As my second year of film blogging draws to a close, I thought today was a good day to look back on some of the best films I've seen this year. Ahead of my 'Best of 2013' list which I'll publish in late January on my blog's two year anniversary, the list below is of the top ten 'new to me' films of the year. The list is taken from all of the films I've seen this year for the first time which weren't released in 2013.
Although I've seen a lot fewer films this year than last (278 as of 27th December, compared to over 365 at the same point in 2012), I believe that this list features comparatively better films than last year's.
10. Wings 1927. The first winner of what became Best Picture at the Oscars, Wings is a romantic drama that stands the test of time. Engaging leads and technical wizardry made it feel fresher and easier to watch than many films from the same period. Clara Bow's performance and the aerial photography are amongst the many highlights of this late period silent feature.
9. The Passion of Joan of Arc 1928. Another silent film and one that is better remembered today than Wings. The movie hits you almost instantly with a beautiful tracking shot before focusing square on ragged and angry faces at the trial of Joan of Arc. Maria Falconetti displays one of the all time great performances alongside some exquisite camera work. Despite an occasionally dull plot, the film remains entrancing from start to finish.
8. Dr. Strangelove 1964. Stanley Kubrick's black comedy finds humour in the darkest reaches of its era - mutually assured destruction. A perfectly pitched narrative which drops in and out of various stroylines behind a central arc of a crazed General who has sent a squadran of planes to bomb the Russians. Peter Sellers plays three of the four central characters brilliantly and provides some famous lines in a film that is famous for some iconic images.
7. Before Sunrise 1995/Before Sunset 2004. I watched these films just hours apart and fell in love with both. Although cheating slightly by placing them both at number seven, I'm unable to separate them. Both are beautifully observed romances which end all too quickly for my liking. I feel as though I could watch Jesse and Céline all day and hate their nine year absences. The films are incredibly simple but wonderfully scripted and Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy fall into their roles with ease. Look out for the third film in the trilogy on my Best of 2013 list.
6. Sherlock Jr 1924. The film became one of my favourite Buster Keaton's in June this year. At just 45 minutes long, it packs more laughs than just about any comedy I've seen all year and much of the humour remains unmatched to this day. As original as any of his work and featuring ingenious camera trickery, its technical achievements match anything from its era and still amaze me nearly a century on. If you've never seen a Buster Keaton film, track this one down online and enjoy.
5. Bicycle Thieves 1948. The defining film of the neo-realist movement, Vittorio De Sica's film is set amongst the ruins of post war Rome. Filmed without permits and without professional actors, it captures the day-to-day struggle of a family as they battle for survival in a harsh world. The film teases you before the theft in the title takes place and you feel for the characters as they search for their only means of employment. This is the sort of film that stays with you and had me thinking for days after watching it. A quiet tragedy with a warm and beautiful centre.
4. The Apartment 1960. Billy Wilder's comedy was nominated for ten Oscars and won Best Picture along with four others. Set around an apartment owned by Jack Lemon, it spirals deeper and deeper into farce and romance, delivering huge laughs along the way. A terrific screenplay is at the heart of the film but a couple of decent performances and able direction help it towards the comic masterpiece it is. The film is also sweet and dramatic at times but always remains funny. The movie is notable for being one of the racier of the era.
3. Easy Rider 1969. Easy Rider could define a generation. Although from the outset it seems to be just a run of the mill motorbike picture, what it has to say about America cannot be ignored. It draws you in towards its shock conclusion, through scenes of hate, bigotry and drug use. Notable for its difficult, independent production, it was one of he first films of what became the American New Wave and opened studio's eyes to the possibilities of low budget, independent film making. It still packs a punch over forty years on and features themes which remain pertinent to this day. Fantastic editing and an unforgettable soundtrack only add to its brilliance.
2. Citizen Kane 1941. Yes it took me to the age of 27 to see Citizen Kane. When I did, I fell in love. No arguments about it, it really is one of the best films ever made. From the incredible story to inventive production techniques, it's a film that could be discussed for hours. You know how good it is yourself so I won't go on.
1. Man with a Movie Camera 1929. The third silent film to appear on this list and for me the best of the lot, Man with a Movie Camera is an experimental Russian documentary that is difficult to put into words. Dziga Vertov depicts a day in Soviet Russia, capturing everything from manufacturing to birth to sport with his camera. Although historically significant, what makes the film the majestic picture it is, is the vast array of in camera effects and tricks as well as inventive editing on display. Scene after scene features beautifully composed shots which are double exposed, freeze framed, filmed at Dutch angles or split in two. Barely a minute passes without something amazing on screen. It's a film that should be enjoyed by everyone. An utter masterpiece.