Year’s 10 Best Movies: The Big Picture

by Glenn Lovell

Judging from the latest batch of 10-best lists, the year in film began less than a month ago. Most of the wrap-ups from the big dailies are padded with late 2013 releases. Once again, the media played into Hollywood’s hands by lauding the last-minute arrivals, which had to be superior because they were held until the fall, i.e. “awards season.” This strategy, of course, stems from the (not unfounded) belief that Academy voters and film critics have worse memories than the Bruce Dern character in “Nebraska.”

This time that thinking boomeranged. Several worthwhile winter-spring releases such as “42” and “Side Effects” went all but overlooked, while a number of the arty, desperate-to-please holiday arrivals ‒ “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” for starters ‒ monopolized the year-end critics awards and Golden Globe nominations.

With this in mind, I purposely sorted through the entire year for my favorites. The movies that stood out, in no particular order:

1. “Side Effects.” Part medical exposé, part labyrinthine whodunit, this slow-boil thriller had us hooked from the crime-scene opening. Credit Steven Soderbergh, who also scored with “Behind  the Candelabra.” This is his best since “Traffic” ‒ and another reason whysideeffects he should rethink those early retirement plans.

2. “The Great Gatsby.” I’ve never been what you’d call a fan of Baz Luhrmann’s hyperbolic brand of filmmaking. (His “Moulin Rouge” topped my 10-worst list.) This time, however, Luhrmann’s signature razzamatazz (kaleidoscopic Busby Berkeley meets Beyoncé meets hip-hop) provided a daring new take on Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age classic. Leonardo DiCaprio, sans Quaaludes, was a good choice for the fatally smitten Jay Gatsby.

3. “All Is Lost.” Robert Redford in a late-career triumph as an old man adrift in the Indian Ocean ‒ without an engine or a scrap of dialogue. Pure cinema!

4. “Don Jon.” A foxy, fast-paced screwball comedy about a working-class stiff who’s addicted to porn. Joseph Gordon-Levitt directed, wrote and starred in this unexpected charmer.

5. “The Hunt.” A Danish-Swedish import about a diffident daycare worker wrongly accused of sexual Lostmisconduct. Mads Mikkelsen gave one of the year’s most sensitive performances as a good man-turned-town pariah

6. “Simon Killer.” Antonio Campos (“Afterschool”) directed this startling psychological thriller, a hip blend of “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Last Tango in Paris.” Brady Corbet, who also co-scripted, played the creepy title character, an American abroad with definite personality issues.

7. “12 Years a Slave.” At last, an antidote for Tarantino’s cartoonish “Django Unchained.” Steve McQueen directed and Chiwetel Ejiofor starred in this grim but unshakable adaptation of the Solomon Northup memoir about a “free man” bound into slavery ‒ and suffering not only soul-shattering degradation and whippings but also survivor’s guilt.

8. “Dallas Buyers Club” / “Mud.” Matthew McConaughey seemed to be everywhere this year. He deserves an Oscar nod for his good-ol’-boy con artist who, after contracting the AIDS virus, wheels and deals his way to a new self-awareness. Jared Leto scored the year’s most amazing transformation as a woman biding her time in a man’s body.

9. “Blue Is the Warmest Color.” A 3-hour lesbian romance from France that, despite some lip-smacking reviews, is about a whole lot more than graphic sex. Adèle Exarchopoulos plays a high-schooler who falls under the spell of  aBluen artist ( Lèa Seydoux) and loses more than her heart. At times you want to look away, the soul-baring is that intense.

10. “Nebraska.” A quixotic road picture. Bruce Dern, never better, plays a wily old-timer who, with feckless son (Will Forte) in tow, aims to collect on his birthright, a “winning” sweepstakes number. Another wry, meandering winner from Alexander Payne (“Election,” “Sideways”).

Best Animated Feature: “The Wind Rises,” Hayao Miyazaki’s magnum opus.

Best Exploitation: “The Conjuring,” the spookiest haunted-house chiller in years and James Wan best since the original “Saw.”

Year’s Most Overlooked: “To the Wonder,” a floating, free-form recitation on amour fou from the suddenly prolific Terrence Malick.

Among the year’s worst: “The Counselor,” “Man of Steel” (all CG, no substance), “World War Z,” “Meet the Millers,” “The Lone Ranger,” “The Hangover Part III,” “Grown Ups 2” and — somehow from the folks who brought us “Drive” — the blood-soaked “Only God Forgives.”

Worst Exploitation: “Maniac” and “You’re Next.” In the latter, a soon-to-be-skewered woman screams, “Why are they doing this to us?!” Why? Because you’re too stupid and unpleasant to live.

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4 Responses to “Year’s 10 Best Movies: The Big Picture”

  1. Critics Top Ten List 2013: Glenn Lovell, Cinema Dope « Movie City News Says:

    […] CD […]

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  2. jacknyblom Says:

    great piece!

    Like

  3. Chuck Carroll Says:

    Plenty of stuff for me to check out. Thanks.

    Like

  4. MetaCritic Compilation of Top 10 Movies | On Film Says:

    […] CinemaDope Glenn Lovell View article […]

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