And here we are…the 2013 year has passed and what a year it was. The Academy Award nominations will be announced on January 16 and critics’ awards and guilds have weighed in on their selections on what was the best of the year. For five years, I’ve created the “Davis Awards” – and not to be corny because they’re named after me, I do them to let everyone know that, simply put, list is mine. Consensus rules in the world and while I agree with some of those thoughts that are out there, my individual feelings about a certain film and performance will be reflected in these categories and citations. 2013 offered in my estimation one of the best film years I have ever witnessed. I haven’t been this impressed with a slate of films like this since 1994.
There were many categories that required special consideration and thinking. Tears filled my eyes as some films and performances had to be omitted from certain categories. Worst of all, and I’m sure many of my colleagues share my thoughts on this, getting the impressive slate of films this year down to a top ten was a daunting task. From choosing the conventional categories like Best Motion Picture, and making special citations in other areas, I am so excited to share my thoughts on the best of 2013.
MOST OVERRATED FILM OF THE YEAR
Sony Pictures has been very pleased with the reception of their prize-winning film from Academy Award nominated director David O. Russell. While a strong ensemble exists within the film, particularly the likes of Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper, the Eric Warren Singer/Russell written piece offered nothing more than a prime example of why you should allow more time in the editing room so your film can find a voice. The tonal nature of American Hustle is one of the more perplexing cinematic experiences in recent years but that doesn’t take away from some of the things that were done right. Getting an actor to commit, and find the motivation is one of Russell’s strong suits and has been exhibited in his past efforts like The Fighter and I Heart Huckabees. Standing next to the likes of Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave or Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, I don’t know how the discussion is tipping in Russell’s favor. It’s no contest. This is one of the year’s biggest disappointments.
RUNNERS UP: Joseph Gordon-Levitt creates inauthentic character portraits in Don Jon; A dirty old man fantasy lives deep inside the “love” of Emma and Adele in Blue is the Warmest Color.
MOST UNDERRATED FILM OF THE YEAR
Asghar Farhadi‘s previous Oscar-winning drama A Separation received a legion of loyal fans, many from this very site. Unfortunately for those individuals, anything that came after would pale by comparison. His new film The Past is full of rich and extraordinary narrative devices. Not to mention that its helmed by powerful and luxurious turns by Ali Mosaffa, Berenice Bejo, and Tahar Rahim. After a second viewing, and some soul-searching, The Past surpasses Farhadi’s inception into world-renowned cinema. Missing the cut for the Foreign Language shortlist, the selection by Iran will have a hard time finding any traction or love in the major categories. Pity.
RUNNERS UP: There is so much charm and laughs in the heartwarming film from Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s The Way, Way Back; Documentaries need more consideration in major categories. This year The Square from Netflix and Stories We Tell from Roadside Attractions prove that statement.
BEST PERFORMANCE IN A POOR FILM
My initial feelings about Jason Reitman’s newest dramatic venture were much more positive back in November. As time passes on, I like the film less and less but one thing that remains constant is the impressive work of Gattlin Griffith, delivering a mature, toned down version of Thomas Horn’s work in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Layered and selective in parts, Griffith shows the hints of what could be a promising career.
RUNNERS UP: She almost had it, but the film’s quirky and complex nature kept Cameron Diaz on the outside looking in with Ridley Scott’s The Counselor. So much fun and refreshing in a meandering and strange Nicolas Winding Refn film, Kristin Scott Thomas held her own in Only God Forgives.
WORST PERFORMANCE IN A GOOD FILM
I thoroughly like Mark Wahlberg and it pains me to cite him for this title in a film I very much enjoyed. The actor and producer has been damn near flawless in tension filled dramas like The Departed and has even excelled greatly in comedic works like The Other Guys and Ted. As Marcus Littrell, Wahlberg unfortunately doesn’t hone enough skill to connect with the material and even in one-liners like “…I would tell you brotha” or “why you help me?” – the delivery ultimately falls flat. Still admire the guy.
RUNNERS UP: Her doctor turned lesbian was ill-advised by director Steven Soderbergh when Catherine Zeta-Jones attempted her role in Side Effects; Call it just bad casting but everything seemed to go wrong with Liev Schreiber‘s Lyndon B. Johnson in Lee Daniels’ The Butler.
