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.
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.
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 stories8. 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 success10. 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:
How far along is YOUR top ten list... or are you procrastinating like the rest of us?