The time has come – the final category winners of the 2013 Bobby James Awards are about to be revealed. I announce my “Best of Movies” awards last because they’re so near and dear to my heart and because technicallyI’m qualified to do so! OJanuary to get around to seeing everything that will qualify and should be nominated (damn you August: Osage County and Her!Unlike the other categories (Music, WWE, Impact, Television) which have a December 31 deadline to qualify, I give movies until January 15.
Now, you’ve seen the nominees – and I’m sure you have your own opinions about what were technical achievements and outstanding performances – so that’s what the comment section is for (I would love to hear your thoughts, honestly, I really would – I love watching and discussing movies!!!). Shall we?
Achievement in Cinematography: 12 Years a Slave - Sean Bobbitt
Look at this one screencap from Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. It’s visually stunning; often times in this slavery-era drama, the lighting reflects the mood perfectly. This encounter between Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) and Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is as tense as the picture would suggest – and this is just one of many harrowing, but beautiful moments on display. There is no doubt that 12 Years is a strikingly beautiful film.
Achievement in Editing: The Lone Ranger - James Haygood and Craig Wood
The final battle/action sequence alone in The Lone Ranger secured this spot. Gunfire, shattering glass, trains on opposite tracks, and The Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) riding through the middle of it all on horseback. Windows blip faster than the bullets fly as Tonto (Johnny Depp) appears to be doing some amazing things with a ladder – and the best part? It’s all one incredibly fast-paced and clearly visual action sequence (that looked amazing on the big screen!).
Achievement in Visual or Special Effects: Gravity - Neil Corbould and Manex Efrem
Some have listed Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity as the year’s best picture for its technical mastery alone. Visually it’s a splendid look at space – one that places the size of mankind in perspective. We are insignificant – especially when compared to the universe and great unknown Cuaron’s team brings to life. This is the mastery of special and visual effects – hands down.
Achievement in Art Direction: Her – Austin Gorg
Her was/is such a beautiful movie. From the set designs to the color schemes - I felt immersed in this world. The contrasts of light and dark was as visually dynamic as Theodore Twombly’s (Joaquin Phoenix) emotional states. In a world that seems depressing and mundane, viewers are bombarded with bright colors and then dropped into the middle of bland, washed out backgrounds for full emotional impact – each undoubtedly the work of the art director and director’s collaborations.
Achievement in Costume Design: The Great Gatsby - Catherine Martin
Set in the “roaring twenties,” The Great Gatsby was always going to boast the year’s best costumes. From the flappers and pinstripe suits to the hair accessories and jewelry, Gatsby committed to a costume order exceeding 1,240! While some exaggerations were made, the work speaks for itself.
Best Original Score: The Great Gatsby - Craig Armstrong
Composer Craig Armstrong blended vocals from The Great Gatsby soundtrack, orchestral sounds, jazz, and swing to created an immersive score that takes listeners through the movie and creates visual associations. Yes, a score is supposed take the listener on a journey through the film, but only a few actually create visual points of reference (ex. the love scene that plays over “Together” by The XX) and induce fantasy.
Best Original Song: “Together” – The Great Gatsby - performed by The XX
This was a tough call because I’m a big fan of Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go” from Frozen, but “Together” by The XX resonated with me immediately and has stuck with me. Is it the lyrics or the fantasy that I’ve associated it with? I’m not sure – but I love the simplicities and complexities of this song. It sounds hollow yet full of meaning – it’s a paradoxical song - one I can vividly associate with a scene from the movie, and one that represents the movie as a whole. Isn’t that what an “original song” should do? Yes.
Best Original Screenplay: Her - Spike Jonze
How do you write a screenplay about a man falling in love with a computer operating system and make it work? Spike Jonze knows – and so does the lead, Joaquin Phoenix. Theodore Twombly exists in a world that is full, but cold - and this is purely an exploration of the fantasy within and a striking, unsettling portrait of a could-be(?) future – that works.
Best Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave - John Ridley
Adapted from a novel of the same title, 12 Years a Slave is full of dynamic characters, heartbreaking imagery, and empowering dialogue. While it is a drama through and through, there are multiple layers to this movie and many of its characters are so well-developed (and acted) that this story instantly resonates and comes to life. It’s unforgettable – and very, very well crafted.
