Timing is everything when it comes to making a "Best Movies of the Year" list.
It's taken almost four decades to figure that out. With studios waiting until mid-December to release most of their best work in hopes of Golden Globes and Oscar nominations, movie reviewers are left scrambling trying to find ways of seeing as many as possible before the deadline for filing their lists.
On Maui, FirstLight helps immensely. Premieres of films like "Saving Mr. Banks," "The Wolf of Wall Street" and "August: Osage County" happened days or weeks before they open wide nationally. But still, having to compile such a list always inspires questions of what you haven't seen yet, or what you might have overlooked earlier in the year.
And there's something elitist about making such lists in the first place. It's a way of signaling that, yes indeed, you are in the chosen group of deciders, pointing out not only the year's best work, but your credentials for bestowing that distinction.
A disparity also often arises in awards season between what's "best" and what's popular. Rare blockbusters like "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" bridge the gap, making up in ticket sales for what it won't get in awards. "Fruitvale Station" makes critics' lists, but isn't seen by anyone else. My guess is "We're the Millers" won't end up on too many lists besides this one.
Oscar season serves up a feast of great performances. Although sleazeball con-man comedies ("American Hustle," "The Wolf of Wall Street") are the flavor of the week, it's great to see early nominations and awards recognizing the long careers, and the wisdom acquired, by guys like Robert Redford and Bruce Dern.
Among actresses, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchette, Julia Roberts, Amy Adams and Judi Dench remind us why they're Oscar perennials, but they're joined by the blinding new talents of actresses like Jennifer Lawrence and Brie Larson.
But enough stalling. Here, without further ado, are the movies I loved in 2013:
1. "12 Years a Slave" - Director Steve McQueen and a brilliant cast rewrite everything we know on the subject with this shattering history lesson.
2. "Gravity" - Director Alfonso Cuaron and Sandra Bullock expand the bounds of filmmaking to get the audience lost in space.
3. "Before Midnight" - Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and director Richard Linklater's provide the third chapter of their bible about women, men and the distance between.
4. "Nebraska" - Bruce Dern's star turn as 80-year-old Woody caps Alexander Payne's black-and-white masterpiece of life in the heartland.
5. "August: Osage County" - Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts as mother and daughter are electrifying in Tracy Letts' adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize-winning dramedy, leading an awesome ensemble that takes family dysfunction to places it's never been before.
6. "American Hustle" - Writer-director David O. Russell turns the botched ABSCAM scandal into a screwball comedy in '70s-style hair and wardrobes with help from Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams and scene-stealing Jennifer Lawrence.
7. "Short Term 12" - Maui's Destin Cretton writes and directs and Brie Larson marks her big-screen arrival in this gritty yet hopeful drama set in a foster care facility.
8. "We're the Millers" - Of all the year's dumb comedies, this was the funny one.
9. "Captain Phillips" - Of Tom Hanks' one-two Oscar punch, this is the serious one.
10. Can't decide between - "Philomena." "Blue Jasmine." "All is Lost." "Much Ado About Nothing." "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." "Now You See Me. "Lee Daniels' The Butler." "Prisoners." "Don Jon." "Saving Mr. Banks." "Fruitvale Station." "Renoir." "The Wolf of Wall Street."
This is my last column in Maui Scene. Thank you all for making it such a great ride.
* Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org