2013 in Review


Nominees that didn’t make it:
9. American Hustle-self-absorbed garbage that rips off every cliche in the book and with no humor to boot
8. Philomena-lightweight and not in a fun way
7. Her-has serious underlying issues with women but there’s some good stuff to be found in the world built
6. Captain Phillips-jack of all trades, master of none, typical Hollywood stuff
5. Dallas Buyers Club-standard biopic with weak writing elevated by exceptional acting
4-1. See below

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90. Only God Forgives
Yes, okay, I get that it’s about the reaction to Drive and Refn is taking his style to the extreme to repulse people, who fucking cares, it’s only mildly interesting.
Favorite Moment: Wanna Fight?
90. Il Futuro
An oddball movie that is more concerned with the mood within its haunted Norma Desmond-esque mansion and how to handle personal tragedy than advancing the plot. The sexual discovery of both young and old is a topic worth exploring but it’s the film’s pulp influences that really make it shine, along with the two leads who channel their bitterness into the world and each other.
Favorite Moment: Bianca’s confession of love, for the crushing inevitability.
89. Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus
A bunch of unpleasant assholes go on a road trip and try to get high off cactus juice. Sounds like a perfectly worthy plot on its own but this movie fucking RAMBLES, swaying back and forth like a drunk reaching the verge of vomiting. Even I’m not sure if that’s a positive or a negative but it’s undeniable that wanderlust is genuinely conveyed here, even via pretentious white kids in Chile.
Favorite Moment: The drug trip itself, for pure stoner madness.
88. Europa Report
Science fiction films that don’t feel any need to beat us over our heads with their nerd appeal and coolness are rare beasts indeed. Europa Report is, fittingly, a cold and restrained look at not just a pretty looking moon, but the increasingly grim dynamics between several very competent people who are totally out of their depth. Shame on the script for using the found footage conceit, though.
Favorite Moment: The sneaky little 2001 homage, for being proud of its influences.
87. Viola
Is Viola’s length (a little over an hour), with a structure containing quite a bit of repetition, a strength or a weakness? The movie is so vague and weird that there’s probably plenty an interpretation to be made…but it’s very short, so does the pastiche play mean anything at all? Maybe the movie’s just meant to be harmless fun, or maybe it’s moving so quickly that most of us can’t keep up.
Favorite Moment: The van scene, for our most intimate look at Viola.
86. The Last Time I Saw Macao
I will never claim to understand TLTISM’s deeper meaning, as it is a film which feels far too personal to penetrate on any level deeper than some vague poking at time’s nature. You’d practically have to interview the writers to get a handle on that. But I can’t resist that final montage, or the paintball, or the bizarre, off screen plot. It’s so lush and irresistible.
Favorite Moment: The opening lipsync, because it’s so unlike anything else in the film.
85. The Great Beauty
The length of The Great Beauty cripples it, with its lead’s arc becoming too muddled and the film thinking it’s funnier than it actually is. However, when stripped to its core, the best material is as good as you could ask for. It’s at its best when it embraces intense, glowing surrealism and wields it however it feels is the best. Maybe more familiarity with Italian politics is needed? I’m shocked AMPAS embraced it if that’s the case.
Favorite Moment: The opening party of batshittery-mariachi! Vogue dancers in a soundproof glass room! A woman in a cake!
84. Rush
Rush is a biopic, but it’s one that refuses to give into the sedate genre trappings of the past. The roar of an engine is more important than a history lesson quite often within the film, drowning out the dialogue. While the relationship between the two leads is standard, strictly bromantic rivalry stuff, Howard refuses to let us be slowed down by it. Hemsworth is finally given a role that’s worth relishing and he goes (pardon the pun) full throttle. Sometimes it veers into caricature and it’s not breaking new ground but it’s still quality popcorn.
Favorite Moment: Hunt beating the shit out of the reporter who insults Lauda’s appearance, for the deeply satisfying karma.
