BEST FILMS OF 2013: #20-11

Best films of 2013: #20-11.

Honorable Mentions: Mud, The Spectacular Now, Nebraska, Frances Ha

20.  THE CONJURING

A classic horror film with top notch scares and a tense, frightening plot will always get the better of me, and with THE CONJURING, it is easily one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen.  Outside of it’s bone chilling techniques and torturing long sequences, the film itself is done with precision and quality.  James Wan is a master of the scary, and add in great performances from the always reliable Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, and Lily Taylor, this is an exception horror film that’s irresistibly terrifying.

19.  CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

You can always appreciate Tom Hanks and the kind of work he brings to the table, but the last scene with him breaking down in the infirmary is easily his best work as an actor.  CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is more than just pirates taking over a ship.  It brings upon the ideals of American success, the dreams the world has for itself, and what it takes for people to get a sense of that ideal.  It’s a tense, fast pace adventure with excellent performances from Hanks and first timer Barkhad Abdi.  Overall, it’s an achievement to execute a film like this that provides an ample of opportunities to twist and create subjectivity, but Paul Greengrass is so much better than that.

18.  BLACKFISH

A documentary like BLACKFISH is so important because it promotes change.  The waves that this little film has created is enough motivation for documentary filmmakers to truly believe that their film can create a difference in our saddening society.  Following the story of Tilikum, an orca taken from its habitat and placed in captivity at Sea World, and the trainer that was killed by Tilikum, it reveals the blanket of secrets and dark antics the “family-fun” corporation has consistently performed to keep the money coming in.  Animal captivity is a tragic situation that deserves more discussion, and BLACKFISH has become the fuel in what should become the blazing fire.

17.  AMERICAN HUSTLE

Though I feel this film doesn’t deserve a Best Picture win, it is still, in my opinion, one of the best films of 2013, mostly because of the top notch performances that surround AMERICAN HUSTLE.  You can’t get a better cast than this, and each provide a flawed and deeply infuriating character that keeps you glued to the screen.  The plot is insanely complex, and if you miss one scene, your most likely lost, but it’s a sight to behold.  David O. Russell continues his impressive streak of modern America folklore, bringing out the ugliness in our humanity, but dazzling it with a touch of love and… Jennifer Lawrence.

16.  INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

There’s nothing like a Coen Brothers’ film, and with INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, the story about a man wrapped within self-loathing and pity, is beautiful, unflinching, and daring, especially with how the character unravels.  There’s much to be said about success, and how we define exactly where we want to be.  But it’s clear where we all don’t want to be, and with Llewyn, it seems that’s the only place he wishes to be at, hurting those that he encounters, and pushing away any possible form of progress from himself.  Anyone pursuing a career like show business know the difficulties of climbing that steep mountain, but Llewyn refuses to take that climb, and somehow expects to reach the peak without breaking a sweat.  He’s the definition of talent without passion, skills without drive, and it’s heartbreaking to watch, but also expected.  Add that with one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard, and well, you got a great film.

15.  LABOR DAY

Though not widely released until January 31st, catching this film at Telluride, and having a small release in 2013, it’s a classic love story executed finely by Jason Reitman.  These are one of those films that don’t deliver some insane technique or brilliant writing.  In simplistic terms, it’s a romance based on pure love and chemistry.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Most of LABOR DAY occurs in a house, so all we see are these characters, in dying need of love and care, embrace each other, though from the outside, it’s a criminal taking hostage of a family.  It’s such a moving film with tear-jerking moments, and if anything, it’ll make you crave peach pie afterwards.

14.  THIS IS THE END

We all expected this film to have great lines, brilliant improv, and a lot of fun to poke at their own supposed selves, but the greatness of THIS IS THE END is that it takes a wild turn into a religious-infused apocalyptic dread, and the way we see everything unfold gives you assurance that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have much more talent than we give them credit for.  The cameos help, that ridiculous cast really helps, but what works here is the utter ridiculousness that continually raises as the film progresses, knowing that what they sold the audiences on (lots of barking at each other, playing themselves) would eventually get old.  It’s a smart and well-crafted film that is laugh out loud hilarious.  One of the best ensemble comedies in recent memory, it’ll be something that we watch years down the road.

