(Curator’s Note: Read responsibly. There are some spoilers present.)
Yesterday we (digitally) gave out the first ever Film Tome Award for the 2013 Who of the Year. You can read all about it, the nominees and the winner here. Now we will give out several more. These honors are of the not-so-traditional variety, everything from the best trailer to the single-best shot of the year. I've previously shared my votes for all the traditional (Oscar) categories. Let’s kick things off with...
Best Action/Fight Scene
Pacific Rim / “The Battle for Hong Kong”
This lengthy, rain-soaked, neon-lit battle royale was single-handedly worth the price of admission for Pacific Rim. It introduced new kaiju and pushed Gypsy Danger and her crew to the limit. Attention to the smallest details (e.g. the bird on the dock or the desk toy) weren’t just gags but illustrated the sheer scale of the fight. Taking things upward, practically out of the Earth’s atmosphere, was a climax worth reaching and nothing in the movies last year made me want to cheer like that.
- Drug War / The final shootout on the street.
- G.I. Joe: Retaliation / The cliffside ninja battle.
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug / Two words: Barrel ride!
- Thor: The Dark World / Fighting through the portals.
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Best Long Take
(Curator’s Note: It’s no secret that I drool over long takes. They are among my favorite things to look for in movies and for me the true value of one is not necessarily how long, how complex or how stunning they are - though those are certainly factors - it’s why it is utilized and the effect it has on the overall experience.)
12 Years a Slave / The selling of Solomon.
While nowhere near as talked-about as the film’s climactic whipping long take it’s this early confrontation that remains at the forefront of my mind. We are taken inside the slave market of Paul Giamatti’s character and watch as a customer (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) comes to purchase more “property.” A mother is purchased and separated from her kids in the process. Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is order to play his violin to calm the room and he himself is brought before this emotionally devastating scene is through.
- 12 Years a Slave / The whipping of Patsy.
- Before Midnight / Car ride from airport.
- The Conjuring / Moving in.
- Getaway / The final stretch at dawn.
- Gravity* / Take your pick really. I choose the opening shot.
- The Place Beyond the Pines / The opening steadicam shot following Gosling.
* = This should technically be considered a “long fake” as who knows how much of it was actually a single shot when you get under all the visual effects. It did not quite meet my criteria but deserves to be an honorable nominee. It’s incredible.
* * *
Best Opening Scene or Shot
The Great Beauty / Morning Rome, nighttime Rome.
I had no idea how The Great Beauty would begin and throughout this entire 15-minute prologue I was held in a magical suspension wondering where this wild ride would take me next.
- Like Someone In Love / In the bar, talking from behind the camera.
- Paradise: Love / Mentally handicapped group driving bumper cars.
- The Place Beyond the Pines / Following Gosling to the motor-ball.
- Reality / Aerial view of town as we come in closer to follow the wedding carriage.
- A Touch of Sin / A motorcyclist, a tomato truck and an explosion.
* * *
Best Closing Scene or Shot
The Act of Killing / Retching at a familiar place.
The entire third act of The Act of Killing may be the most important thing ever put on film (as Errol Morris himself has said) but it’s the final minutes when Anwar Congo returns to the rooftop across from the old theater that we are physically arrested. In the same place where he choked men to death with wire he now stands having been through the experience of making this movie. He shambles around and begins dry-heaving decades worth of anguish. It’s only the beginning for a long, hard road of reconciliation. He’ll never be the same. Neither will we.
- 12 Years a Slave / “I apologize for my appearance.”
- All Is Lost / Giving up, seeing a boat on the surface, swimming towards the hand.
- Beyond the Hills / Waiting at the traffic light, mud on the windshield.
- In the House / Apartment windows
- Reality / Rising from the Big Brother house while Luciano lays in a chair and laughs.
- The Wolf of Wall Street / “Sell me this pen.”
* * *
Most Theatrical Experience
(Curator’s Note: By this I simply mean which film demands and deserves to be primarily seen in theaters.)
This year this award can only go to Gravity and that is largely also its downfall. A one-night stand in IMAX 3D may be the best way to have a relationship with this film. Even seeing it in a 2D theater afterwards paled in comparison. I never, ever want to see this in someone’s living room or (God forbid!) on a smaller screen.
- Pacific Rim
- To the Wonder
* * *
(Curator’s Note: While plenty of trailers for 2014 films dropped last year I will only be considering 2013 films. Those trailers will be up for consideration next year.)
Only God Forgives (Red Band)
There were few films I was more excited for last year than Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling’s follow-up to Drive. The first look we got was a beautiful and brutal as we could possible imagine and reached a perfect fusion as PROUD’s “You’re My Dream” played as Gosling kicked and dragged some thug down the hall.
- American Hustle (Trailer #1)
- Don Jon (Trailer #1)
- Escape From Tomorrow (Trailer #1)
- Gravity (Trailer #1)
- Man of Steel (Trailer #2)
- Only God Forgives (Red Band)
* * *
Love Scene of the Year
Her / Phone Sex
We’ve seen phone sex in the movies before, but I don’t think we’ve ever seen someone having sex with a phone, or an OS rather. It’s not necessarily physical, but it’s emotional and certainly vocal. Director Spike Jonze wisely chose to cut to black while we hear the voices of Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson. We forget that Samantha doesn’t actually have a body and are forced to focus on the connection they’ve formed despite that.
* * *
(Curator’s Note: A special award named after Werner Herzog’s most arduous project given to the year’s most ambitious film. This is the first year but I would have given it to Cloud Atlas back in 2012.)
Escape From Tomorrow
Randy Moore’s directorial debut is now famous as “the film shot without permission in Disneyland.” That certainly one of the main things it has going for itself. It’s a project that took several years, a couple close calls, and guerilla techniques to make a reality. It’s amazing that the film exists but probably even more amazing that it was released in any way shape or form.
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That will conclude The 2013 Film Tome Awards. What do you think of the award categories and winners? What films would you have honored instead? Or can you think of other award categories you’d like to be part of next year’s Film Tome Awards? All these questions and more can be answered and/or discussed in the comments below.
As a final tribute to 2013 check out my personal countdown of The Best 13 Films of 2013.