By Steve Greene and Eric Kohn | Indiewire December 17, 2013 at 12:23PM
The saga of Solomon Northup is officially the critical favorite of the year. After winning numerous awards from critics groups over the past few weeks, "12 Years a Slave" won Indiewire's seventh annual year-end critics poll by a large margin.
Steve McQueen's period drama starring Chiwetel Ejiofor appeared on 50% of the participating critics' ballots — 140 in total — making it the #1 overall choice for the Best Film of 2013. It now holds the title previously held by such diverse films as "There Will Be Blood," "Summer Hours," "The Social Network" and "The Flight of the Red Balloon."
In all, 240 critics listed in our Criticwire Network took part in the voting, making it the largest survey in the seven-year history of the poll.
While the film that took last year's top prize, "Holy Motors," stood outside that season's award rumblings, McQueen's film has been one of the year's clear favorites among critics and awards pundits alike. In addition to the top prize in the Best Film category, "12 Years a Slave" placed #1 in a whopping four out of the other seven categories in which it was in contention. McQueen took top honors for Best Director, while Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong'o each led the tallies for Best Lead Performance and Best Supporting Performance. The work of the rest of the cast, including that of second Supporting Performance runner-up Michael Fassbender, yielded them the Best Ensemble distinction.
The Best First Feature prize went to Ryan Coogler's "Fruitvale Station," a placement that's been virtually predetermined since its acclaimed premiered at Sundance. In fact, with Lake Bell's "In a World..." and Alexandre Moors' "Blue Caprice," three of the films that debuted in Park City back in January ended up in the First Feature Top 5. Haifaa Al-Mansour's "Wadjda" and Rama Burshtein's "Fill the Void" were the highest-ranked debut narrative features from outside the US.
The largest margin of victory in any particular category was for Best Original Score or Soundtrack, where "Inside Llewyn Davis" had as many points as second, third and fourth place films combined.
Another decisive first place finish belongs to the efforts of Emmanuel Lubezki. "Gravity" unsurprisingly led the pack for Best Cinematography in addition to the runner-up finish for Alfonso Cuarón in the Best Director category. And although many of the raves for the film have centered around the groundbreaking visuals and technical elements, enough critics thought to put Sandra Bullock on their ballots for her to crack the top 10 of the Best Performances list.
With the top 50 selections for each category available for your immediate perusal, there are a number of films and achievements beyond the top finishers that still found a place on multiple ballots:
- Three films on the overall tally have yet to open theatrically, but will do so before the year is out: "Her," "The Wolf of Wall Street" and one of the Cannes 2013 standouts, Asghar Farhadi's "The Past."
- This year, two participants in our poll featured prominently in the results. New York critic-filmmaker Dan Sallitt's "The Unspeakable Act" managed a 39th place finish in Best Film while longtime Boston critic Gerald Peary's turn in Andrew Bujalski's "Computer Chess" placed him right between Kristin Scott Thomas and Steve Coogan on the Best Supporting Performance.
- And when looking through the bevy of responses, keep your eye out for a few Easter Eggs. (Here's a hint: a certain feline from a 2013 release appeared on not one, but eight different Best Supporting Performance ballots.)
You can find the full results to Indiewire's 2013 Year-End Critics Poll here.