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Sunday
Mar022014

Best of the Year: Introducing... Nathaniel's Top Thirteen

I've waited so long to share my top ten list that it's become a crushing psychic weight, a symbol of my failure to keep up in this strange Oscar season I've had.  I realized today that if I didn't share it on this very day, it wouldn't happen at all which is unthinkable. TRADITION. TRADITION...... TRADITION  

We're all eager to move on to 2014 but I personally can't make the calendar leap without the Film Bitch Awards (and the Oscars, duh). They're my own internal clock and how I clock the film years. If I could rewind said clock I'd watch all the movies again. They're all dusty now, like cherished objects I shoved into closets or drawers for reasons of clutter when people were coming over. Now I can't remember where I've left them or why it was I thought they were worth hoarding in the first place. 

You still with me? Oh god stay with me. This is my moment of neurotic need! 

If this were a top twenty I'd be writing about these films too, in random order: two animated charmers Frozen and Ernest & Celestine, Joe Swanberg & Jane Adams little seen but extremely worthwhile collaboration All the Light in the Sky, 2012's Spanish Oscar submission Blancanieves (released in the states this year), Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring... "I wanna rob", two gargantuan blockbusters I seemed to have liked more than most sentient life forms Iron Man 3 and World War Z and the dark, gripping and literally labyrinthine Prisoners. Does that make twenty-one pictures? I'm bad at maths.

ONE MINUTE FROM EACH FILM
Now, the hard part. Hierarchies of wonderment. To break free of the mental shackles that have been holding me back from writing and sharing this list, a self-imposed directive: I am putting each one of these in my DVD player (the joy of screeners) and shuffling to a random scene. Wherever it lands I watch one minute to jog my memory and write whatever comes to mind. Get it? Let's go.  

HER
(Spike Jonze)
Warner Bros. December 18th.
126 minutes

... and Action [98:24] we enter mid montage during a Scarlett Johansson rendition of "Moon Song"... as Joaquin's Theodore pours himself drinks, eats, laughs and silly dances in his long-johns for Samantha as she laughs and sings "there's nothing I would keep from you... a million miles away" Cut to ice melting outside the cottage. The next morning he wonders what his operating system was up to while he slept.

Actually I was talking someone I've just met. We've been working on some ideas together..."

There is something she's been keeping from him and she is often millions of miles away. Or at least multi-tasking in this fascinating exploration of not what love is but how people love and how much of themselves they give over to it.

 

GLORIA
(Sebastian Lelio)
Roadside Attractions. Qualifying?
It was on Oscar's qualifying list but I can find no proof that it actually went through with that qualifying run. So a debatable year for this one
110 minutes

...and Action [68:00] As we drop in on Gloria (Paulina Garcia in a superb star turn), there's jaunty music playing and she's walking through a mall. We see her make her way through the crowd, with curiousity in her eyes until they land on a dancing skeleton toy that's entertaining the crowd. She considers him, drops him a tip and leaves with one glance backwards. Gloria is always approaching life like this, with intense curiousity, quick engagement, and calm realization that there's only so much of her life left to live. The skeleton is a perfect touch... and later a hairless cat, are perfect touches. This is one of the year's best character studies, whichever year it truly belongs to. 

 

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
(Paul Greengrass)
Columbia Pictures. October 11th
134 minutes

...and Action: [20:23] "You wanna come up to one two two" a Bostonian Tom Hanks is on the phone, worried. We're early in the movie but I'm not sure what's happening? Quick cuts: men, Hanks, hydraulics, machinery, nautical gauges, staff. The music score is doing something like an increasingly unsubtle variation of a tick-tock effect but it comes in and out. Then, a momentary abrupt airborn cut, the camera at the tail of the ship, almost gliding downward to the vast blue ocean, with a motion that's more bird than camera crane. We're yanked back to the ship. "Get me maritime emergency," Hanks barks, binoculars raised. Two skiffs are approaching and we get this information three times, twice visually (through binoculars and the radar) and once with vocal urgency.  The suspense is always layered like that, like Greengrass wants to be everyone at once. He achieves it, too, even penetrating the mindsets of opposing captains who'll soon be in a grossly mismatched dangerous duel.

Maritime emergency on the phone! Ooops, I cheated. I didn't shut it off at exactly one minute as promised. I wanted to see what happened next though I already knew; the power of a perfectly calibrated movie machine.

