The Best Movies Of 2013 (The Playlist Staff Top 10s)

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by The Playlist Staff
December 31, 2013 11:40 AM
52 Comments
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Katie Walsh's Top 10 Films Of 2013: I tend to like to pick a theme for my Top 10 list, but this year has proven difficult to settle on just one. Much of 2013 was about the ugly excesses of capitalism and explorations of that effect on human nature. Films like “Spring Breakers,” “Pain and Gain,” “Wolf of Wall Street,” “American Hustle,” and “Blackfish” looked at the ways that crimes of capitalism can often pay, but at the expense of your soul. Even smaller indies like “Nebraska,” and “Frances Ha,” took up the issue of poverty, money, and class mobility as themes in their larger stories. Clearly, filmmakers this year have their minds on money and money on their minds, and that theme resonated with me this year. 

On the other hand, I found myself increasingly drawn to work by and focusing on women. Often a female perspective created a film that resonated deeply with me on a level that even the flashiest and splashiest of indictments of bad people having fun doing bad things couldn’t touch. From shows like “Orange is the New Black,” to “Girls,” to films like “Touchy Feely,” and “After Tiller,” these female-created works burrowed themselves deep into my soul. It should surprise few that I am a proud feminist and feel a duty to the honest exploration, celebration, and discussion of women-created works, and this year was a fantastic one of that, happily. 

Also a note: I’ve tried to catch up with all or most of the major releases this year, but I haven’t seen everything, so bear that in mind. 

10. "The Wolf of Wall Street"
Martin Scorsese’s latest isn’t quite up to vintage Scorsese standards, as it never really achieves the glorious transcendence that something like “Goodfellas” or “Taxi Driver” does (two perfect films, in my estimation), or even the taut and tight “The Departed.” “The Wolf of Wall Street” is excessive in its excess, and while that’s what they seem to be going for, it feels a bit baggy. Still, it’s remarkable work and Leonardo DiCaprio is working overtime as Jordan Belfort in one of the most insane physical performances I’ve ever seen, from vein popping sermonizing to ‘lude-induced near paralysis. Jonah Hill goes toe to toe with the formidable DiCaprio, and their relationship is one of the best love stories in cinema this year. If you consider ‘Wolf’ in the lens of Scorsese’s other works, it falls into many of his oft-repeated themes: obsession, homosocial relationships, the dark depths of the human soul, religion. The religious theme was especially interesting to consider in such a godless movie, but the speeches that Jordan delivers to his subjects at Stratton Oakmont feel like tent revivals, his preaching lathering up his minions into a religious, almost cult-like fervor as they pound their chests in the rhythm of Matthew McConaughey’s hypnotic chant. For all the sex (which isn’t even that sexy—another Scorsese hallmark), drugs, shipwrecks, ODs, and wild criminal excesses of the film, these scenes of blind worship at the altar of money are the most important takeaway, and one hopes that those who are swept away by the titillating bad behavior understand that this is not a celebration but an indictment. It should be noted, that for however long and excessive the film is, Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing is the most visually brilliant part of the film and is the engine behind the complicated storytelling. Both Schoonmaker and DiCaprio deserve every award and plaudit for this flawed but often great film.

9. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"
“Catching Fire” made me believe in big Hollywood filmmaking again. Somewhere around July, whenever movie blogger Twitter collectively lost its shit over whatever dumb villain was revealed by Marvel in San Diego, and in the wake of a disappointing screening of “Pacific Rim” (total silly nonsense) I just decided that nope, I was boycotting big budget, action, superhero movies. They are never really that good to begin with, so that standard by which we hold them is drastically different from that to which we hold other movies. Then I saw “Catching Fire,” which utterly swept me away. Okay, so I’m a fan of the books, but this film is a near perfect adaptation, which is a very difficult thing to do. I was emotionally immersed from the get go, taken with the performances, design, storytelling, etc. But what “Catching Fire” gets so right, which is the downfall of most other big superhero action movies, are the stakes. Everything in the film has deadly serious consequences—every smile, every look, and every action of Katniss (the always excellent Jennifer Lawrence) carefully considered and used for or against her, and these stakes, big or small, are pitched perfectly. The film truly makes you care if the characters live or die and that there is actual weight and heft and consequence to their actions. Every performance is near career best, from Stanley Tucci to Elizabeth Banks to Jena Malone to Jeffrey Wright. Basically, I loved every second of it, flaws and all, and I had a huge smile plastered on my face the whole time. Katniss made me believe in superheroes again (I’m still not seeing “Batman vs. Superman” though), and I can't wait to watch it with my tween niece. 

