Hello readers, wherever you came from. I did this last year and enjoyed it, so here it is again - some hand-picked superlative-winners chosen by yours truly. Because I'm unoriginal they're the same categories as last time, but with the addition of 'guilty pleasure.' I hope a smidgen of happiness crosses you as your eyes glaze this blog post in a lackadaisical stupor (and feel free to write in the comments any categories you'd like to see for next year).
BEST ACTOR - Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
I've always been a fan of DiCaprio's work, and he remains an unjustified non-Oscar winner (sharing that title with Gary Oldman, Joaquin Phoenix, Tom Cruise, and countless others). I think his performance of Jordan Belfort in Scorsese's fantastic foray into the excessive lives of Wall Street stock brokers is definitely his best. DiCaprio is a force of nature in this film: hilarious, insane, living life to its extreme highs, but always remaining the smartest guy in the room. He's a "bad" guy that you can't help but watch and root for (evoking Ray Liotta in Goodfellas). In a span of three hours he conveys the rise and fall of an ambitious man, whose desire for the "American Dream" catches up with him.
The 77-year-old Bruce Dern gave a stunning performance as the aging, cantankerous, alcoholic Woody Grant in Alexander Payne's Nebraska. Dern chews the scenery while not even having to say much, just bringing to life this grizzled, authentic character with his presence alone. It's not an "actor" performance, he is simply embodying this character through and through. A tricky role to pull off, but Dern totally delivers.
BEST ACTRESS - Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Cate Blanchett plays a rich socialite moving in with her poor-ish sister in San Fransisco as she tries to rebuild her life (and sanity) after a separation from her husband. While being one of the most "showy" performances of the year, Blanchett is at the top of her game here, and like the aforementioned DiCaprio role, takes a character that is extremely off-putting and makes us not hate her for her "ugly" behavior, but feel the deep emotional wounds she feels inside. A riveting performance that is likely and deserving to win the Oscar this year.
Runner-Up: Judi Dench, Philomena
My heart is breaking just thinking about Judi Dench's fantastic portrayal of Philomena Lee, a mother whose 50-year search for her long lost son brings her to some surprising conclusions. Although I think the raw acting talent Cate Blanchett showcased in Blue Jasmine brought it up a notch for me, Dench's Philomena is probably one of the most likable female characters in film this year. I felt every emotion she felt, whether it was happiness or complete utter sadness, just by a glint in her soulful eyes. I was nearly brought to tears by the end - a great film/performance!
BEST MUSIC SCORE - Michael Giacchino, Star Trek Into Darkness
OK, this may require some explanation on my part. I recognize that this score is certainly not the "best" of the year - after all, most of it is nearly identical to the first Abrams Trek film - but I'm giving it this superlative purely because I've listened to it the most. It's Michael Giacchino, so it's fantastic as always. I'll post my personal favorite track below, called "London Calling," with a beautiful, foreboding piano melody that I could listen to on a loop for hours (it makes doing homework slightly more exciting).
Runner-Up: Hans Zimmer, Man of Steel
Let's face it, Zimmer had a ridiculously tough job of filling the shoes left by John Williams, whose iconic score for Superman is as legendary as the man of steel himself. But as soon as that rumbling theme music for Zimmer's superman started going, I knew we were in good hands. He managed to make a fresh take on Superman without copying or totally desecrating the original.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG - Idina Menzel, "Let It Go" from Frozen
Disney's Frozen, thanks to the likes of the same Broadway talent that wrote Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon, had many fantastic songs, but the clear show-stopper is "Let It Go," a powerful number about not being afraid of who you are and owning your identity. The message of the song is as strong as Idina Menzel's vocals, which are belted out in perfect Broadway fashion. I would imagine this number being a "classic" Disney song in the future.
Runner-Up: Karen O, "The Moon Song" from Her
This song perfectly encapsulates the melancholic feel of Her, a film about a man's metaphysical struggle to remain in a relationship with his computer's operating system. The song is equal parts romantic and tragic, as these two intelligent beings (one human and one artificial) can't truly be with one another.
