Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Above Average Awards: 2013 Drama

After 2012 and viewing my way through one of the greatest movie years in recent history, there was no doubt that 2013 was going to have a hard time following such a strong group of films. Luckily for us, it tries its hardest:

As a moviegoer, I tend to be more impressed with a great a story than a great acting performance. As a result, in the past, I have had a hard time narrowing down my top drama list and not such a hard time narrowing my actors and actresses lists. In 2013, everything was totally opposite, as the performances amazed me way more than the films themselves. I don't know why this happened (maybe the performances were just THAT good), but it was nice to have a bit of a perspective shift, as I put this list together. Additionally, the 2013 movie year was aided by the fact that there was no Twilight movie, WHATSOEVER!!! And, the win goes to... humanity...
Best Actor
This category was, by far, the hardest for me to cut off. So, to say that Oscar Isaac comes in at 8th place does not mean that his performance was barely worthy of a spot on this list. As evident by the endless number of honorable mentions, below, this year's acting performances were so dern good, and I was truly blown away. Make sure that you take a moment to read those honorable mentions, because they are truly deserving of attention.

Honorable Mention: Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Chadwick Boseman (42), Bobby Cannavale (Blue Jasmine), Paul Dano (12 Years a Slave), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips/Saving Mr. Banks), Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), Ben Mendelsohn (The Place Beyond the Pines), Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Tye Sheridan (Mud)

#8 - Oscar Isaac
(Inside Llewyn Davis)
Oscar Isaac sneaks onto the list by the skin of his teeth (an expression that makes no sense, whatsoever). However, his performance would not land him in 8th place in a normal movie year. Isaac's performance as Llewyn Davis was absolutely brilliant, and he really made up the entire film. When this one hits the Redbox, be sure to check it out, and you can bet that Isaac will find his way back to this list in the future.
#7 - Matthew McConaughey
(The Wolf of Wall Street)
I was a bit torn about whether or not to include McConaughey's Wolf performance, due to it's brevity. In the end, however, I decided there was no denying the its greatness. While it may have been brief, there is no doubt that the character's permeated the film, from beginning to end, and, personally, I thought The Wolf of Wall Street character of Mark Hanna was far superior to that of Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club. Some may disagree, but oh well...
#6 - Sharlto Copley
As someone who enjoyed both District 9 and Elysium, Sharlto Copley's transformation, from one film to the next, absolutely blew me away. I never really heard much about his performance, even when the film was in theaters, which greatly disappointed me. Not only was I super impressed, but I think he might quickly become one of my favorite actors. Kudos to Copley and Neil Blomkamp for sticking together and providing us with great entertainment.
#5 - Jared Leto
(Dallas Buyers Club)
At the beginning of Dallas Buyers Club, I was wondering why Leto was getting so much praise for his performance, but, as the film went on, Leto proved that he is worthy of said praise. Without Leto, my opinion of Dallas Buyers Club would not be anywhere close to as high as it is. Sure, it was interesting... I just don't think it was "Best Picture Nominee" good. Regardless, Jared Leto merited his nomination, no doubt.
#4 - Bradley Cooper
(American Hustle)
Last year, Cooper topped my list of best dramatic actors, but he didn't quite make it that high on my 2013 list. Regardless, Cooper's performance was amazingly hilarious/dramatic/engaging/other-good-adjectives, and he continues to become one of my favorites. Christian Bale may have gained weight, but, in my opinion, Cooper stole the show in American Hustle. As a result, he makes The Above Average Awards for the second straight year!

#3 - Leonardo DiCaprio
 (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Although I've never been a huge DiCaprio fan, the amount of energy that he puts into The Wolf of Wall Street was enough to wear me out, and I was just sitting there watching a movie. His character was great, but his execution really made the film. Without him, I would have disliked it even more! Kudos to DiCaprio for taking on such a big role and executing it with all his might.

