Well, the Academy Awards are this weekend…
…and that’s a big deal for a lot of people, including myself. But you know what’s an even bigger deal?
THE FIRST ANNUAL PAL-ADEMY AWARDS!
This is where I make up categories to suit my own purposes so I can creatively reward my favourite films of last year. I have every confidence these will one day be more anticipated than the Oscars. Here we go:
Best Supporting Actor/Actress in a Movie that didn’t Deserve Him/Her:
Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club
Dallas Buyers Club is about an important and interesting subject and wants desperately to be an important and interesting film, but it isn’t. It’s disjointed and sloppy, and not nearly as emotional as it should be.
Matthew McConaughey’s solid but I wouldn’t give him a best actor award (see below for the right recipient). But then there’s the amazing Jared Leto playing a transgendered junkie who becomes McConoughey’s partner and warms his bigoted heart.
Leto has been all the talk when it comes to this movie and he deserves it. He absolutely shines. He’s also really pretty. No idea how he does it but it’s amazing.
Best Actress You Could See:
The ladies of American Hustle
Cate Blanchett is going to win Best Actress for Blue Jasmine despite the fact that director Woody Allen is giving everyone the creeps right now, but I am just loving Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence.
Between the two of them they’ve been in every single movie made in Hollywood in the last two years, and they’re wonderful in all of them. For some, Adams will always be the little cutie in Enchanted and Lawrence will always be ass-kicking Katniss, but to these people I say blow it out your science oven and check out their transformations in the wacky and sublime American Hustle, in which they play hot-blooded disco lionesses pouncing on the same cat.
In a movie that also features award-worthy performances from two fellows – Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper – it’s the ladies who own the show.
Best Actress You Couldn’t See:
Scarlett Johannson in Her
What a stupid idea: a movie about a man who falls in love with an operating system, who actually gets it on with the voice inside his phone! Ridiculous, right?
Well, no. Not when the movie is perfectly written and directed by Spike Jonze. And not when the man is believably played to flawed but loveable perfection by Joaquin Phoenix.
And not when said operating system is voiced by Scarlett Johansson.
I’m not much of a fan of Johansson, always thought she had loads of hotness but minimum range, but she infuses her machine character with so much curiosity, wit and sexiness it makes perfect sense that Joaquin would fall in love. There’s a reason it’s called Her and not It.
I walked out of Her convinced that machines could feel and that bodies were not necessary for love. Mrs. Pal told me I was an idiot, and she’s probably right, but big fat kudos to Spike, Joaquin and especially Scarlett for temporarily persuading me such things are possible and, perhaps, imminent.
Bruce Dern in Nebraska
Holy shit I love this movie. I. Love. This. Movie. And I love Bruce Dern, whose long and illustrious career had completely escaped my attention until this year.
He plays a broken old man who decides he’s won a million dollars and needs to get from Montana to Nebraska to collect his winnings. At the beginning of the film, we think we’re watching a stubborn, cantankerous old fart who barely knows where he is. By the end, we know he is so much more. Marvel at his stooped, busted walk and withered but expressive face. Then watch his eyes. There’s worlds in those eyes. I can’t remember the last time an actor communicated so much while saying so little.
Awesome. Just, awesome.
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese’s latest tribute to manly men being beastly bad is delirious fun even if it is basically three hours of being punched in the groin and face by the same joke over and over and over again. I guess I’m a masochist because I seriously loved it.
I can’t say Leo’s hurricane of a performance resonated as deeply as Mr. Dern’s, but it must be acknowledged for what it is: a maniacal tour de force.
Two scenes come to mind:
- A speech during which his drug-addled millionaire scam artist quits, then un-quits, while his legion of cultish employees lose their minds.
- The already infamous Quaaludes scene, in which Leo does things with his body that should not be possible.
The guy really is amazing, a worthy successor to Robert De Niro as Martin Scorsese’s go-to dude.
Best Picture but Only in the Theatre:
If you haven’t seen Gravity yet and you plan to catch up with it on Blu-ray – don’t bother. It’s too late. There is no point. Gravity need not exist in two dimensions on your TV screen. It must be seen in 3D and it must be seen on the biggest screen imaginable. It is a ride as much as a film.
This is not a weakness of the film. Do not dismiss it as “pure spectacle”. It just happens to be a masterpiece that was designed for the big screen.
Gravity has been accused of having a too-lean plot and backstory. Nonsense. Sandra Bullock’s backstory was more than enough to get me fully invested in her ordeal of surviving a space disaster and trying to get back to Earth. A technical marvel but an extremely emotional experience also.
Something else: Director Alfonso Cuaron is director of the year. When he couldn’t find the technology he needed to make this groundbreaking movie, he invented it. He raised the moviemaking bar. If that isn’t award-worthy, what is?
Best Picture Anywhere:
I already said it above. If you haven’t seen this quiet, hilarious, heartbreaking movie about beaten down people trying to cling to any sort of hope in a depressed rural America, go see it now. It’ll snap your heart, in good ways. The scenes in the living room should get their own Academy Award.
Best Picture in the Future:
Inside Llewyn Davis
If there is one thing I have learned about my favourite movie-making team, the Coen Brothers, it’s that one viewing is never enough. From Blood Simple to True Grit, and the 13 movies in between, there has never been a single Coen Brothers movie I didn’t appreciate more the 2nd, 3rd or 4th time I saw it. Creepers, one and all.
You and I saw this film together, Pal, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The recording of “Please Mr. Kennedy” may be my favourite scene all year. But it wasn’t quite enough to unseat Gravity, Nebraska and Her as my top three movies. (Though I would be remiss in not pointing out Oscar’s biggest error this year – having Dallas Buyers Club up for Best Picture, but not Inside Llewyn Davis – seriously, WTF?!)
But if history is any guide, it will climb. Check back in a year or two when I’ve taken another ride on Llewyn Davis’ peculiar journey and I might just tell you it was the greatest film of 2013.
Well, Pal, it’s become a cliché to say that 2013 was a great year for movies, but clichés often happen because they are true, and this one certainly is true. 2013 was an unbelievable year for movies (I haven’t even mentioned 12 Years a Slave, also brilliant, but I’m still processing it). Whichever film walks away with Best Picture, I can’t really complain. Unless, of course, it’s Dallas Buyers Club.