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

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by The Playlist Staff
December 31, 2013 11:40 AM
53 Comments
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Blue Ruin

Gabe Toro's Top 10

10. “Blue Ruin” 
There are two things I strongly dislike about end-of-year features. One is including a film like “Blue Ruin” that the general public has not had a chance to sample, as the picture awaits a 2014 bow. The other is the phrase “game-changer” for how it further trivializes cinema, already a trivial enterprise, as something that can be won, like a unanimous victory can somehow be achieved. With that out of the way, Jeremy Saulnier’s “Blue Ruin” is a genuine game-changer, the type of picture that’s going to capture the imaginations of several future filmmakers for decades to come. This ripcord-tight suspense thriller, about a meek loner who engages in an ill-advised attempt at revenge, debuted at Cannes, and after seeing it at TIFF, stuck in my head all throughout fall and winter. As I sat through a raft of ineffectual revenge pictures like ”Out of the Furnace” or the “Oldboy” remake, I was reminded of Saulnier’s film, which takes every silly genre trope and reveals it as the petty gimmickry it really is.

The Act of Killing

9. “The Act of Killing”

There are few words that accurately capture a human reaction to the horrific truth at the heart of “The Act of Killing,” a contemporary are-you-watching-this shock that prevents you from looking away. Joshua Oppenheimer’s doc is a close analysis of the history of modern Indonesia through the eyes of the “victors,” elderly members of Indonesian death squads who dealt death door-to-door and lived to laugh about it, free of judgment. What starts out as horrifyingly grotesque becomes perverse, bizarre, darkly funny and in the end almost touching: the picture commits the rare feat of feeling breathlessly alien, and also achingly intimate, crafting contradictions that force the viewer to re-evaluate whatever fake social consciousness one derives from watching heavily-politicized documentaries. It’s cinema as catharsis, and it’s unforgettable.

8. “Sun Don’t Shine”

There are few young actresses as electric as Ms. Kate Lyn Sheil, and as the leading lady at the start of Amy Seimetz's feature-length directorial debut, you see her and immediately register concern. The blush of her cheeks is both disarmingly vulnerable and ponderously threatening, as if she were a volcano ready to explode. This gripping thriller finds her in the passenger’s seat for a long, unexplained drive, with gas running low and secrets in the trunk. Each hint regarding the nature of the plot not only informs the relationship between this doomed couple, but also the chasm that separates them, one they don’t even realize exists until it’s far too late. “Sun Don’t Shine” lives up to its title visually, but it’s also insanely hot, beholden to the Florida humidity seen onscreen; it almost makes it seem as if the screen is raining. Within that vibe is the feeling of desperation, of outrunning the world, the sexual charge that comes from having someone by your side to dodge your troubles.

Like Someone In Love

7. “Like Someone In Love”
Abbas Kiarostami’s latest gently playful exercise about identity and perception follows a feeble, elderly Japanese man who orders a young escort, only to insert himself into her life. His transaction is one of gentle companionship, even though she plays up a kitten-ish sex appeal, and ultimately they find a common ground. It’s when her boyfriend makes the mistake of interpreting him as the girl’s grandfather where a peculiar sort of love triangle occurs, with each side having their own truth. It’s a sweetly observed story about the illusions of relationships, yet one that features a provocative final scene, a moment that suggests the ugly repercussions of relationships as active performances. Kiarostami’s experiments with formalism have settled into a playful observational style, and “Like Someone In Love” carries an almost-musical sense of back-and-forth between its characters, a song that ends in a way that makes the singers almost sound like prophets. 

6. “Inside Llewyn Davis”
This loosely-drawn but detailed sketch of the early '60s folk scene narrows its focus to capture a very specific, earthbound sort of Coen character. Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac, fantastic) himself is a bastard of a guy, a broke, careless snob who sneers at the success of others and persists in an unattainable sense of integrity that he hides from those who would ostensibly love him. If you haven’t experienced failure in your life, if you haven’t been forced to scoop the bottom of the barrel, if you haven’t surfed couches and relied on the kindness of strangers you treat terribly, if you haven’t broken someone’s heart, then I’m honestly not sure what one can derive from “Inside Llewyn Davis.” It’s a movie you almost want to hide from family and loved ones, to shield them from the beast that emerges from the failure to live up to expectations.