#2 - Stanley Tucci
(The Hunger Games: Catching Fire)
Stanley Tucci's Hunger Games performance is one that doesn't get very much attention. So, I'm here to right that wrong! Most people agree that Tucci is one of the greatest character actors in the business, but I've never seen him embrace a character quite like he did in Catching Fire. I have a feeling that Tucci will not have much/anything to do with the third and fourth Hunger Games films, which is really unfortunate, because he is my absolute favorite. Forget Peeta and Katniss! I want a whole movie about Caesar!

#1 - Michael Fassbender
(12 Years a Slave)
Not only does Michael Fassbender top my 2013 dramatic actor list, but he gave what could possibly be the most impressive on-screen performance that I have ever seen... EVER! Last year, Fassbender barely missed my list with his Prometheus performance, and, until watching 12 Years a Slave, I did not quite understand the range of Fassbender's abilities. This guy can freaking act! Kudos to Fassbender for blowing me away. If you haven't seen 12 Years a Slave, be sure to check it out ASAP!

Best Actress
The list of dramatic actresses is the shortest of all the 2013 Above Average lists, by far. Luckily, however, the three performances that I recognize below were absolutely brilliant. Kudos to these ladies for blowing me away.
Honorable Mention: Maria Bello (Prisoners), Carey Mulligan (Inside Llewyn Davis)


#3 - Jennifer Lawrence
(American Hustle)
Although Jennifer Lawrence won an Oscar for best actress and I sang Silver Linings Playbook's praise throughout the 2012 award season, I did not include Lawrence in my list of best dramatic actresses last year. Sure, she was good, but I didn't think she was THAT good. This year, however, I was absolutely blown away by Lawrence's performance in American Hustle. Each time she was on screen, I was waiting to find something to criticize, but that something never came.


#2 - Sandra Bullock
From the age of 9, when I first saw Mrs. Congeniality, I have been madly in love with Sandra Bullock's looks. However, as her career has progressed and my infatuations matured, I've grown to appreciate her acting abilities. Personally, I wasn't as enthralled with her Blind Side performance as the Academy was, but, in Gravity, she was absolutely brilliant. Anyone who can make you feel without even talking to anyone has obvious talent, and that's exactly what Bullock has.


#1 - Cate Blanchett
(Blue Jasmine)
In 2012, Anne Hathaway took home both my top spot and an Oscar, and Cate Blanchett is likely to do the same thing this year. I know most of my readers probably haven't seen Blue Jasmine, and, honestly, if you don't just love Woody Allen movies, don't watch it, because it's not anything TOO special. However, Blanchett's performance was absolutely brilliant, and there is no denying that! I've never been a huge fan of Blanchett, mostly because she strikes me as a British actor who can only play old, British characters, like Queen Elizabeth and that Lord of the Rings chick. Luckily, she broke that pre-determined mold that I had made for her and gave the best female performance of 2013.

Best Film
Honorable Mention: Elysium, Inside Llewyn Davis

#7 - Star Trek: Into Darkness
A lot of people had a lot of negative things to say about Star Trek: Into Darkness, and, to them, I say "you are entitled to your own opinion." For me, it was a great experience! My love for J.J. Abrams knows no bounds, and this sequel did nothing to change that. Hopefully, as Abrams steps into his Star Wars shoes, the future of the Star Trek franchise will continue to be bright. For now, however, I have two great Star Trek films to enjoy whenever I desire...  

