Friday, January 3, 2014

My Favorite Films of 2013

But first, a quick review of the numbers.

·      I saw 266 films in theaters (including festivals)
·      72 of them were documentaries
·      53 of them were repertory screenings
·      52 of them were at the IFC Center (aka the best place on earth)

A few worth mentioning, honorably, that didn’t quite clear the top ten:

12 Years a Slave
Kill Your Darlings
Remote Area Medical
In a World….
Valentine Road (aka bawlfest 2013)
This Is Martin Bonner
Blue is the Warmest Color
Before Midnight

Best rep screenings - films I saw for the first time this year and loved:

Paths of Glory
Portrait of Jason
A Woman Under the Influence

Now, let’s zero in on only the best documentaries

JUST KIDDING No we will not do that! Documentaries are movies, same as the rest, and they don’t get their own list.  They are well represented in my top ten.  Sorry.

Before the list, though, one film does deserve some super special recognition:

Fair is fair. I realized I couldn't put Rewind This! on my top ten since while I do think it is a delightful informative and entertaining documentary, I should endeavor to only list films that weren't directed by my fiance and shot/edited/produced by my dear friends. 

But holy crap, will you love it! Check out my top 15 reasons you should download Rewind This! and after that, well, download Rewind This! Or buy the DVD from Amazon. Or if you like to collect things, buy the limited edition VHS (seriously!) from Amazon

And my top ten, in order:

10. All the Light in the Sky

Had never heard of this movie until we got sold out of another movie (that I ended up not caring for when we went back and caught it).   Kismet!  This Swanberg-directed slice-of-life drama reminds you that Jane Adams is and always has been awesome.   Here she is an L.A. actress of a certain age, just living life, really.  Don’t look too hard for clichés though, because this movie is surprisingly without.    

9. Her

It feels weird to put such a universally-lauded film on my top ten list, especially when I saw it in theaters as part of the general release. Like there’s something un-special about saying “hey, I also loved this, too.” But, it’s great. I knew it would be great, and it did not disappoint in any way.   My favorite parts were the colors, the performances, and the pants.

8. After Tiller

Far more than an “important” film (although that, too).  Compelling and emotional story-telling.  Brave and reverent approach to a difficult topic. I’d love to show this movie to my mom.

7. Museum Hours

This is unlike any movie I have ever seen.  It has a rhythm to it that totally hypnotized me, for reasons I don’t even really understand.  I do think it works best as an immersive experience.  Watch this in the dark on as big of a screen as you can, even though you’d be used to getting that advice for a film like Gravity.   Trust me – just let this one wash over you. 

6. The Spectacular Now

All I can tell you is I loved it.   I don’t even really remember why, but I think it has a lot of heart.  Which is a good thing, in this case.

5. Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story

This one’s an explosively creative, funny and fascinating profile of Tomi Ungerer whom I knew nothing about but is now a favorite.  There’s little I can say about this criminally under-seen film that I didn’t say in this “review” I wrote where I believe Iactually purport the filmmakers are “doing God’s work.”

4. Short Term 12

Staggeringly performed, gorgeously directed, challenging piece that deserves all the awards and all the money.

3. Frances Ha

Utterly delightful.  Noah Baumbach’s best.    A role tailor-made for Greta Gerwig’s particular brand of awkward-charming.  Particularly enjoyable as a New Yorker who fondly recalls her own broke years.

2. Twenty Feet from Stardom

You, your friends, and definitely your mom will love this expertly crafted, moving story of the background singers that played a big part of making the music we all know and love. I could watch this movie once a week and not grow tired of it.  I texted a friend of mine as I was standing amongst the crowd following the Sundance premiere as all 1200 people in the audience roared with applause: ‘This is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen.” And almost a year later, I stand by that.  

1. The Act of Killing

I saw this one in 2012 at TIFF actually, but it has haunted me since then and will for a long time to come.   I do think it has fundamentally changed the documentary film world and it absolutely has impacted the way I think of filmmaking but it also has oddly shaped how I think about people in general.  There’s a scene  or two of this movie that I’ve replayed in my mind many  times since seeing The Act of Killing again this year.   I continue to wonder at how moving, shocking, and actually quite funny this movie is. Can’t wait to see the director’s cut.

BONUS LIST!  Films that I suspect will make my best of 2014 list because I saw them last year but they haven't been released yet


You’ve never seen anything like this and you never will again, you freak, you.