83. This is Martin Bonner
Martin Bonner has a lonely life, but there’s nothing wrong with that, and the movie knows it. Seeing mumblecore with a middle-aged cast is refreshing, and the movie gives life to an understated personality with a refreshing lack of sentiment or cynicism. Also makes a welcoming case for a fresh start no matter your age.
Favorite Moment: The speed dating, because it’s true in all its awkwardness.
82. Drinking Buddies
Who doesn’t like watching likable, attractive people get drunk and talk? It’s a huge part of socializing, really. Every interaction speaks volumes about past sexual tension or just straight up nostalgia. Truth, lies, sincerity, insincerity…they’re all here on display, with dialogue so good that Tarantino’s endorsement of it is no surprise.
Favorite Moment: The chat on the couch, filled with what-could’ve-been but also contentment for what is.
81. Our Sunhi
Not sure I really get the humor of this one, I think Hong was too prolific this year.
Favorite Moment: Opening on the bench.
79. I’m So Excited
Sort of cute and colorful, sort of gross.
Favorite Moment: Cum slurp.
79. The Past
Exposition problems strand the cast without a sense of rhythm.
Favorite Moment: Ending.
80. Museum Hours
It’s just a few people hanging around a museum while a guard narrates his view of the present day, but that’s what’s so clever and what works so well. No conflict, no real narrative complexity…just talking. And talking in a way that is both humorous and demonstrates a real knowledge of why people love art. This movie could have as many potential meanings as the paintings they analyze, or it’s just a series of conversations in a museum.
Favorite Moment: The naked gallery viewers. Wish the film had indulged in surrealism like this a bit more.
79. The Motel Life
Really, this film only does two things right, but it does them so well. The brotherly rapport between our two leads is a real capsule of sibling bonds, especially considering their gloomy circumstances, and it’s worth celebrating. But it’s the sparsely animated sequences, sad sparse twists on macho bro fantasy that look like the scribblings of a madman, that show what could have been with some more focused direction and scripting.
Favorite Moment: The animated mental hospital fantasy.
78. Bethlehem
Duty wrestles with emotions. Politics are spat upon in both directions. Suspicion and paranoia are a fact of life. Bethlehem is not an original story in any sense of the word, but in terms of style, the film breaks what could be considered new ground, with a political thriller bearing the look and feel of Sergio Leone. Has a simple story at heart too in its protagonists relationships to the men in his life.
Favorite Moment: The attack from IDF forces. The worst kind of adrenaline rush.
77. Nobody’s Daughter Haewon
Don’t make this your first Hong. Genuinely weird.
Favorite Moment: Opening bits.
76. Bastards
The divisiveness of this movie is warranted. Bastards divided even me with how merciless and nasty it is. It shows no mercy to the viewer, and at times it feels like Denis is trying purely to be miserable. I could never call the ending rewarding, but the final reveal will absolutely stick with the viewer. Atmospherically, the film is stunning, with little details that we question finally exploding in our minds when we finally realize exactly just what was meant.
Favorite Moment: The creepy atmospheric opening. Why is she naked? What is that man doing?
75. Night Across the Street
The cleverest way to go out possible. The production design alone is like no dream sequence you’ve ever seen in movies and thus is worth seeing on its own, but it’s the little touches like the blatant motifs, the final cry of “CUT!” once the credits are done rolling, and the clever piss take on the nature of dreams and memory that make this so fun.
Favorite Moment: All the clocks go off. Weird but hilarious.
74. Pacific Rim
Is Pacific Rim a big, dumb disaster or the cheeky take on Saturday morning cartoons from del Toro’s childhood that we deserve? Is the script genuinely terrible or intentionally simplified? I’m not sure about my answer to either of those questions, actually, but I welcome a director forcing us to play in his sandbox and eliciting genuine enjoyment of all the thrashing around from the kaiju and mecha suits. Wish the focus had been on Mako, though.
Favorite Moment: The Newton’s cradle shot. So cheeky in its cleverness.