#6 - The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

While Ben Stiller may not be thought of as a dramatic mind, after watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, it is clear that he must have some serious creativity going on up there. Of all the films on my best list, this one is probably the least popular among critics, but who cares?!? The simple story, mixed with amazing music and stunning visuals, really made for some personally self-reflective movie-time for a guy who is not good at defying logic and complacency. Maybe I only liked Walter Mitty because he was a lot like me, but, regardless, I liked him. I think you all would, too.
#5 - Gravity
I will gladly admit that I am not a huge fan of action films that are all spectacle (and usually no story), but Gravity was able to defy the odds and blow me away. When the film ended, I felt like I had just been on the best amusement park ride ever created, which is not a hard prize to earn (I hate amusement parks). Every single moment of the film was ridiculously engaging, and, on top of that, Sandra Bullock's performance brought out one of the most emotional on-screen thrill rides of 2013. I love space, so I expected the visuals to blow me away. However, never in a million years would I have expected the film to connect on an emotional level, but that it did so very well.
#4 - 12 Years a Slave
12 Years a Slave is not a movie that you enjoy. It's not a movie that you want to watch over and over. It's a not movie that takes you to that happy, care-free world that many movies take you to. In fact, the film is almost unbearable. However, at the same time, it is so absolutely brilliant and so honestly dramatic that there is little question to whether it is one of the best films of 2013. I've never seen a movie that was quite as able to take something that is easily over-dramatized, like slavery, and, instead, focus on the truth, which turns out to be more dramatic than drama itself. Kudos to Steve McQueen and crew for giving us this wonderful work of art.

#3 - Frances Ha

No 2013 film had that fun-loving, indie feel quite like Frances Ha, and I can't let that go unnoticed! This film was able to sneak onto my TV via Netflix, making it the first ever Above Average film that I watched for the first time on Netflix. So, kudos to Netflix and the Frances Ha distributors for getting the film into my living room. Anywho, with Greta Gerwig's great performance (which I recognized in
the Above Average Comedy Awards) and an amazingly self-reflective storyline, Frances Ha unexpectedly blew me away. If you had shown me my list in mid-July, this film would have had me wondering how in the world it made the list, but, as I sit here in February, I just can't leave it off.
#2 - Her
No film on this list was able to surprise me as much as Spike Jonze's Her. Not only was the film much different than I had anticipated, but it was also about 100 times better than I expected. Of course, Joaquin Phoenix is great, but, along with 12 Years a Slave and the film that sits at number one, the true beauty of this film was found in it's story and the very unique display of said story. I've never enjoyed a Spike Jonze film in this way, yet there is no doubt that this truly is a Spike Jonze Love Story.
#1 - The Place Beyond the Pines
As only the sixth 2013 film that I saw, I was absolutely certain that something would come along and impress me more than the greatness that is The Place Beyond the Pines. Don't get me wrong... I LOVED this movie, but never before has my favorite movie come so early in the year. In fact, no pre-May-released film has ever graced The Above Average Best Dramatic picture list (in all two years of its existence!!!) (that was sarcasm FYI) (now you get it!). But, seriously, it's hard to believe that a film could hang on to my top spot for so long. Regardless, it happened, and I'm super pumped! Why? You might ask... Well, many of my readers have probably never seen The Place Beyond the Pines, and I'm super excited to have the opportunity to spread the good news and encourage each of you to check it out. I believe you can find it at the Redbox, and I know that HBO has been running the film, nonstop, over the past few weeks. No excuses, people! Check it out! It is your duty. Not only because I said so, but also because The Place Beyond the Pines is the best dramatic film of 2013!

This one post makes an entire year's worth of blogging worth every single minute. There is nothing that I enjoy more than coming up with a best list and sharing it with folks who probably haven't seen as many movies as me. My hope is that each of you will take the time to check out the films and performances listed above and in my comedy list (The Above Average Awards: 2013 Comedy), and share it with your friends! I promise that you will not be disappointed!

So long, 2013!


  1. Some nice picks here, Tanner. Especially interesting to see Place Beyond the Pines land at #1. That one sorta fell by the wayside for most people by the time the end of the year rolled around, but still a really good, if flawed, flick.

    Also nice to see Fassbender top your list. No shit the guy can act, lol. ;)

    1. Thanks, man... Glad you weren't outraged at anything lol... I've never really been on the Fassbender bandwagon, but I'm starting to see the light. Interested to see what the future holds for him!