13.  FRUITVALE STATION

A heartbreaking and gut-wrenching experience, FRUITVALE STATION exclaims to its audience the unfairness in which lives are lived based solely on culture and stereotype.  But more than that, it’s a tragic story about a young man trying to remake his life, doing the right thing, and to unfortunately not see how those drastic decisions would’ve played out.  First time writer-director Ryan Coogler takes this story and doesn’t fine tune it or mess around.  He takes that one fatal day and speaks volumes with it, raising its quality and its ability to speak for many issues without taking a stance on all of them.  With it’s final scene bringing me to tears, it’s a film that can be a intricate moving piece to real African-American films in today’s society.

12.  ENOUGH SAID

Sometimes, simple works best.  Nicole Holofcener’s ENOUGH SAID is exactly that, and what’s so great about it is that it’s centered around great characters, not necessarily great story.  James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus work magically together, having the audience to believe that these are real relationships, brought in with our human flaws and our uncontrollable behavior.  It’s a love story, but not between male and female, but between families, friends, and that subtle feeling of loss and trying to replace it with something imperative.  It’s a hilarious script with plenty of touching moments, and it deserves more attention.

11.  THE KINGS OF SUMMER

This is a film that I’ll show my kids, and no, not because I want them to run away and build their own house deep into the woods to escape my utter dread and embarrassment (which really could happen), but because of its ability to resemble innocence in youth, and the meanings and sacrifices we make as we continue to grow older.  THE KINGS OF SUMMER is a hilarious, well written film that entails the journey of a boy who hates restriction, but more so, unhappiness, and we can find unhappiness right around the corner.  Dealing with our problems head on is the act of maturity that we all must face, and the film greatly exhibits both sides of execution.  The characters are loveable but also flawed, and what we see here is a classic coming-of-age story with some of the best improved scenes you’ll see this year.  Not forgetting Biaggio, easily one of the most memorable characters in 2013, THE KINGS OF SUMMER will definitely be one of those films that I watch every year and appreciate what it represents: defiance in youth.

*Tomorrow will be the BEST FILMS OF 2013 #10-1.

The 2013 Oscar Predictions!

This is it.  It all comes down to this.  The Oscars.  Until it finishes and then we start a brand new year.  But we can all discuss about that and our post-depression after the 85th Academy Awards.  But let’s get straight to it.  Here are my predictions for the 2013 Academy Awards (and who should win).

Best Picture

Winner: Argo
Who Should Win:  Lincoln/Life of Pi
Spoiler Alert: Silver Linings Playbook

I hate hate hate how the Oscars are now predictable.  Though you always want to award film thats deserve the statue, it has become such a mammoth of a game with all these award shows and guilds prior to the big one.  It’s like if the two Super Bowl teams kept playing 4-5 times before the actual big game in February.  It’s became that big of a headache and has led to some anticlimactic years.  This year, it’s not so much predictable as frustrating.  Plain and simple: Argo is not the best film of 2012.  If I had a vote, I would probably have put Lincoln or Life of Pi as my number one rank, and Argo would most likely be my 5th or 6th.  Nonetheless, I predict it’s going to win.  Look out for Silver Linings Playbook to have a big night, and if does, this is going to be the icing on the cake.

Best Director

Winner: Steven Spielberg
Who Should Win: Spielberg/Ang Lee
Spoiler Alert: David O. Russell

As you can see, I’m very split between Life of Pi and Lincoln.  But considering I don’t have a lot of courage in these predictions, I’m going to stick with Spielberg just because it makes the most sense.  If Lincoln is somehow number one or number two behind Argo, then it makes a lot of sense that Spielberg will win his third Oscar for directing.  But something tells me Lincoln is not second.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Life of Pi or Silver Linings is ahead of Lincoln, which would lead to Director going to someone else.  I’m betting money on David O. Russell, not just because Vegas has him at +1500, but because I do think he has a legitimate chance of winning.  Over Ang Lee?  Not sure, but it all depends on how the night is playing out.  If we see De Niro and Lawrence win their respective categories, then I’d be a fool not to bet on Russell.  It’s anyone’s game.

Best Actor

Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis
Who Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Spoiler Alert: Hugh Jackman

If there’s anyone that could potentially upset Abraham Lincoln is Hugh Jackman, but I don’t see that happening.  If it does, then you truly know that the Academy despised Lincoln and will not win one category throughout the entire evening.  But Lewis is going to win…….

