Listen to our second podcast, a further discussion of the 2013 Movie Year-in-Review with contributing writer, Kale Davidoff. Readers also submitted questions for this section. Click here for more of our podcasts.
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I know I’ll remember Christian Bale’s terrible hairpiece years longer than Sandra Bullock dodging space debris.
Amy Poehler and Tina Fey will remind us, once again, why everyone secretly likes the Golden Globes better. The stars are all having fun. They’re at tables with drinks–there’s not nearly the pressure that falls on Oscar night. It’s more like the PSATs. And when a movie or show wins, everyone gets to run onto the stage–not just Harvey Weinstein who wrote the check.
But the Oscars are the Life cereal to the Globe’s Lucky Charms. They honor “films” not “movies.” They’re the popcorn you’re supposed to get at the box office these days, with the natural olive oil and sea salt instead of that lovely, nasty, addictive orange whatever-it-is.
Four days after the Golden Globes, the “real awards” will be nominated. But really, the movies will be celebrated tonight–and the great television shows as well, which, thanks to excellent cable series programming, surpasses most cinema films in quality. But since all that matters in Hollywood is the money that was made vs. the money that was spent, let’s see if there are any trends or new awards we can create after examining in the top 100 films of 2013, according to Box Office Mojo (link).
“True Super Hero” Award: Stronger Than Thor, Man of Steel and Iron Man–Sandra, Melissa and Jennifer
Superman and Iron Man were the standard winners as superheroes once again prevail (Action/Fantasy films took half the top 10 and animated films took 3 others)–but the interesting trio to follow this year were Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Lawrence and Melissa McCarthy. Bullock’s solo act in Gravity is going to push her up the Oscar list, but Emma Thompson’s lovely, nasty Mary Poppins author in Saving Mr. Banks may conk her with a parrot-headed umbrella.
But Bullock also teamed up with the star of Identity Thief‘s Melissa McCarthy in The Heat at #15. McCarthy is Queen Midas is comfortable in minor and major roles, in movies or television. Jennifer Lawrence continues to impress both in the unusual combination of Oscar-worthy quirkiness from last year’s Silver Linings Playbook and this year’s science-oven-torching wife to Christian Bale in American Hustle.
Meanwhile, Lawrence took the number one grossing spot from Robert Downey, Jr. for her reprise as Katniss in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Not many can bounce between comedy, action and drama as well as Bullock and Lawrence.
The “I Didn’t Know It Did That Well” Award Goes To…
Two films that were not reviewed well but crept their way into the Top 20 were Oz the Great and Powerful and The Great Gatsby. Both films were set up for failure in many respects–one offered as a sequel to one of the most beloved movies of all time, the other another try at the great American novel. Both Sam Raimi and Baz Lurhmann get points for trying to brand these sacred cows and both tackled them in non-traditional manner. I would, however, nominate both films for having top nominees for wooden performances by James Franco and Leonardo DiCaprio.
The “Where’s-the-Bomb-Shelter” Award
The public’s general disappointment, along with the critics, to Gangster Squad was unanimous (despite a wonderful cast). Proof again that the good actors and bad-writing won’t work–unless you’re making a horror film or have a lot of racing cars offering the best thespian performances.
But the biggest disappointment has to go to The Lone Ranger. On paper, Johnny Depp with Armie Hammer, fresh off his great split performance in The Social Network, made sense. But the film may go down as one of the greatest flops in modern movie history. Its budget was $215 million and it made only $260 million worldwide. Compare that terrible profit-margin to The Conjuring, whose $20 million price tag was a bargain for its $140 million profit. Once can assume The Conjuring XI is already in post-production.
And the Andy Dufresne Award Goes To…
The Shawshank Redemption represents for me the greatest compliment a film can ever have–can you channel surf away from it once you land on it, regardless of what part of the movie you’re at? Yet Shawshank and Pulp Fiction lost at the Oscars to Forrest Gump.
Casablanca and The Godfather have it; Citizen Kane doesn’t–despite its amazing accomplishments in nearly every level of production. This year, there is a three-way tie for this award–which is unusual. Most years, there aren’t many films I ever need to see again, let alone think about purchasing. Gravity, for as much as I enjoyed it, I”m not sure I ever need to see it again. But, surprisingly, the Mary Poppins story is one of those films–and I never felt that strongly about Mary Poppins.
Saving Mr. Banks, like The Godfather Part II it deftly moves between the turn of the century and the post World War America. Thomas Newman’s score, as usual, is extremely emotional and sweeps us back and forth between Australia, London and Los Angeles. I’ve seen it twice now and appreciate the editing and acting performances more the second time. Watch this film with Big Fish and Field of Dreams and you’ll want to buy your dad a hundred father’s day cards–or go get therapy.
American Hustle is a joy. Its narration, like Goodfellas, invests us immediately in the fun characters. From the hairpiece epoxy of the opening scene to Bradley Cooper’s tantrums with his boss, I know I’ll keep watching this movie in bits and pieces for years. Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence’s brief scenes together along with Robert Deniro’s bit part represent all the quality that Gangster Squad left out in an ensemble cast.
But my favorite film, and one that I was surprised that I know I will look forward to watching again and again is 12 Years a Slave. It is an outstanding accomplishment of not only powerful acting and brilliant cinematography–particularly during the solitary long-shot of a near hanging–its true depth is in its writing. The story not only explores the tragedy of Solomon Northup’s kidnapping, but also very accurately portrays the expected cruelty but also the betrayal of friends and the plain economic reality of Mr. Ford’s “I’ve got a mortgage on you; I can’t afford to free you.” The film could easily have been swept into melodrama but its balance of storytelling kept just enough perspective to represent the tremendous length of time that twelve years can be–portrayed perfectly when Northup is reunited with his family at the end.
There are always strange bedfellows in the year-end report, for example the fun monster movie, Pacific Rim, barely edged past Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa. And just behind The Wolverine lurks G.I. Joe Retaliation, presumably the Kung-Fu grip in close contact with Hugh Jackman’s claws. And the Marvel and DC universes along with quality animation seem to be the only constant pattern, guaranteeing one of the most successful years in Hollywood history.
I fully expect Gravity to win Best Picture next month, and it deserves to on many levels; it’s a deserving film with solid acting, tight writing, amazing technical achievements as well as an exciting movie with high speed chases, crazy stunts and a dream sequence.
But the Globes often go to the movie, not the film, that you want to see over and over. The Oscars are above such matters; the Academy doesn’t care if you can remember the films a week after you see them, let alone can quote ten years later.