Here now is the very best 2013 had to offer: (you can find this year’s Oscar nominations HERE for comparison) UPDATED: Winners in each category are in bold, and any […]
Here now is the very best 2013 had to offer: (you can find this year’s Oscar nominations HERE for comparison)
UPDATED: Winners in each category are in bold, and any additional commentary for each category appears in green.
1. 12 Years a Slave (producers Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Bill Pohlad, Steve McQueen, Arnon Milchan, Anthony Katagas)
2. Captain Phillips (producers Scott Rudin, Michael De Luca, Dana Brunetti)
3. Gravity (producers David Heyman, Alfonso Cuarón)
4. Rush (producers Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Andrew Eaton, Eric Fellner, Brian Oliver, Peter Morgan)
5. The Wolf of Wall Street (producers Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Riza Aziz, Joey McFarland, Emma Tillinger Koskoff)
Runners-Up: Dallas Buyers Club, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Lone Survivor
This year’s Oscar Winner: 12 Years a Slave
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Lincoln
This year’s wild card, “I didn’t expect it to be that good” Best Picture nomination goes to Rush, a movie I was only moderately interested in seeing when it hit theaters in September, primarily because of its subject matter (Formula 1 racing). Rush is so much more than a movie about racing, though. It is first and foremost a story about rivals, which is a theme I adore in cinema, no matter the setting. Great rivalries make for great drama. I’m happy to see Ron Howard back in the hunt (pun intended) with his first awards contender since Frost/Nixon in ’08, and his first Biggies Best Picture nominee since the vastly underrated Cinderella Man in 2005. You probably didn’t see this movie in theaters, and hopefully its prominence here (with 7 nominations) may convince a few people to check it out. You’ll not regret it.
The drought is over, friends! For the first time in 10 years, the Oscars and I agree on the Best Picture winner. Praise Allah! Let’s have more of this going forward, Academy. Note that this is the second year in a row where the Best Picture winner was set during Civil War-era slavery. It’s the third Best Picture winner set in that period in Biggies history, after the first Biggies champ, Glory, in 1989. Other than World War II, it’s probably the segment of American history that interests me most, and I would love to make my own film set in this time period sometime down the road.
1. Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
2. Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
3. Ron Howard, Rush
4. Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
5. Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
Runners-Up: Peter Berg (Lone Survivor), Spike Jonze (Her)
This year’s Oscar Winner: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
No surprise here, as each of the directing nominees once again line up with the Best Picture field. There hasn’t been a discrepancy in this regard since 2009, when I nominated James Cameron for Avatar over Lee Daniels, who missed out being paired with his Best Picture-nominated Precious. Or should I say Lee Daniels’ Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire? Steve McQueen is the only first-time nominee here, and he’d be the first black director ever to win in this category at the Biggies or the Oscars if he’s able to pull it off.
Yes, I split ranks with virtually every other awards show this year and chose McQueen over Cuarón. Deal with it. I’ve said it 100 times and I’ll say it again; I can’t fathom how the best movie of the year isn’t also the best directed movie of the year. To me, the two go hand-in-hand. Yes, Gravity is the more impressive technical achievement, but 12 Years a Slave is a better movie, with better writing and a better collection of acting. I absolutely adore Steve McQueen’s style, particularly his economic use of editing and camera movement, and that style is perfectly suited to this story. Perhaps I admired his work here because I like to think that I would have directed 12 Years a Slave in much the same way. It’ll be tough for McQueen to top this, but I’m sure as hell excited to find out what he does next (as of this writing, he isn’t committed to anything new yet).
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
1. American Hustle, written by Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell
2. Blue Jasmine, written by Woody Allen
3. Dallas Buyers Club, written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack
4. Her, written by Spike Jonze
5. Rush, written by Peter Morgan
Runner-Up: Kelly Marcel, Sue Smith (Saving Mr. Banks)
This year’s Oscar Winner: Spike Jonze, Her
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty)
The exclusion of Gravity in this category makes that film the only of our Best Picture nominees to not have its screenplay nominated. Usually, that would be an unconquerable obstacle for a film’s Best Picture chances, but I think Gravity is that rarest of things; a film not reliant on its screenplay to ensure its quality. Gravity is much more of a visceral experience than one marked by its dialogue or sequencing of events. It does have a very good script, but I’m usually going to lean towards a well-structured story that also has good dialogue, if only because I think that’s a more difficult thing to pull off. It’s interesting to note that had Gravity been nominated here, Alfonso Cuarón would have had 4 individual nominations.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
1. 12 Years a Slave, screenplay by John Ridley
2. August: Osage County, screenplay by Tracy Letts
3. Captain Phillips, screenplay by Billy Ray
4. Philomena, screenplay by Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope
5. The Wolf of Wall Street, screenplay by Terence Winter
Runners-Up: Peter Berg (Lone Survivor), Destin Cretton (Short Term 12)
This year’s Oscar Winner: John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Tony Kushner (Lincoln)
This is the second year in a row Tracy Letts has adapted one of his own plays into a movie, and the second year in a row I’ve nominated him for doing such a fantastic job of it (following Killer Joe, one of my favorite movies of 2012). It’s hard to believe the same guy who wrote Undercover Brother is also responsible for 12 Years a Slave, but that’s the incredible journey John Ridley has been on. And personally, it thrills me to see a movie this good with a black writer and director at the top of the creative food chain. This film features the most realistic-sounding period dialogue I’ve heard since True Grit‘s sublime old west lingo in 2010. I don’t know how they did the research for it, but for me, dialogue is one of the key components of placing the audience into any story, and it’s one of the big reasons I was so engrossed by 12 Years a Slave.
