsession with the genre boils down to two things. One is the eternal question what it means to be a human. Extreme situations like this will bring out new sides of people: sometimes ugly when the survival instincts kick in, sometimes altruistic with acts of love and sacrifice. I always wonder what side I would fall on, wishing to be a hero but secretly fearing that I might just stick to myself in the end.

The second reason why I love those films is that they help me to get my priorities right.

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.

Grateful of being alive.

The Impossible (Lo Imposible, Juan Antonio Bayona, SP 2012) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

March 11, 2013 at 8:57 am

Posted in The Impossible