Can you feel it? The end of 2013 is hurtling toward us like a stampeding rhino. And as our year-end wind down is winding down, we’re letting ourselves off the leash a little and assembling this unwieldy monster—an unashamedly scrappy and random list of The Most Memorable Movie Moments of the Year aka Every Damn Thing That We Couldn’t Find Anywhere Else to Talk About. Those of you who like a little more formal rigor in your year-in-review programming may wish to check out Best Shots, or Best Music Moments, or Best Documentaries, or Best Soundtracks, or Best Scores or Action Sequences, Child Performances, TV Episodes, Worst Films… or really any of our other 2013 wrap-up features (just hit our “Best of 2013” tag) all of which were put together with about 83% more discipline than this one.
Because here we find ourselves nearly washed up on the far shore of 2013 and there are still a bevy of niggling details (from hairpieces to spectacular deaths to eyeroll-inducing plot turns to questionable nudity) that, good or bad, haven’t slotted neatly into one of our other features, but deserve at least a pithy line or two before we lay the year to rest. Here then, in no discernible order, with a glorious, liberating lack of logic and fair warning of SPOILERS liberally dotted throughout, is our grab-bag assortment of the 2013 Movie Moments that are still rattling around our brains.
Sex/Nudity (AKA let’s cut to the chase; we know what’s most interesting)
Best Mentally Scarring Sex Scene With A Car
Everyone might have been talking about the “Blue Is The Warmest Color” sex scene this year, but the one that we can’t stop thinking about—not necessarily in a good way—is that moment in Ridley Scott‘s “The Counselor,” when Cameron Diaz has sex with a car. It’s mostly off-screen, but the uncomfortably-turned-on shock on the face of Javier Bardem‘s Brian Grazer-haired drug dealer, as he describes the, uh, ‘catfish’ on his windshield pretty much gets the whole thing across. Some have thrown claims of misogyny at the film, but Bardem makes it clear that these are men who are terrified of female sexuality. And to be honest, many of the females on staff find this scene terrifying too. You can catch a glimpse of the scene at the 30s mark here and trust us, a glimpse is all you need.
Best Phone Sex
In a brave move for any filmmaker Spike Jonze chose to communicate the transcendence of the first sex (via voices only) scene between the romantic leads “Her”– Samantha (a seemingly omnipotent but bodiless operating system AKA OS) and Theodore Twombly (the OS’s owner)—as a fade to black, with just the ecstatic pants and moans of the two leads echoing around the theater. If anything was going to pull the audience any deeper into the romance between a bodiless artificially intelligent OS (but breathy voiced via Scarlett Johansson) and the emotionally damaged Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) it was this dark screen, which put us right in their shoes.
Most Unabashed Nudity
The top prize, purely because a few more people will have seen it (if only a very few) probably goes to Gaby Hoffmann for “Crystal Fairy” and the pubic hair which we’ve been summarily informed is, in fact not a merkin. But on a more serious note, Ulrich Seidl‘s grim but compelling “Paradise Love” may not have gained a wide audience outside cinephile circles, but the astonishing, frequently unclothed performance of Margarete Tiesel deserves broader recognition. Playing the pretty loathsome character of an overweight, overprivileged white woman on a sex tourism holiday to Kenya, Tiesel’s absolutely fearless performance is remarkable for how she allows herself to be photographed in unflattering, and often downright degrading situations, especially since she is a first-time actress. In fact the nudity is only one facet of one of the most overlooked performances of the year (though it did get a shout it out last year from our writer in Berlin).
Most Gratuitous Female Nudity or Partial Nudity
Oh My LORD, okay we get it, we get it, Jennifer Aniston‘s super hot and has a rockin bod that a chick half her age would envy (bro-talk chestbump headbutt, everybody!). But seriously, the “We’re the Millers” script requires her to prove to the assembled gentlemen that she’s a stripper? By stripping? Because it’s such an arcane and delicate profession that only someone with years of training and diploma in Thong Studies could ever hope to carry it off? Look at how she kinda takes off her underwear—btw is that 2 pairs?—she’s clearly a fully qualified stripper like she said! The next time (and there will be one) we need to be reminded that Jen Aniston is super hot, rockin’ etc., please spend, like 90 seconds more thinking about the scenario. You know, the same amount of time the writers spent working out how to have a handy shower of sparks rain down on her in slo-mo this time out (also, just let it be said this movie is terribly unfunny). Our runner-up shout-outs go to Alice Eve‘s unnecessary strip down in “Star Trek: Into Darkness” and Rosario Dawson in “Trance.” You’ll all catch your death.
(Over)Longest Lesbian Sex Scene
Well, it had to be here somewhere—one of the biggest controversies of the movie year was over the Palme-d’Or-winning Abdellatif Kechiche film “Blue Is The Warmest Color” and specifically its long, long graphic scene of lesbian sex. As we noted in our review, the scene’s overlength is really the only fly in the ointment of what is otherwise a tremendous film, and we can’t help but think that a lot of subsequent debates about the position of the ‘gaze’ and heteronormativity and whatnot, would have been headed off at the pass had the scene simply run, as graphically as it does now, but shorter, not giving anyone time to leave the film’s spell. Because that’s really what it does—the suddenly awkward pacing breaks the spell of what is otherwise a spellbinding movie. And that’s just a shame.
Best Cocaine & Stripper Permutation
What’s to say here other than Scorsese’s “The Wolf Of Wall Street” has a scene where Leonardo DiCaprio blows (sucks?) cocaine into (out of?) a stripper’s ass and a call girl shoves a candle into one of the character’s butts. Oh, right and there’s tons of snorting cocaine off desks, tits, butts, orifices, etc. Tony Montana would be proud. Your parents will be scandalized, so don’t see this one with your family at Xmas. There’s also the best ever quaalude scene of all time, but you can’t really discuss it other than to spoil it so, we’ll just say we’re envious of your first time experience (and the image here above is a little teaser taste for you).
Wrongest Sexual Reveal Of The Year
SPOILER A young girl in “Bastards” gets debased and deflowered by sexual deviant sleezebags using raw cobs of corn. Claire Denis, you are sick.