BEST POSTER - Nebraska
When I first saw this poster for Nebraska, I couldn't help but be awed by its striking black and white silhouette of Bruce Dern, with a vacant and grizzled demeanor and a wild egg-beater hairdo - it's certainly anything but the "orange and blue" paint-by-numbers poster you see for whatever blockbuster comes to town. This poster, like the film it represents, is strange, simultaneously ugly and beautiful, and deceivingly simple.
Runner-Up: Last Exorcism: Part 2
(Click to Enlarge)
Maybe not the most artful poster design, but this is one of those ideas that was so good I wish I came up with it. Pretty much the only good thing that came from this unnecessary sequel - the poster's design of the exorcis-ee creating the number two with her shadow and signature bent back. Eye catching and iconic, couldn't ignore putting this in here.
BEST TRAILER - Man of Steel
I was terrified that Zack Snyder would fuck up Man of Steel, so my anticipation of the trailer was crazy. I expected some crappy 300-like slow mo filled clobberfest - what I got was a poetic, serious look at one of the most beloved superheros of all time. The cinematography that looked like it came from The Tree of Life, Hans Zimmer's beautiful score, and the rich narration from Russell Crowe, my worries were immediately assuaged and I couldn't wait for the summer to come. I posted the third and final trailer, which I believe is the best and most "epic" that were released, though the initial teaser with Kevin Costner's voice-over was fantastic as well.
I believe I've said this before, but I think a trailer could be seen as its own form of "storytelling," with a beginning, middle, and end. The trailer for Gravity sets up the film nicely, introducing us to the world, then bringing in the conflict, then asking us how the characters will deal with it. Simple and effective (and I love the piano at the beginning).
BEST PLEASANT SURPRISE - Mama
This year really didn't shine when it came to horror movies (I can count the good ones on one hand), but I thought this underseen gem from early in the year was one of the best. The trailer for the film used lots of cliches and a cringe-worthy over-use of the word "mama," so I was pretty lenient on my expectations going to the theatre to see this film (dumped in January no less, the time of year where bad horror flicks are typically released), but from the very first scene I was sucked into the film's creepy atmosphere. I'm probably alone in thinking this, but I felt this was creepier and had a better plot/characters than the over-hyped The Conjuring.
Runner-Up: You're Next
Never in a million years did I think this would make any year-end list of mine, but I have to give some credit - this was a simply-done, but effective little slasher film. I went in the theatre fully prepared to hate it, but I came out surprised. Pleasantly.
MOST DISAPPOINTING - The Lords of Salem
This category is probably the most personal on the list, because it all has to do with my own individual expectations. Sometimes you just set up these impossible standards in your head that you hope a film will stand up to, but they rarely do. The Lords of Salem was likely not a film that the majority of people were stoked for, but being a huge Rob Zombie fan, and disappointed in both Halloween II and El Superbeasto, I was hoping this would be his return to fantastic original horror a la House of 1000 Corpses and The Devils Rejects. But really this is a flop (albeit a flop with some interesting music video imagery). It seemed like RZ just slapped together anything his mind created without any rhyme or reason, and the result is a complete mess.
One of my most anticipated summer releases was Elysium: the director of District 9, with Matt Damon starring, and a metaphorical sci-fi story about the upper and lower class - how could this have derailed so badly? The film ended up as a ludicrously scripted, messy action film where it's difficult to make out what's happening.
GUILTY PLEASURE - Sharknado
This film took audiences by storm this summer, and I'm glad my eyes beared witness to its glory. I saw it with my dad, and one particular scene was so unexpectedly preposterous, I've never seen him laugh harder in my life. What more can I say? It's sharks in a tornado. Enough said.
Runner-Up: Pain and Gain
I'm not particularly a fan of Michael Bay and find that most of his films just give me a splitting headache. But I have to say, for whatever reason, the muscle-headed, roid-infused action comedy Pain and Gain was somehow enjoyable. It's also a guilty pleasure because I'm pretty sure that the film (which is based on a true story mind you), makes the act of torturing a man the source of dark comedy. I can't help it, I was charmed by Marky Mark and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (who I believe gives his best performance here).
And there you have it - look forward to seeing my Top Ten of 2013 very soon (I just have a few to catch up on before I finalize the list). Thanks again for reading!