BEST ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE
1. 12 Years a Slave
2. August: Osage County
3. American Hustle
4. Blue Jasmine
5. The Wolf of Wall Street
Runners-Up: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Saving Mr. Banks
This year’s Oscar Winner: N/A
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Lincoln
Fantastic casts all, but I want to make special mention of August: Osage County here, because it may have featured the most complex scene of all of 2013 from a writing, directing and editing standpoint. This movie is worth watching just for The Dinner Scene alone, which places the entire cast (10 people) at one dinner table in a scene that I timed at 20 minutes from beginning to end. It’s the very definition of ensemble acting, with strong beats for every single participant and some of the most intense “dysfunctional family” moments you’re ever gonna see in a movie, most notably the bits between Julia Roberts & Meryl Streep. Credit to director John Wells and editor Stephen Mirrione (Oscar winner for Traffic and frequent Soderbergh collaborator) for seamlessly putting that scene together. More than a decade of watching DVD commentaries has taught me that a lot of directors believe long dialogue scenes between more than 2 characters are one of the hardest things to arrange in the editing bay.
1. Christian Bale, American Hustle
2. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
3. Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
4. Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
5. Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Runners-Up: Daniel Brühl (Rush), Hugh Jackman (Prisoners), Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Robert Redford (All is Lost)
This year’s Oscar Winner: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
I already gave my boy McConaughey his props above, but speaking of comebacks, welcome back Tom Hanks!! After literally a decade in between truly strong dramatic roles, Hanks is double-nominated this year, for Best Actor and Supporting Actor in two excellent pictures. He’s fantastic as a regular joe throughout Captain Phillips, but that final scene where he plays Phillips in shock after he’s been rescued (performing alongside real American sailors) was probably the best acting in one scene in any movie this year. I’ll admit it, I was crying like a little bitch out of raw emotional astonishment. This works best if you’ve seen the movie (especially the scenes just prior to this during his final moments with the pirates), but holy shit, here it is:
I believe The Wolf of Wall Street is Leonardo DiCaprio‘s best-ever work, and that’s saying a lot given what this man has accomplished over the last 10-12 years, including all the great work he and Scorsese have done together. Wolf has a plethora of superb performances, but DiCaprio is a giant in the rare film that’s a big-time star vehicle and an ensemble piece at the same time. It’s nice to see Chiwetel Ejiofor finally get his day in the sun. I’ve been a big fan of his for years, and to see him break through like this as a leading man makes me proud. What else is there to say about Christian Bale‘s greatness? Once again, he proves he’ll do anything for a role. He’s done the super skinny thing, he’s done the fit and jacked thing, and now he can say he’s done the fat man thing. Just watching him play with his hair in American Hustle was worth the price of admission. This guy can do anything, and when I find out he’s growing out his body hair to play a dog for his next movie, I will not be surprised.
Watch Mr. Ejiofor dominate the screen in one of the single best scenes in any 2013 film, “Roll Jordan Roll” from 12 Years a Slave:
I anguished over this decision, my friends. This was the last category that I decided, and it was a 3-way race between DiCaprio, Ejiofor and McConaughey. In the end, it made sense to me that the best performance of Leonardo DiCaprio’s career should probably be good enough to win Best Actor, even in a tightly contested race like this one. I love every performance on this list, and I’m not angry that McConaughey won the Oscar, but I do believe DiCaprio deserved it by the slimmest of margins. This is DiCaprio’s first-ever Biggie win, after being nominated 9 times previously (individually and with his many great ensemble casts over the years).
1. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
2. Sandra Bullock, Gravity
3. Judi Dench, Philomena
4. Adèle Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color
5. Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Runners-Up: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Brie Larson (Short Term 12), Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
This year’s Oscar Winner: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
It’s nice to be able to honestly say that this was the hardest of the four acting categories to narrow down. I hated leaving Emma Thompson and Brie Larson off this list, but that’s how strong the lead female characters were this year. 20-year old Adèle Exarchopoulos is the one who knocked Thompson & Larson out, and I’m glad I made the time to watch the acclaimed French film Blue is the Warmest Color (it’s close to 3 hours long), because Exarchopoulos & Léa Seydoux are mindnumbingly brilliant in it. It’s the most powerful love story I’ve seen in years, and it features probably the rawest, realest acting of 2013. The other nominees are all at the top of their game, with Cate Blanchett delivering perhaps the finest performance of her sterling career. Sandra Bullock anchors Gravity‘s one-woman show, Meryl Streep does her Meryl Streep thing again, and please please please find the time to see Philomena, because Judi Dench is again a marvel in a truly heartbreaking performance.
As was the case with Mr. DiCaprio, when Cate Blanchett delivers the performance of her career, that’s probably gonna be good enough to win an award any year. All others stand and admire.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
1. Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
2. Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
3. Tom Hanks, Saving Mr. Banks
4. Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
5. Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Runners-Up: Paul Dano (12 Years a Slave & Prisoners), James Gandolfini (Enough Said), David Oyelowo (The Butler), Jeremy Renner (American Hustle), Sam Rockwell (The Way Way Back)
This year’s Oscar Winner: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
I don’t believe Jared Leto should be the lock down favorite this awards season would have you believe he is, but the fact is in Dallas Buyers Club, he plays 2 things that the actor-dominated Academy finds irresistible; gay and terminally ill. When you add in the fact that he also did the dramatic weight loss thing, that’s a trifecta that seldom loses on Oscar night. Make no mistake, he’s magnificent in the movie, but not leaps and bounds beyond his peers. Either way, I didn’t know he had this in him, so bravo. Not bad for a guy who hadn’t acted in 4 years.
