Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Top 10 Movies of 2013

Some years, you feel part of the critical consensus. Other years, you see eye-to-eye on some picks while at the same time championing a few unloved and overlooked choices. 2013 was a year in which, for the most part, I felt outside the consensus. Her, Gravity and 12 Years a Slave didn't make my Top 10; none of them moved or impressed me as much as some of my under-the-radar selections. (My thoughts on Her here. My thoughts on Gravity here. My thoughts on 12 Years a Slave here.)

Before I reveal my list, I should acknowledge the few movies I'm mad I missed. Those include The Invisible Woman, Viola, Night Across the Street, The Last Time I Saw Macao, Passion, Cousin Jules and Ulrich Seidl's Paradise trilogy. (And I would have loved to have caught The Grandmaster one more time.) So, with those caveats aside, here is my Top 10 of 2013...

1. Inside Llewyn Davis
2. Blue Is the Warmest Color
3. Let the Fire Burn
4. Before Midnight
5. Leviathan
6. Upstream Color
7. Stories We Tell
8. At Berkeley
9. This Is Martin Bonner
10. The Unspeakable Act

I go into more detail about my Nos. 10-6 here. And I wrote about movies Nos. 5-1 here. (For more list fun, check out my full Village Voice film ballot.)

For what it's worth, seven of my 10 choices -- the top seven, actually -- were all seen at film festivals. The other three were watched as online screeners. (I caught part of At Berkeley initially at Toronto but couldn't stay for the whole film, unfortunately.) It seems that this split will continue in the near future: between the shared community (with its exhaustion and anticipation) of a film festival; and the intimacy of one's own home watching an online screener that sometimes can be maddening if the damn thing loads slowly. That latter category of film consumption is reflected in the above photo, which is a shot of me on my MacBook as I'm watching The Unspeakable Act, which includes a scene where the main character is watching a video on her MacBook. I've rarely felt so weirdly connected to someone onscreen.

Also, a few more words about my top two films. Leaving Cannes, I had ranked Blue Is the Warmest Color and Inside Llewyn Davis as No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. It was the thinnest of margins. But after rewatching them both back in Los Angeles, I decided that Llewyn Davis cut deeper and said more than Blue, which was nonetheless dazzling and poignant in its own right. The fascinating thing about film festivals is how they provide you with a first-draft opinion about movies. But those opinions aren't definitive: They're best-guesses, and checking back on some of my favorites months later helped crystallize my initial feelings about them. That process doesn't end, of course: Five years from now, my Top 10 of 2013 might look slightly different.

I hope you had a good 2013, whether at the movies or in your real life. Personally, I was excited to begin a regular column at Playboy and be named Chief Film Critic for Paste. Additionally, 2013 was my first time at Cannes, an experience that lived up to my significant expectations. (Going to True/False for the first time was also a real treat.) And I was flattered and honored to be asked to write for The Dissolve; I very much admire what those guys and gals are doing over there. And, of course, continuing to write for Screen International and Deadspin -- two very different audiences -- remains a thrill. Here's to an even better 2014 for all of us.