 

ENOUGH SAID
(Nicole Holofcener)
Fox Searchlight. September 18th
93 minutes

...and Action [12:13] Oh, I know where we are. It's the first date between Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Albert (James Gandolfini). They're talking about his divorce and he half answes a question, implying his ex-wife knows what he's leaving out. She jokes

Can I have her number?"

Oh Eva! She's already primed to make the mistakes she's about to make over and over again. In fact this first date is telegraphing everything. This brief refresher scene is jam-packed with information about what's to come and I hadn't noticed it at all. That's some sly foreshadowing. Remarkably the rest of the movie doesn't feel like a retread of this scene but an organic exploration of dating among these specific characters and, in a larger sense, wary divorcees who've been hurt and are scared to be hurt again. It helps to have actors as superb as these two milking all the nuance and humor out of romantic angst and self-sabotage.

 

SPRING BREAKERS
(Harmony Korine)
A24. March 22nd
94 minutes

... and, Action: [41:09] Alien (James Franco) is sitting with the quartet of title characters, and insinuating himself into their vacation and their psyches. I think I might just let James Franco take this one since he'll do just that anyway. He'll take it while the electronic soundtrack underscores him like a lucid dream, and cutaways jack-up his already heightened fantasia of his own gangsta-ness.

You been doing a lot of praying on this trip? I was just thinking maybe you did all that praying and I'm the answer to your prayers. You was all in trouble and here I am. How old are you? You look about 15? But you're pretty. You're all pretty. Did you run out of money?. Spend it on weed and motels. Scooters. amirite? SPRING BREAAAAAKKKK.

Don't worry. I got plenty of money. Shit. I'm fucking made of money. Look at my fucking teeth. They should call me money. We do it right here in St. Petes. We do it Gangsta!" 

James Franco is magnificently gonzo in this movie -- the least bored he's ever been with himself  as an actor -- but I really wish I'd been handed the gun fellatio or a Britney Spears number in this screener roulette game I'm playing. I still have a hard time believing this movie is real nearly a year later.

 

BLUE JASMINE
(Woody Allen)
Sony Pictures Classics. August 23rd
98 minutes 

...and Action: [92:34] Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and Chili (Bobby Cannavale) are playfighting about pizza (?) and jump from the couch running towards the bedroom. The camera pan across a yellow apartment their playful voices -- the laughter of lovers -- offscreen. "That's mine. That's mine. That's mine." Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), like a wet zombie, suddenly exits the apartment. Oh, god I didn't click on the final scene, did I? Spoiler alert! The camera pans back to the bedroom door... (I don't remember this brief moment and I've seen the movie three times now), the voices slowing for (presumably) touchy-feely foreplay "Is that yours? Oh! That's yours, okay?" Fascinating and intuitive scripting, yes?, that the offscreen voices are giggling about abundance and possessions (albeit not the literal kind) when Jasmine is so unmoored by having none. Jasmine walks to a park. Oh god, not this. No. Sits on the park bench, begins muttering to no one in particular. 

It's fraught with peril. They gossip. They talk... 

You can't escape that park bench. It's there long before you see it and haunts long after. It's waiting for Jasmine the whole movie. 

 

AMERICAN HUSTLE 
(David O. Russell)
Sony/Columbia. December 13th 
138 minutes

...and Action: [92:56] Richie (Bradley Cooper) in intense close up screaming like a mad man. OKAY, that's one way to re-enter the movie!  Lady Edith (Amy Adams) smashes a picture frame in his face. Suddenly the camera is around the corner and we're seeing the room from Irving's (Christian Bale) eyes. He rounds the corner, and he's just as confused as I am. Plot? I can't follow it but plot is the very last reason I care about this movie. He asks Richie to step away from Edith. "You mean Sydney?" Richie counters, his head swiveling from one character to the next, like he wants it to hurt. It does. The camera follows his Richie to Edith clue, checking out their painful psychic exchange until Edith throws her hands up. 

I told him. I'm sorry. I just don't give a fuck anymore. I don't fucking care."

Then some plot dialogue -- I don't even remember who Tilegio is -- but the reason I love this movie so much is right here in this very room. American Hustle is constantly spinning on some sort of triangular axis as it shifts points of view: Richie --> Edith-- > Irving and all of them are dizzy from the effort of keeping up. Three terrific movie stars in great form and a fourth (JLaw) occassionally disrupting their already chaotic threeway. 

