2013 Year in Review: Best Film of the Year: Harmony Lessons

Best Film of the Year: Harmony Lessons

Best Film of the Year: Harmony Lessons

2013 Year in Review
Best Films of the Year

#1
UROKI GARMONII (Harmony Lessons)
Directed by Emir Baigazin
Kazakhstan
, 2013

I almost was not able to see this film because when it was shown in Cinemanila, the subtitles were not showing.  They had to restart the playing of the film around five times before they got it right.  And OH MY!  I sure am happy that I braved the technical problems.

Harmony Lessons is a different take on bullying, teen alienation, growing up, and revenge.  It was in control of its art, while not alienating the audiences or not going too much on the Lynchian route.  The end product was breathtaking.  I have nothing but high praises for the film.  And I will eventually run out of superlatives and great adjectives to describe it.  I just want to urge everyone to see it if they have the chance.  Easily, was the best film of the year, for me.

2013 Year in Review: Best Films of the Year #2 Like Father Like Son

Best Films of 2013 #2: LIke Father Like Son

Best Films of 2013 #2: Like Father Like Son

2013 Year in Review
Best Films of the Year

#2
SOSHITE CHICHI NI NARU (Like Father Like Son)
Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda
Japan
, 2013

I remember the first time I saw this film.  My heart was pounding like crazy.  It was as if I was watching a thriller or a horror.  Then as the film progressed, my heart was crushed all the more.  That was the effect of the film to me. It was a deeply personal family drama that hits the right emotional whatever in me.  It also helps that the film was impeccably acted by the ensemble, especially the kids.  I can only imagine how (probably) hard it was to get that level of performance from the kids.  But Koreeda does wonders with kids, it was an expectation well met, and more.

 

2013 Year in Review: Best Films of the Year #3: Sudoeste

Best Films of 2013 #3: Sudoeste

Best Films of 2013 #3: Sudoeste

2013 Year in Review
Best Films of the Year

#3
SUDOESTE (Southwest)
Directed by Eduardo Nunes
Brazil
, 2012/2013

When you are an aspiring filmmaker, sometimes you get mad at a film because you saw it and you wanted to do something like it.  God was I jealous when I saw this film.  If I only had the right story/equipment/vision/skills for it.  That was what the film had.  Everything that I don’t.  Damn.  Anyway.

“Sudoeste” is a one of a kind film.  I have not seen anything like it.  Or maybe I have, but this one sticks out the most.  It was an aural and visual masterwork, a triumph in storytelling.  I wish many people get to see it.

2013 Year in Review: Best Director

2013 Year in Review: Best Director

2013 Year in Review: Best Director

I am really sorry that I had to select six here because, I enjoyed their work profusely that I could not drop one of them  Plus this is my list.  I do what I want. #makingUpReasons

Runners Up:  DANIEL PATRICK CARBONE, HIDE YOUR SMILING FACES.  For creating a one of a kind story of children and how they view life, death, and everything else in between.  For creating a beautiful and heartfelt film that is his first, I can only be excited for what he does next.  EMIR BAIGAZIN, UROKI GARMONII (Harmony Lessons).  For creating a very unique coming of age film, about alienation, bullying and growing up.  Baigazin’s wonderful and often jawdropping film  makes him one of the directors to watch out for.  LAV DIAZ, NORTE, ANG HANGGANAN NG KASAYSAYAN (Norte, The End of History).  For a very grim take of family drama; of crime and its consequences.  Diaz consistently creates one masterwork after another and it seems that we’d be seeing more in the future.  Just pure, stunning, inspiring filmmaking.

3rd Placer: EDUARDO NUNES, SUDOESTE (Southwest)
For having full control of his art and never let it go past overindulgence and pretentiousness.  For creating his own magical world and taking us in and let us tag along in a fantastical ride.  He perfectly balanced and blended fantasy with reality with beautiful results.

2nd Placer: ALFONSO CUARON, GRAVITY
For pushing the envelopes of what can be done with the genre and the technology in hand.  In some ways he is experimenting what can be done more with and effects heavy film while pulling off emotional whallops here and there.  The story/backstory seem cheesy however he worked around it and thus creating a stunning and engaging sci fi action thriller.

Best Director: HIROKAZU KOREEDA, SOSHITE CHICHI NI NARU (Like Father Like Son)
For not going the melodrama route even though the subject matter and story is categorically, melodrama.  For getting inside the head of the kids and successfully putting into the screen what it feels like to become a kid again.  It was seeing the world in their eyes.  May not be his best work, but this is my favorite among his work.  It just was effortless but tremendous work.

