So it will be almost a month from now since we had the Oscars, and all the hoopla has finally died down. But wait, there’s still one more awards group to reveal their choices. It’s the Tit for Tat Film Awards a.k.a Titties. Okay I still haven’t finalized on a name yet, but I’m currently leaning to that. The Titties is my personal award giving group where this time, I shy away from the buzz and the outside factors in choosing my favorite films of the last movie year. After all, film is far too interesting as a tool to simply focus on the prognosticating and the predicting tasks. Anyway, eligibility of films are quite blurry since they depend on the availability. Mostly, I try to follow the standard US eligibility format, though if a film is available earlier than that, then it will easily make the cut for that given year. By the way you can check my 2012 picks here. Anyway, here are my picks in 23 different categories and I offer a sample commentary after revealing each one of them. 🙂
Given how faulty the screenplay of American Hustle was, its core strength relies on how its actors will sell the story to its audience. And boy did they do that more than enough in the film. It’s almost certain that one will find Hustle’s plot thin, and it’s really true, but one thing director David O. Russell successfully managed to achieve is to write really lively and entertaining characters that were brought to life by this great ensemble. It is an obvious fact that big cast does not equate to great cast, but for the sheer enjoyment of seeing them spark up in that long dinner scene, the ensemble of August: Osage County deserves a mention as a finalist in this category. Sofia Coppola’s ensemble of youngsters in The Bling Ring might skew as too new save for Emma Watson, but if there’s one aspect of the film that was consistent all throughout, it’s that they were able to maintain the interest with these characters. Speaking of young, another relatively young ensemble was that of Spring Breakers. Sure you have Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens on the forefront, but nothing about these foursome rang and felt false. Add some James Franco in the mix and you know you hit jackpot. Continuign the Franco connection, This is the End might be too shallow or forced for one’s taste, but one can’t deny that you were really interested with these six main characters. Plus points for some inspired cameo appearances (well basically it’s Emma Watson and Channing Tatum. Oh and the Backstreet Boys). Lastly, Farhadi continues his streak of coming up with great ensembles and Le Passe is no exception. The complications that transpire between the members of this certain family were narrated seamlessly, but it was displayed to greater heights, thanks to this fantastic array of actors.
BRONZE: the cast of Spring Breakers
SILVER: the cast of This Is the End
GOLD: the cast of Le Passe
As if it’s not obvious yet, but Joseph Gordon Levitt is one talented guy. He can act, he can sing, he can be cute, and to add, he can direct as well. In Don Jon, his debut feature film which he also wrote and starred in. Gordon-Levitt has showcased his most confident persona on screen yet. And even if the last act was quite messy, it still is an admirable effort. Speaking of writer slash directors, Ryan Coogler’s debut feature Fruitvale Station, was pretty much compelling even if you can see some minor quips here and there. One could have credited that Oscar’s story was the driving force of the film, but Coogler did a more than inspired job of touching the human emotion in the film. Anthony Chen’s Ilo Ilo was another touching story, and it’s one that’s closer to me because I grew up with a housemaid. More props given to him for totally painting a scenario of late 90s from the costumes and the overall environment of the film. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s collaborative effort on This is the End makes it as one of the year’s funniest and wittiest films. For a film to totally learn how to poke fun at itself and at its characters might not have been the most original concept to tackle, but I like the touches of commentary it provided when it spoke about the humanity’s actions and the heaven and hell notion. Another collaborative effort is between Oscar winners Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. After winning the writing Oscar for The Descendants, they followed it up with this heartwarming piece called The Way Way Back. If there’s one film in here that mixes wit, heart, and making you laugh while saying “aww”, it’s totally this one. Lastly, Haifaa al-Mansour’s historical Saudi Arabian film Wadjda might be about the little girl of the same name, but it’s really interesting to see how parallel the narrative of the director which lead to the first female directed Saudi Arabian film ever.
BRONZE: Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler)
SILVER: Wadjda (Haifaa al-Mansour)
GOLD: Ilo Ilo (Anthony Chen)
Rush might not have been too heavy in terms of visual effects the way the other films nominated here were, but it doesn’t even have to be as grand as those to say that did marvelous visual effects in it. Both The Hunger Games Catching Fire and Oblivion introduced us to worlds of their own, and the CGI played a big part in making us feel as if we’re a part of them whether it’s the Capitol or the Earth 64 years from now. I’ve also a penchant of seeing prominent places being destructed (I’m horrible I know), so I had my annual fix of that, thanks to the wonderful effects of a destroyed Sydney Opera House in Pacific Rim and the aftermath of San Francisco in Star Trek Into Darkness. But really, it’s foolish to talk about visual effects in 2013 without mentioning the film that really defined it all. The work in Gravity is simply breathtaking and so iconic that it will be a benchmark in the succeeding years to come.
