It's late-December so all you'll be hearing for the next few months will be "12 Years a Slave" this and "Gravity" that -- but there were other great movies made in 2013 too, you know. And you can stream ten of them now.
Netflix, on a roll of late in terms of quality movies, offers a smorgasbord of the year's best films:
"Blackfish" (dir. Gabriela Cowperthwaite) One of the year's best docs eschews a straight-up talking heads approach (though there's plenty of it) for a more cinematic style. All the while you have a sense of watching something truly essential, and what we've been missing: a real whistleblower of a doc with the potential to turn heads. And also, the horror story of killer whale Tilikum really lends itself to a good old-fashioned violent sob. (Beth Hanna's TOH! review)
"Cutie and the Boxer" (dir. Zachary Heinzerling) Eccentric boxing painter Ushio Shinohara is the kernel of an idea that first-time feature director Heinzerling unpacks into a portrait of the troubled marriage of artists. Delicate editing and meandering camerawork make for the gentle rhythms of a late Ozu film--it's quiet, compact and above all else interested in the characters. (My interview with Heinzerling)
"Frances Ha" (dir. Noah Baumbach) Objects in the mirror are more twee than you could possibly remember, evidently, because on second -- or was it third? -- viewing of Baumbach's black-and-white postcard to New York and your plateauing late-20s, "Frances" doesn't deliver as well. The film is rather light on its feet throughout, reassuring us that no dark days will come for Frances and her frustrating lack of poise. But audiences love this film and Gerwig is as compulsively watchable as ever. (Q&A with Gerwig and Baumbach)
"Post Tenebras Lux" (dir. Carlos Reygadas) I've touted this film from the ramparts since its heavily booed Cannes premiere in 2012. Were audiences jet-lagged and asleep? Because it feels like they really missed out on something special in Mexican auteur Carlos Reygadas' outsize cri-de-coeur, which has a snaky, impenetrable structure and some cagey symbolism. But in the emphasis on sensation over sense, "Post Tenebras" blows the dust off the definition of "pure cinema."