Richard Brody's Best of 2013 Will Delight Cinephiles. His Worst-of Will Enrage Them.

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by Sam Adams
December 10, 2013 10:08 AM
11 Comments
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'To the Wonder'

The New Yorker's film editor, Richard Brody, is a brilliant critic and a friend, as well as a loyal contributor to the Criticwire Survey, but I can't be the only person who simultaneously holds him in high esteem and occasionally finds his takes on certain films maddening. Take his list of the best films of 2013. While only two of his top ten -- which is actually 12, including three ties -- overlap with my own in-progress list, they're all worthy choices, the worst being at least interesting failures. His 13 - 24 and 25 - 29 lists include plenty of films likely to be overlooked in the year-end crush that are still worth catching up with: Matt Porterfield's I Used to Be Darker, Chad Hartigan's This Is Martin Bonner, Alain Resnais' You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet. But scroll all the way down to his worst-of list, which he defines as "those with the greatest disproportion between the emblazoned ambition and the mediocrity of the result," and find this trio: Before MidnightThe Great Beauty and All Is Lost, "with Gravity close behind." That's nearly half of some critics' Top 10, although at least with Before Midnight Brody has some substantial writing to back up the choice. But before we get to those nettlesome last lines, Brody writes eloquently on what's made 2013 such a noteworthy movie year as a whole, and reminds you while he's an essential writer to keep up with, even if he sometimes drives you nuts.

The best movies this year are films of combative cinema, audacious inventions in vision. The specificity and originality of their moment-to-moment creation of images offers new ways for viewers to confront the notion of what "narrative" might be. Their revitalization of storytelling as experience restores to the cinema to its primordial mode of redefining consciousness. It’s significant that some of the filmmakers in the forefront of that charge are from the generation of the elders, innovators of the seventies. In the age of radical cinema sparked by digital technology, the rise of independent producers, and the ready ubiquity of the history of cinema (thanks to DVDs and streaming video), these older directors have experienced a glorious second youth. That artistic rejuvenation is also due to the stimulating ambiance of actual youth -- a young generation of freethinking cinephiles, critics, and filmmakers who, thanks to the Internet, make their appreciation of these sublime extremes widely and quickly known, even when the mainstream of viewers and reviewers miss out.

Richard Brody's Best Films of 2013

1. To The Wonder

(tie) The Wolf of Wall Street

3. Like Someone in Love

4. Computer Chess

(tie) Upstream Color

6. Night Across the Street

7. A Touch of Sin

8. Blue Is the Warmest Color

9. An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

10. Ain't Them Bodies Saints

(tie) Inside Llewyn Davis

(tie) Sun Don't Shine

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11 Comments

  • Chris | December 11, 2013 6:16 AMReply

    Where is his worst list?

  • Chris | December 11, 2013 6:14 AMReply

    Pretty spot on except for his number one .

  • jesseislameee | December 11, 2013 3:17 AMReply

    Glad to see two of my top four films of the year that haven't gotten much love, To the Wonder and An Oversimplification of Her Beauty on his list. But then again two of my top seven, Gravity and Before Midnight are on his worst. No mention of Her or Frances Ha?

  • Evan Ginzburg | December 10, 2013 10:34 PMReply

    Before Midnight one of my favorite films EVER. How this can make a worst 10 list makes me question anything this guy would write.

  • Satish Naidu | December 10, 2013 8:57 PMReply

    Brody does have some substantial writing to back up his claim on GRAVITY. I cannot seem to post the link here through the comments, but a simple google search should do the needful.

  • kate | December 10, 2013 1:02 PMReply

    Whew! Managed to squeeze 2 terrible films by women directors in there. Represent!

  • Stephanie | December 10, 2013 11:43 AMReply

    Oh boy, please do not make these Upworthy-style headlines a regular thing.

  • shelly | December 10, 2013 11:07 AMReply

    This is perfect example of why Brody's film writing is relegated to the website and not the magazine.

  • Max | December 10, 2013 2:44 PM

    Brody blows racist philistine David Denby out of the water.

  • fhfhfhhf | December 10, 2013 11:05 AMReply

    Yeah intellectual is always bad, or pretentious, for some reason.

  • Vicente Russo | December 10, 2013 10:48 AMReply

    stupid intellectual pretentious list. "To the Wonder" should be in the 10 worse movies of the year, another pretentious mess!

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