I think it’s gonna be tough for Barkhad Abdi to continue finding good work going forward, but going to toe-to-toe with Tom Hanks in your big screen debut is not the worst thing you can be known for, and his personal story is incredible. He was born in Mogadishu, but had been living in Minnesota working as a chauffeur when the Captain Phillips casting call went out looking for real Somalis to play the pirates. He had ZERO acting experience prior to this movie. Now, he’s going to the Oscars. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is. Michael Fassbender‘s plantation owner was evil in a way I could definitely imagine some of these fuckers probably were in the 1850’s, and he’s terrifying in 12 Years. What can you say about Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street? Moneyball went a long ways to proving this guy could be a legit dramatic actor, but Wolf sealed the deal for me. It’s the best he’s ever been, and while some people find him a bit too over the top in this film, I found him to be appropriately so given the subject matter. Other than Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort, Hill’s is the best performance of the year with regards to balancing comedy and drama. It’s one thing to be a great comedian or a great dramatic actor, but to do both in the same movie (oftentimes in the same scene) is perhaps the toughest thing an actor can attempt. I fuckin loved him.
I’m just piling on at this point, but I want it known that Mr. Fassbender was a VERRRRRY close second.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
1. Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
2. Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
3. Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
4. Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
5. Léa Seydoux, Blue is the Warmest Color
Runners-Up: Scarlett Johansson (Her), Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street), Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station), June Squibb (Nebraska), Oprah Winfrey (The Butler)
This year’s Oscar Winner: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables)
It’s a rare year when I have more options for this category than I know what to do with, but as you can see from the runner-up list, there were at least 10 worthy female supporting roles in 2013. 12 Years a Slave is Lupita Nyong’o‘s feature film debut, and I think it’s safe to say we’ll be hearing a lot more from her in the years to come. Hers is probably the bravest, ballsiest performance of the year. At worst it’s a tie between her and Adèle Exarchopoulos. If you’ve been watching any of this year’s other awards shows, you’ll also know Ms. Nyong’o has been the queen of the red carpet these last few weeks. Jennifer Lawrence was of course up for Best Actress last year for Silver Linings Playbook, and even though her role in American Hustle was clearly meant for someone at least 5 years her senior (actually, Christian Bale’s real-life counterpart’s wife was 15 years older than him- good GOD), she once again displays wisdom beyond her 23 years in a totally convincing, charismatic performance that made you desperate to see more of her whenever she wasn’t onscreen. Julia Roberts hasn’t been nominated here since 2004 (Best Actress for Closer), and it’s nice to have her back in a role worthy of her screen presence as she held her own in several acting battles with Meryl Streep. Finally, Sally Hawkins is proof positive once again that British actors are just plain better than us. If this were the first time you’d seen her, you would not believe she was from anywhere other than New York City. I don’t know how they do it.
Jennifer Lawrence meeting Lupita Nyong’o for the first time was awesome.
1. Sean Bobbitt, 12 Years a Slave
2. Roger Deakins, Prisoners
3. Stuart Dryburgh, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
4. Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity
5. Hoyt Van Hoytema, Her
Runners-Up: Barry Ackroyd (Captain Phillips), Bruno Delbonnel (Inside Llewyn Davis), Anthony Dod Mantle (Rush)
This year’s Oscar Winner: Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Roger Deakins (Skyfall)
This marks the first year that the majority of my cinematography nominees were shot digitally, and it’s safe to say this may soon become the norm considering where the industry is headed. My tastes seem to be going in the same direction, as my last two cinematography winners were digital (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Skyfall). I believe we’ve finally arrived at the crossroads where digital can look just as good as film, despite what the film loyalists will tell you. Three of our five 2013 contenders (Prisoners, Gravity, Her) were shot digitally, all on the Arri Alexa system (although it should be noted that RED also made a fine showing this year with Star Trek Into Darkness, The Great Gatsby, The Counselor, The Hobbit, Thor: The Dark World, Short Term 12, Elysium, Lone Survivor, Netflix’s House of Cards, and several others all looking amazing). The incomparable Roger Deakins (the best lenser working today in my view) is nominated again, and if he wins it’d be back-to-back and the third time in four years (he also won for True Grit in 2010). Meanwhile, he still has zero Oscars. Make of that what you will.
Her features some of the best low-light digital photography I’ve seen yet, and I believe as a whole it’s a visual masterpiece. Gravity is this year’s CG-enhanced cinematography nominee, which I don’t prefer, but I shan’t deny Emmanuel Lubezki for the otherworldly lighting and visuals in that film. I was fairly certain after watching the first TRAILER for Walter Mitty that I’d be nominating its cinematography. I absolutely adore those wide angles and precise camera movements. Reminds me a lot of David Fincher‘s style. Kudos to Ben Stiller on being such a wonderful visualist.
Epic wide shot of 12 Years‘ vast cotton fields.
