Flavorwire Staffers’ Favorite Films of 2013

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With the end of every calendar year comes the customary influx of “Best Of” lists, definitively ranking the créme de la cultural créme of the last 365 days. But sometimes “best” doesn’t accurately describe the things that stick with us most, or that we irrationally love out of personal preference. So to cap off 2013, Flavorwire staffers listed their favorite cultural items of the year — the books, movies, and experiences we’ll be taking into 2014. Click through for Flavorwire’s favorite comedies, dramas, dramedies, and docudramas of the year.

20 Feet From Stardom (dir. Morgan Neville)

In order to avoid repeating too much of my own year-end round-up, I’m going to seize on semantics and insist that my “favorite” film and the “best” film of 2013 are very different entities — my favorite being the film I simply enjoyed the most, and am most likely to revisit in the years to come. And that film is 20 Feet From Stardom, Morgan Neville’s raucous, joyous history/celebration of that invaluable but underappreciated element of modern pop music, the back-up singer. It’s a picture overflowing with thrilling music and terrific stories; it is also, along with this year’s Muscle Shoals and the Kent Hartman book The Wrecking Crew, part of a welcome new tradition of reappraising iconic music through the lens of the musical journeymen and women whose names weren’t on the labels. —Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Ginger & Rosa (dir. Sally Potter)

Often overlooked and even ridiculed as pretentious for the formal ambitions of her experimentally inflected films, Sally Potter returned this year with her most accessible work to date. The relatively straightforward narrative of two teenage girls in London at the dawn of the 1960s, Ginger & Rosa is the story of best friends torn apart by the competing lures of sex, love, and political commitment — and one that’s intelligent and resonant enough to interrogate the meaning of all those things. —Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

Computer Chess (dir. Andrew Bujalski)

I went in to this knowing absolutely nothing about it, and for the first 15 minutes or so, I found myself wondering, “Wait, is this a documentary, or what?” Once it became clear that, no, it was a wonderfully strange deadpan comedy, I enjoyed it a great deal — and honestly, the fact that it took a while to decide either way is a compliment to the filmmakers. —Tom Hawking, Music Editor

Kiss of the Damned (dir. Xan Cassavetes)

Xan Cassavetes’ Kiss of the Damned is an expressionist mood piece that evokes the ruby-lipped vixens of ‘70s Euro-vampire cinema, with a refreshingly mature and dazzling take on horror and relationships. Cassavetes’ cinephilia isn’t a mere reference point or stylistic choice. The daughter of filmmaking legends John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands offers a faintly autobiographical thread about being bound to our (artistic) origins. —Alison Nastasi, Weekend Editor

Inside Llewyn Davis (dir. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen)

which I’ve already written in rapture about here. I keep playing the soundtrack to myself over and over again, or singing it to my cat. —Michelle Dean

Frances Ha (dir. Noah Baumbach)

I love everything that Noah Baumbach produces (yes, even Margot at the Wedding), and his collaboration with indie it-girl Greta Gerwig was sure to leave me with a smile on my face. I don’t know if I can fully express the joy I felt leaving the theater. Baumbach and Gerwig produced a charming, yet completely annoying, main character who, despite her flaws, I couldn’t help but root for because I saw so much of myself in her. —Tyler Coates, Deputy Editor

Criterion Collection

I’m not sure I had one single film I loved more than the others, but I will say that having an all-access pass to the Criterion Collection thanks to my Hulu Plus membership has been a pretty great experience. —Jason Diamond, Literary Editor

All Is Lost (dir. J. C. Chandor)

I saw and loved many, many movies in 2013, but All Is Lost stuck with me as a work unafraid to take everything a film is supposed to have and throw it out the window. No supporting cast, no background story, and barely any dialogue make All Is Lost sound like the impenetrable arthouse work of your nightmares, but J.C. Chandor’s survival story crafts a compelling narrative despite its self-imposed handicaps. “Robert Redford on a boat” may not be the most glamorous plot premise in the world, but it makes for 90 minutes of masterful action. —Alison Herman, Editorial Assistant

Spring Breakers (dir. Harmony Korine)

I really wanted to roll my eyes at Spring Breakers. I never expected it to hit me as hard as it did, much less become my favorite movie of the year, but here I am. I’ve spent years intrigued and disillusioned with my generation’s sad, destructive form of nihilism, and I’ve never seen anything capture it as well as Spring Breakers. It made me understand my peers more, in a way, because of course our reaction to the world’s increasing chaos is to dance and drink and screw, because there’s nothing else to do. It’s the kind of sentiment that’s made up so much of recent pop culture, and Harmony Korine turns it on its head beautifully and painfully. Somehow, a Gen-Xer made something that perfectly encapsulates the pain of being a millennial, young and confused in a world with no guaranteed future. —Sarah Fonder, Editorial Apprentice

Fruitvale Station (dir. Ryan Coogler)

It might have been my friend’s barely suppressed sobs as we sat watching Fruitvale Station in a packed auditorium at Sundance. Or maybe it was the look in Octavia Spencer’s magnificently emotive eyes as she realized her son was gone. Whatever it was, Fruitvale Station’s artful rendering of Oscar Grant’s final day made for a truly moving cinematic experience. —Kevin Pires, Editorial Apprentice