“Top Ten” Films of 2013

I’ve been pulling your leg: I never intended to write a Top Ten list. My brain just doesn’t work that way. If you want completeness, read my friend at Crooked Eclipses. But these are the films I saw this year that I would gladly go out and see again this afternoon.

1. The Past. So happy to see Asghar Farhadi, writer-director of A Separation, back with another gorgeous script. A unique setup for a love triangle. Super clear conflict from the start that goes to many unexpected places. Didn’t even mind the wife-in-a-coma melodrama. What I appreciated most about this, though, was seeing a protagonist with social skills. When you think of dramatic problems you typically think of someone who lacks the ability to problem-solve – too uptight, too boorish, too wounded, too something – but the returned émigré in The Past is the best hope in an all-around rotten family situation, and even he gets in over his head.

In The Past, a love triangle is just the beginning.

In The Past, a love triangle is just the beginning.

2. A Hijacking. Don’t even tell me that a certain Hollywood pirate movie was “actually pretty good.” This Danish film was the best thriller of the year.

3. Stories We Tell. It pains me to think that, in the post-Supersize Me era, documentaries must not only be memoirs, but about the pathos of the filmmaker his- or herself as it unfolds. This one satisfies that and tweaks the genre, and is entertaining besides.

4. High Maintenance. I had to include this because 2013 was the first year I could say I had a favorite web series. Every 5-6 minute short about the escapades of a Williamsburg weed dealer introduces another character or situation that satirizes one element or another of the Brooklyn hipster juggernaut. What critical attention it’s gotten has compared it to Girls or Portlandia, but I’d compare it (very) favorably to Francis Ha. Bravo Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair! Check ’em out.

5. American Hustle. Lest you think I’m anti-Hollywood, I’m all in for this one. Hook line and sinker.

6. Something in the Air. Olivier Assayas! Like Woody Allen, he has a following that’s willing to stick with him through his ups and downs, and I am in that following. It’s about kids playing at revolution who realize that life’s for real.

Conspicuously missing is last night’s Golden Globe winner for best drama, 12 Years a Slave. While I don’t agree with Armond White that it “belongs to the torture porn genre with Hostel, The Human Centipede and the Saw franchise,” I honestly appreciate his saying so. It’s uniquely undramatic, because its lead character has no agency, no control over his own situation. All he can do is wait for a savior. The subplot about the letter that doesn’t get sent just isn’t enough, and no amount of historical importance – the great film that corrects the historical record – can make it so.


  1. Nice list. Todd and I saw A HIJACKING after your recommendation. Thanks. We saw it rather than the other pirate movie, which we’ll probably seen at a second run theater.

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