The 8th Annual Davies Awards in Film

A Look Back at 2013:

It angers me when people complain about the state of film today.  Yes, there’s an orgiastic onslaught of celluloid and digital excrement shoveled into multiplexes every year…but if 2013 proved anything, it’s that art finds a way to survive and quite often thrives in the manure laid across the silver screen.  This past year saw both one of the most accessible art films (12 Years a Slave) and one of the most artistic blockbusters (Gravity) of the decade blossom in the verdant soil of cinema.  I mean hell, Gravity proved that a money gouging gimmick (3D) utilized in so much of that dross that strangles viewers every year can actually be used in the correct artistic context to add…fancy that…new dimensions to film.

And survival and blossoming in the midst of a shit storm – thematically that’s what the year in film was about.  Witness surviving: being kidnapped into slavery (12 Years a Slave), outer space calamities (Gravity), adolescence (Mud), young adulthood (Frances Ha), marriage (Before Midnight), the sins of the father (The Place Beyond the Pines), the lonely high seas (All is Lost), Somali pirates (Captain Phillips), and false persecution (The Hunt).  Hmmm…they do say that all great stories are essentially the same story, don’t they?

Following the trend from 2012, it was another great year for actresses.  Perennial best supporting actress Amy Adams finally got a juicy lead role to revel in with American Hustle, Sandra Bullock overcame all preconceived notions about her limitations by giving an amazing and physical performance in Gravity, Cate Blanchet delicately navigated a descent into bourgeois madness in Blue Jasmine, and Brie Larson had a breakthrough in the heartstring-tugging Short Term 12.

The men also had their day with Matthew McConaughey graduating into ubiquitous greatness in Mud, Chiwetel Ejiofor delivering a performance for the ages in 12 Years a Slave, and Leonardo DiCaprio giving everything to excess in The Wolf of Wall Street.  I, however, grew weary of Robert Redford’s one-man ballad in All is Lost and Tom Hanks’ latest lame excuse to play a crying (and in this case faux) hero in Captain Phillips.

Still, while survival was the predominant theme, there were films that missed the mark and disappointed despite their ambitions.  Marauding monsters and giant robots did not a good summer film make in Guillermo Del Toro’s earnest but empty Pacific Rim.  On the flip side, Joss Whedon’s self-indulgent, completely unimaginative, arbitrary and poorly acted updating of Much Ado About Nothing proved that some ideas have no reason to exist and delivered what is probably the worst film adaptation of a Shakespeare play in the history of the medium.

Meanwhile, while they produced quality products, past masters Terrence Malick (with To the Wonder) and Martin Scorsese (with The Wolf of Wall Street) weren’t able to reach the same artistic echelons they have before.  Then there was poor Ridley Scott who proved yet again with The Counselor that Cormac McCarthy material makes for tepid films.

However, the worst films of the year were loud, disposable and bonkers.  The year opened with the surprise horror hit, Mama, a totally worthless and nonsensical faux fright fest that left a blight on the resume of Jessica Chastain (one of the shining starts of 2012).  The worst offender in Hollywood, however, was Brad Pitt who starred in and produced the horrendous mess of a film, World War Z, which thanks to its zombie-lite apocalyptic tone managed to be a monster hit.

Yet despite some disappointments and some crap, it was overall a very good year for film with the wealth of quality spread out evenly across the twelve wild months.

As is always the case, while I am confident in my top choices, there are a few films I wish I had the opportunity to see before publishing the annual list (most notably Dallas Buyers Club, Her and The Past), so I reserve the right to make amendments.  However, without further adieu…

The Schleicher Spin proudly presents:

The 8th Annual Davies:

Awarding Excellence and Idiocy in Film for the Year 2013

The Top Ten Films of 2013:

  1. 12 Years a Slave – Steve McQueen
  2. Gravity – Alfonso Cuaron
  3. Inside Llewyn Davis – The Coen Brothers
  4. The Place Beyond the Pines – Derek Cianfrance
  5. Mud – Jeff Nichols
  6. Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen
  7. Short Term 12 – Destin Cretton
  8. The Hunt – Thomas Vinterberg
  9. Before Midnight – Richard Linklater
  10. Frances Ha – Noam Baumbach

Honorable Mentions:

* Note: Some foreign films may have made the festival and awards circuit in 2012, but if their stateside theatrical release fell within 2013 then I consider them a 2013 film.

Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave

Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity

Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave

  • Runner- up:  Matthew McConaughey for Mud

Best Actress:  Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine

  • Runner-up:  Sandra Bullock for Gravity

Best Supporting Actor:  Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave

Best Supporting Actress:  Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave

Best Original Screenplay:  The Coen Brothers for Inside Llewyn Davis

Best Adapted Screenplay:  John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave

Worst Screenplay:  Cormac McCarthy for The Counselor

Best Editing:  Gravity

Worst Editing:  World War Z

Best Original Music Score:  Hans Zimmer for 12 Years a Slave

Best Soundtrack (of previously composed material):  All that great folk music old and new from Inside Llewyn Davis

Best Cinematography:  Emmanuel Lubezki for Gravity

Best Special Effects:  Gravity

Most Underrated (0r Overlooked) Film:  Short Term 12

Most Overrated Film:  All is Lost

Best Guilty Pleasure:  Only God Forgives

Best Sci-Fi Film:  Gravity

Best Horror Film:  The Conjuring

Best Franchise Film:  The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Movie Trend I Thoroughly Enjoyed:  Umm, didn’t I make my point about the whole survival thing already?

Movie Trend I Completely Ignored:  Movies from Disney (Frozen) and about Disney (Saving Mr. Banks)

Biggest Disappointment: Pacific Rim

Worst Picture: World War Z


Results from past Davies Awards can be found by clicking below:

The 7th Annual Davies Awards in Film

The 6th Annual Davies Awards in Film

The 5th Annual Davies Awards in Film

The 4th Annual Davies Awards in Film

The 3rd Annual Davies Awards in Film

The 2nd Annual Davies Awards in Film

The 1st Annual Davies Awards in Film

We encourage feedback and suggestions for categories next year.

Reviews for many of the films mentioned here can be found under the “Movie Reviews” category.


Tell us what your pick was for Best Film of 2013.

What movies would make your Top Ten List?

Speak your mind and join the discussion by leaving a comment!

If you’re a fellow film blogger with your own awards, top ten list or 2013 wrap-up, share your links in the comment form.

Written by David H. Schleicher


  1. Of what I’ve seen on your lists, I have loved. I do disagree with Wolf of Wall Street. It was long. It was bloated. And about half way through I repeatedly asked my friend (turned into a whine), when is he getting arrested? And when he was arrested, there was a loooong postlude. Three hours I will never get back. Gave Martin Scorsese a nod his cinematic children and grandchildren including the wonderful American Hustle.

    Many of the films I have not seen on your list, I plan to view on Netflix. Thank you! And Happy New Year, David.

    • Happy New Year, Dianne!

      While I was overall disappointed with The Wolf of Wall Street (it’s second tier Scorsese at best and had no real point), I still found it to be well made, well acted, and full of some outrageously funny moments.

    • That scene was funny, yes, but over the top…and not the funniest. I loved the yacht sinking to the tune of “Gloria” and any of the scenes with Rob Reiner (Meathead will always be comic gold). The discussions around the midget tossing were funny too.

  2. I did not want to see Leonardo DiCaprio’s backside. If I’d seen it in Queens, NY, I would have yelled at the screen, “nobody wants to see your backside. This ain’t the Titanic.” The only sighting worst than that was Michael Douglas’ flat behind in Basic Instinct. I was in A Queens movie theater for that one and EVERYONE howled. I think I’d make a ton of money with my colorful around the way reviews. The important stuff.

    • LMAO – yeah, I didn’t want to see that either, though I imagine there are many people who did. With re: to: “I think I’d make a ton of money with my colorful around the way reviews. The important stuff.” – go for it! I’d love to read them, that’s for sure!

  3. I agree with most of your choices, David, but not all. A few I have no intention to view, like, yes, Wolf of Wall Street, or The Hunger Game (not a fan of fantasy series), The Conjuring (or horror). A few others I’d enjoyed, like Mud, and The Hunt. And, as I watched Inside Llewyn Davis last night, Frances Ha kept creeping into my mind. I feel these two are the flip sides of each other. For me, American Hustle is over-rated. And, Only God Forgives spooked me with the feeling that you had with Mama, why would Kristin Scott Thomas take on such a role? I’m disappointed that she has not got any good ones in years. How sad. Similarly, I wish Jessica Chastain would not go down that path. The Place Beyond The Pines is a surprise, I liked it except I felt it’s a bit dragging at the end (the next generation.) And you know where we diverge, I’m for All Is Lost, and not the hi-tech fantasy Gravity. BTW, these two films shows the exact contrast in an existential survival mode: the chirpy and loquacious vs. the strong and silent type. You know which one I’d pick. Great lists, David!