 

BEFORE MIDNIGHT
(Richard Linklater)
SPC. May 24th
109 minutes 

Oops. my screener is scratched and won't play. True story. I never watched the trailer for this movie before seeing it in theaters because I wanted every single moment to be a surprise. So I just watched it now. That sunset moment is A+

Still there. still there. Gone"

But as it's settled I have to admit that while I find it quite satisfying I don't think it's on the level of the previous two pictures but I'm glad that it pivots to a study of longterm companionship and I do hope Ethan and Julie keep giving us updates every 9 years. 

 

NEBRASKA
(Alexander Payne)
Paramount. November 15th
115 minutes 

...and Action [44:48] Father Woody (Bruce Dern) and son David (Will Forte) wait at a bus stop. The mother Kate (June Squibb) emerges from the bus with her bags. Ever the charmer, she starts in on them immediately. "You both look like hell!" And she's not done yet but just getting warmed up, airing decades old grievances (drunk on their first date!) and current ones (the "cockamamie scheme" to win a million dollars). The son (Will Forte) attempts to mediate, pulling her aside, and explaining his reasons for being so accomodating.

I know a lot of people don't like this movie but I love it's peculiar mix of sympathy, misanthropy, broad and subtle jokes and almost casually timed dramatic sucker punches. And it keeps refusing to cooperate. Every time you want Kate to shut up, for the love of god, and go easy on these people, they kinda prove her point again. 

Kate: Your father doesn't even know what's going on around him half the time. Do you Woody?
Woody: Do I what?" 

 

NO
(Pablo Larrain)
SPC. February 15th
118 minutes 

Tragedy. I cannot find my DVD. But trust that this stranger than fiction true story about an ad executive (played by the ever reliable Gael Garcia Bernal) who helps turn the tide against the dictator Augusto Pinochet heartily deserved its Oscar nomination for 2012. Now if only we could figure out a way to get the distributors to actually release the foreign films in the year they're ostensibly competing in. But this one was worth the wait. Dramatically potent but also surprisingly fun, with clever filmmaking at every turn. Here's my review if you missed it and if you still haven't seen this picture, just say yes to it. You won't regret it.

 

FRANCES HA
(Noah Baumbach)
IFC. May 17th
86 minutes 

...and, Action [58:48] we've been dropped in on Frances (Greta Gerwig) in the middle of a call to her estranged best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner). The scene is so delicately written, both funny and blunt and evasive. I realize a few seconds in that this is the part where Frances has ended up in Paris (long story) because she is such a colossal fuckup.  Sophie wonders about her living arrangements and Frances lies "I'm gonna have my own place real soon" and can't stop lying but underneath the comedy of her ineptitude is this actually sweet attempt at former besties to reconnect. And that connection means everything to Frances who deeply loves Sophie. The end of this phone call, which is eerily exactly a minute after I drop in is funny, painful, true, false, and anxious all at once. 

This call is costing me a fortune! Just kidding, it's not. I love you, Sophie. Bye" 

 

I cheated. I kept watching because this movie is so totally endearing. Cut to: Frances outside a movie theater, moments after this hugely important phone call (emotionally speaking).

When did Puss n Boots start?

LOLOLOL. 

 

SHORT TERM 12
(Destin Cretton)
Cinedigm. August 23rd. 
96 minutes 

...and, Action. [70:06] A blur of motion -  Grace (Brie Larson) storms outside with her boss's lamp smashing it to smithereens. Cut to: her coworker Nate (Rami Malek) inside the foster care facility vacuuming. He finds a tiny animal figurine in the couch and brings it to a sad little boy's room who earlier had had all his little toys confiscated. "Sam" he whispers, gently placing it on the bed with a smile and exiting the room. "Ouch" I say, like E.T.'s glowing finger is pressed upon me; this movie's tenderness, its insight into small kindnesses and empathy, touches my heart so deeply. Even in its wild sudden rages, and there are several of those, I only want to hold it closer. We can sweep up the broken lamp later. 

 

12 YEARS A SLAVE
(Steve McQueen)
Fox Searchlight. October 18th
134 minutes 

...and Action [55:54] we hear the crack of a whip out of focus, uncomfortably sound-mixed with spiritual humming from the slaves (also out of focus in the background). Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) in the foreground sweats picking cotton. This right here - casual cruelty, off-hand really, as backdrop at all times. Even as soundtrack. It's the devastating reality of America's past that 12 Years a Slave never flinches from, that powers it to greatness. Cut to: Master Epps hearing how much each of his slaves has picked that day, Solomon has picked the least. "This n**** ain't even average!" Epps complains. But how wrong he is.

