Oscar nominations come out tomorrow, so I thought this was as good a time as any to release a preliminary ranking of last year's movies. There are a few I still hope to see in theaters (Inside Llewyn Davis please), and many more I missed and have yet to catch on home video (why do I have to wait until March for The Grandmaster?). In light of this, I will likely do another retrospective when the Oscars are over, but for now here is my ranked list of all the movies I watched from 2013. Some of them are very close (I feel almost the same amount of love for American Hustle and Side Effects) and some of them have gaps I didn't know quite how to visualize (between Europa Report and Now You See Me my feelings jump from disappointment to frustration), but for the most part I tried to break up the list into sensible chunks. So without further ado:
Directed by Steve McQueen
A movie I expect will remain a touchstone with regard to how movies talk about race for a long time to come. Full review.
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
A giant leap forward in terms of cinematography not only for science fiction but for cinema in general. Full review.
Directed by Spike Jonze
Some of the year's most compelling writing ironically comes from a combination of two of cinema's most overplayed genres.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Directed by Martin Scorsese
In another ironic turn of events, the funniest comedy of the year is no laughing matter. Full review.
Directed by David O. Russell
This zany, immoral and seductive caper gives us some of the year's best acting and most memorable characters.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Soderbergh spikes his thriller with elements of horror to see if our knuckles can get any whiter. Full review.
Directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee
If I could only show my kids this one movie, I'd gladly watch it with them every time.
Great But Not The Best
Directed by Shane Carruth
Its lack of clarity or traditional narrative structure is perfectly offset by its beauty and originality.
Directed by Harmony Korine
While I'm not even sure it knows what it wants to say, it says it so loudly you won't be able to look away.
Directed by Noah Baumbach
The closest the mumblecore movement has come to exposing genuine humanity, this hits pretty close to home.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Some of the year's best entertainment on the big screen is led for once by a great female protagonist. Full review.
Directed by Spike Lee
It's so hard to care that the South Korean masterpiece didn't need a remake when what came out is so good. Full review.
Much Ado About Nothing
Directed by Joss Whedon
An obvious passion project for Joss Whedon, the wonderful cast makes it easy to appreciate Shakespeare.
Dallas Buyers Club
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee
While I feel bad rooting for a homophobic hero, his fight against big pharma is well acted and emotionally compelling. Full review.
The World's End
Directed by Edgar Wright
It's hard to decide if it's a better touching personal journey or hilariously excessive sci-fi romp since it succeeds at both. Analysis.
Pretty Typical But Still Quite Fun
Directed by Joseph Kosinski
While it may not be the most original sci-fi of the year, it combines its recycled elements in an exceptionally fun way. Full review.
This Is the End
Directed by Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen
There's something unique and genuinely human about this ultimately inane sci-fi comedy.
Star Trek Into Darkness
Directed by J. J. Abrams
There may be too many lens flares to count, but J.J.'s eye for quality makes this reboot sequel a joy to watch. Full review.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Directed by Peter Jackson
What could have been one of the best movies of the year comes up short thanks to mediocre storytelling. Full review.
Directed by Paul Feig
A fun action comedy which suffers slightly from its over-reliance on the popularity of Boston-based buddy-cop flicks. Short review.
Directed by Chan-wook Park
There's not much beneath the sheets of this psycho-sexual thriller, but the beautiful visuals will be enough for many.
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Del Toro should probably have higher standards, but anyone who says this isn't a monstrously fun time is lying. Full review.
Directed by Gavin Hood
Not as revolutionary as the book it comes from, but an enjoyable vision of some quintessential sci-fi. Full review, analysis, original predictions.
Directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
A fresh take on the romantic comedy which sets its sights on emotional and thematic depth it never quite reaches. Full review.
Directed by Fede Alvarez
Enjoyable update to the classic which doesn't push any boundaries but is fun if you go into it with the right expectations.
Directed by Zal Batmanglij
Although it often gets bogged down in its superficial politics, structurally this was one of the year's better thrillers. Full review.
Directed by Neill Blomkamp
While it may press the easy button a few times, it's hard to deny Neill Blomkamp and Matt Damon's combined abilities. Full review.
Despicable Me 2
Directed by Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud
There are plenty of laughs and moments of genuine feeling, but more than anything this sequel feels uninspired.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Directed by Tommy Wirkola
Tommy Wirkola's enthusiasm makes what should have been stupid and forgettable into something fun.
White House Down
Directed by Roland Emmerich
This epitome of the shallow action movie at least finds some enjoyment in reusing its tired tropes.
Directed by Andres Muschietti
A competently acted exciting new fairy tale for grown ups which is obscured by pointless jump scares.
Directed by Kimberly Peirce
The acting is all top notch, but the tone is charming where it should be tense and lovable where it should be horrifying
World War Z
Directed by Marc Forster
You can't blame it for getting mired in development hell, but what came out the other end is worse for wear. Short review.
There's Something Wrong Here
Only God Forgives
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
What could have been either an intense revenge film or an arthouse modern classic gets stuck in between and does neither.
Directed by Sebastian Cordero
Above average and mostly original found footage sci-fi ruined by its preachy, dumbed-down expository framework. Short review.
Now You See Me
Directed by Louis Letterier
Fun the first time through but exponentially less so each time thereafter. Full review.
Directed by Danny Boyle
A prettier but somehow emptier version of Now You See Me with tasteless sexual politics. Full review.
Oz The Great and Powerful
Directed by Sam Raimi
A fun and pretty but ultimately vacuous homage to a classic.
Directed by James Mangold
More of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, this time in a one-dimensional portrait of Japan.
Directed by David Twohy
David Twohy forgets what made the original films fun and kills his own franchise. Full review.
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
The only thing extraordinary about this movie is how lifeless it is.
Seeing as I've only watched a small selection of this year's films (and less than half of those making award buzz) I can't really claim to be qualified to make too many Oscar predictions. But if I had to guess, these would be my picks for Best Picture (in alphabetical order): 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, August: Osage County, Blue Jasmine, Gravity, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Philomena, and The Wolf of Wall Street. Other possibilities which wouldn't surprise me include Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Rush, and Saving Mr. Banks. Slightly longer shots include All is Lost, Enough Said, Frances Ha, and Out of the Furnace. I'd be pleasantly surprised to see either Upstream Color, Spring Breakers, or The World's End in the nominations, but my expectations are pretty negligible.