Best Actress

Winner: Emannuelle Riva
Who Should Win: Jessica Chastain
Spoiler Alert: Emannuelle Riva

Though I predict Riva will win, she’s still not the favorite as Jennifer Lawrence is, but I think those who predict Lawrence will win don’t see the changing tide and emotional pull Riva has with the Academy.  They loved Amour, so much so they’re willing to sacrifice a 22 year old’s first Oscar (she’s going to get nominated again) and reward the 80’s something French actress who most likely will be her final film of her long and enduring career.  If you look at last year’s Best Supporting Actor, Christopher Plummer, who definitely didn’t put in the best work in that category, but still won because of his age and career’s work throughout the 82 years he’s been placed on this earth.  It’s more of a congratulatory win rather than it being truly deserving, but this year, it’s both a congrats and a deserving vote.  I would’ve voted for Chastain who delivered one of the all time great female roles of all time, but I don’t think I need to go into much detail about why ZDT has gotten one of the all time screwed over campaigns in Oscar history.

Best Supporting Actor

Winner: Robert De Niro
Who Should Win: Tommy Lee Jones
Spoiler Alert: Christoph Waltz

I think the Academy loves Silver Linings Playbook a lot more than the rest of Hollywood, and when you have Harvey F****** Weinstein behind your campaign, then you’re always a threat.  The favorite to most people is still Tommy Lee Jones or Christoph Waltz, but I’m sticking with De Niro.  Waltz technically is in a poster role (dominates screen time) but still his performance is well deserving.  But he just recently won and the Academy usually doesn’t reward the same actors between small gaps.  I would love to see Tommy Lee Jones win, but I’ll stick to my upset pick.

Best Supporting Actress

Winner: Anne Hatheway, Les Miserables
Who Should Win: Sally Field, Lincoln
Spoiler Alert: Sally Field, Lincoln

If Sally Field wins this, I’m calling Lincoln for Director and Picture.  But I highly doubt it.  Anne Hatheway has swept this award since December.  It’s hers for the taking.

Best Original Screenplay

Winner: Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
Who Should Win: Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty
Spoiler Alert: Michael Haneke, Amour

This award all depends on how the Academy feels about these three films.  Django, ZDT and Amour are all in a dead heat race as they’ve split the industry’s votes between the WGA, Golden Globes, BAFTA, etc.  I’m sticking with Quentin on this one, but that’s because I’m going with what my head thinks this year.  My heart tells me Haneke because the Academy is in amour with Amour (someone shoot me, thanks) but I wouldn’t be surprised if any of these three wins, including the one I think deserves to win, Mark Boal.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Winner: Chris Terrio, Argo
Who Should Win: Tony Kushner, Lincoln
Spoiler Alert: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

This is the category that I potentially think will give us a foreshadow of who’s going to win Best Picture.  All four possible BP winners are in this category (including Life of Pi) and whoever wins this category I believe could very well also be on stage for Picture.  The only film that I see winning Adapted Screenplay and not winning Picture is Lincoln.  Tony Kushner’s script is by far the biggest achievement, but as you’ve noticed with the prior guilds, sometimes achievement is not the most important.  If Argo wins here, we can slowly see the blocks tumbling away and it revealing who will win Best Picture.

Best Editing

Winner: Argo
Who Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty
Spoiler Alert: Silver Linings Playbook

If anything except Argo wins editing (which it should) then anticipate an upset at Picture.  The only film that wins this category but it eventually meaning nothing will be ZDT.  What a shame…

Best Cinematography

Winner: Life of Pi
Who Should Win: Skyfall
Spoiler Alert: Lincoln

I don’t necessarily think Skyfall deserves to win, but I do think Roger Deakins does deserve his first damn Oscar.  He’s been nominated for the ninth time, but still is empty handed.  He’s the best director of photography working today, and almost no one touches him in terms of the quality of work he puts on year in and year out.  But I predict Life of Pi winning, and Deakins will have to sit out another year.  What a shame…

Best Production Design

Winner: Les Miserables
Who Should Win: Lincoln
Spoiler Alert: Anna Karenina

Okay, honestly, Anna Karenina is most likely going to win, but I just don’t want to feel stupid that if it does win, I at least have written it somewhere.  Well, I predict Les Mis is going to win a few categories and this is where it’ll win at least one Oscar.  It’s not the favorite, but I think the Academy just votes which film they enjoyed the most in certain categories.  Lincoln deserves to win, but it will be ignored.  Of course.