Most Unintentionally Funny Masturbation Scene
Oh, “Stoker,” you divisive mistress, you. Half The Playlist hates you (the good half), half The Playlist loves you (the bad half). Say what you will about its style-over-substance approach, however—that it’s ghoulishly delightful a la Hitchcock or DePalma—what excuse is there for the masturbation scene/montage where Mia Wasikowska rubs one out in the shower while her creepy uncle kills her boyfriend and she climaxes just as he’s beheaded? It was an effort to contain our laughter in the theater.
Acting & Performances
Best Animal Actor
In other years (remember the banner year 2011, which featured Uggie from “The Artist” vs. Cosmo from “Beginners” in a ‘canine actor’ face-off showdown dogfight to the death?) there has been some competition for this coveted spot. But already back in Cannes, the gold-plated kibble tray for 2013 was only ever going one way, well actually three ways: to the three tabbies who portrayed plot driver Ulysses in the Coen Brothers‘ gorgeous “Inside Llewyn Davis.” The Coens may have alleged that getting the cat performance was an “unbelievably boring, frustrating and painstaking” process, but Wilder said the same thing about Marilyn, and that Ulysses managed to rustle up serious chemistry with noted cat hater Oscar Isaac just shows his/their professionalism. Here’s Isaac talking about his hatred for cats.
Most Underrated Actor Who Deserves All The Awards One Day
Ben Foster has been doing absolutely stellar work for many, many years, often stealing movies right out from under his co-stars, as he did in this year’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.” Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck give fine performances as the doomed young criminal couple. And while their romance seems to be the heart of the story, it’s really Foster’s restrained but emotional work as the sheriff who harbors a deep love for Ruth (Mara), unaware that she was actually the one who shot him during a bungled robbery that landed her husband Bob (Affleck) in jail. Foster slowly woos the skittish and untrusting Ruth, his gentleness belying a steely interior. Foster is one of those actors who is content to disappear into characters in smaller indie flicks, quietly working away without much showboating, but he’s almost always the standout performance, and never gets enough laurels thrown his way. Soon, Mr. Foster, soon.
We’re not quite sure what happened to the Sharlto Copley who was so compelling in “District 9,” but every single performance he’s given since has been pretty dire, and he reached something of a nadir with the double-header of scenery-chewing Sith Afrikaan mercenary Kruger in “Elysium,” who seemed to have escaped from being a third-tier henchman in “Lethal Weapon 2,” and his villain in “Oldboy,” which featured an unctuous English accent so ludicrous that it felt like he might have been having a stroke while he delivered it. [ed. note, Copley’s “Oldboy” perf definitely falls under horrible/amazing performance. It is just admittedly terrible, but probably the only joy ironic, or otherwise, you’ll find from this awful picture]
Runners Up: Never knowingly understated, Sean Penn gave the worst performance of his career in “Gangster Squad,” a prosthetics-aided take on Mickey Cohen that owed more to “Dick Tracy” than… well, any form of reality. Also, it wasn’t hammy so much as unbelievably, maddeningly mannered, but a special dishonorable mention goes to Caleb Landry Jones, whose tic-driven hemophiliac love interest in “Byzantium” was the single worst performance of the year.
Excluding the great ones in “Anchorman 2” we don’t want to spoil, we went for a three-way tie here. For one, there’s a great little one-scener from Geena Davis at the end of Lake Bell‘s brilliant “In A World…,” as a studio executive, delivering a scintillating monologue about the role of women in the industry. Then there’s Michael Cera in “This Is The End,” an uproarious upending of expectations that, along with “Crystal Fairy,” has hopefully given the actor a second act to his career. Finally, the arguable highlight of “Thor: The Dark World” was the added-in-reshoots cameo from Chris Evans as Captain America, as the shape-shifting Loki turns into him. Hiddleston first shot his imitation of Evans, and then Evans shot his imitation of Hiddleston imitating Evans, and it’s a great little surprise.
Most Wasted Cameo
Paul Greengrass‘ tense, thrilling and well-made “Captain Phillips” has lots to recommend it, but unfortunately not its opening, which features Tom Hanks (who’ll at least be given screen time in which to redeem himself, and then some) and his screen wife, the usually terrific Catherine Keener drive to the airport and have the Single Least Convincing Married Couple Conversation we’ve maybe ever heard in a movie. And that’s it for Keener! Why, why in the name of all things holy would you cast Keener, give her one awful scene and never use her again?
Best Self-Deprecating Cameo That Wasn’t Spoiled Pre-Release
In a quickly devolving world where the only currency left is how low you’re willing to go, it’s pretty amusing to see Channing Tatum as Danny McBride’s butt-bitch in “This Is The End.” (Especially as we’d already been surprised by how early Soderbergh had offed broseph Chan in “Side Effects.” Far more entertaining than the Backstreet Boys showing up, sorry Playlisters-of-a-different-stripe. (Also Jonah Hill as a possessed demon on fire is hilarious). That they hid that cameo all year long is insane.
Best Hilarious Cameo In An Otherwise Mostly Shitty Movie
Vince Vaughn why hast thou forsaken us? We love “Wedding Crashers” and had hopes but… “The Internship” doesn’t get anywhere close. That said, like in ‘Crashers,’ Will Ferrell’s uncredited cameo as Owen Wilson’s James Hetfield-looking boss at a mattress store is hilarious. Hit YouTube already.
Most Pointless Cameo We Don’t Care About Spoiling
There are a lot of cameos in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” and they are almost all uniformly excellent. We won’t tell about those, but we will tell you about Toronto rapper and former “Degrassi” star Drake pops up for no reason right at the beginning of the movie to check out Veronica Corningstone’s ass. No, we don’t get it either.
Best Emotional Breakdown
There is more brilliant acting done in the last 5 minutes of “Captain Phillips” than most other films showcase in their whole run time, and it comes from the least likely source: little-known, under-the-radar two-time Best Actor Oscar Winner Tom Hanks. It’s a moment of naked humanity and utterly relatable confusion and frailty that gives everything you’ve suffered with him for the preceding hours actual emotional meaning.