8. "Frances Ha"
"Frances Ha" is reminiscent in its style and milieu of Woody Allen’s "Manhattan," with Greta Gerwig’s Frances as the neurotic struggling protagonist. It’s nice to have a new Woody Allen, especially since our feelings about the old one are pretty conflicted, both personally and professionally (Cate Blanchett IS remarkable in "Blue Jasmine," but that is NOT a women’s picture. It’s a picture about a man’s idea of women, and a rather mean-spirited one at that). The broad planes of Gerwig’s face, her large eyes and blonde hair soak up the black and white cinematography of “Frances Ha”—she’s like a Lempicka portrait, with her almost Art Deco facial structure a perfect complement to the cityscape. As much as Frances is looking for (a modern) love, and struggles with being undateable, what we learn is that it’s really the story about the twilight of a romance between best friends, and ultimately a love story of Frances and herself. Gerwig and Noah Baumbach have created a character who rings with the delight and sadness of recognition: we see Frances in ourselves and others, but the greatest achievement of Frances is that we only want to see more of her. 

7.  "The Act of Killing" 
Many get caught up in the sheer psychological horror of Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary about Indonesian war criminals and murderers, but the film is about so much more than the act of killing, it’s about the impact of films and filmmaking itself. These death squad leaders (former movie gangsters who scalped tickets) took inspiration from their favorite Hollywood movies for their acts, and Oppenheimer uses the filmmaking process as a way too elucidate and illuminate for these men the horrors that they visited upon innocent people. The look of devastation that finally cracks Anwar Congo’s face when the true impact of his actions dawns on him illustrates the power of the reflective mirror of cinema. “The Act of Killing” is unlike anything else, and it careens from the absurd to the horrific to the sublime, never allowing the viewer to stew in a particular emotion for too long. It’s hilariously funny at times and exceedingly grotesque at others; it leaves a feeling of deep spiritual and intellectual destruction long after it has ended. More than just an exposé of these crimes, it’s a landmark documentary that pushes the form of storytelling in the genre and demonstrates the power of what this medium can do. 

6. "The Punk Singer"
Coming in late in 2013, this documentary bio of Kathleen Hanna, feminist punk icon and founder of the riot grrl movement, instantly made its way onto my list of favorite films for the year. Archival videos capture Hanna at her most vital: pure bouncing energy radiating off the stage as the lead singer of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, and interviews with other grunge and punk artists as well as feminist thinkers add context and commentary. The film (directed by Hanna’s friend Sini Anderson) seeks to understand why Hanna stopped performing in 2005, and while that quickly drifts away in the retelling of the legend of Kathleen Hanna, later in the film it is finally revealed that Hanna has been suffering from late-stage Lyme disease, nearly debilitated by the mysterious autoimmune disorder. Despite the drama and tragedy of the disease, that the film is really about her and her legacy more than anything else demonstrates what an iconic force of energy Hanna is. And her relationship with Beastie Boy Ad-Rock is the best rock love story of the year. Inspiring and enlightening, here’s hoping “The Punk Singer” will introduce Hanna to a new generation of fans. 

5. "Touchy Feely"
Lynn Shelton’s latest isn’t perfect, but damn if its highs don’t exceed just about everything else I’ve seen this year, packing more emotional wallop into a single scene than most films do in their entire running time. In the story of a physically detached massage therapist, Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt), and her brother Paul (Josh Pais), a dentist who discovers his own healing touch, Shelton expands the scope of her cinematic universe with more characters and relationships, creating a web of missed or fleeting connections. Abby’s niece Jenny (Ellen Page) is stuck in limbo working for her father and harboring an illicit crush on Abby’s younger boyfriend Jesse (Scoot McNairy) who is utterly mystified by Abby’s new bodily disgust (Allison Janney as her Reiki guru steals the show as always). Shelton’s films find the fantastical in the everyday, the extraordinary in the ordinary, the magic in the mundane, but it’s all grounded in reality, which is both devastating and uplifting. Culminating in a song by Tomo Nakayama, exes Abby and Adrian (Ron Livingston) share a moment, while elsewhere others find connection in different combinations all too briefly. This scene is a moment of true love but also an emotional gut punch, packing both a swoon and heartbreak. It’s lovely to see Shelton’s progression, and we’re lucky to witness her continuing to work and grow as a filmmaker. 