Solomon isn't average but extraordinary. So's the film. 

 

Still with me?
If you've made it through this whole beauteous list I thank you profusely for your patience this rough season and offer up the entire batch of "traditional categories" for this year's Film Bitch Awards: Picture, Director, Animated Feature and Screenplays, Actors and Actresses, Visuals, Sound & Music ! You're welcome.

P.S. If you don't comment, an angel loses its wings, a fairie dies, and Nathaniel falls prematurely into the post-Oscar abyss. 

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Reader Comments (60)

I'm ashamed to admit I only saw 8 movies from 2013 (by far the lowest amount I've seen from any year since maybe the '40s), and it had nothing to do with not being able to see more. I moved to NYC this year, so for the first time in my life I have the ability to see movies when they're actually released (as opposed to having to wait 2 months for them to be released elsewhere), but I was so busy catching up on older movies, and I have to admit that most movies that came out this past year just didn't excited me. Not to ramble on for too much, I think a big part of that is because I was so underwhelmed by most of the 2012 films that everyone else praised that I just found myself being very skeptical of a lot of movies this year, even the big critics' darlings.

Having said that, it just so happens that of the 8 that I saw, 6 managed to make into onto your top 13 list. So now I don't feel like I missed out as much as I thought I did. Thanks for making me feel like I at least picked the right movies to see. Of your choices that I haven't seen, Frances Ha is the one that I really wanted to but just never got around to.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

I apologize for the various typos in my last comment. This is why I shouldn't be allowed to comment on things at 2:30 in the morning.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

I'm commenting, I'm commenting! ;) Love the list and really surprised by a few things - had no clue No would place so high (such a good movie). I just loved that American Hustle scene. I need to get around to Gloria, but funnily enough, I feel like 2013 is so stuffed to the gills with brilliant leading roles for women (which isn't always the case) that I want to force it into 2014.

Loved all the awards, Nathaniel! I don't say it enough but this site is pure joy. We fellow cinephiles appreciate it so much.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

I'm commenting just so that you won't fall into post-Oscar abyss.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

You're not alone in liking Iron Man 3 & World War Z as they were some of the stronger blockbusters of a fairly weak year for blockbusters. Iron Man 3 is probably the Best Marvel Studio film so far and one of the (very) few films of theirs to have a strong character story. As for WWZ, I thought it would be terrible but it ended up being fairly engaging. Anyway, here's what my top ten looks like:

1-12 Years A Slave A-
2-Fruitvale Station A-
3-Her
4-Short Term 12 B+
5-American Hustle B+
6-Prisoners B+
7-Captain Phillips B+
8-The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug B+
9-Dallas Buyers Club B+
10-Blue Jasmine B+


Other than Spring Breakers, which just missed the Top Ten list, quite a few of the films on your list made it into mine (which is very rare). In fact, the ones on your list that didn't make mines aren't there because I haven't seen them (I'll catch Frances Ha and Nebraska in the coming months). Of those on my Top Ten, Short Term 12 is the only one I didn't see in theaters. Much like Blue Is The Warmest Color, which I have yet to see, I meant to catch it in theaters but money/time issues came about. I was able to catch it on Apple TV about three weeks ago, however, and really enjoyed it.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Armour

I'm commenting. I hate faerie funerals. All that dust.

Such a great year for film. Its so nice to have an awards season with so many valid choices, both those that gained noms and some who didn't. I have favorites for tonight, but there is only one film that I feel falls below the mark so I doubt I'll be that disappointed at outcomes. Its more a question of wishing someone else had won rather than feeling the winner wasn't worthy.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Gravity didn't make my Top 10 either...interesting, that. ;-)
(But Her is definitely in the top three, along with my #1, 12 Years...)

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Love the list. My top few for the year (in no particular order, other than the top two) would be Short Term 12, Her, The Hunt, Before Midnight, 12 Years a Slave, and Inside Llewyn Davis. Admittedly, i'm not the biggest fan of American Hustle, but I still enjoyed the performances, in the most part. Great list, though!

p.s. Good luck navigating your way through the post-Oscar abyss. We'll all need it! *comfort through solidarity*

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRob

I know you still haven't seen La grande bellezza (pick a big screen when you do), but I don't seem to find La vie d'Adèle anywhere on this list. Merde! Should I blame the internet? Good year for Chile, new cinematographies are always welcome.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Who won best actor?

