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2013 Movie Picks: Jackson Cuidon
Paramount Pictures
Bruce Dern and Will Forte in 'Nebraska'

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.

Best Horror Movie That You Could Watch As A Christian and Not Feel Nagging Doubts About Watching It
The Conjuring
(Rated R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror)

The Conjuring is just so scary, you guys—and so well done, well acted, well paced, and scary. If you'd seen me jump and yelp as I watched this movie on my 13" laptop screen (in the middle of the day, with the sound turned down), you'd know I'm not being hyperbolic. When Christians watch horror movies, sometimes there's this nagging feeling that watching Hash-Slinging Slashers or Cash-Ringing Gnashers or whatever slice up collegiate kids for an hour and a half is in like total direct violation of something like Philippians 4:8 thought criteria.

But The Conjuring's faith-based aspects—like the religious leanings of the heroes of the films, or the holistically respectful treatment of faith (a rarity for horror films), as well as a dearth of blood and guts and gore, make The Conjuring a solid movie for people who love to be scared*, but don't love the gross and dark content that's normally associated with horror movies. (Nick Olson's review for CT.)

*Seriously, guys—so very scared.

Best Performance By Sam Rockwell in 2013
The Way Way Back
(Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language, some sexual content and brief drug material)

Where The Kings of Summer eschews traditional cliches and plotting and characterization, The Way Way Back embraces them, and tries to tell a coherent and likable story with them, and it mostly succeeds. Some of the characterizations are too broad—for instance, Steve Carrell's character is just too much of an over-the-top jerk for us to muster any real empathy, reducing him instead to just a one-dimensional character to be fought against—but the movie does have some poignant subtle moments, almost all of which pertain to Sam Rockwell. This man is going places, ladies and gentlemen. He'll be famous one day. I know it.

Best Movie of The Year That I've Seen So Far, Acknowledging My Limited Watching Habits
(Rated R for some language)

Nothing's more difficult than writing about family, so I'll keep this short—Nebraska is beautiful and understated and poignant and scattershot and hilarious. Director Alexander Payne whips the movie so quickly in between comedy and heartbreak that it's the closest thing to actually experiencing the idea of a family in an hour and a half out there. It's the kind of really good movie that makes for a good contrast with something else, but on its own is almost impossible to talk about—probably because Nebraska doesn't even talk about what it talks about, not really. There is no thesis line of dialogue, no summational bit, no scene that encapsulates the whole movie. To explain what makes Nebraska so great, I'd just need to show you all of Nebraska.

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2013 Movie Picks: Jackson Cuidon