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Team Experience Top Tens. The Stories They Tell... 

I, Nathaniel, am still in the process of cramming screeners into my bloodshot eyeballs (I know that's not the best way to do it but that's what happens each year at this exact time). Next weekend, at the very latest, I'll deliver my own top ten list. Until then, I thought it might be fun to see what our magic elves were into this year. A few of the regulars opted out, since they like quite a lot more time to mull things over or they're too busy with their classic hollywood obsessions (you are going to LOVE what Anne Marie has cooking for 2014). But Jose, Amir, Glenn, Tim and Michael and an unexpected guest perservered and their lists are here for your perusal and rental queue consideration. 

Jose likes to write about Cate, Marion and Nicole (but then we all do!) but only one of them had a way into his top ten list this year. His is in alpha order, though he notes that Stories We Tell is his singular choice for Best of the Best. His top ten (with his commentary) goes like so... 


The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer)- This chilling documentary gets my “best movie I never want to see again” award this year.
American Hustle (David O. Russell) - Who knew a movie about emptiness could be so full of joy and passionate filmmaking? I want the scene with J.Law and Amy in the bathroom to play in a loop for the rest of time.
Blue is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche) - A movie about failing to recognize yourself in the eyes of someone you once meant the whole world to.
Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen) -Cate Blanchett cemented her status as a future acting legend with a tribute to Vivien Leigh and Tennessee Williams that’s so fearlessly ugly to watch she might’ve even scared Brando.
Frances Ha  (Noah Baumbach) -Greta Gerwig’s star-is-born turn was perhaps the most pleasurable piece of acting in any movie this year. Watching Frances fail, fall and rise again with a huge grin on her face never got old.
The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino) -Fellini redux? More like Fellini possessing Italy’s most adventurous living auteur. After giving us the ugly in “Il Divo”, Paolo Sorrentino seems to have had the urge to show us the pretty, all at once and the result was truly intoxicating.
Her (Spike Jonze) -The year’s most romantic film seemed to be both so general and specific that it was easy to feel as if the screen was a mirror to your own life, while the person sitting next to you probably felt the same.
The Past (Asghar Farhadi) -After admiring but not loving A Separation, I wasn’t prepared to be bowled over by Farhadi’s latest. After it finished I just sat there shaking, with my heart about to burst from my chest.
Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley) -If this had been released in the 1940s, the poster would’ve simply said “IT HAS IT ALL!”, from comedy, to thrills, to profound revelations, to suspense and heartbreak, Sarah Polley’s film was truly a gift that kept on giving.
Upstream Color (Shane Carruth) -An experience the likes of which haunts you for days, even months after you’ve seen it. It was Impressionism of the highest order, which reminded us that “story” will never be the most essential part of cinema.

Rather than a traditional top ten, Amir is opting for the critic's perogative: advocacy. He writes...

One of the biggest struggles of year-end list-making for me is finding the correct, though arbitrary, annual boundaries, particularly when it comes to festival releases. But instead of fretting over that, I decided to make this list "the top ten films that didn't get a wide release but should have" because really, my mission is to convince as many people as possible to give these films a shot.

Museum Hours director Jem Cohen

1. Museum Hours (Jem Cohen)
2. Redemption (Miguel Gomes)
3. The Strange Little Cat (Ramon Zurcher)
4. Neighboring Sounds (Kleber Mendonca Filho)
5. When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism (Corneliu Porumboiu)
6. Closed Curtain (Jafar Panahi, Kambozia Partovi)
7. Night Moves (Kelly Reichardt)
8. At Berkeley (Frederick Wiseman)
9. The Missing Picture (Rithy Panh)
10. Miss Violence (Alexandros Avranas) 


I saw Glenn's #1 choice (The Missing Picture) with him at the New York Film Festival. We both loved it but weirdly neither of us wrote about it for the site at the time. I actually had a great idea for coverage of the film to coincide with its real opening after the didn't-even-know-it-happened Oscar qualifying run. I hope that opening still happens but you never know with films if they DON'T win Oscar nominations. It's been nixed from the documentary competition already but it's still a possibility in Best Foreign Film. Whether or not it gets that nomination, I really hope it sees the inside of theaters.

Rithy Panh's documentary/memoir The Missing Picture

Glenn was also thinking along these confusing release situations when he drew up his own top ten list

Movie distribution these days is a marathon, not a sprint, and the list below reflects that: a Frankenstein’s Monster of a list featuring films that I saw upwards of 16 months ago, seen in three different cities, and which range from Hollywood spectacle to slasher horror to three-hour transgender epics from a total of nine different countries. 

