Best of 2013


Christian Bale, Sanda Bullock, Joaquin Phoenix, Oscar Isaac, Tom Hanks, Robert Redford, Michael Fassbender, and Meryl Steep, because she’s Meryl Streep, have all had heaps of praise thrown their way this year by both fans and critics. They’ll continue to see even more acclaim in 2014 and beyond, but with all those fantastic movie star performances, not all of 2013’s best have gotten the attention they deserve. That happens most every year, of course. Only so many performances can be nominated for statuettes. After all, even after listing these 13, another 13 could have easily followed (it was a good year). In that spirit, hopefully you’ll share your picks in the comments section, but for now, here are 13 performances from 2013 not to forget when someone else is being played off stage for making their acceptance speech too long.



Back in November, Alfonso Cuaron was asked by Esquire about “unique experiences” in cinema. They’d framed the conversation as TV vs. Film, and Cuaron remarked that TV rarely produces brain-searing moments. Scenarios? Characters? Sure. But if you’re looking for a better batting average on memorable moments, cinema is holding the big stick. At least, as Cuaron amends, cinema outside the mainstream. For a filmmaker who’s delivered gargantuan imagery and scenic epinephrine, his go-to for a unique film experience this year is telling. “It depends on what you call a unique experience. I just saw the Woody Allen film [Blue Jasmine], and I thought it was just amazing. It’s not that it’s going to give you a roller coaster of a ride. It’s just an amazing film. But definitely there are directors, even in the mainstream cinema, in Hollywood, people like [David] Fincher and Wes Anderson and David O. Russell and Guillermo del Toro, who are doing really exciting mainstream cinema.” Gravity might be the polar opposite of Blue Jasmine. One is unrelenting high concept with a sprinkle of backstory, the other is a piercing dramedy with rounded characters. On the other hand, they both feature towering performances from focus-monopolizing actresses playing struggling women. They’ll also collide in some way on the road to Oscar, creating a convenient story of thematic similarities and structural antitheses to consider when we think about what movies we hold above others at the end of a calendar year.



The 13 movies below range from the very good to the great (while the 6.5 that follow are just mostly bad), but the one thing they all share is that they each failed to find an audience during their theatrical run for one reason or another. At least one of those reasons is you of course, but instead of berating you for failing to support the films while they were in theaters and needed your help, we’re hoping to point you in their direction now to atone for your sins. But first, a few qualifications. I’ve excluded movies that played in fewer than 75 theaters since that’s the distributor’s fault, I’m not featuring films that made over $30m, and I’m not including subtitled foreign releases which the masses avoid in general. These are only films that could have had a real chance of making a lot more money than they did, so while I wish more people saw the Jared Leto-led Mr. Nobody, I’m not surprised that it only made $3,600. Finally, I’m also sharing the wealth a bit by skipping movies that will be making our Best Films of the Year list next week. So here are 13 great movies that failed to catch on at the box office but should be sought out immediately on Blu-ray/DVD, streaming, whatever… and 6.5 relatively terrible flicks that you were right to avoid.



According to the kind of people who are prone to make such pronouncements, the Golden Age of Television ended this year with the series finale of Breaking Bad. But with more quality television on the air today than is humanly possible to watch, I don’t see how that could possibly be true.  The one big observation about the TV landscape this year that I’d like to make is that there finally seems to be a preponderance of shows about women, a much-needed correction to the masculinity-obsessed, anti-hero shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad. I love and admire all of those shows, but I’m glad to see that the new opportunities for original programming that the proliferation of cable and now Netflix and Amazon offers has resulted in more stories about women. Without further ado, my picks for the 13 best shows of 2013:


Scene of 2013

Far more movies than any one person can watch get produced and released every year. That’s why film fans get so anal retentive and self-important when they’re trying to decide what they’re going to declare their favorite film of the year. When you take movies as seriously as people like us do, year-end ratings and rankings can get pretty stressful. So just imagine how much harder it is to try to narrow down every scene that gets shot for every movie each year to one, definitive, best scene of the year. It’s enough to produce a healthy layer of flop sweat. Last year it was an accordion interlude, but this year we’re naming two scenes as our Scene of the Year because of how closely they work in tandem with one another. They’re also about the furthest from last year’s winner as you can get. Without further ado, the FSR staff has chosen The Hanging Scene and The Whipping Scene from director Steve McQueen’s affecting historical drama 12 Years a Slave as the Scene(s) of 2013.



Trailer mashups are a beautiful diversion. On the surface they’re frivolous, but they also manage to re-contextualize the familiar and shine a blinding bulb on thematic similarities. You might get fired for watching them all day (come on, Mr. Danforth!), but there’s a deep power in connecting two seemingly incongruous films or accentuating the copycat nature of tentpoles. There’s a wacky romance to be found in Gravity, a steampunk spectacle in an animated world, adorable Pixar revenge and much more to be discovered. If you watch all of this year’s best, you’ll be overwhelmed with the patterns — not just in the plotting, but also in trailer construction. There’s a bit less Brrrrrwwaaaaaaam this time around, but the hero’s journey is still thriving alongside the explosions. You’ll also notice that pretty much no one makes trailers for Stories We Tell or 12 Years a Slave. Blockbusters are the key targets, and mixing them up with animation and nostalgia seems to be more popular than ever. Oh, and Wall-E. Trailer mashup artists love that damned thing. We like to have fun with trailers here at FSR. Even if we over-think them, hopefully you’ll find something to ponder with our favorites of 2013. Or maybe you’ll just laugh a lot before Mr. Danforth fires you. The guy is ruthless. I think his marriage is on the rocks or something. At any rate, and without further ado: Brrrrrwwaaaaaaam.


