Saturday, March 1, 2014


Pain and Gain (2013)

Early last year while sitting in a theater being subject to trailer after trailer I counted three of which had Dwayne Johnson in them. I thought to myself, "wow, it's the year of 'The Rock.'" I mean look, he starred in Snitch, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Empire State (a straight to DVD film that nobody I know has seen), Michael Bay's criminally under-appreciated Pain & Gain and the latest Fast & Furious film. Forbes announced Johnson to be the top-grossing actor of 2013. All this and not to mention his continued contributions to WWE/WWF. What a year for what a guy!

This all got me to thinking about film in a calendar year sense and specifically which filmmakers accomplished/contributed the most to any given year. A lot like the Chinese zodiac we could have a different animal (or in this case, filmmaker) be our mascot. It's a nice way to review last year as well as lead into the less-complicated categories of The Film Tome Awards. Indeed, the winner of this "who of the year" will be the first recipient of a Film Tome Award and we'll name the year in their honor!

Besides Johnson, who else rocked this year?

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

There's Brad Pitt, who starred in World War Z and had supporting roles in 12 Years a Slave and The Counselor, he also helped produce the first two of those. Michael Fassbender deserves a mention for even bigger roles in the latter two. Last year may very well have been "the year of McConaughey" if I had done this then, but he's proving that wasn't a fluke and that his rom-com days are well behind him now. Superb supporting roles in Mud and The Wolf on Wall Street and a physically/emotionally demanding lead role in Dallas Buyer's Club as a man dying of AIDS keep him firmly in the spotlight. 2014 looks no less his stranger with the HBO original series True Detective and his first time working with filmmaker Christopher Nolan in Interstellar.

American Hustle (2013)

Bradley Cooper added three distinct projects to his filmography with The Place Beyond the Pines, The Hangover Part III and American Hustle. Ryan Gosling co-starred in Pines and led the beautiful but brutal Only God Forgives. Christian Bale co-starred with cooper in Hustle and played Casey Affleck's brother in Out of the Furnace. Affleck also starred in Ain't Them Bodies Saints. Another Out of the Furnace actor, Woody Harrelson, had a surprisingly busy year: Now You See Me, reprising his role as Haymitch in The Hunger Games sequel and lending his voice to Free Birds. Bond-hopeful Idris Elba stayed busy in blockbusters like Pacific Rim and Thor: The Dark World, played the iconic man himself in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and continued playing the titular role in TV's Luther.

Captain Phillips (2013)

Tom Hanks may have been forgotten by the Academy, but I won't leave him out of the running. He was terrific in Captain Phillips and you need to see for yourself what everyone is talking about in those "last ten minutes," perhaps the finest bit of acting he's ever done. That and playing Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks made him an important part of the 2013's final months. Also, he brought Woody back to life again in the TV special Toy Story of Terror.

The Great Gatsby (2013)

Leonardo DiCaprio was the man of the hour while hosting parties in his roles in both The Great Gatsby and The Wolf of Wall Street (not to mention hosting a most intense dinner in Django Unchained which came out in overseas territories this year after it's Christmas Day release in 2012 here in the states, including an eventual run in China under a censored version overseen by Tarantino himself). Jonah Hill appeared in those two latter films (Wolf and Django) and This Is the End, though it's his co-star in that unprecedented American comedy that I feel is one of the top candidates so far: James *freaking* Franco (who also partially owned 2011 for me by giving the year's best performance in 127 Hours).

Spring Breakers (2013)

Franco not only hosted the party that would usher in the apocalypse in that highly irreverent comedy, he abducted four far-from-innocent college girls (and their movie) in Harmoy Korine's Spring Breakers, for which the actor recieved significant Awards chatter. He is amazing as Alien there. He starred in Oz the Great and Powerful and Palo Alto as well; he helped write the latter. As if that weren't enough, the man directed an astonishing four (four!) feature films this year alone: one's a documentary, three of which he acted in, two of which he wrote. When he wasn't busy acting, directing or distributing those films he could be found watching movies and writing about them or making other significant contributions to the zeitgeists that be. All that and he subjected himself to be roasted on Comedy Central a few months back. It was a particularly raunchy evening of entertainment and when Franco got up to close the night off he was the least funny, most pompous yet also the most compellingly artistic performer of the group. I think Josh Larsen of Filmspotting summed it up best when he referred to Franco has being his own country.