Best Sound Mixing

Winner: Les Miserables
Who Should Win: Skyfall
Spoiler Alert: Skyfall

All depends which film they enjoy more, Skyfall or Les Mis.  I’m going to stick with history here and say Les Miserables because musicals usually take this category.

Best Sound Editing

Winner: Life of Pi
Who Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty
Spoiler Alert: Life of Pi

I put Life of Pi as both winner and spoiler alert because I’m picking the upset here.  Skyfall and Argo are technically ahead of Life of Pi in terms of who’s in the lead, but Life of Pi sweeping the MPSE was enough for me to choose it.  Zero Dark Thirty deserves to win this award though, hands down.

Best Costume Design

Winner: Anna Karenina
Who Should Win: Lincoln
Spoiler Alert: Les Miserables

Anna Karenina will win the Oscar here.  If Lincoln does, potential big night for Lincoln.

Best Original Score

Winner: Life of Pi
Who Should Win: Life of Pi
Spoiler Alert: Lincoln

John Williams will lose, but if he somehow doesn’t, then like Costume, could lead to bigger things.  Life of Pi though deserves to win this category.  Great great soundtrack.

Best Original Song

Winner: Skyfall
Who Should Win: Skyfall
Spoiler Alert: Anything other than Skyfall

If Adele performs and attends, you better give it to Skyfall.

Best Foreign Language Film

Winner: Amour
Who Should Win: Amour
Spoiler Alert: Kon-Tiki

Amour will win its first Oscar here (unless Screenplay is before Foreign Language film).

Best Documentary Feature

Winner: Searching for Sugarman
Who Should Win: The Invisible War
Spoiler Alert: How To Survive A Plague/The Invisible War

Searching for Sugarman has swept, but the Academy has a track record of not voting with the trends for documentary.  Only if this were true for everything else.

Best Animated Feature

Winner: Brave
Who Should Win: Wreck-It-Ralph
Spoiler Alert: Frankenweenie

I hope hope hope Brave doesn’t win, but I think it will.  the most deserving film here is Wreck-It-Ralph, and most experts are picking it to win.  But Pixar is the new monster, and it usually wins this category.  Also add in the fact it’s won many of the precursors, and I think you have your eventual winner.  Don’t be surprised if Tim Burton somehow goes up on stage and creeps everyone out.  And then Helena Bonham Carter will come up with him for some reason.

Best Visual Effects

Winner: Life of Pi
Who Should Win: Life of Pi
Spoiler Alert: Anything Else

Richard Parker is the greatest achievement this year.

Best Makeup and Hair

Winner: Les Miserables
Who Should Win: The Hobbit
Spoiler Alert: Les Miserables

Technically, The Hobbit is the favorite, but what I think most people are forgetting is the new addition to the category, Hair.  I don’t think Academy members know squat about makeup and hair, and I really don’t think they liked the Hobbit and its HFR nonsense, so in response, they’ll make sure it loses the one category it most likely should and would win.  Les Miserables, take your Oscar.

Best Live Action Short

Winner: Curefew
Spoiler Alert: Henry

Best Animated Short

Winner: Paperman
Spoiler Alert: Adam & Dog

Best Documentary Short

Winner: Open Heart
Spoiler Alert: Inocente

Well, there they are folks.  I do expect my predictions to get demolished tonight, but hey, who cares?!  But good luck and enjoy your Oscars night.  And in tribute for the films of 2012, here is a great video.

Silver Linings Playbook Featurette Focused on Mental Illness

This is where the Oscar campaigning really takes shape.  Silver Linings Playbook released a 28 minute featurette on the making of, focusing on the mental illness and personal attachment to the material.  It’s very emotional, very heartbreaking and the perfect blend of gaining votes in the Academy.  Not questioning their genuineness, but the timing of this all is quite perfect considering it’s one week away.  Weinstein, you genius…

The 2013 Oscar Preview: Acting Categories

Acting!  Now, for our four acting categories.

