If movie years are like vintages, 2013 has turned out to be one to keep, uncork, and savor for decades to come. It was a good year for the moneymen, of course — total US ticket receipts stand poised to top $11 billion for the first time — but it was simply a better year for movies, and for many different kinds of them. The big winners at the box office were the usual mix of sequels and remakes, and some of them were pretty good (“Iron Man 3,” “World War Z”) or even very good (“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “Star Trek Into Darkness”). But they weren’t the movies people were talking about, occasionally arguing about.
Last year saw a great film about Lincoln and the end of American slavery. This year came the movie that reminded us with scalding artistry why the end had to come. Last year’s major films obsessed about the past. The best movie I saw this year obsesses about the future. I like the fact that there’s a new Hobbit movie out and no one cares except the people who want to (and should) see it. I love that “Spring Breakers” was marketed as a Spring Break movie and thereby put a complacent target audience in a most uncomfortable and interesting place. I’m delighted at the sheer range and generosity of female performances in a medium that tends to pigeonhole actresses before shipping them out on an ice floe when they turn 35: Cate Blanchett, Julie Delpy, Judi Dench, Amy Acker, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Adèle Exarchopoulos (“Blue Is the Warmest Color”), Emma Thompson, Brie Larson, and — you heard me (and her) — Scarlett Johansson all gave performances worthy of whatever awards bling they get. (And yet you need to see Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” with a crowd to be reminded of how much of a boys’ club the cinema and our popular culture remain.)