73. The Spectacular Now
Not Another Teen Movie! Except no, this is a warm, modest movie containing complex layers of sympathy. Somehow the first kiss and prom feel like a real reward rather than an inevitability, probably because Spectacular Now isn’t so concerned about the future, but lives in its titular moment, with all the impulses and decisions that inevitably come along with it.
Favorite Moment: Aimee practicing telling her mom to get off her fucking back, because what teenager hasn’t wanted to tell their mom to do just that?
72. The Angels’ Share
My one major reservation for The Angels’ Share is that it requires a Scottish ear, so if the viewer doesn’t have one, you might need a rewatch. So if you couldn’t understand the thick Glasgow accents of our protagonists and were put off, just believe me when I say that good natured optimism is prevalent throughout. It starts off as a comedy and becomes a bit of a thriller, but handles both tones admirably.
Favorite Moment: The strip search, for bringing back the early part of the film’s characterization while maintaining the thriller aspects.
71. Warm Bodies
It is not highbrow or even particularly intelligent, but it has a killer soundtrack, quite a few solid laughs, genuine romantic tension, and a lot of sweetness to spare. Films that take overused and well-worn cynical tropes but have no real cynicism at heart are all too rare and for that, Warm Bodies should be cherished as a fun little distraction.
Favorite Moment: Most of the intimate scenes on the airplane, where you can feel the love growing.
70. Supporting Characters
Like a lot of mumblecore, Supporting Characters starts and stops, ebbs and flows with the conversational rhythm. But the dialogue for this one shows a deep understanding of the delusions and difficulties of romance, what’s really behind the curtain when the supporting characters of our lives exit the picture or we edit them out.
Favorite Moment: The flirting recording scene.
69. The Conjuring
While The Conjuring’s final act morph into a movie that owes too much to The Exorcist threatens a change for the worse, it ultimately regains the balance held in earlier acts. Hitchcockian 60s style meets the most unsettling of all supernatural forces, and all it takes for the movie to succeed are a pair of ghostly clapping hands and unseen tricks, treats, and torments.
Favorite Moment: Nancy getting dragged around by the hair, for giving us a few critical seconds of foreshadowing before dragging us all to hell.
68. In the Fog
In the Fog’s got heavy suspense influences for a war film. Misery is unavoidable, but the story unfolds in such a painful way, with every minute making it clear that these characters are totally, utterly fucked. The outright spooky forest atmosphere and the opening hanging don’t help. An interesting structure and a gloomy sort of momentum help, too.
Favorite Moment: The officer’s taunting with a bird hopping around in a cage.
67. Prince Avalanche
A breath of fresh air even if there’s ashes of cliche scattered in it. When the movie is basically a standard mashup of “two men go on a road trip/work out their differences” buddy comedy, it works very well even while being standard. But Prince Avalanche occasionally gets into stranger territory, and that is what really sticks. Yellow spray paint pollutes a river, an old woman explores her house. It’s the circle of life in two sequences.
Favorite Moment: The old woman exploring her ruined house, for making the backstory that spurs our two leads feel real and have substantial backstory to boot.
66. Concussion
While I wish it had delved a little deeper into the rejection of society’s normative roles and what comes with it, namely Abby’s under-explored relationship with her partner, Concussion is still a hard wallop, partly due to a strong ensemble headed by Weigert’s sardonically sexy take in a role that may not have been written the way it deserved, so she just drags a whole lot of nuance and growth out of the film instead.
Favorite Moment: The coffeehouse meeting between Abby/The Girl, for capturing two very similar women in two very different points in their lives.
65. Broken
It gets into overkill territory near the end, and I am not sure how much credit I should give something that owes a lot of it to Harper Lee. Broken does a lot right, though, namely successfully capturing antagonistic child relationships and the slice of life difficulties that come from life in a small town with difficult people. Very strong child performances, too.
Favorite Moment: Skunk walking down the hallway at school as people shove her, a metaphor for all the indignities of school.