You cannot capture a sequence like this on film:
BEST FILM EDITING
1. Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger, Gravity
2. Colby Parker Jr., Lone Survivor
3. Christopher Rouse, Captain Phillips
4. Thelma Schoonmaker, The Wolf of Wall Street
5. Joe Walker, 12 Years a Slave
Runners-Up: Dan Hanley & Mike Hill (Rush)
This year’s Oscar Winner: Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger, Gravity
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Dylan Tichenor, William Goldenberg (Zero Dark Thirty)
Always one of the hardest categories to narrow down, but I think we’ve got 5 excellent choices here, including 4 of our Best Picture nominees. Since 2000, 9 of 13 Best Picture winners have also won for editing. That’s probably not coincidence. And by probably I mean definitely.
This was a tough race, but in the end, it was Steve McQueen and Joe Walker’s brilliant decisions to frequently NOT cut that put 12 Years over the top. This is a case of elegant, old school simplicity winning out over flash and style.
BEST ART DIRECTION
1. 12 Years a Slave
2. The Great Gatsby
4. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Runners-Up: The Lone Ranger, Saving Mr. Banks, The Wolf of Wall Street
This year’s Oscar Winner: The Great Gatsby
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Lincoln
How f’n cool is this?
Most movies nowadays would have created most of that set, especially the exterior, on the computer using a massive green screen stage. On Oblivion, they built the Sky Tower living quarters and workspace, they built that ship, and they projected real-world environments to create more realistic exteriors. Innovative thinking, excellent craftsmanship, and a nice change of pace from the modern norm. Respect.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
1. Julian Day, Rush
2. Catherine Martin, The Great Gatsby
3. Patricia Norris, 12 Years a Slave
4. Trish Summerville, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
5. Michael Wilkinson, American Hustle
Runners-Up: Ruth Carter (The Butler), Daniel Orlandi (Saving Mr. Banks), Sandy Powell (The Wolf of Wall Street), Janty Yates (The Counselor– if only for Cameron Diaz‘s awesome wardrobe)
This year’s Oscar Winner: Catherine Martin, The Great Gatsby
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Joanna Johnston (Lincoln)
A nice cross-section of time periods here, from the mid-1800’s American South to roaring 1920’s New York, the 1970’s in America and Europe, to an unspecified time in the dystopian future. I could never be an actor, but one of the things about acting that makes me the most jealous are the amazing costumes these people regularly get to wear, especially if you’re a girl.
Any excuse to show off the beautiful Elizabeth Debicki.
Mini rant: By the way, I’m about as tired of seeing the words “dystopian future” with regards to recent movies as I am seeing the term “YA novel” in reference to young adult fiction, whatever the fuck that even means. Is “young adult” the new code for “teenagers” so that people in their 20’s and 30’s don’t feel guilty reading these books and seeing these movies? I’m a regular adult, and I enjoyed The Hunger Games just fine. A good story is a good story, regardless of the age of the protagonists or the audience you think it’s marketed towards. Just look at all the middle-aged women who were obsessed with Twilight! Okay, that was a bad example. Moving on…
That’s two wins for the brilliant Catherine Martin, who was also the production designer on Gatsby.
1. American Hustle
2. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
4. Lone Survivor
This year’s Oscar Winner: Dallas Buyers Club
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Big shocker. I completely disagree with the Oscars’ Makeup nominees again. I swear there is no hair & makeup branch of the Academy, and their nominees are actually chosen by some asshole producer’s pet orangutan. It’s the only logical explanation. They didn’t even nominate American Hustle, which got more undeserved nominations than any other film this year. This one it actually does deserve. Go figure. Let’s take a few moments to admire Christian Bale’s elaborate combover process:
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
1. M83/Anthony Gonzalez, Joseph Trapanese, Oblivion
(This is “StarWaves”, which according to my iTunes, I’ve played 59 times through, easily my most listened-to track of 2013. You can play this track while doing literally anything; workout out, cleaning the house, sex, laying in bed trying to sleep, driving to work, cooking, murdering someone. It’s a masterpiece.)
2. Thomas Newman, Saving Mr. Banks
(once again, Thomas Newman nails an end credits cue)
3. Steven Price, Gravity
(Things go FUBAR in “Debris”)
4. Hans Zimmer, Man of Steel
(Kal-El gets his suit and discovers his powers in “Flight”)
5. Hans Zimmer, Rush
(All of the film’s main themes emerge in “Lost but Won”)
Runner-Up: Alex Ebert (All is Lost), Arcade Fire (Her), Howard Shore (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug), Hans Zimmer (12 Years a Slave)
This year’s Oscar Winner: Steven Price, Gravity
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: John Williams (Lincoln)
Look, I know this is getting old, but if you want me to stop nominating Hans Zimmer, you gotta convince him to take a year off and go on vacation somewhere far away where he can’t create any music. Otherwise, still in his prime at age 56, this man has no equal when it comes to consistently great film composition. Not only is this the 9th straight year he’s been Biggie-nominated, but it’s the 5th time he’s been double nominated. And if 12 Years a Slave had had more original scoring, he might have become the first triple nominee. Unfortunately, there were really only 2 pieces of score in 12 Years, and I can’t justify nominating someone for about 10 minutes of music, even if it is astounding. His work on Rush reminded me a lot of the kind of music he used to do in the mid-to-late 90’s when I first became aware of his work, and for Man of Steel, he accepted the monumental task of trying to write a Superman theme that somehow didn’t sound like dog shit compared to John Williams‘ legendary “Superman March”. I dare say he accomplished the task. If Williams’ theme is a perfect 10, Zimmer’s is no less than a 9.5, and one of the finest pieces he’s ever composed. Then you’ve got his dark, epic bad guy theme for Zod, and I knew as soon as I saw the Man of Steel trailers that this score was going to be nominated here. I’d love to ask a member of the Academy’s music branch why they didn’t vote for Man of Steel, and then punch them in the genitals after they give me a stupid answer, because there is no valid answer.
