Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave

Top 10 Lists are as ubiquitous this time of year as New Year's resolutions, but it is often a conversation that begins among film aficionados well before the first holiday decorations hit departments stores. Once again this year, Film Society staff join the collective conversation about the year's Best Films with almost two dozen weighing in with their favorites of 2013. 

Among those sharing their picks for 2013, Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave made many of the lists. The film, which had its New York premiere at the 51st New York Film Festival, stars Chiwetel Ejiofor in the true story about Solomon Northup, a free black man who is abducted and sold into slavery in the American South. Fellow NYFF51 film Inside Llewyn Davis by Joel and Ethan Coen also played well among staff members, while Blue Is the Warmest Color proved the most popular foreign-language title. Another foreign favorite was Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills, which had its U.S. debut at the 50th NYFF.

Other consistent favorites in the lists that follows include Jean-Marc Vallée's Dallas Buyers Club, Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel's Leviathan, Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers and Noah Baumbach's NYFF50 debut Frances Ha. Among docs, Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act of Killing and Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell, both from New Directors/New Films, were consistently cited.

While the list focuses on films that began their regular theatrical runs in 2013, some offered up favorites that will open theaters in 2014, giving a sneak peak at what is coming up. Film Society programmer Dennis Lim gave his 2013 favorites but also gave some of his picks for films that had their festival debuts in 2013, many of which will have theatrical runs in the coming year, including Stranger by the Lake by Alain Guiraudie, who will have a retrospective at Film Society early next year.

Film Society staff top 10 lists:

Jeryll Adler
Advertising Director

(in no particular order)

Beyond the Hills
Frances Ha
Inside Llewyn Davis
Blue Is the Warmest Color
12 Years a Slave
Blue Jasmine
Casting By

Matt Bolish
Convergence Programmer / Operations Coordinator

1. Her (Spike Jones)
2. Much Ado About Nothing (Joss Whedon)
3. Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski)
4. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)
5. Room 237 (Rodney Ascher)
6. The Cosmonaut (Nicolas Alcala)
7. Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verena Paravel)
8. Prisoners (Denis Villeneuve)
9. The Institute (Spencer McCall)
10. An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (Terence Nance)

Brian Brooks
Editor, FilmLinc Daily

1. 12 Years a Slave – Required viewing, period. I was pretty much speechless after seeing it at NYFF in the fall.
2. The Wolf of Wall Street – I had to go to the restroom part way through this three hour insanity and was scared to leave. The quaaludes scene is worth it alone (the other great scene of the year is the dinner table scene in August: Osage County). And Leo is Hot again!.
3. The Act of Killing – It breaks a lot of rules. It's beautiful, has dynamic characters you sorta freak out about kinda warming up to some of the people.
4. Blue Is the Warmest Color – Love pretty much sucks. It lives up to the hype. Go see it! Also a fantastic NYFF premiere.
5. Frances Ha – I live in New York and I have some rich friends and also have awful jet lag when I go to Europe.
6. Wadjda – Such a great movie. I watched it on a plane and so regretted not seeing it on the big screen. It's such a surprise and so sweet. Not being short listed is a real shame.
7. Inside Llewyn Davis – Fantastic film. The Coens again prove themselves to be unique American storytellers.
8. The Square – An upfront and close-hand view on history. I hope there's a good ending…
9. Nebraska – Great performances from Bruce Dern and June Squibb. Alexander Payne shows American filmmaking still has its creative chops in tact.
10. I Killed My Mother – A crime it took so long to be released in the USA. Great movie. Xavier Dolan is a filmmaking star!

Major runners up:

Her, Gloria, Blue Jasmine, All Is Lost, Beyond the Hills, Kill Your Darlings, August: Osage County, Fruitvale Station, Dallas Buyers Club, Lee Daniel's The Butler, 20 Feet From Stardom, Inequality For All, The Broken Circle Breakdown, Stories We Tell, Our Nixon, Spring Breakers, Blackfish

Joel and Ethan Coen's Inside Llewyn Davis

Austin Brown
Development Associate

(in alphabetical order)

12 Years a Slave
The Act of Killing
Before Midnight
Beyond the Hills
Blue is the Warmest Color
Like Someone in Love
Museum Hours
Spring Breakers
Top of the Lake
Upstream Color
Wolf of Wall Street

Bronwyn Cunningham
Executive Assistant

(in alphabetical order)

12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
After Tiller (Martha Shane & Lana Wilson)
Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)
Drinking Buddies (Joe Swanberg)
Enough Said (Nicole Holofcener)
Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach)
Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel & Ethan Coen)
Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verena Paravel)
Much Ado About Nothing (Joss Whedon)
Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley)