64. Camille Claudel 1915
The world is scary, antagonistic, and irritating-Camille Claudel 1915 shows the difficulties of putting up with all those things in a scenario which only amplifies them, complete with the indignity of having to help because of being relatively well off. How unfair it is that such a relatively well off person should be stuck in a scenario where not only does she badly need people to listen to her, but she knows that it’s not happening and likely never will. Binoche clearly knows what that is like.
Favorite Moment: Camille’s recounting of her degradation to the head of the asylum, a desperate plea to everyone who is indifferent to her.
63. Go for Sisters
Go For Sisters’ reception puzzles me, particularly its fairly solid Rotten Tomatoes score (which is well earned) combined with a rather unpleasant critical consensus. Its characters are just humans (performed remarkably in the case of our two leads) having a fairly exciting story happen to them and dealing as they go. If anything, the moments of going for a bigger thriller that has Big Characters (namely Olmos’ bounty hunter) are the weakest ones.
Favorite Moment: The opening interrogations at the parole office, which crams a whole lot of backstory into a short time.
62. Berberian Sound Studio
The Loneliest Planet goes to a behind the scenes area of a movie. Takes very few shots at terrifying its audience, but when it tries, it lands it. We know we are just watching watermelon, tomato, or cabbage, and we can see just how blatant the meta moments are, but who cares? It’s wickedly funny and tricky, and surprisingly educational too.
Favorite Moment: The watermelon slashing, for being educational, hilarious, and genuinely spooky.
61. The Lords of Salem
Has no right to be as good as it is. Sheri Moon Zombie isn’t a particularly good actress, Lords of Salem’s dialogue is frequently cringe-worthy, and the psychedelic climax is only somewhat justified. But you know what? Sheri’s just the right actress for this particular movie, the cast at least tries to sell such bizarre lines about fucking someone’s mind, and I’m a sucker for pretty visuals. Sue me.
Favorite Moment: The Trip to the Moon sofa with red blood dripping down. I want it, and it’s a very smart way to work in such a blatant homage.
60. In A World…
Filled with talented people having a great time chewing up words and spitting them out with their best funny or dramatic voices, and isn’t that what the movies are all about? Practically a fetish object for the trivia nerd who doesn’t know enough about voice acting, and very successful at taking jabs at Hollywood’s blockbusters/being a fun romantic comedy to boot. Should have ended far more subtly though.
Favorite Moment: Eva Longoria’s cork work. Bless her for taking this thankless but hysterical part.
59. Afternoon Delight
Another movie that I saw based off Tarantino’s endorsement of it as one of 2013’s best and I am glad I did, for this movie is chock full of characterization that lurks beneath surface interactions. That happens to be one of my favorite things in writing. Props for giving Hahn a dramedic role worthy of her skillset, too, and fleshing out the dynamics of the bizarre threesome on display.
Favorite Moment: McKenna’s client meeting that Rachel attends, for finding just the right spot between sincere/irreverent in a deeply painful situation.
58. Drug War
Total pulp, but not in the sense of “cheap wood,” more like “nutritious orange juice.” This movie is just totally refreshing, with action sequences that the audience can definitely track, a gleeful sense that the director is fully embracing the philosophy of killing one’s darlings, and a real sense that violence in this movie isn’t self-contained but will ripple outwards.
Favorite Moment: Final shootout. Relentless, clever, and refreshingly easy to follow.
57. Like Someone in Love
More a movie to admire than something to love-it makes every minute that passes felt. But the title is arguably the year’s best one, it is truly an excellent exploration of truth, lies, and identity, and that ending is truly stunning in how ballsy it is. Something authentic can be found within all the artificiality and it is lovely to behold.
Favorite Moment: The numerous voicemails from the grandmother. Annoying and heartbreaking in equal measure.
56. Resolution
In addition to having an addict with the exact communication style of a few addicts that I know, Resolution sinks its teeth into some genuinely disturbed ideas of what we expect from our entertainment. We’re the demon here, and the idea of what creates good storytelling has never been more unhinged and gleefully malicious.