#nailbiting

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

My top 5 were Frozen, Her, Frances Ha, Drinking Buddies, and Blancanieves. If you forced me to pick another 5 out of the 36 films I saw this year (which is actually good for me, sadly) I'd go with This is the End, The Conjuring, Captain Phillips, Rush, and Warm Bodies (with Gravity and The Heat just outside my top 10). What makes me happy is that of all the films I saw, I only actively disliked 3 of them, so a good year overall.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPoliVamp

The night before the Oscars is like Christmas Eve, but Oscar Sunday is like a combination of Christmas Day (the red carpet) and New Year's Eve (the ceremony). The new year doesn't start for me until Monday. That's when I begin to rank the next "year's" movies.

2013 Favorites:

1. Frances Ha
2. Beyond the Walls (Belgium)
3. 12 Years a Slave
4. Inside Llewyn Davis
5. The Past
6. American Hustle
7. Short Term 12
8. Fruitvale Station
9. Kill Your Darlings
10. Blue is the Warmest Color
11. The Square
12. The Act of Killing
13. Crystal Fairy
14. Captain Phillips
15. The Great Beauty

Thanks for a good year, Nathaniel.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

I really love your inclusion of Spring Breakers, which is so unappreciated by the public movie voting websites (imdb 5.4 - wtf?).
Always great to see Nebraska, No, American Hustle, although Gravity is missing. Aside the non-existing plot, average casting (Bullock Yay, Clooney Nay) and implausible physics everything else was top notch (acting, music, effects, cinematography, sound).
Maybe it is partly an age thing that technical achievements make me overlook story or acting deficits. (my personal Top 20 of all time contain movies like Matrix)

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterskyfly_to

I can' believe there's no Gravity in this list,
Yet the most boring number 1 pick this year appeared

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercraver

Finally! The Film Bitch awards and your top 10 are always a highlight of my movie-going year, and I'm happy to see you've finally found the time to write things up.

I haven't seen "Nebraska" and "Her" yet, since they aren't out in my part of the globe yet.

Anyway, since others have posted theirs, here's my (provisional) top 10:

1. Inside Llewyin Davis
2. Gravity
3. Frances Ha
4. 12 Years a Slave
5. Short Term 12
6. The World's End
7. The Act of Killing
8. The Broken Circle Breakdown
9. The Spectacular Now
10. Le passé

Lurking just outside the top 10: "Blue Jasmine" and "Captain Phillips".

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChris

It sounds like you're placing "Spring Breakers" in your list more for Franco's incredible performance rather than for the film itself.

Of course, I hated that movie more than Elaine hated "The English Patient"...

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

Thanks Nat. I'm embarrassed to say I only saw one. And it was on a plane. But I loved it. (Enough Said) Must watch more movies!

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHerman

What a movie year! Last year, I couldn't have filled out a top 10, and this year, I think there were close to 20 movies that I completely adored. Why, if I had my laptop handy, if tell you what they are right now.
That said, your list is reminding me what a good job you do all year promoting faves like Gloria, Enough Said, No and Short Term 12, all of which I saw partly because of your advocacy.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Finally! I've been waiting for this list and it was well worth the wait. Very (pleasantly) surprised by the Blue Jasmine mention, as well as the No ranking, a little less pleasantly surprised that Before Midnight landed outside the Top 5 but nonetheless, good list.

By US release, mine would go roughly

1. Before Midnight
2. Museum Hours
3. Inside Llewyn Davis
4. Frances Ha
5. Blue Jasmine (4 and 5 would be a tie if I allowed ties, as would 2 and 3)
6. To the Wonder
7. Blue Is the Warmest Colour
8. No
9. Spring Breakers
10. Beyond the Hills

with Gravity, Her, Upstream Color, Like Someone in Love, The Hunt and The Heat as honorable mentions.

If we're going by year of original release, Child's Pose and Stranger by the Lake would rank round 8-9.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Hang in there, we're in the home stretch! Thanks for the smashing job you've done this year!

My Top Five (still need to see some on your list)

1. 12 Years a Slave
2. Nebraska
3. Gravity
4. Inside Llewyn Davis
5. Captain Phillips

Have fun tonite! And Happy Birthday, Jennifer Jones!

