It is the end of the year, and I still haven’t seen (“I” meaning Kelly — contributors Carmen Petaccio and Jenny Nelson are also back to put in each of their two cents, but for now it is Kelly) (hiiieeee!) many of the movies that, had I seen them, I would probably have chosen as some of my favorites of the year. (And yet I did see the second Thor movie and The Fifth Estate.) (Very funny, the ways we spend the very limited time we have before our bodies return to the dirt.) Last year there weren’t a whole lot of good movies, and this year there are too many. Will Hollywood ever get it right? Will filmmakers spread the 2013 wealth back to 2012 if they get the chance (time machine)? Will I ever see 12 Years A Slave and Blue Is The Warmest Color? Is Her as good as everyone is saying it is? I don’t know! Let’s get to the list!

Before Midnight

The final installment of Richard Linklater’s trilogy follows Celine and Jesse, now a family with two young girls (and another young boy back in the states), on vacation in Greece. Although it contained more scenes that seemed mostly unnecessary and out of place (the overwrought dinner table scene, for example) than the previous Before movies, the addition of real conflict — something real and opposing to fight for in each of the character’s minds, outside of their own relationship — and Linklater’s ability to sympathize with both Celine and Jesse’s points of view, made this our favorite of the three. It’s great. Especially if you like to watch white people talk to each other!

Upstream Color

“Like The Master last year, Upstream Color was every film critic’s favorite movie to review by not reviewing it. ‘I have no idea what it’s about,’ wrote the film critics, ‘the end.’ This brand of scared-to-raise-your-hand-in-class pussyfooting is a disservice to audiences and very great movies like this one. Here’s one take: Upstream Color is about how trauma robs a person of identity, and how love can help them reclaim that identity, or even forge a new one. That’s just one take! What’s awesome about this movie is the amount of takes you can have. Is it sometimes obtuse? Yes. Confounding? Duh. Concerned with piglet disassociation avatars? Certainly. But it’s all part of a kooky, gorgeous wonder unlike anything else on Netflix. What’s your take?!” -Carmen


Bruce Dern is so incredibly good in Nebraska, which follows his and Will Forte’s journey to Nebraska to debunk what Dern believes to be a million-dollar winning piece of junk mail. He is heartbreaking in a way that always deserves to break your heart — it never feels cheap and doesn’t take shortcuts. Will Forte, Bob Odenkirk, and June Squibb are all wonderful — especially Squibb — but this is very much Bruce Dern’s movie, and my goodness did Bruce Dern do a good movie.

Fruitvale Station

See this.

American Hustle

“In five or ten years, American Hustle will be playing on USA or TNT on a Sunday afternoon, and you will find yourself watching the entire thing, with commercials, not one bit upset. It has the messy mania of the infinitely re-watchable. Which isn’t to say it’s anything less than super wonderful in the present! Because it is! From the soundtrack to Bradley Cooper’s hair curlers, from the A+ script to Louis C.K., it’s a production ‘par excellence.’ See also: fat Christian Bale in the dry cleaning racks! J. Law dancing to ‘Live and Let Die’! The piecemeal ice fishing story! AND Jeremy Renner’s hair! In fact, everyone’s hair! Too much to exclamation point adequately. ‘Hustle’ to the nearest theater while you can!” -Carmen

Short Term 12

Brie Larson is recognizable from a lot of things — United States of Tara, The League, 21 Jump Street, the time when she was on Community — but seeing her in Short Term 12, which follows her as a supervisor in a foster care facility, makes you feel like you’ve never seen her before. That sounds like a junk quote that you’d see in the trailer for Short Term 12, but it’s true! (A more obvious way to describe it would be to say that her role in Short Term 12 is a “break-out role.”) She is powerful, heartbreaking, heartwarming, and always fully present. Keith Stanfield is also so, so good. Man. If you haven’t seen this movie, you should see this movie!

Frances Ha

“(Please note that views expressed in the introductory clause of the following sentence in no way represent the views or opinions of Videogum.) As an individual who argued that Greenberg is a better than Citizen Kane, I was pleasantly shocked to find that Frances Ha is just as good of a movie. (“As good as Greenberg? Impossible!”-You) It’s true, and it’s all thanks to Greta Gerwig, who stars as the titular character and, more importantly, co-wrote the script with Noah Baumbach, and the result is an affecting, delightful character study of a human being in New York City as well as New York City itself. Best line: ‘He’s the kind of guy who says, “I gotta take a leak.”‘ Perfect.” -Carmen

The Place Beyond the Pines
“This movie was very sad, even before Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes went on a break — now it’s even sadder! Ryan Gosling is a sad bank robber/motorcycle owner, Eva Mendes is the sad mother of his child, Bradley Cooper is a sad police officer, and their children grow up to be sad teens. The words ‘tragedy’ and ‘epic’ can be misapplied to a lot of modern stories but both fit this movie, because of its duration and how many devastating plot points happen across multiple generations. This movie was extremely upsetting. But also, it was good!” -Jenny