Yes, the “Wolf of Wall Streeet” ensemble is pretty great, but make no mistake, Leonardo DiCaprio carries this movie and it’s hardly an “ensemble picture,” rather a movie where every supporting player in a little role (whether it be Spike Jonze or Shea Whigham) makes their moment count. A more true ensemble is “August Osage County.” Yes, it has a tacked on terrible Weinstein ending, but it’s replete with actors who bring their A-game. Meryl Streep is obviously the centerpiece but perhaps the secret MVP is “Boardwalk Empire” star Julianne Nicholson who plays Julia Roberts’ young sister (Roberts is great too). Oh, did we mention Chris Cooper is terrific too?
Best Dennis Quaid Performance You Didn’t See
We’ll admit, indie director Ramin Bahrani’s first “mainstream” picture (though it’s hardly commercial, “At Any Price” was a little uneven. An American story about a son who wants to race cars and not follow his father’s footsteps in the corn industry, the movie took a twist that turned it into “Crimes & Misdemeanors” in the heartland, but Dennis Quaid was on point the whole time and delivered the performance of his career. Unfortunately, no one noticed the film and it was forgotten even before September hit.
The In-It-For-The-Beach-House Award For The Least Giving-A-Shit Performance In A Blockbuster
We like to imagine that as soon as Philip Seymour Hoffman was told he’d be playing a character called Plutarch Heavensbee in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” he sort of mentally checked out a bit. Absent the outrageous dress and facial hair of the rest of The Capital, he constantly has an energy like he was late to set, and just got there in time for the camera to start rolling without making it to wardrobe. The eventual reveal about his character makes the choices seem a little more valid, but it still feels a little like Hoffman is phoning it in. Runner Up: Due apologies to those who campaigned (successfully) to get “Man of Steel“‘s Krypton sequence into Best Action Scenes, but outside of riding flying dragon thingies, Russell Crowe didn’t really show up. He probably wasn’t that crazy about being Daddy Exposition, but he could have made a little effort, right?
Most Obvious Stuntperson In A Movie
While “Catching Fire” was a huge step up from “The Hunger Games” in terms of production value, we still can’t believe the laugh-out-loud obvious stunt double for elderly tribute Mags. In order to maximize speed in the arena, her fellow District 4 Tribute Finnick tosses Mags on his back, piggyback style, and the two take off with Peeta and Katniss. But in long-shot, it’s so obvious that the woman on Finnick’s back is clearly a petite stuntwoman in a gray curly wig. No wonder Mags had her face buried in Finnick’s neck the entire time. It was really quite jarring and kind of took us out of what is probably the best YA adaptation adventure film thus far.
Most Overlooked Teenage Girl Performance Of The Year
Sally Potter’s “Ginger & Rosa” made a Oscar qualifying run last year so it took itself out of the running. It was also completely forgotten/slept-on because it was released in that neververse between years, but Elle Fanning is a goddess of an actor and mark our words, if she keeps this up, she’s gonna be Meryl Streep and will get all the Oscars.
Best Comedic Indie Ensemble You Didn’t See
What’s the best indie comedy you didn’t see in 2013? “It’s a Disaster.” Yep, it didn’t look like much, but this comedy about a terrorism attack that hits L.A. and knocks out all communication, leaving a stranded group of brunch friends all alone to their own dysfunctional devices was a hilarious little picture. Directed by Todd Berger, what happens when the world’s about to end in this microcosm? Well, everyone turns into the either best or worst possible version of themselves. Starring the super underrated cast of Rachel Boston, David Cross, America Ferrera, Julia Stiles, Jeff Grace, Erinn Hayes, Kevin M. Brennan, and Blaise Miller, in a year of apocalypse comedies, this one was far too slept on.
Best Scene-Stealing Small Supporting Role
Matthew McConaughey steals every single scene he’s in opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf Of Wall Street.” It’s probably because he’s playing the best/worst character of all time. A Wall Street scumbag who acts as a mentor and essentially teaches DiCaprio the tricks of the trade—jerk off a lot, do lots of cocaine and rip everyone off. It’s vile and yet hilarious and illustrates the insidious seductiveness of all these characters who will act as the fulcrum for a disgusting bacchanalia of American greed like you’ve never seen. Oh and Mac’s chest-beating humming mantra is just the best thing of all time.
Best Comeback No-One Cared About
Released in the dead months of January, “The Last Stand,” the comeback as a leading man of Arnold Schwarzenegger, didn’t look especially promising on paper, and was flat-out rejected by audiences. Which is a shame, because Korean director Kim Jee-Woon, making his English-language debut, actually turned out an enjoyable action-Western—taut, bloody, satisfying, and not as annoying as the trailers made it look. It’s probably Arnie’s best movie since “Terminator 2,” all told, and the former Governor’s even pretty watchable in it (he’s better still in “Escape Plan,” though the film is significantly worse).
Worst Miscasting (The Cameron-Diaz-In-The-Counselor Award)
It’s tempting to give this award to the performance that gives it its name (seriously, you could fix about 30% of the things that are wrong with “The Counselor” by swapping over Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz’s parts), but it’s just snatched away by Benedict Cumberbatch in “August: Osage County.” The British star is a brilliant actor, and we understand the temptation to cast him if you have the opportunity, but he’s never even remotely convincing as the sweet but simple Midwesterner here. Put it this way: playing a dragon in “The Hobbit” is a much more natural fit.
Worst Performance That’s Probably Getting An Oscar Nomination
There’s a ton of great performances in “August: Osage County” (see: Best Ensemble), but it’s sod’s law that the performance most likely to end up with awards recognition is the one that we found the least compelling. I mean, of course if you give Meryl Streep the role of a acerbic pill-popping matriarch, she’s gonna end up with an Oscar nomination, but it’s far from the star’s finest hour—theatrical, broad, and not especially generous to her co-stars. She has the occasional moment where she shines (there’s a nice night time chat with her daughters in which you see what could have been), but it needed a stronger director than John Wells to tell Streep to tone it down.