Steven Price‘s work on Gravity isn’t the kind of hummable music you can listen to on your mp3 player all the time, but it works perfectly within the film for the film, which is all that really matters. Regardless, not too shabby for a guy I’d never even heard of prior to seeing this movie in October. Thomas Newman, one of my 5 favorite composers EVAR, is back for the second straight year with Saving Mr. Banks, and M83 continues the trend of “regular” musicians composing excellent music for film, following in the footsteps of recent nominees Daft Punk and Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross. I listened to no other piece of music in 2013 more often than I did the magnificent “StarWaves” from Oblivion, which my iTunes currently tells me has been played 55 times. And that’s just the times I played it start to finish.
A notable omission this year is Howard Shore for The Desolation of Smaug, which is the first of the Hobbit/LOTR movies not to earn an Original Score nomination. Sad face, but as good as Smaug‘s score is, it’s not legendary like his previous work in Middle Earth. Unfortunately, on the whole, 2013 was much weaker than the past few years for scores. A lot of movies (including Smaug) had great individual tracks or themes, but very few had excellent, memorable scores throughout.
Zimmer’s win ties him in Biggies lore with John Williams at 5 wins apiece. With Zimmer scoring both The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Chris Nolan’s Interstellar later in 2014, it seems highly likely he’ll be nominated for the 10th consecutive year. Astonishing. I’d love to see a battle between Zimmer for Insterstellar and Howard Shore for There and Back Again this time in 2015. We shall see.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
1. “Over the Love”, written by Stuart Hammond, Kid Harpoon, SBTRKT, Florence Welch
performed by Florence + The Machine, The Great Gatsby
2. “Young and Beautiful”, written by Lana Del Rey, Rick Nowels
performed by Lana Del Rey, The Great Gatsby
3. “Together”, written by Jamie Smith, Oliver Sim, Romy Madley Croft
performed by The xx, The Great Gatsby
4. “I See Fire”, written & performed by Ed Sheeran, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
5. “Silhouettes”, written by Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, Ragnar Þórhallsson, Brynjar Leifsson, Kristján Páll Kristjánsson, Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson
performed by Of Monsters and Men, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Runners-Up: M83/Anthony Gonzalez, Susanne Sundfør (“Oblivion”, from Oblivion), Karen O., Spike Jonze, Scarlett Johansson, Joaquin Phoenix (“The Moon Song”, from Her), Coldplay (“Atlas”, from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire)
This year’s Oscar Winner: “Let It Go”, from Frozen
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Adele & Paul Epworth (“Skyfall”, from Skyfall)
The Oscars, per usual, completely fucked this category up, and NONE of my nominees coincide with theirs. Tough shit. This year in particular, the Academy violently spit in the face of good taste with all but one of their nominees (“The Moon Song”, which is the only one of their options I even seriously considered). They just can’t help themselves nominating cheesy, inspirational Disney songs (Frozen‘s “Let It Go”) and mediocre songs by megastars (U2‘s “Ordinary Love”, which, I’m sorry, is average at best). I like that my boy Pharrell Williams is nominated for an Oscar, but, again, “Happy” is just okay. But hey, it’ll look great being performed by a dozen dancers on the show! I guess that’s all they really care about. The fact that NOTHING from the incredible Great Gatsby soundtrack got nominated is downright offensive. Well, I certainly rectified that here, with Gatsby taking 3 of this year’s Original Song nominations, along with Ed Sheeran‘s beautiful, mythological acoustic track from Smaug (continuing the Middle Earth movies’ streak of having their theme songs nominated, and I expect nothing less next year for whatever they come up with for There and Back Again), and the great Of Monsters and Men track from Catching Fire. Hell, I would choose any of my runner-ups to win over any of the Oscars’ actual nominees. All of this year’s songwriters and performers are first-time Biggie nominees.
Another VERY close call, this time between “I See Fire” and “Young and Beautiful”, but after listening to each song an additional 5 times or so to determine the winner here, Ed Sheeran’s melodic tale won the day. Here is the official music video for “I See Fire”:
BEST STUNTWORK & CHOREOGRAPHY
1. Fast & Furious 6
2. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
3. Iron Man 3
4. Lone Survivor
5. The World’s End
Runners-Up: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Man of Steel, Oblivion, Rush
This year’s Oscar Winner: N/A
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: The Raid: Redemption
Unfortunately, there were very few movies this year that relied on practical stunts for the majority of their action scenes. Most of the nominated movies feature a lot of all-CGI action, or heavily CG-enhanced action. That’s okay when the action is good and believable, but I always prefer real stunts to CG action, as is evident in my past winners here. CG action allows filmmakers to do whatever the hell they please, but that freedom can result in a scene straying too far outside the boundaries of credibility, more often than not breaking one of my favorite rules of life, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
I took plot into account more this year, so Man of Steel was out despite its impressive action sequences. Like many, I noted in my review [HERE] that I felt the destruction at the end of the film, while impressive to look at, was way overdone from a story standpoint, and I couldn’t reconcile that enough to nominate MoS above any of these finalists. Thankfully, the Fast & Furious franchise continues using practical stunts for the majority of its action sequences. The car chase through London at the beginning of the film is one of the better car chases in recent memory, and any movie that uses a real tank on a highway is probably getting nominated by default. Movie + real tank = Best Stuntwork nomination. That’s just simple arithmetic. Then there’s the impressive dual fist fighting scenes in the middle of the movie, and you’ve got a wonderful mix of vehicular chaos and intense hand-to-hand combat. And yes, while the final sequence on the longest runway in the history of Earth was absolutely absurd, you have to appreciate the hard work that went into creating it, and you have to award bonus points for Vin Diesel‘s flying headbutt. I don’t know if the franchise can repeat, but Fast Five did win this category two years ago.