Actor in a Supporting Voice-Over Role: Benedict Cumberbatch – “Smaug” – The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
Oh Smaug. Wait, isn’t that a line in the movie? Maybe. Smaug is the best part of the second movie in The Hobbit franchise. Partially because of Benedict Cumberbatch’s motion capture movements, but mostly because of his voice. It’s villainrific! I know, that’s not a word - but that’s what I came up with in the moment. His voice was distorted just enough to make you ask who the voice belongs to, yet it’s dynamic enough for you to know that some great work went into it.
Actress in a Supporting Voice-Over Role: Idina Menzel – “Elsa” – Frozen
Menzel’s a Broadway powerhouse known for her role in Wicked. Here she brings “Elsa” to life in Disney’s feminist animated feature and belts out one of the biggest motion picture songs of the year, “Let It Go.” I’d say she was a perfect casting choice and her voice (spoken or sang) clearly defines the character that becomes a queen.
Actor in a Leading Voice-Over Role: Jonathan Groff – “Kristoff” – Frozen
Here I go again with my perfect casting suspicions, but I really feel like Jonathan Groff was the perfect person to voice Kristoff. He’s fun, witty, and charming, yet soft-spoken and his musical numbers are exactly as they should be (I really love “Reindeers are Better Than People). He’s one of Disney’s more vocally dynamic princes and the voice (and animation) just make him seem like a memorable, lovable guy.
Actress in a Leading Voice-Over Role: Scarlett Johansson – “Samantha” – Her
Scarlett Johansson does amazing work as “Samantha,” the operating system in Her. Her voice is robotic enough to seem engineered – and its subtly becomes infused with an impossible amount of emotion. Her breaths and phrasing work well to create a character who’s never really “there.”
Actor in a Supporting Role: Michael Fassbender – “Edwin Epps” – 12 Years a Slave
Michael Fassbender had an incredible year of performances, but his role as Edwin Epps is a career high. He makes you remember the character. You hate him – and just when you think that you could like him (maybe even just a little), he outdoes himself and makes you hate him all over again. By the end of the movie, you’re hoping for his death – and after the movie – you’re left to remember the name “Edwin Epps” and to associate Michael Fassbender with some of the most horrific, angering, and disturbing scenes.
Actress in a Supporting Role: Lupita Nyong’o – “Patsey” – 12 Years a Slave
By watching 12 Years a Slave you’d never suspect Lupita Nyong’o to be a newcomer – but she is. She generates a great amount of sympathy and compassion for her character “Patsey,” and acts in a way that tugs at your heart. She guides you through her every emotion – even the fleeting moments of calm and happiness. I suspect this is just her beginning.
Actor in a Leading Role: Joaquin Phoenix – “Theodore Twombly” – Her
Joaquin Phoenix hasn’t been an actor on my radar for a quite a while. Yet, here he is, falling in love with his computer – and doing so with enough charm to make the audience love him all over again, like it’s the first time. As superficial as the movie may sound, I can assure you that Joaquin Phoenix gives nothing short of a magical performance – it really is like a one-man show and you feel for every tear and share every smile.
Actress in a Leading Role: Emma Thompson – “P.L. Travers” – Saving Mr. Banks
Judi Dench – “Philomena Lee” – Philomena (tie)
For the first time ever, I have a tie in an acting category! I spent the last three weeks contemplating if I liked Judi Dench as “Philomena Lee” or Emma Thompson as “P.L. Travers” more. I couldn’t decide because both women were incredible. Emma Thompson is great – from her character’s intonations and emotions to her foot tapping – I can’t get over how heartbreaking and inspiring her character really is. I haven’t forgotten the name P.L. Travers – nor the film Saving Mr. Banks - and I haven’t been so inspired to watch Mary Poppins just to see the work this woman did and to imagine her standing up to Walt Disney.
The same goes for Judi Dench. She is witty and sometimes funny, her story is heartbreaking though she is strong – and there really is not another actress that can move you to such as degree as she does in Philomena. The level at which she performs is inspiring and I can’t tell you how many times you get to look into her pain-filled eyes and wonder about this woman’s life. She is remarkable.
