Here we are, the second of three installments (Part 1) wherein we announce our Staff selections for the 2013 Film Misery Awards! This morning, we are honoring the year’s finest cinematic achievements in animation, non-fiction, non-English and ensemble efforts. While this post doesn’t give out nearly as many prizes as Part 1 did, Part 3 (Acting, Writing, Directing) will be posting later in the day. So there will be plenty more achievements worth honoring!
Here are our winners…
Best Animated Film
Really, this one was not much of a contest. With a middling Pixar movie, a slew of forgettable Dreamworks pictures and a Studio Ghibli swan song that’s yet to make its way across the country (particularly to Midwestern hicks like yours truly), this category undoubtedly goes to Frozen by default. Thankfully, this particular “winner by default” is still a perfectly respectable choice in its own right. Boasting stunning animation and a wicked slate (pun absolutely intended) of Broadway-style showtunes, Frozen is Disney’s most subversive takedown yet of that same vapid happily-ever-after narrative the studio helped promulgate generations ago. Forget the Team Jacob/Team Edward debate: are you Team Anna or Team Elsa?
1 – Frozen – WINNER!!!
2 – Ernest & Celestine and The Wind Rises (TIE)
4 – Monsters University
Best Documentary/Nonfiction Film
WINNER: The Act of Killing
Plenty of political documentarians – think Alex Gibney or Charles Ferguson – have made a terrific career of commentating upon what has transpired, and they have worked out an ideal formula in the process for effectively provocative nonfiction agitprop. That’s a perfectly acceptable way to make a film (look at our #3 doc, the engaging yet decidedly un-flashy Blackfish). What distinguishes The Act of Killing, the ghastly document from Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn and an unnamed Indonesian director, is that they seem to invent an entirely new approach to coax their subjects into sharing their profoundly troubled minds to the world. So much more can and will be said about the film, from the way it comments on both filmmaking and film-based culture (has the misreading of Scarface ever yielded more disastrous consequences?) to the way it hints hopefully at the possibility for reckoning, yet never affords the viewer a sense of catharsis or a sense of true justice.
Like Harlan County USA and Roger & Me before it, The Act of Killing is a sterling sample of political nonfiction that, in all likelihood, we’ll not soon forget.
1 – The Act of Killing – WINNER!!!
2 – Stories We Tell
3 – Blackfish
4 – Dirty Wars
5 – Leviathan
Best Foreign Language Film
WINNER: Blue is the Warmest Color
Was there a more talked-about movie this year (among film nerds, at least) than Abdellatif Kachiche’s powerful and engaging, exhausting and enraging coming-of-age story of a young girl’s strange, erotic journey from
Milan to Minsk childhood to adulthood? Last year’s Palme d’Or winner was not without its share of controversies, from the source material author’s critique of the lesbian sex scenes to accusations of Kachiche’s on-set brutality. Yet the Film Misery staff adored the final product, and fell quite fell hard for Adèle and Emma; about as hard as they did for each other. Brutal and unsparing, Kachiche’s film never flinches on the ecstasy and excruciatingly painful experience of aging, maturing, and paying for the mistakes made in your youth. Blue is the Warmest Color ends on a troubling note for Adèle, a note of profound regret. But who ever said regret had to be a bad thing in the first place?
1 – Blue is the Warmest Color – WINNER!!!
2 – The Act of Killing
3 – After Lucia
4 – In the House and Caesar Must Die (TIE)
Best Ensemble Cast
WINNER: 12 Years a Slave
From Lee Daniels’ The Butler to This is the End to even Movie 43, this has been a banner year for stunt-casting. More to the point, 2013’s been the year to play musical chairs with a large swath of high-profile actors, even if it only serves to elevate the profile – and marketability – of the movie itself. With the exception of one crucial bit of over-casting (the less said about Brad Pitt’s work, the better), 12 Years a Slave is surprisingly delicate in how it tosses out small morsels of Paul Giammatti, Paul Dano and Quvenzhané Wallis, only to pluck them back up from the story just as quickly, to advance Solomon Northup’s terrible chronicle. Unlike The Butler whose barrell-o-POTUS ensemble provokes little more wonderment than “which wacky actor will show up next as president?!,” no cameo appearance in 12 Years works explicitly to remove the viewer from their investment in Northup’s struggles. The supporting cast – one that includes Fassbender, Paulson and Nyong’o, alongside the aforementioned cameos – knows to gravitate their energy around Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance. 12 Years a Slave’s ensemble wins this category, because they are on precisely the same page.
1 – 12 Years a Slave – WINNER!!!
2 – It’s a Disaster
3 – The Past
4 – The Place Beyond the Pines
5 – American Hustle
That is Part 2 of the Fifth Annual Film Misery Awards! We will be posting Part 3 (Acting, Directing, Writing) later today, and you can read Part 1 here. Part 4, our staff’s Joint Top Ten, will be posted Sunday. Please give your thoughts below!