BRONZE: Star Trek Into Darkness
SILVER: Pacific Rim
It’s basically the year of thrillers and sports flicks. All of Stoker, Spring Breakers, and Inside Llewyn Davis provided commendable sound achievements particularly in the sound mixing department, but it’s hard to battle with this year’s cream of the crop such as the crisp sound as the race cars swiftly competes with one another whether under the rain or battling each other out in Rush. The sound not only of desperation of Sandra Bullock’s character but as we hear every inch of her breath and her panic when she’s alone in Gravity. And lastly, there’s the gun shots, and the motion of the waves in the middle of the ocean highlighted in Captain Phillips.
BRONZE: Captain Phillips
One might find Bridegroom‘s last act already too emotional, but wait until you hear the originally composed song by the pair’s close friend Colleen McMahon entitled Beautiful Boy and you’d probably be needing more than a box of tissue. The whole aura of Stoker is filled with airs of mystery and Become the Color perfectly compliments it by adding another layer of mystique. Tall hats aside, Pharrell Williams’s Happy from Despicable Me 2 is the perfect bopping song. It’s too charismatic and catchy that even Meryl Streep can’t help but dance to it when she heard it. I can’t say that I See Fire is a total departure from the previous Lord of the Rings soundtrack, but this Ed Sheeran song is too solemn though not bordering on lullaby sleep inducing one. Her‘s The Moon Song is one of those cases when the song is an integral part of the film and simply not a background song. While I’m usually not a fan of the “music video” montage format in films, the use of this song also sums up the relationship between Theodore and Samantha. Lastly, even if Lana del Rey’s star didn’t shine as bright as it was perceived, it still does not hinder her from coming up with great songs such as this one from The Great Gatsby. Young and Beautiful was nostalgic, romantic, and sappy, but I think it works the best that way.
BRONZE: “The Moon Song” (from Her)
SILVER: “Young and Beautiful” (from The Great Gatsby)
GOLD: “Become the Color” (from Stoker)
It’s nice that Alex Ebert has been rewarded with a Golden Globe win for All is Lost‘s score since I think it’s an unrewarded piece of achievement. For a film that does have very minimal dialogue in it, the score becomes the saving grace of the movie and Ebert is up to the challenge. Blancanieves contains a really lively and festive music, one that makes every scene more enjoyable to watch, thanks to its film score composer Alfonso de Villalonga. The less said about Arcade Fire, the better, not because they’re not good, but I don’t think words wold even describe the achievement they did in Her. Speaking of other bands, M83’s ambient synth pop score gave Oblivion a much livelier boost in presenting what the Earth looks like from the future. Cliff Martinez did a one two punch of memorable music this year: the one with Skrillex for Spring Breakers, but his work in Only God Forgives gets my vote as it compliments the visceral visuals of Nicolas Winding Refn. And Clint Mansell makes Stoker a more haunting film than what it already is with his score that’s as intriguing and perplexing as India and her uncle.
BRONZE: Stoker (Clint Mansell)
SILVER: Oblivion (Anthony Gonzalez, Joseph Trapanese)
GOLD: Her (Arcade Fire)
In The Act of Killing, recreations of killing scenes were shown in the most convincing manner aided by the film’s effective make up and hairtsyling team. Meanwhile, Tina Fey summed it best when she referred to American Hustle as explosions from the wig factory. The perms! The curls! The tease! It’s too much an enjoyable 70’s extravaganza . Despite the film being shot in black and white , one can totally see in Blancanieves that this Snow White recreation lives up to the fancy world of this fairy tale. The colorful characters in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games Catching Fire were given bigger than life personas when translated into the big screen. Plus points for Stanley Tucci’s whiter than white teeth (srsly. They;re so white one can create necklace pendants out of them). The transformation of one’s identity to transgender-ism was shown in intricate yet vulnerable state in Laurence Anyways, though it simply did not end with Laurence’s character. And to end this, Daniel Bruhl not only acted Niki Lauda, but he totally looked the part as well in Rush, thanks to its make up team.
BRONZE: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
SILVER: The Act of Killing
GOLD: Laurence Anyways
Christopher Rouse brought in the nitty gritty in Captain Phillips and even if I felt the film borders at “Look at me, I’m doing something impressive!”, the film still holds the thrill up to the last minute. Gravity is the least edited film of this bunch, but it still doesn’t shy away from the fact that this marvelous technical achievement in any way possible. Her‘s shift to Theodore’s life with and away from Samantha is a telling representation of how effective this film is effective in going back and forth with different facets of Theodore’s life without skipping a beat. In Rush, it was a delight to revisit these different race car moments in history, and because of the crisp editing, despite knowing the results already, it still made for one thrilling ride. The shots and clips from real spring break moments were effectively incorporated not only as mere transitions but as a presentation of what the fur girls can possibly enter to in Spring Breakers. And to cap it off, the suspense built in Stoker was pulled off sharply by Nicolas de Toth.
SILVER: Spring Breakers
GOLD: Captain Phillips
Whether it’s the hats, the furry coats, and the tux, American Hustle will be remmebered the most for its plunging dresses. After all, it played a big part in getting to know these larger than life characters. Speaking of, Snow White, the famous German fairy tale by the Grimm brothers, was definitely given justice by intricately coming up with a more culturally specific approach in Blancanieves. Janty Yates’ work in The Counselor another added layer to its already stand out characters. Javier Bardem’s spiky high hair was extremely complimented by his electric blue jeans, and Cameron Diaz’s vixen was shown covered in a leopard print dress. It is through details like this one that makes the costume designer’s work more appreciated. Nothing could have painted the glitz and glamour of the 1920s better than what Catherine Martin did this year in The Great Gatsby. Meanwhile in Laurence Anyways, while it is the personal transformation of Laurence that was the front and center of the film, the bold colors worn by both Laurence and Fred were statements to their feelings and characters as well. And in Stoker, I very much appreciate the modern and stylish clothing of the characters even if they’re not as showy and in your face as the others.
BRONZE: American Hustle
GOLD: Laurence Anyways
Ever been to outer space? Me neither. But thanks to Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography in Gravity, it gave us an out of the world glimpse of what it feels like to be there. And boy was it a thrilling ride! Meanwhile, Hoyte van Hoytema used city lights and nightscape in juxtaposing Theodore Twobmly’s feelings and translate it to the screen in Her. The gloomy cinematography used by Bruno Delbonell in Inside Llewyn Davis can be seen as a comparative piece on the bleak future left for Llewyn himself. A span of decades was fittingly inserted in Laurence Anyways with the help of Yves Belenger in showing the progress of a relationship gone awry. Flashing lights combined with a relatively darker palette was Benoit Debie’s technical achievement in making Spring Breakers set a mood in its scenes. Finally, the colors used in Stoker served not only as transitions (from Nicole Kidman’s hair to big group of hay) but they were seamlessly incorporated, thus making this a visual delight as well.
BRONZE: Laurence Anyways
Watching Blancanieves was like turning the pages of a screen sized book as we see the story literally come larger than life. in Camille Claudel 1915, we felt the confinement of Camille as she was locked out of an asylum that made us feel as if we’re trapped in it with her. Speaking of her, Her a futuristic LA was effectively constructed as K.K. Barrett built a world, literally that is, that seems so close but so really is so far away. Anne Pritchet was able to make good use of small spaces whether it’s a bar, a rest house, or a studio in further showcasing the intimacy (and the gradual loss of it) between two people in Laurence Anyways. Meanwhile, in Oblivion, we were treated to a world that is ahead of us and while most of it is heavy CGI, it gave us a glimpse of an environment that we will never be a part of. Finally, I appreciate how vague the timeline is in Stoker, aside from the phonebooth, we haven’t seen any means of technological gadget in it. It obviously is from the current time, but I love that small touch of aesthetic there.
