And it’s that time of the year again where I give out my awards for various superlatives in the films that I’ve watched over the course of the last six months. We’ll also be doing one of these soon again for the best films of Year 4 of Hot Saas’s Pop Culture Safar which is honestly just sort of mind-blowing to think about but that’s a post for the beginning of next month. As with any of those posts since my reviewing slowed down, if the film has a review (or was discussed on the podcast), I’ll link to it the first time the film pops up on one of these lists. Otherwise, I’ll write a short 2-3 sentence post about why it deserves to be here. I hope you enjoy and find some films worth checking out!
Best Picture – Drama:
1. The Thin Red Line (1998)
2. Funny Games (1997)
3. Blue (1993)
4. After the Wedding (2006): A classic melodrama without any of the artificial or forced trappings of the genre. A painfully intimate examination of family, love, and sacrifice with nothing short of a phenomenal ensemble cast. One of the great character dramas of the 2000s.
5. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Best Picture – Comedy:
1. Nightcrawler (2014)
2. Her (2013)
3. Stardust Memories (1980)
4. The Fisher King (1991): A visual and emotional powerhouse on the redemptive power of love and friendship. A heart-rending examination of mental illness and despair that makes you laugh and sob.
5. The Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
1. Krzysztof Kieslowski: Blue (1993)
2. Terrence Malick: The Thin Red Line (1998)
3. Spike Jonze: Her (2013)
4. Terry Gilliam: The Fisher King (1991) – Gilliam lets his visual imagination run wild over The Fisher King without once sacrificing the emotional heart of the film. He also coaxes the greatest performances of their careers out of both of the film’s male leads.
5. David Lynch: Lost Highway (1997) – The film loses its footing a bit in the second act, but the film is classic, lurid phantasmagoric Lynch with many of his most innovative and unsettling images. You’ll never look at Bill Pullman or Robert Blake the same way again.
Best Actor in a Dramatic Role:
1. Michael Shannon: Take Shelter (2011) – Easily one of the top 5 leading male performances of this decade. Michael Shannon’s portrayal of schizophrenia is consuming without being de-humanizing and the terrible plight of his character only works on the back of his fearless performances.
2. Matthew McConaughey: Dallas Buyers Club (2013) – I still think the Oscar should have gone to Leo for The Wolf of Wall Street but it’s hard to begrudge the Academy for rewarding a performance as transformative as this. The McConaissance truly reached its apex with this film.
3. Mads Mikkelsen: After the Wedding (2006) – He’s most famous to American audiences for Hannibal and the Bond films, but Mikkelsen will break your heart as the former drunk turned orphanage steward returning to his native Denmark to discover family secrets he would have never imagined.
4. Elias Koteas: The Thin Red Line (1998)
5. Robert Redford: All Is Lost (2013) – If this winds up being Redford’s last great role, it’s a hell of a way to go out. There’s virtually no dialogue in this film but Redford’s face says more than words ever could as every last shred of hope disappears as he is lost at sea.
Best Actress in a Dramatic Role:
1. Juliette Binoche: Blue (1993)
2. Sidse Babett Knudsen: After the Wedding (2006) – It could have been a thankless role as the great emotional weight of the film is carried by the film’s two male leads but Sidse makes her broken-hearted wife/mother into a creature of strength and vulnerability and has some of the best scenes of the whole film.
3. Eihi Shiina: Audition (1999) – One of the all-time great “terrifying woman” roles and it’s even better because there’s a big chance that any horror elements of the film are all in the misogynist male lead’s head.
4. Jessica Chastain: Take Shelter (2011) – It would have been too easy to be completely outshined by the manic, feral performance of Michael Shannon but Take Shelter‘s heart lies with his wife who has to watch her husband succumb to illness and Jessica Chastain’s streak as one of the best actresses of this decade continues.
5. Mia Wasikowski: Jane Eyre (2011) – You can have your Elizabeth Bennett’s. I’ll take Jane Eyre (the character at least) any day. Mia Wasikowski never struck me as tough enough to play the feisty and strong-spirited Jane, but alongside co-star Michael Fassbender, she breathes new life into one of the great Victorian gothic stories.
Best Actor in a Comedic Role:
1. Robin Williams: The Fisher King (1991) – The greatest performance of Robin Williams’s career. The perfect fusion of his comic talents and the (now tragic) deep well of melancholy that’s always underlined his best work. Williams was a once-in-a-generation talent and he is sorely missed.
2. Joaquin Phoenix: Her (2013)
3. Jake Gyllenhaal: Nightcrawler (2014)
4. Bruce Dern: Nebraska (2013) – The film itself is lower-tier Alexander Payne, but Bruce Dern turned in the other great “leading man decades past his prime” performance of 2013 as Will Arnett’s crotchety, senile father. The father is human without once sacrificing his stubborn obstinance and general dickishness. It’s a marvelous turn.
5. Ralph Fiennes: Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) – Lower-tier Wes Anderson but Ralph Fiennes is startling as the roguish and wrongly accused hotel manager. I can only imagine how much better the performance could have been had the role itself had more substance.
Best Actress in a Comedic Role:
1. Judy Davis: Impromptu (1991) – As Madame Georges Sand, Judy Davis is a breath of androgynous fresh air. With an acerbic wit and sensitivity in equal measure, Judy Davis walks away with a film that could have too easily been a staid period piece biopic.
2. Charlotte Rampling: Stardust Memories (1980)
3. Scarlett Johansson: Her (2013)
4. Mercedes Ruehl: The Fisher King (1991) – Ruehl won the Oscar for her performance in this film, and it was well-deserved. Ruehl is up against Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams at the peak of both performers’ talent and stands her own. That’s an achievement all its own.
5. Amy Adams: Her (2013)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
1. Gene Hackman: Unforgiven (1992)
2. Rolf Lassgard: After the Wedding (2006) – The best performance in a film with an absurd number of great performances. Lassgard allows his characters true intentions and heart to slowly unfold and it’s a wonder to behold.
3. Nick Nolte: The Thin Red Line (1998)
4. Jake Gyllenhaal: Prisoners (2013) – Gyllenhaal is one of the most dynamic performers of his generation, and although there are shades of his character in Zodiac with the obsessive cop of Prisoners, there are still plenty of differences to make Gyllenhaal shine.
5. Jared Leto: Dallas Buyers Club (2013) – He should not have won the Oscar. It should have gone to Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave, but Jared Leto manages to prove he’s more than just a pretty face as the victim of AIDS working with McConaughey to make the lives of their fellow victims a little easier.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
1. Emma Thompson: Impromptu (1991) – If anybody could have stolen Impromptufrom Judy Davis, it’s Emma Thompson and her turn as the feather-brained noble that hosts a party of some of Europe’s greatest minds that provides many of the best laughs of Impromptu.
2. Tilda Swinton: Snowpiercer (2013)
3. Stine Fischer Christensen: After the Wedding (2006) – Another potentially thankless role in After the Wedding but Christensen’s turn as a daughter discovering her father isn’t who she thinks he is and that marriage is harder than it seems is one of the most subtle delights of the wonderful Danish film.
4. Jane Squibb: Nebraska (2013) – The perfect foil to Bruce Dern and although the Oscar rightfully went to Lupita N’Yongo for 12 Years a Slave, Jane Squibb proves that there can still be roles for older actresses in Hollywood.
5. Carrie Coon: Gone Girl (2014)
And that’s it. Be sure to come back at the beginning of February when we do some Year 4 celebrations and maybe we can hope that it won’t take me six months to get another one of these posts up. Enjoy!