Finding Vivian Maier

I wanted to stand up while I was watching this and make eye contact with every person in the theater, with a knowing, “oh my god are we really watching this!!” twinkle.  I didn’t, but I will personally glance at each one of you when I see you next,  wide-eyed and persuasively encouraging you to check out this rich and satisfying portrait of a mysterious artist. 

We Are the Best!

Remember Lucas Moodyson’s Show Me Love and Together? Didn’t you love those? Yeah he made this one too, and it has the same sweetness, mixed with punk! rock!  You must not, I mean NOT, miss this sweet, funny, and original Swedish film whenever you can get your hands on it.

Jodorowsky’s Dune

A rallying cry for the artistic and independent spirit. 

Mistaken for Strangers

This is one of those films you think is going to be something and then it turns out to be another thing that’s way awesomer than you thought. I would go into this one knowing as little as possible about it. 

My Least Favorite Films of the Year

Nice try. Dor don’t play that way.  Come over and have a drink with me and I might spill,  but I don’t like to be a downer on the Internet.


  1. Nice. Great to see Frances Ha on the list. I also really liked In a World..., so it's cool to see that in the second group. Still need to see The Act of Killing, though I'm bracing myself for it.

    1. Dan - it is disturbing at times, but never so much so that it isn't routinely well worth it. You'll have to let me know what you thought when you saw it!

  2. Great post, Dor (I'm especially happy to see SHORT TERM 12 in there), and from one obsessive moviegoer to another, I tip my cap to you! Wonder how many times we were at IFC at the same time and didn't know it....

    1. I'm sure it has happened! Here's a list of all the IFC screenings I went to.

      01/10/13 The King of Comedy
      01/12/13 High Tech, Low Life
      01/15/13 First Cousin Once Removed
      02/02/13 Academy Award Nominated Animated Shorts
      02/10/13 Academy Award Nominated Live Action Shorts
      02/13/13 Waiting for Guffman
      02/17/13 Academy Award Nominated Shorts Doc A
      02/17/13 The Searchers
      02/19/13 A Man Vanishes
      02/21/13 Faces
      03/01/13 Granny's Funeral
      03/01/13 The Nun
      03/03/13 Therese Desqueyroux
      03/03/13 In the House
      03/06/13 The Atomic Age
      03/19/13 In The Mood for Love
      03/22/13 Paths of Glory
      03/23/13 Clockwork Orange
      03/23/13 Frenzy
      03/24/13 Lolita
      03/25/13 Afterschool
      03/25/13 Fear & Desire
      04/06/13 Upstream Color
      04/13/13 Play Misty For Me
      04/14/13 Gimme the Loot
      04/14/13 Leviathan
      04/17/13 Broadcast News
      04/19/13 Portrait of Jason
      04/25/13 Naked
      05/06/13 Ms. 45
      05/07/13 The Happiness of the Katakuris
      05/09/13 Leave Her to Heaven
      05/28/13 A Miracle in Milan
      05/28/13 Miracle in Milan
      06/10/13 The Wall
      06/11/13 Frances Ha
      06/15/13 Dirty Wars
      06/15/13 Silent Movie
      06/18/13 The Act of Killing
      06/18/13 Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer
      08/04/13 Drug War
      08/08/13 The Canyons
      08/17/13 The Swarm
      08/18/13 Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride
      10/06/13 Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean Jimmy Dean
      10/14/13 Design Is One: The Vignellis
      11/15/13 Sole Survivor
      11/15/13 The Manor
      11/16/13 We Always Lie to Strangers
      11/17/13 How To Lose Your Virginity
      11/23/13 Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?
      12/08/13 They Live

    2. Looks like we were both at the THERESE DESQUEYROUX screening on 3/3 (ahhh, Audrey). And we may have been in the building at the same time on 3/22 (I saw GIMME THE LOOT and FROM UP ON POPPY HILL), 3/23 (THE SHINING), 4/19 (UPSTREAM COLOR) and 5/6 (THE SOURCE FAMILY). Heh.

  3. I some how feel honored that you got to ask me if we really saw Vivian Maier, yes, yes we did, we were sitting next to each other.

    I love the Gods work comment regarding the Tomi Ungerer film

    about R100- are you a fan of director Matsumoto Hitoshi's other films?