    • Arti – I will proudly stand on the opposite end of the Gravity vs. All is Lost debate, though I get where you’re coming from. Interesting point you make re: Inside Llewyn Davis and France Ha – I hadn’t thought of linking the two, but they do both paint a certain type of melancholic young adult struggling artiste milieu, don’t they?

      • Not only that, but they are total opposite in the end. Frances made some leeway and more fortunate in achieving her goal while Llewyn Daivs isn’t that bright and optimistic. I’d like to see it again before I write about it. Also, the film Barbara is a gem. Glad you mentioned it.

        • Arti – you’re right! Frances finally “grew up” it seems and was happy about it, while Llewyn, well, he was stuck in the same ol’ same ol’.

          And yes, Barbara was a very interesting film…minimalist in style but maximum in content with lots of layers. Petzold is one of my favorite “under the radar” directors.

  4. David—I won’t be publishing my own Top 10 list until Monday, January 13th, but I pretty much know what’s there, and I am amazed and thrilled to say that FIVE (5) of your picks will be on my own list:

    12 Years A Slave (1)
    Short Term 12 (2)
    The Hunt
    Frances Ha

    And we have the same Number 1!!!!!


    I dig your entire, fabulous presentation, distinguished and tasteful in every regard.

    But I still love ALL IS LOST, which makes my runners-up list. LOL!!!

  5. Very nice list David. I see have not quite got to all of the films I want to and still need to catch Her and Llewyn Davis in the next couple weeks. I can safely say that at least 4 of yours (12 Years a Slave, Before Midnight, Gravity, and Blue Jasmine) are very likely to make my top 10. Mud and Francis Ha I also liked but may slide off the top 10. I would say with a high degree of confidence that 2013 turned out to be a far greater fruitful year in my estimation for film than 2012. I couldn’t even come up with 10 films for a top 10 list last year. I could only list 8 worthy of mention. This year I’m already at a list of about 12 that are vying for 10 spots, with another several films still to go. Blanchett is a great pick and I am thinking she is likely to win the major awards as she hasn’t won a best actress before which is somewhat amazing. Survival was a trend, as was greed/partying/excess which was on display in American Hustle, Wolf of Wall Street, Pain and Gain, Spring Breakers, Gatsby and I’m sure I’m forgetting one or 2.

    • Jon – I agree that 2013 had more depth of quality than 2012 – this was one of the easiest top ten lists I had to come up with in recent years as there was a multitude of great choices that instantly jumped to mind, and the quality was spread out evenly over the year. When usually there might be one or two standouts in the first 10 months and then everything is jammed into the last 2 months, this year had high quality entries in each season.

      You’re right about wealth acquisition and excess being the second dominant theme (I would also add The Bling Ring to your list) – I just didn’t feel those films resonated as much (not surprisingly so given the inherent emptiness of such a lifestyle) and a few of those films were downright awful in every cinematic sense. The Great Gatsby certainly gave World War Z a run for its money as worst picture of the year.

  6. Your list depressed me. Not because I disagree with your choices, but because I missed so many movies this year. I’m not putting together my own choices for that very reason, but I can’t imagine my own best would leave off Inside Llewyn Davis, 12 Years a Slave, The Great Beauty, and Before Midnight. Frances Ha, Blue Jasmine, All Is Lost, and Gravity are all strong contenders as well.

    And I completely agree about Cate Blanchett as best actress, though again, that’s only so far.

    • Jason – looking back I’m shocked I saw as many movies as I did in 2013 – as I was very busy with career ventures, travel and what not – yet somehow I still found the time for one of my great loves.

      Hopefully you can get back on the horse in 2014.

  7. As you already know David, you and I are practically on the same page with best list. Only two in your top 10 I have yet to see, THE HUNT and SHORT TERM 12. People complain films today are so bad but all they have to do is stay away from the crappy over bloated blockbusters and look a little deeper into the catalogue.

    • Agreed – people just have to know where to look. I think you’ll find much to appreciate in both The Hunt and Short Term 12 when you get around to them. I just saw Spike Jonze’s Her today – and that would probably fit into the honorable mentions.

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