tom hanks cloud atlas

When it came time to pick our 2013 Performer of the Year it would have been easy enough to use last year’s entry as a template and simply give it to Matthew McConaughey again. His tremendous 2012 rolled seamlessly into an equally fantastic 2013 with a stand-out lead performance in Dallas Buyers Club, an equally impressive supporting role in Mud, and a scene-stealing turn in The Wolf of Wall Street. The acclaim is likely to continue through 2014 with Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and HBO’s True Detective series both ready to thrill fans and critics alike. But we’re not in the business of being easy, so we decided to go a bit more obscure with our pick. Our 2013 Performer of the Year is a five-time Academy Award nominee and two-time winner whose films have grossed over $8.5 billion worldwide, and his name is Tom Hanks. (I don’t actually know what “obscure” means.) Hanks had two films released this year, Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks, and after more than a decade out of Oscar’s limelight he’s back in a big way. Not only is he winning accolades for his performances, but he’s also seen his first live-action film to pass the $100 million mark at the box-office in over four years (eleven years if you ignore Dan Brown adaptations). The number one reason we’ve chosen him, though, is that regardless of awards or box office, Hanks’ performance in the final ten minutes of Captain Phillips is as good as acting gets […]


The Best Music Docs of 2013

While there exist notable documentaries about beloved musicians like Tom Petty, John Lennon and Philip Glass, most of the effort in nonfiction films about music strives to highlight the underrated and under-heard. With the critical and commercial success of Searching for Sugar Man, resurrecting under-appreciated musical personalities has proven to be lucrative, interesting and even (that most dreaded word in music) mainstream. Many music documentaries this year poised to reveal the Next Great Untold Story about music’s past and present. Sample This! illustrates how one song had an immeasurable influence on the development of hip-hop, while Artifact offers a lens into a music business crumbling apart in the 21st century. Good Ol’ Freda gives a microphone to the woman who connected The Beatles with their fans, while 20 Feet from Stardom places background singers front and center. Meanwhile, The Punk Singer and A Band Called Death show that punk has never been exclusively for angry white men. All in all, 2013 was a rich year for music documentaries. But never mind the bollocks. Here are five films that 2013 added to this ever-expanding subgenre, all of which deserve a place in the documentary (and musical) canon. READ MORE AT NONFICS


The Best 2013 Supercuts

What are the significant movie moments of 2013? Thanks to the Internet and its denizens, that is never a tough question for very long. Over the past few years, the rise of independent editors cutting together clip shows has grown into its own industry. Mash-ups, supercuts, megacuts, recuts, retellings, these are the evolved fan fiction of the Internet generation. Like magazine clippings spread across a vast bedroom floor, these moments can be assembled to humbly remind us of a great year of cinema. 2013 was that kind of year, worthy of sweeping soundtracks and the largest screens available. As part of our annual Year in Review, we’d like to share the best of the 2013 retrospective movie mash-ups. From faces familiar and new, each one of these clip shows capture the spirit of 2013 at the movies. Hundreds of hours went into their creation to give us a few minutes of recaptured joy. So sit back, relax and relish in the year that was with some of the web’s most talented mix-masters.


A Good Day to Die Hard

If you listen to the wrong kind of people (cultural pessimists, that is), every year is the worst year in cinema, at least since the last one. But as we learned last year, high highs tend to come with low lows. In a year that saw the release of such instant classics as 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, and many more, there were also scads of terrible contributions to the greater world of movie-going. High highs, people, and low lows. Let’s try to make next year a little better, or at least let’s aim to populate it with satires that actually try to be funny, sequels that aren’t a disgrace to their franchise history, and nothing even remotely resembling inAPPropriate Comedy 2. While there were certainly more than a mere thirteen bad movies that hit the big screen this year (and, yes, we’re more than eager to see your contributions in the comments), here are thirteen that stuck out to us in the most unforgettable of ways. We’ve come to bury them, and certainly not to praise them, so here are thirteen films that we’re giddily throwing in the grave.


The 2013 Year in Review

For those of you keeping meticulous notes in the year-to-year operations of this publication, you are correct, this year we are beginning our most beloved feature early. In past years we have kicked off our Year in Review the day after Christmas and bombarded our readers with list upon joyous list for the week leading up to January, when we’d end with our list of the most anticipated movies of the upcoming year. Our 2010 Year in Review, 2011 Year in Review and 2012 Year in Review each saw some of the most discussion-driving pieces we’ve ever written on this site. It’s my personal favorite time of year and I can’t wait to show you what we’ve got in store for 2013. This year we’re giving the celebration a little bit of room to breathe, as it’s grown to be something that is too big to be contained in one week at the very end of the year. So in 2013, we begin in the middle of December (today, in fact) and will run all the way up to the start of 2014.  Over the course of the next 20 days, our staff will give you, our beloved readers, almost 40 features that celebrate the wonderful year of movies that was 2013. Around 99% of these features will feature the word “best” in the title, as we love nothing more than to celebrate the great moments given to us by cinema this year. One article, which per tradition, kicks off […]

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published: 01.25.2015
published: 01.25.2015
published: 01.25.2015

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