Okay, I think it’s time to get this year-end party started!

If this is the first time you’ve been here for my Year in Review segments… well, first of all, I’m so grateful you discovered this blog over the past year. Secondly, I’m not like most critics who only write one top ten list, or even two for the best and worst of the year. In the interest of giving proper recognition to as many films as possible, I write four top ten lists: the Honorable Mentions, the Masterpieces, the Disappointments, and the Wild Rides. Each film is ranked according to different criteria, but they all follow the same basic rules.

1. I can only list films that I’ve already seen and reviewed. Though I’ve heard amazing things about Frances HaUpstream ColorThe Act of Killing, and Blue is the Warmest Color, I can’t rank any of them here because I haven’t personally seen them. I greatly regret that Her won’t be listed either, since circumstances forbid me from seeing that until halfway through January and I can’t bring myself to put this off for so long.

2a. Only films released in the year 2013 may be included. I really wish that Mr. Nobody could be put into contention, since it only came to America this year, but it’s technically a 2009 film because that’s when it was released in Norway. Also, I haven’t seen it yet.

2b. Film festival premiere dates don’t count. Because movies are often known to change a great deal in editing after the festival circuit, I’m not counting any film festival premieres. As far as I’m concerned, a movie doesn’t premiere until it’s out in the open for general audiences to see.

3. A tie is only permitted for two films that are on the list for similar reasons. Every critic has different ideas for the proper use of tied entries. Personally, I choose to use tied entries as a means to avoid repeating myself.

With all of that out of the way, let’s get to my list of honorable mentions this year. Note that these entries are listed alphabetically, and not in any order of rank. Also, I’m only limiting this list to ten entries because we’d be here all night if I didn’t put some kind of limit on myself. These are the films that, in my opinion, most deserve a few parting comments.

20 Feet From Stardom

This documentary absolutely floored me. It’s a fascinating introduction to the greatest vocal talents doomed to be forgotten by history, though their impact on the music industry can’t possibly be overstated. There are so many fascinating perspectives on musical history to be found here, and of course the soundtrack kicks ass. Such a damn shame I couldn’t find space for it.

American Hustle

I’m sorry, but I honestly feel that David O. Russell is a tad bit overrated. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that Russell is a good filmmaker — even a very good one — but he’s not a truly great one just yet. When I see Russell in an awards race against masters like Fincher, Aronofsky, Spielberg and Ang Lee, I can’t help thinking that the guy is way out of his depth. By the same token, I feel confident in guessing that his latest film will get a Best Picture nod. And just like in previous years, I know there’s going to be a better film that nod should have gone to. Nothing against American Hustle, it’s a wonderful film, but I don’t agree that it’s one of the year’s best.

Escape from Tomorrow

I deeply admire filmmakers that make bold moves, and this may have been the boldest movie of the year. Though the picture is quite defiantly lacking in a coherent plot, I can’t help but respect filmmaker Randy Moore. The guy had some serious balls in baiting Disney like he did, and he challenged his audience just as fiercely. Moore’s incredible ambition created a game-changer for no-budget filmmaking, and that certainly deserves recognition.

Man of Steel

This was easily the most controversial film in a year that was loaded with them. I haven’t seen such a bitterly polarized reaction to a mainstream picture since… well, the last time Zack Snyder made a movie. For my part, I agree that the film was so bloated and had so many plot holes that I could never have given it a top spot. Yet I still come down on the side of liking this movie, because the casting is phenomenal and the action is fantastic.

More importantly, I love the idea of putting Superman (traditionally the omnipotent Boy Scout who always saves the day and knows what’s best) in a no-win situation. Previous filmmakers might have pulled some magic solution out of their asses (spinning the world backward, the memory-erasing kiss, magic Kryptonian crystals, wall-repairing vision, etc.), but Snyder and company seriously doomed Superman to a situation in which he could only grow stronger by failing. Of course, some audience members didn’t see that, and only saw all the casualties in the big climactic fight. I don’t quite agree with that perspective, but I understand it.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

This one gets an honorable mention pretty much entirely because of Idris Elba and Naomie Harris. The film could have used another few minutes of screen time to show how Mandela became such a beloved figure, and the pacing as a whole was pretty wonky. Still, Elba and Harris put in such phenomenal work that some recognition is more than warranted.


If my Masterpieces list had a #11 spot, this is probably the film it would go to. The humor is great, the performances are lovely, and the thematic content is appropriately heartwarming. It’s an extraordinary film, yet it’s still not one of the year’s best, and I’m truly sorry about that.


This was a fascinating little picture that bravely dove into some very horrifying subject matter. Of course, the film is far more notable for its elegantly labyrinthine plot, though that serves as a double-edged sword. Though the plot twists were quite thrilling and suspenseful, they also padded out the runtime and convoluted the plot to a distressing degree. Still, good movie.

Spring Breakers

This was a bizarre one. I’m still not entirely sure if it’s a good or a bad movie, but I know it’s a fascinating thing to behold. Much like Escape from Tomorrow, this movie seemed more focused on challenging its audience with bold artistic statements rather than telling a coherent story. Still, this film did feature some intriguing characters (Franco’s Alien first and foremost), some mesmerizing visuals, and a few extremely powerful motifs. This is one of those movies that’s worth seeing just to say that you did.

Thor: The Dark World / The Wolverine

These are both entertaining movies, but they suffer for putting all their eggs in one basket. Thor did a fantastic job of portraying Asgard, and Wolverine featured Jackman’s best Wolverine performance to date, yet nothing else about either movie came close to par. The villains are a key example, as the antagonists of both movies were downright pitiful (No, I’m not including Loki in that assessment. He’s an anti-hero in this go-round and you know it.). Still, they were both entertaining in places and I wouldn’t think ill of anyone who enjoyed them.


Danny Boyle directed the hell out of this movie, delivering some amazing performances with dazzling visuals and a wickedly clever plot. Unfortunately, the plot was too clever for its own good. Though the film is perfectly thrilling in the moment, the narrative doesn’t make a single goddamn lick of sense in retrospect. That’s what ultimately cost the movie a top spot, though I certainly can’t fault Boyle’s effort or creativity.


The Masterpieces are coming up tomorrow, so stay tuned!

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