Hollywood business writers have dubbed 2013 “Year of the flops,” and there were an unusual number of big-budget clunkers. Many of these were made by experienced directors and studios that should know better but still think that grinding out lifeless product is a surefire money-making formula. Congratulations to audiences for staying home, so that films such as Paranoia, starring Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman, which looked dull even in trailers, and Bullet to the Head with Sylvester Stallone, the title of which serves as its own punchline, tanked at the box office.
But if you ventured out of the multiplexes, there were some excellent films. As usual, my top 10 list below includes only movies that have been released in Israel during this year, so certain films that are out in the US already aren’t on it, such as the Coen brothers’ latest, Inside Llewyn Davis, or 12 Years a Slave, both of which will open here in the next couple of months.
Wonderful films came from all over this year and encompassed all kinds of genres: noir, action, comedy, classic adaptations and just about everything in between.
1. All Is Lost 2. Before Midnight 3. Bethlehem 4. Blue Is the Warmest Color 5. Caesar Must Die 6. Enough Said 7. S#x Acts 8. The Great Gatsby 9. The Wonders 10. Wadjda It may surprise people that there are three Israeli films on the list, but these films deserve to be there. Avi Nesher’s The Wonders is a brilliant mix of genres. Lewis Carroll meets Carol Reed in Jerusalem, with a complicated noir plot involving an artist, an ultra-Orthodox man held against his will and a mystery woman.
Yuval Adler’s Bethlehem showed a very different side of the Jerusalem area and is about an Israeli intelligence agent and a terrorist’s young brother whom he recruits to be his informant. This film delved into the divisions within different Palestinian groups as no other has and was truly suspenseful.
Jonathan Gurfinkel’s S#x Acts is a painful and extremely believable story of a teenage girl who is desperately lonely and wants to be accepted in a world where no one really cares much about her.
Four films from the US made the cut, including J.C. Chandor’s All Is Lost, which stars Robert Redford, whom younger audiences probably know best as the guy who started the Sundance Film Festival.
This almost totally wordless film shows what happens when a man’s sailboat, far out at sea, is damaged. It’s an old-fashioned story of a man’s fight to survive, and Redford’s skillful acting conveys all we need to know about the character.
Richard Linklater’s last film in his trilogy about a Franco-American couple, Before Midnight, starring and co-written by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, is an engaging portrait of a marriage.
Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said, a simple romantic comedy, stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini. Gandolfini is so wonderful, that I only thought the words “Tony Soprano” once during the entire film.
Baz Luhrmann’s 3-D adaptation of The Great Gatsy had its ups and downs, but the director’s love for the work shone through, and Leonardo DiCaprio gave his best performance ever in the title role and may be the best on-screen Gatsby ever.
While the economies may be struggling in Europe, there were lots of good films from the continent, including the Taviani brothers’ Caesar Must Die, a semidocumentary look at prisoners performing Julius Caesar, and Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is the Warmest Color, which took the Palme d’Or at Cannes (a serious film about young French lesbians – what could be bad?).
The most unusual movie in the bunch was the charming Wadjda, which was not just the first film made in Saudi Arabia but was also made by a woman, Haifaa Al-Mansour, who is quite critical of the government’s oppression of women. Waad Mohammed, its young star, gives one of the best performances by a child ever. The film is funny, moving and ingeniously revolutionary at the same time.
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