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With only a matter of days remaining in 2013, I find myself having seen all of the year's releases that I felt compelled to see. That realization led me to start considering which films this year had particular scenes that really struck me. Just about every single film of note this year had some sort of memorable scene that will stick with me for years, though I'm sure not everyone will find the same scene as powerful as I did. In fact, while many of the scenes cited are from my favorite films of the year, believe it or not, nine of my top ten flicks have a scene listed below, so it wasn't ten for ten. But sometimes all it takes is just a single scene.
This morning, we debuted my picks for the 10 Best Performances by an Actor in 2013. Now we're continuing the second part of my look at the best performances of 2013, by looking at the big screen turns from actresses. From foreign newcomers like Adèle Exarchopoulos in Blue is the Warmest Color to veteran hands like June Squibb in Nebraska, wherever you looked, there was someone giving a performance for the ages. It was a pleasure to watch Exarchopoulos, Squibb, and many other actresses deliver performances we won't soon forget. This year was truly one filled with performances of great note.
The year is almost over folks, and with that brings the deluge of lists that we all look forward to reading and agreeing/disagreeing with from fellow cinephiles. For my part, I'm delivering a two-part look at the Best Performances of 2013, split up between performances from actors and actresses. This was a year full of performances to rave about, so I'm thrilled to be able to give my personal favorites a moment in the sun, starting with just the actors here in this first part. From relative newcomers like Will Forte to old veterans like Bruce Dern (both in the same movie), wherever you looked, there was someone giving a performance for the ages, and it was a pleasure to watch all of them on the big screen throughout this year.
Whenever the Academy releases a shortlist of titles in contention for one of their technical Oscar categories, mouths are always left agape to some small degree over what hasn't made the cut. Whether it's any number of special effects laden blockbusters not making to the next stage in Best Visual Effects or something like that, there's always some kind of surprise. That being said, the Best Foreign Language Feature shortlist has just been revealed, and voters certainly opted to exclude a lot of worthy titles, and we're not just talking the ineligible Blue is the Warmest Color from Abdellatif Kechiche. There's always a complaint or two about the films competing in this category, but rarely has there been borderline outrage like I've seen today.
The first of the all important guilds have now chimed in on the precursor season, and boy did they have their own agenda. The Screen Actors Guild released their nominations, which have a lot more bearing on the Oscar race than any critics group. Still, as I cautioned in my precursor piece here, any one announcement can only mean so much. That being said, this was our first big one, and SAG usually doesn't completely match up with the Oscar nominees, but they do have a member overlap, so it's a place to start when looking at who's gotten a boost or who's stepped back. From my view, no one had their nomination guaranteed (though one is closer than ever) but no one had their chances canceled, so the race is still evolving. Read on!
Over the past year months, one of the harder to pin down titles for me happened to be Scott Cooper's Out of the Furnace. Up until recently, there was a pretty big split in terms of how my fellow prognosticators saw it in the Oscar race. There were Best Picture mentions here and there, all the way to folks like me who had it getting shut out. After almost arriving late last year for Oscar contention (which probably wouldn't have worked), the film hit theaters this past weekend, hoping to gain some traction in the race. The flick is an interesting case study too, since it was once an unseen contender thought to be a dark horse for awhile.
Somehow, it's December already folks! All of the contenders have been seen (yes, American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street are known commodities, if you can believe it), which is pretty crazy on its own. The precursor season has begun, films are being honored/ignored, and the very beginnings of some real evidence can be used in trying to figure out the Oscar race. We're knee deep in it now ladies and gents, and I'm personally updating my predictions every single day like a crazy person/serious awards prognosticator. As such, you'll notice some big changes in my predictions from last time, but that's expected. More below!
Of the many balls that Harvey Weinstein is juggling for Oscar attention this year, none seem to be forgotten about quite as much as Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. While it opened this past weekend in limited release, it just hasn't gotten nearly as much attention as any of his other major contenders like August: Osage County, Fruitvale Station, Lee Daniels' The Butler, and Philomena. In some respects, it's a puzzling decision. After all, it's a biopic of the recently passed away Nelson Mandela (based on his autobiography), starring an exciting actor in Idris Elba, written by a well respected scribe in William Nicholson, and it's coming out in a year that's shaping up to be as diverse as any for the Oscars.
A year or so ago, the very idea of Saving Mr. Banks was one that inspired some jokes and no small amount of ridicule. "It's Disney saluting Disney" was a popular phrase, and I even once suggested it was potentially going to be the equivalent of watching Mickey Mouse masturbate. Well, now having seen John Lee Hancock's film, I can say that it doesn't deserve any ridicule, since it's a solidly good movie. That being said, it's got both the feel good quality and the tear jerker quality going in its favor, so I have no doubt that this is going to be a big favorite for the Academy. The question is, can it sneak up and win Best Picture? It's not the frontrunner, but it could very well prove to be a big spoiler when the awards are handed out.
Ever since Martin Scorsese's The Departed became the first remake to take home Best Picture in this modern era of remakes littering the cinematic landscape (and actually is the only remake to win that Oscar), folks have discussed if we could see others follow in its footsteps with some degree of regularity. We even saw Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit remake get nominated once the field expanded from five nominees to ten, so it wasn't like this was a one and done sort of thing. In 2012 we saw a new take on the musical Les Miserables from Tom Hooper, which could be considered a remake (and will in this piece). This year...
Every single year, a ton of deserving independent films struggle to compete for the limited attention of Oscar voters. These movies are often some of the best that cinema has to offer each year, but due to any number of factors (smaller distributors, less money to campaign with and other issues), only a handful are able to catch on with the Academy. This leads to lots of disappointment among film fans, but there is a silver lining to be found in the Independent Spirit Awards. Yes, this indie themed awards show sometimes works as a tonic to the repetitive and potentially stuffy winners that pop up during the precursor circuit.
As the number of Oscar contenders that are sight unseen narrows to almost zero (basically David O. Russell's American Hustle and Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street now, both of which are huge contenders in the race), many are turning their eyes towards the presumed smaller players that unveiled themselves at the recent AFI Fest. One was Scott Cooper's Out of the Furnace, which has been talked about as an under the radar awards hopeful (I'll be writing about that one soon), but the other was Peter Berg's war movie Lone Survivor. Many scoffed at this one having any real chance (particularly since it stars Mark Wahlberg and perpetual movie bad luck charm Taylor Kitsch), and Berg has yet to do much worthy of consideration, but some early reviews have this one potentially poised to make a mark.
Never being met with the same respect as the other categories at the Academy Awards, the Best Animated Feature race is always one of the most interesting ones for to analyze and cover each year. This category is about as different from the others as it gets at the Oscars, so it's always worth a little bit of a different focus. It's also one of the harder ones to predict, especially when Pixar doesn't have a runaway frontrunner (which is becoming more normal now) in their prequel Monsters University. With the impending release of Frozen, the final contender for the prize, I wanted to discuss the category to see where the race is headed.
In case you missed the recent news, Scarlett Johansson just won the Best Actress award at the 2013 Rome Film Festival for her voice only role in Spike Jonze's amazing film Her. Normally one single award means very little in the grand scheme of things (as I wrote about here), but to at least some degree Johansson and her performance is a bit of a special case this year. If she were to emerge from the Oscar race with an improbable Best Supporting Actress nod for Her, it would be a historic nod to say the least. While the odds aren't exactly in her favor, her chances of a nom have definitely been boosted. If nothing else, this gives me another excuse to talk about my favorite movie of the year so far (and maybe one for all-time).