Film Favorites 2013

There’s no way any critic can see every film that’s been released in a year. Anyone who pretends they can is a pretentious liar. Most lists like these are pretentious, if they’re given without contingencies and context. So based on what I’ve seen of films with a 2013 release date, here’s what moved me. I’m a contrarian so I’m bound to include films that others are prone to under-estimate or ignore, and that includes a lot of interesting films that could be categorized loosely as “gay-themed.”

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The practice of most film criticism is so often heterosexist but it’s also bound up so tightly with marketing, either from the studios, from the festivals or from that circle of mighty self-regard called film reviewers, that it’s difficult to find unique critical voices that give you even a hint of where they’re coming from. Just look at the year-end lists of most critics and you’ll see a consensus, despite their declared independence or affinities for art films or what-have-you. They’re all mainstream, more or less.

And in general, I’m not impressed by Hollywood, by big budgets, big stars, high concepts, advanced technologies, green screens, super-heroes, heroes in general nor scene-chewing performances.

I’ve written at least a little bit about all these moves here on Letterboxd.

This is not an exhaustive list and it’s missing a few categories. Films and people are listed in no particular order, except for the first six films.

Favorite films

  • The Grandmaster
  • Snowpiercer
  • Locke
  • Interior. Leather Bar.
  • Behind the Candelabra
  • Blue is the Warmest Color
  • Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?
  • Ida
  • Under the Skin
  • Gloria
  • Let the Fire Burn
  • The Philosophers aka After the Dark
  • Hawaii
  • Museum Hours
  • Blue Caprice
  • Betoniyö
  • The Lifeguard
  • This Is The End
  • Omar
  • Lords of Salem
  • Last Summer
  • My Brother the Devil

Worst films

  • Prisoners
  • Her
  • Ender’s Game
  • The Wolverine
  • Last Days on Mars
  • Bridegroom
  • Stranger By the Lake
  • The Canyons
  • The Desolation of Smaug

Pleasurable Discoveries

  • Betoniyö directed by Pirjo Honkasalo
  • Animals directed by Oriol Pla
  • The Philosophers directed by John Huddles


  • Marion Cotillard in The Immigrant
  • Johannes Brotherus in Betoniyö
  • Adèle Exarchopoulos in Blue is the Warmest Color
  • James Floyd in My Brother the Devil
  • Kristen Bell in The Lifeguard
  • Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station
  • Paulina García in Gloria
  • Amy Adams in The Hustle
  • Tye Sheridan in Joe
  • Tom Hardy in Locke


  • David Lowery and Shane Carruth for Upstream Color
  • Douglas Crise for Spring Breakers
  • Nels Bangerter for Let the Fire Burn
  • Brian A. Kates for Kill Your Darlings
  • Mark Thiedeman for Last Summer


  • Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski for Ida
  • Philippe Le Sourd for The Grandmaster
  • Peter Flinckenberg for Betoniyö
  • Tomás Pérez Silva for Hawaii
  • Darius Khondji for The Immigrant
  • Brian O’Carroll for Blue Caprice
  • David Eggby for Riddick
  • Matthias Grunsky for Computer Chess
  • Sean O’Dea for Scenic Route
  • Benoît Debie for Spring Breakers
  • Steven Soderbergh for Behind the Candelabra
  • Haris Zambarloukos for Locke
  • David Goodman for Last Summer


  • Pawel Pawlikowski for Ida
  • Abdellatif Kechiche for Blue is the Warmest Color
  • John Huddles for The Philosophers
  • Steven Soderbergh for Behind the Candelabra
  • Nanouk Leopold for It’s All So Quiet
  • Pirjo Honkasalo for Betoniyö
  • Liz W. Garcia for The Lifeguard
  • Jem Cohen for Museum Hours


still thinking about this one

  • Rebecca Lenkiewicz and Pawel Pawlikowski for Ida
  • Richard LaGravenese for Behind the Candelabra

Music & Score

  • Mica Levi for Under the Skin
  • Marvin Hamlisch for Behind the Candelabra
  • Pär Frid and Karl Frid for Betoniyö
  • Danny Elfman for The Unknown Known

Unfairly maligned

  • After Earth


  • The Philosophers
  • Lords of Salem

Over-hyped by critics

  • Gravity
  • Her
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • Stranger by the Lake


Finally, the French TV series, Les Revenants, was at least as good as any of my favorite movies and far more cinematic than most of what I saw last year. I hadn’t been that enraptured by a television show since Battlestar Galactica. The Stateside remake called The Returned, however, is awful.

Written with StackEdit.

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