Pop-Ed: The Best & Worst in Film (2013)

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I can honestly say that 2013 was one of the best years in film I can remember in a long time. 2010 was pretty solid, but this beats it. With our Best of Film List in the can, it’s amazing I couldn’t even get movies like Nebraska, The Great Gatsby, and Mud into my top five. It was just that competitive a year. But I’m glad I have a chance to talk about more specifics in my third annual Best and Worst in Film superlative awards. Yup, it’s an Academy of one, and I’m the Commissioner, President, Janitor, and all-important Seat filler. As great as 2013 was, there was still plenty of crap to go around too. But we’ll cover it all, so don’t you worry. No spoilers except in the Scene of the Year category, and I give away some cool moments in the Best Line section, so be aware of the film titles in bold. But we better get to it, because I practically write a thesis here. It’s the Best and Worst in Film…2013 edition!

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BEST ACTOR

Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
The fact that I couldn’t even get Bruce Dern (Nebraska) or Christian Bale (American Hustle) into my honorable mentions tells you everything you need to know about the Best Actor category this year. But amidst all the great performances, it’s DiCaprio who stands as champion. DiCaprio in 2004’s The Aviator may be in my top ten all time performances, but his portrayal of Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street isn’t too far behind. DiCaprio is asked to do many things in this movie, including physical comedy, something we haven’t really seen from him. He is both stunning and hilarious in these moments. But aside from all the new acting he delves into, vintage Leo is present all throughout as well. If this isn’t an Oscar worthy performance, I don’t know what is.

Honorable Mentions: Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Robert Redford (All Is Lost)

BEST ACTRESS

Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
It’s funny I mentioned The Aviator before, because Blanchett’s performance in Blue Jasmine is very similar to what DiCaprio does in that film. Blanchett has always been slightly underrated, and in Blue Jasmine she completely obliterates this year’s Best Actress competition. Blanchett’s performance is basically watching a character completely self-destruct over the course of two hours. Every scene she’s in can be used as an Oscar clip, but it’s her final moments where you just sit there in total awe. It’s a career performance.

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Honorable Mentions: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)

**NOTE: I considered Scarlett Johansson (Her), but I think motion capture/voice over needs a separate category. But that’s a discussion for another day.**

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
This was a really tough call between all five of my choices, but I had to go with Leto. It’s one of those performances where if you didn’t know who was playing the character, you wouldn’t be able to guess the actor if I gave you 100 tries. As the transgender character of Rayon, Leto is funny, sad, and just about everything else. While a tough category this year, Leto might be the closest thing to a lock at this year’s Oscars.

Honorable Mentions: Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave), Woody Harrelson (Out of the Furnace), Ray Liotta (The Place Beyond the Pines)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

June Squibb (Nebraska)
As much as I love Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle, this was actually a pretty easy pick for me. Squibb just commands the screen, and every time she’s on, you can’t wait to see what she says next. Sometimes you want to clap for her, and other times you want to scathe her. Whatever the case may be, Squibb was always fascinating as good old curmudgeon Kate Grant.

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Honorable Mentions: Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station), Kristin Scott Thomas (Only God Forgives)

BEST DIRECTOR

Derek Cianfrance (The Place Beyond the Pines)
I agonized between Cianfrance and Spike Jonze (Her), but the reason I had to give the edge to Cianfrance is because he had the tougher job. The Place Beyond the Pines is almost three movies in one, yet Cianfrance was able to hold it together as one cohesive story. But what really impressed me about The Place Beyond the Pines is how subtle it was in everything it did. It’s a movie about real people, but it feels mythic. There are so many moments I can pinpoint that are gut-wrenching and powerful, and that’s why Cianfrance ultimately gets the nod.

Honorable Mentions: Spike Jonze (Her), Baz Luhrmann (The Great Gatsby), David O. Russell (American Hustle), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)

BEST SCREENPLAY

Spike Jonze (Her)
Not even a question. The story is brilliant. The dialogue is beautiful. It’s funny. It’s dramatic. It’s got two wonderful character arcs. This is screenwriting at it’s finest.

