The Review of the Year in Film and Annual Whitfield Awards 2013

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Ladies and Gentlemen 2013 was a strange year at the multiplex. The forthcoming awards season won’t recognise the stuff that really counts. Thank fuck then, for The 2nd Annual Whitfield Awards. The categories and winners are as follows:

Worst Third Act: The Call. Halle Berry’s WWE funded thriller was just about standing up for 60 minutes but then the studio noticed that their desk bound star wasn’t involved in the climatic fight with their predatory serial killer and child abductor. This was promptly remedied leading to the most insane and unlikely final third of any movie this year. Berry’s character chooses to ignore her 911 operator non-intervention policy, forget her cop boyfriend, and go looking for a missing girl by herself. Once found she seals him in a subterranean pit. Good work Halle; glad you were on hand to answer the phone.

Worst foreshadowing: Diana. Hey, how did Princess Diana die again? Oh, a car crash you say? Well you certainly won’t forget it watching Oliver Hirschbiegel’s mind numbing biopic. Cameras track away ominously in Paris hotel rooms, Di asks questions about open heart surgery and aides say unhelpful things like, “you’ve got your whole life ahead of you”. Read the runes, Diana – you’re doomed!

Worst edit: The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug. Is it over yet? Seriously, it is over? Peter Jackson’s second Hobbit flick meanders for the longest time, stretching 100 pages of novel to an arse numbing two hours and forty minutes. In that time not a lot happens and we don’t even have the consolation of knowing that we’ve reached the end: there’s one three hour film to go. Heartbreaking.

Most disappointing action sequence: The Wolverine. The prospect of a fight on the roof of a moving bullet train was a lip smacking proposition but when audiences showed up for James Mangold’s X-Men spinoff, they found it to be brief and largely uneventful. A screening of De Palma’s Mission: Impossible would have shown Mangold how it was done but unfortunately he was too busy making this boring movie to catch up on better ones.

Worst attempt at uglifying a beautiful actress: Mila Kunis – Oz: The Great and Powerful. You’ll recall that the Wicked Witch was ugly; that’s her unique selling point. Evil people are generally ugly but Disney’s prequel tried to show that she’d once been a nice lady who took a wrong turn when jealously got the better of her – hence she’s green, you see. Trying to undo nature’s bounty with makeup is tough – yet Charlize Theron was successfully roughed up in Monster. Here, colouring in Kunis and giving her a pointy nose is thought to be enough. It isn’t. She’s still the most attractive witch in town with a perfectly symmetrical face. I shouldn’t feel sexual attraction toward an evil witch; this makeup attempt failed.

Worst understanding of the real world: Woody Allen – Blue Jasmine. Psychologically astute it may be, but Woody’s class-conscious tale of a fallen socialite fails in every other respect. The working class are base but honest, the rich – sophisticated but corrupt. It’s a lovely idea but absolute bollocks and consequently a film that works on a human level fails as a study of social relations. Still, one out of two ain’t bad.

Worst type casting of the year: Paul Dano – Prisoners/12 Years A Slave. Poor Paul Dano, ever since he was cast as the slimy, weasel-like preacher in There Will Be Blood he’s become Hollywood’s go to guy for socially retarded, deviant-like little shits who you’d like to beat to death with a piece of copper pipe. In Prisoners we enjoyed his suspected paedophile being pulped by Hugh Jackman’s fists; in 12 Years… he was lashed by Chiwetel Ejiofor’s angry slave, and there was much rejoicing. Will Dano ever feature as a character we like or can root for, or is destined to remain the film world’s Ian Beale? Time will tell but it’s not looking good.

The “you should have seen it but you didn’t” award: Hannah Arendt. The true story of the Jewish intellectual that dared to suggest Adolf Eichmann was a banal bureaucrat and not the monster of legend, was a wonderful little movie anchored by a great performance by Barbara Sukowa. Margarethe von Trotta’s film asks important questions about adopting a nuanced view of history, challenging groupthink and trying to understand the seemingly inexplicable. When you’re in the mood to think yourself, find the time to watch it.

The “can never be unseen” award: Jude Law – Dom Hemmingway. This mockney comic caper tries far too hard for its own good, never more so than in a disturbing opening in which the titular character gets a prison blowjob and spends the first 3 minutes eulogising his cock. It’s a scene that simultaneously confirms every prejudice women have ever held about men while making every man you know modest by comparison. Even an 11 incher and liar like me felt inadequate watching it.

