Sunday, 2 February 2014

Movie Matters #24 - Top 10 of 2013

In the first Movie Matters recording of 2014 we deliver our annual 'bumper-size' retrospective on the past 12 months in film. Join co-hosts Lee Howard and Michael Mackenzie as we count down our personal top ten films of 2013. We also catch up on our Christmas movie viewing and trade notes on our customary exchange of BD-shaped gifts. In addition, we name and shame some of the biggest disappointments and worst films of the year as well as highlighting those movies which succeeded or failed for our loyal listeners. Finally, we round out this extended special episode by looking ahead to the coming months and cherry pick some of our most anticipated films for this year.

The music in this episode is sampled from a selection of films eligible for inclusion in our Top 10 lists, but we shall say no more in the interest of maintaining an air of mystery!


Created by Lee Howard & Michael Mackenzie
Edited by Michael Mackenzie
Music and audio editing by Lee Howard & Michael Mackenzie


PS. As ever, we're keen to hear from you. What films are you most looking forward to in 2014? Did you agree or disagree strongly with the views expressed in this show or have any other responses to our Top 10s to share with us? Plus, what did you think of the structure of this 'Year in Review' episode? Did you like the new collated listener lists or would you rather see a return to the previous format of having the listeners' lists read out in full - be it kept separate or interspersed with the hosts' Top 10s? Let us know as we're still experimenting with how best to present these epic-length instalments each year. Thanks for listening and being part of Movie Matters.


  1. Well done on another epic podcast. Hugely entertaining as always. Surprised you both managed to see so many films during such a busy year for each of you (doctorates and children do not encourage cinemagoing).

    Coming late to the party here is my own list of the best films of the year... Which is nonsense because I haven't seen more than a fraction of the films released during the last year. Very few of these have had a UK theatrical release but then I haven't been to the cinema once during 2013.

    10. The Impossible.
    Simply one of the most dazzling pieces of cinema of the year (and I saw it on my computer). The PC attacks simply reveal the shallowness of modern criticism. The film would not have played half as widely if it had been in Spanish and would not have been able to fund itself if it had been a Thai film. We can only talk about a film for its own merits and this is a film with many. things to recommend it.

  2. 9. 9-9-81
    The first of a few films that I know not many will have seen this is simply a masterpiece (even though it's on youtube). A compendium horror film by a number of directors all rooted in the single suicide.

    8. Before Midnight.
    A sublime examination of the frailty of relationships. Not much to say about this that hasn't already been said but Linklater is, with Woody Allen, the only American film-maker to always be worth paying attention to.

    7. The Gangster (Antapal)
    Like a Thai Goodfellas this is simply a stunning evocation of an era. This has been a good year for Thai films despite the troubles. The story has been told before in Dang Birely and the Young Gangsters, whcih was one of the breakthrough Thai wave films of the late 90s. As with 9-8-81 it is unlikely to open at a UK cinema and is a long shot to even get a local blu ray or DVD release so most will simply ignore it which would be a shame because it's a magnificent piece of work.

    6. Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons
    Another take on Monkey directed by Stephen Chow. Comedies tend to get overlooked on top ten lists. But comedy is the hardest thing to get right. That particular strain of comedy which you can only find in Hong Kong films is something I miss if I don't get to enjoy at least a few samples. For me this is the best I've seen this year. Hard to see. No UK release. It may get one but it's worth tracking down even if it doesn't. Chow was the man behind Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer and had a string of hits with Wong Jing. Here he is directing with the stunning Qi Shu being the big name lighting up the posters. More fun than any other film I can think of this past year.

  3. 5. Cloud Atlas
    I think this is a 2013 film. I saw it in 2013 and it says on wikipedia it was released in 2013 in the UK. I'm sure a lot of people will hate this film but I thought it was one of the few stand out English language movies in a year where most of the English language films I've seen have been a little lacking in ambition. I can't even begin to describe this film so I'm not going to try. It was made by the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer and it covers much of human history. One of the few excessively long movies that has a reason to be excessively long.