“One of the worst aspects — if not the WORST aspect — of existing as a cog in the late capitalist machine is that every freaking new movie is three hours long. You can’t just ‘see a movie,’ you have to have an ‘experience.’ So a black hole opens up, sucks in your day, energy, and, ultimately, your enjoyment of the movie itself. Prisoners is the exception. For its nearly three-hour run time, you feel like the fringes of your clothes have been nail-gunned to the seat. It’s Lifetime movie child-kidnapping setup is offset by uniformly great performances (Paul Dano! Gyllenhaal with a neck tatt!) and an atmosphere of dread that closes slowly around the throat. One of the best black holes to be sucked into this year!” -Carmen

The Act Of Killing

In The Act of Killing, director Joshua Oppenheimer asks Indonesian mass murderers to write, direct, and re-enact their horrific crimes as if they were in a film, and they do so with — at first — glee. Literally just explaining the documentary is, we think, enough of a “review.” It is absolutely mind-blowing.

Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis may be the Coen Brothers’ bleakest movie; it’s also one of their best. It’s a cosmic joke two hours in the telling that comes at the very earned expense of its protagonist. Llewyn is an irascible grump whose irascibility and grumpiness are borne of loss, repression, artistic frustration, are thus v. human. It’s easy for a movie to give you feelings when bad things happen to good characters; it’s worlds harder to feelings-give when bad things happen to bad characters. This movie does that. It makes you empathize with those luckless stepping stones, most now sunk, that paved the way for genius: the Nicholson Bakers that got DFW’d, the Jobs’d mp3 developers, the Llewyn Davises who suffered so other artists could help us not to.” -Carmen

12 Years a Slave


Blue Is The Warmest Color

(Image via Shutterstock.)

Comments (25)
  1. I didn’t see ANY of these! :-(

    But I did go see Wolf of Wall Street over the Xmas weekend, and it was good and bonkers and very long!

  2. I just saw Her on Friday and it was very good! I expected it to be a lot quirkier than it was because of the premise, but it somehow really weirdly makes it seem like the computer character is real when she and Joaquin are having conversations? I don’t know, I liked it! More than I expected to, too.

    I was trying to put together a ranked list but this year it was hard because 12 Years a Slave is obviously a very good movie and also an important movie I think and it features my husband proving that he is the best at acting but you can’t exactly call it enjoyable. But it seems almost insulting to rank it below anything else, especially a White People Problems movie like Frances Ha (which I loved). But then I will watch Frances Ha again a lot of times and will maybe get through 12 Years a Slave one more time. This is why I don’t review movies!

    Also I failed to see many of the movies I intended to see. Namely Blue is the Warmest Color which I am sure I will like but oh my god it is so long! Every time I thought about going to see it I remembered how long it was and was like “Nope.” I’ll catch it on Netflix eventually I’m sure.

    • Also some movies I liked a lot that weren’t on this list: Philomena (which was a bit predictable but nice), The Way, Way Back (also a bit predictable but SAM ROCKWELL and also some very good Allison Janney) and Austenland (which was ridic but surprisingly delightful).

  3. Any nominees for worst movie of the year? My least favorite that I saw was Trance.

  4. The World’s End. That’s all, guys.

  5. I thought that I would not have seen any of these but I did see Frances Ha. Yea! Also, I’m going to see American Hustle tonight so that’s two! What a great day I’m having.

    Next week I will have time to catch a movie during the day and I’m trying to decide if I should see Dallas Buyers Club or Nebraska. Decisions, decisions.

  6. I’ve seen The Great Beauty twice in the theater in the past week. It’s so big and gorgeous and both times -both times!- grumpy old people have walked out saying they didn’t understand it (which is weird because it’s not that deep, but sure, ok, fun). At the end of the day, it’s just another slightly snooty movie about white people feeling empty, but it is a spectacular one. If you want to feel mostly happy for a few hours while looking at pretty, complicated pictures (this is why I go to the movies, I don’t know about you), that movie will do it.

    • I just looked up The Great Beauty on IMDB since I had never heard of it. The director also directed the movie where Sean Penn is dressed up like Robert Smith from the Cure. I remember seeing so many pictures of him in costume here on Videogum, but apparently the Sean Penn movie was released two years ago.

  7. I want to watch Upstream Colors because I really liked Primer, but Primer also made my head hurt, and I’ve heard that Upstream Colors is even more head-hurty. I just cannot bring myself to do it.

    Plus, the type of reviews Gabe mentioned in this article are SUPER annoying, because saying you like a movie despite not understanding it feels very much like an Emperors New Clothes scenario, where they like it because they’re too afraid NOT to like it. That having been said, Southland Tales is one of my favorite movies, despite not understanding anything about it.

  8. Nebraska was all right, but with Bruce Dern, Will Forte, and Bob Odenkirk, shouldn’t it have been funny?

  9. At least this poll makes sense. Looking at this list I realized how spot on it was for most of the people who are into movies in contrast to how completely off base Stereogum’s Top Albums rundown is. Every music poll has listed the same artists in their top ten. Just like reality show competitions it seems like someone’s management is paying for their roster to be shoved down the throats of every consumer.

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