The Lumiére Award for Directing: Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
12 Years a Slave really is a masterful work by Steve McQueen (who you may recognize as the director of the acclaimed 2011 film Shame). It truly is a journey that takes viewers through a host of emotions and stirs uncertainties about ourselves and our nation’s history. McQueen’s direction is great – from the variations of shots to the overall vision and captured performances – 12 Years a Slave is one of the most important movies of the year – and in less-skilled hands, that may not have been the case.
Animated Short Film: Feral - Daniel Sousa
Daniel Sousa’s Feral isn’t necessarily the best story-driven animated short – but I am really fond of the animation style and the abstraction of the story. It’s beautifully engrossing and the 12+ minutes fly by – and it stays with you and makes you wonder more about it.
Haven’t seen “Feral?” Rent it for $1 or buy it for $2 on Vimeo
Animated Feature Film: Frozen
Disney’s Frozen is great. It’s fun and full of memorable characters, songs, and one-liners that classic Disney movies are known for. The ensemble voice cast is great and its unexpected format is intriguing (there’s not a central villain, but there is a fairly unpredictable plot twist!). Not to mention, I think it’s one-of-a-kind with its overarching feminist message. Frozen is an instant classic.
“Blockbuster” Movie of the Year: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (42% of vote)
Congratulations! You have spoken and named Catching Fire our “Blockbuster of the Year” in the first-ever fan-voted Bobby James Award. I loved Catching Fire, I think director Francis Lawrence and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy did an amazing job with the second Hunger Games movie. While the idea wasn’t totally original (due to the prequel), Catching Fire served its purpose – to get us from The Hunger Games to Mockingjay and introduced some of the novel franchise’s most anticipated characters, Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) and Johanna Mason (Jenna Malone).
“Blockbuster” Character of the Year: “Katniss Everdeen” – Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (36% of vote)
Seems fitting that Katniss Everdeen would be named our “Blockbuster Character of the Year” given that Jennifer Lawrence is now the reigning queen of the movie industry and is the female lead topping the American box-office for the first time since 1973′s The Exorcist. Each year she’s been involved in the Hunger Games franchise, she’s collaborated with David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) and has been nominated come award season for that work – which I think is inferior to the craft she brings to the role of Katniss Everdeen.
Documentary Feature of the Year: Blackfish - Gabriella Cowperthwatie
This is the most moving and enraging documentary I’ve seen in years. Because of Blackfish, I will always think twice before paying to walk into a zoo or amusement park full of animals. The way places like Sea World acquire and treat these creatures is alarming and unacceptable. These two statements should show you how powerful this documentary is. Yes, it’s heavy-handed, but several times throughout the movie, it’s noted that Sea World could not be reached for comment. Hard to balance when the accused stands quiet beneath a guilty spotlight.
Foreign Feature of the Year: The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
What a tragically beautiful movie. The Broken Circle Breakdown is full of spectacular music and relationships. The actors are great and their characters are hopeful and sympathetic.
TOP 25 MOVIES OF 2013
23. The Suicide Shop
21. Don Jon
19. Out of the Furnace
16. The Butler
15. Man of Steel
14. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
12. American Hustle
11. Captain Phillips
9. The Wolf of Wall Street
8. Saving Mr. Banks
5. The Broken Circle Breakdown
4. The Great Gatsby
2. Inside Llewyn Davis
By now you’ve probably already figured out what my feature film of the year is. 12 Years a Slave is a cinematic masterpiece. It’s a timeless, beautiful, engaging, and heartbreaking story about a free man sold into slavery and his quest to be free again. Directed by Steve McQueen and brought to life by an incredible ensemble cast, 12 Years a Slave will likely be regarded as one of the most culturally significant and timeless movies of this decade. This is an important movie that shows us where we’ve been and where we can never go again – its call for universal social justice is loud and clear.
From the gorgeous lighting and the villainous and sympathetic characters and actors who bring them to life, to the detailed work of its director, 12 Years a Slave is, without a doubt, the best movie of 2013.
Feature Film of the Year: 12 Years a Slave
There it is – the final installment of the 2013 Bobby James Awards. Agree or disagree with my selections? Let me know – I told you once, I love talking and watching movies!!!