2013 Silver Screen Riot Awards

With the majority of 2013 awards winding down and the Oscars gearing up for next month, it’s time for me to reflect on the best parts about last year’s films. I’ve already published my top ten list alongside the absolute worst movies of the year but with these awards, I focus on the performances, direction, music, scene work and artistry of 2013.

At first, I tried to pigeonhole five nominees into each category but found that didn’t give me enough leeway to recognize all the talent I wanted to. When I then expanded to ten, it felt like there were times where I would be putting names down to fill up spots and didn’t really work for me either. So, instead of making an arbitrary number of nominees for each category, I opted to just recognize as many people as I saw fit in each category. So while the best actor category has 11 names of note, best foreign film only had 6 nominees and so forth. I know a lot of these may see overlap with other award nominations but I tried to recognize talent from all walks,  the old to the new, and award what stood out as my personal favorites.

Look out for a short breakdown in the actors and directors sections but the other categories speak for themselves.

Best Actor:


WINNER: Leonardo DiCaprio ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’
Runner Up: Christian Bale ‘Out of the Furance’ & ‘American Hustle’
Honorable Mention: Ethan Hawke ‘Before Midnight’

Matthew McConaughey ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ & ‘Mud’
Joaquin Phoenix ‘Her’
Mads Mikkelsen ‘The Hunt’
Chiwetel Elijofor ’12 Years a Slave’
Bruce Dern ‘Nebraska’
Tom Hanks ‘Captain Phillips’
Michael B. Jordan ‘Fruitvale Station’

It’s no secret that I’m a big Leonardo DiCaprio fan and it’s performances like his in The Wolf of Wall Street that earns him such a high ranking amongst my favorite working actors. With manic physicality, hypnotizing stage presence and wonderfully potent comedic timing, his take on amoral but lovin’ it Jordan Belfort is a role to remember. Christian Bale did wonders in Out of the Furnace and, even though I wasn’t head over heels for American Hustle, his performance there was nothing to balk at and one of the strongest features of the film. The most underrated performance of the year is Ethan Hawke who embodied humanity and boyish charm in my favorite film of the year Before Midnight. The film rests squarely on his and Julie Delpy‘s compotent shoulders and had their performances been any less, the impact wouldn’t have been nearly what it was. 

Best Supporting Actor:


WINNER: Jared Leto ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
Runner Up: Jonah Hill ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

Honorable Mention:  Geoffrey Rush ‘The Book Thief’

Woody Harrelson ‘Out of the Furnace’
Michael Fassbender ’12 Years a Slave’
Barkhad Abdi ‘Captain Phillips’
Ben Foster ‘Lone Survivor’
Daniel Bruhl ‘Rush’
Matthew McConaughey ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’
Alexander Skaarsgard ‘What Maisie Knew’

Another crowded category, I had to go with a somewhat calculated choice, a man more than likely to win at the Academy Awards this year, Jared Leto. His performance, almost moreso than Matthew McConaughey‘s, grounds the heartbreaking tale of Dallas Buyers Club and brings humanity to those that are too often dehumanized. On the other side of the coin, Jonah Hill was a riot in The Wolf of Wall Street and between his introductory scene and subsequent cousin soliloquy and the unhinged energy he brings to the Lemmons scene, his is one of the most unforgettable performances of the year. Another under-appreciated role takes my honorable mention slot with Geoffrey Rush‘s lovely performance in the otherwise forgettable The Book Thief. Rush is an acting giant and watching him effortlessly capture our sympathy just goes to show his monumental range.

Best Actress:


WINNER: Meryl Streep ‘August: Osage County’
Runner Up: Julie Delpy ‘Before Midnight’
Honorable Mention: Scarlett Johansson ‘Her’

Cate Blanchett ‘Blue Jasmine’
Brie Larson ‘Short Term 12’
Judi Dench ‘Philomena’
Adele Exarchopoulos ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’
Shailene Woodley ‘The Spectacular Now’
Greta Gerwig ‘Frances Ha’
Emma Thompson ‘Saving Mr. Banks’

I know Cate Blanchett is the name on everyone’s lips right now and there’s no denying that her performance is a showstopper but, for me, was not quite the most impressive of the year. Speaking of cinematic giants, I just couldn’t help but give my top award to Meryl Streep for her poisonous performance in the ensemble drama August: Osage County. Streep is a chameleon and we’re used to seeing her, for the most part, play loveable roles so seeing her transform into an utterly despicable train wreck of a pill popper showcases why she is the monolithic actress she is. Watching Julie Delpy embody the role of Celine for the third (or fourth if you consider Waking Life) time, you can see how much she has sank into this role and it’s simply a beauty to behold. Although deemed ineligible for the Oscars, Scarlett Johansson is able to achieve wonders with just her voice and deserves a pile of praise for that.

