There are a million different elements that go into making a movie. Some of the hardest work takes place off screen. We don’t get to experience the hard work of computer artist or sound technician the same way we experience a performance by a great actor. With that in mind I decided to highlight some of the Best Art and Technical Awards of 2013.
Wong Kar-wai’s films are notorious for their elegant artistic achievement and his latest film The Grandmaster was no different. This nearly won this award soley off the power of the very first scene. A well choreographed battle became a stylish use of force as rain drops slowly moved across the landscape drop by drop. Those moments along with some stunning costumes and set design infused an ambiance of beauty and brutality. At times it was hard not to be mesmerized by the sheer look of everything on screen.
Honorable Mentions: The Great Gatsby, 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Only God Forgives, Stoker, Spring Breakers
(Full Review) This may be an obvious choice, but it is hard to argue against. For one while other films improve on the use of CGI Gravity completely changed the game by inventing techniques that have never been used before in film. Space and weightlessness have been depicted countless times before, but not since 2001: A Space Odyssey has a movie caused so many to baffle at its technical prowess. Gravity immerses you into its world making you believe you are truly there. Its success was latched onto the believability of its special effects, and based on the final result that hindrance transformed into a blessing.
Honorable Mentions: Pacific Rim, Man of Steel, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Thor: Dark World,
Only God Forgives
(Full Review) Only God Forgives is a movie that garnered a lot of hatred this past year. A great deal of people where turned off by its excessive violence and complete lack of structure. Those hoping for a movie more akin to Drive where given something a lot different. Only God Forgives is less of a story and more of a visual spectacle. That visual spectacle worked for me due to Larry Smith’s inspired cinematography. It illuminated a neon grow on nearly every frame. There was a illusory quality to it that made if feel like you were entering a dreamlike state. Even those who despised Only God Forgives recognized the pure awesomeness of Smith’s work. For those, like myself, that enjoyed the film could see what an intricate part it was in making Only God Forgives such a memorable experience.
Honorable Mentions: 12 Years a Slave, Spring Breakers, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Beyond the Hills, Nebraska
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints was a film driven by mood and within that mood was a rhythmic score by Daniel Hart. This year was jammed pack with fantastic movie scores, and chosing only one was quite the task. Hart’s score for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints slightly stood above the rest for me due to its simplicity and broken down approach. Much of the score comes from the use of string instruments like violins, cellos , and the occasional mandolin. It felt ad-libbed as if the musicians where constructing the music in real time as the movie took place. This meshing made it such a crucial part in aiding in the hypnotic atmosphere. Some scores may have been more grandiose and sound better on their own. For me no score was more tied to their film’s success than Smith’s score for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.
Honorable Mentions: 12 Years a Slave, Only God Forgives, Rush, All is Lost, Gravity, Stoker, Man of Steel, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Nebraska
‘Please Mr. Kennedy’-Inside Llewyn Davis
(Full Review) Though I do not have an award for best soundtrack if I did it would no doubt go to Inside Llewyn Davis. I mean I am listening to that exact soundtrack as I write this. ‘Please Mr. Kennedy’ is not only a fun song that is endlessly catchy, its creation was one of the best moments of the actual movie. In a movie so full of bleakness it was one of the very few light spots. I dare you to listen to it and not have the words, “Outer Space” echo through your head for days later.
Honorable Mentions: Frozen
Sometimes there are those scenes in movies you find yourself going back to time and time again. In Stoker it was the transitions between scenes that really blew my mind. I was amazed how it would so beautifully transition from one moment to the next. The most notable being the brushing of hair suddenly transforming into tall rustling grass. It was such a stunning moment that will transfix your senses as you try to comprehend the drastic change that just took place. That was just one example of many of how Stoker took a rather mundane task and made it into a thing of beauty.
Honorable Mentions: 12 Years a Slave, Only God Forgives, Saving Mr. Banks
In all honesty Gravity may deserve this award a slight bit more than Rush, but with my awards I enjoy spreading out the love. Plus Rush’s sound design is superb in its own right. Sound is a key component to racing. With the right roaring echo it is as if you have been placed right into the middle of the track. You can feel the whistling wind of the speeding cars as they pass buy you at break neck speeds. While the races were a visual spectacle, without the astounding sound design there would not be any form of physicality. You would not be in the moment. You would be at your neighborhood dive bar watching the events take place on an aging television that is past its prime.
Honorable Mention: Gravity, Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Thor: The Dark World
Best Opening Title Sequence:
Oz the Great and Powerful
(Full Review) Opening title sequences have become a lost art. Films tend to skip right over them and bring us straight into the movie. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films had some great title sequences and I’m glad that tradition continued with Oz the Great and Powerful. It set the mood perfectly as it juxtaposed a black and white look with some eye popping 3D. The only unfortunate part of the opening sequence was the fact it was probably the most creative thing about the movie.
Honorable Mention: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
X-Men: Days of Future PAST
This may be a little bit of a cheat, but when I thought back to posters that stood out this year the teaser poster for X-Men: Days of Future Past stood out in my head. I’m a sucker for the art style of World War II propaganda. It’s a look that lends itself well to the world of the X-Men, because they have always been a group about the dangers of oppression. Not to mention the simple fact that many X-Men fans have been eagerly awaiting the use of the sentinels in live-action so a small tease like this eases the pain just a little bit—at the same time it amps up the anticipation.
Honorable Mentions: Nebraska, Her, Godzilla
12 Years a Slave
There are many pieces that make 12 Years a Slave one of the best films of the year. Outstanding performances, pristine cinematography, and a script full of rich poetic dialog and a multitude of fully fleshed out characters. Slavery is a subject matter that yearns for overly done melodrama, but by adapting the actual memoir of Solomon Northup it gave the film an authenticity few other films have. Northup’s story is one that is incredible on its own and screen writer John Ridley and director Steve McQueen recognized that. Their job was not to rewrite history, instead their job was to bring it to life in fashion that would properly represent the atrocities that took place. They accomplished just that.
Honorable Mentions: Before Midnight, The Spectacular Now, Nebraska, Mud