1. The Missing Picture (Rithy Panh)
2. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine)
3. Laurence Anyways (Xavier Dolan)
4. Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland)
5. The Place Beyond the Pines (Derek Cianfrance)
6. Lore (Cate Shortland)
7. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)
8. A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhangke)
9. No (Pabro Larraín)
10. You’re Next (Adam Wingard)


Animation is Tim's usual topic of choice in his Thursday column here The Film Experience. But he is such a prolific critic of all genres at his blog Antagony & Ecstasy that if you click on most of his top ten titles here, you'll be swept over to his full (usually brilliant) review. About his top ten, he writes:

A couple safe consensus picks, a couple critical favorites, a couple "what are you smoking?" out-of-nowhere choices. I wasn't as jazzed by the year's movies as a lot of people were, but in these ten titles I find a mixture of strong personalities and aesthetic voices as unique and vibrant as anything you can hope to find at the movies

1. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer)
2. At Berkeley (Frederick Wiseman)
3. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)
4. The Lords of Salem (Rob Zombie)
5. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)
6. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
7. All Is Lost (JC Chandor)
8. No (Pablo Larraín)
9. Inside Llewyn Davis (The Coen Brothers)
10. Ernest & Celestine (Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar, Benjamin Renner)

It's a surprise special guest! You've heard me reference him on the podcast once or twice. Though we're compatible taste-wise in many ways, we differ on documentaries (he always wants to watch them, I have to be in a very specific mood) and he does not share my love of animated movies or Asian cinema. This week he groaned when I put Ernest & Celestine and then The Grandmaster on in short succession. I do sometimes force him to make lists at the end of the year. These lists often surprise me. I though for sure he'd include All is Lost, which he declared "much better than Gravity", but nope.

Here's what he had to say...

Lists. You like lists? Here's a list. Nat claims I haven't spoken to you for 9 years. Of course we all know he's prone to hyperbole. So, for your edification, here are the best movies of the year (don't let him tell you otherwise):

1. Spring Breakers -  It seemed to promise everything I hate: James Franco, bikinis, youth culture gone craycray. And then it turned it on on its head beautifully. Artful subversion will always get my vote.
2. Blue Jasmine - In a year of over the top actressing (did you hear they made a film version of August, Osage County?), this got me... again unexpectedly. Woody? In California? Huh. But it works.
3. Nebraska - Great performances and you've gotta love an auteur doing their thing.
4. 12 Years A Slave - Enough has been said. 
5.  American Hustle - Fantastic performances from an ensemble  that actually works. Confident and successful direction.
6. & 7. The Spectacular Now & Short Term 12 - Can we all just agree to love Brie Larson? Two beautifully, subtly crafted stories
8. Enough Said - This is weird. I am not the audience for romantic comedies but I thought this was really well done, with believable dialogue and very smart acting. 
9. Inside Lllewyn Davis -  Nailed the atmosphere. Wasn't initially sure I loved it but I couldn't stop thinking about it, which means it was a success
10. I Am Divine -  need I say more?

And from a surprise guest to a classic one, please welcome back... 

...who you'll remember from his series Burning Questions and Undersung Heroes. I am just trying to butter him up so he'll write more. Please do the same. So here's how the year went for him. Links go to his full reviews:


1.  Before Midnight (Richard Linklater) – Taken on its own Midnight would earn the top spot with its masterful examination of the intricate bruises left by a long-term love affair. Taken as the culmination of a decade-spanning portrait of the birth, life, and near-death of a romance the Before trilogy represents one of the great film going experiences the cinema has to offer.
2. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen) – McQueen’s patience with an image, his ability to hang on a shot into its full power is extracted, is put to amazing use as his unflinching camera absorbs the human toll of American atrocities. 
3. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach) – Baumbach’s best film yet spun through its fractured tale with the confidence of Gerwig spinning through the street to Bowie’s Modern Love. An invaluable, hilarious snapshot of the moment.
4. Inside Llewyn Davis (The Coen Brothers) – Oscar Isaac is a revelation in the Coen's song for the failures.
5. Nebraska (Alexander Payne) – It’s all there in that look that passes between Dern and his old flame in the final scene. Wow.
6. Upstream Color (Shane Carruth) – Carruth’s long awaited follow up to 2004’s Primer is at turns hypnotic, mysterious and disturbing, but more than anything it is exhilarating in the stylistic freedom with which it tells its story.
7. The World’s End (Edgar Wright) – The surface is such nimble fun you almost don’t notice the depth of layers packed into it. Character-based pathos on top of wicked social commentary on top of hellzapoppin genre spoof.
8. The Past (Asghar Farhadi) –Farhadi’s film proceeds as naturally as breathing, with a slowly building power that is close to overwhelming by the time you reach the devastating final shot.
9. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese) – Leave it to the sober documentaries like Inside Job to dissect the minutiae of Wall Street’s horrors. Wolf bypasses the facts and figures, assaulting the monstrous Master of the Universe mindset with riotous comedy. 
10. Short Term 12 (Destin Cretton) –It is easy to miss how smartly crafted this film is when distracted by that fact that one’s heart is set to explode