Best Movie Dad
So Sarah Polley *SPOILER* now has, like Nicole Bradford, two Dads, but if she’d like us to take one off her hands, we’d be happy to adopt Michael Polley with whom we are more in love than any movie parent, fictional or real, all year. We get a little sentimental about parents anyway, and Michael, as portrayed in Polley’s “Stories We Tell,” well, what an absolutely genuinely, wonderful dad. [We’re slightly crying.]
Best Movie Mom
Among the many pleasures of “Behind The Candelabra” (and yeah, with a Cannes premiere and theatrical release outside the U.S, we’re counting it as a movie), is a lovely little performance from screen legend Debbie Reynolds as Liberace’s mother. The 81-year-old “Singin’ In The Rain” star walks away with her scenes even against formidable competition, and her sweet relationship with Michael Douglas‘ piano-tinkler goes a long way towards redeeming a character who sometimes veers towards the monstrous.
Most Disappointing Villain
Is he Khan? Is he someone called Gary Mitchell? Is he, as according to J.J. Abrams, someone called John Harrison? Oh, no, he was Khan all along. No one cared much about the mystery-box secrets behind “Star Trek: Into Darkness” villain when it came down to it, but even Abrams has admitted that it hurt the movie. We’d go further, as to say that relying so heavily on an old-school villain, never properly explained here, goes against the spirit that make the 2009 reboot so enjoyable for fans and non-fans alike.
Runner Up: Even if Joaquin Phoenix does end up playing the villain in “Batman & Superman: BFFs Forever,” you’ll forgive us for not getting too excited, given the way that Michael Shannon (or Shouty Shouty Shannon, as he’s become known in Playlist HQ) was used in “Man of Steel.” It’s nice that he had a motivation and everything, but for one of the best actors working right now, it was a rather tepid and uninspired performance.
Worst Listener Of The Year
Jesus H. Christ, how many times do you think Michael Fassbender’s lawyer needs to be told by everyone in Ridley Scott’s “The Counselor” that he’s about to make the worst transaction of his life? DUDE.
Most Reviled Character/Performance
Stephen Merchant takes this ignominious ribbon for the one-note, trying-to-be-clever obnoxiousness his character displays in the godawful “I Give It a Year.”
Plot Points, Pacing And Other Peculiarities
Most Enigmatic Opening
We called Carlos Reygadas’s enigmatic “Post Tenebras Lux” “strange, wtf and baffling” earlier this year, but called it a must-watch. And six months later that still stands. It opens with a jaw-droppingly gorgeous toddler’s dream, playing in a field by herself surrounded by their many dogs and also a pack of cows while lightning streaks across the sky and thunderclaps boom ominously in the background. Shot at the end of the magic hour, it eventually fades into an eerie purple blue darkness that leaves the child on her own and unattended. It’s bizarre, beautiful and set the stage for one weird, but deeply engrossing movie. The adventurous need to give it a watch.
Most Promising Opening To A Terrible Movie
For a second, we thought that Sam Raimi‘s “Wizard of Oz” reboot, “Oz The Great And Powerful” might actually be kind of fun: there’s a lot of love and craft in those opening fifteen minutes or so as James Franco‘s con-man flees a dust-bowl circus in a balloon. Beautifully shot in black and white, it feels like Raimi, and Franco, are actually engaged in the material, and seems to set the character up nicely. Even Zach Braff is kind of palatable! Sadly, once he arrives in Oz, the film turns into a garish “Alice In Wonderland“-aping candyfloss nightmare.
Superhero movies haven’t generally been noted for their unpredictability, but damn it if we weren’t knocked down by the reveal in “Iron Man 3” that our hero’s arch-nemesis The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) was actually a drink-sodden, narcoleptic actor (and former rent-boy!) called Trevor Slattery. Taking one of Marvel‘s most feared villains and turning him, quite literally, into a joke, is maybe the ballsiest thing in a Marvel movie to date. And thanks to an uproarious performance from Kingsley, it was enormously funny as well.
So it’s not a joke per se, nor a one-liner from “Anchorman 2” (which we’re valiantly trying not to spoil), nor Melissa McCarthy referring to curtains as “window blankets” in “The Heat,” but the “Please Mr. Kennedy” song and scene from “Inside Llewyn Davis” had us all howling throughout, with its pitch-perfect skewering of pop-folk novelty songs, delivered brilliantly by a game Justin Timberlake, a ludicrous Adam Driver and a beneath-his-dignity Llewyn (Oscar Isaac). And like all the truly great gags, it’s funny because it means something beyond the punchline: this is Llewyn’s personal hell, and the place that he’ll even damn himself to a lifetime of obscurity just to avoid.
Most Shocking Moment
When Joshua Oppenheimer met Anwar Congo and captured his frank, even boastful confession about his thousands of killings, he knew he had something important on his hands. Congo takes the filmmaker up on the roof of an old office building—now a shop—and conscripts his buddy into playing the victim, winding a wire around his neck and demonstrating the best technique for garrotting, a much less bloody and messy affair than beating. Watching him reenact the murders is gruesome and shocking, but it’s the little dance he does afterward, with a wire loosely roped around his own neck, talking of the substances he uses to erase the memories that creates that cognitive dissonance that creates a queasy juxtaposition that “The Act of Killing” reveals so well. It’s not manipulative in any way, just starkly revealing, and deeply, morally and spiritually unsettling. Oppenheimer just lets this moment unfold, bearing witness on our behalf to this shocking moment. Also: every other moment of “The Act of Killing.”
Most Insanity-Inducing Image
The delirious mindfuck extravaganza that is Ben Wheatley‘s “A Field In England” boasts many, many unsettling moments, but the point at which we genuinely worried the mad bastard might actually have succeeded in sending us insane was when Whitehead (Reece Shearsmith) emerges from the tent (from which nothing but agonizing screams have been heard for quite a while) in grotesque slow motion, deranged and hogtied, as the music (Blanck Mass‘ “Chernobyl“) crescendos to an almost unbearable pitch. The clip no doubt loses some of its power out of context—though it’s still gonzo and weird and brilliant—if you haven’t seen the whole film yet, but are intending to, don’t spoil it.