The Bastards, Claire Denis

5. “Bastards”
Claire Denis remains one of the most provocative filmmakers in the world, and I fear her dip into “genre” waters with her latest led her usual fans to dismiss this as something inherently skippable. But the fact that this is, superficially, a revenge noir hasn’t dulled her evocative storytelling skills, which take hold of a straightforward story and twist, mangle and pervert it to cast doubt on the morality of violent justice. “Bastards” is a picture that sickens and disturbs, but in Denis’ usual way it also titillates and mesmerizes: the opening alone, with its typically erotic slow-burn Tindersticks score, is a masterful miasma of images and sequences, each of which tells a thousand stories on their own. As the core narrative of “Bastards” takes shape, those stories don’t fade away, down to the most upsetting final few minutes of the year.

4. “Her”
Inevitably, I am uneasy calling “Her” a romantic film. There’s a lot going on in this, the latest from a director who has quietly been building a staggering filmography of classics about the co-opting of joy and pleasure in a crooked world. Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore Twombley, just the latest in a string of near-classic post-“retirement” performances, is a broken man in a lot of subtle ways. But whereas his kindness, pleasant demeanor and emotional intelligence are tremendously endearing traits, he’s like a lot of people, too selfish to accommodate a mature relationship, a companion that is consistently changing, growing, maturing. “Her” is ultimately something of wish fulfillment, a harrowing metaphor for humanity in the days before a technological singularity approaches. But it also has the warmth and laughs that come from the caress of a lover, the shared laugh between you and another person, the ways in which we can suddenly see the world through someone’s eyes. In some ways, it may be the loneliest comedy ever made.

Computer Chess

3. “Computer Chess”
I sat through the first five minutes of “Computer Chess” like an absolute snob. Why does this movie look like shit? Why do all these actors look like blotchy nerds? Why am I wasting such nice weather watching something that looks like crappy cable access when I could be in the park, sipping on a nice Scotch underneath a waterfall? It wasn’t until a half hour later when I settled in and realized that I probably wouldn’t nearly have as much fun at any movie this year than I would at Andrew Bujalski’s wonderfully acerbic no-fi comedy. The setting is simple, a weekend hotel summit by computer programmers attempting to teach artificial intelligence to defeat humans at chess. What’s really going on is the birth of the modern world, in slow, tentative steps, the kind of minor evolution that serves greater notice about the world we would soon live in than any jejune rock montage in “Jobs.” Eventually the look, which spotlighted a truly unique black-and-white palette, weaved into the film’s many period-and-place signifiers, all of which were loaded, like the hotel lobby prostitute with a flimsy wig, the sweaty Luddite who brings too many drugs, or the repeated, uncomfortable “inclusive” acknowledgement of the single girl present. By the time the film ended, I laughed long and hard and wished the projectionist would let it unspool again.

2. “Spring Breakers”
Harmony Korine’s sly deconstructionist crime film is considered a treatise on “youth culture,” which seems horribly minimizing. It really seems about the accepted birthright that is hedonism, a birthright the movie doesn’t outright condemn. Which makes others uncomfortable because of course it does. Korine is a pusher, and he’s pushing sex, drugs and hip-hop as the currency of the 21st century. Maybe technology isn’t the enemy: maybe, as drug-dealing fool Alien notes, it’s “humblin,’” the only thing that keeps us on the ground when the excess of bad behavior lifts us up. The degradation implicit in the beach scenes feels primeval, rooted in ugly traditions of human behavior, divorced from a young-old divide. This is something America has had coming, Korine is arguing. As Selena Gomez (not a girl, not yet a woman, she would sing) rambles on the phone to her grandmother, we see the spirit of inclusion, the sense that yesterday’s transgression is today’s transcendence—her obliviousness comes from how she feels closer, almost assimilated with her elder. I don’t think Korine is mocking these characters: Alien himself has a slight dorkiness that manifests at random times, but he’s genuine in his feelings, and these girls see in him a chance to become something new, to transform, to transcend. By the time they’re in front of a judge, he calls them “spring breakers” as if he were addressing “The Avengers.” Korine’s proudly cinematic movie would be worth it even if it looked like garbage. But in fact it’s thrillingly cinematic, with Korine rifling through filters like a restless child, creating images that burrow deeply inside your brain. No one walked away from “Spring Breakers” and forgot about it.