4. "Crystal Fairy"
I didn’t expect to be so taken with the hippie-dippie road trip film “Crystal Fairy,” but Gaby Hoffmann’s brave and intoxicating return to the screen, and Michael Cera’s brilliant playing against type, combined with a trio of chill Chileans completely won me over. Sebastian Silva’s film seems light on the surface: well-off American asshole Jamie (Cera) goes on a journey to find a hallucinogenic cactus with his Chilean buddies and a tag-along hippie named Crystal Fairy (Hoffmann). The film has an easy way about it, charming and quirky, with laughs at the expense of Crystal’s copious body hair, and Jamie’s neurotic jerkiness. But towards the end, it reveals a much darker, and more loving, side to it than expected. It’s really a film about transformation, and about acceptance of oneself through the acceptance of others (and vice versa?). Hoffmann, a former child star, has recently returned to acting, and she is simply magnetic on screen (she's also the standout of the forthcoming “Goodbye World"). It’s refreshing to see Cera working a different groove, proving there’s more to him than expected; and Silva’s brothers, as their Chilean buddies, are utterly winning. A gem of a picture. 

3. "After Tiller"
For their documentary debut, Lana Wilson and Martha Shane bravely took on one of the most controversial subjects that begs for discussion in this country: abortion. The result is a delicately wrought, sensitively told, and deeply intimate film that pays loving tribute to the four doctors in the U.S. who continue to perform late-term abortions, as well as the women who seek out their services. Wilson and Shane were granted access to confidential counseling sessions (shooting the women and men from the neck down), which allows them to capture details such as a hand wringing a Kleenex, or a nervously tapping shoe, but also, the heartbreaking decision-making process that these women and couples have had to go through. These sessions also capture the deep sensitivity of these doctors, so often labeled as “monsters” by anti-abortion groups, and which this film portrays as anything but. The remarkable thing about a film like “After Tiller” is the way in which Wilson and Shane take such a political topic and turn it into something so personal. The feminist movement that bore Roe v. Wade declared “the personal is political,” and it seems Wilson and Shane are attempting to remind us of that in a world that, politically, remains staunchly divided and antagonistic. While lawmakers debate the ins and outs of women’s reproductive rights, “After Tiller” quietly and steadfastly shows us the personal stories of those who are most affected by those laws. In their exploration of the world after the late Dr. Tiller, a film like this reminds us of his motto: “trust women.”

2. "Spring Breakers"
Harmony Korine’s tribute to/skewering of the American tradition of spring break was one of the most radical, anarchic films of recent memory, rippling with a heady, revolutionary energy. I have referred to “Spring Breakers” as “Scarface 2013,” for its similarities in colorfully depicting what is essentially a capitalist existential crisis, all in an outrageously outré package. “Scarface” (1933) and “Scarface” (1983) were films that represented the violent appropriation of the American Dream by those who were denied fair access to opportunity in America—racially outcast immigrants. “Spring Breakers” creates a world in which young women (similarly oppressed, but in different ways), take up this gangster narrative in order to insert themselves into this system. Objectified and sexualized by society (see: opening sequence), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) use their sexuality as an in to this dark underworld, and then take it over from the inside. But regardless of these associations and allegories, the film is a remarkable piece of art: a dreamy, woozy film that abstracts memory, fantasy, horror and debauchery into a neon-smeared, cannabis-dusted work that’s one of the more immersive cinematic experiences of 2013. An “Apropos de Nice” for the millennial generation. Spring break forever, bitches. 

1. "Short Term 12"
Destin Daniel Cretton’s second feature is a finely crafted piece of cinema that excels in every aspect: performance, cinematography, emotion, storytelling, and tone all coming together to create a film that is specifically of a piece, and what a piece it is. Cretton’s ability to balance the dark and light moments of life at a short term foster care facility, and taking the effort to focus on each character’s story creates a film that feels very authentic and very fresh. He also has a sensitive and devastating way of revealing information about the characters and their stories, peeling back layer after layer, weaving a story of trauma, sadness, and ultimately hope. Brie Larson, as the troubled Grace, gives a stunning performance of a woman trying to balance it all and her own fucked up past, and she is riveting, by far one of the best female performances this year. The rest of the cast is fantastic as well, capturing every aspect of life: humor, desperation, devastation, rage, love. Emotional and perfectly balanced, Cretton’s sensitive storytelling is the kind we need to see more of. 

The “12 Years a Slave” Question:
Steve McQueen’s work is challenging in a way that not many other films are. He presents total abject suffering in beautiful and painterly ways, his mastery of cinematic form and ability to elicit performance unparalleled.  However, when I paid my 14 bucks and sat down in my seat, my only feeling was dread. “WHY am I paying to do this to myself?” I asked out loud. And there were two sequences where I was slouched down almost horizontal in my seat, hands over my eyes, repeating the mantra “I don’t want to do this,” under my breath (yes, my film going companions were extremely annoyed). “12 Years A Slave” is a crucially important film that many, many people should see and experience, but I don't know if I loved or even liked it. Those words seem woefully inadequate to even describe a film like this. Particularly compared to last year’s “Django Unchained,” which I found offensive and tacky in its portrayal of slavery, McQueen’s vision is sorely needed and desperately important. But it was one of the most miserable film going experiences I’ve had in a long time. And, really, that’s kind of the point. 

Other Notable Releases: 
The Coens' “Inside Llewyn Davis” has continued to grow on me the more I think about it, and Oscar Isaac is fantastic, but the film is so egregiously shitty to its female characters who are either harpies, bitches, hags, or all three that I can’t in good conscience put it on my Top 10. The soundtrack is great though, and it’s really stuck with me. I also loved the big dumb “Pain and Gain,” a blast of sheer energy—the American Dream on 'roids. “Mud” was fantastic, with Matthew McConaughey just hitting it out of the park, as he also does in the great “Dallas Buyers Club.” “In A World…” is probably my favorite feature debut of the year, and I can’t wait for Lake Bell’s next. “Nebraska” is a sweet slice of nostalgia, fusing old time values with new world realities. “American Hustle” is a total mess, but it’s almost worth it for the scene of Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams disco dancing (a remake of “Saturday Night Fever” starring those two could be awesome), and Adams is the absolute best of that film. 

On the doc side, “Blackfish” rendered me absolutely speechless—a snuff film that skewers corporate capitalism and PR speak on the tip of its harpoon. Both “Muscle Shoals” and “Sound City” celebrated the heyday of making music in two very different and very special places. Sarah Polley’s “Stories We Tell” was a fantastic approach to non-fiction storytelling, but something about the reenactments left me a bit cold. Still, Polley is one of the most creative filmmakers working today. The Robert Reich doc “Inequality for All” lays out the problem of wealth inequality in stark, yet humane ways—a double feature with “Wolf of Wall Street” would be stunningly sobering. 

2014 Films To See
I was lucky enough to see a trio of films by female filmmakers this year that were truly remarkable, medium-pushing and daring in voice that I must recommend seeking out. The first, “It Felt Like Love,” directed by Eliza Hittman, paints a vibrantly honest and authentic portrait of adolescent female sexuality that is anchored by two stunning performances by newcomer actors Gina Piesanti and Ronen Rubinstein. It played in the 2013 Sundance NEXT category and will be released in early 2014. A dark and dreamy debut, definitely keep an eye out for it. The others were documentaries that played at Rooftop Films this summer: “i hate myself :)” by Joanna Arnow and “Elena” by Petra Costa were the two most creative and innovative documentaries I saw in 2013 and pushed the boundaries of the medium in new ways. In “i hate myself :)” Arnow fuses cinéma vérité with Lena Dunham-style confessional cinema, turning the lens on herself and her relationship with volatile poet James. Quickly though, the film becomes less about him, and more about her, her relationship to herself, her sexuality, her family, and to the filmmaking process itself. It’s very bold and very brave. “Elena” is a tribute to Petra Costa’s late sister, an attempt to recreate and retrace her steps; to bring her back to cinematic life (in attempt, a bit like Sarah Polley’s “Stories We Tell,” in result, more like the abstractions, memories, and poetic cityscapes of Chris Marker’s “Sans Soleil”). The film is sensual, intoxicating; a heady brew made up of home videos, letters and diaries read by Costa, and footage of New York City and their native Brazil. Abstract, artful and heartbreaking. I highly recommend all three when they become available, and perhaps they may even make it onto my 2014 list. 

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52 Comments

  • Kelly Macdough | January 8, 2014 5:01 PMReply

    Lol: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will indeed be the worst film of 2014. Spot on prophecy.

  • Paul | January 4, 2014 4:59 PMReply

    Note to The Playlist writers......"The Upstream Color" is a terrible movie. There simply is no defending it if you really have an interest in narrative cinema. However, if your interest is embracing pretentious dreck that you believe will either infuriate or perhaps intimidate the "Common Man", and if you equate being obtuse with actual intellect, then I suppose the high praise is inevitable. However, just as some of us know that "dying is easy:comedy is hard", few things are easier (and less accomplished) then throwing together the film equivalent of an unassembled jigsaw puzzle minus the box cover, as if the farther removed you are from any conventional forms of narrative (recognizable characters, meaningful dialouge, coherence) moves you farther up the "Deep Thoughts" chart. I thought that stuff stopped with undergrad English classes.

    Oh, the Coen Brothers' latest, while technically impeccable, has a giant empty space where its heart should be.

  • Nathna | January 1, 2014 2:54 AMReply

    Where the HELL is "The Place Beyond the Pines?" I thought you guys loved that movie.

  • Rick | December 31, 2013 12:35 PMReply

    Katie, are you from Massachusetts, cause I swear what you said you did during 12 Years a Slave definitely happened during my screening? LOL

  • Katie Walsh | January 1, 2014 9:20 AM

    Ha no, this was in LA.

  • Liam | December 31, 2013 12:27 PMReply

    Enough with the Upstream Color lovefest! It's pretentious, empty drivel that was pre-packaged to be hipster cool the same way a Jay Z album is pre-packaged to be mainstream hit. This is the work of a filmmaker - albeit a talented one - trying way too hard to be experimental, edgy and oh-so-ethereal. I heard that David Lynch, Terrence Malick and David Cronenberg were going to get together to make a parody film of their styles and try to pawn it off as genius. They can't now though, because Upstream Color already exists. But other than that I have no strong opinion about it.

  • Tyler | December 31, 2013 2:38 PM

    Watch it again. I didn't really "get" the film until my 2nd or 3rd viewing, and now its one of my most cherished films I own on dvd.

  • Liam | December 31, 2013 12:54 PM

    And I didn't mean to post that twice... or maybe it was intentional - a subtle commentary on the echoing effect of remakes and reimaginings on our desperate desire to tout blindly the merits of original works in the face of becoming obsolete in the mainstream? Hmmm... maybe I should make a minimalist film full of striking imagery to single-note synth music. I could be on Yhe Playlists' staff's Top 10 next year...

  • Liam | December 31, 2013 12:27 PMReply

    Enough with the Upstream Color lovefest! It's pretentious, empty drivel that was pre-packaged to be hipster cool the same way a Jay Z album is pre-packaged to be mainstream hit. This is the work of a filmmaker - albeit a talented one - trying way too hard to be experimental, edgy and oh-so-ethereal. I heard that David Lynch, Terrence Malick and David Cronenberg were going to get together to make a parody film of their styles and try to pawn it off as genius. They can't now though, because Upstream Color already exists. But other than that I have no strong opinion about it.

  • Joshua Polanski | January 1, 2014 7:02 AM

    I thought Upstream Color was a fascinating film. I think it was quiet and unassuming. I don't think I saw the pretention or pre-packagedness you speak of.

    I don't think it is a flawless picture, but I found it, quite refreshing and ambiguous. I very rarely like films of the style which you describe ("trying way too hard to be experimental"). I saw a bit of Lynch, but mostly Malick. However, although it looks like it was inspired by those type of film-makers, I still think it manages to plod along in it's own little world.

    I genuinely don't think Shane Carruth would've expected anyone to even see this small film, let alone have it appear in numerous Top 10 lists. I think films like Upstream Color and Spring Breakers have made quite a few lists of critics because they are quite infuriating to watch, yet simultaneously you can't look away.

  • B.R.S-G | December 31, 2013 2:43 PM

    Maybe you should stop talking and do it then. I think Goddard said the best way to review a movie is by making another movie. I loved "Primer" and can't wait to see "Upstream Color" I really liked the fact that "Inside LLewyn Davis", "The Wolf of wall street" and "Gravity" are in Jessica's list and I think is great that "The Act of Killing" is number one.
    I don't know if you guys ever read this comment since you hardly respond, however I wanted to say I'm always checking what's new on The Playlist and I love to read Jessica's reviews.

  • Abi | December 30, 2013 6:26 PMReply

    This list does not even begin to make sense...

  • Duhz | January 1, 2014 5:52 PM

    which one? There are four of them so far.

  • Danny | December 27, 2013 10:36 PMReply

    How people are not seeing the blatant misanthropy Inside Llewyn Davis has in it is beyond me. A modicum of research into Dave van Ronk would show that he wasn't like Llewyn Davis at all. So why use all the signifiers of Van Ronk such as his album? They are tarnishing a legacy. The are alienating not illuminating. The misanthropy is clear. Everybody has something that the Coens cue us to laugh at, to feel superior over. This movie is a shameful bubbling pot of cynical determinism and humanity hating. Screw the Coens and people promoting this claptrap.

  • Danny | January 2, 2014 2:06 AM

    Yeah of course I agree. Not exactly my point though. I'm not saying that a movie about a misanthrope is always bad. Taxi Driver has parallels in that Travis has a strong disdain for certain people but we get the very clear sense that we are seeing the world from his pov and that this isn't the view of the filmmakers. Inside Llewyn Davis nudges its audience to scoff at people who have some mannerism or believe in something the Coens deem worthy of mockery. They are putting down many people's very human hopes and aspirations without making it very clear that this is only Llewyn's pointofview.

  • Rick | December 31, 2013 12:39 PM

    I definitely see the misanthropy. Llewyn Davis was definitely like a pre-hipster (referring to the modern college radio type of hipster). I don't think a character piece of a misanthrope is automatically a bad movie.

  • DANNY | December 28, 2013 11:56 PM

    Woahhh "educated" reviews say something so I'll quickly scurry over to the other side of the fence where all the smart people who sop up bad Coen misanthropy are. Glad to be with the "informed" crowd, I was so delusional for thinking every human other than Llewyn is shown with some weird trait that the audience can condescend to. Guess that was just on me then. Thanks Phillip great to be with you on this side. The side that thinks that ending with "so there" after saying something to the effect of 'everyone thinks this dodo' is the Ultimate PWN. Cool crowd!

  • Philip | December 28, 2013 4:03 PM

    Wrong. The Coens have indicated multiple times that while Van Ronk's story provided a template, an introduction to the world of folk music in Greenwich Village in 1961, Llewyn Davis is not Dave van Ronk. And if you felt that the Coens wanted you to laugh at the characters and not feel any ounce of empathy, that's on you. That's a very general and uninformed way of reading any of their movies. There's subtext provided, practically spelled out that is suppose to let you understand why he acts the way he does. And if you look at the majority of educated reviews, you are on the opposite side of the fence. So there.

  • Nick | December 27, 2013 2:56 PMReply

    So is the United States ever going to get a chance to see the uncut version of Snowpiercer? Where does the issue stand at this point?

  • benutty | December 27, 2013 2:54 PMReply

    Is it noteworthy that Oliver tops both my Worst Film Critics of 2013 and Most Questionable Taste of 2013 lists?

  • B.R.S-G. | December 31, 2013 3:18 PM

    No it is not. At least I don't care if you're really doing a list like that or if it is just a bad joke. If you ("BENUTTY") want to show you don't have a "questionable" taste I dare you to show to us your "Best of 2013" list.

  • roxie | December 27, 2013 12:57 PMReply

    Catching Fire was atrocious and completely unentertaining ( I felt sorry for Philip Seymour Hoffman & Donald Sutherland .) , just like it's previous film. Jennifer Lawrence is still a mediocre actress that got very lucky . The poor girl cannot emote and deliver her lines properly .

  • Lyndsay | January 3, 2014 9:06 AM

    You people are idiots. "Catching Fire" was so much better than the first one. It actually stuck to the book. It was one of the best films I've seen, and I am eagerly awaiting the next one.

  • Abi | December 30, 2013 6:27 PM

    Catching Fire is a big joke.

  • oogle monster | December 27, 2013 12:43 PMReply

    THANK YOU for acknowledging that AMY ADAMS in HER is one of the best and most underrated performances of the year. She is INCREDIBLE. And she's equally stellar in AMERICAN HUSTLE. How is this woman not a 2 time Oscar winner by now?

  • Rosanna | December 26, 2013 4:22 PMReply

    How about the usual suspects? James Brolin, James Brolin, Brad Pitt, or maybe Kifer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon or Christopher Bale, Matthew McCaughnahey? NO Brad Cooper, Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Ben Stiller or Woody Harrelson!

  • RHCP | December 26, 2013 1:34 AMReply

    Will someone explain why "Spring Breakers" is #2 on this list? Or even on this list for that matter? One of the worst movies I've ever seen in my opinion

  • Luminous Carcass | December 22, 2013 11:44 PMReply

    Upstream Color was by far the most over-rated, piece-of-shit movie I've seen in years. I haven't seen anything try so hard to be compelling or thought-provoking since Dogville. Shouldn't really come as a surprise; you did throw Harmony Korine and Claire Denis in the mix as well. Opinions are opinions, but Upstream Color isn't iconoclastic. In time, the internet will be (even more) over-run with pretentious "films" by hipster, emotional children; involving water streams infused with dye and "nature" and "human emotions." Throw a droney-ambient soundtrack over it and you've got the next Upstream Color.

  • Tyler | December 31, 2013 2:40 PM

    Also, Dogville is great. (my favorite lars von trier film actually)

  • MDL | December 24, 2013 7:54 PM

    What movies have you made recently 'Luminous Carcass'? That's what I thought. None. Upstream Colour and these other movies and directors you mention don't try to be hip. The media perhaps makes them hip. But that is not the fault of the filmmakers. Filmmakers make movies. Everything else is opinion.

  • Daniel | December 21, 2013 11:01 PMReply

    Is there anyone else looking forward to " Think Like A Man Too", due next year?

  • No more trolls. | December 21, 2013 7:54 PMReply

    No more trolls in 2014.

  • Brad | December 21, 2013 1:14 PMReply

    People can be really stupid, (I'm sorry, I think is really low to insult on this comments but after reading this list and the comments here I got really mad) that's why I never read this comments and I hardly comment on anything myself, but if your focus is in just looking at small mistakes (where the killings happened in "The act of killing" or where "Blue Ruin" premiered, please) anyone can make instead of talking about the movies, you really need some perspective.
    I liked this list and appreciate the fact that "Spring Breakers", " Her" and "Inside Llewyn Davis" are in here since I think are some of the best movies of the year and they will be hardly nominated to any awards and I agree with what was said about "Saving Mr Banks", I just don't get all the buzz about a Disney movie that portrays how another Disney movie was done (I know there's more into it, but still)
    I want to thank The Playlist too because thanks to the writers I've been able to know about movies that because of the limited screenings otherwise I wouldn't know about like "Primer" from Shane Carruth, which by the way I can't wait to watch "Upstream Color" or films like "Killing List", "Holy Motors" or "Dogtooth" among several other films that I have been able to find since I came across The Playlist a year ago.
    I would like to know what do you think about the movie "The east" Gabe?. I think it is one of the best movies I've seen this year but not a lot of people has seen it and no one is talking about it at this time.
    Great List Gabe!!!! I'm a Playlist addict and I'm always looking forward to read your reviews.

  • Kyle | December 21, 2013 12:25 PMReply

    Gabe, you have good taste my friend. Only wondering where "Before Midnight" landed?

  • Loz in Transit | December 31, 2013 8:40 PM

    It seems 'Before Midnight' didn't get a mention of any kind. I'm half expecting an efusive apology that it was "accidentally omitted". Maybe I'm being completely biased.

  • Jon | December 21, 2013 12:05 PMReply

    So is "Like Someone in Love" ever going to be released on DVD?

  • @raptorjuice | December 20, 2013 10:25 PMReply

    i dont even do internet comments but these reviews really annoy me

  • @RAPTORJUICE | December 20, 2013 10:31 PM

    i am gonna watch upstream color rn, but im not gonna read ur review til after gabe. now i commented i feel invested and like i needto pay u somerespect

  • Tom | December 20, 2013 10:08 PMReply

    I've seen Taboor at the IFFR this year, and it was absolutely awful. Nothing Lynchian about it if you ask me.. So I don't know if you liked it or if you had high hopes for it, but it was weird in an obnoxious way. No atmosphere, cheap looking (I guess no one is to blame there..), and utterly boring. Which is unfortunate, because I thought that the premise was very promising too.

  • leopold | December 20, 2013 6:28 PMReply

    The Act of Killing [easily the best film of the year] is about the mass killings of communists at the end of Sukarno's reign in Indonesia in 1965/66 and not Cambodia as Gabe Toro suggests above. Perhaps you could amend the text as this inaccuracy takes away from your recommendation of a most significant film

  • Gabe Toro | December 20, 2013 11:31 PM

    Not sure how that ended up in there, we fixed that asap. Thanks though!

  • AE | December 20, 2013 4:49 PMReply

    At the very least 12 Years has provoked interesting discussion on race in the movies, this and David Thomson's review of the film speak some important truths. For what it's worth I just feel that there is still, in 2013, so much denial afloat in the culture about race, lately wrapped up in economics, that a movie, which is always a commercial project marketed to some kind of general audience, is just impossible; by definition denial works by avoidance. Even the historical distance of 12 Years isn't far enough for many who find reasons to deflect or bypass it. Unless we reach - and we likely won't - a situation where films are made simply for the need of them, nothing will change, via the movies at least, we live in hope that it will be socially where events move us forward.

  • Mark | December 20, 2013 4:14 PMReply

    Truly mindblowing that the director of Star Trek Into Darkness was hired to make the new Star Wars.

  • benutty | December 20, 2013 3:19 PMReply

    I really enjoy your comments on diversity. I was considering the other day the whole notion of this being a big year for "black films" and the value of what makes a film "black." It seems to be that the goal of the "black film" industry should be to get black actors into roles that aren't race-specific--and the only one I could think of that's had success recently is Beasts of the Southern Wild (which is one of my favorite films of the last 5 years). I feel like there isn't enough discussion about the fact that Quvenzhane and Dwight got recognition for performances that could have been played by white actors, but (regardless of director intent) were masterfully portrayed by black actors. Aside from that, if we look at black films that have been nominated for Oscars recently, a majority of them are films that consist of black characters that could only be portrayed by black actors (The Help, Precious, Django Unchained, 12 Years a Slave, The Butler, Fruitvale Station). Save Denzel's character in Flight and reaching back to Viola in Doubt, Beasts of the Southern Wild is the only film that represents black actors and black film outside of what seems to be a typical box of "black actors can only fill roles meant for characters the must be black."

    I know there are plenty of films in recent years that fit outside of this box, but in terms of awards it seems that recognition of "black films" is still only going to the black story told through a racially bias lens. AND THIS IS FRUSTRATING ME!

    Anyway, thank you for your comments on it. I think it's discourse that should be happening with more frequency.

  • owdl114 | December 20, 2013 2:46 PMReply

    I'm sorry but I don't quite understand your criticism of the politics of 'Saving Mr Banks' (A film I rather quite liked). Do you mind explaining further?

  • Gabe Toro | December 20, 2013 11:33 PM

    Oh, wow, Alan, that changes everything!
    Thanks for the hits!

  • Alissa | December 20, 2013 6:51 PM

    Yeah, and you the troll of all trolls are Mr. Civil Maturity. That's a laugh.

  • Gabe Toro | December 20, 2013 2:59 PM

    It's a story about one of the world's richest and most powerful men instructing a creative woman how to re-interpret her own emotions while simultaneously making money off of her. You can have it.

  • Jim | December 20, 2013 2:34 PMReply

    "Blue Ruin" premiered at the Directors' Fortnight at Cannes and then screened at Locarno, before it "debuted" at Toronto.

  • Gabe Toro | December 20, 2013 2:48 PM

    Ah, thanks, my mistake. SOMEONE FIX.

  • Jeremy Wilson | December 20, 2013 2:32 PMReply

    Gabe Toro, a man after my own heart. Great list and nailed #1. I am dumbfounded that UPSTREAM COLOR isn't being hailed even more than it is. Maybe it was due to being released in the first half of the year and becoming a victim of getting lost (to a certain degree) of the crush of releases in the last third of the year. Carruth's second feature is such a leap forward for himself and for American independent cinema. Also, nice shout-outs for the Claire Denis' somehow critically underrated BASTARDS and Amy Seimetz's fantastic (and sticky) debut SUN DON'T SHINE.

  • Chad Opitz | December 20, 2013 2:05 PMReply

    Love what you have to say about "black" cinema and how it's only within very certain contexts that many audiences are even OK seeing black characters. It's very upsetting and obvious that this is going on and I wish more folks were cognizant of that and pushing back against it.

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