The 2013 Jeff Malone Academy Awards

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If I were in charge of unilaterally selecting the nominees and winners for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – and let’s be honest, we all know that is eventually going to happen – then here are what and who the recognized films and filmmakers would be for this year’s ceremony (winners are in bold and ALL CAPS):

Best Picture
American Hustle
12 Years a Slave

Lead Actor
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Lead Actress
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Adèle Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color
Mia Wasikowska, Stoker

Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jude Law, Side Effects

Supporting Actress
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Brie Larson, Don Jon
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
June Squibb, Nebraska

Animated Feature
Despicable Me 2
Monsters University

Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity
Phedon Papamichael, Nebraska
Ben Sarasin, Pain & Gain
Benoît Debie, Spring Breakers

Costume Design
Catherine Martin, The Great Gatsby
Trish Summerville, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Patricia Norris, 12 Years a Slave
Guy Speranza, The World’s End

Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Denis Villeneuve, Prisoners
Adam Wingard, You’re Next
Edgar Wright, The World’s End

Film Editing
Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers, and Alan Baumgarten, American Hustle
Christopher Rouse, Captain Phillips
Kirk Morri, The Conjuring
Paul Machliss, The World’s End

Makeup and Hairstyling
Evil Dead
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

Original Score
William Butler and Owen Pallett, Her
Mark Orton, Nebraska
Thomas Newman, Saving Mr. Banks
Thomas Newman, Side Effects

Original Song
“Happy,” written by Pharrell Williams, Despicable Me 2
“Ordinary Love,” written by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Production Design
The Conjuring
The Great Gatsby
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Sound Editing
Oliver Tarney, Captain Phillips
Wylie Stateman, Lone Survivor
Scott Martin Gershin, Pacific Rim
Smokey Cloud and Scott Weintraub, Stoker

Sound Mixing
Skip Livesay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead, and Chris Munro, Gravity
Skip Livesay, Greg Orloff, and Peter F. Kurland, Inside Llewyn Davis
Andy Koyama, Beau Borders, and David Brownlow, Lone Survivor
Glen Gauthier and Tim Le Blanc, Pacific Rim

Visual Effects
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Pacific Rim

Adapted Screenplay
Billy Ray, Captain Phillips
Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
Terrence Winter, The Wolf of Wall Street

Original Screenplay
Spike Jonze, Her
Aaron Guzikowski, Prisoners
Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, The World’s End
Simon Barret, You’re Next

Best Movie Scenes of 2013

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1. The Counselor – Telling the Catfish Story – The greatness of the notorious “catfish” scene is not about the prurient pleasures of watching Cameron Diaz hump a car.  It is about the bizarre joy of hearing Javier Bardem tell this story.  He is absolutely stunned.  He can’t believe that this really happened, nor does he understand why it would happen.  The whole inexplicableness of it all is thrilling.
2. Stoker – Shower masturbation – It seemed like just another working through stress while cleaning oneself scene, but then it was revealed what was really going on…
Mia Wasikowska in Park Chan-wook's Stoker
3. Prisoners – Driving to the hospital – The tension nearly caused me to pass out.

4. The Wolf of Wall St. – Lemmon Quaaludes – Leonardo DiCaprio debuted his comedy skills in a bravura display of physicality.

5. Inside Llewyn Davis – “Please Mr. Kennedy” – Endearing innocuousness; also Adam Driver pushing his unique vocalization to its fullest potential.

6. Captain Phillips – Shock – A dramatization of the aftermath of trauma unlike just about anything that has ever been filmed.

7. Spring Breakers – “Everytime” – It wasn’t until Spring Breakers that I realized how beautiful this song is.  And of course that’s the scary part.

8. Despicable Me 2 – “I Swear” – Can we have the minions cover every 90’s one-hit wonder boy band?  Or would the charm eventually wear off?

9. The World’s End – Bathroom fight – When a beheading leaves behind blue ink on a toilet, you know you’re in for a treat.

