The ‘Bitch Awards’ – Best/Worst Films of 2013 (#1)

This is it: the day you’ve been waiting for all week. It’s time to reveal our picks for the best and worst films of 2013.

WORST

TVAngie

#5: The World’s End (Wright, 2013)
#4: Upstream Color (Carruth, 2013)
#3: Passion (De Palma, 2012)
#2: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (Zwart, 2013)
#1: Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (Perry, 2013)

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Courtesy of Lionsgate

Choosing the worst film of the year was an absolute breeze – in fact I think that Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor might be the worst film I’ve EVER seen.

The plot is exactly what you would expect: Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), who married her high school sweetheart Brice (Lance Gross), falls into a marital rut and ends up being tempted by rich Internet mogul Harley (Robbie Jones). It’s your classic tale of adultery.

Let’s start with the obvious: the horrendous performances by pretty much everyone. Highlights include Vanessa Williams trying to do a Parisian accent, Brandy Norwood reenacting her acting talents last seen in the 90s hit single ‘The Boy is Mine’ and cherry on the sundae, Kim Kardashian attempting to ‘act’. That alone is enough to send this right atop the worst list. The performances of the leads aren’t as offensive, but I’m guessing that’s because the supporting performances are so heinous that they look good only by comparison.

But the appalling performances are really the least of Temptation’s problem. Instead the biggest fault with the film lies in its ideological messages. They left me flabbergasted. What happens to Judith is just ridiculous. Whilst in her boring marriage she’s portrayed as homely – wearing button up shirts, sweater sets and mumsy, high-waisted tweed pants. It’s only when she starts the affair that she adopts the Kardashian wardrobe of plunging necklines and bandage pencil skirts, because you know, only sluts can be sexy.

Her adulterous affair is a gateway to start doing crack (naturally), and by the end of the film, she’s being physically beaten by her lover, has contracted HIV and can only be saved by muscular husband Brice. The film’s final scene shows us that Judith (played by another actress entirely) is the titular marriage counselor, now alone (and has been for quite some time). She has also gained a significant amount of weight and is living out the rest of her days as a stereotypical spinster with AIDS. Welcome to hell, you Jezebel! Perry could not shove a more pro-Christian message down our throats if he tried.

Temptation feels like a cautionary movie that churches show to young couples to scare them into monogamy during their marriage covenant classes. I’m not advocating adultery here, but the film is so over the top and misogynistic that it immediately shot straight to the top of my worst list for the year…and of all time.

Dishonourable Mentions:

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (Wirkola, 2013): For an action film, it’s incredibly boring and bland.

Identity Thief (Gordon, 2013): Not a single laugh in sight with a preposterous ending and a heavy-handed underlying message.

cinephilactic

#5: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (Wirkola, 2013) / G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Chu, 2013)
#4: Elysium (Blomkamp, 2013)
#3: The Bling Ring (Coppola, 2013)
#2: Oz the Great and Powerful (Raimi, 2013)
#1: The Canyons (Schrader, 2013)

Courtesy of Prettybird

Calling this Bret Easton Ellis scripted/Paul Schrader directed film the worst of the year is something of a falsity because it’s such an enjoyable film experience. This is your new favourite cult/midnight film, a movie seemingly designed solely for the inevitable drinking games that will spring up when audiences discover it in the years to come.

  • Take a swig every time someone says “babe”
  • Take a swig every time one character repeats the dialogue of another character
  • Take a swig every time a character takes off their top
  • Take a swig each time it is implied that Ryan (Nolan Funk) is gay
  • Take two swigs every time Christian (James Deen) says “bam”
  • Take two swigs every time Christian says “nod for me”
  • Chug your drink when a character says Roofie or someone is killed

If, on the other hand, we’re looking at The Canyons as a serious mediation on the state of filmmaking and the petty mind games that jealous lovers play on one another, it’s a colossal failure. What is meant to be film noir is actually noir lite, a laughable series of “twists” (the quotations are mandatory because they’re so absurd) that are intended to depict the deep-rooted evil hidden in everyday interactions which culminate in a shocking series of events that destroy everyone involved. The actual result is far greasier and the end result feels more like the afterglow of a particularly bad porno.

