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The Ultimate Guide

Jeff Simon's 4-star movies from 2013

2013 was a great year for movies and News Arts Editor Jeff Simon found several worthy of his highest rating. Read more

All is Lost

The year’s primal American movie – a harrowing and magnificent near-wordless story of one man, a lone sailor in the Indian Ocean, versus a hostile universe in the form of an angry, storm-tossed sea. The performance by 77-year-old Robert Redford is the performance of his, and most ordinary actors' life.

Stories We Tell

One of the most creative and unusual autobiographical documentaries ever made and one of the most haunting films of a movie year full of them. For years, we only knew Sarah Polley as an actress. She's one of our great living filmmakers.

Forest Whitaker in the freely fictionalized story of a very real White House butler over many presidential administrations. Oprah Winfrey plays his wife. Our era's black film establishment in the most convincing fictional film yet made about the conflicts inside the Civil Rights Movement of the '60s.

Gravity

The first half hour of this movie took us somewhere we had never been before in a movie theater - unmoored outer space recorded with so much devastating visual realism that you could feel it in your stomach. After such cinematic majestry, Sandra Bullock's return to earth was the triumph we yearned for and needed.

Captain Phillips

Reality made a major comeback in 2013 movies. This high-seas piracy tale was incredibly suspenseful despite the fact that we all saw the outcome on front pages and the evening news. Neither prepared us for the coda by actor Tom Hanks giving us, at the end, a traumatized wordlessness we’d never seen on screen before. Now we know what happens after dramatic stories end.

Blue Jasmine

Another senior citizen of American film at the top of his game. It became Woody Allen's best of his latter-day career by marrying the Bernie Madoff story with "Streetcar Named Desire." Cate Blanchett's performance in the lead is the finest performance in any Allen film and the finest by anyone in this magnificent movie year.

Before Midnight

The newest, and most impressive, entry in a series about a loving couple (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who simply can't stop being fascinating and immensely articulate on camera.

American Hustle

A triumph and a stunner. Not just brilliantly acted by actors who have become a stock company for director David O. Russell - Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence - but brilliantly and quotably written, too. It's hilarious, And crazy. And lovable.

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