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A reluctant list of 2013's top 10 films

January 05, 2014|By Andy Klein
  • Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson, left), Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson, center), Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, right), in "The Hunger Games."
Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson, left), Peeta Mellark… (Courtesy of Lionsgate )

It's customary for us ink-stained (and now, of course, pixel-stained) wretches to look back on the year's films and pluck out 10 titles that we ordain collectively as top 10 lists.

This process was fun the first 20 or so times I did it, but there is so much wrong with it that the last drop of pleasure has evaporated during the last decade.

The phrase "top 10" suggests that films with vastly different aesthetics can be meaningfully judged against each other. In 1980, both "Ordinary People" and "Airplane!" were released. I'm not alone in thinking that, while "Ordinary People" has its virtues, "Airplane!" has held up longer, been more influential, and was more compelling, even at the time. So "Ordinary People" wins the Oscar and "Airplane!" doesn't even get nominated.

No one — presumably including the latter's writer/directors — was particularly surprised. The point is not that "Airplane!" is a better film — though, between you and me, it is — but that such comparisons are absurd in the first place.

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Last year, for the first time, I decided it wasn't worth it; no top 10 for me, no sirree. Way too many films released, way too many arriving simultaneously at the end of the year. According to my top-flight panel of medical caretakers, the prospect had triggered a spell of what the Europeans call das ennui de cinematico — Film Fatigue.

I used to release my list as late as possible, in order to catch a few more contenders I had missed. Nonetheless by then my list was just one more addition to a great critical heap. A kind of consensus had solidified; one more twig on the fire would not add any extra light.

So, this year, an experiment: I chose my favorite 15 or so titles. Then I clicked over to Movie City News to see its annual number-crunching of scores of other critics' lists. I crossed out anything on my list that was already in the distilled critics' top 10, which comprised "12 Years a Slave," "Gravity," "Inside Llewyn Davis," "Her," "Before Midnight," "American Hustle," "Nebraska," "The Wolf of Wall Street," "Blue Is the Warmest Color" and "Frances Ha."

Several of those would have made my list, and some of the others on my list were just a few places lower on the MCN chart. But most of mine had drowned in the flood of releases and were seen by relatively few; in some cases, by practically no one.

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