Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 17, 2014

The best and worst films of 2013

Filed under: Counterpunch,Film — louisproyect @ 8:36 pm
Counterpunch Weekend Edition January 17-19, 2014
Why Hollywood is Incapable of Making Great Films

The Best and Worst Films of 2013


Before explaining my somewhat heterodox approach to best and worst lists, I want to follow up on my reporting on the witch hunt against Armond White, who was facing discipline over his alleged heckling of Steve McQueen at the New York Film Critics Circle awards ceremony. Since then White has been expelled from NYFCC. Rather than giving you my take on this, I would refer you to an excellent article by Henry Stewart in L Magazine titled “Armond White is just a red herring”.  Stewart spoke for me when he wrote:

Armond’s ejection from the organization seems reasonable (if regrettably messy); but does the practice of bestowing honors to films and filmmakers and then hobnobbing with them at ceremonies and industry parties? “Critics should not be in the business of giving out awards,” Times critic AO Scott (who’s professionally forbidden to belong to any awards-bestowing critics groups) wrote on Twitter, continuing, “Criticism rests on the independence and integrity of the singular voice, and group voting+partying with the winners undermines that.”

I haven’t yet seen a critics-group this year recognize a film that truly needed recognition: every one praised a piece of prominently lobbied-for Oscarbait: 12 Years, American Hustle, etc., the same movies that won Golden Globes and which will likely go on to win Academy Awards. I’m a member of the Online Film Critics Society (because belonging to any group has its useful perks, like year-end screeners), which named 12 Years a Slave the year’s best movie. But it was a movie I strongly disliked, so what does the group’s award and my membership in the organization have to do with each other? This is what Scott means, I think, by voting being meaningless: consensus is by definition middlebrow, unenthusiastic, dispassionate—nothing we should want our film criticism to be.

In line with Stewart’s reference to recognizing films that truly need recognition, my picks for best films of the year will by and large never get full-page ads in the N.Y. Times and relentless public relations blitzkriegs from the Harvey Weinstein’s of the world. (I say by and large because The Weinstein Company produced “Philomena”, one of my picks.) But mostly my choices are either fiction films not made in Hollywood or documentaries, for which this was a banner year. I also tend to shy away from American “indie” movies that come out of Sundance since I find them formulaic. My critical faculties were honed by my exposure to cinema’s greatest artists who I was fortunate enough to be exposed to when I was a student at Bard College in the early 1960s. Each week a new film by Buñuel, Kurosawa, Godard, and Kubrick et al would open. Just as we will never see another Mozart; so we will never see the likes of that generation again.

full article: http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/01/17/the-best-and-worst-films-of-2013/


  1. De Sica’s (note Da Sica) film was called, The Bicycle Thief.

    Comment by uh...clem — January 18, 2014 @ 12:11 am

  2. The Italian title is plural (not an insignificant difference) and I believe in the UK it was always known as Bicycle Thieves. The most recent U.S. reissue adopted the same title to better reflect de Sica’s intentions.

    I will add, however, that Old Dogs isn’t “the first film ever made by a Tibetan,” given that Pema Tsedan made two other excellent features before it.

    Comment by Jean-Michel — January 18, 2014 @ 5:32 pm

  3. Thanks for the film suggestions. However, I wanted to draw your attention to this article from Jadaliyya: http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/15996/haifaa-al-mansours-wadjda_revolutionary-art-or-pro

    I got maybe you got duped a bit by the Wadjda film. The Saudi rulers like to posture that they want to improve women’s rights, but the religious leaders are holding them back. This film is most likely funded by the monarchy….

    Comment by saudi expat — January 20, 2014 @ 5:51 am

  4. Regarding the piece at Counterpunch, thanks for drawing my attention to some titles I will queue. However, your list of the 5 worst films of the year caused me to question your credibility. You may have not liked Wolf, August and Hustle, but to say, out of ALL the films made in 2013, that those you chose were the worst made me question your motivations.

    There were plenty of horrible films made during 2013, and all of them were far worse than those three movies, yet due to their notoriety, you chose to elevate them (or bring them down) to the nadir of filmmaking last year. The consequence is that it made your piece read like an attention grab rather than a well-considered article. Spring Breakers, by the way, was released in 2012, but to give you a pass, played more the following year. I think the movie was probably the most subversive American teen exploitation film I’ve ever seen, and the cognitive dissonance it caused brought a smile to my face.

    Finally, it’s probably a good idea to quit trying to compare everything you see now to films made during an entirely different era. While I have serious qualms with postmodernism and prefer Tarkovsky to Lars von Trier, it’s imperative to connect the movie to its contemporary sociopolitical and artistic paradigm(s).


    Comment by DECAYKE — February 14, 2014 @ 6:05 pm

  5. I guess I should have said that these were the worst films that are likely to be nominated for an academy award in one category or another. Since I don’t review films for a living, there’s a lot of crap that gets shown at the Cineplexes that I will be spared since I don’t have an editor telling me that I have to write a review of something like an Adam Sandler movie. In terms of “Spring Breakers”, why don’t you tell me what was so subversive about it. Here’s a clip:

    If it wasn’t illegal, I’d get an AK-47 and kill the actors and the imbecile commenting on it.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 14, 2014 @ 6:15 pm

  6. I’m guessing that the average reader of this blog doesn’t need to be told, or care, that the latest Tyler Perry flick wasn’t very good. In fact, if anything would make me “question [Proyect’s] credibility,” it would be if he suddenly began dedicating his time to reviewing all of the latest bottom-of-the-barrel Hollywood garbage. I think, then that the only reason to bother with such a list is if it is limited by the sort of qualification that (should have been apparent) he used.

    Comment by Aaron maher — February 18, 2014 @ 6:29 pm

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