Byline: Jeff Long
It was the year when Christian Baled out of Wayne Manor and rolled into Union Station. Exchanging his Batman cowl for a bad comb-over, he left Robin behind and began stealing folks blind, in "American Hustle.'' Goodbye, rotten Gotham City -- hello, city of Robert Goddard!
Also, when has there been a year bursting with so many outstanding pictures that explored themes of family separation so variously and so achingly? We held our breath as we watched Sandra Bullock lost in space ("Gravity'') and Robert Redford lost in waves ("All Is Lost''). And don't forget the emotional wallops we got from the tales of split-up families depicted in "Philomena,'' "12 Years a Slave,'' "Out of the Furnace,'' "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom'' and "Captain Phillips.''
Then again, some other fine films served up during 2013 suggested to us that sometimes the only thing worse than being away from our families might be to be with them. Well-crafted movies centering on strained family relations included "Blue Jasmine,'' "Before Midnight,'' "Nebraska,'' and "August: Osage County.''
What else did we watch?
In 2013, we visited fantasylands for children ("Saving Mr. Banks'') and for adults ("The Wolf of Wall Street''). And we traveled from green acres and crop dusters ("August: Osage County'') to Greenwich Village and coffeehouses ("Inside Llewyn Davis'').
We saw two period pieces set in Dallas -- one about a dying commander-in-chief being aided at a nearby hospital ("Parkland'') and the other about a cowboy in chaps with the AIDS virus, who is leery of hospitals ("Dallas Buyers Club'').
There were some memorable lighter moments from the year past, as well. We thumbed an amusing ride from Montana to Nebraska in a hidden cash pot comedy ("Nebraska''). Then, from Nebraska, we headed off to North Carolina, in Johnny Knoxville's outrageous hidden-camera vehicle ("Bad Grandpa'').
Among foreign films that merited wider exposure was the grim German drama "The Silence,'' whose slow-boil action spreads across decades.
Now in our rearview mirror, the remaining glut and gamut of movies ranged from the decent to the -- let's just say -- largely "Thorgettable.'' We found some diversion in the new super-exploits of a Man of Iron and a Man of Steel. But then there was the Man of Steel Claws ("Wolverine''), slashing away through a cut-rate script that was a nearly mindless blur of action sequences. And the latest Star Trek film had us scratching our head, as Spock fought the enemy...