10. 12 Years a Slave – Hanging – An ugly moment grotesquely dragged out over time representing the precarious balance of Solomon Northup’s life.

Best Films of 2013

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You're Next Alamo Drafthouse
1. You’re Next
– If you like The Strangers, then you’ll like You’re Next.  If you like your home-invasion movies a little more self-aware like Funny Games, then you’ll like You’re Next.  If you like your home-invasion movies violently slapsticky like Home Alone, then you’ll like You’re Next.  If you like the criminals in a crime movie to have a plan that is ultimately their undoing like in Double Indemnity, then you’ll like You’re Next.  If you like your movie criminals to have bleakly witty banter as in a Coen brothers movie, then you’ll like You’re Next.  If you like John Carpenter films primarily for their music, then you’ll like You’re Next.  If you like Sharni Vinson’s physicality in Step Up 3D but wish her acting were also up to that level, then you’ll like You’re Next.  If you like all of this, chances are You’re Next is at number 1.
2. 12 Years a Slave – Maybe it’s because I’ve become desensitized, or maybe it was due to my high pain tolerance, but I did not find 12 Years a Slave to be the torturous viewing experience that many described it as.  True, 12 Years was not shy about showing the most destructive elements of human bondage, but I had already accepted the historical truth of this ugliness.  But accepting it and confronting it are two different things.  Steve McQueen took full advantage of the visual nature of this medium, creating indelible images – asking the audience to really look at what it is when the enslaved are completely beaten down.  The visuals are put to profound effect also in the uniquely expressive eyes of Chiwetel Ejiofor.  As Solomon Northup, in the final scene, his face is total wariness, indicating a change similar to that of the hero’s journey.  After the decade-plus stolen from him, he is aware of not only how unnatural it was for him to be enslaved, but how equally true that it is for anyone who has ever been enslaved.
3. American Hustle – For the third time in four years, a David O. Russell film is third on my list.  And once again, Russell offers a humanistic perspective on a subject that could easily display the ugliness of people.  No character is judged in this morass of scams and dirty dealing.  Everyone has something to offer the world, no matter what side of the law they are operating on.  But what really sells American Hustle is what seemed at first to be its most superficial appeal: the relentlessly 70’s fashion choices of several of the main characters seem patently wrong, but they commit to them so thoroughly, fashioning themselves into whatever they want to be.  Similarly, Russell goes crazy with his handheld camera moves, and foggy lenses, and surplus of whispered dialogue, and whatever other filmmaking techniques he can come up with, making Hustle the most vibrant cinematic experience of the year.
4. Philomena – It’s your classic young/old, male/female, atheist/believer odd couple road trip movie, but you had better believe that with Steve Coogan and Judi Dench in these roles, the characterization is going to be a lot more nuanced than that.  A story with a clear end goal set up right from the start is always setting itself up to be disappointing.  Philomena’s reunion with her son almost definitely could never have lived up to expectations.  So it was brilliant that the story focused on discovering his life after knowing that he was already dead.  Ultimately, Philomena Lee’s tenacity and faith in the goodness of others despite all those who stood in her way make her a model of Catholic morality.
5. Prisoners – One of my friends who I saw Prisoners with figured out who the kidnapper was as soon as that character was introduced.  This did not produce a sense of inadequacy in me at not also being able to figure it out right away.  I wasn’t even trying to figure out the mystery!  Well, that’s stretching the truth a bit.  It was not until after it was over and I had time to think about it (and Prisoners has stuck in my brain more than any other movie of 2013) that I fully realized that figuring out the mystery was not a big deal.  But I could still tell while watching that there was plenty besides the case – or just figuring out the case – that needed to be paid attention to.  The whole milieu was just unsettling enough to set every character at least a little bit on edge – snakes crawling out of crates, the circle maze serving red herring, and the cast of people that were only tangentially related to the disappearance of the two little girls.  Everyone was imprisoned by the illusion of a safe life being destroyed, and that did not change once the case was solved and the girls were rescued, and I think that is why this story really sticks with you – even when good wins out, you can’t quite shake what disturbs you.