Favorite Moment: The final, truly out of place conversation about fatherhood.
55. Much Ado About Nothing
A return to a smaller scale for Whedon, and it’s something worth welcoming. Much Ado’s beautifully black and white cinematography combined with the actors tearing out dialogue with their teeth and spitting it at each other results in a slick, professional feel. Whedon’s liberties are the sort of thing that the bard himself would probably appreciate. Whedon’s house would be a great set for some of the other triumphs of 2013, too. Pick one of your own!
Favorite Moment: Beatrice bitching out Benedick at the masquerade-the film is best when it lets the actors be total assholes.
54. Fill the Void
One of the best arguments for women needing more jobs in film is Fill the Void’s extremely sensitive depiction of the roles of women in a society that does not afford them the same rights as men but does not marginalize them either-hell, this film could be used as a conversion tract. But it’s a group of incredibly intelligent performances, particularly from Yaron and Sheleg, that really pack a punch.
Favorite Moment: The Purim celebration, a perfect encapsulation of how fun religious ceremonies can be for the devout.
53. Something in the Air
A minor film but still special, and this portrait of youth in revolt, neither pan nor praise of their ideals and the bland sort of “we need CHANGE” point of view that is so all consuming at that age, still has brilliantly weird, bravura movements mixed with the conflict within a character study.
Favorite Moment: The end of the party, if only because burning down everything is always exciting.
52. Computer Chess
Completely, uniquely ugly as shit. No two ways about it, the black and white video in this film is the sort of thing you’d find in an old instructional video from a company that’s seen better days, but the contrast between mundanity in appearance and strangely exotic subject matter is what is also its lifeblood.
Favorite Moment: The final song, because it perfectly exemplifies what I mean.
51. Blue Caprice
No explanations will be found here. Blue Caprice is a film that will probably be timely for a long, long time as simply a portrait of the horrifying violence that surrounds us every day. Even if you don’t want to look at it on that level, it works as a study of the charisma contained in a very sick mind, and as a slow realization of how complicit we are.
Favorite Moment: The stalking and shooting. Watch through your fingers.
50. Pieta
The absolute definition of “not for everyone.” I think if nothing else, it’s one of the year’s best at accomplishing its goals, even if the subtlety on display here can be dubbed “nonexistent” without a minute’s hesitation. I don’t know if I would ever rewatch it, and all the incest scenes needed to be toned way down, but the leads are astounding, embracing the gross batshit hot mess that this movie well and truly is and running with it.
Favorite Moment: Happy Birthday, for being hilariously nasty.
49. What Maisie Knew
What Maisie Knew getting modernized was a very smart choice in and of itself, but even with occasional moments of twee and some vagueness where a little more shading could be used, the performances are incredibly strong, with one of the best child leads ever. It hits hard when it goes for the heart, with a real sense of childhood in NYC captured.
Favorite Moment: The traffic confrontation.
48. Sun Don’t Shine
There’s villains like Hannibal Lecter that are too out there to be really loathsome, villains like Amon Goeth which are fascinating in their loathsomeness, and then there is Crystal-an ordinary woman who is also exceptionally irritating and unlikable, so for her to be such a deeply interesting, nuanced character is a credit to both the writing and the lead. Atmospherically, the film also wows in how musty and sweaty it is-perfect for Southern lovers on the run.
Favorite Moment: The overlapping dialogue at the playground.
47. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
There’s a plot here, a thin and twisted one, something focused on separated lovers and jail time. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints cares about that, yes, but the power of it lies in how ethereal it is. The score, cinematography, and impressionistic editing…it’s more about evocation. It’s Malick meets Andrew Dominik, with gorgeous light dappled results.
Favorite Moment: Skerritt threatening Bob.
