There aren’t but a few ticks left in 2013, a year which found me more divorced than ever from the theatrical moviegoing experience, an activity that over my lifetime has often seemed as commonplace and even as essential as breathing. But the past year in personal economics has forced some sea changes in my habits, in terms of what I have available to spend on movies in dollars and in time. And to be honest, I don’t entirely look upon this as a bad thing—another shocking realization given my lifelong enthusiasm, especially when I consider how many times the spending of the effort and those hard-earned dollars to get to the theater has resulted in frustration over the deterioration in civility and consideration among audiences, not only for fellow viewers but often for the movie they too have paid to see.
There also used to be a time when I felt an obligation, more or less, to see everything that came down the pipe. But no more—my sense of completism is no longer such that I feel any compulsion to see movies like About Time, or The Fifth Estate, or The Hobbit: Bilbo vs. the Smaug Monster, or whatever the hell that last Die Hard sequel was called, just because they’re out there. It’s hard enough to keep on top of the multitude of movies that I actually want to see. And in 2013 I’ve done an even less thorough job of staying in the conversation vis-à-vis new release than ever before, which makes participating in the year-end rituals of ranking and taste-flogging even more difficult.
But I enjoy those rituals enough, despite the often numbing sameness of the majority of lists that get aired out even before all the movies of the year have even had their week-long Oscar qualifying runs, that this year, as in years past, I bemoan the fact that my own top 10 list for the year will have to wait till February to be posted. It’s often that long before I’ve seen enough of what’s out there to give me a sense that I have even a rudimentary handle on the year in film.
So, as counterintuitive as it may sound, this year I’ve decided to make a little game of my shortcomings and publish two lists. There will be that February-ish one, which will come after I’ve had a chance to see American Hustle and Nebraska and Her and The Past and The Great Beauty (I have a screener!) and Short Term 12 and Frances Ha and August: Osage County and Byzantium and The Armstrong Lie and Blue Jasmine and The Wolf of Wall Street and Inside Llewyn Davis and the seeming hundreds of others I have yet missed.
And then there’s the one I’m posting today, the one comprised of the best I’ve actually had an opportunity to indulge in before the ship tips at midnight. Given the frequent refrain being that on any given day the critic’s list might be different, in either ranking or selection, today’s list is one that is by its nature in flux, one which I know must be different than the top 10 I’ll compile two months from now. I just felt like it might be an interesting exercise (at least for me) to look at the two lists in February and consider how much effect the year-end push for “quality” in the typical American movie industry release schedule actually has had on what I value most in my own favorites. It also seemed like a nice way to highlight the movies that are likely to get pushed out of the top spots, another way of saying, “Hey, these movies are good too!”
So behold the movies I’ve thought most highly of in the calendar year 2013. I’ve written no words here on the individual films—I’m up early ostensibly to work and am already behind schedule just by writing this introduction, so I’ll have to table my final takes on them until February. These are, as Sergeant Joe Friday often said, just the facts, the names only. The hopefully impassioned reasons are, like the rest of the movies of 2013 yet unseen, coming soon to a theater near me.
My top 10 (+1) favorite films of 2013 so far, in descending order:
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (La vie d’Adele)
ALL IS LOST (J.C. Chandor)
BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO (Peter Strickland)
THE EAST (Zal Batmanglij)
GRAVITY (Alfonso Cuaron)
BEFORE MIDNIGHT (Richard Linklater)
THE WORLD’S END (Edgar Wright)
MUD (Jeff Nichols)
DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (Jean-Marc Vallée)
PAIN AND GAIN (Michael Bay)
Honorable Mention: CURSE OF CHUCKY (Don Mancini)
Favorite Documentaries (in alphabetical order):
AFTER TILLER (Martha Shane, Lana Wilson)
BLACKFISH (Gabriela Cowperthwaite)
TIM'S VERMEER (Teller)
WE STEAL SECRETS: THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS