Daily | Sight & Sound 2013 Top Ten (and More)

The Act of Killing

Poster design by Jay Shaw

Over 100 critics, curators, and academics from around the world have cast their votes in this year’s Sight & Sound poll and, to cut to the chase, here’s the top ten:

1. Joshua Oppenheimer‘s The Act of Killing.
2. Alfonso Cuarón‘s Gravity.
3. Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is the Warmest Color.
4. Paolo Sorrentino‘s The Great Beauty.
5. Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha.
=6. Jia Zhangke‘s A Touch of Sin.
=6. Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color.
8. Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant.
=9. Lav Diaz‘s Norte, the End of History.
=9. Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger by the Lake.

Even with comments on each of the films from some of the vote-casters, this is essentially a preview of the full-blown poll which can found in the current January 2014 issue and which will probably eventually make it online.

A few days ago, the editors previewed the preview by listing their own top fives and writing up some of the year’s personal highlights. With Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Pavavel‘s Leviathan opening in the UK this weekend, let’s note that production editor Isabel Stevens writes: “Interestingly, it was this documentary about a fishing trawler, and not the sublime-courting Gravity, that offered the more immersive and disorientating spectacle about the horror of being adrift in an abyss.” More from Nigel Andrews (Financial Times, 5/5), Peter Bradshaw (Guardian, 4/5), Dave Calhoun (Time Out, 3/5), David Jenkins (Little White Lies), Geoffrey Macnab (Independent, 4/5), Tim Robey (Telegraph, 5/5), and back to Sight & Sound: Nick Pinkerton.


“At the 64th Berlin International Film Festival, British director Ken Loach will be honored with an Homage, and awarded the Honorary Golden Bear for his lifetime achievements.”

By “Homage,” the Berlinale means the festival will be screening ten of his films: Cathy Come Home (1966), Kes (1969), The Gamekeeper (1980), Raining Stones (1993), Ladybird Ladybird (1994), Land and Freedom (1995), My Name is Joe (1998), The Navigators (2001), Sweet Sixteen (2002), and Looking for Eric (2009). Might the Berlinale also slip in a first look at Jimmy’s Hall, said to be the last narrative feature of the 77-year-old multiple award-winner?

Sundance (January 16 through 26) will begin rolling out its 2014 lineup on Wednesday, and Ioncinema indexes the 80 titles it’s previewed so far, films the team believes have a clear shot at heading to Park City.

Rotterdam (January 22 through February 2) teases another title for its 2014 lineup: Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin.

Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster tops the nominations for the awards at the upcoming Asia Pacific Film Festival (Dec. 13-15, 2013,) which will be held in Macau for the second consecutive year.” Patrick Frater reports for Variety.


Tom Paulus introduces the first issue of photogénie, “Just the Facts – A New Realist Cinema?”: “In their strict adherence to historical fact movies like Zodiac, Carlos, Che—to name the most important disseminators of the trend—and more recently Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty or even Steven Spielberg’s ‘anecdotal’ Lincoln—seem to have been created as if to reprove Jameson’s dictum about docudrama that, ‘[n]ot even the most concrete visuality in detail and reconstruction, nor the historical accuracy and ‘truth’ of the re-enactment,’ can remove these films from the realm of the imaginary.” And he’s got more to say about this as well as more on Che and Carlos.

Also: Adrian Martin presents a fragment, albeit a lengthy one, of an “unfinished, and perhaps unfinishable” piece on the documentary from 1987; Michael Guarneri on James N. Kienitz Wilkins’s Public Hearing (2012); Christophe van Eecke on Ken Russell’s early television documentaries; Drehli Robnik on Lincoln; David Gunzburg on Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder (2003); Pieter-Jan Decoster and Nancy Vansieleghem on Deleuze, Bruno Dumont’s L’humanité (1999) and “what it means to be a human researcher”; and Stefaan Decostere traces the development of a script and invites us to engage in a little “mind-gaming” along the way.

“Is feminism doomed?” asks editor Kiva Reardon, introducing the new third issue of cléo journal in which “we look at the theme of doom not merely from a catastrophic point of view, but from one that celebrates its generative possibilities.” She interviews Claire Denis, while Julia Cooper revisits Beau Travail (1999). Also: Calina Ellwand on Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s Detropia (2012), Brent Bellamy on Lizzie Borden’s Born in Flames (1983), Stephanie Latella Philippe on Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar (2011), and Tara Judah on Barbara Hershey and The Entity (1982) in Peter Tscherkassky’s Outer Space (1999) and Dream Work (2002).

David Bordwell “can’t say precisely how Hitchcock learned of the distinction between suspense and surprise. Clearly, though, the idea was circulating in the theatrical and cinematic milieu of his early career.” He traces the idea back through critics and dramatists to an amusing passage from Lessing.