2013 Year in Review: Best Films of the Year #4 Hide Your Smiling Faces

Best Films of 2013 #4: Hide Your Smiling Faces

Best Films of 2013 #4: Hide Your Smiling Faces

2013 Year in Review
Best Films of the Year

#4
HIDE YOUR SMILING FACES
Directed by Daniel Patrick Carbone
USA
, 2013

This is when I had a hard time ranking.  The top 4 in my list would have ranked top had it been a lesser year.  Anyway.

I often compare this film to the feeling that I had when I saw “The Tree of Life”.  Only this time, it felt more personal.  It was like seeing the world through the eyes of these pre/adolescent boys.  And it was beautiful to behold.  It was just breathtaking from start to finish.  Technical wise, it was top notch as well.  It was deceptively simple but looking at it closer makes it complex.  It has got to be one of the best coming of age dramas I have seen and a unique one at that.

2013 Year in Review: Best Films of the Year #5 Sana Dati

Best Films of 2013 #5: Sana Dati

Best Films of 2013 #5: Sana Dati

2013 Year in Review
Best Films of the Year

#5
SANA DATI (If Only)
Directed by Jerrold Tarog
Philippines
, 2013

Jerrold Tarog never ceases to amaze me.  I find his works endearing, masterfully made, and story beautifully told.  He continues his “winning” streak last year with “Sana Dati; an anti love story love story and a story of flawed people making flawed decisions.  Tarrog beautifully weaved two separate timelines into one creating one cohesive whole.  You feel for the characters because they feel so real and relatable.  They don’t look like someone plucked from the usual Filipino rom-coms/dramas.  Personally, the way the film was received other than in Cinemalaya, it feels underrated, it deserves accolades and recognitions, more than what it already has.

2013 Year in Review: Best Films of the Year #6 Before Midnight

Best FIlms of 2013 #6: Before Midnight

Best Films of 2013 #6: Before Midnight

2013 Year in Review
Best Films of the Year

#6
BEFORE MIDNIGHT
Directed by Richard Linklater
USA
, 2013

This film really grew on me as time passes.  I found myself going back to it (and also the previous installments) and still be amazed with how it was made, how beautifully it was written and great the actors were.   Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and Richard Linklater has struck gold when they created this characters.  They feel so real.  It was as if I was watching my friends on screen.  Fighting.  Talking.  Walking.  I feel affected with what is happening to them, I feel concerned on what is going to happen to them.  That is how much this film (and the whole franchise) means to me.

2013 Year in Review: Best Films of the Year #7 Gravity

Best Films of 2013 #7: Gravity

Best Films of 2013 #7: Gravity

2013 Year in Review
Best Films of the Year

#7
GRAVITY
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
USA and UK
, 2013

Quite probably the best popcorn film of the past year, it was an on-the-edge-of-your-seat thrilling and fun, perfectly entertaining, expertly made and beautifully acted.  This is putting the current technology to good use.  It was effects driven yet it did not feel as though it was drowning with it.  While this was not Cuaron’s bests, this was a showcase of what he can do and what he does best.

2013 Year in Review: Best Actress

2013 Year in Review: Best Actress

2013 Year in Review: Best Actress

Runners Up: KRYSTLE VALENTINO, PUROK 7. I have got to hand it to this kid, she was born natural actress. It felt as though she had been acting for years. She perfectly nailed the young teenager head over heels in love with a cute young teen-aged neighbor and childhood friend. Personally I think she gave the best performance by an actress in the Philippines. Young or old. MERYL STREEP, AUGUST OSAGE COUNTY. Can easily be accused of over acting, maybe she was, but I think there was a problem with the direction. Anyway. She totally ate up everyone on screen with her. Your eyes go straight to her. And yes, she may be grandstanding, but my oh my, Meryl, she continues to prove that she deserves to be nominated every damn year. And that is okay with me, if she is this great.
3rd Placer:  LUMINITA GHEORGHIU, POZITIA COPILULUI (Child’s Pose)
This performance somehow reminded me of a performance that is very dear to me, and that is Jacki Weaver’s performance in “Animal Kingdom”, and that performance I gave the best supporting actress of that year. Anyway. She aced the role of a mother who did all she can in her power to save her son from being sent to prison and for being convicted of a crime he admittedly did. She was manipulative, prickly, and matriarch-ly bitchy. In a lesser year, she would have easily won best actress in my book.

