Tuesday, 14 January 2014

2013 film countdown, part 5 (or, act 2, part 1): old school

First of all, a correction. Looking through my best and worst of 2013 list, I increasingly felt that I treated the bottom two films a little too harshly. Or, more to the point, I didn't think they deserved to be lower than the pile of crap that was The Counselor. So, I take it back. The Counselor was well and truly the worst film I saw last year.

And now back to good films. These are some of the best of the older films I saw in 2013. I saw lots of classics for the first time, and could probably make a top 15 or 20 list if I wanted to, but I take enough time writing a top 10 so I'll stick to that.

Pre-2013 films: #10-6

10) The Sting

Paul Newman. Robert Redford. The perfect crime.

Story-wise, that's all you really need to know to pull you in (or put you off). It's classic caper fare, with Paul Newman and Robert Redford playing confidence men who join forces to pull off a big take.

This was nominated for ten Academy Awards for the year it was released, taking out seven of them, and you can see why. It boasts some big acting talent, a great script (although I did find the ending a little telegraphed), and a whole lot of fun seeing the schemes of the two con men play out. Also, The Entertainer plays to the opening titles. I enjoyed this quite a bit.
Alfred Hitchcock. Grace Kelly. The perfect crime. Wait, I said that for the last one, didn't I? Speaking of criminal schemes...

A man hires someone to off his unfaithful wife for her money and concocts an elaborate way to do so. When things don't go right, the man improvises.

Firstly, I thought the character of the chief inspector was fantastic, and very British (the film being set in England). Secondly, Grace Kelly. I don't think I need to add any more to that one.

I felt this was the culmination of Hitchcock's obsession with ingenious ways to kill people that I noticed being explored in Shadow of a Doubt, and put to action in Rope and Strangers on a Train. Of course, as always, not everything goes to plan, wherein lies the intrigue of the film. The crime is very much different to the one in The Sting, but it's no less entertaining to watch unfold. It's a testament to the script and directing that it's suspenseful even though it is mostly dialogue and has minimal set changes. High-end stuff from Hitchcock.
The perfect crime. Again? Sigh. From the golden age of anime comes this sci-fi mystery classic.

Patlabor is an anime and manga franchise following the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Special Vehicle Section 2 (SV2 for short) who pilot mecha/robots called Labors. This first film in the franchise from the late 1980s is set in the near-future (ok, it's set in 1999, but we never did get those giant robots in real life back then, sob) and the city's Labors suddenly start going out of control. SV2's division 2 must investigate the cause before things get much worse.

What I loved about this was its complex plot that was a good blend of police mystery and sci-fi. That and giant fucking robots, of course.
The perfect cri... oh goddammit. Anyway, this one is weird.

I'm not even sure what to say about this one. I mean, it's good. Very good. It's also disturbing. And weird. So fucking weird. But in a good way? I don't know.

So yeah, just go watch it.
Aha! Not the perfect crime this time! C-C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER! Somewhat appropriate to close out this post with another seven Oscar winner.

This classic biopic is a dramatisation of T.E. Lawrence's military career during World War I. It begins with Lawrence's death and subsequent funeral, at which people are asked if they knew the man. Nobody really has a clear answer. Flash back to his service in the Middle East. Lawrence is shown as charismatic yet often aloof without the right motivation and not content with his current post in Egypt. After some convincing of the right people, he gets sent to Arabia to parley with Britain's Arab allies. It's here that his true character comes out.

There's so much to love here. The epic adventure story, the character development, Peter O'Toole's breakthrough role--I don't know whether or not the real-life T.E. Lawrence was like the one portrayed in the film but it's a testament to O'Toole's skills as an actor that the character came off as so multi-layered--the gorgeous cinematography from the end to end. And that soundtrack! This was a film so confident in itself that it began with a sweeping overture before you even see the first frame. I'm so glad I managed to catch this in a theatre because, despite its length (the restoration clocks in at 227 minutes), it's a great cinematic experience.

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