Where A.O. Scott squeezed 15 films in his Top 10, his co-chief critic Manohla Dargis goes him one better, offering an alphabetical list of the year’s 16 best, plus 23 more on her honor roll. But instead of elaborating on her generous list — or, for that matter, explaining why it includes Steven Soderbergh’s HBO biopic Behind the Candelabra and the documentary Manakamana, whose theatrical release isn’t scheduled until 2014 — she spends most of her essay railing against the year’s box-office champs, none of which, unsurprisingly, make her list. (Rush and Captain Phillips are as close as she gets to popular successes.)
By the time the Toronto and New York festivals (Captain Phillips) kicked off in September, it seemed as if 2013 were on its way to becoming one of the best years in ages. That’s how it appears in the hothouse of a film festival, which can convince cinephiles that movies over all are better, more ambitious and adventurous than they are. Look closer, though, and you soon discover that this year was more or less like last year, and the top grossers at boxofficemojo.com — the movies that most Americans see in theaters — were dominated by sequels, franchises and reboots, from Iron Man 3 (the highest grosser, which vacuumed up more than a billion dollars worldwide) to The Wolverine (domestically No. 20).
I’m not entirely sure how shifting the focus to the year’s most-seen films represents “a closer look” — it seems more like taking a few steps back — nor that a year should be principally defined by its biggest grossers. (Scroll back a decade or two and see how many of the box-office champs have endured). But at least her list focuses on the films worth remembering.
Manohla Dargis’ Best Films of 2013
Behind the Candelabra
The Great Beauty
Inside Llewyn Davis
A Touch of Sin
12 Years a Slave