So, in case you haven't noticed, this is the time of year when every film group, critic society, reviewer, blogger and fansite starts to compile its list of bests. Top ten this. Top ten that. Best this. Best that. It's a plague of lists. And some have suggested that award season is ultimately bad for cinema.
I've never quite understood the allure of these lists... but they seem to be as seasonally traditional (and ubiquitous) as door wreaths, dreidels and FOX News reporting from the front-lines of the War On Christmas.
Here in Detroit we're far from immune. Every media outlet (including this one) weighs in on the what the highlights of the year were... and when it comes to film, the lists tend to be particularly top heavy with year-end releases. That means praising movies that haven't yet been released.
Which exactly what the Detroit Film Critics Society (DFCS) has done each year, often awarding our top spots to movies you won't get to see until Christmas... or later.
For six years now The DFCS (of which I and Corey Hall are members) has been awarding our best of choices. We're an unruly (unfortunately male-dominated) bunch and when the dust settles after voting there is always a few surprises (some more pleasant than others). It is inevitable that you (and I, truth be told) will quibble with the final choices (democracy sucks that way) but overall we tend to single out to some damn fine films and performances.
One of the things I've always been proudest of when it comes to our society is that our nominations tend to be a little outside the typical critic checklists. There are always terrific, under-appreciated films that make it onto our lists, even if they don't always win. Recent dark horse nominees have included Sarah Polley's TAKE THIS WALTZ and Jeff Nichols' TAKE SHELTER, movies that played here for a blink in time and miniscule audiences.
This year was no exception, with our members (which have always hovered around 20) rallying behind the little-seen independent film SHORT TERM 12. But unlike previous years, where a film like this might have merely been an also-ran, it ended up earning the award for Best Actress. Brie Larson, a little known up and comer was chosen over some of Hollywood's biggest names. I couldn't be more thrilled.
I also couldn't be happier about our Best Film decision. HER, which won't hit local theaters until after the New Year was my favorite film of the year (Before Midnight ran a close second). A sci-fi romance from director Spike Jones, it is the kind of offbeat film idea that caught a whole lot of us off guard. It's funny, sad, provocative and does what the best films do - sticks with you long after you've left the theater.
I could dissect our various choices - some were in sync with other critics societies, others not so much - and complain that Judi Dench's towering performance in PHILOMENA was unforgivably excluded (as was Jeff Nichol's direction and screenplay for MUD), but it's probably best to just lay it all out here for y'all decide where we went wrong, where we surprised you, what you're inspired to now go see and whether the world needs yet another year-end best of list.
The Detroit Film Critics Society Best of 2013
(nominees are listed in alphabetical order)
Short Term 12
12 Years a Slave
Winner: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
Spike Jonze, Her
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
Winner: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Robert Redford, All Is Lost
Winner: Brie Larson, Short Term 12
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Adele Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Winner: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
James Franco, Spring Breakers
Matthew McConaughey, Mud
Stanley Tucci, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Winner: Scarlett Johansson, Her
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska
Winner: American Hustle
August: Osage County
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street
Winner: Brie Larson, Short Term 12 (actress)
Lake Bell, In a World (actress, screenplay, director)
Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale Station (screenplay, director)
Destin Cretton, Short Term 12 (screenplay, director)
Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station (actor)
Winner: Spike Jonze, Her
Destin Cretton, Short Term 12
Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight
Eric Singer and David O. Russell, American Hustle
Terence Winter, The Wolf of Wall Street
Winner: Stories We Tell
The Act of Killing
The Unknown Known
The Detroit Film Critics Society (DFCS) was founded in spring 2007 and currently consists of a group of over twenty film critics who write or broadcast in the Detroit area as well as other major cities within a 150-mile radius of the city including Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, and Flint, Michigan.