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Ten Favorite Films of 2013

Looking Back on the Great and the Good

Dec. 30, 2013
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blue jasmine
Blue Jasmine
I don’t call my picks of the year the “best,” but I do play favorites. To any critic compiling a “best-of” list, I demand: define “best.” Most can’t define anything at all, including their criteria for choosing the year’s top movies. I don’t pretend to know what’s best but I can measure the ability of films to make me think or feel about their characters and the situations they face.


Blue Jasmine

Cate Blanchett channels Blanche DuBois to depict a high-strung woman whose affectations descend into delusion in Woody Allen’s superb study of class and corruption.



Bruce Dern is Oscar worthy as the persistent, senescent old man convinced he’s won the lottery in director Alexander Payne’s trek across America’s bleak heartland.


12 Years a Slave

Chiwetel Etjiofor’s eyes mirror the crushing dismay of losing family and freedom in this memoir of a free black man kidnapped and sold into slavery.



Hugh Jackman takes law and morality into his own hands in a suspenseful story with almost as many bizarre small-town twists as “Twin Peaks.”


Captain Phillips

It’s easy to forget that the star is Tom Hanks, who disappears entirely into his role as real-life skipper Richard Phillips held hostage by Somali pirates.



Matthew McConaughey shows new range as an actor in this intriguing coming-of-age tale whose Southern Gothic setting suggests a lost Flannery O’Connor story.


Before Midnight

After 18 years, director Richard Linklater concludes his Before Sunrise trilogy, bringing the now-married lovers Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy to a midlife-crisis crossroads.


Fruitvale Station

Director Ryan Coogler allows the true story of a black man killed by cops to speak for itself without the heavy drumbeat of political rhetoric.


Inside Llewyn Davis

Ethan and Joel Coen recreate the lost world of the ’60s Greenwich Village folk scene about to be subsumed under the changes wrought by Bob Dylan.



Judi Dench brings an aura of gravity (worn lightly like a shawl draped across her shoulders) to a protagonist in search of her missing child.


Honorable mention goes to director Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder for forcing viewers to think about how movies can tell old stories in new ways; and to Alex Gibney’s The Armstrong Lie, a documentary that probes not only the lies told by the cycling superstar but the willingness of fans to believe.


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