Tag Archives: 2013 movies

2014 Oscar Predictions

Bright and early tomorrow morning, the nominations for the 2014 Academy Awards will be announced in Hollywood. Predicting who will find themselves on the prestigious list is more or less a guessing game, but I figured I might as well get in on the fun, despite not following the Oscar race quite as closely as I have in the past. Here are my picks for some of the major categories, ranked alphabetically

Picture

12 Years a Slave

American Hustle

Captain Phillips

Gravity

Inside Llewyn Davis

Nebraska

Philomena

The Wolf of Wall Street

Oddly, I’d say 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, and American Hustle are the only sure things. There are plenty of quality movies in the running this year, but not a lot of showy, “prestige” pictures that have gained much traction. Lots of more quirky and/or low-key fare. Other movies like Her, Dallas Buyers Club, or Blue Jasmine could easily sneak onto the list.

Actor

Bruce Dern, Nebraska

Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips

Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Robert Redford, All Is Lost

To predict Leo or not to predict Leo. That is the question. His Golden Globe win gives me hope, and maybe this year will end the Academy’s streak of snubbing him. Then again, I’m not sure how much they’re going to take to The Wolf of Wall Street. If anyone were to get bumped, it would likely be Redford, but I’m going to stick with the “safe” lineup for my predictions in this case.

Actress

Amy Adams, American Hustle

Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Sandra Bullock, Gravity

Judi Dench, Philomena

Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks

The Academy does look David O. Russell movies (and especially his actors) and they love Amy Adams, so I had to find a spot for her. While I’m a little doubtful that they’ll deny Streep, she does seem to be on the shakiest ground of all the nominees.

Supporting Actor

Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips

Bradley Cooper, American Hustle

Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave

James Gandolfini, Enough Said

Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

I’m going out on a limb and guessing that Bruhl is this year’s “sure thing” snub, though I could be way off-base.

Supporting Actress

Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Julia Roberts, August: Osage County

June Squibb, Nebraska

Oprah Winfrey, The Butler

Again, it’s a safe lineup, but I don’t feel like Hawkins has gained enough traction to bump someone out.

Director

Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips

Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

Alexander Payne, Nebraska

David O. Russell, American Hustle

Original Screenplay

American Hustle

Blue Jasmine

Her

Inside Llewyn Davis

Nebraska


Adapted Screenplay

12 Years a Slave

August: Osage County

Before Midnight

Captain Phillips

Philomena

Animated Feature

Despicable Me 2

Ernest & Celestine

Frozen

Monster’s University

The Wind Rises

Documentary Feature

20 Feet From Stardom

The Act of Killing

Blackfish

The Square

Stories We Tell

Foreign Language Film

The Broken Circle Breakdown

The Great Beauty

The Hunt

The Missing Picture

Omar

Best Movie Posters of 2013

Most movie posters are mediocre, but this year saw some really great artwork. (And also its fair share of eyestraining dreck and truly awful Photoshop hatchet jobs.) Here’s a look at some of the best posters for 2013 movies, along with a bit of commentary about some noticeable trends in the artwork.

(You can click on any of the pictures to see a full-size image of the poster.)

Sometimes you can make a big impact with a single simple image. The posters for Blackfish and Man of Steel both depicted a familiar, almost iconic image in a new light that stopped me in my tracks with their elegant simplicity. Meanwhile, Blue Caprice and The Jeffrey Dahmer Files were coyer with their posters and required a bit of background knowledge on what the movie is about. But if you do know what they’re about, both images are absolutely chilling. All of these posters kept text to a minimum, letting the images speak for themselves.

Some of the year’s best posters forgo photography altogether and opted for more traditional mediums. The ABC’s of Death and Stoker both played with familiar childhood imagery to sell very dark films. The ABC’s of Death capitalized on its simple concept and the result is one of my absolute favourite posters of the year. Stoker meanwhile created fairytale-inspired imagery, which actually suits the film and its themes quite well. The Kings of Summer had a a number of lovely illustrated posters, but I think this one best evoked those warm fuzzy feelings of childhood. On the other hand, Fruitvale Station‘s beautiful watercolor poster hinted at some of the melancholy and foreboding tone of the film (though I could have done without the big quote at the top).