How far along is YOUR top ten list... or are you procrastinating like the rest of us? 

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Reader Comments (30)

I think I'm waiting until June 2014 to make mine. I've discovered that I have more accurate feelings at least 6 months after the film year is over, and I have found myself for the past 3 years wanting to change some of my categories either a little bit or drastically. For example: in 2010, I had considered Kirsten Dunst in passing for supporting actress for her work in "All Good Things," but then ended up leaving her out. Months later, I not only wanted to include her, I promoted her my leading shortlist where she rightfully belongs. In 2011, "Beginners" had not even placed in my top 25, and time has proven that it's my third favorite movie of that year. And last year, "Life of Pi" was my #2, and now I think I was letting so much Oscar hype get to my head. I haven't thought about that movie ever since. Out of my top ten it goes.

"Such is the nature of list-making."

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

I totally subscribe The Boyfriend's description of Spring Breakers. It would absolutely appear in my top ten.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I try to have my list locked down prior to Oscar nominations, but more recently I've done them the week before the ceremony itself. Need to catch up still on so many films.

I do love your boyfriend's comment re: INSIDE LLEWYN. Pretty much reflects my own. Though I do confess to one of those people not getting SPRING BREAKERS. Brie Larson for everything! Also STORIES WE TELL and BEFORE MIDNIGHT will surely be in my top 10. Maybe. I don't know. Don't look at me like that.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Thanks to these Top 10s, I am frantically scribbling down so many movies to add to my ever-growing Must See list for the new year. Gentlemen, thank you for making my life more difficult in a wonderful way!

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

Some really lovely choices in those lists! I wish I had seen more movies this year but listmaking is the greatest annual favor that the media does for people like me who love playing catch-up.

My top 10 movies would be Stories We Tell, Gravity, Before Midnight, Enough Said and 12 Years a Slave repeated twice in any order.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFlickah

There are still about 10 more movies I want to watch from 2013 but Spring Breakers would be my No1 right now (yay for The Boyfriend sharing his list).

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

W00t!!!! Glenn's on Team Laurence!!!!!

My list:

1. Frances Ha
2. The Wolf of Wall Street
3. Bastards
4. The Grandmaster
5. The Act of Killing
(tied) 6. You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet and Stories We Tell
7. 12 Years a Slave
8. The World's End
9. Laurence Anyways
(tied) 10. The Bling Ring and Spring Breakers

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Great list guys, here is my top ten: 1.Short Term 12 2.Blue Jasmine 3. Springbreakers 4.mud 5.Prisoners 6.42 7.Enough Said 8. The Book Thief 9.Pain & Gain 10. The Bling Ring

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

Consider this a virtual hug, Glenn. ;)

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKurtis O

I haven't seen everything I need to yet, but if I made a list I think it would be similar to The Boyfriend's, since Spring Breakers, 12 Years, Llewyn Davis, Enough Said and Nebraska are pretty secure towards the top of my faves.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Oh, and I appreciate Amir's list. A lot of titles thee that never opened, that I had somewhat forgotten and that I need to be on the lookout for.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

My top 10:
1. "12 YEARS A SLAVE" (directed by Steve McQueen)
2. "HER" (directed by Spike Jonze)
3. "SHORT TERM 12" (directed by Destin Cretton)
4. "WADJDA" (directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour)
5. "AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS" (directed by David Lowery)
6. "FRUITVALE STATION" (directed by Ryan Coogler)
7. "THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE" (directed by Francis Lawrence. I know it doesn't look good in this top 10, but it is one of the most entertaining movies of the year and it kinda made me think about things)
8. "LA CAGE DORÉE" (directed by Ruben Alves)
9. "INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS" (directed by the Coen brothers)
10. "GRAVITY" (directed by Alfonso Cuarón)

honorable mentions:
* DON JON (directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt)
* AMERICAN HUSTLE (directed by David O. Russell)
* FRANCES HA (directed by Noah Cumberbatch)
* BLUE JASMINE (directed by Woody Allen)
* SPRING BREAKERS (directed by Harmony Korine)

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEd

Fairly set on mine (using UK release dates as thats when I saw them!)10) Zero Dark Thirty, 9) The Way Way Back, 8) Nebraska, 7) The Sessions, 6) Frozen, 5) Gravity, 4) About Time, 3) Mud, 3) Short Term 12, 1) Enough Said

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChrisD

The Boyfriend!!