The Hobbit gets in based almost solely on the brilliantly choreographed, mixed CG/live-action barrel escape/orcs vs. elves & dwarves sequence, and if you saw the stunt guys tumbling down those steep rocky hills (which was done for real) in Lone Survivor, you know those scenes are what got the most audible gasps from any audience watching that movie. I think I tore my left ACL and shattered a fibula just sitting there watching it.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
2. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
4. Man of Steel
5. Star Trek Into Darkness
Runners-Up: Elysium, The Great Gatsby, Iron Man 3, Oblivion, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Wolf of Wall Street
This year’s Oscar Winner: Gravity
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Life of Pi
“REVENGE?! I will show you REVENGE!”
I almost passed over Man of Steel because, as I’ve said numerous times, I believe the destruction at the end was over the top, and as such, a disservice to the story. Visual effects for visual effects’ sake do not impress me if they aren’t serving the story being told. However, I couldn’t let that sequence alone take away from the rest of the incredible work done in the film. Peter Jackson’s boys gave us the usual visual splendor of Middle Earth, which has been so amazing for so long that it’s unfortunately become easy to take for granted. Of course, the highlight this time was Smaug, who is the awesomest movie dragon at least since those from Reign of Fire, which I might say are still the coolest dragons I’ve ever seen in a movie. It’s close. And nearly every shot in Gravity has some kind of ridiculously complex visual effect that helped make it the most convincing “space film” ever made.
I love posting these VFX breakdown videos, but the only decent one I could find for the nominees was for Star Trek Into Darkness, from the wizards at ILM:
And HERE is a fantastic longform article on the VFX of Catching Fire.
As you can see from the runners-up, this was a very tough list of options to narrow down this year. Even though I didn’t nominate it, I came damn close to nominating The Wolf of Wall Street, because that film’s effects are the definition of servicing the story. Here’s a great little video detailing several of the shots from the film you probably had no idea contained a serious amount of effects work:
1. 12 Years a Slave
2. Captain Phillips
4. Lone Survivor
Runners-Up: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
This year’s Oscar Winner: Gravity
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Zero Dark Thirty
BEST SOUND EDITING
1. Captain Phillips
3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
4. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
5. Lone Survivor
Runners-Up: All is Lost, Elysium, Oblivion, Rush, Star Trek Into Darkness
This year’s Oscar Winner: Gravity
Last Year’s Biggie Winner: Prometheus
The two sound categories are always among the toughest to sort out, because determining which films had the best sound effects versus which had the best sound mixing is an extremely challenging distinction to make, even to the finely tuned cinematic ear. As the year goes on, I often forget which movies I thought had the best of the best in sound, so I wind up rewatching a bunch of films with an emphasis towards their sound design. This year, three films (Gravity, Captain Phillips, Lone Survivor) are nominated in both categories, with 4 others taking one slot in either category. Great sound effects are often easier to notice, but sound mixing is a combination of effects placement, dialogue, on-set recordings, ambient sound, foley mixing, and any stylized sound leveling that may have been employed during the film, as was done several times to great effect in Rush. 12 Years a Slave does a masterful job placing you in the deep south mostly through its ambience, while Lone Survivor gives us terrific ambience and kicks us in the mouth with its combat sound effects, which may be the best of their type since Black Hawk Down and Saving Private Ryan. Meanwhile, the sound technicians on The Hobbit have to create effects for Gandalf‘s magic and the various sounds made by the exotic fictional creatures that inhabit this world. I’ve always imagined fantasy films would be the most fun to work on in post-production, because as a genre it leaves gives you maximum allowance for imagination to run wild. I love this stuff.
Consider how different everything sounds on the set in this video compared to what you hear in the finished film. The magic of movies, blowing my mind for more than 30 years:
Gravity was the Oscars’ big winner with 7 wins, while 12 Years a Slave is the Biggies champ with 7 wins. I had originally thought there wouldn’t be a dominant winner at my awards this year, but I guess 12 Years really was that much better than the competition. Congratulations to all involved on a film that will undoubtedly stand the test of time. Where our categories overlapped, I agreed with the Academy 10 times out of 18 this year. Not bad, and certainly more than most recent years.
And now, I return to the task at hand: seeing more movies! I’m writing this on March 10th and I’m still waiting for the first great movie of 2014, but I have great confidence that this is going to be a very strong year yet. See you next February at the Biggies!
BIG NOMINEES! (listed are all films with at least 3 nominations)
12 Years a Slave – 12 nominations [Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Ensemble Performance, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Film Editing, Art Direction, Costume Design, Sound]
Gravity – 9 nominations [Picture, Director, Actress, Cinematography, Film Editing, Original Score, Visual Effects, Sound, Sound Editing]
Captain Phillips – 8 nominations [Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Film Editing, Sound, Sound Editing]
Reunited, after 13 years?!
