Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Taking On 2013: Top Films (Q1 Quarterly Review)

I'm not sure if it's been a slower year for film, generally by this point in time a lot of the foreign films I wanted to see at the end of last year have finally gotten theatrical release, or if I just saw more foreign films than I had anticipated in 2012, but in the first quarter the world of cinema has been a bit lean. Still, despite that when compiling my five favorite films of the year so far, the most accomplished works in their field, some tough decisions had to be made. So, with summer nearly upon us, perhaps it has been a pretty good year so far.

5. Lore

This German language, Australian made film almost would have passed my by were it not for the high praise lumped on the film from Adam over at Corndog Chats. Taking place in a Germany just after Hitler was defeated, we follow the remnants of a family of Hitler youth as they attempt to reach a place of safety after both of their parents are held as enemies of the state. Or something, historically speaking I'm not entirely sure, but in kind of a twist on The Odyssey there's this thematic grounding in the fracturing of titular character Lore. Her internal and external struggle, a life defined by victimization, makes the film horrifying.

4. Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh's planned final theatrically released film (preceding his planned final feature film Behind The Candelabra to be released on HBO in May) channeled much of the tension found in his previous Contagion, but scaled back the scope a bit and increased the thrills to build for one of the more memorable early year offerings. Yeah there are some troubling sexual politics going on here, but Jude Law's work is a marvel, and alongside Mara the two are able to compensate for some of the structural weaknesses on the edges.

3. To The Wonder

Visionary recluse Terrence Malick's latest offering follows in the tradition of The Tree Of Life of blending minimalism and maximalism together as a means to address both the physical and spiritual concerns of humanity. Pairing the desire for spirituality with the human desire for romance allows for an entry point to revel in Malick's beautiful imagery, and even if it doesn't reach the same level of satisfaction as found in The Tree Of Life the rumors of Malick's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

2. Spring Breakers

Generally this would be the point where I say that I don't have much more to say that I didn't already write down in my review of Korine's latest fever dream, but in the case of Spring Breakers that couldn't be less true. As I have found myself removed from the film, my admiration for what Korine accomplishes has only grown. He achieves a balancing act that pits so many conflicting aspects in conversation with one another that at any second it could all fall apart. Not once does that even come close to happening. Spring Breakers is a damned marvel.

1. Wolf Children: Ame & Yuki

In the past six months or so we've seen three (probably more) films that attempt to sweep across numerous individuals and generations as storytelling devices. Now I'm not sure if this anime from the director of Summer Wars and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is on the same level in terms of ambition as something like Cloud Atlas, but as an insular tale of the birth and adolescence of brother and sister Ame and Yuki this film hits emotional notes like few others. The dual coming of age searches for identity are themes that tend to hook me, but the execution is where the film finds its greatness.

And with that I've finally caught up on Quarterly Reviews. Now back to watching things. Mud and Pain and Gain come out this weekend, so two different types of auteurs could theoretically displace some entries on this list by Monday. But so is life. For the record, here's a list of everything I've seen so far this year:
  1. Wolf Children: Ame & Yuki
  2. Spring Breakers
  3. To The Wonder
  4. Side Effects
  5. Lore
  6. Amour
  7. No
  8. “The Frrt Identity”
  9. Stoker
  10. Louis CK: Oh My God
  11. The Last Stand
  12. The Place Beyond The Pines
  13. The Wizards Return: Alex vs. Alex
  14. This Is Not A Film
Let me know what I need to catch up with in comments!


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© 2013 Richard James Thorne


  1. Nice! My appreciation for Spring Breakers has grown the further removed I get from my viewing as well. Super excited to get to see To the the end of May! Argh, I can't wait that long! And of course, glad to see Lore on the list, and thanks for the shout out!

    1. Of course, I probably wouldn't have ended up even going to see it had your recommendation not been so high. There are some surprisingly striking visuals in there too, for a film that could be so minor and sparse. Loved the upside down shot in the lake.