46. An Oversimplification of her Beauty
Pretentious as all out get, but I can be very welcoming of that, and Oversimplification’s hipster cred barely hides (this is intentional) a bundle of raw nerves and smushed hearts, reconstructed with paper mache and described in the most somber of tones. A tired topic is reinvigorated thanks to an interesting new voice that doesn’t shy away from emotionally exhausting us.
Favorite Moment: “Y’all trying to make big haired babies?” A hilarious respite.
45. Side Effects
Spoiler alert! Side Effects takes a U-turn in Act Two, and while it’s a clever way of twisting the audience’s expectations on its head as Soderbergh gleefully messes with what we’re expecting, credit must go to Rooney Mara for playing all her early scenes in the most straightforward manner, making her evocation of depression feel so true that her morph is all the more loathsome.
Favorite Moment: Emily nearly steps in front of a train.
44. Shell
Shell is like a horror movie with no gore (except for that deer). The film frequently feels like it’s going to collapse from all the wind and wide shots of nothingness, and Shell’s relationship with her father holds some twisted secrets. Every scene displays internal torment, in a creepy way that shreds the nerves.
Favorite Moment: The long hug and violent escape.
43. Gimme the Loot
Sometimes you just want to hang out with characters who do ridiculous but recognizable things while lovely music plays and Gimme the Loot provides your fix in spades. It’s a profane, authentic debut with plenty of affection and extroversion to carry the viewer. It’s a bit episodic, a bit mischievous, a bit of everything you’d expect for such a short yet quality work.
Favorite Moment: Montage to Lord is My Shepherd.
42. Antiviral
When you’re feverish, time and reality become a little slower and a lot harder to grip, respectively. Antiviral takes those two things and a truly warped concept that would do Cronenberg Senior proud from his son’s debut before putting them in a world of blacks and whites, making the entrance for some truly disgusting bodily shades of red all the more mind-searing.
Favorite Moment: Hannah on the screen. Twisted meta nightmare.
41. The Place Beyond the Pines
Sadly, Place Beyond the Pines gets weaker as it goes along, although its ending’s quite good. Emory Cohen is normally decent so I’m not sure what went so amuck in Part 3. On a brighter note, Part 2 is the best Bradley Cooper has ever been, but it’s Part 1 that truly soars, an exciting take on heists featuring a performance from Gosling that works as auteurist vision and strong character acting in its own right.
Favorite Moment: Handsome Luke’s final heist. You want him to succeed, especially with the hindsight of the film’s frontloading.
40. Catching Fire
Shockingly a lot better than the original movie despite the book being a little weaker, with everyone in the cast playing for keeps and an off-putting sense of things falling apart that grows literal near the end.
Favorite Moment: That final shot.
39. Sightseers
Wheatley’s best, in part because it’s kept simple and in the realm of a weird little character study of two fucked up people. Comedy’s very good, too.
Favorite Moment: Knitting needles.
38. The Selfish Giant
The most realistic fable in quite a while. A race of losers and mistreated people and horses. The title is vague and depressingly applies to every single character, everything that happens is so well foreshadowed that we can’t protest the cruel things that happen in the end.
Favorite Moment: Arbor stealing Swifty away from the school. Rebellious youth is always fun, and it’s one of the few moments of joy.
37. War Witch
Probably the definitive work on its subject. What impresses so much about War Witch is that it does not force us to endure never-ending scenes of children murdering others and being drugged while loud noises and bursts of fire ring out. It’s introverted at times, fitting the framing device of a pregnant mother telling her child things. Subjectivity of memory plays a part in ways both expected and unexpected.
Favorite Moment: The first time we see the incredibly disturbing ghost soldiers.
36. The Hunt
The mob mentality of The Hunt is a beautifully observed thing, with the lie turning into a chemical spill that poisons everyone and makes the community toxic. The escalation rapidly turns into people pushing the limits of socially accepted behavior, and what could happen next is unpredictable and sears a brand upon the brain.
Favorite Moment: Supermarket confrontation. Truly the film’s boiling point.