Rush – 7 nominations [Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Costume Design, Makeup, Original Score, Sound]
The Wolf of Wall Street – 7 nominations [Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Ensemble Performance, Actor, Supporting Actor, Film Editing]
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – 6 nominations [Art Direction, Makeup, Original Song, Stuntwork, Visual Effects, Sound Editing]
American Hustle – 5 nominations [Original Screenplay, Ensemble Performance, Actor, Supporting Actress, Costume Design]
The Great Gatsby – 5 nominations [Art Direction, Costume Design, Original Song x3]
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – 5 nominations [Costume Design, Makeup, Original Song, Visual Effects, Sound Editing]
Lone Survivor – 5 nominations [Film Editing, Makeup, Stuntwork, Sound, Sound Editing]
August: Osage County – 4 nominations [Adapted Screenplay, Ensemble Performance, Actress, Supporting Actress]
Blue Jasmine – 4 nominations [Original Screenplay, Ensemble Performance, Actress, Supporting Actress]
Dallas Buyers Club – 3 nominations [Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor]
Her – 3 nominations [Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction]
People: (anyone with 2 or more nominations)
Alfonso Cuarón – 3 nominations [Picture, Director, Film Editing]
Leonardo DiCaprio – 3 nominations [Picture, Actor, Ensemble Performance]
Christian Bale – 2 nominations [Actor, Ensemble Performance]
Cate Blanchett – 2 nominations [Actress, Ensemble Performance]
Benedict Cumberbatch – 2 nominations [Ensemble Performance x2]
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 2 nominations [Actor, Ensemble Performance]
Michael Fassbender – 2 nominations [Supporting Actor, Ensemble Performance]
Glenn Freemantle – 2 nominations [Sound, Sound Editing]
Tom Hanks – 2 nominations [Actor, Supporting Actor]
Sally Hawkins – 2 nominations [Supporting Actress, Ensemble Performance]
Jonah Hill – 2 nominations [Supporting Actor, Ensemble Performance]
Ron Howard – 2 nominations [Picture, Director]
Jennifer Lawrence – 2 nominations [Supporting Actress, Ensemble Performance]
Catherine Martin – 2 nominations [Art Direction, Costume Design]
Steve McQueen – 2 nominations [Picture, Director]
Peter Morgan – 2 nominations [Picture, Original Screenplay]
Lupita Nyong’o – 2 nominations [Supporting Actress, Ensemble Performance]
Julia Roberts – 2 nominations [Supporting Actress, Ensemble Performance]
Martin Scorsese – 2 nominations [Picture, Director]
Meryl Streep – 2 nominations [Actress, Ensemble Performance]
Hans Zimmer – 2 nominations [Original Score x2]
NUMBER OF DIFFERENT FILMS NOMINATED: 25 (compared to 30 in 2012 and the Oscars’ 29 different nominated films in the same categories this year) – Wow. I’m pretty sure this is the first time since I’ve tracked this statistic that the Oscars have had a wider variety of titles nominated than me. I think I know why, though. The consensus throughout the industry seemed to be that 2013 was a really strong year, “great” even by many accounts. I believe the year ended really well, but on the whole was extremely disappointing. Point is, I don’t believe there were as many exceptional movies in 2013 as many Academy members seem to think. I usually take pride in having a bigger field than the Oscars, but I can live with this. Doesn’t change my opinions one bit, brah. You’ll pay for this next year! MUAHAHAHAHA!
NUMBER OF MOVIES I SAW IN 2013 (up to the day I published this post): 85 (this is the first year I kept count of how many movies I saw, so I don’t know how this compares to other years, but it feels like I saw slightly more movies than usual in 2013)
THE STUDIO OF THE YEAR:
2013 Recipient: WARNER BROS. PICTURES (releases included Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Prisoners, Her, Man of Steel, The Great Gatsby, Gangster Squad, Pacific Rim, 42, Bullet to the Head, Grudge Match) – The WB Dynasty continues, as the studio wins back-to-back and for the 10th time in the 14 years I’ve been handing out this imaginary award. Despite the fact they’re still as safe and franchise-dependent as any other studio, they still manage to take just as many, if not more creative risks than any of their competitors. They’re known for being very director-friendly, and they remain the studio I would most like to work at. They’ve undergone some major changes to their executive roster over the past couple years, so it’ll be interesting to see the kinds of films they greenlight going forward.
IN MEMORIAM: 2013/early 2014 was a long, sad year for notable Hollywood deaths. Here are the ones that had the biggest impact on me:
James Avery (age 68) – Best known to anyone who grew up in the 90’s as Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It always bothered me that he never got the chance to do bigger supporting roles in movies. He’d been working steadily all this time, but mostly on other, lesser TV shows or bit parts in bad movies. Even when I was a little kid watching Fresh Prince, I thought that he was a really good actor.
Roger Ebert (age 70) – Perhaps the most important and influential film critic in history. He and Gene Siskel were the first critics I ever knew by name, obviously because of their famed TV show. He was a prolific writer outside of his reviews, and watching him talk about movies was a true joy. He was also a talented wordsmith when it came to bashing bad movies. (HERE is a funny article listing 50 of the best quotes from his negative reviews) I’m not sure anyone ever loved movies as much as Roger Ebert did. If you think my 80+ movies seen this year is a lot, Ebert regularly saw more than 300 films annually, a figure I can’t even comprehend. If you want to really geek out, listen to his commentary track on the special edition Blu-ray or DVD of Citizen Kane. It’s a master class.
Dennis Farina (age 69) – One of my favorite character actors since I first came across him in Snatch. in 2000. I would later go back and realize he was in Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and Saving Private Ryan among many others. You didn’t see a lot of him in high-profile movies, but when you did, you were always happier for it. Sadly, he was typecast as a mobster or a cop (he was a former Chicago Police officer), and I always wanted to see him get the chance to do something else.