In a year of Survival Narratives, which basically live or die (heh) on how well they communicate a kind of edge-of-your-seat tension, the most palpitatingly uncomfortable we’ve been all year (without the boon of “Gravity” ‘s 3D, we’ll say) was actually towards the end of Denis Villeneuve‘s noir-styled, potboiler-plotted “Prisoners” *SPOILER* as a seriously wounded Jake Gyllenhaal drives a dying child (who literally has poison coursing through her veins) to a hospital. There’s a similar scene, featuring another poisoned child, Matthew McConaughey and a motorbike in “Mud,” but it was the “Prisoners” one that actually had us urging “Come on, come on, come ON” at the screen.
Best Single Edit
Outside of, we don’t know, “2001,” single cuts don’t get the same attention that single shots do, but they can have just as much impact. The editing of “Frances Ha” by newcomer Jennifer Lame is a huge part of what makes the film so successful, and the cut from Greta Gerwig‘s delighted reaction to a tax rebate in the mail to her walking out of the bank is perfectly timed, laugh-out-loud funny, and says so much about being in your twenties and living from paycheck to paycheck.
Runner-Up: The absolutely gonzo jump cut in “Anchorman 2” that interrupts Ron Burgundy and co. mid-hysterical laughter and cuts to another take of the news team standing there silently. We can’t even imagine what kind of sleep deprived editing session might have spawned this inspired choice but we would have loved to have been there for it.
Most Convenient Plot Device
We’re not logic Nazis: we’re happy to give a film a little latitude for the sake of moving a plot forward. But the seams of the reshot third act in “World War Z” are so poorly stitched that it stopped the movie dead in its tracks. The screenwriting all-stars of Damon Lindelof, Drew Goddard and Christopher McQuarrie had a tough task on their hands to salvage the film (and for the most part, do an admirable job), but kicking off a set-piece with a zombie who, in a twist that makes no sense on absolutely any level, has been napping quietly in a cupboard for about four hours of a flight from Israel before waking up and going in search of a breakfast of brains, is a solution that stinks of “Will this do? No? But the cameras are rolling…”
The ‘At Least I Wasn’t Replaced By Rafe Spall This Time’ Award For Pointless Framing Device
Poor Tobey Maguire: reunited with Ang Lee for “Life Of Pi,” only to have his framing-device scenes entirely reshot with the less-familiar Rafe Spall. Maguire doesn’t suffer the same fate in Jason Reitman‘s “Labor Day,” but he might as well have: the film’s brief framing device isn’t just extraneous, but it gives the impression that the whole movie is basically about how Maguire learned to make peach cobbler. Runner-up: “The Lone Ranger“‘s kid-at-a-sideshow framing which just made an already aeons-long film feel even longer.
Least Original Plot
Not everything has to be a surprise—there’s certainly a value in an inevitable, but well-told tale—but good lord, there’s not a single beat in tepid ’70s-style revenge movie “Out of the Furnace” that plays out any differently from how you’d imagine. It’s very well acted, very well shot, very well scored, but is so by-the-numbers in its narrative that we checked out within about half an hour. Oh, hey, Casey Affleck‘s involved in a plot to throw a fight in a boxing match? I wonder if that’ll turn out well..
Most Obnoxious Sub-Plot
Nicole Holofcener‘s one of our most talented painters of middle-class life, and for most of “Enough Said,” she succeeds in making her characters feel earthy enough that it doesn’t descend into ‘white-people problems’ territory. But the subplot involving how awkward Toni Colette finds firing her maid is just wildly ill-conceived. It’s sort of implied, eventually, that Colette is in the wrong, but only very lightly, and long before that, you’ve rolled your eyes so hard that you’re looking at the inside of your own skull. A painful misstep in an otherwise enjoyable film.
Most Obviously Invented Event In A Biopic (The Peter Morgan Award)
It’s been a year where there’s been plenty of based-in-fact tales that occasionally stretch credibility, but nothing was quite as implausible as the moment in “Rush” where James Hunt beats up a journalist who’s asked an offensive question of his badly-injured rival Niki Lauda. You can see why you’d want the moment there—it makes Hunt twice as sympathetic as he was before. But it’s an invented scene, and so obviously so that it pulls you right out of the film.
The ‘Ozu Wouldn’t Approve’ Award For Worst CGI-Riddled Third Act
James Mangold got some attention for “The Wolverine” in advance by putting out a list of influences for the film that included some surprises, most notably Ozu‘s “Floating Weeds,” a film that’s rarely name-checked in the context of superhero tentpoles. There’s not much evidence of his artier touchstones in the first two-thirds of the film, but it’s a relatively engaging and stripped-down take on the excessive genre, for the most part. Until it hits the third act, where we’re greeted with a CGI-heavy mash-up of robot mech-suits, tongue-spitting villainesses, and disappointing action. So near, and yet so far.
Most Tonally Inconsistent Final Shootout
Jeff Nichols, we need to talk about your endings. We love so much of the director’s films to date, but “Take Shelter” squandered much of its goodwill with a “Twilight Zone“-ish twist, and “Mud,” while not that extreme, goes off the rails near the end too: a delicate little coming-of-age movie suddenly turns into an action flick, as Matthew McConaughey shoots it out with a bunch of people we barely know. Again, we mostly like the film, but it doesn’t fit with what comes before AT ALL, and it’s made worse by the way that it cops out and lets Mud live. Also, off-topic, the movie seemed mostly to be about how you can’t trust women. Wait, maybe we didn’t like it that much after all?