David Phelps in the Notebook on Jean-Luc Godard‘s Film socialisme (2010):

Even posing the question of whether or not the movie’s anti-Semitic fails the the thing’s own question of how, in a world in which both actions and beliefs are determined in mass by a social syntax of party lines, class divisions, and racial distinctions, it might be possible to “replace ‘to be’ with ‘to have’”: to see those distinctions not as genetic but genealogical; to replace the essentialisms of types, stereotypes, and a providential “nature” with the relativities of historical, ever-provisional circumstance. And then, something harder: to overcome and overwhelm the abstracted distinctions and determinations of language within the possibilities of its signifiers; to rediscover the material particularities behind such possibilities; or rather, the opposite, to trace the infinite possibilities of such finite particularities.

For the Atlantic, Trey Taylor traces the origins of Jerry Lewis’s immortal pantomime in The Errand Boy (1961), noting that Lewis once said it took “11 months before I could put it before the cameras.” For Taylor, it’s “a middle finger to the corporate structure set to brassy stabs and plucked bass strings,” and he shows us a few fan-made renditions.

Jennifer Matsui on Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls (1962): “Inspired by the first time director’s happenstance encounter with an abandoned Mormon theme park on a Salt Lake boardwalk, the film explores the metaphysical terrain of a nightmare, where time and space intersect to render life and death simultaneous occurrences, non-linear and overlapping. Death, as Mary’s plight illustrates, is not something ‘down the line’ or ‘at the end of the road,’ but just part of an endless cycle of false awakenings, a suspended state of deja vu that foreshadows past and present.” Also at the Chiseler, Imogen Smith on Carol Reed‘s The Man Between (1953).

“What value does the camera lend to what it registers?” asks Filipe Furtado at Cinética. “Libbie D. Cohn and J.P. Sniadecki’s People’s Park is haunted by this question…. This is a stunt film with a clear limit, but in its own way it is still a starting point and not an end on itself, mostly because there is a political generosity in the whole collective project of the Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab that ensures that.”

The Vulgar Cinema is running Ted Fendt’s translation of Martin Barnier‘s 1996 essay on John McTiernan’s Predator (1987).

Via Catherine Grant: Jose Arroyo on Pedro Almodóvar’s Bad Education (2004) and Minna Yliruikka on Asghar Farhadi’s About Elly (2009).


Screenwriter (Eyes Wide Shut), novelist and journalist (How Stanley Kubrick Met His Waterloo) Frederic Raphael has several bones to pick with Ben Urwand’s The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pack with Hitler—and picks them, one by one, in the TLS.

“I’ve been tearing through Fosse, Sam Wasson’s new biography of the director, choreographer, seducer, and chain-smoker, who brought us Chicago, Sweet Charity, and the film Cabaret,” writes the New Yorker‘s Michael Schulman.

In the Bay Guardian‘s new Books Issue, Cheryl Eddy talks with Matthew Chojnacki, who’s edited Alternative Movie Posters: Film Art from the Underground.

The New York Times has selected its “100 Notable Books of 2013” and the TLS asks an amazing roster of writers for a few words on their favorite books of the year.


New York. Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema 2013 opens today and runs through Tuesday.

San Francisco. Don Thacker’s Motivational Growth is “a high point in the 10th annual Another Hole in the Head Film Festival, produced by SF IndieFest and stuffed tighter than a turducken with indie horror, sci-fi, and fantasy flicks,” writes Cheryl Eddy in the Bay Guardian. More on the festival from Sherilyn Connelly in the Weekly.

London. Catherine Grant alerts us to Pedro Costa – Masterclass : Work, Language, the Actor, a series of three free lectures taking place at the Birkbeck Cinema from January 6 through 8.

Abel Gance‘s Napoléon (1927) screens tomorrow at the Royal Festival Hall with Carl Davis conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra. For the Guardian, Pamela Hutchinson talks with Davis and restorer Kevin Brownlow.

Tomorrow, attendees of the Twin Peaks UK Festival will, as Cyrus Shahrad puts it at Little White Lies, “spend the day totally immersed in a world that bears all the hallmarks of the show itself—from the camp to the comical, from the sinister to the wilfully surreal.”


The Playlist‘s Kevin Jagernauth reports that Judd Apatow will direct Train Wreck, written by Amy Schumer: “Though it’s broad strokes at the moment, the story will center on a woman who’s a ‘basket case,’ played by Schumer, who is trying to rebuild her life.”


This Must Be the Place passes along news that the brilliant Polish poster designer Waldemar Świerzy has passed away, aged 82.

Tony Musante, who took down drug dealers in his portrayal of a real-life New Jersey detective in the 1970s ABC series Toma, died Tuesday,” reports Mike Barnes for the Hollywood Reporter. He was 77. Musante “played a Mexican revolutionary in the spaghetti Western A Professional Gun (1968), an American writer in Dario Argento‘s The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970) and a man with a terminal illness who reunites with the love of his life in The Anonymous Venetian (1971).” He also appeared in Robert Aldrich’s The Grissom Gang (1971) and James Gray’s The Yards (2000) and We Own the Night (2007).


Indiewire draws our attention to the New York Film Academy‘s infographic, “Gender Inequality in Film.” The stats are, of course, infuriating.

Via Jürgen Fauth: Sketches and watercolor storyboards for Pippi Longstocking: The Strongest Girl in the World, an animated adaptation Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata were planning in the 1970s—until Astrid Lindgren refused permission.

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