James Gandolfini (age 51) – I’ll preface this by saying I still have not seen a minute of The Sopranos, something I need to correct ASAP. However, I was always a big fan of his work in films, most notably in 2001’s The Last Castle, where he plays the embattled commanding officer at a military prison. It was interesting seeing his progression from memorable bit parts (True Romance, Crimson Tide, A Civil Action, etc.) to a seasoned character actor. He was just an amazing talent, and he was good in every single thing he ever did. Gandolfini’s career was going well at the time of his death, and he was a serious Supporting Actor candidate this year for his fantastic work in Enough Said, which was a rare chance to see him in a romantic role. I really liked that movie, and if he had to go now, it was a fine farewell.
Philip Seymour Hoffman (age 46) – I could dedicate an entire post to how much I admired this man. I’ve been pondering writing a “10 Best Living Actors” list, and Hoffman was definitely going to be on it. He was probably among the 5 best active American actors; an Oscar-winner for Capote, and a 2-time Biggie winner, including Best Supporting Actor just last year for his awe-inspiring work in The Master. The news of his death hit me hard. I was so shocked at first that it took me awhile to be sad, and that happened when I realized we should’ve gotten another 30 years of performances out of him. I remember hearing he had a drug problem, but we didn’t know the sad extent of it until his death.
This is what perfection looks and sounds like…
Peter O’Toole (age 81) – A legend in every sense of the word. Lawrence of Arabia is one of my 20 favorite movies ever, and I gave O’Toole my Best Actor award in 2006 for his final mainstream leading role in Venus. He had officially retired a couple years ago, but it’s always sad when you lose a giant like this. One of the best actors to ever appear on a stage or in front of a camera.
Paul Walker (age 40) – No one’s gonna say Walker was an exceptional actor, but what I always respected about him was how he knew where he fit in and was okay with it. He seemed to be a good dude (which has since been affirmed by everyone who knew or worked with him), and he was quietly active in a lot of interesting things outside of Hollywood [check it out]. I always wondered just how many Fast & Furious films he was willing to do, but at the same time I never minded seeing him in them. Though he may not have been Paul Newman, he was excellent in one film to be sure: 2006’s Running Scared, which is an absolute MUST WATCH and a trip of a movie. Walker has 3 unreleased projects left, including of course Fast & Furious 7 in April 2015. Universal hasn’t announced how they’re going to deal with his sudden death within the film, but they have said the scenes he shot for it will remain in the movie. He was passionate about fast cars, and I guess if you have to die young, there’s something noble in going out doing the thing you love.
Instead of doing a top 10 movies of the year list to close out this post like I normally do, because it’s the Biggies’ silver anniversary, I wanted to try something different. I present to you “The 25 Movies from 2013 That You Should Have Seen”. Also known as, if I could kidnap all of you and force you to watch anything I wanted from this past year, these are the movies I’d choose. And after having seen them, you’d have forgiven me, nay, THANKED ME, for kidnapping you. There’d be some serious Stockholm Syndrome shit up in here.
BIGGIE’S 25 MUST-SEES OF 2013
(in A-B-C order, click on any poster for the full-size version)
Had to include one cheesy, brainless, entertaining action movie. We got a few of those this year, but it was good to see a Jason Statham movie that was actually tolerable for once. It was surprisingly decent, and a nice return to form for director Gary Fleder.
And there you have it! As always, if you made it this far I truly do appreciate it. If I was successful, I’ve been able to keep you entertained and informed, as is ever my goal. If you don’t get out to the movies much, ultimately I hope I’ve inspired you to check out some of the best work from this past year. The 25 movies above are an excellent primer, if I do say so myself. The more of those that you’ve seen, the better a movie fan you are.
I’ll update this post with my winners a few days after the Oscar ceremony (which takes place Sunday, March 2), and before I announce the Biggies winners, I’ll put up my annual review of the Oscars show, which is always fun. Finally, may 2014 continue the tradition of amazing even-numbered years!
RANDOM FUN TIME!!!
Jake Gyllenhaal’s enhanced interrogation technique.
If you mean BEGIN DANCING, then yes!
Leo had a good year. He deserves to let loose.
While looking for Hobbit pics & GIFS, I found this hilarious recurring theme of Martin Freeman giving the behind-the-scenes camera guy the finger. Such vulgarity. Who knew?
not to be outdone…
Thorin is FABULOUS.
Being Loki‘s stunt double looks fun…
Schwarzenegger‘s The Last Stand was much more fun and entertaining
than it deserved to be…
Of the 3 noteworthy coming of age indies,
I enjoyed The Way Way Back the most:
(the others- The Spectacular Now and The Kings of Summer,
were also pretty good and worth checking out)
Another strong recommend: Fruitvale Station [MY REVIEW]
Here’s Brad Pitt with the coolest death scene of the year, from The Counselor (SPOILER ALERT):
Speaking of The Counselor, ahem, nothing to see here…
I wanted a little more from Don Jon, but it had its moments, like this one…
Hey girl, it’s Ryan Gosling!
Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Cera in This Is The End…
J’adore this shot!
Give the zombie some pizza!
And now, a tribute to the Australian goddess, Margot Robbie:
Leo taking a selfie is hilarious…
from Jonah Hill’s recent hosting gig on SNL:
The world sucks. Addiction sucks.
Oh, one more random thing while I’m on this GIF bonanza: