For Your Consideration: 2013 Film Awards Part Two

Welcome to my delayed awards post. Have you read part one? If not, click here. If you did, were you satisfied with the results found in part one? No? Then I must apologize for not agreeing with you. In the meantime, while you dream of spanking me for contradicting your opinion on the matter, here are the rest of my awards. Following in the coming days will be my Top 15 films for 2013. Please, contain your excitement for the inevitable climax you’ll feel once I post it. 

Best Screenplay: Before Midnight. Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke.

The Before series is a cinematic phenomenon. Spanning nearly twenty years, the trilogy tracks the insatiable romance between an adventurous American man named Jesse and a stubborn French woman named Celine. In the case of Before Midnight, the story book romance has begun to expire. An aging love has given way to bitter arguments and backhanded insults veiled in humor. Much like the previous films, Before Midnight is dialog heavy, as much of the scenes consist of our central characters walking and talking throughout a picturesque city. The dialog feverishly slipping out of their mouths is enchanting, humorous, and insightful; without dialog this engaging, the film would greatly suffer. Most importantly, the screenplay doesn’t lose sight of its two characters, honestly depicting the threads they’ve worn thin, and the hopelessly romantic moments that still stoke the embers of love.

Honorable Mentions: Spike Jonze for Her, Billy Ray for Captain Phillips, John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave.

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave.

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave is a torturous film, but an essential viewing. One of the film’s most powerful performances comes from newcomer Lupita Nyong’o, a soulful presence that defiantly bears the carnal oppression of slavery on her back. Lupita’s role as Patsey, an efficient slave that’s lusted after by her master, is gut-wrenching material. The physical nature of the performance, from the manual labor to scenes drenched in sweat and mud, is undeniably taxing, but Lupita carries Patsey’s tired frame with resiliency. The most harrowing aspect of Nyong’o’s performance is her ability to give a voice to the many unknown slaves whose shot at freedom never came to fruition; she perfectly embodies the poor souls who were callously consumed by man’s wretchedness.

Honorable Mentions: Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle, Octavia Spencer for Fruitvale Station, Lea Seydoux for Blue is the Warmest Color, Carey Mulligan for Inside Llewyn Davis

Best Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips.

In the opening moments of Captain Phillips, our perceived antagonist, a Somalian pirate named Muse, doesn’t possess an imposing villainous shadow. Rather, the antithesis to our titular character is merely enacting his means for survival. Played by first time actor Barkhad Abdi, Muse is a character brimming with confidence on the outset, but finds his bravado slowly disintegrating as the film tenaciously unfurls. There are momentous scenes where Abdi exposes his character’s hardened persona as nothing more than a facade, using gunplay and demonstrative threats to hide the doubt plaguing his mind. Despite his lack of experience, Abdi wonderfully captures the pressure dictating Muse’s unlawful behavior. By turning our anger into empathy, Abdi shows us the lengths in which people will go for self-preservation.

Honorable Mentions: Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave, Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street, Jake Gyllenhaal for Prisoners, James Franco for Spring Breakers

Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street.

In The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese’s pitch black ode to the financial sewer rats of America, Leonardo DiCaprio delivers one of the year’s most unapologetic, unhinged performances as Jordan Belfort, a real life Wall Street asshole. From slapstick scenes involving quaaludes and Popeye to brash, cocaine infused ego-maniacal sermons, where words slither out of his mouth, DiCaprio effortlessly crawls into the hide of an alpha male that dismisses the thematic implications of Icarus’ flight. DiCaprio especially shines in playful moments with Jonah Hill, where his comedic timing  make us laugh away the grossly unjust. Admittedly, we know Belfort’s a piece of shit, but DiCaprio’s commitment to the character is at once intoxicating and revolting, hilarious and damning.

Honorable Mentions: Joaquin Phoenix for Her, Oscar Isaac for Inside Llewyn Davis, Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years for Slave, and Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips.

Best Actress: Adèle Exarchopoulos for Blue is the Warmest Color.

Adèle Exarchopoulos’ performance in Blue is the Warmest Color is transformative. It’s the kind of performance that launches careers, which is quite sad considering her exclusion from the Academy Award’s Best Actress category. Nonetheless, her character’s romantic journey, one that’s afflicted with confusion and heartbreak, resonates largely in part because of her raw conviction and passion.  Adèle’s commitment to her character, and the story at large, features prominently in a scene where her character breaks up with her long-term girlfriend. As the tears flow freely, Adèle pushes her character to an emotional breaking point, illuminating the desperation that stems from staving off loneliness. Outside of emotionally grinding scenes, Adèle imbues her character with an authenticity that makes her seem as if she’s a natural part of our world, and not merely a character existing within the frame of a film.

Honorable Mentions:Sandra Bullock for Gravity, Greta Gerwig for Frances Ha, Amy Adams for American Hustle, Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine

Best Vocal Performance by an Actor or Actress:  Scarlett Johansson, Her.

Perhaps this is just my way to shamelessly plug one of my favorite films of the year, but I’d be remiss if I forgot to champion Scarlett Johansson’s work in Spike Jonze’s Her. Through her voice, Johansson shockingly explores the developing soul of a woman lacking a mortal shell. Intelligent, sexy, and inviting, Scarlett Johansson not only justifies the romance her character finds herself in, but also forces us to question the limits of love.

Honorable Mentions: lol, no one.

Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity.

Technically audacious and emotionally draining, Gravity is one of the year’s best films. The man behind it is Alfonso Cuarón, one of film’s most ambitious filmmakers. In Gravity, Cuarón fearlessly blended his bravura filmmaking style with state of the art special effects, achieving a technical marvel not seen since the release of Avatar. Through long takes and scenes featuring visual and auditory mayhem, Cuarónleaves us breathless. Some of the scenes are so intense, so impressively staged that they incite a riot within our nerves. Yet, for all its technical achievements, Gravity would be a shallow endeavor if Cuarón ever lost sight of the human story at its core. Thankfully, Cuarónkeeps his eyes fixated on his character’s spiritual journey, finding life amidst the stars.

Honorable Mentions: Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave, Spike Jonze for Her, Sarah Polley for Stories We Tell, Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips, Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street


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