Rachel Denny
Associate Director of Individual Giving and Major Gifts

Frances Ha
Before Midnight
Hannah Arendt
12 Years a Slave
Stories We Tell
Blue Jasmine
American Hustle
Drinking Buddies
Dallas Buyers Club

Coby Dominus

1. The Wolf of Wall Street
2. Before Midnight
3. 12 Years a Slave
4. Inside Llewyn Davis
5. Short Term 12
6. Her
7. The World's End
8. Gravity
9. Spring Breakers
10. All Is Lost

James Faller

1. The Canyons – Schrader delivers his best work since Affliction.
2. Stand Up Guys – Pacino and Walken what more can you ask for. Abel Ferrara meets Sidney Lumet.
3. R.I.P.D. – Jeff Bridges most nuanced performance since De Laurentiis' King Kong.
4. Oblivion – Morgan Freeman in another Oscar-worthy performance.
5. The Lone Ranger – Silver steals the show!
6. The Big Wedding – Altman-esque.
7. Pain & Gain – Tony Shalhoub ignites the screen. Michael Bay back to his roots.
8. G.I. Joe Retaliation – Forget Magic MIke, Channing has all the right moves in this blockbuster.
9. Tyler Perry's Temptation – Tyler Perry, nuff said!
10. One Direction: This Is Us – Morgan Spurlock needs no gimmicks here. Hints of Scorsese's Woodstock.

Michael Gibbons
Manager of Digital Strategy

Favorite: The Act of Killing. The rest in alphabetical order:

12 Years a Slave
Beyond the Hills
Blue Jasmine
Frances Ha
Something in the Air
Spring Breakers
A Touch of Sin

Eugene Hernandez
Director of Digital Strategy

1. Museum Hours, directed by Jem Cohen
2. Inside Llewyn Davis, directed by Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
3. An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, directed by Terence Nance
4. 12 Years a Slave, directed by Steve McQueen
5. The Act of Killing, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn & Anonymous
6. The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese
7. Downeast, directed by Ashley Sabin & David Redmon
8. These Birds Walk, directed by Omar Mullick & Bassam Tariq
9. At Berkeley, directed by Frederick Wiseman
10. Leviathan, directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verena Paravel

Honorable mentions: Reality (Mateo Garrone); Simon Killer (Antonio Campos); Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine); I Killed My Mother (Xavier Dolan); Portrait of Jason (Shirley Clarke).

Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell

Nicholas Kemp
Digital Content Coordinator

(in alphabetical order)

The Act of Killing
Beyond the Hills
Blue Is the Warmest Color
Crystal Fairy
Museum Hours
Post tenebras lux
Spring Breakers
Upstream Color

Dong Lee
Theater / Marketing

1. Short Term 12 – The most personal film for me anyway.
2. Inside Llewyn Davis – Llewyn isn’t an asshole at all.
3. The Place Beyond the Pines – Hated it the first time and loved it the second time viewing.
4. The Crash Reel – Unpredictable throughout the entire film. It's like life.
5. Gravity – The best movie theatre experience ever.
6. Frances Ha – Frances is datable.
7. Dallas Buyers Club – Saw it twice, cried/laughed a lot more.
8. Test (from NewFest) – Because it does ask an important question and the question is relevant today as it was in 1960, 70s.
9. Nebraska – June Squibb makes me laugh too much.
10. What Richard Did – Because of how it ends.

Also enjoyed The Wolf of Wall Street, Before Midnight, Out of the Furnace and American Hustle.

Dennis Lim
Director of Cinematheque Programming

2013 releases:
1. Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel)
2. Like Someone in Love (Abbas Kiarostami)
3. Viola (Matías Piñeiro)
4. Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski)
5. A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhangke)
6. Museum Hours (Jem Cohen)
7. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)
8. Her (Spike Jonze)
9. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine)
10. Upstream Color (Shane Carruth)

2013 premieres:
1. Stranger by the Lake (Alain Guiraudie)
2. Norte, the End of History (Lav Diaz)
3. Redemption (Miguel Gomes)
4. What Now? Remind Me (Joaquim Pinto)
5. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch)
6. Manakamana (Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez)
7. Stray Dogs (Tsai Ming-Liang)
8. <em>A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhangke)
9. Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski)
10. Mouton (Gilles Deroo and Marianne Pistone)

Patrick Ng
Theater Manager

1. The Wolf of Wall Street
2. 12 Years a Slave
3. Gravity
4. An Oversimplification of Her Beauty
5. American Hustle
6. Blue Is the Warmest Color
7. Inside Llewyn Davis
8. Short Term 12
9. No
10. Blue Jasmine

David Ninh

As you can tell I am drawn to films that unsettle me or involve complicated love stories. I still think about the characters from all these films.

