Okay, here we go! Time for the first annual Rougie Awards for excellence in film! I saw a crap ton of movies in 2013 and it was frankly an absolutely awesome year. It was really hard to winnow all these categories down to just fifteen winners, but I did it. I have a top ten and five runners up in the following categories: Best Director, Best Ensemble, Best Female Performance, Best Male Performance and Best Film. I should point out that this isn’t for movies that came out in 2013. I several movies from late 2012 in theaters after January 1st, 2013, and once I included those, it seemed easy to include even older movies that I saw during the year. Some of them I saw in theaters via Classics Series that screened older movies on the big screen again. Others I caught at home. But regardless, these awards are for all movies that I personally saw in 2013. So, that should clarify that.
Without any further ado, let me give you the five runners up in the Best Director category; all of these directors stayed in my top ten until late in the year and it really hurt to finally cut them, but they just didn’t quite make the cut. But, in a year packed with great movies, even the runners up were absolutely superlative. Anyway, here we go!
BEST DIRECTOR, RUNNERS UP
Fede Alvarez – Evil Dead
A lot of people seemed to dislike this horror remake; I gave it a solid *** ½ out of ****. It wasn’t subtle, but it was pretty high-octane, mostly thanks to Alvarez’ vivid direction. He ramped up all the scares perfectly, amped the gore up to extreme levels and, in the amazing climax, gave me one of the enduring images of gore cinema for all time: Jane Levy and the Abomination in silhouette against the burning cabin, blood literally raining from the sky as Levy, legs braced, head up in a perfect “hero pose,” plunges a running chainsaw into the Abomination’s face. Hats off, sir; THAT is why we go to these movies.
Danny Boyle – Trance
Trance was a deeply disappointing movie; despite a lot of good elements, the film failed to cohere into anything even remotely approaching interesting. But Boyle’s always an invigorating director and for all the film’s failures, the direction is absolutely dizzyingly great. A sequence near the middle when a hypnotized James McAvoy flashes back to a violent confrontation in a car just after the art heist is one of the most breathtakingly directed scenes of the year.
Terence Malick – To the Wonder
I enjoyed this film more than most, though I couldn’t call it great by a stretch. But even a mediocre film by Malick has to get notice for its direction. This film captures the intense, stark beauty of Oklahoma to perfection and the oblique direction serves the film particularly well in the love scenes (though Olga Kurylenko kind of helps with that too).
Christopher Nolan – The Prestige
Revisiting this classic, I was taken in again by the wonder of Nolan’s direction. From that dizzying opening scene all the way to the flashback ridden climax, Nolan captures images of stark beauty and tells the story in a wonderful way. This film is, really, even less linear than Memento; the time jumps are sometimes shocking and surprising and Nolan leaves it up to you to figure where you are in the lives of these two rival magicians. Watch carefully; sometimes you’re not even sure whose flashback you’re in. There’s a moment when we’re flashing back to Bale’s story as we’re flashing back to Jackman reading Bale’s story as we’re flashing back to Bale reading Jackman’s story. If that’s not a puzzle box, I don’t know what is.
Sarah Polley – Stories We Tell
Polley’s wonderful, dizzying documentary is about her personal quest to discover if she is actually the product of an extra-marital affair her mother had. She toggles between past and present effortlessly, develops wonderfully charming and awkward interviews and generally entertains. But I can’t explain the best directed moment in the film because it’s a massive spoiler; suffice it to say that when it comes, about all you can do is sit in awe of the absolute mastery of this manipulative genius and the way she’s been slowly, methodically setting you up for this surprise the whole damn time. The only thing more striking than how surprising it is, is just how obvious it should have been.
Okeedokee, to avoid boredom setting in as we go through these categories, I’m going to change it up from category to category. So, next time it’s my five runners up for the Best Ensemble Cast award.