SILVER: Camille Claudel 1915
GOLD: Laurence Anyways
In choosing the nominees here, I’ve decided to exclude those foreign films that will also be nominated for Best Picture to spread the wealth. Charm seems to be Blancanieves biggest asset. Sure, it looks like a simple re-telling of a prominent fairy tale, but it achieved more than that at the end of the film. It was a visual treat, and it just so happened that this was a silent film. As a matter of fact, I felt that it was too genuine that I did not feel it as gimmicky at all. Camille Claudel 1915 somehow suffers in the part hat focused on Camille’s brother, but it has built enough momentum to use it as a character study of a woman who feels confined in a literal and figurative manner. Oscar Best Foreign Language Film winner is Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty, and just like the film’s title, it is indeed the great beauty. Mixing some Malick-esque feels in the visuals and approach, but it’s one that gets better as the screentime goes longer. In The Hunt, excellent storytelling and a powerful performance by Mads Mikkelsen elevate the greatness of the film. it’s one of those uncomfortable movie watching experiences that will probably stand out not because of the experience, but because of the impact it brings to you. Asghar Farhadi’s follow up to A Separation likely suffered because it followed such, (and I know that’s unfair and unfortunate), since on its own Le Passe is a very emotional and haunting film. It’s awkward since it’s the audience who gets to see everything that’s happening, and it feels so helpless to see them connect the pieces together. By the time the last scene happened, I was already bawling. And lastly, tension was very present in Stranger by the Lake. It’s a tad repetitive, but even that did not bother me since it was like a walking symbol of sex, desire, and obsession.
BRONZE: The Great Beauty
SILVER: Stranger by the Lake
GOLD: Le Passe
I think The Croods as a whole is underrated. It did not rely to gimmicky characters (minions) or the legacy of an original version of where it ended up as a sequel. On its core, it was a simple heartwarming film that appeals to the whole family. The story of Ernest & Celestine is too thin that it wears out easily, but if there’s one thing I like about my animated films is that the intricate and lovely imagery that it paints. Frozen tackles a tale that has been done before, but its charisma lies in having characters that you care about. Plus points for the musical aspect. I mean by now, who still hasn’t heard Let It Go? Ari Folman’s The Congress isn’t 100% an animated film, but if there’s something I admire about it, it’s that it went beyond the norms and used animation as a platform to narrate a story that is haunting and atypical.
SILVER: Ernest & Celestine
GOLD: The Congress
There’s something about the approach did in The Act of Killing that will just leave you speechless. The recreations were too truthful that they still affect you even if you’re aware that they’re just that – mere reprisal; an act. When a film manages to toy with your emotion from grabbing your interest to breaking your heart, you know it has affected you more ways than one, and it simply is one of the best I’ve seen all year. Bridegroom was practically safe in its approach and it might not be as experimental as the others were, but damn if you did not feel anything by the last part. It was one of those documentaries that went straight to the point with its narration, but it still doesn’t fail to tug you. Leviathan‘s biggest achievement is how it brings you to the experience not merely as a spectator but as a part of what’s happening. The opening is mostly dark with just the sounds towering over the whole screen, and it makes you feel that you’re the one in the situation. Musical documentaries have been done so much to death the past few years, but every now and then, you can’t still resist the charm of them, no matter how pedestrian and predictable they were. I was totally invested with This Is Us, and it’s a love letter to all of their fans. Sentiment seems to be the main feeling you’d get from watching Sound City, and it’s one of the few where it’s an educational road trip instead of exposing something to elicit emotions. From Stevie Nicks to Mick Jagger, it was an hour and a half filled of musical tribute and remembering. And in Stories We Tell, the thing I appreciate the most is how relate-able it is; sure we’re no part of their families but all of us have one and we’re all a part of our own families and the secrets and discoveries that lie within them.
BRONZE: One Direction: This Is Us
SILVER: The Act of Killing
GOLD: Stories We Tell
Barkhad Abdi‘s role in Captain Phillips can be seen as one-note, but it speaks volumes when you’re also interested with him despite his role as the protagonist. Plus points for hiding his enthusiasm to act opposite Tom Hanks even if he’s dying of giddy inside. Another plus point for coming up with the adlib “I’m the captain now!” which is definitely one of the most prominent movie catchphrases in recent history. Adele Exarchopoulos was simply sensational in Blue is the Warmest Color that it’s hard to believe that this is her debut screen performance. To be fair though, her naive approach worked well in her case in the movie. And despite years in Friday Night Lights, it’s glad to see Michael B. Jordan take the lead spotlight for once. Comments comparing him to a young Denzel Washington were so apt given how he handled the character of Oscar in Fruitvale Station. In Short Term 12, Brie Larson was on the forefront and I love how her character was devoid of any histrionics. She wasn’t given anything awards baity to do, but that’s what makes it more admirable. She was natural and you cared for her. It was a subtle contrast to all the other acting showdown we’ve seen this year. Koh Jia Ler in Ilo Ilo wasn’t necessarily a big breakthrough performance, but he was able to build as chemistry with Angeli Bayani that by the time he was punished in front of the students, you simply wasn’t watching him but you already cared for him and his character. In Wolf of Wall Street, Margot Robbie proved that she’s just not a pretty face. With most of her scenes requiring her to act with Leonardo di Caprio, she definitely held her own in all of them.