2nd Placer: ADELE EXARCHOPOULOS, LA VIE D’ADELE, CHAPITRES UN ET DEUX (Blue is the Warmest Color)
There were lots of superb breakthrough performances last year, but none of them felt, for me, was a par Exarchopoulos’ towering performance in “Blue is the Warmest Color”. It was a hard role to play. It could have easily gone lesbian puppy love gone wrong. But she gave Adele a backstory and humanized her every reactions, feelings thus making it feel rather personal. A wonderful, natural, breakthrough performance that could go down in history books.

Best Actress: CATE BLANCHETT, BLUE JASMINE
I don’t usually agree with Oscar winners, particularly in the acting categories, but I simply can’t deny Blanchett the best actress trophy what with her giving the best performance by any actor, bar none. It really was a no brainer here. Blanchett outdid herself, and I think that it will take her time to top this. Woody Allen may have written her a golden character to play, because Blanchett was just perfection! This probably is one of the best Oscar awarded best actress performance.

2013 Year in Review: Best Actor

2013 Year in Review: Best Actor

2013 Year in Review: Best Actor

Runners Up: TOM HANKS, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS. It has been quite a long time since I liked a Tom Hanks performance. And I can not even remember the last time. “Cast Away” probably. Anyway. His work in “Captain Phillips” was commanding and very memorable. His performances elevated that film to a whole new level. And that last sequence was phenomenal! ALEX MEDINA, BABAGWA (Spider’s Lair).  Last year I selected him as the best breakthrough male performance for “Palitan”, and this year he continued his streak of becoming the best actor of his generation with “Babagwa”. Those moments with his girlfriend was priceless. It felt improvised and on the spot, and it was superb. But the film was arguably entirely his. And I can only be excited to see what he does next.

3rd Placer: JEROEN WILLEMS, BOVEN IS HET STIL (It’s All So Quiet)
I’d like to think of Willems’ performance as the Silent Killer. There was not that much dialogue. It was the kind of performance that relied on facial expressions and body movements to convey emotions. And sometimes that is the kinf of performance that pierces the heart all the more. It was also kind of sad that this may be the last time that I will see of him, but boy did he made one heckuva memorable mark.

2nd Placer: NAZIF MUJIC, EPIZODA U ZIVOTU BERACA ZELJEZA (An Episode in the Life of An Iron Picker)
Like Barkhad Abdi, Mujic is not a professional actor who gave a bruising, natural and heartfelt performance as a father who went all the lengths just so he can get his wife medical service. Howeve, unlike Abdi, Mujic’s performance felt more “natural” and less acted. It is sad what happened to his career, projects should be lining up in front of him!

Best Actor: CHIWETEL EJIOFOR, 12 YEARS A SLAVE
Somehow most of those who (accidentally or not) follow his career path, there was an inkling that he would some day deliver a performance that would put him in Oscar territory, and last year he did just that. Those eyes! It feels like they have their own lives or something. Anyway. I personally think that this might be one of the toughest characters to play, he had to give up his entire personality just so he could survive. Ejiofor embodied the character so well, I could not think of any actor who could have done the role justice. Truly a performance of a lifetime (while McConaughey’s truly is NOT).

2013 Year in Review: Best Films of 2013 #8: When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism

Best Films of 2013 #8: When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism

Best Films of 2013 #8: When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism

2013 Year in Review
Best Films of the Year

#8
CAND SE LASA SEARA PESTE BUCURESTI SAU METABOLISM (When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism)
Directed by Corneliu Porumboiu
Romania
, 2013

Another Romanian new wave entry here.  It might sound like favoritism or something but they really get me.  I love the style.  It appears minimalist, but there was something complex with how they made it.  In the case of “Metabolism” it was the storytelling that was complex, plus the seemingly-not-there conflict or plot.  It was engagingly written.  That was key for the film since it was all talk.  Like “Gravity”, this film also had lots of long takes that never dragged.  In fact I was begging for more, that when it ended, I was pissed in a good way, but cinematically satisfied.  I would want to hear the conversations to go on and on and on, and I will still be hooked.

2013 Year in Review: Best Films of the Year #9 The Missing Picture

Best Films of 2013 #9: The Missing Picture

Best Films of 2013 #9: The Missing Picture

2013 Year in Review
Best Films of the Year

#9
L’IMAGE MANQUANTE (The Missing Picture)
Directed by Rithy Panh
Cambodia and France
, 2013

I can still remember the feeling that I had when I first saw this film.  I got chills all over, I was in awe with what I am seeing.  It was a didactic film without trying to be one.  It showed the horrors of a bloody past, and it showed those without being to sentimental, or melodramatic about it.  It felt raw, honest.  Chills chills chills from start to finish.  I hope more documentaries (or even animated films if you consider this as one) would take more risks in its storytelling.

2013 Year in Review: Best Films of the Year #10 Norte, The End of History

Best Films of 2013 #10: Norte, Ang Hangganan ng Kasaysayan

Best Films of 2013 #10: Norte, Ang Hangganan ng Kasaysayan

2013 Year in Review
Best Films of the Year

#10
NORTE, ANG HANGGANAN NG KASAYSAYAN (Norte, The End of History)
Directed by Lav Diaz
Philippines
, 2013

Whenever Lav Diaz makes a film, it is by default, a film event in the Philippines.  And also, I think that it is by default going to be in people’s top ten lists.  I was not a big fan of his last two works prior to this, but I became more of a fanboy after seeing this rather harsh but totally masterful film.  The film’s main asset definitely was the storytelling.  It is distinctively was Lav Diaz, and it reflects the world we live in.  Only if more people get the chance to see his works.  This may be one of his most accessible films to date and I sure do hope that the film could still reach a bigger audience.

2013 Year in Review: Best Films of 2013 #11 Child’s Pose

Best Films of 2013 #11: Child's Pose

Best Films of 2013 #11: Child’s Pose

2013 Year in Review
Best Films of the Year

#11
POZITIA COPILULUI (Child’s Pose)
Directed by Calin Peter Netzer
Romania
, 2013

I remember the first time I saw this film, at first I did not know where it was going.  I never read anything about it.  So I was unaware of what was going to happen.  Then things start to explode in my eyes.  I was engrossed.  I had to see this matriarch do everything in her power to twist/bend things to her will.  Then that confrontation at the end, brought me to ears, it was a wow moment.  The film was a subtle WOW movie.  Another hurrah for the Romanian New Wave.

2013 Year in Review: Best Films of the Year #12 Ida

Best Films of 2013 #12: Ida

Best Films of 2013 #12: Ida

2013 Year in Review
Best Films of the Year

#12
IDA
Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski
Poland and Denmark
, 2013

Gorgeous cinematography.  Graceful pacing.  Beautifully acted.  This film about a nun who went on a road trip with her aunt to discover her identity and know herself more and about the world, is a meditative, engaging beautiful masterwork by Pawel Pawlikowski.   It is very different from Pawlikowski’s other works and I loved that about the film.  It feels very personal.  This might be his best work to date.

2013 Year in Review: Best Original Screenplay

2013 Year in Review: Best Original Screenplay

2013 Year in Review: Best Original Screenplay

Runners Up: JERROLD TAROG, SANA DATI (IF ONLY). Jerrold Tarog for me is a master story teller. “Sana Dati” seemed commonplace on the surface, but how he intricately pieced together the events that transpired in the stories of flawed people making flawed decisions was something quite remarkable. CORNELIU PORUMBOIU, CAND SE LASA SEARA PESTE BUCURESTI SAU METABOLISM (WHEN EVENING FALLS ON BUCHAREST OR METABOLISM). For a film that is almost all talk, there never was a dull moment in it. Didactic (at least filmmaking-wise) and immoral at the same time. This film about filmmaking, lying, and then lying some more, felt really authentic, natural, raw and was delivered and told by such a pure cinematic genius.

3rd Placer: RICHARD LINKLATER, JULIE DELPY AND ETHAN HAWKE, BEFORE MIDNIGHT
They could never really top “Before Sunset” that easily, but that does not mean that the third entry of the now franchise Before Series was really well made and really well written. I guess it helped that the actors created their own characters and wrote their own stories. While the film never topped the 2nd installment, Midnight however felt like it took more risks, and explored more on Celine and Jesse. And that monologue about life, during the lunch or late lunch, was just breathtaking. It made me cry.

2nd Placer: HIROKAZU KOREEDA, SOSHITE CHICHI NI NARU (LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON)
While this kind of story does not really feel original in the sense that I grew up seeing the kind of story told in Philippine TV or Cinema. But what sets this apart was that it successfully got inside the mind of the children, and put to screen what it was like for the children to be in that kind of situation. It was kind of expected that Koreeda would get the stories of the adults quite well, but the kids, and I think this is kind of expected from him as well, their stories felt very real and hits right emotions.

