Best Films of 2013: 20-16

The easy question to ask is: “why do a list at all when you already have an awards slate on your site?” It’s a good question and I finally may have formulated the best response to it yet. Basically, it’s a less comparative discussion on each film that you feel marked the year fro you. In writing a list you discuss each film and a only every few numbers or so get bogged down in discussing placement.

I will try my best to avoid redundancy and will link and self-quote where I deem necessary but it was in re-watching something that I came upon the aforementioned truth. Awards with their winners and fellow nominees and then snub-ees can be read as a slight, though that is never the intent. A list as celebratory, if not more so because of the insularity of conversation.

Now 30 is a high number and I could’ve increased it. I saw the most eligible titles ever this year, but I wanted to further honor these films by having the percentile they represent be a smaller fraction than prior lists.

Let us continue with 20 to 16…

20. Philomena

Philomena (2013, The Weinstein Company)

This year, perhaps more than others, had some great surprises in it. I think that always has to play a role. And by surprises I don’t just mean exceeding expectations but really I mean coming out of nowhere unexpectedly. This film did that for me.

Based on the commercials you knew the basic premise: an elderly woman seeks to discover the fate of the child she put up for adoption 50 years prior. It plays it up like it’s going to be all giggles and a heartwarming “human interest story” as Steve Coogan’s character would’ve derisively put it at the beginning of the film. But much like that journalist we are treated to, yes, some laughs, quite a few surprises (both good an bad) and some tears. The film has some touches to it like its montages of home video that foreshadow the child’s life being learned about and the weaving through time Philomena’s memory occasionally does. Judi Dench is positively marvelous, as is Steve Coogan who plays against type and wore many hats to help make this film happen.

19. Mud

mud-2013-1

Every so often I seem to with no great pre-meditation happen upon a double-feature, one entirely of my and my viewing partner’s own devising, that really stands out. This year it was viewing Mud and Disconnect back-to-back at Philly Landmark Theatres.

Here Jeff Nichols strikes again with another great film. The scary thing is that he really makes it look fairly easy when we all know it’s not. There’s a lot more to Mud than meets the eye such as coming-of-age, a classic tale of unrequited love, a southern Gothic tale of river-life with just an allusion to recent realities treated in nearly a magical realist way. It’s a film that just may grow over time both with myself and in the public consciousness.

18. The Counselor

Michael-Fassbender-and-Brad-Pitt-in-The-Counselor-2013

If there was one prediction I had going into Awards season, and “List Season”, it was that I’d see The Counselor on a Best and a Worst list. I did. This is one of those films where I get the arguments against it. It’s one of those films where you either go along for the ride and appreciate it or you can just never get into it for any number of reasons. It certainly settles itself into the world its building eschewing getting over-concerned with the intricacies of the illegal activities being planned, and also builds a world prior to more firmly entrenching its characters. It’s got a unique brand of dialogue you’ll love or loath; all that and more are things I too as part of why enjoyed this film. Aside from the stories within the story that matter and the introspective, philosophizing criminals.

I’ve seen quite a few of Ridley Scott’s films and he never tried anything like this and it’s worth looking in to for that fact alone.

17. The Way, Way Back

Way Way Back 4

I like to send out a one tweet reaction to almost all the films I see. Part of why that is, is that I’m attempting to succinctly encapsulate my thoughts and preserve them for later reference.

Here’s what I said with regards to The Way, Way Back:

“The Way, Way Back” is quite exceptional. It’s hilarious, heartfelt, dramatic and full of wonderful performances by a spot-on cast.

In many ways this is a film that’s traveling well-trod ground, not that most of it isn’t at this date and time. However, there is a freshness and a truth to it. You have at the center of it Duncan (Liam James) who faces many familiar influences a first love, Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb); a mother (Toni Collette); an over-bearing new pseudo-stepfather, Trent (Steve Carell); and an adoptive father figure, Owen (Sam Rockwell). It’s the way these things blend, how the film achieves the aforementioned superlatives that make it stand out.

16. The Old Man

The Old Man (2012, Kazakhfilm)

This film is a testament to quite a few things: seeing films on the big screen (which I didn’t get a chance to), the power of cultural specificity and transliterating a story and the universality that can be found in such specificity. It’s a Kazakh version of the Old Man and the Sea that works brilliantly well.

This film is called Shal, when transliterated from its native language. In English it’s just referred to as The Old Man. In short, the sea does not apply to this tale instead the film is landlocked and tells the tale of an old shepherd. The wilderness he battles is the Eurasian steppe rather than the sea, which brings wolves into play. Thus, aside from the source material it brought to mind the recent film The Grey. However, I feel this film excels far more than that one did in its man versus nature elements because it’s defenestrated to a greater degree. There are fewer affectations of traditional action films and more human drama, more philosophy, more searingly gorgeous imagery and even further respect for the beasts of prey as there is the added element of the old man protecting his herd.

This is also a generational tale wherein quietly the Old Man’s grandson who he tongue-in-cheekily calls Sheitan-bek, translated as “dickens,” comes to a newfound maturity and shows his respect for his grandfather, and thus his elders. The setup of the generational divide is well-executed and though very steeped in indigenous culture and religious mores does have a universal quality to it. One example of it would be that though in rural Kazakhstan the grandfather’s passion for football knows no borders and he struggles with poor television reception to watch Barça and names all his sheep after members of Brazil’s 1970 World Cup team.