BRONZE: Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station
SILVER: Brie Larson, Short Term 12
GOLD: Adele Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color
The triumvirate of Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy did it again – for the third time – in Before Midnight. As if it’s not enough achievement yet how they did Before Sunset, but they followed it up with another one to possibly(?) close the Before series. This one is more vulnerable than ever, as we witness Celine and Jessie in a supposed comforting and assuring place in their lives now where they’re living as a couple already. And just like any other relationships, theirs is not perfect, but it’s generous enough to talk about the imperfections. For Blue is the Warmest Color, Abdellatif Kechiche was able to show both the freedom and limitations of a relationship whether in lines, symbols, and actions of the characters in it. The Congress is one of the most imaginative films of the year, and its screenplay is one that lets the film to be realistic in acknowledging the issues but adventurous in tackling it. Francis Ozon’s In the House is probably the most enjoyable film I’ve seen that dealt with the complications of writing. It was interesting, at times even intriguing, to take a peek at someone else’s lives by touching the innate human nature of knowing your boundaries limitations. What Destin Cretton achieved in Short Term 12 is to make us care about a group of people that we barely know about. We’ve seen these films from before, but it is subtly written that it avoided its characters from being flat and gave a humanizing appeal. And lastly, Michael Weber has been the go to guy for young love stories that were out of the norm, and like what he did in 500 Days of Summer, his work in The Spectacular Now is an eye opener on how you approach a topic that has been done and injecting a fresh take on it.
BRONZE: Destin Cretton, Short Term 12
SILVER: Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
GOLD: Francois Ozon, In the House
Just like her previous films, Nicole Holocefner in Enough Said manages to come up with a film that highly registers to the human emotions in a very natural manner. It’s one that lets you pause and makes you appreciate the simple joys of everyday life and one’s relationship on both interpersonal and intrapersonal levels. Noah Baumbach, wh usually has stand out characters who are flat out unlikable (I mean that bitch Margot for instance), changed the beat this time and gave us Frances. Frances is someone who makes up bad decisions, but that doesn’t translate to her being a bad person. If anything, Frances was a lovely character; one you’d root for, and one you’ve definitely shared some characteristics with at a point in your life. It is with Frances’ continuous changing of locations that probably defined and makes her character settled to the audience, and that was what she achieved in Frances Ha. On the outside, what Spike Jonze greatly achieved in Her is to introduce us to a world that seems so far fetched but one that is understandable. More than that, he wrote a story of intimacy between two existent souls that somehow found and connected with each other. With music as a vital component in Inside Llewyn Davis, I think it can be compared to a song. What happens to Llewyn is comparable to what happens in a song. There’s a bridge, a chorus, an instrumental and the opening and closing scene represents the same beat that happens at the beginning and end of a given song. Like Frances, Llewyn is one character whose luck was not on his side, but even if he comes off across as annoying, you understand what pushes him to do so. Xavier Dolan wrote a film that spanned a long amount of time, but it did not feel like a chore watching this almost three hour film. You get invested with these characters, and you see both of them transform. Laurence Anyways isn’t a film that dictates you what to feel; instead, it opens you to all these questions and stimulates you even after the credits rolled already. Meanwhile in Le Passe, it really is astonishing to think how writer Farhadi has managed to tap out the innermost of the human emotion and showcase a relationship that is far from common but one that ignites reaction from its viewers.