Instagram-inspired posters have been all the rage for the past couple of years, and sepia-toned posters were back once again in 2013. Not everyone did it well, but Dallas Buyers Club did a nice job of creating a striking image and getting their star in the frame without overwhelming us with Matthew McConaughey. Spring Breakers had a whole slew of great posters, and this one perfectly evokesd the hazy tone of the film. The Charlie Countryman poster was garish and colourful in a great way, while Coldwater offered some nice lens flare and totally caught my interest and made me wonder what the film is about.

Sometimes just a face is all it takes. These four faces say something different and all represent their respective films perfectly. The close-up on Sandra Bullock’s worried face set up the urgency of Gravity. The bandana over Dane DeHaan’s mouth was a nice nod to his silent character in Metallica: Through the Never while his hoodie, leather jacket, and piercing gaze let us know this Metallica concert film was going to be badass. Rooney Mara’s expression said a lot about her state of mind in Side Effects, and the prescription-style credits at the bottom and nearly imperceptible Jude Law in the background were telling touches, too. And while we may have only gotten a silhouetted profile of Bruce Dern on the Nebraska one-sheet, his fuzzy wisp of hair, half-open mouth, and glasses said it all.

Other posters took a busier approach, experimenting with geometric shapes, symmetry and repetition. Spring Breakers hit it out of the park again with this accurate representation of its characters’ road trip essentials. The Bling Ring (which drew comparisons to Spring Breakers in more way than one) also did a nice job of cleanly laying out the mindset of its characters by showing their possessions. You’re Next, on the other hand, presented us with a very clever floorplan of the horrors within the film, while Only God Forgives embraced its own over-the-top style and garishness and completely pulled off the usually hokey “neon” trend that’s been popping up in pop culture marketing lately.

Top 10 Movies of 2013

Alright, so there’s still a lot from 2013 that I haven’t yet seen. BUT I’ve also seen some fantastic movies as it is, and I’m getting swept up in the end-of-year lists, so here’s my top 10 movies of the year at this point.

(Just know that Spike Jonze’s Her would probably be on this list, but it doesn’t get released near me until mid-January.)

Honorable Mentions: Blue Jasmine, Star Trek Into Darkness, Before Midnight, Stoker

10. Fruitvale Station

Yes, the movie can be a bit heavy-handed, but overall, it does a great job of showing who Oscar Grant was as a person. We see so many little interactions that seem innocuous on their own but are fascinating to watch and ultimately add up to something much bigger by the film’s heartbreaking end.

9. Nebraska

This is a film that I certainly enjoyed at the time, but it has really grown on me in the weeks since I’ve seen it. It’s funny, touching, and dark all at the same time, boasting great performances and a pleasantly offbeat visual style.

8. Dallas Buyers Club

McConaughey and Leto turn in career-best performances, completely inhabiting the complex characters they are given. But there is more to Jean-Marc Vallee’s film than the sum of its actors. He tells a tender underdog story, refusing to be morose and instead filling every inch of the screen with genuine warmth and an effective visual tone. It’s grim, but it’s also inspiring.

7. Something in the Air

Olivier Assayas’ latest film follows a group of teenagers living in France during the aftermath of the May 1968 protests. While its opening half hour is haunting for the depiction of the violent demonstrations that our protagonists become involved in, the film really falls into its groove after that point, when it shows the fracturing of the group of friends upon graduation. They shift and detach from each other in subtle ways, and Assayas expresses this beautifully, enveloping the film in a warm, hazy sense of nostalgia.

6. Gravity

I’ve seen a lot of people trying to oversell Gravity as a deeper film than it is, but if you accept what is actually given to us, it’s a heck of a lot of fun. Sandra Bullock is charming, exasperating, and relatable all at once, turning in an amazingly layered performance considering that she is not given all that much to work with. And indeed, Cuaron has crafted something truly special in the film’s visuals. The scope is something to behold, and Gravity is no doubt a highly impressive and entertaining achievement.

5. 12 Years a Slave

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave is not only an “important” film, but also an impeccably crafted one. It is his most accessible film yet, but it still offers his signature visual grit and no-nonsense take on some very dark subject matter. Every scene in this movie feels vital, and it all adds up to a punishing but ultimately emotionally resonant epic. Led by a completely electric Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave is a film that everyone should make the time to see.

