The year in film was one with no in-between: You were either the type to see an independent or franchise/sequel movie. January began the year with a slow start, with forgettables like Gangster Squad and Struck by Lightning. It wasn’t until March that plotlines finally started to seem memorable (e.g. Stoker, I’m So Excited and Spring Breakers). Summer, of course, offered us the requisite blockbusters like Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel. But it wasn’t until the end of the year that some of the best movies of the year came out (with its fair share of some of the worst ones).
Spring Breakers: No other film has so boldly gone in the dark, twisted territory of Spring Breakers and managed to make it all seem mainstream. James Franco’s portrayal of Alien (based on rapper Riff Raff) is also one of the most inspired of 2013.
Drinking Buddies: Subtle, nuanced and unexpected, Drinking Buddies takes a new approach to exploring the “friend” relationship between men and women. It’s also the best movie Olivia Wilde has ever been in.
Short Term 12: Although the plot of Short Term 12 is somewhat slow-paced, it is the performance from Brie Larson that makes the film seem fresh and innovative. Themes of repression are expressed with glaring clarity in Cretton’s script as he unravels the reasoning for his main character’s emotional wall.
I’m So Excited: Pedro Almodóvar’s penchant for farce shines through in this unlikely airplane comedy that spares no expense on delightfully offending. It proves, once again, that the auteur has just as much of a gift for the comedic as the dramatic.
Blue Jasmine: And, speaking of auteurs, Woody Allen also showcased his continued writing and directorial skill with the highly cerebral Blue Jasmine. The writing, paired with Cate Blanchett’s incredible performance, makes this film by far one of Allen’s (and the year’s) best.
It’s A Disaster: One of the simplest films of the year in terms of structure and storyline, It’s A Disaster highlights the notion that no one is ever who you think they are, and their true personality will invariably shine through at the worst possible moment.
Only God Forgives: Although the presence of this film on the “Best” side of the list may polarize some people, the second collaboration between Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling is a beautiful one. And then there’s Kristin Scott Thomas to consider.
American Hustle: David O. Russell has outdone himself with American Hustle, which might actually be better than Silver Linings Playbook for the costuming alone. Also Jennifer Lawrence cleaning and singing manically to “Live and Let Die” is one of the most memorable scenes of 2013.
Stoker: Park Chan-wook may be forever held to the standard of Oldboy, but the controlled nature of Stoker leaves you on edge for the entirety of the film, making this one of the most elegant and uncomfortable movies of 2013.
Inside Llewyn Davis: It will make you cry. It won’t make you laugh. But for anyone who has ever known the endless battle of trying to be an artist, it is the most accurate film ever made.
Side Effects: As Steven Soderbergh’s alleged final film, Side Effects holds a special place in 2013 releases. Plus, you get to see Rooney Mara stab Channing Tatum.
Nebraska: There’s no better person to show us the simple dreams of Midwestern folk than Alexander Payne, whose penchant for making lengthy films never seems to bother me.
Dallas Buyers Club: Matthew McConaughey got thin, Jared Leto dressed in drag. What more could you possibly want from a film apart from the frequent playing of T. Rex (which is also a staple of Dallas Buyers Club)?
So, with the best behind us, let’s take a look at the worst.
The Fifth Estate: The only one who cares about Julian Assange is Julian Assange. And this much is apparent in the slow-moving biopic about the founder of Wikileaks.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone: Sometimes, getting together a group of comedians for a movie is the worst possible idea for both critical and commercial success.
Disconnect: The only thing more unenjoyable than movies that try too hard to be comical are movies that try too hard to be intellectual.While it has its thematic moments of importance, Disconnect is largely a faux astute movie.
Now You See Me: Although this was one of the highest grossing films of the year, Now You See Me served as eye candy more than anything else. So naturally, there’s going to be a sequel.
The Internship: Theoretically, another movie pairing Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson would seem foolproof, but The Internship is primarily a Google promotion with a thin story masking it. Wedding Crashers 2 would have been preferable.
The Canyons: A collaboration between Lindsay Lohan and Bret Easton Ellis is all I could have dreamed of, but the result was what amounted to a soft core porn shot on an iPhone.
The To Do List: The To Do List was supposed to be the answer to the female sex comedy genre, but ultimately ended up proving that said genre should still be entrusted to Judd Apatow.
We’re The Millers: Jennifer Aniston continues to make bad movies on the side while selling water and moisturizer as her main occupation.
Jobs: Ashton Kutcher had one chance to show that he could handle a biopic. But maybe they should have just left the role of computer geek to Jesse Eisenberg again.
Thanks for Sharing: Pink and Gwyneth Paltrow in a movie together is bad enough. But Mark Ruffalo as a sex addict is also pretty rank.
Carrie: Don’t fuck with perfection. Sissy Spacek forever.
While there may have been some terrible movies released in 2013, it was overall an impressive year for cinema, and one that makes 2014 have a lot to live up to.