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Jeanie Finlay Top Ten Feature Films of 2013

Top-Ten-2013-Jeanie

What a year for viewing. It feels odd to be picking a top ten list exclusively from films as 2013 for me was the year of astounding television – both broadcast and online. I know how strict MarBelle gets about these things and it’s willpower alone that has allowed me to not break the rules this year. I do however feel duty bound to mention the dark glory of Breaking Bad and Hunderby, the humour of Orange is the New Black and Him and Her and the sublime Top of the Lake.

It was also a year of delving into the past – Binging on Powell and Pressburger, Douglas Sirk and many, many Elvis films… And a year of experiencing hybrid live cinematic events. Secret Cinema’s Brazil, Adam Curtis vs Massive Attack, The Big Melt with Jarvis Cocker’s 60 piece band live soundtrack, Don’t Look Now with Nicolas Roeg at St Mary’s Church and The Drowned Man by Punchdrunk.

In September I released my fourth film The Great Hip Hop Hoax in cinemas. A highlight of the release was signing the projector at Broadway Cinema and programming a mini season of my 5 favourite films: American Movie, Black Narcissus, Afterlife (by Kore Edo – more from him later), Pretty in Pink and The Agony and the Ecstacy of Phil Spector.

In November Hip Hop Hoax was part of a mini BBC Storyville season in which we were the very first films to premiere on the BBC iPlayer ahead of broadcast. It was fascinating to see the film spread through word of mouth – Windows are closing, tightening, releases are changing. I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings, it’s an exciting time to be a filmmaker.

OK, here is my top ten – I’d like to give honourable mentions for the hair turning into a wheat field shot in Stoker, the dense voiceovers of Teenage and the ‘ride on the waltzers’ feeling of Gravity. Here are the ten that have stayed with me.

10. DISCOPATH | Renaud Gauthier

Someone played I Was Made For Loving You by Kiss at a recent party. I immediately thought of Discopath, the faintly ridiculous and thoroughly enjoyable midnight movie I saw at this year’s Mayhem Film Festival. A perverse, period slasher where a young man is driven to murder every time he hears disco.

9. BLANCANIEVES | Pablo Berger

Snow white as a 1920s bull fighter accompanied by a troupe of toreador dwarves, in a dark, Spanish retelling of the story that out styles The Artist.

8. COMPUTER CHESS | Andrew Bujalski

Man vs machine in lo-fi analogue. Bonkers, warm witted with real moments of oddness.

7. ONLY GOD FORGIVES | Nicholas Winding Refn

Nicholas Winding Refn makes another of his stylish, violent ballets that has divided the critics. I admired this brooding revenge story – particularly an unrecognisable Kristin Scott Thomas and the lead’s karaoke. I don’t like everything about Refn’s films but I always look forward to seeing them and love his “fuck the critics” attitude. He’s never boring.

6. 12 O CLOCK BOYS | Lotfy Nathan

Lotfy Nathan’s exhilarating debut documentary about Pug, a ballsy adolescent who idolizes and yearns to join the Baltimore dirt bike gang. Described by The Torontoist as “The Wire with Wheelies” but it’s so much more – poetic, beautiful with access to die for.

5. THE SELFISH GIANT | Clio Barnard

Clio Barnard is just a brilliant, heartfelt filmmaker. The performances of the young boys at the heart of this film are stunning – they share elements of Pug from 12 O clock Boys, breaking free into adulthood with horses and petty crime instead of dirt bikes. I can’t wait to see what Clio does next.

4. NEBRASKA | Alexander Payne

All families are fucked up and this one shows how fucked up it is in a tangle of a spiraling white lie. Bruce Dern glowers fantastically and even the black and white (which I usually hate) suits the poetic tableux and the painfully funny story.

3. I WISH | Hirokazu Koreeda

The first film by Koreeda in my top ten. Two more outstanding performances from children, this time real life brothers who play siblings separated by divorce. Koreeda crafts a film about love, magic and belief without ever straying into whimsy. He is, without doubt my favourite living filmmaker.

2. THE ACT OF KILLING | Joshua Oppenheimer

Joshua Oppenheimer has made a film that will be talked about for many years to come. I fought to show the film at Broadway after festival buzz and sat, filled with anticipation as it started. The film starts slowly but then you are away – immersed in a fantasy world that brings the reality of the genocide committed by Indonesian death squads to life in bright technicolor. Bold, bonkers and utterly brilliant, it’s a visceral hallucination of a film that I urge you to see.

1. LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON | Hirokazu Koreeda


There is a singular pleasure for me, in crying in the dark with strangers. The second film by Koreeda in my top ten, this film profoundly moved me and made me think about the complexities of family relationships and the intimate yet powerful ties that bind.

Author: Jeanie Finlay

Jeanie Finlay is a film-maker and artist based in Nottingham. She is currently working on two new feature documentaries - The Great Hip Hop Hoax and Orion: The Man Who Would be King. She is a secret geek and wishes John Waters was her Godfather. Twitter: @JeanieFinlay

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