4. Lore

In Germany during the aftermath of WWII, teenage Lore is forced to bring her four younger siblings on a trek across the German countryside after the disappearance of their Nazi parents. Along the way, they meet a young man who challenges the hatred that has been instilled in them, adding another layer of tension to an already very taught film. Lore doesn’t pull its punches, and it feels something like Winter’s Bone crossed with a Michael Haneke film. It’s stark and beautifully aching, boasting revelatory performances from its two young breakout stars, Saskia Rosendahl and Kai Malina.

3. Prisoners

Prisoners is an unrelenting thriller that sits somewhere between arthouse and mainstream. This seemed to make it an unfortunate mismatch for a lot of moviegoers, and despite its star-studded cast, it failed to make much of a dent in the public consciousness. This is a real shame, as Denis Villeneuve has created a visceral, often brutal near-masterpiece here. Partly thanks to Roger Deakins’ impeccably icy cinematography, Villeneuve seems to relish keeping the audience tense and on their toes to an extent that few films manage to achieve. Jake Gyllenhaal turns in the best performance of his career here, and Prisoners is a rare film that plays its suspense perfectly and left me completely satisfied as the credits rolled.

2. Mud

I love Dazed and Confused as much as the next person, but I have seen (and, in many cases, avoided) enough post-2000 Matthew McConaughey rom-coms to sour any goodwill stemming from one movie that came out 20 years ago. Yet here we are in 2013, and somehow McConaughey is one of the most interesting actors we’ve got working. And his first great performance of the year came in Mud, Jeff Nichols’ follow-up to the eerie critical favourite Take Shelter.

Mud is a somewhat nostalgic look at youth in the vein of Stand By Me. Young star Tye Sheridan is completely believable and often heartbreaking as Ellis, a good-hearted kid from poor circumstances. But it’s McConaughey as the enigmatic titular Mud that gives the movie
a unique wildcard. It’s a surprisingly toned-down performance from McConaughey, and his on-screen chemistry with Sheridan is a treat to behold. There’s something so sturdy and sad about their relationship. That combined with Nichol’s languid look at small town America and the loss of youthful innocence makes Mud a quietly beautiful and piercing ride.

1. The Place Beyond the Pines

As I walked out of the TIFF screening of The Place Beyond the Pines in September 2012, I knew I’d seen something special. A genuine achievement in filmmaking at a point in time where a lot of movies seem to blur together. And while I saw many other good and very good films over the course of 2013, none of them could quite touch my early TIFF favourite. (The same thing might just happen for me again in 2014 with Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves.)

I went to see The Place Beyond the Pines again during its theatrical release and loved it just as much the second time around. The plot turns may not have been surprising this time, but knowing what was coming made the movie even more urgent and aching. I’d initially thought that the second third of the film (which revolves around Cooper’s character) was the film’s weakest aspect. But knowing where that storyline leads only amplified the damage of his character and it made me appreciate that storyline and Cooper’s performance far more.

This is a sprawling movie that explores a lot of heady territory when it comes to family, the consequences of our actions, and legacy. I’ve found it’s impossible to do The Place Beyond the Pines justice with a simple plot description, and I think this is a testament to the film’s power. On the surface, the story and themes of this movie aren’t groundbreaking. Yet, the way that it’s constructed and its tone almost turn it into something completely different, and the results are breathtaking.

There’s almost a dampness to this film that just sort of…seeps in as you’re watching and long after the film ends. It’s difficult to explain. But regardless, this is a movie that’s sat with me for over a year now, and it’s impacted me in a way that very few films do.

Nebraska (2013)

NEBRASKA

What could be more American than a movie about fathers and sons? Maybe a road trip movie. Well, buy your tickets now, patriots, because Nebraska happens to be both. Steeped in the bleak imagery of middle America, it’s both a love letter to the hard-working American everyperson and a gentle but honest look at what makes the American family tick.

Now, I’m proudly Canadian, but I’m still a sucker for these kind of Midwest-y, quiet-spoken little movies. (Maybe it’s the comfort of hearing accents that sound surprisingly similar to some of Canada’s regional accents. Who knows?) There’s something so inherently steady and a little bit sad about movies that take place in the no man’s land of the U.S., and Alexander Payne taps into that extremely successfully with Nebraska. The film tracks a father and son’s slow but determined journey from Montana to Nebraska and chronicles their reluctant tangles with various family members along the way. It’s not exactly high on energy, but I’ll be darned if it isn’t a lot of fun to watch unfold anyways.

