January was the first time I’ve ever attempted to do a film challenge like this. I have been wanting to do a year in films since about July but decided to leave it specifically to 2013. I saw some absolutely brilliant films this month, and you can see a full list of the films here. I saw a lot more animated films than I would ordinarily watch, plus other films I would probably never have seen if it hadn’t of been for me attempting to be more open-minded when it comes to film. Cronenberg’s movies are one example of this as I would probably have left watching Scanners and Videodrome for ages until someone would make me watch it. However, I gave it a go. I even watched Videodrome twice in January. But I don’t think I’ll ever buy them on dvd.
I thought I’d choose my top 5 films of the month to talk about, just briefly to comment on how they have contributed to my appreciation of film and what I particularly liked about them.
5. Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011)
I admit that after seeing The Idiots, I was NOT expecting to ever like a Lars von Trier film. But this film I have wanted to see for a long time after seeing the dvd cover and thinking that visually, it looked thoroughly gorgeous. The film did not disappoint as Kirsten Dunst’s mesmerising performance made her character thoroughly believable and her story all the more engaging. Visually, the film was so stunning. Much like 2001: A Space Odyssey, there is no dialogue for a long time at the beginning of the film. Instead there was a collage of enchanting images that were so slowed down I had to check that the film hadn’t stopped. The film is fairly slow-paced and I found a lot of mixed reviews on the film, many of the negative ones stating how it is the lack of anything actually happening that both bored them and put them off appreciating the film. My response to those people is that a film does not need to have cuts every second and loads of action to be considered interesting. Lars von Trier certainly won me over with this film which is why it is my my 5th favourite film from my January list.
4. Meet Me In St Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 1935)
I absolutely love musicals, and have developed a strong appreciation of classical Hollywood movies over the past 6 months or so. I’ve wanted to see Meet Me In St Louis for a long time, and when I finally bought the dvd and watched it, I thought it was fabulous!! Judy Garland was positively delightful in the film and although the family relationship wasn’t thoroughly believable in how over dramatic the characters were, (and also the lack of punishment the children were given), I really enjoyed this charming musical that boasts some of the best songs of classical Hollywood movies I have ever heard. I think this is a film everyone should see once, not because of how well-made it is, but because Judy Garland’s performance was perfect.
3. The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993)
Jane Campion won my heart with her beautiful film Bright Star, which tells the story of John Keats who is my absolute favourite poet of all time. Since seeing Bright Star, I have wanted to watch The Piano for ages, not only for my love of period dramas, but also because of how many positive reviews of the film I had seen. The film did not disappoint me as it told the story of mute Ada McGrath who has incredible piano-playing skills. I maintain that Jane Campion is the best female director of all time, so The Piano was bound to score high on my list. The story was absolutely beautiful, as were the costumes and soundtrack, and this is a must-see if you are a fan of costume dramas.
2. Great Expectations (Mike Newell, 2012)
There are no words that can possibly describe how disappointed I was to not see Great Expectations in the cinema when it first played in November. I had waited for the film for months, but after it had left cinemas, there was to be a one off showing at my local art house cinema in January, so naturally I ran at the chance to see it on the big screen. I had heard so many mixed reviews of the film from people who thought it was just another failed novel adaptation to people who thought Helena Bonham Carter’s portrayal of Miss Havisham was far from good. I completely disagree with all of those people.
Great Expectations was the best adaptation of the acclaimed Dickens novel (which is one of my all-time favourite books), I have ever seen. I thought all of the actors were fantastic. Holliday Grainger in particular has really grown as an actress over the past few years and she gave the most believable performance of cold-hearted Estella that I have ever seen. Helena Bonham Carter was most definitely the best choice to play the ghostly, old spinster, Miss Havisham. The score captured perfectly the haunting and emotional power of the film and the costumes were absolutely gorgeous. So much creative talent went into this movie, and it was, without a doubt, my favourite movie of 2012. It would have won top spot on this list, but I gave that to…
1. Les Misérables (Tom Hooper, 2012)
There is not one single person that could honestly say Les Misérables isn’t an incredible movie. From the acting, to the direction, to the settings, to the story, not a single detail in this film was overlooked, and that comes across in the final product. The acting is especially incredible, and I think we all know that the actor I am referring to is Anne Hathaway whose performance was breathtaking. I was not expecting such a powerful performance from an actress I remember as the dorky girl in The Princess Diaries, but she gave it, and I think this will be the defining performance of her career. Other actors also deserve a mention, Eddie Redmayne especially who I remember as the charming Angel Clare in Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Amanda Seyfried was also surprisingly fantastic. I love her as an actress anyway, but she really pushed the boundaries of her acting career in Les Misérables. Often when watching a long film, I check the time every so often to see how long there is left. With Les Misérables however, I was so completely engaged in the film that not once did I remember that it was only a film that I was watching. This is going to be a film that will be appearing on every ‘films you must see before you die’ list, and I think it is very likely that it will walk away with the majority of awards at the Oscars. For those reasons, and the fact that this has become an instant favourite film of mine, it is the top film I have seen in January 2013.