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Frances Ha Frances Ha
Photo: IFC Films

The Best of 2013

This collection deserves a little explanation. Many of the typical Top Ten fall releases are absent from this list. Much like last year, the fall turned into a smorgasbord of intense personal responsibilities and a breakneck pace on the professional side, plus there was a rigorous program of chiropractic care to muck up the schedule and - to make things really interesting - another fall break international vacation, this time involving Russia in December.

So that's why movies like Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Inside Llewyn Davis and American Hustle aren't on my list. I simply didn't have the time to see them - and several others - in order to judge for myself. Gravity is a bit of an exception. I didn't see that one because Denver didn't get a proper IMAX 3D release. Those IMAX-lite screens don't count.

That said, being left to forage among releases from earlier in the year has unearthed some gems, including a couple that were downright derided or dismissed upon their release. They're on my list for one reason: I really liked them. And I firmly believe the power of independent thought brings value to the marketplace of movie criticism and discussion.

So here's the list, presented in alphabetical order rather than a hard core ranking of 1 to 10.

  • The Company You Keep - An incredible cast in an excellent fictional story about journalism, research and fairly recent American history.
  • The Fifth Estate - I admit I would not be the first person to queue up to pay to see a movie about Julian Assange, but this one is, in my book, the most underrated movie of the year. Another great cast in another movie about that passion of mine, journalism.
  • 42 - No, it's not the Mariano Rivera story, but it is a terrific, well-paced look at the pioneering efforts of Jackie Robinson and it features Harrison Ford's best performance in years.
  • Frances Ha - A little black-and-white movie that feels a lot like Woody Allen meets Napoleon Dynamite.
  • Iron Man 3 - A wild and crazy sequel that met with enormous commercial success.
  • Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie writes in 4K high definition and this cinematic take on the book that propelled Rushdie to international fame is worth a look. Bring some patience and an open mind to this story about India's fairly recent past.
  • Pacific Rim - The best Godzilla movie Godzilla never starred in was a terrific experience in IMAX.
  • Rush - This one raced in and out of theaters pretty quickly; it's a great true story about the benefits of having a strong rival set in the world of Formula 1 racing.
  • Warm Bodies - A Shakespeare and zombies mash-up that works well.
  • The World's End - Funny as heck right up to the bitter (or is that lager?) end. Sisters of Mercy rule!

Most Confounding Missed Opportunity

The Lone Ranger - There was a bounty of fallout from this one's commercial failure, including Jerry Bruckheimer moving shop from Disney to Paramount. A delay in the production of the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, reportedly to polish the screenplay, may or may not be directly related. If the entire movie was like the final half hour, this could've been the ultimate Lone Ranger. Instead, there were many, many artistic choices made that resulted in the kind of Lone Ranger movie a lot of people had a hard time accepting. Nonetheless, those artistic choices made this take on the classic Western hero an interesting movie to think about.

Writers Who Need to Take a Break

Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman - Their strong suit is in the derivative, but in retrospect Star Trek Into Darkness was derivative to an exponential power.

Tiresome Trends

Everything's a franchise opportunity while one attempt after another failed to ignite the box office (Ender's Game, Beautiful Creatures, The Mortal Instruments to name a few). And Disney and Sony now promise spin-offs on top of spin-offs with Marvel and Star Wars properties.

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