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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 Haunted House Movie
(Rated R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror)
During a summer that was full of disappointment for us genre-flick fans, The Conjuring was a deliciously horrifying success. It got the period touches just right, the acting was above horror average, and it bluntly declared that the "fairy tale is true. Evil exists. God exists." People go to horror movies to jump, to laugh, and to (I believe) experience worlds where fairy tale truth is held to be self-evident. The Conjuring delivered all three in a technically capable and visually handsome way. (Nick Olson's review for CT.)
Best Journey Film
Inside Llewyn Davis
(For language including some sexual references)
The Coen brothers have done it again. This spiritual sequel to O Brother Where Art Thou drew on masterful cinematography, musical savoir-faire, and mythopoeic style to make something even squares can love. See it, read the editor's take on it, and then go see it again. And maybe buy the soundtrack for someone as a Christmas gift (it's on vinyl for the hipster/elder person in your life). Llewyn doesn't spend time in an interspecies love triangle, though, so if that's more your style, go see The Hobbit. (Alissa Wilkinson's review for CT.)
Best Totally Cheesy Romantic Comedy With a Surprisingly Christian Tinge
(Rated R for language and some sexual content)
This movie was freaking great. Bring the tissues, as your face is guaranteed to be covered with tears and snot by the end of the movie. Or else, you're a heartless Grinch. Check out my thoughts on the movie for the classy new women's magazine In Earnest. (Alissa Wilkinson's review for CT.)
The Best Mystery Thriller of the Year
(Rated R for disturbing violent content including torture, and language throughout)
Prisoners director Denis Villeneuve is French Canadian, for which we should promptly forgive him because this movie was pretty good, in the style of one of my favorite thrillers, Zodiac. Both movies touch the themes of justice and the law as it relates to the individual, the state, and God. With an obsessed Jake Gyllenhaal to boot! Hugh Jackman spends a bit too much time screaming in this movie, but that's forgivable too. Be warned: this is intense. But don't take my word for it; Brett McCracken has an awesome review here for CT.
Best British Comedy of not-quite-technically-this-year
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
This dark Brit-com stole the show at the New York Film Festival. It was so, so, so much better than The World's End, it's not even funny (but wait, it's really funny). It's available on Blu-ray and DVD, but won't be getting a full American release until April 2014. But please, put this on your list. Imagine a British version of Anchorman, but much smarter and darkly funnier, and you're close to getting Alan Partridge. I want to plug this now, as I'm really hoping that the movie takes off here and introduces the Alan Partridge world to the U.S. This movie also gets points for being that creature of legend: the very good movie of a TV show.
The One Movie From 2013 I Wish Everyone Would Watch
(Rated R by the MPAA for strong sexual content, nudity, language, drug use and some domestic violence)
Lovelace wasn't anything more than middling from a technical point of view, but the story is the one from 2013 I'd like the most people to hear. Too many people still think of Deep Throat as racy and fun, and of Linda Lovelace as a glamorous poster child for the sexual revolution. In fact, she was abused and trafficked and by the end of her life campaigning to show people the dark underbelly of the porn world. While it won't make film buffs bow with respect to the artistic value, I saw enough grown men leaving the screening with tears in their eyes to know that this is a story better heard only decently told than not heard at all.
Timothy Wainwright is a writer based in New York City. He enjoys writing about culture, politics, and religion. You can follow him on Twitter at @Tim_Wainwright.