BRONZE: Asghar Farhadi, Le Passe
SILVER: Xavier Dolan, Laurence Anyways
GOLD: Spike Jonze, Her
We haven’t seen an inch of Scarlett Johansson in Her, but her commanding presence as Samantha is a vital component of the film. It is difficult to build a character by solely using your voice because it will affect the viewers’ experience and imagine that it was the actress talking all the time. But not in Johansson’s case. In Her, it probably worked more as an advantage since it gave a glimpse of how people imagine Samantha. Nicole Kidman was a minor albeit necessary character in Stoker. She wasn’t given much to do, but her presence is needed in the film. This is one of the times where her icy persona contributed to her overall performance. Also, that dialogue to Mia Wasikowska in the dining scene? Nailed it. Oscar nominated for this performance, Jennifer Lawrence was a hit or a miss for others in this. Sure, she was bringing in the same quirks that she gave us as Tiffany, but what makes Rosalyn a far better performance was that it was in sync to the movie aims. And it is such an underrated fact how she was great in her scenes as well that didn’t involve one liners. Her emotions in her dining scene with Jack Huston’s characters opened us up to Rosalyn’s insecurities, and Lawrence effectively showed us that. Lea Seydoux was unfairly missed a lot in these precursor races since she was as good as Adele Exarchopoulos was in Blue is the Warmest Color. Of course the point of view was presented on Adele’s point, but Seydoux was generous and complimentary not to upstage or battle it out with Adele. It was a commendable turn that is unfortunately ignored by a lot. When Harry Potter ended, a lot were worried that Emma Watson would be in that awkward transition as a child star to a teenager, but her two post Potter projects (Perks of Being a Wall Flower and The Bling Ring) show otherwise. In The Bling Ring, she was mostly relegated to a caricature character, but Watson was every inch up for it. And from one teen star to the other, Shailene Woodley was a great supporting presence in the Spectacular Now. It’s not a role that required scenery chewing nor OMG acting, but it was one that required total commitment and Woodley was naturally effortless in it.
BRONZE: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
SILVER: Lea Seydoux, Blue is the Warmest Color
GOLD: Scarlett Johansson, Her
Say what you want about his personal persona, but James Franco delivers where it matters. Whether it’s his masturbating monologue in This is the End or his gun blowjob scene in Spring Breakers, his commitment to his performance is always commendable. And in Spring Breakers, he was simply brilliant. Alien was always on the brink of caricature, but Franco avoided him to cross over there. James Gandolfini is one of those reliable character actors, and I guess it’ll be hard to think of him as other than Tony Soprano, but in Enough Said, he was playing an altogether different character. He was charming, witty, and and totally lovable, and it was such a tender performance that you’d definitely warm up to. If anything, with his death, he ended his movie career on a high note in his best film performance. Matthew Goode is probably one of the most good looking actors of his generation, and it is fortunate that he was able to put those to goode (pun intended) use in Stoker. Giving some Anthony Perkins tease, he was creepily effective in here. He’s one whom you’d easily fall for because of his looks despite the sinister vibes that he emulates. He’s one you’d easily get swept away with because he’s so perfect on the outside. Oscar winner Jared Leto is just a revelation in Dallas Buyers Club. Sure one might consider the whole thing gimmicky, but I bought every single of it. He was phenomenal in the lady clothes, but in his scene where he was wearing male clothes (in front of his father) or the one one where he’s out of any clothing (his Oscar clip) are his finest moments. I’d even dare say that without him on the screen, the film loses its energy. In In the House, Fabrice Luchini plays the professor who was hooked with one of his student’s writings. He suddenly lose himself to his writings, obsessing about what happens next. It was a performance from an unlikable character that you’d definitely like. After all, it was a representation of one of human’s most uncontrollable feeling: that of gossiping and intruding. He was very natural and it’s one that started out as really funny until you see him get more controlling than ever. And I won’t ever get tired of saying this, but Matthew McConaughey‘s last two years shames most of the actors working in Hollywood. I’m glad he’s choosing better roles now, and while most of those are related to Texas, I can’t blame him especially if that’s where he’s good at. Like in the case of Mud. Playing the title role, McConaughey was captivating and great here. He’s so organic in this performance that I think it’s my favorite from him by a mile.