As a Saturday Night Live devotee, I’m very familiar with Will Forte. I’ve spent countless hours watching him throw himself into playing sex offenders, overenthusiastic high school coaches, one half of a Bon Jovi opposite band, and, yes, MacGruber. Never would I have thought I’d be seeing such a dramatic, wonderfully restrained performance from him – or, at least not so soon in his budding movie career. But he has such a lovely, sad charm about him here, essentially playing the straight man in a tragicomedy of sorts. He and Dern, who is so fantastic and gruff, have an endlessly watchable chemistry.

This is maybe Payne’s most artful project yet, and he creates a lot of evocative imagery without being too heavy-handed about it. The choice to shoot in black and white really works here, nicely complimenting the creaky, slightly rundown vibe of the movie itself. The film’s characters actively rebel against showboating or drawing a lot of attention to oneself, and the film is very true to its subject matter in that respect. Even the few moments of “drama” and tension are still dictated by manners and the act of keeping up appearances, which is kind of wonderful.

To that end, Payne finds a nice balance between comedy and drama. It never feels like he’s making fun of his subjects, and he uses humour sparingly enough that it’s all the funnier when he does decide to pepper in a joke here and there. It may be his least daring film yet, but it also feels like his most assured and honest.

4/5

The Way Way Back (2013)

twwb

The Way Way Back tells the story of Duncan (Liam James), a shy teenager stuck with his family on summer vacation in a small seaside town. And if you think that sounds like a well-worn premise and are already speculating about the ways that the characters might grow as people by the end of the movie, you’re on the right track; The Way Way Back breaks very little new ground in the coming-of-age genre. Yet somehow, it’s still charming as heck, and I found it to be thoroughly entertaining from start to finish.

There are many good things about this movie, but if you asked me what the one main reason is to see it, I’d have to say it’s Sam Rockwell. He’s an actor who’s impressed me hugely in films like Snow Angels, MoonConviction, and Seven Psychopaths, and Rockwell works his magic once again here. This is a movie that balances drama with lots of humour, and Rockwell is the source of many of the film’s biggest laughs. His character, Owen, is likeable and impulsive, and you can understand why 14-year-old Duncan would think he’s cool. But the film does a great job of subtly building Owen’s character and showing us his flaws without relying on some sort of “shocking reveal” or major plot turn to make us completely reconsider his character; Owen is a good person, and the friendship he builds with Duncan is genuinely moving, but he’s also not built up to be a saint. Rockwell always seems to play wonderfully shaded, complicated characters, and even though this is a lighter movie than some of his other fare, he still brings so much heart to the character, and for me, he completely stole the movie.

That’s not to say that the rest of the cast is lacking, though. Allison Janney is perfectly wry and weird, as always, and Carell shows some nice range here playing a pretty shitty guy, and does so believably. And even though I’m getting a bit tired of seeing Toni Collette play “sad mom” characters, she turns in another solid performance. You can feel the warmth between her and Duncan, and the screenwriters and actors do a nice job of showing the similarities of their characters and partially explaining why Duncan may be the way he is without hitting the audience over the head with the parallels.

The film does occasionally get bit too focussed on including its Funny Moments at the right times, and a couple of scenes (such as the breakdancing sequence) feel a bit forced and just aren’t that funny. As well, a there are a few minor characters who don’t seem to serve much of a purpose and probably could have been removed entirely. But while not all of the jokes hit perfectly for me, I found that the movie worked best when writer/directors Jim Rash and Nat Faxon mined true-to-life humour from the awkward, slightly poignant reality of growing up. They capture so honestly what it’s like to be young and shy and they manage to convey that feeling of alienation without getting maudlin. I think a lot of filmmakers avoid focussing on introverted characters out of fear that they’ll come across as boring or inactive, but Faxon and Rash embrace the awkwardness of their protagonist and let his quirks speak for themselves. Duncan isn’t always a likeable or even interesting character, but I found myself rooting for him the whole way through, simply because of how realistic he felt.

When you compare The Way Way Back to recent films like Adventureland and The Perks of Being a Wallflower (which is easy to do) it does feel a touch amateurish. It perhaps hits just as many truths as those films do, but it also offers a more scattered tone that makes it feel inconsistent. But there’s certainly still a whole lot of charm going on, and Rockwell’s great performance gives The Way Way Back a secret weapon that the other films don’t have. It’s relatable, funny, and sweet, and that’s exactly what The Way Way Back needed to be.

7/10