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Goran: I loved Beyond the Hills too! I'm surprised it didn't get more attention on the movie sites I live on.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

I'm so glad American Hustle is on your list. The amount of ire directed its way has become tiresome and some of the criticisms are ridiculous (Sasha Stone claiming the plot is incomprehensible, for example - isn't that also what Hope Holliday said? If you can't understand the plot of this movie, you have no business blogging about film). It's as though the people who hate this movie would rather talk about how much they hate it than how much they love their favorites.

Anyway, my top 5, which really could be in any order:
1. Inside Llewyn Davis
2. All is Lost
3. Blue Jasmine
4. American Hustle
5. Frances Ha

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Wonderful list, Nathaniel. If it's neurotic to consider that one annum runs from Oscars to Oscars rather than conforming to the traditional Jan to Dec calendar then I'm happy to sit in the crazy corner ;) I'll definitely party with more gusto tonight more than I did on New Year's Eve and the arrival of *your* best of 2013 list is an absolutely essential element of the celebratory ritual, so thanks for squeezing it in in the nick of time.

I've still got some catching up to do in order to feel like I can commit to a full and definitive 10, but I'm happy to see that at least 3 of my current top 5, all made your list:

1. Frances, Ha
2. Blue Is The Warmest Colour
3. 12 Years A Slave
4. The Act Of Killing
5. Her

Have a great night!

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter7bis

The only ones on your top 10 I didn't like are Nebraska (to which I couldn't connect with at all) and Spring Breakers (which I found incredibly annoying) but I really enjoyed and loved all the others. 12 Years a Slave is my #2 of 2013.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

A Gold Star for Cate Blanchett...is that you, Barbara Covett? :D

Anyway, I don't care about tomorrow anymore because Cate Blanchett has finally won the most pretigious award - THE Best Actress from the Film Bitch Awards!!!!

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Infamous

So glad Frances Ha is so high the list. So real and hopeful.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

I have to admit, I looked at your grades, saw five in the A-/A category and automatically assumed that was your top five. To see Before Midnight dropped for an Alexander Payne move startles.

I didn't realize you loved Blue Jasmine that much.

And I need to see World War Z and All the Light in the Sky. And Spring Breakers.

FYC scene of the year: Before Midnight at lunch. Seriously, I know Nick criticized the earlier conversation as being too on point, but the layering, the comedy, the character, the insight.... mindboggling and beautiful. It's the whole trilogy in a glorious 17 minute sequence.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

Great list. i am not as found of 12 years (..) as everybody seems to be so perhaps I have to watch it again. On the other hand thank's to Nate I watch "Short term 12" witch I had to rent since it never player in movie theatre here in Montréal (Shame on us!) & it might be my favorite movie of last year (Im debating between that and "Nebraska"). So thank's again Nate & Merry Christmas to all of you!

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans

Since a lot of people are sharing theirs, here's my top ten (I have 3 picks from your list):

1. Short Term 12 / 2. Inside Llewyn Davis / 3. Her / 4. Prince Avalanche / 5. Gravity / 6. The Selfish Giant / 7. The Act of Killing / 8. Frances Ha / 9. Post Tenebras Lux / 10. O Som ao Redor (Neighbouring Sounds)

If we're going for a top-20: 11. Stories We Tell / 12. Before Midnight / 13. American Hustle / 14. Child's Pose / 15. Jagten (The Hunt) / 16. La Grande Belezza (The Great Beauty) / 17. Gloria / 18. All is Lost / 19. Wadjda / 20. 12 Years A Slave

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

I'll just rank order a Top 5 - Her, Stoker, No, The Bling Ring, and then probably Blancanieves. Or maybe Gravity. It's hard for me to think of fair ways to compare those last two.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

Frances Ha (which tied with Inside Llewyn Davis for first), Spring Breakers, and 12 Years a Slave were in my top ten, American Hustle and Enough Said were on the outside but were movies I really liked and enjoyed.

Really need to see Gloria and Short Term 12.

1. FRANCES HA & INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS- Not intentional placement, but what a double-feature

2. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

3. BASTARDS

4. THE GRANDMASTER

5. THE ACT OF KILLING

6. YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHIN' YET & STORIES WE TELL

7. 12 YEARS A SLAVE

8. THE WORLD'S END

9. LAURENCE ANYWAYS

10. THE BLING RING & SPRING BREAKERS- This placement was definitely on purpose

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Great list! I usually try to post my list before the Oscars as well, but my time management skills this year is just the worst. Oh well.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Loving the bronze medal for Cliff Martinez in Original Score. I haven't looped a film's soundtrack like that since The Triplets of Belleville. Everything about that score works for me.