Best Supporting Actress

Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Sally Field, Lincoln
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Amy Adams, The Master
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

There really is no discussion here.  Anne Hathaway is going to win Best Supporting Actress.  She steals the film and she will still this win, as almost no other actress will come close.  Performance wise though, I Sally Field in Lincoln matches Hathaway’s vibrato and intensity.  Her crucial part as Mary Todd Lincoln is crucial for the film, and her astonishing work would’ve been recognized in almost any other year.  I will say this.  If for some reason Hathaway doesn’t win and either Weaver or Field shock the world in a huge upset, their win would be a foreshadow for both Director and Picture.  But I’d bet my left arm on Anne Hathaway.  In other news…Russell Crowe is performing at the Oscars.  Shoot.  Me.  Now.

Best Supporting Actor

Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook

This is most likely the closest race out of any category this year at the Academy Awards.  There is no lead, no favorite and more advantage.  Technically, Waltz should be the favorite considering he has received the most guild awards including the BAFTA and Golden Globe, but he just recently won for Inglourious Basterds which usually is an automatic no win.  But his role in Django is so fascinating that many seem to think that just can’t ignore his performance.  But I’m still sticking with the assumption that most voters will realize that they can’t give him two Oscars in the same category with less than 2-3 years apart.  That moves on to Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln.  His win at the SAG and Critic’s Choice is very important, considering the acting branch in the Academy has the most amount of members.  But winning the SAG does not always equate to winning the Oscar.  My guess is that if Tommy Lee Jones win Supporting Actor, then you can safely assume that Spielberg will win Directing, but then again, I’m betting on myself to look like a complete fool come Oscar night.  That’s why my pick will most likely be Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook.  I think people love Silver Linings, but I also think people love De Niro even more.  Though he’s already received two Oscars before, it’s been 21 years since his last NOMINATION.  And considering how my picks are going, I think the Academy will feel it necessary to reward Silver Linings for its achievement in some category.  Though most people will bet on either Waltz or Jones (which is the smartest and safest thing to do), I wouldn’t be too shocked if De Niro’s name is inside that envelope.  And you can make sure I’ll be bragging all night on this blog.

Best Actress

Emannuelle Riva, Amour
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts, The Impossible

This is also another category that’s almost impossible to predict.  The race for Best Actress has changed constantly over that last few months, with a new leader taking the top spot every week or so.  After Zero Dark Thirty was released, it was almost certain that Jessica Chastain would receive her first Oscar, establishing the start of a marvelous career we are about to witness.  But when that shit storm hit of ZDT’s pro-torture nonsense, it took down any chance for ZDT to dominate, let alone win one Oscar on Sunday.  I do hope ZDT wins at least one, but I don’t think it’ll be in this category, which is a shame.  Chastain turns in an amazing performance, as does Wallis and Watts.  Both are amazing works of art, and their respective film truly rests on their shoulders, supplying the emotional and psychological toll of their situations.  But the favorite here is Lawrence mainly because Silver Linings Playbook is a film that the Academy eats up, a la Argo.  Her performance is great, and just like Chastain, will have an amazing career with future nominations and win(s).  And because of this huge potential and promise from both Chastain and Lawrence, I believe they will cancel each other out and make room for 82-year old Emannuelle Riva, the oldest actress to ever be nominated.  Amour is adored, and she pulls in one of the most harrowing performances of the year.  Amour will win at least 1-2 Oscars, and Best Actress is a strong possibility.

Best Actor

Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Denzel Washington, Flight
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Again, another category filled with great performances.  This is definitely a strong year for Best Actor, and anyone of these actors not named Daniel Day-Lewis had a legitimate chance of winning if not for, well, Daniel Day-Lewis.  There really is no need for discussion here because just like Anne Hathaway, Lewis is running away with this award ever since people first flocked to see Lincoln.  If there’s any chance of an upset, which then I will throw my remote at my television set and then cry, is Hugh Jackman.  The Academy is raving over his performance, and just like Lewis, rests on his abilities to carry the film.  I don’t see it happening, but if there was any possible chance that another name could be called, it’d be him.  Even smaller chance for Bradley Cooper, but there’s no reason for anyone to think this is going to anyone else except Daniel Day-Lewis.

Tomorrow we will dive into the Directing category.