Before ringing in 2014, Americans take a look back on the top moments of 2013

See what Americans think of the past year, how they plan to celebrate the holiday and what they will remember most about the year that is about tonewyear27n-2-web

WASHINGTON — Ready to ring in the new year, Americans look ahead with optimism, according to a new AP-Times Square New Year’s Eve poll. Their ratings of the year gone by? Less than glowing.

What the public thought of 2013:

GOOD YEAR OR GOOD RIDDANCE?

On the whole, Americans rate their own experience in 2013 more positively than negatively, but when asked to assess the year for the United States or the world at large, things turn sour.

— All told, 32% say 2013 was a better year for them than 2012, while 20% say it was worse and 46% say the two years were really about the same. Young people were more apt to see improvement: 40 % of people under age 30 called 2013 a better year than 2012, compared with 25 % of people age 65 or older.

— The public splits evenly on how the year turned out for the country, 25% saying it was better than 2012, 25% saying it was worse. As with most questions about the state of affairs in the U.S. these days, there’s a sharp partisan divide. Democrats are more apt to say the U.S. turned out better in 2013 than 2012 (37%) than are Republicans (17%).

— Thinking about the world at large, 30% say 2013 was worse than 2012, while just 20% say it was better.

But the outlook for the new year is positive: 49% think their own fortunes will improve in 2014, 14 % are anticipating the new year to be a downgrade from the old: 34% say they don’t expect much to change.

Top 10 Movies of 2013: ‘Gravity,’ ‘American Hustle,’ ‘Captain Phillips’ among a satisfying mix of best films

gravity

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney run into trouble in space in “Gravity.”

This year delivered a perfect mix of satisfying big movies and indies, taking us from the sea to the stratosphere and through history. Here are the 10 best.

1.  “Gravity” Alfonso Cuaron’s adventure drama is mesmerizing and expansive, with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney fitting perfectly into all the technological wonder. Popular entertainment at its smartest. And at 90 minutes, this baby is tight as a drum.

2.  “12 Years a Slave” The journey of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) through a horrific America he knew of but didn’t understand became our journey as well in director Steve McQueen’s unflinching drama. Extraordinary performances from Lupita Nyong’o and Michael Fassbender.

3.  “American Hustle” David O. Russell’s cool, funny caper about character reinvention taken from the Abscam scandal of the ’70s. Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper are caught in a fever dream; Jennifer Lawrence is a deliciously loose cannon.

4.  “Her” Joaquin Phoenix’s lonely divorcé finds the love of his life in Samantha, his computer’s operating system. Writer-director Spike Jonze makes the film (and the vocal performance of Scarlett Johansson) a link between the cranial and the carnal.

5. “The Spectacular Now” Director James Ponsoldt’s quiet drama is such a beautiful evocation of teenage emotions that it goes beyond being a story of tentative love between two kids (Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley). Instead, this adaptation of a young adult novel is a for-the-ages film about a vulnerable moment in life.

6. “Before Midnight” We saw Ethan Hawke’s Jesse and Julie Delpy’s Celine meet in their 20s in “Before Sunrise” (1995), then reconnect in “Before Sunset” (2004). Now, it’s like we’re visiting old friends. All three films combined comprise one of the great cinematic love stories.

7. “Captain Phillips” A movie about hell at sea and varying viewpoints on masculinity, this nail-biter was taken from a true story. Somali pirates board a shipping transport, eventually taking its skipper (Tom Hanks, below) hostage. Paul Greengrass’ no-nonsense film knocks the wind out of you.

8. “Fruitvale Station” The ache of watching the final 24 hours of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), an innocent young Bay Area man killed by police early on New Year’s Day 2009, is palpable in director Ryan Coogler’s debut. This outstanding work makes you angry and mournful and, most of all, makes you feel.

9.  “The Wolf of Wall Street” Maestro Martin Scorsese goes gonzo in this real-life tale of New York greed and amorality, with a great Leonardo DiCaprio performance and a deliriously vicious comic tone.

10. “Short Term 12” Brie Larson is wonderful in a movie about twentysomething employees at a home for at-risk teens. Writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton based the film on his own experiences, and the movie’s heartfelt approach wraps around you.
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