And of all the 2013 films, The Bling Ring has grown on me the most. I was so put off by the terrible characters when I first saw it that I didn't quite realize what Sofia Coppola was actually going for. When I did all my awards up last month, it wound up tying with American Mary and Stoker (two films I instantly fell in love with) for the most nominations. If I could have snuck Katie Chang in for Lead Actress, it would have had the most nominations. I spent hours narrowing down my list to five and she was the last and most painful cut (Mia Wasikowska (Stoker), Melissa McCarthy (The Heat), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Rosario Dawson (Trance), and Brie Larson (Short Term 12) edged her out, 5th to 1st).

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

EVERYONE - i can't tell you what a pleasure it is to wake up on Oscar day having 30+ comments awaiting after a very very late night. If only you were this chatty on other days ;)

edwin - hey as long as you're getting out to movies. there are a ton of retrospective programs. I aim to hit more of those this year.

henry you often make me LOL and I appreciate that.

Rob & Everyone in terms of navigating through the Post Oscar Abyss. I agree about comfort in solidarity. I have some fun things planned for March and April but any suggestions to keep you all happy while you're experiencing the post Oscar spring malaise? or should i just go on a month-long vacation?

peggy i did actually see THE GREAT BEAUTY. You'll find it won a nomination on the visuals page.

cal i was trying to pass out medals last night and finally was just like "oh my god nathaniel. get some sleep before Oscar" so the medals had to wait. nevertheless I'm proud of myself for getting as much done last night as I did.

March 2, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Love your choices, Nat! Seeing that Spring Breakers made your Top 10 makes me sad that we never got a "Hit me.." piece from you.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

skyfly_to & craver i agree that Gravity's technical elements are breathtaking so it won some nominations and will win some gold medals here. But as a whole film it just didn't really do it for me. different strokes!

HERMAN!!!!!! -how can we fix this in 2014?

tyler well these were writeups based on one scene very late at night! and the scene was a Franco monologue :) but in truth i haven't been able to shake the movie at all which is the same experience i had with Blue Jasmine which kept rising in my estimation during the year. Frankly on my third view of Blue Jasmine i couldn't believe how cool my initial response was -- it really holds up.

arkaan grades are an inexact science. I like before midnight a lot (obviously. given top ten) but it just didn't stay with me like the other two did) at the end of the year it always shifts slightly when you have to take real stands like "THESE ONES HERE"

That said when i look back at previous years there are always things like 'Now, why oh why did i go with that one?'

March 2, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

You let it go! You let it go! You couldn't hold back anymore!

We have the same number one for the first time since 'Rachel Getting Married'! Now that all things have been considered, '12 Years A Slave' stands out as not only my favorite movie of the year... but my favorite movie of the last three years. We are so lucky to have been made privy to such a gutting masterpiece.

I'm sure I speak on behalf of all of your loyal readers in expressing how essential it is to us to hear what our maestro's favorite concertos were for the year. Thanks for sharing!

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCory Rivard

Cory -- yay! I hope one day our intense love of Rachel Getting Married doesn't set us apart so much and people come round to it. I *think* that's already happening but it needs to speed up

March 2, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

What a wonderful, unique way of doing a best of! Love it. Need to watch 12 Years again because I wasn't enraptured by it, even as I admired chunks. Found Fassbendrr a smidge too much for one thing.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Z

Damn, I just don't get the love for Greta Gerwig! She seemed so oafish in the role and I kinda resented how the movie all but held a gun to my head "encouraging" me to find her enchanting.

My faves: "Her," "Stories We Tell," "The East," "American Hustle," "Don Jon," "A Hijacking" (technically a 2012, I guess).

Anyone else have problems with "Short Term 12?" It was one of three highly praised indies -- along with "Mud" and "Fruitvale Station" -- this year that I thought very conciously wore "gritty" indie cred on the exterior but whose insides were as soft as any studio product.

Sorry to be the grumpy contrarian!

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterScottGS

Great list, Nathaniel, I was expecting something differente beacause of your early critics.

