Having finally caught up on the last few Best Picture nominees from this past year, I’ve finally been able to set my mind straight and determine my personal ranking for these films. When that was done, I figured I ought to share it with the world. Keep in mind, this is not the order I think voting will actually go, just my personal ranking of this year’s 9 from worst to best.
9. Captain Phillips
For me, Captain Phillips fell prey to the same problem that plagued last year’s nominee Zero Dark Thirty: it relied too heavily on prior knowledge of the events it was depicting. Argue whether Captain Phillips was an accurate telling of the events that happened all you want, but the fact remains that it wouldn’t have been nominated if it was an entirely fictional film.
I’m a huge fan of Greengrass’ prior work, but this is nowhere near the level of what he did with the Bourne films. The action sequences are up to snuff, and there are moments after the hijacking takes place where the suspense is palpable, but the first thirty minutes of the film are chocked so full of exposition that it felt like a freshman film student’s effort at setting up events. Starting a movie that poorly makes it hard to get on board for the later moments, and Captain Phillips suffered greatly for it. It just feels like the odd film out among the other top-notch nominees.
A quietly enjoyable film, I highly recommend Philomena to everyone, especially considering it’s likely the least-seen of the nominees. Steve Coogan took the tale of a lady trying to track down the son she was forced to give up to adoption and made it a charming and enjoyable film. Both Coogan and Judi Dench turn in remarkable performances, and Dench is fully deserving of her Best Actress nomination.
While I liked Philomena, there just isn’t as much substance to it, from a cinema point of view, as the better nominees. The story has a lot of meat, what with evil nuns and all, but there aren’t as many exciting moments. It’s completely reliant on the human aspect of the story, and none of the better nominees are lacking in that department. A very good film, not a great one.
This is where things start getting really, really good. While I only have Nebraska ranked as the seventh best of the year, I absolutely loved everything about it. It’s a beautifully shot film, with Alexander Payne’s decision to portray the bleak story in a bleaker black and white making it even more memorable than it would’ve been in color. This is Payne’s masterpiece, and that’s helped along by the best performance of Bruce Dern’s career.
Dern’s nomination for Best Actor is well deserved, but overshadowed is Will Forte. This is the same guy who played Macgruber. Let me repeat: he played Macgruber. But in Nebraska, he’s on the level of some of the best dramatic actors working today. The story is heartfelt, and there are moments that had me laughing harder than any of this year’s comedies. This is a film that will be remembered for years as a classic, and rightfully so.
6. Dallas Buyers Club
When you see my article predicting all the award winners, you may be surprised that I have Dallas Buyers Club as low as sixth on this list with how much I enjoyed both lead performances, and again, having it this low is merely a testament to the quality films on this list. Most years, DBC would have been the most affecting film of the year, as is, it’s merely one of the many that have stuck with me.
There’s no denying how great the performances in this are. I saw the film later on than most did, and so I was fully aware of the hype going in. What I assumed was surely over-hype, was actually right on. Mcconaughey proves that he’s far more than what he was before, and turns in what would be the best performances of most actor’s careers, let alone his. Leto is even more impressive, taking a risky role and working wonders with it. Overshadowed by the both of them is Jennifer Garner, who also is stunning. All together, it’s a solid 4.5 out of 5.
Gravity is certainly the best film I’ve ever seen with this small of a cast. It’s the best performance of Bullock’s career. And it may well be the best science fiction movie of the 21st century so far. It may sound cliche, but Gravity truly is more than a movie, it’s an experience, and it’s an experience that no one should miss. It’s a true reminder of why science fiction is such a wonderful genre of film, and it’s a reminder of the power of movies.
Still, for as great of an experience as Gravity is, especially on the big screen, there are plenty of story issues that brought it down. The dialogue is a bit cliche at times, and there are some holes. They’re completely overshadowed by the power of the rest of the piece, but still, it’s enough to knock the movie below the four films I have ranked ahead of it.
4. 12 Years A Slave
There have been few experiences in a theater as uncomfortable and as resonating as that of seeing 12 Years A Slave. Telling the story of slavery is something that movies have done before, but there’s never been a movie that took the story of a man kidnapped into slavery and showed every brutal detail in the same way as Steve McQueen’s latest did.
Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance is well-deserving of a Best Actor award (though I don’t think he’ll walk away with it this year). His performance as Solomon Northup is one of the most rawly affecting performances I’ve ever seen. All the supporting actors are on the same level, and the story is something else.
Walking out of 12 Years A Slave, I had no doubt it would win the Oscar. After seeing a few more movies and thinking on it more, I’ve reconsidered, but I would not be upset at all if this ends up winning the most coveted award this year.
3. American Hustle
We’ve seen plenty of quality heist movies over the years, but there may not be as great a film in that genre as American Hustle. David O. Russell took the the cast of The Fighter (which was awesome) and Silver Linings Playbook (absolutely phenomenal) and molded them into a movie which is more fun, and just as good as their previous collaborations.
I get that it’s another polarizing film, but honestly, the twists are fun, the plot is gripping, and the performances are excellent from top to bottom. Christian Bale and Amy Adams both shine, and I think Adams deserves to walk away with the award for Best Actress. If Russell keeps putting out something this good every year, there will be a new master of cinema, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. For now, American Hustle is as deserving of Best Picture as any film this year.
2. The Wolf Of Wall Street
I can honestly say that I can’t remember the last time I’ve had as much fun watching something for three hours as I did when I saw Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street. Leonardo DiCaprio is more fun to watch than he’s ever been before, Jonah Hill combines the best of his top comedic and dramatic roles, and the story is as addictive as the cocaine it features.
Sure, some people had problems with the gratuitous nudity and vulgar nature of the picture, but good grief, it doesn’t have to be a Disney film to be a great picture. This is actually a toned-down version of the vibe the book puts out, and never does it feel like it’s there purely for the shock factor.
The Wolf Of Wall Street was so good that I considered buying a second ticket immediately after watching it the first time. It may be Scorsese’s best, and any other year, it would have led to Leo winning his first Oscar. A nearly perfect film, and one of the best times you’ll ever have watching a movie.
The best film of 2013, is, without a doubt, Her. I was hesitant about anything being better than Wolf, but Her made me feel emotions that I didn’t even know existed previously. I was floored by what Spike Jonze brought to the screen, and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen another movie as powerful on so many levels as this one, sci-fi or not. \
Some people were instantly turned off by the premise. I think it’s an incredibly poignant commentary on modern relationships and where they’re going. The way Jonze handles the relationship between Samantha and Theodore is just about perfect. Once the characters are developed a bit, it turns out that Samantha is so much more than a computer, and it’s because of that subversion of expectation that the film is able to thrive on a level where a regular romance would not. Jonze never tries to pretend that romantic feelings between a computer and a human are not weird, and the characters don’t either. Sure, it’s more accepted in this not-so-distant future than it would be in modern society, but everyone can relate to having irrational feelings for someone that society says they should not.
“Sometimes I think I’ve felt everything I’m ever gonna feel, and from here on out I’m not going to feel anything new, just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.” That’s a line that Joaquin Phoenix‘s Theodore says in the first act of Spike Jonze’s Her, and after all the beauty of the rest of the film, all the raw emotions that are projected onto the screen, that’s the one that stuck with me as I left the theater. It’s such a potent line, simultaneously summing up the journey of the entire movie and the journey and fears that all humans are afflicted with in a mere 30 words. It also mirrors my feelings about being done with this movie and not knowing if I’ll ever feel any emotions from future films other than lesser versions of what I’ve already felt watching Her.