35. Mother of George
Some of the director’s choices in this are a little odd, but what’s done well is refreshing. Everything is beautifully colored and flattering to the actors’ skin tones, the simple melodrama is given full credence and is used as an examination of gender roles in Nigerian society, and the sound mix is fabulously strange.
Favorite Moment: The fertility clinic. Desperation on full display.
34. Stoker
Stunningly crafty, Stoker could’ve been even higher if the ending wasn’t such a terrifically misjudged creative decision. It’s style over substance but what style! So many shots where the dark beauty is beautifully utilized to enhance a pulpy script that, unfortunately, makes a critical error in the last few seconds. At least said error looks gorgeous as hell, though.
Favorite Moment: The brilliantly parallel edited sequence between the freezer and Gwendolyn at the hotel.
33. Broken Circle Breakdown
Skips around in mood effectively, with the triumphs only becoming more minor with the circle being slowly hammered away at until it shatters, devastating the characters and audience. Science vs. spiritual refuges is a well covered subject but it fits as a development of the characters and their handling of the emotional brutality.
Favorite Moment: The tattoo explanation. Offhand and totally misleading.
32. All is Lost
Sailing is a boring sport, requiring patience and skill. All is Lost goes for slow burn realism over an exciting trip on a boat, and the result is both a testament to man’s ingenuity and how we are completely hopeless if the tempest nature of the ocean decides to leave us at her mercy.
Favorite Moment: The storm. Pure how-the-hell-did-they-do-that.
31. Lore
Sexual awakening in the time of World War II’s conclusion, with all the impressionistic viewpoints required of a teenage character who is experiencing something unreal. Subtext is simple but given great weight thanks to psychologically complex episodic structure. Would love to see another film exploring this character even if the conclusion is perfectly haunting look at how comprehension can be deadly.
Favorite Moment: Lore and the lake. Like a scary painting.
30. The World’s End
Sadly the weakest note for the trilogy due to the final act going from a clever little portrayal of friends who’ve outgrown each other simultaneously having their old fun and no chemistry whatsoever (props to the actors for capturing that), to just plain incoherent yelling. It nails the action/comedy beats most of the time, though, and I’m glad the trilogy went 3 for 3.
Favorite Moment: Rosamund Pike fighting the robot with legs for arms.
29. The Grandmaster
A masterpiece of fight sequences even with a script that could’ve served the film better, but when the movie is this superb as visual eye candy and choreography then it’s hard to care much.
Favorite Moment: Ip Man and Gong Er’s fight. Space between fighters has never looked better.
28. Wadjda
Wadjda is a very simple film, you could put it through an animation filter and it wouldn’t appear out of place at Pixar. Even when you take away the commendations for it even being made, though, it’s a strong achievement on its own merits, effortlessly making us feel right at home in Saudi Arabia while acknowledging that there’s issues that seem insurmountable, even if they actually aren’t with a little pluck and grit.
Favorite Moment: Upon Wadjda falling off the bike, “Did you lose your virginity?” Awful, telling, and somehow hilarious.
27. Ernest and Celestine
Short and tooth-rottingly sweet (fittingly enough). It’s as basic as movies get and the final act is probably predictable even to the very young, but it has a secretly gross, morbid streak with little details like my favorite moment below, or the teeth pencil sharpeners, and that will keep anyone captivated even with the movie still maintaining being as soft and harmless as a pillow.
Favorite Moment: The bear couple’s business scheme to rot teeth and then replace them. Ingenious and hilarious.
26. Prisoners
Twisted and tangled, with violent impulses starting off suppressed but becoming teased into coming out of hiding to vicious results. Watching Loki work through the case is a joy in and of itself but the cinematography is stunning and while the movie borrows a bit from arthouse tradition of mentioning religion before never going anywhere heavy with it, the gravitas it adds works-it’s all about summoning an aura of gloom and doom.
Favorite Moment: Loki interrogating Alex Jones. One of the most realistic cop portrayals ever, no doubt End of Watch helped.

For my Top 25 of 2013, click here.