The Heat (2013)

Both Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy teamed up to butt heads as buddy cops to smashing success in The Heat (truly one of the funnier films of the year) and each again separately in the likes of Identify Thief and Gravity respectively. They weren't the only female powers to prove themselves in multiple projects.

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence proved she wasn't just going to sit at home polishing her recently earned Oscar this year. She returned as Katniss in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and teamed up with David O. Russell again (who directed her to winning said Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook) in American Hustle. You might have (no, you didn't) also seen her in House At the End of The Street and The Devil You Know. Hopefully she doesn't have to continue doing crappy horror movies to earn money or fill her resume. I'm far from the first person to make the comparison to her character in The Hunger Games, but Lawrence is absolutely "the girl on fire" in Hollywood today.

Don Jon (2013)

Lawrence's co-starlet in American Hustle, Amy Adams, played Louis Lane in Man of Steel this summer and finished with style this year by having another film in theaters at the same time as Hustle: Her. The title there refers to Samantha, the Siri-like operating system that a divorced Joaquin Phoniex falls for. Samantha is voiced by Scarlett Johansson who starred in the festival offering Under the Skin and also opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Don Jon. JGL tripled duty on that film as he was also making his debut as writer/director.

James Wan

Speaking of the other side of the camera, it would be criminal to ignore director James Wan who made the record books with two box-office darlings released just months apart in The Conjuring and Insidious: Chapter 2, though they are both horror films with countless similarities. If that wasn't enough Wan was handed the keys to the aforementioned Fast & Furious franchise (which has hit an unexpected pothole with the passing of would-be star Paul Walker). Good thing he's branching off, I think Wan needs a break from horror. Spike Jonze wrote and directed Her, helped write Bad Grandpa and you may have spotted him playing a small role in The Wolf of Wall Street. Shane Carruth, an enigma in the industry today, wrote, directed, starred in, edited and composed Upstream Color. It may have just been a single film, but he was crucial to it in every way.

Alex Gibney

In the documentary game, for which it was a spectacular year, Alex Gibney had a strong showing at both ends of the year with We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks and The Armstrong Lie - I feel both are among the better documentaries of 2013 if not quite among the best.

Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog continues to be one of the most prolific humans (let alone filmmakers) to ever live. I already gushed over him in my My 2013 In Film post, but it's worth remembering that in addition to his pressingly important short documentary for AT&T about texting and driving, From One Second to the Next, that he also released a feature of his own this year: Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (now streaming on Netflix). He extended his work from last year's documentary Into the Abyss with a TV series, On Death Row, and was responsible for the installation of Hearsay of the Soul, something "in-between painting and film" over at the Getty Center. I've seen this for myself and it's worth the spiritual trip for any fellow Herzogians. Chief among his efforts this year though may have been helping produce/promote a most pressing film, The Act of Killing.

Hayao Miyazaki

This year Hayao Miyazki announced his "retirement" (read why I use quotations) but could not have supposedly gone out on a better note than the majesty of The Wind Rises. Earlier this year From Up On Poppy Hill also got a U.S. theatrical release. Hayao wrote it so his son, Goro, could direct it.

Hans Zimmer

It's hardly ever not a Hans Zimmer-filled year. This year alone he scored Man of Steel, The Lone Ranger and 12 Years a Slave. Often accused of "sounding the same," those three soundtracks are as varied as they come. Directly behind the camera is cinematographer Sean Bobbit who not only shot 12 Years but also Oldboy, The Place Beyond the Pines and the latest vampire film from Neil Jordan, Byzantium.  Alexandre Desplat, who delivered my favorite soundtrack of 2012 as heard in Rust and Bone, was just as prolific as Zimmer this year, Reality being my favorite of the bunch.

Whew. We really could go on and on and I'm sure I'm forgetting several that I'll feel sick about later, but these are the filmmakers that are at the forefront of my mind. All right, Jill, can we please have the top five nominees please:

  • Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
  • James Franco
  • James Wan
  • Jennifer Lawrence
  • Werner Herzog

First, our runner-up goes to...

Werner Herzog

Finally, the winner of the first-ever Film Tome Who of the Year Award…

Who do you think “won” 2013 in cinema? Let your voice be heard in the comments below. Check back all weekend for more from The Film Tome Awards!

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