By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist December 24, 2013 at 12:40PM
The ‘At Least I Wasn’t Replaced By Rafe Spall This Time’ Award For Pointless Framing Device
Poor Tobey Maguire: reunited with Ang Lee for "Life Of Pi," only to have his framing-device scenes entirely reshot with the less-familiar Rafe Spall. Maguire doesn't suffer the same fate in Jason Reitman's "Labor Day," but he might as well have: the film's brief framing device isn't just extraneous, but it gives the impression that the whole movie is basically about how Maguire learned to make peach cobbler. Runner-up: "The Lone Ranger"'s kid-at-a-sideshow framing which just made an already aeons-long film feel even longer.
Least Original Plot
Not everything has to be a surprise—there's certainly a value in an inevitable, but well-told tale—but good lord, there's not a single beat in tepid '70s-style revenge movie "Out of the Furnace" that plays out any differently from how you'd imagine. It's very well acted, very well shot, very well scored, but is so by-the-numbers in its narrative that we checked out within about half an hour. Oh, hey, Casey Affleck's involved in a plot to throw a fight in a boxing match? I wonder if that'll turn out well..
Most Obnoxious Sub-Plot
Nicole Holofcener's one of our most talented painters of middle-class life, and for most of "Enough Said," she succeeds in making her characters feel earthy enough that it doesn't descend into 'white-people problems' territory. But the subplot involving how awkward Toni Colette finds firing her maid is just wildly ill-conceived. It's sort of implied, eventually, that Colette is in the wrong, but only very lightly, and long before that, you've rolled your eyes so hard that you're looking at the inside of your own skull. A painful misstep in an otherwise enjoyable film.
Most Obviously Invented Event In A Biopic (The Peter Morgan Award)
It's been a year where there's been plenty of based-in-fact tales that occasionally stretch credibility, but nothing was quite as implausible as the moment in "Rush" where James Hunt beats up a journalist who's asked an offensive question of his badly-injured rival Niki Lauda. You can see why you'd want the moment there—it makes Hunt twice as sympathetic as he was before. But it's an invented scene, and so obviously so that it pulls you right out of the film.
The ‘Ozu Wouldn’t Approve’ Award For Worst CGI-Riddled Third Act
James Mangold got some attention for "The Wolverine" in advance by putting out a list of influences for the film that included some surprises, most notably Ozu's "Floating Weeds," a film that's rarely name-checked in the context of superhero tentpoles. There's not much evidence of his artier touchstones in the first two-thirds of the film, but it's a relatively engaging and stripped-down take on the excessive genre, for the most part. Until it hits the third act, where we're greeted with a CGI-heavy mash-up of robot mech-suits, tongue-spitting villainesses, and disappointing action. So near, and yet so far.
Most Tonally Inconsistent Final Shootout
Jeff Nichols, we need to talk about your endings. We love so much of the director's films to date, but "Take Shelter" squandered much of its goodwill with a "Twilight Zone"-ish twist, and "Mud," while not that extreme, goes off the rails near the end too: a delicate little coming-of-age movie suddenly turns into an action flick, as Matthew McConaughey shoots it out with a bunch of people we barely know. Again, we mostly like the film, but it doesn't fit with what comes before AT ALL, and it's made worse by the way that it cops out and lets Mud live. Also, off-topic, the movie seemed mostly to be about how you can't trust women. Wait, maybe we didn't like it that much after all?
Most Tearjerking Ending
The film's only just opening now, but those of us who saw the film elsewhere are still in recovery from the ending of Clio Barnard's "The Selfish Giant." SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER It's bad enough when lead Arbor (Conner Chapman) wakes after cutting through a cable they're trying to steal to discover best pal Swifty (Shaun Thomas) has been electrocuted to death, and desperately tries to wake his charred, petrified body. But the waterworks really come when, after a devastated, repentant Arbor is forced to end his vigil after Swifty's house, the dead boy's mother (Siobhan Finneran) relents, and comes to his room with a forgiving embrace. God, we're about to start crying again now. END SPOILER END SPOILER END SPOILER
Best Final Shot
So many to choose from here, so we got stuck on a short-list. There's the Haneke-ish conclusion of Francois Ozon's undervalued "In The House," a curtain-twitching master stroke of voyeurism that we could have watched for hours longer. There's the chilling "Terminator"-esque final reveal of Andrew Bujalski's "Computer Chess," which turns a quirky comedy into something far more sinister (and which we genuinely had nightmares about after the fact). There's the perfect, enormously satisfying last shot of "Frances Ha," which finally makes sense of the title. And finally, there were blockbusters that went out with a bang too: the final close-up of Jennifer Lawrence in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" might have been a touch reminiscent of "The Matrix Reloaded," but worked far more successfully, a brilliant directorial choice matched with one of Lawrence's best bits of acting that had us unexpectedly champing at the bit for "Mockingjay."