Sunday, December 15, 2013

BEST OF 2013


Most film critics can’t agree on much of anything, not even the best of the year or the worst. What I may think is a horrible picture (“Pacific Rim”) others think it is a ground-breaking sci-fi triumph! No matter: it is all a matter of opinion, and my opinion being the correct one will prevail in this article.

Film fans will always have their favorites for one reason or another, as do I. Some pictures inspired me, thrilled me, made me laugh and some made me cry (because they were so bad). Here are my selections for best of the year.

In the Best Picture category there were five selections that were tops in my opinion (there’s that opinion again!). Everybody is talking about the sci-fi 3D epic “Gravity” as a favorite. High hopes are had for” 12 Years a Slave,” a graphic look at America’s bigoted past in the South. Woody Allen figures highly on my list for” Blue Jasmine,” a look at the high life in the Hamptons. Ron Howard’s racing epic “Rush” is a lot better film than people think, and I select it as one of the best. My selection for the Best Picture category is “American Hustle” with a terrific ensemble cast that brings laughter and drama to this caper film.

A film doesn’t direct itself, so we honor those great artists who have provided us entertainment through the year. Alfonso Cuaron made “Gravity” into the must-see film that it is for sci-fi fans, so he is one of our selections for Best Director. Also making my list is Ron Howard for the exciting film “Rush.” Stirring emotions was Steve McQueen for his heart-wrenching “12 Years A Slave.” Woody Allen came in strong for this reviewer for his “Blue Jasmine.” But the director who made the biggest impression was David O. Russell for “American Hustle,” and he is my choice for Best Director. 

The Best Actor category is always an exciting one, Often it is difficult to select five top performances without leaving someone out who also deserves to be selected. There has been a lot of talk about Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance in “12 Years A Slave,” and deservedly so. Jake Gyllenhaal did a superb job playing a detective in “Prisoners.”  Christian Bale did a wonderful job playing a sleazy con-man in “American Hustle.” Newcomer Michael B. Jordan showed great potential in “Fruitvale Station” and turned in one of the top performances of the year. My choice for Best Actor is Tom Hanks in “Captain Phillips.” His last dramatic scene is a killer and brought chills to the spine.

My favorite category has always been Best Actress. The ladies always seem to turn in superb performances, and this year is no exception. The magnificent Judi Dench comes first to mind for her subtle and touching tour de force in “Philomena.” It’s hard not to fall for her. The British have captured my heart this year and Emma Thompson in “Saving Mr. Banks” has bowled me over. Her interpretation of author P.L. Travers of “Mary Poppins” fame is fantastic. Sandra Bullock seems to be Hollywood’s darling at the moment for her performance in the space age epic “Gravity.” I’ll second that. Meryl Streep does a bit of scenery-chewing in “August: Osage County” in the movie version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play. But it’s Meryl, the Bette Davis of our time, and who can fault her? The most magnificent performance of the year was Cate Blanchett’s interpretation of a Hampton’s matron who loses everything, including her mind. As she slowly crumbles before our eyes, we realize she dominates the ladies catergory with her unbelievable acting skills. For her magnificent performance in “Blue Jasmine,” our selection is Cate Blanchett for Best Actress.

The Best Supporting Actor category is usually a good one with many fine actors turning in admirable performances. Daniel Bruhl is a big star in Germany and he makes a great impression in the action-drama “Rush.” So he’s one of my selections in this category. Stanley Tucci gives a hilarious performance as the emcee in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”  Sam Rockwell gives a strong serio-comic performance in “The Way, Way Back.” Michael Fassbender gave us chills as the mean plantation owner in “12 Years A Slave.” Mr. Fassbender is a superb actor, and we nominate him in this category. The most outstanding performance of the year for me was actor/musician Jared Leto’s interpretation of a transsexual dying of AIDS in “Dallas Buyer’s Club.” Mr. Leto’s touching performance was the break-out part of the year, and we select him as the Best Supporting Actor.

So many great actresses give us pleasure in a variety of films this year. In the Best Supporting Actress category, these are the choices made. Chameleon actress Melissa Leo was totally unrecognizable in “Prisoners” with Hugh Jackman. She turned in a scary impression as the Mother from Hell. Little Sophie Nelisse at age 16 was fabulous in “The Book Thief.” The quirky Sally Hawkins plays Cate Blanchett’s sister in ”Blue Jasmine” and is a complete opposite of the nervous Blanchett’s character. We nominate her in this special category. Oscar® winner Octavia Spencer turns in another fine performance as the mother in ”Fruitvale Station.” She deserves a nomination for her work. Our favorite actress in this category is Jennifer Lawrence in the quirky and funny “American Hustle.” She brightens the film and turns in a hilarious and zany performance. We select Jennifer Lawrence as the Best Supporting Actress.

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