Perhaps that’s appropriate since the male lead is Deen, the self named male porn star who’s making his “fiction” film debut (again, quotations since porn is pretty much all fiction). Deen is a mystery: at times he excels in the role of a sexually devious manipulator who loves to make Lindsay Lohan’s life miserable. At other times he’s a compulsive over-actor, delivering a desperately false performance that feels like community theatre. As for Lohan, it’s clear that she’s phoning her performance in (the film was made during the height of her personal problems); her dialogue delivery is stilted and unconvincing, her romantic scenes are cringe worthy and she looks uncomfortable in both her costumes and the scenes involving nudity.

So why the hell would you watch this film? Because it is hilarious. That stilted dialogue? Amazingly funny. Watching the actors try to capture the nuances of noir? Painfully amusing. My favourite scenes are those involving Deen’s ex-girlfriend Cynthia (Tenille Houston) for the tin-earned dialogue and where the hell did that come from plot twists (a close runner-up – for nearly the exact same reasons – is Lohan’s initial scene with her lover, Awkward.‘s Nolan Funk, as well as his experiences on the casting couch).

Basically this film is only slightly more competent than The Room and a must-watch for any fans of so-bad-they’re-good movies. For everyone else, it’s a must avoid at all costs.

Dishonourable Mentions:

After Earth (Shyamalan, 2013): This lifeless father-son tale finds the talent void that is Jaden Smith battling CGI creatures while Will Smith bleeds out back on their crashed spaceship. Predictable, poorly plotted and just plain dull.

American Hustle (Rusell, 2013): The cast is great, but the film doesn’t seem to know what to do with them. Most of the attention seems to have been paid to the wigs and the bustlines. A boring misfire.

Battle Of The Year (Lee, 2013): A generic dance film featuring a miscast Josh Holloway (Sawyer from Lost), a bunch of black and Jewish stereotypes and a supposed “performance” by Chris Brown (strike one) as an egomaniac dancer (well…that’s one thing it did correctly)

Olympus Has Fallen (Fuqua, 2013): Gerard Butler is a sour leading man in this xenophobic tale about a White House attack. Subtract points for casting Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman and Radha Mitchell and doing nothing with them.

BEST

TVAngie

#5: The Book Thief (Percival, 2013)
#4: Gravity (Cuarón, 2013)
#3: The Act of Killing (Oppenheimer, Anonymous & Cynn, 2012)
#2: Prisoners (Villeneuve, 2013)
#1: Before Midnight (Linklater, 2013)

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Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

It was pretty much a given that I would love Before Midnight since I absolutely loved the previous offerings in the trilogy, Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004). Ultimately, it’s difficult to rank Before Midnight because I enjoy each of the films for similar reasons. In terms of what I saw in 2013 – this film very easily rises to the top of the list. Before Midnight is like a breath of fresh air in a year where good films seemed to be a rarity.

For those who aren’t familiar with the series – I implore you to run out and watch all the films immediately, because you will never see a more authentic representation of love and relationships. The films follow Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) from courtship, to reunion and, in this installment, marriage. The films follows the pair around as they talk, coupling the conversations with an absolutely gorgeous backdrop. In this case, the two are vacationing in Greece and broaching very real subjects such as career changes, marital ruts and parenthood. There is such an inherent ease to their conversations and the direction makes you feel as if you’re really just a fly on a wall, casually witnessing true love in action.

This film is more sombre and slightly more depressing than the previous two, but at the core, it remains true to the formula that worked so well before. It’s all about bringing us further into Jesse and Céline’s relationship and finding aspects of ourselves reflected. Sometimes that means disagreements, bickering and intense fighting, which at times is very difficult to watch, but it’s inherently realistic (these are things that happen in all relationships). Nothing feels contrived or strained in this film, and we the audience feel privileged to go deeper into their lives, learning more about what true love looks like.

Perhaps it’s unfair of me to lump Before Midnight in with its predecessors, especially when I continually advocate that films should stand on their own, but Before Midnight succeeds where many other films fail. In fact, it does stand on its own, but when viewed as a continuation of the love story, it feels more poignant and significant when considered part of a whole. The Before trilogy is simply gorgeous and will leave you feeling completely and utterly satisfied. Before Midnight very easily takes my spot for best film of the year.

Honourable Mentions:

The Great Gatsby (Luhrmann, 2013): Visually stunning, great performances and good pacing. Luhrmann does well to adapt a novel that has been long considered unfilmable.

Blue is the Warmest Color (Kechiche, 2013): If you look beyond the controversial, seven-minute sex scene, the film is an excellent depiction of what it’s like to fall in love for the first time.

Star Trek Into Darkness (Abrams, 2013): Two words: Benedict Cumberbatch.

