Sunday, January 5, 2014

Top Films/Performances of 2013 (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The 2014 Award Season

This past year was a "true story"-ish feast. Here are some of my picks for the upcoming awards season. Starting with Best Actor, the heat of the race is between Joaquin Phoenix in Spike Jonze's "Her" and Robert Redford for his performance in "All Is Lost". Phoenix is a risk taker and an iconoclast. Redford's performance is also a study in minimalist drama. He does so much just by the force of expression.

In the Best Supporting Actor category, I think Barkhad Abdi will win,  for his earthy sincerity in "Captain Phillips" but Daniel Bruhl is a close second for his eerie transformative performance in "Rush".  Jonah Hill's smarmy and arrogant Donnie in "The Wolf of Wall Street" might even surprise.

For the Best Actress category, Cate Blanchett title role in "Blue Jasmine" may well be a shoo-in. But let's not count out Emma Thompson as author P.L. Travers  in "Saving Mr. Banks" or Judi Dench as the eponymous Philomena.

Regarding Supporting Actress, look for June Squibb in "Nebraska" or Sally Hawkins as a touchy sister to Cate Blanchett's Jasmine.

Best Director will prove a closely contested category with such heavy hitters like the legendary Woody Allen, Paul Greengrass, The Coen Brothers, David O. Russell and Alfonso Cuaron. This category is a squeaker and there might even be an upset, being that the diverse and eclectic Spike Jonze is in the mix for his Kubrickian love story "Her". If I had to pick a winner, I would bet on Cuaron or Russell; the Academy often goes for iconic drama masters or blockbuster existential directors who have made an impact.

The category of Best Picture is a toss up of sorts with so many films that are all exceptional standing alone. While that is true, my visual senses are telling me that the champion may well be "Gravity" for its sheer iconic breadth in storytelling combined with a slick and uncompromisingly visceral cinematography. The quirkily authentic "Inside Llewyn Davis" is a contender as well as "Captain Phillips" for the painstaking virtuosic  story that no doubt will make you very uncomfortable---a Greengrass trademark.

While the winners are undetermined as yet, there is no doubt that this was the year of the "true story" film with many tales ( Blue Jasmine, American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, and even All Is Lost) featuring an elitist "one percenter" under duress, which no doubt can be both a catharsis and a temperature gauge for our national climate. In nearly every film, we watch the mighty and the moneyed fall and root for the underdog in his or her plight. These films clearly express that it's no longer hip to be detached from our collective monsters, fiscal or otherwise.

2014 is a diverse film year with many diverse authentic and meaningful stories.

Watch for upsets.

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