Another year, another creeping sense of dissatisfaction with the standard awards program. Sure it’s important to celebrate the best of the best of the best in the usual categories, but it all becomes a bit stale when the Oscars will be the dozenth major body to denote a best actor or cinematographer or score.
Instead, we offer this alternative: a look at the strongest work of the movie year through the lens of odd trends and pure randomness. To wit, a header image that features our task-master-in-chief Neil Miller wondering if he forgot to send out invitations to the gala (he didn’t).
We’re repeating an award from last year because you demanded it, but 2013 gave us enough weird and wonderfulness to fill up a whole new ballot otherwise. Please feel free to make up your own awards in the comments section.
Best Actor Who Quietly Dominated The Year – Ron Livingston
We’ve been waiting on Livingston to truly break out ever since he trashed a crappy copier in an empty field. He still hasn’t, but he’s enjoyed a steady career doing yeoman’s work, and he upped the wattage this year with a quartet of excellent performances.
Other actors like Melissa Leo, Morgan Freeman and Olga Kurylenko put in similar work (as did Harrison Ford with an unbelievable 4 films in a single year), but for the combination of powerful performances with mere whispers of acclaim, Livingston is difficult to beat. Beyond Drinking Buddies and The Conjuring, he was also in the JFK-centric Parkland and Touchy Feely. That’s a lot of notables, but the quiet surrounding his domination seems logical considering the limited release nature of most of the projects. Still, it’s a great reminder that Livingston can be trusted to turn in fantastic characters even if he isn’t lugging around a baseball bat.
Best Movie By the Child of a Famous Director - Antiviral
There’s no doubt that Brandon Cronenberg’s first feature echoes many of his father’s favorite themes. From body horror to cultural skewering, Antiviral felt like young David Cronenberg. Go figure.
There was also Kiss of the Damned from Xan Cassavetes and The Bling Ring from Sofia Coppola (although she’s more than stepped away from her father’s shadow), but even for its clear familial roots (or because of them), this satirical mystery about celebrity obsession was a fresh favorite.
Best Porn Movie - The Look of Love
This was a good year for explorations of pornography. There was Don Jon and Lovelace and movies like American Hustle that sounded like triple-X features. Then there was the Steve Coogan-starring biopic of softcore publisher Paul Raymond. It stole our hearts and headed south. It’s bizarre that mustaches weren’t more in fashion in 2013.
Best Old Guy Action Star – Arnold Schwarzenegger
With The Last Stand and Escape Plan, Arnold Schwarzenegger proved that he’s still got it. At 66 years young, he can still kick ass in fairly mediocre movies. It’s a testament to his workout regimen and his legacy as an actor.
And the competition was fierce. Cinemas were filled with old men proving that they weren’t going to go quietly into that good retirement home. Bruce Willis rocking the truly terrible Good Day to Die Hard and the adequate Red 2, Sly Stallone doing Bullet to the Head, co-starring with Schwarzenegger in Escape Plan and whatever was going on with Grudge Match. They should keep Expendables 9 interesting at least.
Best Robin Hood in a Superman Movie – Kevin Costner
Balancing the quality quotient here is a tough job because Costner was a silly Robin Hood in a moderately likable Robin Hood movie while Russell Crowe was a great Robin Hood in a terrible Robin Hood movie. As an added bonus, they were both excellent in Man of Steel.
Maybe it’s because he got the heart of the story, but the edge goes to Costner for this obviously crucial intersection of pop culture.
Best Destruction of London - G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Stiff competition here. For some reason. Did London do something to supremely irritate movie studios? Like give them tax breaks?
There were some killer visuals in Star Trek Into Darkness and Thor: The Dark World, but G.I. Joe: Retaliation earns the top prize for doing something so absurd, so total, and so quick. . . and for following it with a shrug of the shoulders. Cobra Commander basically leveled one of the world’s largest cities and then dropped the mic.
Best Use of Black and White - Nebraska
This was another category with some heavyweight contenders because B&W was a palpable theme throughout the year. Frances Ha, A Field in England and Much Ado About Nothing were not only all great examples of B&W photography, but they were also great examples of all-around filmmaking. Entertaining, engaging stories bolstered by a stark, revealing look.
Alexander Payne is a giant fan of that look, and he utilized it with DP Phedon Papamichael to glorious effect in Nebraska. The entire film is a flipbook of freeze frames that you could hang on a museum wall.
Best Delayed Sequel to a Movie From 2004 - Anchorman 2
Apparently going back to the well can yield some phenomenal results. Richard Linklater continued his relationship saga, following Before Sunset (2004) with Before Midnight; Vin Diesel returned to his sunglasses, following The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) with Riddick; and Will Ferrell went national with his news team, following Anchorman (2004) with Anchorman 2.
It’s a bit strange that they took so long to be made, but it’s also encouraging to see long-term dedication to storytelling passion projects.
Best/Worst Online Angst Generator – The Mandarin
Of course it is. A massive trolling effort from Shane Black and Marvel, the concept of delivering Trevor Slattery to an online world foaming at the mouth was a divisive stroke of genius that stuck the landing. Ben Kingsley is a big part of why it worked, but even with an ovation-worthy comedic trip at its base, the twist was always going to infuriate the die hardiest comic book fans.
It lit up the internet with dissections, applause and condemnations (this is a favorite) while proving — unlike Khan — that the online world could have one pulled over on it. Trevor Slattery and Beyonce should do a duet.