Best Supporting Actress:


WINNER: Julia Roberts “August: Osage County”
Runner Up: Margot Robbie “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Honorable Mention: Kristen Scott Thomas ‘Only God Forgives’

Octavia Spenser ‘Fruitvale Station’
Jennifer Lawrence ‘American Hustle’
June Squibb ‘Nebraska’
Lupita Nyong’o ’12 Years a Slave’
Emily Watson ‘The Book Thief’
Melissa Leo ‘Prisoners’

Easily the least impressive of the four acting categories, the best supporting actress category just didn’t have quite as much to offer as the rest did this year. Going through my nominees, it was hard to choose a top spot because all were commendable but none were absolutely unforgettable. I would hardly consider Julia Roberts as someone whose films I anticipate so was caught offguard by her fantastic work in August: Osage County. She holds her own against Streep and at times even shows her up. Color me impressed. I gave the second slot to Margot Robbie of The Wolf of Wall Street because of an unforgettable scene she shares with DiCaprio that’s sexy, tortuous and hysterical all at once and would have been nothing without the presence she brings to the scene. And for all the flak Only God Forgives caught for lacking dialogue, Kristen Scott Thomas stood out as the only character with true personality and she absolutely chewed through her deluded sanctimony. She’s menacing, repulsive and commanding and totally owns every scene she’s in. And just to preempt those offended by my lack of pedastalizing Academy darling Jennifer Lawrence, I enjoyed what she did in American Hustle but could never really take her character seriously. It was fun but not near worthy the level of praise being heaped on. And Lupita Nyong’o was certainly stunning in her 12 Years a Slave scenes but remember, this is my favorites and her performance is nothing less than a chore to watch.

Best Director


WINNER: Spike Jonze ‘Her’
Runner Up: Richard Linklater ‘Before Midnight’
Honorable Mention: Steve McQueen ’12 Years a Slave’

Martin Scorsese ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’
Jean-Marc Valee ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
Alexander Payne ‘Nebraska’
Denis Villeneuve ‘Prisoners’
Alfonso Cuaron ‘Gravity’
Destin Cretton ’12 Years a Slave’
Coen Bros ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

I have to give a leg up to the director/writer combos so it’s no surprise that Spike Jonze has secured the top position. The humanity he brings to this technological world and the insight he’s able to provide is simply stunning, aided by his sharp visual style and realistic futurism. Richard Linklater may not be the world’ most hands on director but the palpably freedom he affords his actors gives them the capacity to create the caliber of tender moments we see in Before Midnight. He’s no bleeding heart but he’s not quite a cynic either and I love watching the way he sees the world. On the more difficult side of things, I’ve seen all three of Steve McQueen‘s films and, though this comment may be hotly debated, think 12 Years a Slave is actually his least tortuous. At least to watch. It’s an amazing effort that drags us through hell and yet there is a string of hope that runs throughout the story. I guess that only someone from outside of the states could bring such honesty and power to a distinctly American story.

Best Ensemble:


WINNER: American Hustle
Runner Up: The Wolf of Wall Street
Honorable Mention: August: Osage County

12 Years a Slave
This is the End
The Counselor

Best Cinematography


WINNER: Sean Bobbitt ’12 Years A Slave’
Runner Up: Emmanuel Lubezki ‘Gravity’
Honorable Mention: Roger Deakins ‘Prisoners’

Phedon Papamichael ‘Nebraska’
Hoyte Van Hoytema ‘Her’
Bruno Delbonnel ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’
John R. Leonetti ‘The Conjuring’
Yves Bélanger ‘Lawrence Anyways’

Best Foreign Film


WINNER: The Hunt
Runner Up: Laurence Anyways
Honorable Mention: Populaire

Blue is the Warmest Color
Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus

Best Documentary:


WINNER: The Act of Killing
Runner Up: Cutie and the Boxer
Honorable Mention: Dirty Wars

The Crash Reel
The Square

Best Song


WINNER: “Fare Thee Well” – Inside Llewyn Davis
Runner Up: “Young and Beautiful” – Great Gatsby
Honorable Mention: “Doby” – Anchorman 2: The Journey Continues

“Please Mr. Kennedy – Inside Llewy6n Davis
“The Moon Song – Inside Llewyn Davis
“In Summer – Frozen
“Oblivion” – Oblivion

Best Scene:


WINNER: Her ‘When it All Goes Dark’
Runner Up: The Wolf of Wall Street “Lemmons 714”
Honorable Mention: Before Midnight ‘Letter from the Future’

Captain Phillips “Check Up”
August: Osage “Family Dinner”
Nebraska “Mt. Rushmore”
This is the End “Backstreets Back”
Gravity ‘Opening Sequence’
Out of the Furnace ‘Hot Dog’
Inside Llewyn Davis ‘Please Mr. Kennedy’
The Conjuring “Basement Exorcism”
Lawrence Anyways “It’s Raining Clothes”

I’d love to hear where you guys agree and disagree and would encourage you to share your own lists in the comments section below.

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weekly review
Another period in which I haven’t posted Weekly Reviews for a stretch, this time due to my time spent at Sundance, this week I offer up eight (!!!) short blurbs on movies that I’ve watched in the recent past. Some good, some bad, some ugly, this Weekly Review segment features two of the Oscar-nominated documentaries (I’ve now seen all five) some lingering 2013 movies I finally got around to and the Oscar movie that couldn’t (The Butler).