Honorable Mentions: David O. Russell/Eric Warren Singer (
American Hustle), Jeff Nichols (Mud), Bob Nelson (Nebraska), Terence Winter (The Wolf of Wall Street)

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SCENE OF THE YEAR

(Man of Steel) Superman snaps General Zod’s neck
I’m sure film snobs would look at this selection and throw up in their mouths. Well, good for them. You want to talk about a scene that inspired true emotion out of people, this is it. This moment is a microcosm of why Man of Steel is one of the best films of the year. The fact that it created so much debate and passion proves this had an impact on you, whether you liked it or not. But just putting aside all that stuff, let’s look at the actual scene. We have a man who values life more than most, yet he is forced to take one. Not only that, but Zod is also the last link to his home world. You’re going to tell me that’s not powerful just because the main character is wearing a red cape, and there’s too much action in the film? Cut me a break. Even though Henry Cavill didn’t make my Best Actor list, he may have given the best acting moment all year with that scream. This is an incredible sequence.

Honorable Mentions: Patsey’s punishment/whipping (12 Years a Slave), The final moments/Green Light fades (The Great Gatsby), “Threesome” (Her), Jordan drugged out on lemons (The Wolf of Wall Street)

MOST OVERRATED FILM

Gravity
Oh look, Sandra Bullock is flying through space debris. Oh look, it’s Sandra Bullock flying through a space module. Oh look, it’s Sandra Bullock flying through space…again. Look at all that debris. Wow.

Honorable Mentions: 12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips, Rush, The Way Way Back

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MOST UNDERRATED FILM

Out of the Furnace
This poor movie just came and went. It’s definitely not an upper of a film, but there are some truly phenomenal performances that should be seen. In any other year, Christian Bale and Casey Affleck would have at least made my honorable mentions for their respective categories, but it was just too competitive this year. Give this film a chance though.

Honorable Mentions: All Is Lost, The Place Beyond the Pines, Prisoners, The Wolverine

MOST DISAPPOINTING FILM

Gravity
I do appreciate the technical elements that went into this film. I really do. But with someone like Alfonso Cuaron, I was disappointed he didn’t do a better job of giving us a more compelling character. I shudder to think what this film would have been like with no Sandra Bullock. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you want to make a movie where the technical aspects are more important than anything else, don’t try and force a half-assed back story that’s accompanied by painful dialogue. You might as well not have the character say anything. That’s why All Is Lost (which is basically Gravity on water) is a superior film. They don’t try and force anything. The focus stays on the man’s struggle against the sea, not alternating back and forth between poor character development.

Honorable Mentions: Captain Phillips, Elysium, Iron Man 3, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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THE “MOVIE I THOUGHT WAS GOOD WHEN I FIRST SAW IT, BUT ON FURTHER REFLECTION, YEAH, IT’S NOT THAT GOOD” AWARD

Thor: The Dark World
I walked into this movie thinking it was going to be a total disaster. When I walked out, I kind of liked it. But when I really started to let it sink in, this movie was actually pretty bad. I loved the Phase One Marvel movies, and felt their sequels had monster potential. Clearly Marvel doesn’t care about bringing back directors like Kenneth Branagh, who could have done wonders with this film. I understand Hollywood is a business, and people went bonkers for the lighthearted fun Avengers, so I can’t blame them for continuing their movies in that trend. It doesn’t mean I have to like them though.

Honorable Mentions: Jobs, Rush

THE “MOVIE I THOUGHT WAS GOING TO BE THE END OF ME, BUT IT TURNED OUT TO BE OKAY” AWARD

This Is the End
I literally had to close my eyes whenever this trailer came on. I saw this almost two months after it opened. It took so much arm twisting and word of mouth to finally get me to see it. But at the end of the day, I laughed my ass off. Michael Cera will never give a better performance in his life. My one big complaint is that it gets progressively worse as the film goes on. All the stuff before the apocalypse were the best parts, but that’s okay. I had a blast.

Honorable Mentions: After Earth, Oz the Great and Powerful, Riddick, White House Down

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BREAK OUT STAR OF THE YEAR:

Michael B. Jordan
He was praised for his role in the Friday Night Lights series, he was great in last year’s beloved Chronicle, and there’s still an outside chance at an Oscar nomination for this year’s Fruitvale Station. He’s being rumored for big roles like Johnny Storm in the new Fantastic Four film, and even being talked about for a Rocky Balboa spin-off movie. He’s a great actor with a bright future.

