December 2013. Somehow, we’ve fumbled our way to the end of another year, and as with any other, “top ten” lists are now popping up all over the Internet – top ten Christmas presents for that “person who has it all,” top ten beach vacations to beat the winter freeze,* top ten tactics to avoid holiday weight gain, top ten cookie recipes that then totally sabotage those tactics…you get the idea.
I have no wisdom to offer up in terms of gifting, baking, or bloat-banishing yoga poses, but I would like to jump on this list-making bandwagon anyway—‘tis the season, after all!
I’ll stick within my comfort zone and go with a selection of my top ten films of 2013. But because I’m wild and crazy, I won’t be restricting these to movies simply released in 2013. Rather, it will be a series of mini-reviews, distributed over a few days, of ten films I happened to watch for the first time within the last 12 months.** Also, in the interest of being concise, I’m adding the challenge of limiting myself to one compilation of all genres and countries. In other words, I will not be doing separate Foreign/Documentary/etc lists. Come on, now--I’m not that wild and crazy.
In no particular order, let us begin.
*unless you live in Singapore, in which case your list’s title would be more like “Top Ten Ski Lodge Retreats to Beat the Winter Humidity.”
**Is that cheating? That’s probably cheating. But the beauty of having your own blog = you make the rules. Commence evil cackling.
Cast: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Director: Richard Linklater
Release Year: 2013
Ahh, Jesse & Celine. The couple all couples wish they could be (it can’t be just me, right?). Part three of one of the most beloved on-screen romance series of the last two decades, Before Midnight released this summer to soaring and starry-eyed expectations—and delivered spectacularly. A little less impulsive than Before Sunrise, not as dreamy as Before Sunset, Midnight is considerably more layered and rooted in reality, thanks to the characters’ ages and commitments to their children. But what it lacks in spontaneity, it makes up for by faithfully brimming with the organic unfolding of conversation that we all loved so much in the first two films. The extensive long takes, this time through the streets of a picturesque Peloponnese village, are just as impressive, the actors’ chemistry just as uncontrived and electric. Moreover, the three co-writers hit a new high with dialogue that is startling in its precision of male/female dynamics. Deep philosophical discussions blend seamlessly with moments of sarcasm, tension, and hilarity, reminding us that Jesse and Celine are as real as the rest of us.
A rare feat for a third installment, Before Midnight is, without a doubt, my favorite of the trilogy.
#9: Ilo Ilo
Director: Anthony Chen
Release Year: 2013
If you gave me one Sing dollar for every time someone told me that "Singapore is such a great place to raise kids," or "it's so easy to get household help in Singapore," by now I'd already be able to fund my future, easily raised children's entire education. So ubiquitous is the “maid culture” here that I shouldn’t be surprised by the premise of my first-ever Singaporean movie experience: the relationship between a local family and their new, live-in employee. Director Anthony Chen’s debut feature, Ilo Ilo has been on fire since its August 2013 release, snatching up awards at festivals the world over.
My personal sentiments towards this nationwide dependence on domestic workers aside, the accolades for the film itself are hugely deserved. Ilo Ilo is subtle and sensitive, delicately handled without glazing over the realities of the characters’ dilemmas and demons. Most notable is the three-dimensionality that Chen allows each of them, exposing their vulnerabilities without victimizing them and pointing out their faults without villainizing them. Worth a watch, lah.
Check out my full review of Ilo Ilo here.