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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:

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.

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

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


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

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.

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

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

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?


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.”


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.


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


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

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 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.

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

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

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.

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 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.”


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.”

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


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.

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?

Captain Phillips, film of the week

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


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


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


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.”

3. Before Midnight

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

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.


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


A few words on artists who become directors, bullying and a must-see Swedish movie

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Do directors who have a background as artists make movies that are different from directors who previously have worked as, let’s say musicians, psychologists, shop managers or nurses? When you watch a movie, can you tell if it was made by a former artist?

I can’t. But there is something about the artist profession that gives it a certain aura of mystery. I get the impression that artists are a step higher in the status hierarchy than directors. A film directed by a former artist is expected to be more than just a film among others. It’s “art”.

Personally I’ve never been able to tell the difference. It’s true that Steve McQueen comes from the art world and it’s true that he (or his cinematographer) has an eye for the visual language, as shown in 12 Years a Slave. But there are many other directors with no previous career as artists who are obsessed with the visuals nevertheless.

Art installation or movie?
In any case, we’ve now got a Swedish equivalent of Steve McQueen – a director, who people insist on labelling as an “artist”. Her name is Anna Odell and she recently won the Swedish film award Guldbaggen for her debut movie The Reunion. In her case I’m afraid the label has been hold against her on occasions. While the movie mostly has received praise from the movie critics, I’ve also seen people questioning why her film has been nominated in the first place, arguing that her movie isn’t a real “movie”, but an art installation.

I don’t agree with this view at all. The Reunion was one out of three Swedish movies from 2013 that I genuinely loved (the other two being Lisa Langseth’s Hotell and Lukas Moodysson’s We are the Best! I would recommend you to see them all if you ever get the chance, though it’s pretty unlikely if you live outside of Sweden – it appears to me that they’re mostly screened at film festivals.)

This is a film about bullying, but seen through the eyes of the grown-up. The first half of the film is a pretty straight forward story, taking place at a class reunion, where the director Anna Odell, playing a character also named Anna Odell, is one of the participants. In a scene that reminds of Thomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration, she confronts everyone who treated her badly. She refuses to let sleeping dogs lie and doesn’t give a damned if this breaks the festive mood. She wants to say her truth, no matter what. This first half of the film alone is very good, but it’s in the second half that the movie really takes off, becoming truly inventive and interesting. It turns out that the class event never took place. This is Anna Odell’s imagination or day dream of what would have happened had she been there. Because in reality never received any invitation to the class reunion. Instead she contacts her old classmates, showing them the film she has made about the imagined party, inquiring what they feel about it.

There’s a documentary feel to the whole thing, not the least because of Anna Odell’s usage of herself in the film. But it’s not – all the classmates, both at the initial reunion party and the ones that are confronted in the second half, are played by actors. However – as far as I’ve understood it – it’s “based on a true story”. The real Anna Odell has been in contact with people who bullied her at school. And some of the script is based on real conversations that have taken place.

Is Anna a bully?
In Sweden there has been a debate about the film. After the initial raving reviews, there was a backlash, where some have accused Anna Odell for “bullying” her old classmates by doing this film. As a moviemaker and an artist, she’s in a stronger position, and therefor it’s “wrong” of her to take her revenge.

Well, I call this [insert suitable strong word]. Firstly: if you’ve been bullied at school you’re perfectly entitled to call people out about this and share your story, tell the world how it was. The fact that it was twenty years ago doesn’t change this a bit. Secondly: The film does more than just point out certain people as bullies. It doesn’t demonize those particular persons; it highlights a problem that we talk about far too rarely considering how common it is. It’s impossible to watch this film without starting to think back at your own school time.

I was never what I would call “bullied”, at the most I was teased, but not worse than that I could deal with it. However I was very lonely as a young teenager and when I left junior high school at 15, I rejoiced at never ever having to meet my class again in my entire life. There have been class reunions but I haven’t attended a single one. But what made me uncomfortable wasn’t my own situation back in those days. I thought about a girl in my class, who was very short, a little chubby and had a very bright voice. The boys in the class used to call her names. Sometimes they put her in one of the huge dust bins in the corridor and she was too short to get out of it by herself. They forced her into a locker to see if she fit in.

Those are horrible actions. And I think of myself. Where was I? What did I do? Did I protest? Did I turn them in, get help from a teacher? Did I comfort her, support her, stand up for her? I can’t recall that I did a thing more than hiding in my corner, staying as far away from my class as possible. Thinking back at it I’m not sure how guilty I should feel about myself. Had I done more I would probably have become a victim myself. But the movie definitely got me thinking.

A film about us
The Reunion is not just a film about Anna Odell confronting her old class with the help of actors. It’s a film about all of us. Even if we never have bullied anyone or been the victim of bullying, we’ve had it in our neighbourhood. We still have. It’s everywhere and sadly not only in schools. It’s not something you “grow out of”. There are fully grown-up people who bully their colleagues in working places. The same old mechanics at work, over again. And we should fight it and have the courage to confront it, wherever and whenever it appears

The Reunion is not an art installation. It’s a film, just a little more intelligent and unconventional than most films you see. Anna Odell is not an artist. Maybe she used to be, but I know her now as a film maker, a writer, director and actor. And I hope she’ll stick to this trade from now on.

The Reunion (Återträffen, Anna Odell, SWE 2013) My rating: 4,5/5

Written by Jessica

February 14, 2014 at 12:43 am