Honorable Mentions: Chadwick Boseman, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Josh Gad, Oscar Isaac

THE “PLEASE GO AWAY” AWARD

The Hobbit Franchise
I’ll get slammed for this, but I just can’t do this anymore. Please, I can’t watch people walk around New Zealand for another three hours. LET IT END. JUST LET IT END. FOR THE LOVE OF GANDALF’S BEARD, JUST STOP! LEAVE ME ALONE!

Honorable Mentions: Zombies, The G.I. Joe Franchise, Will Smith picking mediocre movies and putting his kids in them

BEST LINE

Rosalyn (American Hustle): “Why don’t you just marry Carmine? Get a little gold microwave and put it on a chain around your neck! You want to be more like Carmine? Why don’t you build something like he does? Instead of all your empty deals. They’re just like your fucking science oven. You know, I read that it takes all of the nutrition out of our food! It’s empty, just like your deals. Empty! Empty!” 


I suppose it’s more like a speech, but whatever. What a glorious and hilarious moment from Jennifer Lawrence. When I saw American Hustle in the theater, people erupted into applause after this. Who applauds during a movie like American Hustle? It’s that good of a line, and an even better delivery.

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Honorable Mentions:

Robin (The Place Beyond the Pines): “If you ride like lightning, you’re gonna crash like thunder.”

General Zod (Man of Steel): “Tell me, you have Jor-El’s consciousness. But can you experience his pain? I will harvest the Codex from your son’s corpse, and rebuild Krypton atop his bones.”

Jonah Hill (This Is the End): “Dear God, it’s me, Jonah Hill…from Moneyball.”

(Out of the Furnace):
Baze: We got a problem here?
Harlan: I’ve got a problem with everybody.

FUNNIEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR

The Wolf of Wall Street
This was the year that showed us just how terrible the genre of comedy has become. When you have directors like Martin Scorsese, David O. Russell, and Alexander Payne delivering films that are literally more gut-busting then movies that are supposed to be strictly comedy, it just puts the genre to shame. This Is the End is the only pure comedy I have on my honorable mentions list. But enough about that, because The Wolf of Wall Street is fricking hysterical. The crazy banter, Rob Reiner, and of course the best comedic pairing in years (Leonardo DiCaprio & Jonah Hill) made this an easy selection for me.

Honorable Mentions: American Hustle, Don Jon, Nebraska, This Is the End

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BEST SCORE

Hans Zimmer (Man of Steel)
I understand that Man of Steel is going to be no where near a Best Picture Oscar, or any other major award for that matter. But can’t the Academy give this a listen? Come on! For all the people who hated or loved Man of Steel, I haven’t found one dark corner of the internet where somebody complains about the music. Aside from the original Superman theme, the overall score for this movie is better than the 1978 original…yeah, I said it.

Honorable Mentions: Arcade Fire (Her), Alex Ebert (All Is Lost), Thomas Newman (Saving Mr. Banks), Mike Patton (The Place Beyond the Pines)

MOVIE I LIKE, BUT WOULDN’T RECOMMEND TO ANYONE

Only God Forgives
This was a strange movie, and an absolute mess. For whatever reason, I just liked it. But I can’t think of anybody I’d feel comfortable recommending it to. This film is an anomaly.

BEST TRAILER FOR A 2014 FILM

X-Men: Days of Future Past
Are you kidding me? Did you see this trailer! Old Professor X talking to Young Professor X…hell yea!

Honorable Mentions: 22 Jump Street, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Godzilla, Interstellar

WORST MOVIE OF THE YEAR

The Counselor
This movie just sucks the life out of you. I really don’t know how else to put it. Listening to it’s pretentious dialogue is like listening to 25 jackhammers outside while Rebecca Black’s “Friday” blasts at full volume in your headphones. Not only is this a terrible script, but Ridley Scott makes actors like Michael Fassbender look awful. Seriously, if this was the first movie I ever saw Michael Fassbender in, I’d never want to see him again. I feel bad for Cameron Diaz, because her performance is an absolute train wreck, but she’s just doing what the character demands. What really kills me though is Javier Bardem maybe does one main stream movie a year (if we’re lucky), and this was it…WHAT A WASTE! Ridley Scott has Exodus coming out next year with Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, John Turturro, and Aaron Paul. I’m really rooting for one more great Ridley Scott film. I’m really rooting for you, Ridley.

Honorable Mentions: The Family, Jack the Giant Slayer, Movie 43, World War Z

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow’s fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.