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterzig

Lovvvvvvve the bling ring so underrated

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdave

I have so many things to see before I finish my list! AAAAH!

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWill h

My top ten gets finalized right before the Oscar ceremony, which is about when I usually finish seeing everything from the year.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Kurtis, why are you virtually hugging me? Is it because my list is fantastic? :)

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

01. Her
02. 12 Years a Slave
03. La Grande Bellezza
04. Gravity
05. Blue is the Warmest Color
06. Dallas Buyers Club
07. Blue Jasmine
08. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
09. Frozen
10. Side Effects

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

dave - same! Granted I just watched it last night but I did not expect to love it so much! and the cast was stellar.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

1. Gravity
2. Viola
3. To the Wonder
4. The Wind Rises
5. Inside Llewyn Davis
6. Stoker
7. Before Midnight
8. Only God Forgives
9. Blue is the Warmest Colour
10. The Heat

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergbocampo

My favorite movies released in 2013 (out of 134 movies total)
1. The Act of Killing
2. Stories we tell
3. Short Term 12
4. 12 Years a Slave
5. Like Someone in Love
6. The Square
7. Wadjda
8. Her
9. Enough Said
10. Before Midnight

for complete list of movies:

January 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMr. Goodbar

There are so many I haven't seen... Nearly all the foreign films and documentaries and end-of-year platform releases, plus a number of smaller releases from earlier this year. But if I made a list, it would be like this:

Very favorite films (in no particular order): Blue Jasmine, All is Lost, Frances Ha, American Hustle

Films I also enjoyed: Mud, Fruitvale Station, Behind the Candelabra (it counts, right?)

Films I was initially disappointed by, but keep thinking about, so they probably belong here: 12 Years, Before Midnight

And the best "old film" I saw for the first time this year: All That Jazz, incredible

January 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Well, I can't get behind the incusion of The Place Beyond the Pines, Glenn, but otherwise your list proves we are fellow geniuses--I'm sorry, I mean kindred spirits:

January 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKurtis O

1. Blue is the Warmest Color
2. Stories we tell
3. Spring Breakers
4. Inside Llewyn Davis
5. Gravity
6. Frances Ha
7. Camille Claudel 1915
8. Stranger by the Lake
9. Blancanieves
10. The great beauty

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterarcher

Much love to anyone who puts "The Strange Little Cat" on their list. Amir, such a great idea to do an alternative list.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCharlieG

I'm still cramming. I refuse to make an end of year list before seeing Before Midnight.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

Films that haven't opened near me yet: Her, August: Osage County, The Great Beauty, The Past, Labor Day

Films that never opened near me: The Hunt, To The Wonder, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Stories We Tell, Upstream Color, Blancanieves

Films I'm pissed about missing: Blue Is The Warmest Color, Wadjda, Fill the Void, Short Term 12, The Act of Killing, All Is Lost

Films I simply wasn't interested in: Place Beyond the Pines, Fruitvale Station

I feel like my Best of 2013 List is incomplete until I've seen the majority of these. Thankfully some of them are on Netflix Streaming/VOD right now!

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I have realized looking back on my annual top ten lists, that it helps to either have a strong female performance or presence or be female-centric for films to make my top ten and this year is no different. I guess I am indeed an actressexual.

1. Short Term 12
2. Before Midnight
3. The Spectacular Now
4. 12 Years A Slave
5. The Act of Killing
6. Stories We Tell
7. Frozen
8. Inside Llewyn Davis
9. Her
10. The Heat

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKai Lor

I understand what Amir is trying to do, but for those of us who do not watch films for a living and have to serve customers instead of flying to international film festivals, his list is pretty useless. If these films aren't being released, I am pretty obviously never going to see them, so the recommendation is wasted. I'm not complaining, just.... Well, okay, I'm complaining, but more out of bitterness at the world than Amir, who is after all championing movies I would in fact like to see. What is my point? I have no idea.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commentervladdy

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