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2013 Movie Picks: Alissa Wilkinson
John Gallagher Jr. and Brie Larson in 'Short Term 12'

For movie lovers and movie critics, the end of the year brings an avalanche of "best of" lists to analyze, pick apart, and argue over. Here at CT Movies, knowing that every critic and every movie lover brings different tastes, interests, and perspectives to the table, we've decided to take a different approach.

Each of our regular critics came up with a list of "best" films in categories of their own choosing, and we'll be running them over the next week. These aren't necessarily the year's best films, nor even the best movies these critics saw all year—just a sampling of the riches of 2013. We hope you'll find something to love.

Joaquin Phoenix in 'Her'
Annapurna Pictures

Joaquin Phoenix in 'Her'

Best Movie With Theological Resonance
(Rated R for language, sexual content, and brief nudity)

This is tied with the last film on this list for my favorite movie of the year, and when I saw it a second time this week, I realized that it's far more complex than it appears on the surface, with thought-provoking themes about love and friendship, technology and media, reality and artifice, and more. But it's okay, because the story sweeps you along the first time through and leaves you breathless. Brett McCracken's excellent review for CT points out the theological resonances, particularly regarding incarnation, and I blogged a little more about some of the interesting bits I noticed the second time around. (No spoilers in either of these, of course!)

Most Heartbreaking Movie
The Spectacular Now
(Rated R for alcohol use, language, and some sexuality)

This movie flew under my radar and I wasn't going to cover it at all, until my husband sat me down and made me watch the trailer—and Shailene Woodley (who will be starring in Divergent next year and, I think, is the next Jennifer Lawrence) sold me on it. After I saw the film (and sniffled a bit at the end), I found out it was based on an equally excellent YA novel, and the adaptation is particularly well done. The film is also notable for how it deals with one (teen) character's high-functioning alcoholism. And though it's ultimately a life- and love-affirming film, it dwells on how we hurt one another with our choices—friends, lovers, and children alike. (Alissa's review for CT.)

Best Post-Mumblecore Film (and Best Answer to When Harry Met Sally)
Drinking Buddies
(Rated R for language throughout)

Though Frances Ha probably could have easily taken this category, I think, in the end, that I like Drinking Buddies a little more. Mumblecore, in case you never encountered it (and that's pretty likely, since it wasn't so easy to watch) was a school of filmmaking in the last decade or so that featured a lot of improvisation, low budgets, naturalistic dialogue, and amateur actors—sort of like the French New Wave without most of the social commentary.

Drinking Buddies stars professional actors you have heard of—Olivia Wilde and Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston and Jake Johnson (aka Nick from New Girl)—but it's directed by Joe Swanberg, one of mumblecore's princes, and boasts the best parts of the genre. That is, it's about relationships among vaguely hipster-y urban twentysomethings, and about navigating the world we live in today. The acting feels natural; it's the sort of movie where you think they had fun making it. Two of the characters, in particular (who work together at a microbrewery) have to confront the age-old question of whether men and women can be friends, especially when it seems like they're perfect for each other. It's also about whether commitment makes us happier. The answers might surprise you.

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2013 Movie Picks: Alissa Wilkinson