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Ten top films, according to the BBC


Well, you might have rated highly Olympus has fallen or White House Down but the BBC has come up with its own list of the top ten film in 2013. Here it is:

10. Enough Said

In writer-director Nicole Holofcener’s wonderfully urbane chamber piece, an imperfect middle-aged woman – divorced, dubious about ever finding love again and dreading the empty nest once her daughter goes off to university – meets an imperfect middle-aged man. Sparks don’t fly; sparks are for kids. But with plenty of missteps along the way, the woman – played by Seinfeld-to-Veep TV star Julia Louis-Dreyfus with a revelatory lack of vanity – re-learns how to trust and to be trustworthy. And the man – played with heartbreaking sweetness and dignity by the late James Gandolfini in one of his final roles – asserts himself with disarming candour.

9. All Is Lost
The year’s most austere yet rousing, harrowing yet thrilling and philosophical yet utterly practical-minded adventure-drama features Robert Redford alone in a boat – an old man and the sea, with barely a word spoken. Redford, as a solo unidentified sailor on the Indian Ocean in an acutely damaged boat, concentrates on the present, moment by moment, task by task, to stem a cascade of life-and-death crises. It is that balance of vastness, aloneness, and one man’s resourcefulness that makes All Is Lost such a moving experience filled with majesty right up to its mysterious final moments.

8. Fruitvale Station
It so happens that this riveting, punch-in-the-gut dramatic recreation of the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old black man shot to death by a white transit cop in Oakland, California on New Year’s Eve four years ago. The movie captures the short life of one flawed citizen, with a family, a girlfriend, a little daughter, and a life assembled – as most are – of good intentions and mistakes, small pleasures and big challenges.

7. The Act of Killing
In a year of fine documentaries – The Square, A River Changes Course, At Berkeley and Blackfish high among them – this one is a jaw-dropper. It is a hallucinatory tour of the minds of gangsters who led death squads in North Sumatra in the mid 1960s, now aging men who re-enact their murdering ways with a kind of chilling glee.
And when the revulsion we feel catches up with one of the most notorious of the death-squad killers, the urgency with which the gangster – a grandfather now, an old gent – expresses his own self-horror results in a surreal episode of howling and retching, a soul turned inside out.

6. A Touch of Sin
There is a fury galvanising the newest movie by the great Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke: a rage at corruption, greed, and cultural destruction in the name of Chinese modernisation and globalisation. Here he attacks what he sees as decay within his own colossal country with the violent energy of a pulpy popcorn thriller, creating a propulsive saga in four parts. His profoundly disgruntled protagonists include a miner driven mad by local corruption, a migrant worker on a shooting spree, a humiliated woman and a young man who cannot get a foothold in the working world.

5. Her
Man meets Operating System. Man loves OS. Man loses OS. Set in a brave new world just near enough to be recognisable and just beyond reach enough to be eerie, Spike Jonze’s singular, and singularly beautiful, futuristic romantic drama probes deep philosophical issues about connection, loneliness, sexual expression and the boundaries between human and artificial intelligence.

4. The Great Beauty
In this gorgeous swoon of a movie about his homeland Italy, filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino salutes his countryman Federico Fellini’s masterpiece La Dolce Vita. But the director, who captured Italian rottenness of a particularly political kind in Il Divo, swans and meanders on a tender, rueful and bemused tour of beauty and damnation very much of his own distinctive making. As a charming, sybaritic journalist who has traded efforts at literary greatness for a life of wealth, ease and frivolity, the indispensable Italian actor Toni Servillo becomes our guide through circles of damnation that his countryman Dante Alighieri might recognise. Both visually and aurally ravishing – the soundtrack is enchanting.

3. Before Midnight
Amazing. It has been 18 years since audiences first encountered Ethan Hawke as Jesse, a young American traveler abroad, and Julie Delpy as Céline, a young French woman who would change his fate on an all-night prowl through Vienna, in Before Sunrise. It has been nine years since we reunited with them in Before Sunset.Now, in middle age, Jesse and Céline have never felt more real, as they talk and talk and talk their way through the challenges of keeping a relationship alive – a relationship between a man and a woman who think they know one another.

2. American Hustle
Rude, wily, sexy and bursting with brio, David O Russell’s portrait of a late 1970s American scam can pass, if you squint, as an inside-out version of Inside Llewyn Davis: While Joel and Ethan Coen find inspiration in the lives of men for whom being pretty good at what they do is no guarantee of success, Russell is jazzed by the lives of men – and one adventuress of a woman – who barrel ahead on gusts of confidence in their own lies. Using the FBI’s sting operation known as Abscam as the basis for his story, Russell presides, with giddy confidence himself, over a dead-serious farce in which the con is king – personally, professionally, politically – and it is difficult to tell the bluffers from the believers.

1. Inside Llewyn Davis
Choosing the best movie of the year defies standards of analysis, or even logic. So, on a solid list of outstanding titles of equal merit, number one ought to be reserved for an expression of unquantifiable love. Hence, for this list-maker, it’s Inside Llewyn Davis. The setting is the early folk music scene in 1960s New York City, and the protagonist is an exasperating piece of work who makes messes in the lives of those around him but who also happens to sing sad ballads with clear, unvarnished eloquence. Nothing much good comes for Llewyn Davis, nothing too tragic either. Enhanced by a golden soundtrack of folk song ballads, many sung with quiet feeling by Oscar Isaac, so magnetic in the title role, the Coen brothers display a maturity of perception – about aspiration and the randomness of the universe, about scene-setting and narrative pace – that silences old charges about the siblings’ coldness of heart. Surprise! Inside Llewyn Davis is a tender place.

*Courtesy of the BBC

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