Best Original Screenplay: EMIR BAIGAZIN, UROKI GARMONII (HARMONY LESSONS)
There maybe no bullying films that is akin to “Harmony Lessons”. It is a perfect mixture of telling the story of the bullies and the bullied-s and incorporating WTF fluorishes that never felt out of place but made the storytelling all the more effective. It was like Baigazin knew these characters sooooo well, got into their heads, put that into paper and translate it masterfully on screen. Baigazin was in full control of his art, it never felt overindulgent or overbaked, the end product was just pure cinematic gem.

 

2013 Year in Review: Best Films of the Year #13: Blue is the Warmest Color

Best Films of 2013 #13: Blue is the Warmest Color

Best Films of 2013 #13: Blue is the Warmest Color

2013 Year in Review
Best Films of the Year

#13
LA VIE D’ADELE – CHAPITRES 1 ET 2 (Blue is the Warmest Color)
Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche
France
, 2013

After the buzz that it got from Cannes last year, I was very much eagerly awaiting to see this film.  And my oh my, my expectations were met and more.  I am pretty much new to Kechiche’s style and I loved the first experience I had.  It was engaging from start to finish.  I never noticed that it was running for three hours already.  The film would not have worked the way it did if it not had been for the tremendous turns from Adele Exarchopolous and Lea Seydoux.  Both giving two of the best performances of the year.

2013 Year in Review: Best Films of the Year #14 Frances Ha

Best Films of 2013 #14: Frances Ha

Best Films of 2013 #14: Frances Ha

2013 Year in Review
Best Films of the Year

#14
FRANCES HA
Directed by Noah Baumbach
USA
, 2012/2013

A lot of filmmakers made their career best work in the past year, one of them was Noah Baumbach who made “Frances Ha”.   It was deliciously hipster, deceptively aimless but was not, brimming with life like the protagonist.  Baumbach continues to prove that he has a unique voice in Cinema.  Ditto, Greta Gerwig.  She continues to prove that she is one of the best actresses of her generation.

2013 Year in Review: Best Films of the Year #15 Tom at the Farm

Best FIlms of 2013 #15: Tom at the Farm

Best FIlms of 2013 #15: Tom at the Farm

2013 Year in Review
Best Films of the Year

#15
TOM A LA FERME (Tom at the Farm)
Directed by Xavier Dolan
Canada and France
, 2013

Arguably Xavier Dolan’s best film to date.  The film could easily be accused as narcissistic, it sometimes felt like that, but I do not care when the film is this good.  It was thrilling, tonally brilliant and expertly made.  Dolan continues to make great films and improving at that.  I can only be excited for “Mommy”.

2013 Year in Review: Best Supporting Actor

2013 Year in Review: Best Supporting Actor

2013 Year in Review: Best Supporting Actor

Runners Up: DANE DEHAAN, KILL YOUR DARLINGS and THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES. He absolutely stole the whole movie in “Kill Your Darlings” and his segment in “The Place Beyond the Pines” was elevated because he was brilliant in it. Goes to show that he probably is one his generation’s best actors. HENRI GARCIN, BOVEN IS HET STIL (It’s All So Quiet). As the ailing father in the film, typically that kind of role borders on becoming one note, or just begging for sympathy. That was not the case for Garcin. He went hand in hand with Williams’ towering work and made every father and son scenes memorable.

3rd Placer: TYE SHERIDAN, JOE
He has had a tremendous year after delivering two terrific performances that would make you think that this kid is already a professional actor and has been in the business for years. In “Joe” Sheridan played a sort of doltish kid who is all heart, and his role felt bigger because he was definitely the best in cast.

2nd Placer: ASLAN ANARBAYEV, UROKI GARMONII (Harmony Lessons)
Young actors, especially really young ones, barely get noticed come awards season. Not that they need it. But sometimes it helps their career if they get noticed. Aslan Anarbayev was infuriating in “Harmony Lessons”, infuriating in a good way. He totally dug into what made that role the kind of you love to hate because he was effective as a bastard bully of a kid.

Best Supporting Actor: DICK ISRAEL, BADIL
Talk about totally immersing yourself and being the character you are playing. Dick Israel was barely recognizable in “Badil”. At first it was a non actor giving a WOW kind of breakthrough. But when the credits rolled out, and I saw his name, WOW, he really transformed! It was the sort of performance that reminded me of Marlon Brando in “The Godfather”.