Most Tearjerking Ending
The film’s only just opening now, but those of us who saw the film elsewhere are still in recovery from the ending of Clio Barnard‘s “The Selfish Giant.” SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER It’s bad enough when lead Arbor (Conner Chapman) wakes after cutting through a cable they’re trying to steal to discover best pal Swifty (Shaun Thomas) has been electrocuted to death, and desperately tries to wake his charred, petrified body. But the waterworks really come when, after a devastated, repentant Arbor is forced to end his vigil after Swifty’s house, the dead boy’s mother (Siobhan Finneran) relents, and comes to his room with a forgiving embrace. God, we’re about to start crying again now. END SPOILER END SPOILER END SPOILER
Best Final Shot
So many to choose from here, so we got stuck on a short-list. There’s the Haneke-ish conclusion of Francois Ozon‘s undervalued “In The House,” a curtain-twitching master stroke of voyeurism that we could have watched for hours longer. There’s the chilling “Terminator“-esque final reveal of Andrew Bujalski‘s “Computer Chess,” which turns a quirky comedy into something far more sinister (and which we genuinely had nightmares about after the fact). There’s the perfect, enormously satisfying last shot of “Frances Ha,” which finally makes sense of the title. And finally, there were blockbusters that went out with a bang too: the final close-up of Jennifer Lawrence in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” might have been a touch reminiscent of “The Matrix Reloaded,” but worked far more successfully, a brilliant directorial choice matched with one of Lawrence’s best bits of acting that had us unexpectedly champing at the bit for “Mockingjay.”
Hands down one of the most disgusting things on screen in recent memory is the opening sequence in “American Hustle” wherein Christian Bale carefully constructs his “elaborate” comb over, with the help of random pieces of hair fluff, glue, and hairspray. It looks like something a cat coughed up, and Bale sells the thing for the entirety of the film. Thank God Jason Statham and Bruce Willis have popularized the Bic look for follicularly-challenged men, because that thing on Bale’s head is just…unholy. Honorable mentions go to Bradley Cooper’s perm, Jeremy Renner’s pompadour, and whatever godforsaken ponytail situation was happening on Shea Whigham’s head, and to leave ‘Hustle’ a moment, to Sam Shepard‘s hugely unflattering buzzcut thingie in “Mud“—way to pour cold water on one of our foremost older man crushes.
Most Scornful Looks
Again, so much to love in “Behind The Candelabra,” but among the highlights is the brilliant, virtually wordless performance from Cheyenne Jackson, who’s replaced as Liberace’s lover by Matt Damon’s character. If looks could kill, Jackson’s withering glare would have taken Damon’s head right off his shoulders.
Worst Spaghetti-Eating Technique
A director we won’t name talked to us earlier this year about “Blue Is The Warmest Color” before some of us had seen it. The conversation went something like this, “Sure, it’s got some terrific stuff in it, but did we need to see a fifteen-minute scene of eating spaghetti?” We don’t know if he meant that euphemistically or not, but it’s certainly true that protagonist Adele has a fondness for sauce-splattered pasta, and has the worst table manners of any character since the cannibals from “Society.” Close your mouth, we have company!
This might be shooting fish in a barrel, but anytime Herman appeared in drag on screen in “The Act of Killing” was a special moment indeed. The portly politician seemed perfectly at home in the costumes, which had absolutely no effect on his behavior or presentation of self at all. Herman is as himself in sequins and eyeshadow as he is in shorts and a tank, and his absolute comfort with himself no matter what is one of his most endearing traits (yes, we are saying this about a cold-blooded murderer and corrupt politician, but he’s really quite charming in his own way). Herman in drag left us with one of the most indelible images and quease-inducing moments on screen this year, rubbing raw, rotten meat all over Anwar’s head during one of their reenactments. The second coming of Divine, we tell you.
Best Inability To Blink Due To Too Much Cosmetic Surgery
We can’t pretend there was a huge amount of competition for this slot, or indeed that it would exist any other year, but Rob Lowe‘s face in “Behind the Candelabra” is such a masterpiece that it creates, and wins, its own category.
Least Convincing Location Doubling
We can understand the desire to shoot closer to home, especially when tax breaks are involved, but for a film so rooted in Americana as “The Counselor,” we wish Ridley Scott had done a better job at hiding the fact that at least half of the movie was shot in London, doubling, for the most part, for Texas. As far as we can tell, a whole bunch of scenes were shot within a ten-minute walk of Liverpool Street Station in the city, and while that might have been convenient, it’s not especially authentic (we’re almost certain you can see a double-decker bus in the background of one shot…) Special dishonorable mention in the you’re-not-even-trying-to-hide-this category goes to Savannah, Georgia doubling for the East Village in the generally dire “CBGB“; as convincing a replication as when the movie gets the nerdy guy from “Avatar” to play Joey Ramone.
Most Obviously Separated-At-Birth Beard Twins
Duh, John Travolta in “Killing Season” and Adam Scott in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”
Best Use Of Swearing
If you’re only going to have a few lines of dialogue, you might as well make them F-bombs, and Robert Redford‘s explosion of frustration and despair in “All Is Lost” felt like a venting not just for the stoic Our Man, but also for the audience.
Best Use of Ensemble Swearing
“Even I couldn’t believe that they gave it to us,” an anonymous source who worked on Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf Of Wall Street” said this week. “It probably should have been an NC-17.” Our own review couldn’t believe it either. Rating Administration Exhibitors called it “the hardest R I’ve ever seen from a major Hollywood studio.” The assaultive language includes c*cksucker, f*cking, “who’s ever sucked a dog’s c*ck out of loneliness,” and “f*ck this, sh*t that, c*ck, c*nt, a**hole.” You get the gist, F-bombs galore. We loved it.
Worst Product Placement
Yes, “Man of Steel” and its product placement are terrible: Superman goes to 7/11, Walgreens, Sears, buys a Gillette razor, etc. But it was far, far worse in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” a schmaltzy slow-motion Life Insurance Ad about seizing the day that it is. The eHarmony dating service and Papa John’s Pizza are actually semi-integral parts of the plot—hell, Patton Oswalt even has line of dialogue about why eHarmony is better than other dating sites. Oof. They even did their own ad. See it below.
Violence, Doom & Death
SPOILERS Other films were more gore-packed, but undervalued slasher “You’re Next” was one of the best horror films of the year, and had a number of cracking kills across its running time. We have a soft spot for director Ti West getting a crossbow bolt in the forehead and the grisly wire-trap that sees to Amy Seimetz, but by far the most satisfying is when heroine Erin (Sharni Vinson) puts paid to lead villain Felix (Nicholas Tucci) by smashing a blender on his head and then turning it on. Mmm, smoothies. And a special mention to poor Shariff the astronaut in “Gravity,” who demonstrates it could be worse for Sandra Bullock: her helmet could have smashed, and the insides of her face could have been sucked out.
