Well, with 2013 officially gone and past, it’s finally time to look back at the year that was in cinema. Okay, sure, 2013 officially ended over a month ago, but I have spent this extra month catching up on films I (sometimes regrettably) hadn’t yet seen and, of course, also took my time deliberating which films, performances, and works were truly my favorites from those released during the year.
I released my 2013 Top Ten list last week, and shortly after began compiling all of my favorites in various awards categories, some traditional (Best Actor, Best Actress) and some I chose to create for my own awards showcase (Best Motion Picture Soundtrack, Best Theatrical Teaser/Trailer). You can find all my awards spread across the next three pages, with the Film/Feature, Directing, and Screenwriting awards right here on Page 1, the Acting/Performance awards on Page 2, and the Technical, Music, and Other awards on Page 3.
Without further ado, here are my selections for the 2013 edition — technically, I suppose, the very first annual — of the QWERTY Film Awards. Enjoy!
Film/Feature, Directing, and Screenwriting Categories
- Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
- Before Midnight
- Frances Ha
- Fruitvale Station
- Inside Llewyn Davis
- Short Term 12
- Side Effects
- The Wolf of Wall Street
After posting my list of the Top Ten Films of 2013, it should come as no surprise that Her is my winner for Best Picture. Five other films — Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Before Midnight, Frances Ha, Short Term 12, and Side Effects — were perched atop my Top Ten list at various points during year, but after I saw Spike Jonze’s sci-fi romantic tragicomedy Her, its status as the best film of the year was almost instantly cemented. A second and third viewing only served to set it even more firmly in place at the number one spot. Her is complex, layered, and highly original, and I can only hope that fans of Jonze’s film continue to drive good word-of-mouth for the movie, and that its critical reception and the voices of those fans convince people to see it for years to come.
Additionally, below are my selections for the best films in various genres, including traditional categories like Best Foreign Language Film, Best Documentary Feature, and Best Animated Feature, as well as a Best Made-For-Television Feature category and a Best Blockbuster Feature category.
While I loved Asghar Farhadi’s French-language, Iranian-produced romantic drama The Past — my runner-up for this category — Thomas Vinterberg’s Danish film The Hunt is a film I just cannot shake. Its premise is bold, its story unfolds in a way that generates enormous amounts of empathy, and Mads Mikkelsen’s performance in the lead role is absolutely magnificent, one of the very best of the year (which you can take note of again further along in this post).
I gave Sarah Polley’s personal examination of family, secrets, and wonder of storytelling a Special Juror’s Award when I posted my Top Ten list, and despite leaving the film off the list itself, Stories We Tell is definitely one of the best films 2013 had to offer. I also liked The Act of Killing, The Armstrong Lie, and Blackfish, but Polley’s doc was far-and-away my favorite.
I frankly didn’t see too many other animated films in 2013, largely because most of them looked pretty blasé, but given my adoration of Disney’s Frozen — which I called “a fantastic return to form” for the animation studio — I can’t imagine any of the films I didn’t see being better than this one. If you like the Disney-animated musicals of the early to mid 1990s, I have a feeling you’re going to love this one just as much or perhaps even more than I did.
Two stunning performances, one from Michael Douglas and the other from Matt Damon, make Steven Soderbergh’s exploration of famed Las Vegas performer Liberace an absolute must-see. The film premiered on HBO back in the spring of 2013, received raves from critics, and earned itself a number of well-deserved Golden Globe and Emmy Award wins in recent months.
Iron Man 3 and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire were improvements on their respective franchise’s predecessors, solid films and entertaining in their own separate ways, but Marc Forster’s adaptation of World War Z, starring Brad Pitt, was easily the most-entertaining blockbuster offered to audiences during 2013. A case could be made for Gravity her, but I’d argue that while Cuaron’s film was intended as spectacle on some level, it was never meant to be the blockbuster it wound up being. And I actually like World War Z better.
- Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale Station
- Destin Daniel Cretton, Short Term 12
- *Spike Jonze, Her
- Richard Linklater, Before Midnight
- Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
When it comes to Best Director, I always think, would any other director be able to take this material and either: A) direct it to a similar result, or B) make it even better? In the case of each of my nominees above, I’m inclined to answer no to both questions for all five, but the clear winner for me is Spike Jonze for his terrific work on the film Her. Jonze brings to the screen his own original screenplay and his own interesting ideas, while at the same time bringing some very noteworthy performances out of all his actors — for what it’s worth, Amy Adams and Rooney Mara are under-appreciated gems in the film — and the end result is just fantastic. I really can’t see anyone else taking the material for Her and doing it any better, or even in a similar manner. The same could be said for the other four nominees, but Jonze rises to the top.
- Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig)
- *Her (Spike Jonze)
- Inside Llewyn Davis, (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)
- The Past (Asghar Farhadi)
- Side Effects (Scott Z. Burns)
It is without a doubt (in my mind, at least) the most original screenplay of the bunch, and while that doesn’t necessarily translate to best, in this case, it actually does. Spike Jonze’s Her contains not just an excellent story, but also a deft mix of comedy and drama, interesting science fiction and romance elements, and more themes than I could possibly discuss in a single paragraph here. Jonze’s screenplay serves his characters and their world beautifully, allowing the audience to examine through them big ideas like connectedness, isolation, fulfillment, emptiness, and what exactly it means to be human. Every time I see this film, I find something new to consider and discuss with others, and that, my friends, is one of the marks of a truly great screenplay.
- 12 Years A Slave (John Ridley)
- *Before Midnight (Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater)
- Short Term 12 (Destin Cretton)
- The Spectacular Now (Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber)
- The Wolf of Wall Street (Terence Winter)
By Academy rules, since it is based on the characters and events of previously published material — that material being 1995’s Before Sunrise and 2004’s Before Sunset — the third film in Richard Linklater’s accidental franchise, Before Midnight, is categorized as an Adapted Screenplay, and so I’ve chosen to list it as such as well. The other films here contain great screenplays, too, with interesting themes and characters and setups, but Before Midnight is my clear winner here.