The Best Films of 2013: One New Times Critic's Picks

Categories: Film and TV

Wilson Webb/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
I could write a Shakespearean sonnet about each film on my Top 10 of 2013, but we know we're all here for the agreements and arguments.

(Plus, have you tried writing about Joe Swanberg in iambic pentameter?)

Ladies and gentlemen, let's begin.

The Act of Killing -- The year's best film is a film within a documentary. Director Joshua Oppenheimer won the trust of an Indonesian gangster named Anwar who massacred over 1,000 people in the 1960s during the country's bloody attempted coup. Never prosecuted, he and his cronies are now local heroes who agree to reenact their slayings as a sprightly musical comedy. It's an arresting look at villains turned history textbook victors and an elderly murderer fighting off his fear that he's done a terrible thing.

Her -- The year's best romance is between a man and his phone, which shouldn't surprise anyone who's felt that sweet thrill of relief when a lost iPhone turns up safely in a pocket. And it shouldn't surprise fans of Spike Jonze and Joaquin Phoenix, both turning in work that's as good as ever, i.e. flawless. Her is so stylish that it almost risks people overlooking its bruising truths about love and loneliness. But, judging by the sniffles I've heard the three times I've seen it in theaters, they aren't. And, yes, Scarlett Johansson deserves a best actress nod for her voice work.

Nebraska -- Alexander Payne loves the Great Plains with the same affection a hunter has for his beloved, bed-wetting bloodhound. Will Forte and Bruce Dern's road trip across Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska is humble and harrowing, full of rich, quickly sketched, complicated characters that cityfolk call "local color," but the rest of us call aunts, uncles, and cousins. The stakes never get higher than a man's pride, and that's plenty.

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