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Paper Magazine Critic Goes Contrarian, Names ‘12 Years A Slave’ Worst Film Of 2013

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by Charlie Schmidlin
December 18, 2013 10:21 AM
14 Comments
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While we’re mostly celebratory around these parts, a considerable aspect of our year-end cinematic reflections has been dredging up those unspeakable films long since forgotten for one final verdict—think “Violet and Daisy,” “I Give It A Year," or “The Big Wedding." We compiled our 20 favorite abominations here, but elsewhere head film critic of Paper Magazine Dennis Dermody has aimed for more awards-centric fare with his list, and ended up with director Steve McQueen’s work in his sights.

Following a list of 2013’s best offerings that included “Inside Llewyn Davis," “Blue Jasmine," and “Spring Breakers," Dermody then shared up his rundown of the ten worst. And right at the top? “12 Years A Slave," with the critic calling the film “well-acted, well-made, and virtually critic-proof. It's also torture to sit through. Slavery was horrendous. You think?“ Now, a negative opinion on McQueen’s film is nothing new, and even welcomed if the argument is there (our own Drew Taylor gives it a try in our Overrated/Underrated of 2013 feature). But we’d also say perhaps a three-sentence review and a conclusion of sarcasm is thin support for what could be a unique opinion on the film.

The other duds on the list don’t fare any better, from “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” ("the equivalent of ‘Rapunzel: Ghostbuster’ or ‘Cinderella: Kung Fu Dentist’ ”) to the Ryan Reynolds/Jeff Bridges actioner “R.I.P.D.” (“Rest in peace indeed.”). But they are also more predictable candidates, and because a full “12 Years A Slave” review by Dermody fails to exist (unlike that other famous contrarian, Armond White), we’ll have to take his brief thoughts as a mishandled chance.

You can read the full list here with comments for each, but do you agree with Dermody in placing “12 Years A Slave” near the top of the scrap heap? Or has the end of year frenzy driven him to knee-jerk fits of hyperbole?

Paper Magazine's Dennis Dermody's Top 10 Films Of 2013
1. Inside Llewyn Davis
2. Laurence Anyways
3. You're Next!
4. Blue Jasmine
5. Stoker
6. Paradise Earth
7. Sightseers
8. Frances Ha
9. Spring Breakers
10. 20 Feet From Stardom

Paper Magazine's Dennis Dermody's Worst 10 Films Of 2013
1. 12 Years A Slave
2. Oz The Great And Powerful
3. A Good Day To Die Hard
4. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
5. [NOT LISTED]
6. Oblivion
7. Mama
8. Man Of Steel
9. R.I.P.D.
10. After Earth

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14 Comments

  • Anson Mount | January 7, 2014 12:33 PMReply

    White's comments are being referred to as "contrarian" and defined as a "heckle". How about calling it for what it was: a racist rant. Regardless of the color of the offending party, to belittle an artist due to their race during a moment of recognition is beyond the pale. White should be thrown out of this organization. He has demeaned himself and the NYFCC enough.

  • Malie | December 19, 2013 12:26 AMReply

    See when groups like this try to knock us down & what we do it only makes us fight harder. You guys may think that 12 years a slave is the worse movie of 2013 but others with an intelligent mind say other wise. There are no amount of harsh words that you can say that will stop 12 years a slave's flow. Remember this is gods handy work at it's finest. So keep doing and sayings whatever you want 12 years a slave will just keep on winning, because it & its stars know that it's the BEST!!!!! Have a nice day (NOT ).

  • Tyler | December 18, 2013 4:14 PMReply

    I'm happy to see Stoker get some more year-end praise...... but coming from this moron it might have done more harm than good.

  • Tyler | December 18, 2013 4:15 PM

    and Mama wasn't THAT bad.

  • james | December 18, 2013 3:00 PMReply

    Addressing difficult subject matter in art it one if its primary functions. The writer at Paper is a moron, full stop.

  • Eric | December 18, 2013 2:45 PMReply

    I completely agree with his #5 worst film of the year. I think we can all agree on that one.

  • Taylor | December 18, 2013 1:44 PMReply

    the worst list is terrible 12 years a slave is going to win everything
    spring breakers make it on the best list ? but not 12 years a slave ?
    dude you need to reevaluate your life .

  • Dex | December 19, 2013 12:41 PM

    "12 Years" is racking up lots of well-deserved nominations, but it's not going to win the key awards. The Academy, for certain, will award Best Picture, Actor and Director to others. The bozo at the Paper found "12 Years" tortuous to sit through and many Academy members will undoubtedly share this sentiment.

  • Galena | December 19, 2013 11:30 AM

    What kind of a ding dong says someone needs to 're evaluate' their ENTIRE life because they don't like a movie you like?

  • Andrew | December 18, 2013 1:20 PMReply

    I don't think it's that unique an opinion, especially outside the States. A considerable portion of non-U.S. critics I've talked to have lodged similar complaints - calling it technically proficient but cold, unengaging and a dull sociology study. None of them would dare put it near a worst of list, but outside a Top 10? Quite likely. It doesn't surprise me, McQueen is that kind of filmmaker and it's an approach that people will either get with or not.

  • Josh | December 18, 2013 11:37 AMReply

    "Oi, everyone! Look at me, please look at me everybody! I'm being DIFFERENT!"

  • Dex | December 19, 2013 12:33 PM

    Absolutely. Both the magazine and "writer" appear desperate for readership.

  • Lee | December 18, 2013 11:44 AM

    LOL, spot on

  • Ted | December 18, 2013 11:23 AMReply

    I'm not particularly fond of "12 Years a Slave," it's well-done and affecting, but beyond that not much. I wouldn't even call it the best film about American slavery (I'd be more inclined to go for Nightjohn or Sankofa). But it's just provocative and dumb to call it the worst film of 2013. I suppose it's a masterpiece compared to Amistad, but that's not saying much.

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