With the year coming to an end it is a time to reflect to see what exactly happened in these past 365 days. Of course being such a fan of movies my focus goes straight to what movies stood out this year.Top 10 Lists are a great snapshot of the best movies of the year, but like last year I want to go one step further. Staring off this look back is my Movie Awards, which have been separated into three categories. So much goes into making movies what they are, and my hope is to point out some areas that particularly shined this past year.
The Art and Technical Awards: Where I award this year’s best in categories like Best Special Effects, Best Score, and Best Sound Design.
The Miscellaneous Awards: I guess my awards in general could be considered miscellaneous, but this category is a grab bag of random awards, like Biggest Disappointment, Best Comedic Due, and Movie Most Likely to Be Remade.
We Start the Awards with the category of Best Genre Films. Genre films are often left out of most movie awards. Occasionally you’ll get a Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark, but more often than not films like The Dark Knight, Die Hard, and The Matrix will be left out in the cold. With that in mind I wanted to specifically highlight these films in my own way. I have gone through all of the main genres to pick out what films have stood above the rest this year.
Fast & Furious 6
(Full Review) One thing to keep in mind with this category is this is reserved for classic straight up action films so movies that fit into other genres like comic book movies are not included. This was not a great year for action movies. The one film that was oozing with high octane action was Fast & Furious 6. I know people write this franchise off because of its ridiculous nature, but it removes hindrances like gravity and physics and replaces them with amazing set-pieces full of fun.
Honorable Mentions: Olympus has Fallen, Man of Tai Chi
This Is the End
(Full Review) I follow action with a genre that was also been less than stellar. Comedy has been a mixed bag this year with a lot of high profile misfires. I’ll be the first to admit with I saw This Is the End for the first time I was not as high on it as most others. With time and a few rewatches my enjoyment has grew and grew–a sign of a truly great comedy. Seeing these actors so willing to make fun of themselves (especially James Franco) was a welcome change of pace from all the useless celebrity worship we see too often.
Honorable Mentions: The Worlds End, It’s a Disaster
Now we get to my personal favorite genre Crime. A genre that has given us some of the greatest movies of all time. Prisoners is not a movie I would give that label, but it has that distinctive sense of moral ambiguity that all great crime movies have. Director Denis Villeneuve’s showed with Incendies an incredible ability to mesh deep storytelling with tension filled drama, and with Prisoners he brought that ability to a new level. Packed with strong performances especially Hugh Jackman’s primal take on a father pushed to the edge.
Honorable Mentions: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, American Hustle, The Place Beyond the Pines, Only God Forgives
I debated about including this category as Fantasy is a genre that feels like it has come and gone as of late. Not since the 1980’s has Fantasy been a staple in film. One small resurgence has been the cavalcade of live-action fairy tales remakes. Blancanieves takes that trend to an entirely new level by going true old school–a silent black and white retelling. This takes the well known story of Snow White and puts an entirely new spin on it. Powered by an amazing score it shows there is still a lot of innovation left to be had in the fantasy realm.
Honorable Mentions: The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug,
(Full Review) Some may question if Gravity even counts as a Science Fiction as it exists mostly in reality. It is not an exploration into words outside our own or technology that is currently beyond our means. However, what it does is use space and weightlessness in ways never before seen on screen. Using technology made shortly before the film was made it rewrote the rules of cinema. Maybe its greatest accomplishment is showing how effective 3D can actually be to enhance storytelling. If any movie ever begged to be seen on the biggest movie screen possible it would be Gravity.
Honorable Mentions: Pacific Rim, The World’s End, Upstream Color
Iron Man 3
(Full Review) Overall the year was not a strong one for comic book movies. Nothing came close to greatness, but there were a few solid films. This choice came down to the wire. It was between Thor: The Dark World and the eventual winner Iron Man 3. The reason it won was because it did something I have been longing for Marvel to do–allowing its director to have more of an impact on the final product. Shane Black’s fingerprints where all over it from it taking place on Christmas to some moments that felt like they came straight out of Lethal Weapon. A lot of attention was given to the Mandarin twist, and opinions seem to vary. Personally I loved the choice and feel its best when you are not beholden to the source material. Hope we see more choices like that from Marvel in the future.
Honorable Mentions: Thor: The Dark World, Man of Steel
(Full Review) I’ll preface this award by saying I was unable to catch The Wind Rises as it has yet to enter my area. Still, it would be hard for it to beat the pure joy that was Frozen. Like many of my generation and most generations Disney holds a special place as I grew up on movies like The Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast. While Frozen doesn’t hit those heights it comes extremely close. I can imagine it having the same impact on children today as my favorites had on me and so many others. Its just great to see Disney getting back into their grove again.
Honorable Mentions: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2, Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox, Monsters University
(Full Review) Romantic Comedies are usually neither romantic nor humorous. There are times when films can buck that trend and that is the case with Drinking Buddies. It doesn’t get caught up in some sort of elaborate situation, instead its just a movie about people and the messiness of love. Olivia Wilde gives the performance of her career as she shows a range I did not believe she had. It takes you down familiar roads only to end up in unique territory. A highly relatable movie full of real people.
Honorable Mentions: Don Jon,
(Full Review) I enjoy horror films but its one of the genres I have the least knowledge in. So some who are a big fans of the genre may scoff at my choice, and feel free to do so if you so choose. James Wan has made a name for himself as the king of horror right now with movies like Saw, Insidious, and now The Conjuring. It is a film that feels like old school horror. The atmosphere is full of fright and tension builds ever so slightly. I’ll freely admit I scare easily, but even with that said The Conjuring was one of the scariest movies I have seen in recent memory.
Honorable Mentions: VHS 2, Grabbers, Evil Dead, Maniac,
(Full Review) When people use the term Blockbuster it is typically in reference to financial success, but I feel that term can also be used for movies that have large scale entertainment. Those that have no interest in awards, and are simply out to have a good time. Pacific Rim was the most pure fun I had at the theater all year. The trend with blockbusters has been to go dark and gritty, but Pacific Rim went the other way of sheer spectacle. It was larger than life and made the theater experience worth every penny. Similar to Gravity it is a movie best experienced on the largest screen possible.
Honorable Mentions: World War Z, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Thor the Dark World, Iron Man 3
(Full Review) I end with what I feel was the strongest genre this past year. Coming of age movies have come back in a big way. Perhaps its due to the amount of people making films today that fell in love with movies due to people like John Hughes. Choosing the best was quite hard, but in the end I went with Mud, in large part due to the amount of incredible performances from the entire cast. Jeff Nichols continues to impress me as a director by his ability to craft heartfelt stories full of emotional weight. Hopefully we’ll see more greatness from him in the future.
Honorable Mentions: The Dirties, The Kings of Summer, The Way, Way Back, The Spectacular Now