Love exists so prominently between man and machine in Spike Jonze’s beautiful portrait. Theodore Twalmby takes Samantha to the boardwalk to see the games and people, looking at the world with child-like wonder, she giggles at Theodore’s little ticks and anecdotes about the people that inhabit the earth. Picnics with friends have Samantha feel ever so present even though her body is missing and a trip to the cabin never felt so engaging and loving with the two singing the soft tune, “The Moon Song.” What a ride.
RUNNERS UP: Perfectly disastrous together but showing all the signs of true love, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) are the real deal in Before Midnight; You got to love each other if you’re encountering supernatural beings on a daily basis and I guess Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) prove it with a terrifying doll living in their house in The Conjuring.
Ben Stiller directs the remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty which assurance in some parts but its the script by Steve Conrad that falters immensely on the relationship between Walter and his crush Cheryl played by Kristen Wiig. Even as the story attempts to build the relationship, as the two walk in the park with Cheryl’s son, or when she, without warning, tells Walter to seek out an adventure, nothing rings true. The only occurrence of any love is in a fantasy sequence of Wiig singing beautifully, “Space Oddity” by David Bowie. Unfortunately the scene is cut short by the real track and ends with Walter jumping into a helicopter. Love makes you do the silliest things. Ugh.
RUNNERS UP: Just because they exemplify how to NOT parent a child and how to engage a new relationship, Trent (Steve Carell) and Pam (Toni Collette) were pretty awful in The Way, Way Back. Melodrama and a broken foundation made me feel nothing for Adele (Kate Winslet) and Frank’s (Josh Brolin) convict love in Labor Day.
BEST MUSICAL SEQUENCE
As The Coen Brothers bring Inside Llewyn Davis through the world of the 1960’s, excitement is filled in the theater as Justin Timberlake, Oscar Isaac, and Adam Driver passionately sing the hit song “Please Mr. Kennedy.” Isaac’s unsure “P-P-P-Please” is eloquently placed but no other big laughs or joy come until Driver places “outer space” in such a weird but delightful tone. One of my favorite things about film this year are encompassed in those approximate five minutes.
RUNNERS UP: Such a close second, Elsa’s shedding out her old life with the number “Let It Go” had me on my feet in Frozen; I almost cried my eyes out as P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) tapped her foot then got up and danced to “Let’s Go and Fly a Kite” in Saving Mr. Banks.
There were a lot of hot and steamy moments in film this year but the passion and aggression that Oscar and Sophina show each other in her mother’s house as the two argue about losing his job and what their next move will be. With such a fiery appetite to be with one another, the two kiss and capture the idea of young innocence but with adult responsibilities. Tenderness starts the gesture but quickly heats up with a hot Melonie Diaz being shoved against the wall by Michael B. Jordan. Loved it.
RUNNERS UP: Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Midnight fight in a hotel room but it follows a steamy make out session on a bed where the two capture mature love. The sweetness of Sutter (Miles Teller) and Aimee’s (Shailene Woodley) first kiss is too cute to ignore in The Spectacular Now.
“Relax…everything gonna be ok…”
I can still hear him with such a charismatic but sneaking candor telling Captain Richard Phillips that he and his crew are just “business.” Though Muse, played expertly by Barkhad Abdi, shows hints of a tortured and sad soul, director Paul Greengrass doesn’t allow the audience to have any misconceptions about him. He’s unrelenting and though he pretends to have more of a softer side to his kidnapping actions, he’s not just a fisherman.
RUNNERS UP: Unconventionally a villain, and some would argue he isn’t at all, the sleaze-ball schtick of Richie DiMaso is played up so profoundly by Bradley Cooper in American Hustle; I’m not sure if I’ll ever look at Michael Fassbender the same way again because of his Edwin Epps in 12 Years a Slave.
BEST ACTION SEQUENCE
A battle that is choreographed amazingly, Peter Berg’s war film blends sound and skill together in an expert manner that future war films should aspire to. Probably not since the opening Battle at Normandy in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan has a film depicted, with so much precision, the horrors of warfare in action. We didn’t even speak about the uses of sound as the soldiers throw themselves down two mountains, hearing bones break and shots fired, each and every second.
RUNNERS UP: (Destruction of the Explorer – Gravity) An opening 18 minutes ends with the destruction of our beloved space shuttle and thus, beginning the story of Ryan Stone and her survival; With beautiful cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle and Editing by Mike Hill and Dan P. Hanley, the final scene of Rush proved to be action packed.
More awards will continue throughout the week. Include your own thoughts and selections in the comment section.