BEST ACTING (Finalists in bold)
Nominees that didn’t make it (Actor):
5. Christian Bale, American Hustle-inconsistent across the board

Nominees that didn’t make it (Actress):
5. Judi Dench, Philomena-shows up, gets nominated
4. Amy Adams, American Hustle-best part of a piece of shit

Nominees that didn’t make it (S. Actor):
5. Bradley Cooper, American Hustle-a total nothing, one of the worst nominations ever
4. Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips-inexperience shows but there’s a good foundation

Nominees that didn’t make it (S. Actress):
5. Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle-fascinating hot mess
4. Julia Roberts, August: Osage County-too self aware


Gael Garcia Bernal, No
Pierre Deladonchamps, Stranger by the Lake
Bruce Dern, Nebraska-stillness and sad impotency
Leonardo DiCaprio, Wolf of Wall Street-toxic, over the top, mad
Paul Eenhoorn, This is Martin Bonner
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave-an everyman yet a real person too
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Rutger Hauer, Il Futuro
Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight
Johan Heldenberg, Broken Circle Breakdown
Chris Hemsworth, Rush
Emile Hirsch, The Motel Life
Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
Toby Jones, Berberian Sound Studio
Lee Jung-jin, Pieta
Jude Law, Side Effects
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club-deals with mistakes relatably
Mads Mikkelson, The Hunt
Steve Oram, Sightseers
Melvil Poupaud, Laurence Anyways
Robert Redford, All is Lost
Isaiah Washington, Blue Caprice

Onata Aprile, What Maisie Knew
Veerle Baetens, Broken Circle Breakdown
Juliette Binoche, Camille Claudel 1915
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine-remarkably foggy
Sandra Bullock, Gravity-a depressive avatar
Suzanne Clement, Laurence Anyways
Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Adele Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color
Paulina Garcia, Gloria
Greta Gertwig, Frances Ha
Danai Gurira, Mother of George
Kathryn Hahn, Afternoon Delight
Lisa Gay Hamilton, Go for Sisters
Brie Larson, Short Term 12
Eloise Laurence, Broken
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Enough Said
Alice Lowe, Sightseers
Rooney Mara, Side Effects
Jo Min-su, Pieta
Rachel Mwanza, War Witch
Chloe Pirrie, Shell
Kate Lyn Sheil, Sun Don’t Shine
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County-venomous slurs meet thrown fish
Robin Weigert, Concussion
Shailene Woodley, The Spectacular Now
Hadas Yaron, Fill the Void
Zhang Ziyi, Grandmaster

F. Murray Abraham, Inside Llewyn Davis
Alec Baldwin, Blue Jasmine
Chris Cooper, August: Osage County
Patrick D’Assumcao, Stranger by the Lake
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave-viciously electric camera rapport
Ben Foster, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
James Franco, Spring Breakers
James Gandolfini, Enough Said
Ryan Gosling, Place Beyond the Pines
Jake Gyllenhaal, Prisoners
Jonah Hill, Wolf of Wall Street-a ball of grease given sentience
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club-drawls out a whole lot of denial
Alexander Skarsgard, What Maisie Knew
Keith Stanfield, Short Term 12
Johnathan Tchaikovsky, Concussion

Robin Bartlett, Inside Llewyn Davis
Kaitlyn Dever, Short Term 12
Sarah Gadon, Antiviral
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine-desperate confusion, slowly growing
Margo Martindale, August: Osage County
Julianne Moore, What Maisie Knew
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave-a howl into the void
Sarah Paulson, 12 Years a Slave
Margot Robbie, Wolf of Wall Street
Yolonda Ross, Go for Sisters
Lea Seydoux, Blue is the Warmest Color
Irit Sheleg, Fill the Void
Mickey Summer, Frances Ha
June Squibb, Nebraska-impeccably vicious comedic timing
Maribel Verdu, Blancanieves
Emma Watson, The Bling Ring


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