6. The World’s End – It’s becoming clear to me that the part of my soul that makes me love Community so much is the same part that makes me so receptive to the shared filmography of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost.  Like that show, the genre pastiches of the Cornetto Trilogy may seem like silly larks, but they are actually the means of really digging into the emotional truth of its characters.  Gary King finds a way out of his rock bottom as the world goes through an apocalypse.  In rising up as a hero, he makes a surprising, and surprisingly profound, case for personal agency: life perfected from without is worse than one screwed up from within.  Also, the action is well-staged, and the gags are hilarious.
7. Blue is the Warmest Color – The Jeff Malone record for most hunger-inducing movie of all time was set in 2013 by Blue is the Warmest Color.  If you haven’t seen it, you probably think I mean hungry for sex, and that was the case to a certain extent.  The long lovemaking scenes were indeed memorable in their passionate matter-of-factness.  But if you have seen it, you know that what I am really talking about is pasta.  There was a lot of spaghetti, and I was unfortunately nowhere near a bot of boiling water while watching.  With all that in mind, the story of Adele reminded me to really bite down on the pleasures in life and make them last.
8. Captain Phillips – For the most part, the narrative structure of Captain Phillips is rather mundane for such a high-stakes situation.  The story beats unfold with a matter-of-fact succinctness: the pirates targeted the boat.  Captain Phillips almost got rid of them.  The pirates got onto the boat.  They kidnapped Captain Phillips.  They headed back to the shore.  The Navy started following them.  A deal was worked out.  Then this happened.  Then that happened.  Then something else happened.  The point is made that even the most stressful scenarios in life simply happen as they happen.  Then the ending, which serves no necessary narrative purpose, breaks up that simplicity, and it is devastating, delivering the full weight of the ordeal of this film.
9. Nebraska – Woody Grant is not ready to go quietly, nor will he give up on a dream of success in which everyone can look at him and go, “Wow, that guy made it.”  This despite looking he has been worn down by life more than most.  Maybe there was a moment that Woody did not really believe that he won a million dollars, or at least considered the possibility.  But he so wanted some great big tangible, positive development to be true that any reasonable argument to the contrary never had any chance.  The point is, he wanted a win.  In that sense, Nebraska is a sort of unassuming buddy movie, in which Woody’s son David is the one most able to understand what his dad really wants and the one most willing to believe that he is worth indulging.
10. FrozenFrozen really sneaks up you in revealing how awesome it is.  This may be the most socially progressive movie Disney has ever made, which is no mean feat for a company that has often been associated with promoting antiquated gender roles.  Frozen subverts the typical Disney style by first pretending like it is going to plow headlong into that old-school style.  One of the princesses is all set to marry a man on the day she meets him, and then … she is firmly told what a fool she is being.  Ultimately, she ends up with a much better man for her, but also – that isn’t the point.  Characters in Frozen are free to love, but love doesn’t exclusively define any of them, and it also makes clear to say that whatever you go on to do in your own life, you ought to remain cool with the family that you began your life with.  And it also helps that some great singing voices belong to Idina Menzel (which a lot of people already knew) and Kristen Bell (which not enough people already knew).

Best Performance of the Year:
James Franco, Spring Breakers

And the Rest of the Best Performances of the Year, in alphabetical order:
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Daniel Brühl, Rush
Steve Coogan, Philomena
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Sharlto Copley, Oldboy
Judi Dench, Philomena
Robert De Niro, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Adèle Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color
Jake Gyllenhaal, Prisoners
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Chris Hemsworth, Rush
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Hugh Jackman, Prisoners
Brie Larson, Don Jon and Short Term 12
Jude Law, Side Effects
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Matthew McConaughey, Mud and The Wolf of Wall Street (and presumably Dallas Buyers Club)
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Simon Pegg, The World’s End
June Squibb, Nebraska
Lily Taylor, The Conjuring
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
Sharni Vinson, You’re Next
Mia Wasikowska, Stoker
Forest Whitaker, Lee Daniels’ The Butler