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:
- 12 Years a Slave – Steve McQueen
- Gravity – Alfonso Cuaron
- Inside Llewyn Davis – The Coen Brothers
- The Place Beyond the Pines – Derek Cianfrance
- Mud – Jeff Nichols
- Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen
- Short Term 12 – Destin Cretton
- The Hunt – Thomas Vinterberg
- Before Midnight – Richard Linklater
- Frances Ha – Noam Baumbach
- American Hustle – David O. Russell
- Barbara – Christian Petzold
- The Conjuring – James Wan
- Disconnect – Henry Alex Rubin
- 42 – Brian Helgeland
- Fruitvale Station – Ryan Coogler
- Lore – Cate Shortland
- Nebraska – Alexander Payne
- Prisoners – Denis Villeneuve
- To the Wonder – Terrence Malick
- The Wolf of Wall Street – Martin Scorsese
* 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
- Runner-up: Ben Mendelsohn for The Place Beyond the Pines
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave
- Runner-up: Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle
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:
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?
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Written by David H. Schleicher