Every year my husband and I try to send out a Christmas (or thereabouts) letter to our friends. I usually write it and I am usually, like this year, late. But I feel some obligation to do it because people care. I don’t know how much they care to know what we’ve been doing, but they do care about our movie and book lists. These have been, as far as I can tell, the most–probably only–popular features in our annual letter.
This year I am doing the best-of lists in this blog. I listed books on December 16. Here are our 5-star-rated movies of 2013 (not all of them produced then), in no particular order:
Available on DVD
Stories we tell Intriguing mix of home movies, reenactments, and events that unfold in the course of filming this documentary about a family.
The attack I wanted more resolution to this story about a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv but Vic thought, rightly, that the acting was great and the psychology and politics were realistic (thus, unresolved).
Liberal Arts Yay! A comedy we liked. And not quite predictable.
Smashed How getting sober can shake up the world of those around you. Loved Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
Rust and Bone A profound, gritty story about damage and disability. “Emotionally difficult but eventually life-affirming,” says one reviewer. The great Marion Cotillard.
The Lady About Aung San Suu Khy. I couldn’t tell that this was Michelle Yeoh and not Aung San herself
The other son Another Israeli-Palestinian story, this one involving a switch at birth.
Premium rush Just when you think all great chase movies have been done, here’s one involving bike messengers in Manhattan.
Lincoln But read Doris Goodwin’s biography for the whole story. This is just a small slice of that.
Argo We liked this a lot more than Zero Dark Thirty but I keep getting them mixed up.
The Session Man in iron lung explores sexuality with a sex therapist. Helen Hunt is perfect.
Game Change You thought Tina Fay was perfect as Sarah Palin? Well, so is Julianne Moore. Based on the nonfiction bestseller about McCain and Palin.
Darling Companion This is such a middle-class boomer movie and we still loved it. Great cast (Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, etc.).
Beasts of the Southern Wild Sentimental and fantastical but still wonderful.
Searching for Sugar Man Fabulous documentary about tracking down a forgotten Detroit blues singer who, unbeknownst to himself, became a star in South Africa.
Being Flynn A young man’s long-lost alcoholic father turns up in a shelter where he is working, and he is Robert DeNiro.
Oranges and Sunshine Thrilling social drama based on true story of deportation of British kids to Australia.
When we leave Turkish woman torn between two cultures as she tries to escape her abusive husband
Another year A stable, aging couple (Jim Broadbent and Leslie Manville are great) sees their friends through a tumultuous year.
Marina Abramovic: The artist is present This documentary records the performance art as well as the powerful personality and creative drive of Abramovic.
The best exotic marigold hotel Outsourcing retirement to India. Hilarious and Judy Dench.
A separation Iranian movie about a couple in trouble, caring for elderly parents and other universal themes
Alas and alack, Netflix now only tracks your last 100 streaming views. Because I’ve been watching some long series (see below), we have no record or memory of the streaming movies we loved in the first half of 2013. (Next year we’ll keep our own records.) Here are our recent favorites:
The Moo Man We both grew up on dairy farms so we identified with this sweet documentary. Loved the cows but warning: cows die.
A bottle in the Gaza Sea Café bombing>love between young Israeli and Palestinian.
Chico and Rita Animated celebration of Cuban jazz of the 1940s.
War Witch Starring the wonderful young Congolese actress Rachel Mwanza, this realistic story about war in someplace like Eastern Congo is not all grim; it is, like life in Congo, complex and human.
56 Up Who wouldn’t want to keep following those kids who debuted as 7-year-olds in the great documentary series? At age 56, you see their lives rounding off and mellowing.
Chasing Ice This dramatic documentary about climate change is like watching a great football game: you know damage is being done but it is still thrilling.
Birders: The Central Park Effect Why is New York City’s Central Park one of the best places for birdwatching? Because it’s the only stopping point for migrating birds for miles around.
The Hunger Games We thought we wouldn’t like it but we did.
The Intouchables Great story about an unlikely friendship between rich quadriplegic and immigrant caregiver and it’s supposed to be true.
Shun Li and the Poet Sweet multicultural story set in Venice.
The Island President A compelling documentary of an unusual, visionary politician in the Maldives
Homeland The one TV series available only on DVD that we got hooked on. The others are available streaming.
Wallander–the Swedish version, not BBC. The jaded police inspector who is hopelessly in love with his neighbor and colleague, a prosecutor.
Spiral--French police/judicial series. Great characters and acting, pretty graphic violence. I had to consult Wikipedia to make sense of the French judicial system.
Long Way Round and Long Way Down Two rabid motorcyclists make two epic journeys: one from London to New York, going east, and one from Scotland to Capetown. These documentary series will make you want to visit the places they pass through–and wish they’d been able to stay longer. Having swished around on the back of motorbikes for short distances on sandy, cratered African roads in this past year, we know just how crazy the Africa trip was.
Happy viewing! What were your 2013 favorites?