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2013 BAM Award Considerations – October

Last year I had one massive running list and it became very cumbersome to add to, and to read I’m sure. By creating a new post monthly, and creating massive combo files offline, it should make the process easier for me and more user-friendly for you, the esteemed reader. Enjoy.

Eligible Titles

The Book of Manning
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Metallica: Through the Never
The Almost Man
Romeo and Juliet
Machete Kills
League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis
Captain Phillips
Big Shot
No Más
Free Spirits
Gravity
The Stream
Carrie
Escape Plan
Paradise: Faith
Jug Face
Haunter
Bad Grandpa
The Counselor
Stitches
Mother, I Love You
This is What They Want
Enough Said

Best Picture

The Almost Man
Romeo and Juliet
League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis
The Counselor

Best Foreign Film

The Almost Man
Mother, I Love You

Best Documentary

Last year this was an omitted category, due mostly to the fact that too few total candidates existed to make the slate feel legitimate. I will hope to be able to rectify that this year.

The Book of Manning
League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis
Big Shot

Most Overlooked Film

As intimated in my Most Underrated announcement this year, I’ve decided to make a change here. Rather than get caught up in me vs. the world nonsense and what a film’s rating is on an aggregate site, the IMDb or anywhere else, I want to champion smaller, lesser-known films. In 2011 with the selection of Toast this move was really in the offing. The nominees from this past year echo that fact. So here, regardless of how well-received something is by those who’ve seen it, I’ll be championing indies and foreign films, and the occasional financial flop from a bigger entity.

Machete Kills
The Almost Man
Romeo and Juliet
Mother, I Love You

Best Director

The Almost Man
Machete Kills
Romeo and Juliet
The Counselor
Mother, I Love You

Best Actress

Solvei Grimen Fosse The Almost Man
Hailee Steinfeld Romeo and Juliet
Amber Heard Machete Kills
Sandra Bullock Gravity
Maria Hofstätter Paradise: Faith
Lauren Ashley Carter Jug Face
Vita Varpina Mother, I Love You
Julia Louis- Dreyfus Enough Said

Best Actor

Dane DeHaan Metallica: Through the Never
Henrik Rafaelsen The Almost Man
Douglas Booth Romeo and Juliet
Tom Hanks Captain Phillips
Danny Trejo Machete Kills
George Clooney Gravity
Nabil Saleh Paradise: Faith
Michael Fassbender The Counselor
Ross Noble Stitches
James Gandolfini Enough Said

Best Supporting Actress

Laura Morante Romeo and Juliet
Sofia Vergara Machete Kills
Julianne Moore Carrie
Natalya Baranova Paradise: Faith
Penelope Cruz The Counselor
Cameron Diaz The Counselor
Toni Collette Enough Said
Catherine Keener Enough Said

Best Supporting Actor

Thomas Arana Romeo and Juliet
Barkhad Abdi Captain Phillips
Demian Bichir Machete Kills
Mel Gibson Machete Kills
Paul Giamatti Romeo and Juliet
Rene Rupnik Paradise: Faith
Steohen McHattie Haunter
David Hewlett Haunter
Javier Bardem The Counselor
Tommy Knight Stitches
Thommas Kane Byrnes Stitches
Ben Falcone Enough Said

Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Leading Role

Hailee Steinfeld Romeo and Juliet
Noura Jost The Stream
Chloë Grace Moretz Carrie
Abigail Breslin Haunter

Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Leading Role

Jacob M. Williams The Stream
Kristofers Konovalovs Mother, I Love You

Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Supporting Role

Eleanor Zichy Haunter
Kelianne Coughlan Stitches

Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Supporting Role

Kodi Smit-McPhee Romeo and Juliet
CJ Diehl The Stream
Michael Capperella The Stream
Alex Maizus Jug Face
Peter DaCunha Haunter
David Knoll Haunter
Jackson Nicholl Bad Grandpa
Matis Livcans Mother, I Love You
Ryan Burke Stitches

Best Cast

The Almost Man
Machete Kills
Romeo and Juliet
Paradise: Faith
Haunter
Bad Grandpa
The Counselor
Mother, I Love You
Stitches
Enough Said

Best Youth Ensemble

Romeo and Juliet
The Stream
Haunter
Mother, I Love You
Stitches

Best Original Screenplay

The Almost Man
Machete Kills
Haunter
Mother, I Love You
Stitches
Enough Said

Best Adapted Screenplay

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Romeo and Juliet
Haunter
The Counselor

Best Score

Romeo and Juliet
Captain Phillips
Machete Kills
Gravity
The Stream
Haunter
The Counselor
Mother, I Love You
This is What They Want

Best Editing

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Romeo and Juliet
Captain Phillips
Gravity
Escape Plan
Jug Face
Haunter
The Counselor
This is What They Want
Stitches

Best Sound Editing/Mixing

Captain Phillips
Gravity
Jug Face
Haunter
This is What They Want
Stitches

Best Cinematography

Romeo and Juliet
Gravity
Escape Plan
Paradise: Faith
Haunter
The Counselor
Mother, I Love You
Stitches

Best Art Direction

Romeo and Juliet
Machete Kills
Escape Plan
Paradise: Faith
Haunter
The Counselor
Mother, I Love You
Stitches

Best Costume Design

Romeo and Juliet
Machete Kills
Haunter
The Counselor
Stitches

Best Makeup

Romeo and Juliet
Machete Kills
Bad Grandpa
The Counselor
Stitches

Best Visual Effects

Machete Kills
Gravity
Haunter

Best (Original) Song

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Metallica: Through the Never
The Almost Man
Haunter
Mother, I Love You
Enough Said