Best scene of the year: The Nan Scene – Welcome to the Punch. A stylish thriller with a good cast including James McEvoy and Mark Strong, Welcome to the Punch might have been just a bit of fun, but director Eran Creevy threw the kitchen sink at the scene in which hard man and henchman Johnny Harris returns to his flat to find his beloved Nan being babysat by the aforementioned duo, guns in hand. What ensues is a standoff, worthy of a spaghetti western, that erupts into an orgy of unapologetically OTT action: swooping camera, slow-motion gunplay, exploding ornaments. In short, everything you could ever want from a movie compacted into a couple of minutes.

Best Kill: Luke Evans – No One Lives. The filmmakers weren’t kidding, virtually no one does, but amongst the many glorious and ridiculous ways to die showcased in Ryuhei Kitamura’s shlockfest, the scene in which Evans strangles a naked woman with a shower curtain has to be the best. It’s okay you see, she’s part of an evil family, so not the innocent victim you might think, and it certainly looks as if Evans was enjoying himself, while desperately trying not to look at his victim’s breasts. Not big or clever but highly enjoyable nonetheless.

Best police work: The police – Insidious: Chapter 2. An ironic award, because this is some of the worst police work of the year. The cops in James Wan’s sequel showed that you can lead a squad to a house in which a woman’s been murdered by the only adult male who was alone with the victim at the time of the killing but you can’t make them arrest him. Incredibly they accept Rose Byrne’s explanation, that he was possessed, because apparently, mystifyingly, the fingerprints on the victim’s throat don’t match those of her husband. So, er, you’re going with the ghost story? What if the prints belonged to a boyfriend who’s into autoerotic asphyxiation and the killer wore gloves? Anyway, they let him go, freeing him to make an attempt on the life of his wife and kids at film’s end.

Best Camcorder Battery: The Camcorder – The Dyatlov Pass Incident. Amongst the oddities in Renny Harlin’s found footage flick, one stood tall: how did a camcorder taken back in time still have power when it was discovered in the present day, over 50 years later? Did anyone get the make and model number? That’s a brand I want in my kit bag.

Best Line: Jay Baruchel – This is the End. “I don’t want to die in James Franco’s house.” Amen to that.

Best Death: James McEvoy – Trance. After a hundred minutes of mind-excavating madness we learned that McEvoy was a bad man in Danny Boyle’s suppressed memory thriller. How to deal with him? Well, trapping him between two cars, one aflame, and tipping him into a river might do it. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke.

Best Mischievous Editing: Only God Forgives. Who can forget the scene in which an unhealthy sexual relationship between mother and son is suggested using a mischievous spatial edit that splices Ryan Gosling fingering his girlfriend with his superbitch mother looking turned on near by. It’s only in the following cut that it’s established that mother and son are in different locales, the latter ogling a troupe of male strippers, but we understand the innuendo only too well. You’re a sick bastard, Nicolas Winding Refn, but you’re not boring.

And finally…

Best surprise ending: 47 Ronin. Keanu Reeves’ failed blockbuster got in just in time, yet it’s primacy in the field of curious endings cannot be challenged. Having spent what feels like an eternity rooting for Keanu and his band of disgraced samurai and hoping against hope that the reward for winning back his besieged province will be the love of the woman hitherto denied to him on account of racial prejudice and caste based prohibition, it’s a shock to hear the movie’s obstacle lobbing priest decree that all our heroes must kill themselves for violating Japan’s warrior code. The filmmakers will tell you it’s all true, so the scope to change it was limited, but they were less reverent in the interests of entertaining the audience when adding witches, mythical beasts, spirits and woodland based aliens. Keanu’s death is therefore a genuine surprise. Don’t worry, says the narrator, there’s every chance he and his love will be reunited in the next life, or maybe the one after that. I don’t know about you but I don’t think I’d risk it.

That, my friends, was 2013. What a waste of time. I’m taking a short break now but will return to restart this cycle of depravity in January. In the meantime I wish you all the best for 2014 and I’ll see you at the movies, though if it really is you, turn off your phone, try to be quiet and not eat near me, okay?

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2 Responses

  1. tim earnshaw says:

    Don’t get too depressed by the standard of 2013 movies, Ed. It’s not just movies – the emptiness, the seen-it-all-before-ness is culture-wide. Big money whipping up excitement for product that’s past it’s sell-by before it hits the shelves. Music, books, possibly games (I wouldn’t know), art (does that happen any more?) – it’s all been mediocre at best, a desperate grinding of the gears for its own sake. We’re dumbed down so far it looks like up to us. There – feel better now? Happy New Year!