By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist December 24, 2013 at 12:40PM
Yes, the “Wolf of Wall Streeet” ensemble is pretty great, but make no mistake, Leonardo DiCaprio carries this movie and it’s hardly an “ensemble picture,” rather a movie where every supporting player in a little role (whether it be Spike Jonze or Shea Whigham) makes their moment count. A more true ensemble is “August Osage County.” Yes, it has a tacked on terrible Weinstein ending, but it’s replete with actors who bring their A-game. Meryl Streep is obviously the centerpiece but perhaps the secret MVP is “Boardwalk Empire” star Julianne Nicholson who plays Julia Roberts' young sister (Roberts is great too). Oh, did we mention Chris Cooper is terrific too?
Best Dennis Quaid Performance You Didn’t See
We’ll admit, indie director Ramin Bahrani’s first “mainstream” picture (though it’s hardly commercial, “At Any Price” was a little uneven. An American story about a son who wants to race cars and not follow his father’s footsteps in the corn industry, the movie took a twist that turned it into “Crimes & Misdemeanors” in the heartland, but Dennis Quaid was on point the whole time and delivered the performance of his career. Unfortunately, no one noticed the film and it was forgotten even before September hit.
The In-It-For-The-Beach-House Award For The Least Giving-A-Shit Performance In A Blockbuster
We like to imagine that as soon as Philip Seymour Hoffman was told he'd be playing a character called Plutarch Heavensbee in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," he sort of mentally checked out a bit. Absent the outrageous dress and facial hair of the rest of The Capital, he constantly has an energy like he was late to set, and just got there in time for the camera to start rolling without making it to wardrobe. The eventual reveal about his character makes the choices seem a little more valid, but it still feels a little like Hoffman is phoning it in. Runner Up: Due apologies to those who campaigned (successfully) to get "Man of Steel"'s Krypton sequence into Best Action Scenes, but outside of riding flying dragon thingies, Russell Crowe didn't really show up. He probably wasn't that crazy about being Daddy Exposition, but he could have made a little effort, right?
Most Obvious Stuntperson In A Movie
While “Catching Fire” was a huge step up from “The Hunger Games” in terms of production value, we still can’t believe the laugh-out-loud obvious stunt double for elderly tribute Mags. In order to maximize speed in the arena, her fellow District 4 Tribute Finnick tosses Mags on his back, piggyback style, and the two take off with Peeta and Katniss. But in long-shot, it’s so obvious that the woman on Finnick’s back is clearly a petite stuntwoman in a gray curly wig. No wonder Mags had her face buried in Finnick’s neck the entire time. It was really quite jarring and kind of took us out of what is probably the best YA adaptation adventure film thus far.
Most Overlooked Teenage Girl Performance Of The Year
Sally Potter’s “Ginger & Rosa” made a Oscar qualifying run last year so it took itself out of the running. It was also completely forgotten/slept-on because it was released in that neververse between years, but Elle Fanning is a goddess of an actor and mark our words, if she keeps this up, she’s gonna be Meryl Streep and will get all the Oscars.
Best Comedic Indie Ensemble You Didn’t See
What’s the best indie comedy you didn’t see in 2013? “It's a Disaster.” Yep, it didn’t look like much, but this comedy about a terrorism attack that hits L.A. and knocks out all communication, leaving a stranded group of brunch friends all alone to their own dysfunctional devices was a hilarious little picture. Directed by Todd Berger, what happens when the world’s about to end in this microcosm? Well, everyone turns into the either best or worst possible version of themselves. Starring the super underrated cast of Rachel Boston, David Cross, America Ferrera, Julia Stiles, Jeff Grace, Erinn Hayes, Kevin M. Brennan, and Blaise Miller, in a year of apocalypse comedies, this one was far too slept on.
Best Scene-Stealing Small Supporting Role
Matthew McConaughey steals every single scene he’s in opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf Of Wall Street.” It’s probably because he’s playing the best/worst character of all time. A Wall Street scumbag who acts as a mentor and essentially teaches DiCaprio the tricks of the trade—jerk off a lot, do lots of cocaine and rip everyone off. It’s vile and yet hilarious and illustrates the insidious seductiveness of all these characters who will act as the fulcrum for a disgusting bacchanalia of American greed like you’ve never seen. Oh and Mac’s chest-beating humming mantra is just the best thing of all time.
Best Comeback No-One Cared About
Released in the dead months of January, “The Last Stand,” the comeback as a leading man of Arnold Schwarzenegger, didn’t look especially promising on paper, and was flat-out rejected by audiences. Which is a shame, because Korean director Kim Jee-Woon, making his English-language debut, actually turned out an enjoyable action-Western—taut, bloody, satisfying, and not as annoying as the trailers made it look. It’s probably Arnie’s best movie since “Terminator 2,” all told, and the former Governor’s even pretty watchable in it (he’s better still in “Escape Plan,” though the film is significantly worse).
Worst Miscasting (The Cameron-Diaz-In-The-Counselor Award)
It’s tempting to give this award to the performance that gives it its name (seriously, you could fix about 30% of the things that are wrong with “The Counselor” by swapping over Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz’s parts), but it’s just snatched away by Benedict Cumberbatch in “August: Osage County.” The British star is a brilliant actor, and we understand the temptation to cast him if you have the opportunity, but he’s never even remotely convincing as the sweet but simple Midwesterner here. Put it this way: playing a dragon in “The Hobbit” is a much more natural fit.
Worst Performance That’s Probably Getting An Oscar Nomination
There’s a ton of great performances in “August: Osage County” (see: Best Ensemble), but it’s sod's law that the performance most likely to end up with awards recognition is the one that we found the least compelling. I mean, of course if you give Meryl Streep the role of a acerbic pill-popping matriarch, she’s gonna end up with an Oscar nomination, but it’s far from the star’s finest hour—theatrical, broad, and not especially generous to her co-stars. She has the occasional moment where she shines (there’s a nice night time chat with her daughters in which you see what could have been), but it needed a stronger director than John Wells to tell Streep to tone it down.