It has been said, but let’s say it again: 2013 was a landmark year for movies. Across the board, from indie to studio and back, the amount of exemplary artistry on display was jaw-dropping. A subjective thing? Of course. My wonderful year could be your weak one and vice versa. But this was like the kind of surge I haven’t felt since 1999, and for that, narrowing it to a list of the year’s best has been the most difficult of tasks.
Therefore, there are a number of films that didn’t make my top 10 that deserve notice here. Like Felix Van Groeningen’s “The Broken Circle Breakdown,” a hugely moving account of lovers in love and the tragedy that changes their lives, told with delicate photography and structured in a unique and meaningful way. Then there is Paul Greengrass’ “Captain Phillips,” perhaps the filmmaker’s best work to date and a vibrant study of the rift in opportunity between America and the third world.
Destin Cretton has launched into a very promising career, first with “I Am Not a Hipster” and now with the confident and humanist notes of “Short Term 12.” Steve McQueen has brought his mastery of the form from challenging films like “Hunger” and “Shame” to the more accessible and traditional, though no less elegant material of “12 Years a Slave.” And Noah Baumbach has crafted, with star and partner Greta Gerwig, a magnificent vision of a life in transition in the black and white hues of “Frances Ha.”
Those would roughly fall in the 11-15 range this year, but I still have the desire to mention other great works. Like James Wan’s haunted house thrill ride “The Conjuring.” Or Jean-Marc Vallée’s powerful biopic “Dallas Buyers Club.” How could I not mention the easy authenticity of Joe Swanberg’s “Drinking Buddies” and Lake Bell’s “In a World…?” How could I not note that Woody Allen has delivered again with “Blue Jasmine,” and that James Ponsoldt has given us another reason to keep our eye on him with “The Spectacular Now?”
The profoundly conveyed thesis of “Tim’s Vermeer” should be given space here, as should the delicate self-appraisal of “Prince Avalanche,” the nail-biting human drama of “A Hijacking” and the zany portrait of excess that is “The Wolf of Wall Street.” The classic strokes of “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” the spectacle command of “Man of Steel,” the rich texture of “Labor Day,” all worth mentioning. And frankly, though I may take issue with this or that element, I feel a need to speak up for the passion of “Fruitvale Station” and “The Great Gatsby,” the craft mastery of “Her” and the creative burst of “Rush.”
It has been a fantastic 12 months, but in the end, it always boils down. So for those of you who aren’t podcast listeners, read through the gallery story below for one guy’s opinion.