One swift word can sum this all up: garbage. As if the name isn’t fair warning enough, A Good Day to Die Hard takes all the good grace for this lauded action series, tears it apart and erects a statue to stupidity in its place. Gone is the John McClane we’ve known and loved from the first four installments and in his place is a goon of a gunner. With cartoonish dialogue, a Russian villain eating a carrot, and no intelligence to speak of, this hard dying Die Hard allows McClane to be reduced to a bumbling old kook. He was once the life of the party, now he’s just a supporting character, a scaled down accidental hero. What a bore.  


CHOPPER (2000)


Eric Bana stars as the real life Australian prisoner Mark “Chopper” Read who achieved fame in prison after penning a wacky autobiography. Bana does a great job at embodying a character but director Andrew Dominick is not quite as deft behind the camera. There’s a few great scenes but all in all it feels like a lesser version of Bronson, Nicholas Winding Refn‘s similarly themed prison character study. But if you’re looking for a good performance from Bana, this an early role in which he really holds the screen. Worth a watch but doesn’t demand one.


JAWS (1975)


It feels like it’s been a lifetime since I watched Steven Speilberg‘s game changing blockbuster and revisiting it proved a fun foray into my childhood shark angst. Pretty much the only memory I had of the film was the iconic music and the behemoth great white monster so seeing how long it took for Mr. Jaws to really reveal himself was an unexpected exercise in tension. Richard Dreyfuss is on fire here and Roy Scheider is immensely watchable as the old timey symbol of bygone, stoic masculinity. It’s a film that distinctly belongs to the 70’s and yet could have been made today and been just as great. All in all, Jaws is a well oiled how-to playbook for mainstream blockbusters.


RED 2 (2013)


Noticeably more fun than the first installment, Red 2 seems to rely more on comic book sensibility than the first one. The action is goofy and fun, mimicking the out-of-control physics that only a video game or comic could provide, and the characters are oft-kilter shades of insanity. Bruce Willis is much more of an action hero, or arguable John McClane, here than he is ever is in Live Free or Die Hard and it’s good to see him turn his rootin’-tootin’ antics towards something that we can at least get a kick out of. Still much in need of a narrative overhaul and fresh direction, Red 2 is still just enough fun to warrant a watch.




I was backpacking Glacier National Park when The Butler screened here in Seattle and somehow over the course of the year, I never really found the time to catch it in its theatrical run. After all the dust has settled though and The Butler missed out on even one Oscar nomination, I’m a little surprised that this film ever had the traction it did. Forest Whitaker is solid but his work is never immensely challenging, nor is it near the ranks of the many top-tier performances we’ve seen this year. Oprah Winfrey is fine but honestly the script spoon feeds her “Oscar moment” scenes and she doesn’t really elevate them to a point where I would consider her performance worthy of note. Drunk, struggling with race and suffering from a dying child, her role is a cocktail of awards bait and little more. The racial relations present here are certainly overshadowed by the might of 12 Years a Slave but Cecil Gaines’ story is none the less important, it just may be a few years too late. With Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom being an absolute failure, The Butler can be happy taking second place in the 2013 black historical biopic race.




An absolutely gripping documentary that starts with the investigation of an isolated massacre of women and children in Afghanistan and builds into the scariest reality America is facing today, Dirty Wars unfolds a scenario in which unbridled warfare is our country’s inevitable future. Rather than place blame on the many “enemies of the US,” investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill shows how through outsourcing our military might to JSOC we have created a need fulfillment system in which our list of enemies will always be growing, no matter how many names we scratch off through drone strikes and illegal and immoral acts of war. Dirty Wars is a must see documentary that’s been nominated for Best Documentary this year and is currently streaming on Netflix.




Another important (and Oscar-nominated) documentary that so happens to have a Netflix exclusive run, The Square deals with the aftermath of the 2011 Egyptian revolutions that toppled Mubarak’s long standing regime. While that story of overthrowing a nation’s ruler, a million man march and secular revolution amidst torrents of religious zealots was the hot topic issue across the world for the span of a few weeks, when the flash burned out, people’s gaze faced elsewhere. Egyptians though still faced an uphill battle of implementing real change. Documenting the two and a half year period following the events that changed political efficacy in the Middle East, Jehane Noujaim‘s powerful documentary is about maintaining hope and fighting for what you believe, no matter what the cause and no matter how futile.




I’ve seen portions of Dazed and Confused throughout my life but, somehow, I’d never watched it in its entirety. Richard Linklater, one of my favorite living directors, though focused on the lives of high schoolers in the 70’s, still has the same vision he does today for perceptive realism and dialogue driven earnestness. Regardless of the fact that a bevy of this where-are-they-now ensemble are high, drunk or too geeky to function, their observations about life, love and growing up are surprisingly acute for how red or glazed over their eyes are. More than just a dumb stoner movie, Dazed and Confused is smartly comedic and just dramatic enough to give it some emotional heft.


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