Most Doomed Love Interest
There are plenty of nods to old-school melodrama in Hayao Miyazaki‘s gorgeous “The Wind Rises,” and not least when it comes to love interest Naoko: it couldn’t have been clearer that the poor girl wasn’t long for this world if she’d come on screen wearing a t-shirt with a ticking clock on it. Pale and tubercular like the heroine of a long Victorian novel, she’s so fragile that we’re surprised she doesn’t just blow away as soon as the titular breeze picks up.
Most Deaths By Head-Stabbing
Perhaps the reason “White House Down” didn’t make it on the Worst of 2013 was that “Olympus Has Fallen” always nudged into the conversation then too and then everyone got annoyed and gave up. If ‘WHD’ is a stupid, brainless, vapid exercise in early-’90s nostalgia filmmaking, ‘Olympus’ is just as fucking mindless, but slathered in layers of gratuitous, graphic, grimy violence, in which the method of offing du jour is either throat slitting or head stabbing, or any fatal injury one can inflict with a knife and gory sound effect after one has beaten one’s assailant to a bloody pulp. It’s nasty that this much pointless, po-faced bloodletting can masquerade as a big summer release, but hey, modern life.
We’re fairly confident that for years to come, people will still be quoting James Franco’s Alien from “Spring Breakers,” whether it’s the Best Catchphrase, a whispered “sprrannnngggg breeeeaaakk… sprang break forever, bitches,” or his infamous monologue, saying “look at my SHEEEEET.” Everyone’s got a favorite line from this tribute to his stuff: “… shorts, every fuckin’ color,” “dark tannin’ oil,” “‘Scar.Face.’ On. Re.Peat.” This is part of the overall absurdist-consumerist theme of the film, and just a moment of downright silliness, one of the tonal extremes that the film can swing to, between dark and funny and back again. Or dark and funny, which describes the Best Threesome of the year, between Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens, and Franco, who gets up close and personal with part of his arsenal, in one of the most shocking sex scene moments of the year. He goes for broke though, and the result is an inextricable bond and true love story between Alien and his girls.
Worst Thematic Monologue That Starts Out Great, Goes On Too Long & Becomes Super Boring
Like much of the Cormac McCarthy-written “The Counselor” there is poetry and beautiful lines of dialogue to spare. But holy shit is it repetitive. You’ve already seen above how everyone warns the Counselor ad nauseum in the movie (serious listening skill problems), but Ruben Blades’ monologue at the end takes the cake. It starts out pretty crushingly about fate and circumstance, but it ends up being a 10-minute-long way of saying, “Look, you’re fucked here every which way til Sunday” over and over again. We’re surprised the Counselor just didn’t hang up mid-call and go, “Dude, I get it.”
Most Uselessly Quotable Line From A Biopic
No idea why, but very probably because it was the most heavily promoted and marketed (to press) film of this or possibly any other year, but the one line that’s stuck with us more than any other in 2013 is “Everything you are, everything you have, is because of that butler” from “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” It swims in circles round our brain. It slips from our lips at inappropriate moments (are there any appropriate moments for it?). We’re mouthing it right now. It happens at the 2.20 mark of this trailer—don’t wear it out.
Miscellaneous (Even More So Than Everything Else)
Worst Conversation With A Squirrel
Some of us are still trying to figure out how “White House Down” didn’t end up in our Worst Movies Of 2013 list. And yet, maybe it’s because this ungodly stupid movie has some absurd, idiotic pleasures (PREZ SHOOTZ BAZOOKA FROM LIMO ON LAWN). One of them however is not an early “character-building” scene where Channing Tatum warns a squirrel again (for what appears to be the umpteenth) time to get out of his boss’ bird feeder. This is screenwriting in 2013, people.
The “Flight” Award For Most Unrepentantly Pro-Drugs Scene/Movie
There’s a certain moralism that comes with drug use in movies—if you use them, you can be pretty sure that something terrible is coming your way soon after. Obviously, drugs are bad and everything, but there was still something refreshing about Lynn Shelton‘s “Touchy Feely,” which ends with the uncomfortable-in-his-own-skin dentist played (brilliantly) by Josh Pais taking an E, wandering out and, uh, having a really good time. His sister Abby also goes on an “E”nhanced walkabout, finally achieving her breakthrough to get past her body panic. It’s frank, authentic and rather sweet, and a bold stance for Shelton to take. You can see some of Pais’ moment in our Best Music Moments piece.
Best Movie On Television
Some of the year’s best movies won’t be found on any Top 10 lists, because they actually aired on TV this year. Beyond “Behind the Candelabra,” which we’ve already given a lot of love to, there was Jane Campion‘s “Top of the Lake,” a masterful crime thriller that might just be the director’s finest achievement to date. And, on the other side of the pond, there was “Southcliffe,” from “Martha Marcy May Marlene” director Sean Durkin. It doesn’t quite stick the landing, but for most of its four-hour running time, it’s a devastating and finely tuned look at the lead up to, and aftermath of, a mass shooting, with some of the finest performances of the year.
Best Party In A Movie Beginning With The Words ‘The Great…. ‘
Baz Luhrmann‘s “The Great Gatsby” comes most alive during its party scenes, but as far as lavish, indulgent films that begin with the words “The Great…” go, Italians do it better. Paolo Sorrentino‘s “The Great Beauty” has a number of crackers, but none quite as spectacular as the meticulously choreographed early scene: a raucous, decadent shindig on the terrace of the home of Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo). Luhrmann’s parties are lavish and all, but you’re not sure you’d really want to go to one, but this looks like a truly spectacular affair, even if, as the fourth-wall-breaking final shot proves, it doesn’t seem to bring poor Jep all that much pleasure.
Worst Ending To A Dystopian Sci-Fi Movie
Matt Damon unplugs the mothership and hits reset on a button that essentially says, “ok, heal everyone actually.” The 99% wins! Really “Elysium”? Really?