1. Blue Is the Warmest Color – I don't care what people say, but this is my favorite film of the year. I got completely absorbed in this relationship. It broke my heart & still breaks my heart thinking about them.
2. The Act of Killing – Completely unsettled me.
3. Before Midnight – Been. There.
4. Her – I love a good sci-fi romance.
5. Spring Breakers – Made me wanna go on sprang break and get into trouble. 
6. Beyond the Hills – A total slow burn of a thriller…about religious nuns!
7. Blue Jasmine – Cate, is SO great.
8. 12 Years a Slave – Unflinching.
9. Cutie and the Boxer – A fascinating, chaotic love story of two artists perfect for each other.
10. Short Term 12 – An emotional roller coaster.

Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel's Leviathan

Jaclyn O'Grady
Film Coordinator

Inside Llewyn Davis
The Grandmaster
In a World…
Short Term 12
The Kings of Summer
Only God Forgives
After Tiller
I Used to be Darker
We Are What We Are
Kill Your Darlings

Glenn Raucher
Director of Theater Operations

It was a year… where I did not get to see many films. (I could call it the year of Breaking Bad, which dominated my viewing.) I did get to see more than 10 films, but only eight make it to the Top list, as I ain't gonna grade on a curve. In no particular order:

Sound City: You love music? You love process? I love both, and this absolutely captivated me once I finally got to see it. With the ever-amiable Dave Grohl as your guide, Sound City makes you both want to re-listen to many of the artists seen and heard here, and possibly makes you want to go out and form your own band.

Which Way Is the Front Line From Here?: The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington: If someone accomplishes much, but is only on earth too-briefly, was it all worth it? Sebastian Junger's heartbreaking and riveting doc about his good friend and co-filmmaker Hetherington asks without necessarily answering the question. It lets you wrestle with the difficult dilemma: if I put myself out there in harm's way in order to find some truth: about myself, about the world—how much risk is acceptable?

Stories We Tell: I was very disappointed with Sarah Polley's fiction film Take This Waltz, but the doc about the convoluted limbs of her family tree, complete with fictional representations that fooled me until the end, did not disappoint. There's a calm, yet not unemotional acceptance of the evolving tale of her growing up, and who her parents really were, that burrows in and does not let go.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks: Journalism: tough and fair-minded. It tracks the evolution of Julian Assange from a man who is dedicated to the public having knowledge of actions being taken in their name by their governments (plural), to…something much more complicated and not easily pinned down, and much, much harder to admire. It also presents, much more favorably, Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, as she attempts to navigate a sense of duty and finding a place in the world. That both stories end with each person basically in prison is a comment on the dangerous thickets of the new privacy/surveillance world we live in.

The Spectacular Now: Two beautiful performances fully redeem a film whose plot is nothing spectacular.

After Tiller: One of the best docs I've seen, about a subject which one would imagine no one could make a great, clear-headed (and hearted) film.  Without agitprop, but with quiet, determined intensity, the directors allow the four incredibly brave doctors (and brave patients) show more than a thousand leaflets and protests ever could.

Captain Phillips: Beautifully paced, terrifically acted old-fashioned brilliant storytelling.

Not Yet Begun to Fight: A profoundly moving short film about the realities and tragedies of service. The side of military heroism we all too rarely get to see, and a few good men trying to ease the pain of other good, and damaged men.

Bryce Richardson
Senior Accountant

1. Cousin Jules
2. A Touch of Sin
3. Something in the Air
4. Leviathan
6. At Berkeley
7. Inside Llewyn Davis
8. Museum Hours
9. 12 Years a Slave
10. Passion

Tony Trius
Theater / Special Events

The Past
Stranger by the Lake
Blue Jasmine
12 Years a Slave
Fruitvale Station
Dallas Buyers Club
Blue Is the Warmest Color
Spring Breakers
Behind the Candelabra

John Wildman
Senior Publicist

1. Sightseers
2. Blue Is the Warmest Color
3. 12 Years a Slave
4. Short Term 12
5. Stories We Tell
6. After Tiller
7. Her
8. Only God Forgives
9. Twenty Feet from Stardom
10. The Wolf of Wall Street

Rebecca Williamson
Events Coordinator

(in no particular order)

Spring Breakers
Frances Ha
Inside Llewyn Davis
This Is the End
Blue Is the Warmest Color
Enough Said
In a World…
Short Term 12