The alternative Oscars
Awarding the best, worst and weirdest achievements in film
In the spirit of awards season, and after some serious reflection on the past year in films, I’d like to present my own particularly dubious set of awards: the Alternative Oscars, if you will.
This list was partially to recognize the extreme highs and lows of 2013, and to point out some of the remarkable (and dubious) achievements that Oscar just doesn’t have a category for. And the winners are … (Warning: Some light spoilers ahead.)
The “Argo” Award for True Stories with Wholly Invented Climaxes — “Philomena” wins this award because the big, cathartic showdown with Steve Coogan and Judi Dench at the end of the movie never took place. The nun in question had already been dead for nine years before the search for Philomena’s son ever began.
Most Gratuitous Gore for No Reason — “Gangster Squad,” which features Sean Penn drawing and quartering a man between two cars.
Most Gratuitous Violence for No Reason — “Man of Steel,” in which Superman and Zod inflict more damage on Metropolis than New York sustained during 9/11.
Most Strategically Gratuitous Gore — “Evil Dead,” which pushed all the right buttons to repulse and entertain in equal measure.
Best Stunt (tie) — Speaking of things that could never happen: In “Fast & Furious 6,” Vin Diesel drives a car through the front nose/engine of a moving airplane on a runway and resumes driving with nary a broken windshield and the headlights still on! Earlier in the film, he jumps off the hood of a moving car that hits a bridge, only to catch Michelle Rodriguez who is being catapulted from a tank on the other side of the highway. He catches her in midair, going at least 70 mph, and they land together on another car — to break their fall! Genius.
The “Where’s Arnie When You Need Him?” Award — Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton are stuck delivering tons of ridiculous exposition, but have zero memorable one-liners in “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.” This uninspired fairy-tale update wants to be campy, but doesn’t have the chops to go full-on “Commando” or “The Running Man.”
Worst Fairy-Tale Update — “Jack the Giant Slayer” had the same problem as our brother-sister team, but somehow managed to be even more dull.
Best Duet — The erotically charged piano duet between Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) and India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) in Park Chan-Wook’s twisted psychological thriller “Stoker.”
Best Quartet — The “Spring Breakers” girls exercise their more delicate sensibilities, singing Britney Spears’ “Everytime” as the sun goes down in Florida and white boy gangsta Alien (James Franco) tinkles the ivories.
Most Confusing Accent — Jodie Foster’s uppercrust, part-French, part-British, all-jerk accent in “Elysium”
Worst Beards — Adam Scott and the other jerkface bosses of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”
Best Performance by a CGI character — The porcelain China Girl (voiced by Joey King) from “Oz: the Great and Powerful”
Best Voice-Only Performance — Scarlett Johansson in “Her”
Freakishly Bad Makeup — Sean Penn, “Gangster Squad,” who looks like he’s in “Dick Tracy”
Most Unlikely Oscar Nominee — “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa,” in the best makeup category
Most Obvious Metaphor That Worked — Sandra Bullock’s rebirth represented visually in “Gravity”
Most Obvious Metaphor That Didn’t Work — The dog hit by the car in “Fruitvale Station.” We get it already.
Most Fun Metaphor to Ponder — The phrase “Llewyn is the cat,” from “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Makes sense to me.
A Good Way to Kill a Franchise — “A Good Day to Die Hard”
Best Sequel — “Iron Man 3”; runner-up: “Before Midnight”
Cutest Couples — The old Japanese ex-pat artists in “Cutie and the Boxer”; the young French lovers in “Blue is the Warmest Color.”
Least Believable Couples — Clark Kent and Lois Lane, “Man of Steel”; runners-up: Tauriel the Elf and Kili the Dwarf, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
Most Fun Movie About Magicians — “Now You See Me”
Least Fun Movie About Magicians — “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”
Worst Movie About Terrorists Attacking the White House — “White House Down”
Even Worse Movie About Terrorists Attacking the White House — “Olympus Has Fallen”
Best Movie About Somali Pirates Hijacking a Freighter — “A Hijacking”
Most Overrated Movie About Somali Pirates Hijacking a Freighter — “Captain Phillips”
Most Obvious Product Placement (tie) — “The Internship,” where Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn use every conceivable Google product under the sun. Runner-up: Papa John’s and eHarmony in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”
Movie Title that had Everyone Reaching for a Dictionary — “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” “Des-o-la-tion,” n. 1) extreme sadness caused by loss or loneliness 2) the condition of a place or thing that has been damaged in such a way that it is no longer suitable for people to live in : the state or condition of being desolate
— Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
Most Head-Scratching Movie Title — “The Last Exorcism 2.” No, seriously, this is the LAST last exorcism.
Best Movie About the Upside-Down American Dream — “Wolf of Wall Street”; runner-up: “American Hustle”
Worst Movie About the Upside-Down American Dream — “Pain & Gain”
Best Opening Sequence — “Oz: the Great and Powerful”
Best Rocker Character Not Ready for Adulthood (tie) — Julianne Moore in “What Maisie Knew” and Jessica Chastain in “Mama”
Worst Rocker Characters Doing Lots of Uncovincing Rocking — Emily Browning and Xavier Samuel, leading the kind of goth-rock band that only exists in movies and TV shows, in “Plush”
Most Insane, Mind-Numbing Display of Denial — “The Act of Killing”; runner-up: “Spring Breakers”
Best Reboot — “Evil Dead”
Worst Reboot — “Man of Steel”
Best First-Person Survival Story — “Gravity”
Best First-Person Survival Story That Wasn’t “Gravity” — “12 Years A Slave”
Best First-Person Survival Story That Wasn’t “Gravity” or “12 Years A Slave” — “All is Lost”
Biggest Waste of a Great Cast (three-way tie) — “Broken City,” “Gangster Squad,” “August: Osage County”
Best Sports Story — The underrated Formula One racing drama “Rush.”
Best Line Delivery — “Personally speaking, I can’t wait to watch life tear you apart.” Nicole Kidman, “Stoker”
Most Subtle Performance (three-way tie) — Robert Redford in “All is Lost,” Matthew McConaughey in “Mud,” Joaquin Phoenix in “Her”
Most on Autopilot — Bruce Willis, “A Good Day to Die Hard,” “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” “Red 2”
Best Zombie Romance — “Warm Bodies”
Best Scene Shown Later in the Movie With Completely Different Context — The “Spring Breakers” girls robbing a restaurant
Best Completely Linear Screenplay — “The Place Beyond the Pines”
Least Linear Screenplay — “Upstream Color”
Best Terrence Malick Movie — “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”
Worst Terrence Malick Movie — “To the Wonder”