Best Drinking Game To Play To An Animated Film
Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises” is a beautiful picture (and anyone who thinks it’s glossing over war probably didn’t watch the first five minutes or read the opening quote which basically says, “live our your dreams, even during the worst of times”), but it’s got a few funny elements to it. One is the perpetually perturbed boss of the lead character who’s always doing some variation of a frown. If you drank a shot everytime he scowled in the movie you’d be passed out in vomit before the movie ended. Also give ‘Wind Rises’ props for Best Earthquake Sequence (positively chilling), and Best Amusing Italian Man Who Always Shoves Butts Into Your Dreams.
Worst Mark Wahlberg Movie You Forgot Was Released
In 2013, Mark Wahlberg appeared in “Pain & Gain,” “2 Guns” and “Lone Survivor,” got the “Entourage” movie rolling, produced “Prisoners” and got his Wahlburgers chain (and soon to be reality show) launched. And they are all a nice distraction from “Broken City,” the lame, political drama/thriller you didn’t see in January. But don’t worry, there are about a half dozen “Law & Order” episodes with the same plot that do it much better.
Most Surprising Comedies To Make Over $130 Million At The Box Office
We know this year left people pretty starved for good comedies. In fact, the situation was so dire that early winter and late summer toss offs “Identity Thief” and “We’re the Millers” were shockingly, hugely successful, tallying over $130 million each. And they weren’t that good. In case you forgot, the price a movie ticket these days can pay for a month of Netflix with some cash left over. It might be wiser to stay in next time than to approve these forgettable laffers to the tune of potential sequel.
Best Movie About Vagina Grooming
Danny Boyle’s “Trance” was many things: a heist flick, a mind game and a twisty mystery. But at the center of it all was Rosario Dawson’s vagina, and somewhat absurdly, the maintenance of it becomes a crucial plot point. Points for originality we suppose.
Best Home Hardware Breakdown
“Another fire!” This superlative easily could have been Best Scene Stealing Supporting Actress In An Already Stellar Ensemble. Jennifer Lawrence kills “American Hustle” and almost runs away with it (though Amy Adams is pure gold). The science oven scene is one for the ages and proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that she’s no one-trick pony, YA flash in the pan. Bonus clip while it lasts, Jlaw singing Wings’ “Live & Let Die.”
Best Find-And-Replace Movie That Most Obviously Followed The Die Hard Template
It’s one thing to rip off a movie, but it’s another thing to rip it off well. In 25 years, “Die Hard” has inspired more imitators than most, but those of us on staff that defend “White House Down” maintain that, while it’s a carbon-copy of the template of John McTiernan’s action-classic, it does at least (and unlike its close cousin, “Olympus Has Fallen,” and this year’s actual “Die Hard” sequel “A Good Day To Die Hard”), understand what made the original movie work—a vulnerable, salt-of-the-earth hero, a collection of villains with distinct characterization, a genuine odds-are-against-us feel. It doesn’t win any points for originality, but at least it knows the right bits to rip-off.
Best Beat Movie That No One Watched
While “On The Road” and “Kill Your Darlings” offered up younger, sexier casts and explored the most exciting, youthful times of the lives of the Beat poets who inspired a generation. It was the criminally ignored “Big Sur” that actually nailed the feeling the writers tried desperately to capture in print, while daring to show Jack Kerouac at his most vulnerable, cynical and fragile. And oh yeah, it boasts some of the loveliest cinemtography you’ll see all year too.
The Shia LaBeouf-Related Project That Everyone Should Be Yelling About Instead Of His Relentless Plagiarism
The Shia LaBeouf plagiarism scandal certainly deserves some outrage and discussion, but frankly, the actor’s biggest crime of 2013 was “Charlie Countryman.” A ridiculous, overwrought and nonsensical movie about a grieving romantic who develops an irrational attachment to girl he just met because he was sitting next to her Dad on the plane to Europe when he died…. Did you read what we just wrote? That’s just the first twenty minutes and it gets worse. Much worse. Can we all take a break from seeing what Shia copy and pasted to acknowledge how terrible this movie is?
Least Welcome Directorial Left-Turn
We’re all for directors blowing away the cobwebs and trying something different, so a return to the broader comedy of Pedro Almodóvar‘s early career with “I’m So Excited” seemed like it could be interesting. That is, until we realized that we never liked those early comedies all that much anyway, and the broad sitcom feel of “I’m So Excited” just felt like a inconsequential fancy when put up against the brilliance of “Volver” or “The Skin I Live In.”
Most Generic Sundance Movie
So the Sundance Lab is an actual lab? Coming of age: check. Cast-members from “Little Miss Sunshine”: check. Quirky mentor: check. Allison Janney: check. Indie-pop soundtrack: check. “The Way Way Back” feels more like the first screenplay by an advanced computer program developed to create movies that could play at the Sundance Film Festival than it does an actual movie.
Most Interesting Bad Movie
Richard Curtis’ “About Time” is by no stretch a good film, but it’s the kind of bad movie that you’re still glad you saw. For every treacly moment or scene where the female characters prove to have no agency whatsoever, there’s a lovely little performance, genuine, heartfelt moment of feeling, or intriguing time-travel related dilemma. It’s unlikely that you’ll love the film, but it’s its own beast. Tasha Robinson of The Dissolve puts it better than we could, in this excellent piece.
“Four in the morning, and I’m zoning
I think I’m possessed, it’s an omen
I keep it 300 like the Romans
300 bitches, where the Trojans?
Baby, we living in the moment
I’ve been a menace, for the longest
But I ain’t finished, I’m devoted
And you know it, and you know it“
I mean, what else were we gonna pick, other than the killer teaser to “The Wolf Of Wall Street,” scored to Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead”? OK fine, it was a really close call between that and “Heaven Is For Real”
Thanks for reading this pre-Christmas blowout post! For any sticky, scratchy little movie moments that you need to exorcize, there’s a capacious comments section waiting below. Meantime we’re all off to make out with each other at the Christmas party, which this year has a “Wolf of Wall Street” theme. (Anyone know where we can score 6 kilos of coke?)