BRONZE: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
SILVER: Matthew Goode, Stoker
GOLD: James Franco, Spring Breakers
Leonardo di Caprio gives his career best performance in Wolf of Wall Street. It’s one that relies on charisma and he wasn’t running out of it. I like how he just immersed himself and got lost with the character of Belfort that it clearly shows he had so much fun in this role. His physical commitment to it is also commendable with all the demands of the character. Since I’m a long time fan of his works, it’s really a breath of fresh air to finally see Tom Hanks give a performance that is worthy of recognition. Hanks has been phoning it in now for a long time coasting on his name in his project the last few years, so seeing him in Captain Phillips take the command in the film is really exciting. His last thirty minutes in the film is probably some of the best career work he has ever put out, and I hope this trend will continue for him. It’s hard to separate Oscar Isaac from Llewyn Davis now especially after his towering performance in Inside Llewyn Davis. He carried the whole film in his shoulders, and you feel for him all throughout the movie. One might not agree with all of his actions but not once did I feel I should question him for it. It was a restrained performance that you know was just waiting to erupt at one point in the film. It’s hard to stand out in a great ensemble cast, but Ali Mossafa probably is my favorite in Le Passe. His character was the one stuck between a rock and a hard place, and you know he’s aware of it, so he tries as much as possible to overcome it in his actions. It’s easy to like him, though you know he’s no perfect and he contributed to why the situation is there in the first place. Continuing to be one of the most versatile actors of his era, Joaquin Phoenix gives us another character to cherish. Right after last year’s Freddie Quell, he followed it up with Theodore, and not only did Phoenix showed us his versatility as an actor, he showed the sensitive character in his portrayal of a person who was in love with the voice in an operating system. In Her, Phoenix showed us how love can be transcending even if it’s not between two human beings. And with a very intriguing role to tackle, Melvil Poupaud did not back away from the complexities needed by his character whether it’s on a physical or emotional matter. It’s easy to do a cop out and oversell the character of Laurence, but Poupaud made it as truthful and human as possible that you find yourself being concerned with him as the movie progresses.
BRONZE: Leonardo di Caprio Wolf of Wall Street
SILVER: Melvil Poupaud, Laurence Anyways
GOLD: Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
This category is really great this year that it took me the longest time to decide on my winners here. Anyway let’s begin. If there’s one adjective that I can use to describe Juliette Binoche in Camille Claudel 1915, it’s riveting. She was riveting. Binoche totally plunged herself in Camille’s shoes, and she was heartbreakingly great in the movie. The movie lives and breathes in Camille, and Binoche commanded the screen with her presence. Dare I say it’s one of the best performances of the year of any category. In Blue Jasmine, Cate Blanchett was given a lot to work with yet she nails every single one of all those emotions. It’s one I appreciate a lot from her because it works right up her alley. It’s a character that is histrionic and gives Blanchett a lot of breathing room to portray her. With that said, she was also good in Jasmine’s calmer moments, so that says a lot about her performance here. And how do I even begin with Suzanne Clement? Clement was simply sensational. As Fred, it was such a difficult task for one to give a complete understandable portrayal of this character, but Suzanne defied all of those and turned out one of the best performances I have ever seen. The gamut of emotions she displayed all throughout the movie whether it’s frustration, happiness, contentment, and vulnerability were all spot on. It was simply a wild ride to witness her performance here. Like mentioned in the breakthrough category, Adele Exarchopoulos is simply a revelation in Blue is the Warmest Color. It’s one her naive looks contributed to her character. I love how she just bared herself in this, and I’m not simply referring to her physical nudity. It’s the one where she just opened up all of her to further show the innocence and inquisitive side of Adele. On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have Brie Larson of Short Term 12. While other characters gave their actors a lot to work on, Larson’s Grace was pretty much low key. But I think that’s what also makes the portrayal work. It stands out in a field of showy characters, as Larson’s one still stood out despite lack of that. And between her role in House of Cards and The Congress, I’m totally digging Robin Wright lately. Playing herself in The Congress, it takes a different kind of guts to sacrifice your career under scrutiny like what was done to her character here. And yet her energy still increased as the film progressed. The abundant emotions in one scene in the film totally left me impressed and she was able to keep the momentum until the end. Really. Such a towering great performance.
BRONZE: Adele Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color
SILVER: Juliette Binoche, Camille Claudel 1915
GOLD: Suzanne Clement, Laurence Anyways
I don’t particularly think that what Abdellatif Kechiche did in Blue is the Warmest Color is particularly and completely original, but what I admire about it is how he had a clear grasp of what he wants to convey in the film. Sure, the long shots, the repetitive actions, the final scene have been done before, but I did not feel like he was imitating, but more of an instance where in that’s what he foresees to happen given the situation. His portrayal of the lust, love, heartbreak, relationship, and innocence is on point that it’s hard to argue with what he’s presenting. In Gravity, Alfonso Cuaron comes up with a defining masterpiece that will always set the standard for directors to come close to in the years to come. Everyone is simply in awe with what he did in the film, and it is obvious why it is such. The whole film was one great directorial achievement. It’s a visual spectacle that will go down in history books. Spike Jonze, on the other hand, showcased the vulnerability of the human soul in Her that despite one’s feelings towards the overall film, it’s hard not to, at least, appreciate his efforts in doing so. Jonze has a knack of introducing us to world we’ve never been to, and Her is definitely another addition to that. Simply for the shifting points of view and the distinct illustration of such, Francois Ozon was every inch the entertainer in In the House and his playfulness was clearly visible. Xavier Dolan (who continues to impress and brings out the envy in me) at 23 years old managed to come up with something as great as Laurence Anyways. As if it’s not captivating yet on where he gets all these inspiration, what I’m particularly in awe with here is how he clearly mixed style with substance without one upstaging the other and instead the two areas complimenting each other resulting to the film. It’s a confident and mature take that clearly lures you in while watching. And say what you want about Harmony Korine as a person, but his direction in Spring Breakers is a fascinating achievement since he’s clearly aware of what he wants to present to his audience which leads to a great movie watching experience.
