T.G.O.F’s Memorable films of 2013.

Jennifer Valencia’s picks:

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2013 is coming to a close and it is a time to look back and reflect on life and all the movies we saw this past years. I have many things to be greatful for in 2013 and having the opportunity to watch and write about films here with my sister is right up there with buying a house. Here is a list of some of my favourite and least favourite films of the past year:

Best Documentary:
Blackfish

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Blackfish tells the story of an Orca named Tikilum who is responsible for killing several of his trainers while in captivity. While focusing on this one Orca we get a look behind the scenes at sea parks around the world.

Why I Loved It: Beautifully shot, some of the footage is shocking and almost hard to watch when we become privy to some of the incidents involving Tikilum. We see the conditions and circumstances that lead to the deaths of the trainers while at the same time realizing that human ingnorance were in equal parts responsible for those incidents as Tiklium was, maybe more so.

Honorable Mentions:

Brothers Hypnotic
Why: I saw this at Hot Docs and I couldn’t stop raving about it. It is about a brass band comprising of brothers named the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. The music is phenomenal. You will be dancing in your seats.

Jordorowsky’s Dune
Why: A look at a film that could have been and never was. A film about art, obsession and passion. A must see if you love sci-fi films.

Best Summer Block Buster:
Pacific Rim

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A war wages between humans and monsterous sea creatures from another world. Our only hope is giant robots!

Why I Loved It: While this may not the best summer blockbuster I have ever seen it made the kid inside me happy with glee. There were problems with this film but the graphics and action were too great for my eyes to take in all at once and plus robots vs sea monsters!

Best Drama:
12 Years A Slave

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Solomon Northup, a free black man, is abducted and sold into slavery. Northup fights to stay alive and retain his dignity.

Why I Loved It: A truly heartbreaking film about slavery that is not afraid to go “there”. Steve McQueen does not fail in making us feel Northup’s struggle, despair, and humanity. McQueen forces us to see and not look away no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel. The film deals with truths that have shaped not only African American’s lives but the lives of all ethnicities and anyone who has to struggle to maintain their dignity.

Honorable Mention

The Great Gatsby
Why: I had issues with the film over all but the thing that stands out for me is Leonardo’s performance. He was Gatsby in that film. I felt Gatsby’s desire and hope through Leonardo’s performance. It was a real treat for me.

August: Osage County
Why: Seen as a dark dramady this film really intrigued me. It follows a unbelievely disfunctional family that makes you look at your own family and think I don’t have it that bad.

Best Comedy and Best Pleasent Surprise:
The Heat

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A buddy cop film where two very different kinds of cops are brought together on one case to take down a drug lord.

Why I Loved It: The next best thing since Bridesmaids, this film is funny and witty. Sandra Bullock proves again that she is a great comedic actress and Melissa Macarthy does not disapoint. These actresses play off eachother so well. It’s cop comedy much like Leathal Weapon or 48 Hrs which lives up to the genre.
Worst films of 2013:

Oz The Great and Powerful
Why: Awful acting and story.

Side Effects
Why: See above. A real waste of my time.

I look forward to the year to come and all the films I am going to watch. Bring it on 2014

Jacqueline Valencia’s picks:

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(Keep in mind, these are SOME of the memorable films I saw in 2013, which means they are either from this year or made in 2012, but I saw them this year regardless.) As of today, I will be watching Inside Llewyn DavisHerPhilomenaPrisoners, and The Wolf Of Wall Street.

(Note: Linked reviews below either by me or some of the very talented critics I enjoy.)

1.  upstream_color_xlg

Upstream ColorTrailer

You HAVE to see Upstream Color! Shane Carruth is one of the few filmmakers that has the guts to still push the envelope. Much of the film is a snippet compilation of images and occurrences. Our main characters search for a mutual truth within their obscured memories. In that search is a world of a new kind of science fiction, a new perspective on the search for meaning, and most of all, the most subtle cinematic film catharsis I’ve ever experienced. You will be rendered. You will be sampled and find yourself upstream.

Amy Seimetz  is fascinating to look at. Her character’s anxieties surface as quirks, but the fact that this is Carruth’s second feature film ever after Primer, and he had no film or classical film making experience before that (he was a math major and worked on flight simulation software), makes this masterpiece even more intriguing.

My non-spoiler review: http://lemonhound.com/2013/06/13/jacqueline-valencia-two-short-takes/  My spoiler laden analysis: http://jacquelinevalencia.com/2013/05/23/upstream-color-my-impression-analysis/

2.
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Only God ForgivesTrailer

Nicholas Winding Refn is a master at visuals. After the Pusher trilogy and Bronson, I could just watch any of his films with no dialogue. Actually, Only God Forgives is like that. However, there is story, and much like Upstream Color, it’s a bit of a maze to decipher. The film itself is infused with great tableau vivants that allow the audience digest the hyper aware emotional settings and colors coming out of the screen.

Ryan Gosling is a blank canvas for Refn and I’m totally ok with that in this film. We’re looking at provocative images and the tale of someone finding the possible monsters within himself. Whether that is Refn’s search, I’m not entirely sure, but the film is a feast for the eyes. Only God Forgives gives us the creepiest karaoke singing villain (maybe the only one) ever in Vithaya Pansringarm . If you miss Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch at their finest, then watch Only God Forgives.

Alan Jones‘ defense of the film (thank you!):  http://torontostandard.com/culture/only-god-forgives-and-the-merits-of-pushing-at-the-edges-of-acceptability

My spoiler laden analysis: http://jacquelinevalencia.com/2013/07/23/only-god-forgives-my-analysisreview/

3.
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AmourTrailer

This film came out at the very end of last year and I saw it then as well, so I’m cheating. My blog. My choice. The reason I include it is because it is a film that affected me in many ways.

First off, the month that this film came out, my grandmother has passed away. I needed to get out of the house and joined my friend at the last minute to see this film. I had no idea what it was about. Oh it was a devastating reveal.

My grandfather died of complications from Alzheimer’s a few years before my grandmother. We saw him go from being an extremely active man to just a shell of a person at the very end. We were lucky to get glimmers in his eyes in his last few hours. My grandmother watched as the love of her life (they’d been together since they were kids), fade away. My grandmother died of heart complications. She’d suffered long, but clung on until she saw all of her great grandchildren. These two deaths deeply imprinted me with how fleeting a life is and the cruel finality of death. Thus, after watching this film, I both mourned the loss of my grandparents, but saw the beauty in the end of it all. I couldn’t review it then because it was just too much. As it is, this little write up elicits the same emotions I felt then.

Amour is the portrayal of a couple who love each other deeply. One day, one them starts to fade into senility. The film is mostly set in the rooms of one apartment and in its claustrophobic way, it gives us the true horror of how it is to lose someone you love. Michael Haneke lets Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva play out the sparse script creating a palpable portrayal of romance, friendship, and touching partnered rituals. Quiet moments seem so real that it may seem that they are left open to interpretation, but upon closer look at scenes, there is no hidden meaning; things are what the characters produce them to be in their reactions. Shots of Anne sitting in her living room looking at her unused piano or Georges looking lovingly into his wife’s unfocused eyes, they’re all too intimate views of unsurmountable situations.

I want to recommend this film, but I warn that you’ll feel like you’ve just seen a horror film, so take a close friend or loved one. It’s a must see for it’s superb realism.

Chris Knight’s review:  http://arts.nationalpost.com/2013/01/10/amour-reviewed-love-hurts-those-in-michael-hanekes-film-and-those-watching/  

4.
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ManakamanaTrailer

Not everybody loved this film, but I found so much charm in watching travellers go back and forth in the sky car. Some of them reminisce about the times when they had to travel several days to get to their temple, others sat in silence looking at the lush views that surround them, and sometimes the animals had more to say than the humans.

If you love documentaries and if you love true everyday stories, explore Manakamana. It’s nothing more than a silent commute in the sky, but then again, don’t we silently commute every day?

My spoiler free review: http://nextprojection.com/2013/09/13/tiff-2013-review-manakamana-2013-np-approved/

5.

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Berberian Sound StudioTrailer

At first, I was more intrigued with the soundtrack to this film than I was to what the film was giving me. The workings of film sound engineering are so vast and complex and that’s not even scratching the surface at all of the production that goes into making a film. I’ve never wanted to be filmmaker and I’ve never been trained for it because the amount of project management that goes into a film is way too much for this already insane multi-tasker. Peter Strickland offers up a tribute to sound engineering, but also an audio retrospective of old giallo films.

I love giallo flicks for the sinister sets and visceral portrayals of slasher gore. I was never big into the slashing and dicing of women in it, but stylistically, the genre is an archetypal foundation to many of the films that came after it to this day. Sound effects featured hugely in the unseen, the world of the film in the mind can only be created fully with sound and setting. You can create entire feature with just set and sound. This film attempts that and it’s my opinion that it succeeds in its task. Much credit is due to Toby Jones touching work as a man on edge.

My spoiler free review: http://nextprojection.com/2013/06/13/review-berberian-sound-studio-2012/

6.
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I’m a big fan of Claire Denis. Chocolat is in my top films that I’ve ever seen. It’s a simple film, but one that visually connects personal recollections a part of history itself. Denis is an expert at painting emotive visuals that are nuanced in their delivery. With Bastards, Denis takes all of her skills and gives us a sensually provocative image collage that gets under your skin.

I’m not going to lie, I’ll rewind and re-watch Vincent Lindon and Chiara Mastroianni bumping bodies together. It has been one of the highlights of this movie season. The film is markedly complimented by the Tindersticks soundtrack that seeps into the film as if it were another character itself.

Bastards is disturbing and gorgeous. I now require all of the Tindersticks I can possibly consume.

José Teodoro‘s Bastards review and interview with Claire Denis: http://cinema-scope.com/cinema-scope-online/sanctuary-claire-denis-bastards/

7.

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Is it Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s smug face that keeps my friends from watching this movie? I know the trailer doesn’t do this film justice. It was a pleasant surprise to me overall at how much I enjoyed it.

It’s a smart and charismatic take on romantic comedies. Don Jon is addicted to porn. Are the ladies addicted to rom com? This is either an uncomfortably hilarious date movie or a good conversation starter.

Sabrina Maddeaux‘s review: http://www.torontostandard.com/culture/tiff-13-review-don-jon

8.

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I didn’t want to see this movie. I mean, *stomps feet* I didn’t want to see this movie. The trailer made it unappealing in the same “this all that Disney can offer now” way. We had an icestorm here in Toronto which left my family without power for a couple of days so we had to find something to do to keep the kids entertained. It was a gamble because my youngest will not sit still for long in a theatre. It takes a lot preparation, a keen interest on her part for the film, and sometimes her autistic tics aren’t conducive to a quiet theatre crowd. Luckily, she was in the mood for anything new that day. We headed into the theatre with our huge boxes of popcorn and candy and I was ready to focus on keeping my daughter in her seat for almost two hours.

Thank you for the surprise Disney. This in no way redeems previous features where the plot depended on women hating each other and tacky plots to make us believe that life is so hard for the privileged (I know, IT’S JUST A DISNEY MOVIE. A CARTOON!), but when you have a kid and you have a conscience, you have to think about the candy floss you put before impressionable minds.

Frozen has two strong female characters who are sisters that love each other immensely. Men come to save them, but in the end, it doesn’t work out that way. The charm and clever subplots earns this film a top spot in my memorable picks because who knew that Disney could renew itself? And who’d a thought a snowman singing about summer would be so touching?

Linda Barnard’s review:  http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/movies/2013/11/27/animated_frozen_will_warm_your_heart_movie_review.html

Special mentions (links to reviews):The Oxbow CureBlackfishCall Girl, Pepper’s GhostLa Ultima PeliculaBig Bad Wolves, A Field In England, and Beyond the Black Rainbow. Oh and Short Term 12! (That Kiva Reardon review parses it with good bite).

Favourite interview conducted:Pirjo Honkasalo

Movies I disliked and bear mention because they were so awful (links to reviews):

The CanyonsHammer of The Gods, and Passion.

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