Upstream Color

1. “Upstream Color”
When I saw Terrence Malick’s “To the Wonder,” I was transfixed, seduced, and like all Malick films, ultimately in love. It says a lot about the quality of this year that I couldn’t find a spot for it in my top ten (or 20). But I couldn’t avoid this nagging sensation that the experience was overshadowed by Shane Carruth’s second feature, which I had seen a day earlier. Malick’s vocabulary always seemed interested in pushing narrative forward, evolving film into something ethereal, supernatural. And here was Carruth, pushing the medium more than any other filmmaker this year, utilizing a few of the Malick tricks to create something thorny, difficult, and in its own way quite romantic. I have never seen narrative storytelling quite like this, so evolved beyond the clunky plot-point-to-plot-point way of processing film that we continue to humor from inept, intellectually-bereft film school grads given massive studio budgets. In Carruth, here was a man determined to push things forward: it kills me that such narratively polite pictures like the pedestrian “Philomena” and the ethically-dimwitted “Saving Mr. Banks” are figuring into end-of-year conversations when Carruth has made a picture so intoxicated with the spirit of invention He’s crafted a bent, upsetting love story from two lovers, one that jumps back and forth into the narrative to properly convey the way time shifts when you find yourself unwillingly falling in love, against your wishes, and beyond circumstance. Real romance isn’t like film romance, where one person selects the other; more often than not, falling in love is like entering a slipstream, where time becomes an oval, and we rock back and forth inside it. You can see “Upstream Color” five times and it’s never once the same film, each moving part feeling like it’s shifting into a separate direction, breaking off towards a pattern you only recognize from a dream. It’s the sort of narrative leap-forward no one’s been making, like taking a time machine to 1937 and showing them “Fight Club.” As our film culture evolves—and it’s bound to evolve if we have many years like 2013—we’ll see in “Upstream Color” the seeds of what we’ve become.

FOR 2014
I look forward from the discussion raised by Catherine Breillat’s “Abuse Of Weakness” as well as Aaron Schimberg’s peculiar, distribution-less festival hit “Go Down Death.” There’s a strange David Lynchian Iranian movie called “Taboor” that has future cult classic written all over it, and James Gray’s “The Immigrant” is another success in the increasingly personal filmmaker’s body of work.

Sun Don't Shine

FAVORITE PERFORMANCES
As mentioned, I was greatly shaken by the work of Kate Lyn Sheil in “Sun Don’t Shine.” But I also found great humanity within Michael Shannon in the otherwise-dubious b-picture “The Iceman,” as he brought a rocky gravitas to the sadistic Richard Kuklinski. Julia Louis-Dreyfus also gave one of the all-time great romantic comedy performances in “Enough Said,” quite nearly matched by the late James Gandolfini—she’s absolutely radiant, even when other characters attempt to shame her into spinsterhood. And while the film was roundly ignored, Rosario Dawson completely held court in the daffy heist film “Trance,” reminding Hollywood that we’ve been ignoring this generation’s most over-qualified on-screen Alpha Female.

WORST MOVIES OF THE YEAR
I found the politics of “The Purge” to be odious and insincere, and its execution laughable, just another one of the horror industry’s attempts to remake “Home Alone” (and another in a consistent line of garbage from Platinum Dunes). Similarly, the politics of “Saving Mr. Banks,” sexual or otherwise, seemed cowardly and dull, though I shouldn’t have expected anything different from the director of “The Blind Side.” In a surprisingly decent year for massive blockbusters, the storytelling in “Star Trek Into Darkness” was remarkably retrograde, and its visuals tacky and empty. And if I had to guess, I’d say a certain generation was being pandered to with the glittery yearbook that was “CBGB,” the credit-card commercial called “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and “The Big Chill” for even worse people that was “Grown Ups 2.” Though there was something special about the awfulness of “R.I.P.D.,” sort of a found-badness that almost feels accidental. For something so big, loud and expensive, it was preciously awful. I want to wrap it up in a shawl and be nice to it, without ever once contradicting the terrible things people have said.

