Sunday, February 23, 2014

End-Of-Year: 2013 Film Winners

By this time next week, we will know which actors and films have won an Oscar. As I said a few days ago with my own nominations, I'm trying to post about my favorite performances and movies before they give us their choices. So here are my picks...

Best Actor: Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
Runner-Up: Joaquin Phoenix, Her
Other Nominees: Leonardo DiCaprio, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Domhnall Gleeson, Nicholas Jacob

In all honesty, this was a four-way tie between Isaac, Phoenix, DiCaprio, and Ejiofor, and I only ended up picking Isaac and Phoenix because I liked their films a bit more. Isaac seemed to have been born to play his musically talented sad sack of a character while Phoenix gave a performance so completely unexpected and beautiful that I'm pretty much still reeling over the fact that he's the same person who gave us Freddie Quell last year. DiCaprio was great in two films this year and really gave everything he had in another Scorsese classic (his quaalude scene is in my Top 5 scenes of the year if I actually had such a list) while Ejiofor just killed me with his final scene (and everything else he did in the film). Gleeson was perfectly cast as the awkward romantic while newcomer Jacob impressed in his debut film.

Best Actress: Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Runner-Up: Amy Acker, Much Ado About Nothing
Other Nominees: Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Brie Larson, Melissa McCarthy

Back in September when I was picking my favorite performances of the year thus far, Delpy, Acker, and Blanchett took my top three spots and that's pretty much where they fell in the end. For Delpy, it helped that she was part of a duo (with Ethan Hawke) I have come to absolutely adore during the past two decades they've been doing films together, but on her own her character is just a complete wonder to behold. Acker meanwhile is not known much outside of Whedon fanboys and TV fanatics, but she showed great depth and understanding for Shakespeare's Beatrice in her film. As for the others, everyone has already praised Blanchett and I have already joined the chorus and I can't wait for her to deservedly win the Oscars next week. Bullock was great in two very different films this year, affecting in one and hilarious in the other with an assist on the latter from McCarthy whose star keeps rising as it should. Finally, I've been such a fan of Larson for so long and I'm happy that everyone seems to finally be noticing her as well.

Best Supporting Actor: David Oyelowo, Lee Daniels' The Butler
Runner-Up: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Other Nominees: Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, Fran Kranz

Picking the eventual winner was much easier than picking the runner-up. First, the mark of a great supporting character for me is if while you're watching their film, you'd rather be watching them as the lead and Oyelowo did that for me. He stood out even in a cast full of so many (so many) celebrities and his character's journey was perhaps the most dynamic thing about the movie. As for the others, they all are so equally good. Gosling perhaps comes closest to my definition of a great supporting character, but his character's resonance was derived from his absence for most of the film. Meanwhile Oscar nominees Fassbender and Leto gave such memorable performances while I just love what Kranz did with such a small role. But my runner-up went to Abdi, because while you could argue that he was a second lead, you can't argue how great he was in the film especially going toe to toe with Hanks.

Best Supporting Actress: Scarlett Johansson, Her/Don Jon
Runner-Up: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Other Nominees: Elizabeth Banks, Melonie Diaz, Julianne Nicholson, Oprah Winfrey

I was super tempted to give this award again to Banks whose portrayal of Effie in Hunger Games is probably my favorite thing about that film franchise, but I digress. Johansson took my top spot because she impressed me in two films, both using her voice and presence in varying, but full effects. Nyong'o in the meantime is heartbreaking and amazing especially for her debut film role. Of course, there's Oprah who showed that even though it's been years since she has flexed her acting muscles, she still knows how to deliver. The combo of Winfrey-Oyelowo made me wish the film was more focused on Gaines' home life rather than his work life. Finally, Diaz and Nicholson didn't have much to do, but they used their limited screen times wisely delivering subtle, but powerful performances.

Best Young Actor/Actress: Onata Aprile, What Maisie Knew
Runner-Up: Keith Stanfield, Short Term 12
Other Nominees: Liam James, Nick Robinson, Tye Sheridan, Shailene Woodley

Whether supporting or lead, all of the young actors I've nominated here were not just good on their own, but elevated the films they were in. This is certainly true for my top two picks. In a film that felt like it was being pulled in so many directions, Aprile's chemistry with everyone in the cast gave the films its heart and center. Meanwhile Stanfield was pretty revelatory and scene-stealing especially in a couple of scenes towards the end, complementing the quietly heartbreaking yet affirming tone of his film.

Best Ensemble: Much Ado About Nothing
Runner-Up: Now You See Me
Other Nominees: 12 Years a Slave, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Inside Llewyn Davis, The Way Way Back

As if I wasn't going to pick the movie ensemble this year made up of mostly Whedon TV actors. If you thought differently then you don't know me at all! It helped that the film is freaking awesome to boot and they did have the advantage of being able to develop that unique camaraderie and chemistry by virtue of a few of them working together before even in the same setting. I only wish this would become an annual thing, Whedon adapting Shakespeare with his acting troupe. Anyways, I also enjoyed the unexpectedly fantastic ensemble work from the cast of Now You See Me as I had already stated earlier last year.

Most Disappointing Film: Elysium
Runner-Up: Only God Forgives
Other Nominees: Beautiful Creatures, Gangster Squad, Man of Steel, The Wolverine

The difference between this category and the Worst Film category is that I actually had some expectations regarding the films here. My "top" two choices came from directors whose earlier projects made my year-end top ten lists in other years, but unfortunately Elysium was just not District 9 and Only God Forgives was no Drive. The latter film at least had striking cinematography and a wild performance from Kristen Scott Thomas, while Elysium had the seemingly bigger sin of being mediocre all around.

Worst Film: The Hangover Part 3
Runner-Up: Oz The Great and Powerful
Other Nominees: The Host, Red 2, Upside Down, White House Down

The less said about any of these films the better though at least Red 2 and White House Down had some nice action sequences. The others were downright a waste of anyone's time. Runner-up Oz was cringingly misogynistic while my least favorite film of the last year was the worst film in The Hangover series which is saying a lot.

But enough about these bad films. What films did I like last year? Well based on a few of my comments above, it's pretty easy to come up with a list, but in a few days I'll have it all posted and ranked as I do.

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