    4. V/H/S 2
    Yes. That's right. You heard me. I know V/H/S was a bit short on brilliance but the sequel is so good that I almost started believing in horror movies again. Not only is it a compendium horror (one of my favourite ever subgenres being a man with a short concentration span). The camera eye that sees ghosts may seem a bit derivative but the cycle helmet zombie short proved that there's life in the old zom yet despite overblown tired affairs like World War Z and the soapish Walking Dead series. The real standout, for me, was the Garath Evans co-directed Indonesian cult film which was beautifully unhinged and showed that the director of The Raid is not a one trick pony. The alien abduction short, however, did make me jump two or three times so on a purely technical level that's not bad.

    3. Steins;Gate the Movie: Burdened Domain of Déjà vu
    Funny and touching and deep old style complicated science fiction. The notion of being able to disappear from time is something that has been a popular idea and even haunts the perennial seasonal favourite "It's a Wonderful Life" but here it is played without any overblown sentimentality. It's touching not because of syrupy music but because these characters live and breathe in their own universe. The relationships may appear trivial and unreal but they refer to something every bit as sophisticated as the real life complexities of the couple in Before Midnight.

  4. 2. Only God Forgives.
    I would have had this as my number one movie if I didn't think I could cheat and put a 2012 film that has had no UK release yet in as a 2013 film. I should state from the outset that I hated Drive and I don't think Ryan Gosling can act. That this film remains so high on my list is a testament to how much it gets right. The streets of Bangkok bleeding red or green like a scene from Suspiria. The strangely still night club where the nameless character played by Vithaya Pansringarm (the true star of the film) sings karaoke. The bizarre explosions of violence. The perpetual emasculation of Gosling's character. The sultry sensuality of Yayaying. The unbelievable cruelty of Kristin Scott Thomas's evil mother. These moments have been haunting me more than the moments from any other film released during 2013. I lost a bit of faith in Refn after Drive. But this is a work from the same unconventional maverick who made Valhalla Rising. Any concession to popular taste has gone with Gosling being reduced. This is a strange dreamlike hybrid of Lynch and Argento with deep respects played to Miike and Jodorowsky. I know how disliked this film is in some quarters but this is a unique and beautiful movie.

    1. Helter Skelter.
    This is a total cheat on my part. I don't know why this has not been released in the UK (despite showing at the LFF in 2012). It did get a US release last year so I remain hopeful. I would definitely make it to the cinema if I had a chance to see this on the big screen having seen it about four times on a small one. Basically a satire on the transcience of beauty and celebrity it stars the suitably perfect looking Erika Sawajiri as the model Lilico. Like a modern Bathory she preserves her beauty due to plastic surgeons using peculiar methods but the deformities to that beauty become greater and greater as her reliance on the surgery becomes more pronounced. She is not painted by director (and famous photographer Miki Ninagawa) in a particularly sympathetic light but the whirl of colours and distortions of reality draw us into her world nevertheless. I wouldn't know how to describe this film to someone who hadn't seen it without making it sound a little empty but emptiness is the whole point. Lilico has everything. She is the idol of millions. But it means nothing and it's killing her. Which makes it sound like I'm talking about some terrible Bieber biopic... It's anything but. If it finally gets a theatrical or UK blu ray release in 2014 it'll probably be the number one film of this year too

  5. Thanks for the detailed comments, Jago. Incidentally, I'm glad I'm not the only one who was impressed by THE IMPOSSIBLE.

    As regards CLOUD ATLAS, it's certainly divisive and I'm of the opinion that it's somewhere between being a masterpiece and a folly. We both realised, after finishing recording the podcast, that neither of us had mentioned it even once despite being one of the most iconic films of the year. Think of the music at the very beginning, which comes from the film, as little nod towards this oversight.

  6. I've always liked GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH better.


  8. And for the record, Lee, Luis Bacalov scored DJANGO (1966), not Morricone. ;)

  9. MOS was awful. My biggest disappointment of 2013.
    What Lee said about action set pieces is actually generally how I feel about film. The scenes that are intended to be the most exciting are usually the ones that bore me. Everything is wall-to-wall noise these days.

    Don't get me wrong, I love some action films - PREDATOR, DIE HARD, HARD BOILED, INDIANA JONES, etc.

  10. It's interesting that Cloud Atlas, which I thought was an incredibly impressive and ambitious movie, has has such a minor impact on people's lists. I think it might be one of those films whose reputation grows in the next few years.