Thursday, February 27, 2014

LowRes 2013 Movie Awards: The Sights

The 2013 LowRes Movie Awards: Best Trailers / Best Techs (Visual) / Best Techs (Audio) / Screenplays + Director / Supporting Actor + Actress / Lead Actor + Actress / Breakthrough + Cameo + Ensemble / Top 10 Films


All Is Lost

Captain Phillips
Stories We Tell

Lots of similarities to be found across the best editing achievements of the year, and I'll also cop to the fact that I have some historical tendencies that play into things as well. I'm always a sucker for expertly rendered suspense or tension, which obviously places Captain Phillips near the top of my list. I'll also always find a place for expertly crafted action in this category, wherein Rush barely edged out Fast and Furious 6. Both those qualities, suspense and action, combine to create something special in Gravity, so that was a pretty easy choice. And both Gravity and All Is Lost  make smart editing choices in order to advance the narrative when there's only one character on the screen. Finally, there's the intelligent, witty, and inventive editing that contributes to so much of the copious enjoyment to be found in Stories We Tell.

The Conjuring
The East
World War Z

This is a good category for films which were superb technical achievements but haven't been given their due across awards season. Far too few people gave Byzantium a shot, which is good bad, because besides the performances and the cinematography, there were also some richly realized sets, from murky flats to hidden caves. The Conjuring put together one corker of a haunted house, just as well as The East imagined the hideaway for its group of radicals. World War Z gets here on the strength of its emergency bunkers and especially the abandoned lab. Her is such a triumph of art direction, creating the future out of smart location scouting but also a million small touches, all of them allowed to accumulate rather than bash you over the head.

American Hustle
Beautiful Creatures
The Bling Ring
Blue Jasmine
Inside Llewyn Davis

A strong runner-up here to 12 Years a Slave, which is so uniformly accomplished across all disciplines that it's sometimes hard to single out the particular elements. Blue Jasmine outfitted Cate Blanchett so smartly on her road to disintegration, similar to how Inside Llewyn Davis treated its own title character. The Bling Ring knows the value of clothes in a way its characters only think they do. And in American Hustle and Beautiful Creatures, I'm more than happy to say that more is more.

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Beautiful Creatures
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Warm Bodies

I was very close to including a couple documentaries in this, either Stories We Tell for its subversive mimicry or The Act of Killing for is intra-narrative makeup work. Ultimately, they just missed the cut. The Hunger Games did a great job with its new characters, particularly the satisfyingly fantastic Johanna Mason. Beautiful Creatures worked wonders with the changing visage of Emmy Rossum's Ridley, in particular. I really loved the work on Warm Bodies to create a look for Nicholas Hoult that accommodated his character's need to create a personality from under all that zombie makeup. American Hustle should win here for all the reasons why everybody thinks it's ridiculous it wasn't nominated for Oscar. If not for makeup and hairstyle, what even is this movie? Finally, while I suppose I understand why awards voters wouldn't want to linger on these things for too long, there are some searing, indelible scenes in 12 Years a Slave that took a sure-handed makeup artist to accomplish. 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
The Wolverine

So, yes, fine, it's another instance where Gravity trounces all other competition, and rightly so. This is a major achievement, one that combines technical wizardly with an artful eye. But there are things to recommend in the four also-rans as well. For as much as the rest of the movie lay flat, the dragon scenes in The Hobbit were a highlight and represented some of the best effects work of Peter Jackson's entire time in Middle Earth. Similarly, though Ben Stiller didn't use them incredibly well, the effects as they were in Walter Mitty were very well done. Iron Man 3 gets points for some eye-popping scenes, particularly with the iron-man suit assembling in mid-air. And that express-train scene in The Wolverine was a wonder, the only moment from that movie I'll ever remember, but what a moment!

Christopher Blauvent, Harris Savides - The Bling Ring
Sean Bobbitt - 12 Years a Slave
Sofian El Fani - Blue Is the Warmest Color
Emmanuel Lubezki - Gravity
Bradford Young - Ain't Them Bodies Saints

Much love to runners up like Roger Deakins (Prisoners), Barry Ackroyd (Captain Phillips), and Frank G. DeMarco and Peter Zuccarini (All Is Lost). It should also be noted that Sean Bobbitt produced award-worthy work in The Place Beyond the Pines and Byzantium in addition to 12 Years a Slave, making his Oscar omission even more perverse. Dreamy cinematography grabbed my attention in both Blue Is the Warmest Color and Ain't Them Bodies Saints, while The Bling Ring kept its feet on the ground but never stopped finding inventive ways to express repetitive behavior. And then there's Gravity, as ever-present as actual gravity, at least on awards ballots. 

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