My list:

1. Frances Ha
2. Her
3. Short Term 12
4. Neighbouring Sounds
5. Blue Is the Warmest Color
6. The Wolf of Wall Street
7. The Great Beauty
8. In the House
9. The Hunt
10. The Bling Ring

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterremy

My top 13:

01. Her
02. 12 Years a Slave
03. Like Father Like Son
04. Gravity
05. Side Effects
06. Stranger by the lake
07. Dallas Buyers Club
08. The Great Beauty
09. Frozen
10. Fast 6
11. Blue Jasmine
12. Philomenia
13. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

Not seen: Nebraska, Short Term 12, Frances Ha, Enough Said, Gloria, No. Spring Breakers from your list

Not seen outside your list: The Wind Rises, The Hunt, Inside Llewyn Davis, 20 seconds from Stardom, The Act of Killing, Shield of Straw, The Grandmaster

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

scottgs -- i know Amir doesn't like it all so even someone on my own team IS A TRAITOR ;)

March 2, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Having yet to see Blue is the Warmest Color, Short Term 12, and The Wind Rises...

15. Stoker (Chan-wook Park)
14. Iron Man Three (Shane Black)
13. Side Effects (Steven Soderbergh)
12. Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland)
11. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)
10. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
09. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach)
08. Dallas Buyers Club (Jean-Marc Vallée)
07. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)
06. Captain Phillips (Paul Greengrass)
05. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Peter Jackson)
04. Inside Llewyn Davis (the Coen brothers)
03. Her (Spike Jonze)
02. Frozen (Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck)
01. Mud (Jeff Nichols)

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDevin D

Nat, that was an interesting way to present your favourites of 2013. I was a bit surprised to find American Hustle and Nebraska as high on your list as they were, though they would have been higher on my list.

At any rate, for the post-Oscar slump, you should catch up on some of the 2013 films which you missed along the way, especially the foreign films. For example: Museum Hours, In the House, Hannah Arendt, Camille Claudel 1915...they,re all worth viewing. (As an actressexual, you really owe it to yourself to see the latter two!)

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBill_the_Bear

Great list, but I have to pick a bone: Spring Breakers. I just don't understand how one could overlook such terrible acting (they were supposed to play shallow characters, but the ACTING was shallow - big difference) and plot. It just really puzzles me. I've never read any arguments that would make a convincing point about any of that film's attributes.I think if it was an unknown director and also not James Franco in the role, people would more unanimously realize what a (bad) joke this movie and that performance are. I think it's "cool" to like this movie and to finally embrace James Franco. Also, to not include any documentaries in one of the best documentary years ever is a shame and proof that genre is deemed inferior somehow.
Here is my list:


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

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMr. Goodbar

Mr Goodbar. It's just a personal thing. I don't think of documentaries so much as a different genre but a whole different art form. I just think they're incomparable to narrative features so I've never included them in my top tens of any year. just completely different agendas and often form.

anyway... if i were doing it like everyone else did it STORIES WE TELL would be the doc that made my top ten list... and also MISSING PICTURE had it actually been released (which it wasn't)

March 2, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

So glad to see SPRING BREAKERS on this list... I almost didn't expect it to be on your top ten. Here's mine:

01. The Act of Killing
02. Inside Llewyn Davis
03. Blue is the Warmest Color
04. Upstream Color
05. Before Midnight
06. Frances Ha
07. Spring Breakers
08. Gravity
09. The Great Beauty
10. 12 Years A Slave

With honorable mentions for:
Stories We Tell (A very close #11), Laurence Anyways, The World's End, Beyond the Hills, Rush, Enough Said, Captain Phillips. Her, All is Lost, Blackfish, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, American Hustle

... all in all, it was a terrific year!

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSid

Well, since everyone else started posting their top 10...

10. Blackfish
9. Carrie
8. The Iceman
7. Frozen
6. Frances Ha
5. Warm Bodies
4. Gravity
3. Stoker
2. Short Term 12
1. American Mary

So, 4 horror films (5 if you count Gravity, 6 if you count that middle act that's almost a snuff film in Blackfish), a bunch of indies, an animated musical, and Gravity. I stuck with my published scores rather than allow for time to influence the list, which is why I'm only publishing scores on sites that require me to publish scores (like Man, I Love Films where I review--surprise!--horror films) from now on. That way, I can sneak in films like The Bling Ring in the future and no one will know the difference.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

My Top Ten (note: have yet to see Her or Inside Llewyn Davis) is very similar to yours

1. Frances Ha
2. Before Midnight
3. 12 Years a Slave
4. Spring Breakers
5. Blue Jasmine
6. Upstream Color
7. Mud
8. Gravity
9. Captain Phillips
10. Prisoners

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterryanmc

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