BRONZE: Xavier Dolan, Laurence Anyways
SILVER: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
GOLD: Spike Jonze, Her
And we’ve finally reach the end of the road. The final award of the night is also the most important one: Best Picture. Here’s a breakdown of my six favorite films of the year: Blue is the Warmest Color is such a passionate film. It’s one that showed the journey of a young woman who delved into herself and experienced the feeling of a first relationship, first heartbreak, first sexual experience among other things, and did all of that in a realistic manner. The intensity of the film radiates from the screen to the viewers that it’s so painful to take all of these emotions in, and that’s where the film succeeds. In Her, the intimacy between two existing beings was put into the center and it spoke volumes especially now that we’re living in the modern times where technology is no longer an option, but a necessity. Where does the extent of communicating work? How does it make us connected with other people? With our own self? Her was poignant and devastating and a painful reminder that while there are lots of possibilities out there, not all of them will really work the way we hope they will. Instead of telling a story, Inside Llewyn Davis presents us a song. It’s one love song that while not totally optimistic, gives us a ground of reality that one usually finds himself in. Sometimes it’s really hard to grasp the reality where we live in, but it gives us an option whether to settle for what’s presented to us or continue to be hopeful and wish that we can rise to the occasion. In the House was totally relaxed and intriguing as it taps the inner inquisitive in us. It further blurs the line of actual reality to our perception of such but in a cool and collective manner. It presents the conflict that writers usually encounter: when do we know if intrusive is intrusive enough? If what we’re exposing is still what’s being exposed or what we want to be exposed? The approach of conflict used here is lively and exciting and a delightful movie seeing experience. Laurence Anyways is raw take on a person’s transformation. It’s so magical to see the two main characters transform right in front of you yet it doesn’t feel exploitative and contrived but even view it as honest. It’s an exposition of each and everyone’s uniqueness and how everyone around us (especially those close to us) will be reacting towards it. It didn’t go the preachy route, but what’s impressive is that it acknowledged that it happens. If anything, it makes you feel more submerged in learning and discovering your own identity more which resonated me on a more personal level. Plus that ending is definitely one of my favorites ever. Lastly, Spring Breakers is a brilliant and hilarious celebration of different archetypes. On one hand, it’s another take on the American dream and the validation of youth nowadays to be a part of something wild and exciting to feel and emphasize their freedom. On the other, it’s like a conscious parody since it’s clearly aware of what it’s portraying. This is a hypnotic approach to such a a self serving statement, and the whole Everytime part is one of my year’s favorite scenes.
BRONZE: In the House
SILVER: Laurence Anyways
As a recap, here are the winners of my 2013 Tit for Tat Film Awards:
DIRECTOR: Spike Jonze, Her
LEAD ACTOR: Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
LEAD ACTRESS; Suzanne Clement, Laurence Anyways
SUPPORTING ACTOR: James Franco, Spring Breakers
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Scarlett Johansson, Her
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Spike Jonze, Her
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Francois Ozon, In the House
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: The Past (Asghar Farhadi)
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: The Congress (Ari Folman)
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE FILM: Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley)
BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE: Adele Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color
ART DIRECTION: Laurence Anyways
COSTUME DESIGN: Laurence Anyways
EDITING: Captain Phillips
HAIRSTYLING AND MAKE UP: Laurence Anyways
ORIGINAL SCORE: Her
ORIGINAL SONG: Become the Color (Stoker)
VISUAL EFFECTS: Gravity
FIRST FEATURE: Anthony Chen, Ilo Ilo
ENSEMBLE: The Past
Whew! That was really long. What a film year! Excited for 2014! What are your favorites from 2013?
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