THE WORST MOVIE OF 2014
Let’s call it: it’s obviously going to be Platinum Dunes’ “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

12 Years A Slave

DIVERSITY, ON OUR TERMS
There are many reasons why the end-of-year awards are going to the punishing “12 Years a Slave” and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” over stuff like “The Best Man Holiday,” and I get it. That makes sense to me. What doesn’t make sense is how the industry isolates those films, as if it’s only acceptable to see black men and women struggling, and in the past. Contemporary black exceptionalism feels like some sort of verboten topic in Hollywood, and the tokenism of casting people like Idris Elba and Anthony Mackie in bit parts is no longer any sort of progress (nor is it progress to keep Elba out of “Pacific Rim” posters and Mackie removed from “Pain and Gain” DVD art and replaced by an anonymous white woman). This is an industry that didn’t even bother to screen “Baggage Claim” for critics, but whom sent me a DVD for “12 Years a Slave” with a fetishistically-fancy “For Your Consideration” flip book and a reminder before the DVD to “enjoy” Steve McQueen’s tale of the horrors of slavery. I sat in during a screening of “The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister And Pete,” from director George Tillman Jr. (“Notorious,” “Soul Food,” “Men Of Honor”) and stuck with it for twenty minutes. And during those twenty minutes, there was academic expulsion, drug abuse and prostitution, with the peerless Jeffrey Wright as a homeless man on the street, and Jennifer Hudson injecting drugs in front of her son. I didn’t even stick it out for Mackie’s appearance, never mind a reversal of sorts towards hope from Mr. Tillman, a director who tends to push that sort of positive narrative. Instead, I left. I look forward to seeing it during a different period, where this sort of problem isn’t an industry epidemic.

What I don’t understand is that we can have both, miserablism and hope, tragedy and success. “Blue Caprice” was credited for Isaiah Washington representing some sort of black boogeyman, but his work in that film is stellar, hypnotic even, and the film properly captures the sort of mental chemistry imbalance seen in Lodge Kerrigan’s “Clean, Shaven” and “Keane.” And if the sweet pot comedy “Newlyweeds” earned as much positive talk as the handwringing from white critics over a new 'Madea' movie that they aren’t even going to watch, it would be an awards contender. These films feature upsetting violence and drug abuse in equal measure, but also feature brilliant performances, superb direction, and a portrait of the contemporary black experience that doesn’t feel mired by the requirements of a contemporary “black” film. This is a world where Jay-Z and Wyatt Cenac have to put their names on “An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty” just to get it into a tiny East Village theater, while Zack Snyder is given $200 million budgets. That doesn’t seem correct.

Deen Canyons

FAVORITE FILM EXPERIENCE OF THE YEAR
Every year I head down to Philadelphia for Exhumed Films’ 24 Hour Horror-Thon, a full-day experience where older horror films from all countries, decades and sensibilities are screened. And every year, it’s the highlight, as Exhumed manages to secure prints of films both classic and unbelievably obscure. The magic of the experience, which usually crams 14 films into a 24-hour period in addition to vintage trailers and shorts, is that none of the ticket-buyers are told in advance what will be shown.

The event needs no help being publicized, as this year the tickets sold out within two hours. Ironically, I was in the theater when this happened, seeing “The Canyons,” an acidic movie about how the movie industry basically ends (I was eventually able to procure a ticket from a friend). But ultimately, this is what a movie lover is all about: dimming the lights with others in front of a big screen, where you have no idea what’s going to unspool. You only know that it’s going to be something different, something unfamiliar, something exciting. Original prints too, some of them scratchy, blotchy, beat-up, and none of them in high-definition or projected digitally, because all great movies look and sound exactly the same: great. No matter how many braindead action films come and go, how many covertly capitalist or racist messages are embedded in movies, how many dull wastes of time there might be, you can’t remove the purity of the viewing experience itself.


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53 Comments

  • Samuel Ivan | May 31, 2014 4:36 PMReply

    I am glad to see this list,So far its good but you missed a lot of movies such as stroker,samurai , perfect murder ,orphan,game ,And what about the lord of the ring series ..Any way this is good list,Thank you ,Sam from movie123.us

  • 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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