Films that TVAngie didn’t see but thought could potentially make the best list:

  • Blackfish (Cowperthwaite, 2013)
  • 12 Years a Slave (McQueen, 2013)
  • Nebraska (Payne, 2013)

cinephilactic

#5: Kon Tiki (Rønning & Sandberg, 2012)
#4: Jagten / The Hunt (Vinterberg, 2012)
#3: Spring Breakers (Korine, 2013)
#2: Stoker (Park, 2013)
#1: Only God Forgives (Winding Refn, 2013)

Courtesy of A Grand Elephant / Bold Films

Much like my #2 pick, Only God Forgives is not a film for everyone. Two years ago I named Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive my ‘Best Film’ of 2011, so it’s not a huge surprise that I really enjoyed his follow-up effort – his second collaboration with Ryan Gosling. The fact that this new film did not go over as well isn’t surprising to me since Only God Forgives is not as accessible as Drive. Audiences familiar with his early work likely appreciated this a great deal more than fans of Drive; anyone walking in expecting a de facto sequel would be greatly disappointed.

Here Gosling plays Julian, a near-mute drug-smuggler who owns a boxing club in Thailand. When Julian’s brother commits an unspeakable act and pays for it with his life, their mother Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) flies in to take charge and demands that Julian avenge the loss. This initiates an epic bloodbath that escalates dramatically as Julian faces off with Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), the police officer “handling” the case. When the film was released, much was made over Scott Thomas’ role, which makes sense given that almost everyone else in the film is monosyllabic. Crystal, on the other hand, is a venomous she-dragon who has no problem eviscerating anyone with her words (just as she expects her son to do to their enemies with his knuckles).

Much like Stoker, the plot of Only God Forgives is completely secondary. The primary takeover from the film is the visual and aural experience. Like many of the best sequences in Drive, Winding Refn has constructed a sensory experience that is a combination of atmosphere, mood lighting (see the image of Crystal above) and music. So many of the sequences are memorable for their beautiful ultraviolence, such as the scene when Julian attacks men who are talking through his love interest’s striptease or the bizarre moment that Chang and his men blindfold a group of escorts in order to torture a man during high tea.

My general approach to crafting my ‘Best Of’ list of films is how memorable a film proves after viewing. Months after seeing both Stoker and Only God Forgives, imagery from both continues to flicker in my consciousness. I ultimately chose Winding Refn’s effort because his film is more accessible and feels more like its own tale (as opposed to Park’s Hitchcock-inspired homage).

Honourable Mentions:

The Conjuring (Wan, 2013): The best horror film of 2013 is anchored by the grounded performances of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, as well as the real, lived-in aesthetic of the house and Wan’s assured direction. Guaranteed to frighten.

Mud (Nichols, 2013): The story of a pair of boys who stumble upon a fugitive in the deep south and decide to keep his secret is a wonderful coming of age film, as well as a character study for star McConaughey. Slow and meditative…right up until its violent climax.

Pacific Rim (Del Toro, 2013): Monsters vs giant robots – ’nuff said. Many of the characters are one dimensional, but praise the rare inclusion of a female protagonist who isn’t helpless or a simple a love interest.

Films that cinephilactic didn’t see but thought could potentially make the best list:

  • 12 Years A Slave (McQueen, 2013)
  • Blue Jasmine (Allen, 2013)
  • Her (Jonze, 2013)

—-

And that’s a wrap on the Bitch Awards for films for 2013. What do you think? Agree? Disagree?  Post your thoughts in the comments below.

Don’t forget that we start all over again next Monday when we turn our attention to the best (and worst) of television. So whether you’re back at work or hanging out with family, be sure to stop by and check out our fresh content.

Our #5 picks for television will be revealed at 12pm Eastern on Monday, Dec 30. See you then!

3 thoughts on “The ‘Bitch Awards’ – Best/Worst Films of 2013 (#1)

  1. I feel like your honorable mentions are missing a few (perhaps you didn’t see?): Much Ado about Nothing, All is Lost, Place Beyond the Pines, Fruitvale Station, or Spectacular Now.

    • I’ve only managed to catch Much Ado About Nothing and Place Beyond the Pines. Both were good but not enough to register on the radar at year’s end for me at least. But the other ones I haven’t yet heard of and will definitely check out. Thanks for sharing your recommendations!

    • I haven’t seen Much Ado About Nothing or Fruitvale Station, though I’m hoping to see them both soon. I liked the first act of Place Beyond The Pines, but was left cold by the second and third acts. Definitely a director to watch, though

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