Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 Denny Awards - Part 1 (Best Films)

Part 1/4 of my Annual "Denny Awards" ;-)
(Other Years' Awards)

Part I - Best Films of 2013
Part II - Most Compelling Performances / Character Roles (Male)
Part III - Most Compelling Performances / Character Roles  (Female)
Part IV - "The Pale Dennys" - Films about Hist Events Generally NOT taught in School

       Best - 
           The Croods [2013] - The breakfast scene near the beginning, talk about team spirit! ;-)
       Honorable Mentions -
           For girls Frozen [2013] - Lovely tale about two sisters each trying to help/protect the other ;-)   
           For boys The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug [2013] - Can't go wrong with Tolkien and his dragons ;-)

        Best - 
                   The Book Thief [2013] - Lovely story about a family (and an adoptive one at that) that comes together in very, very difficult times.
        Honorable Mentions - 
                   The Croods [2013] - Kids movie that can be understood on a different level by teens.  Okay, you think that your parents are "backward."  Well could you imagine your life without them?
                   Black Nativity [2013] - young African American teen growing-up in the midst of a splintered family where every adult seemed to have a secret

BEST INTERGENERATIONAL FILMS (Best Family Centered Films for Adults) -
         Best - Broche d'Oro [2012] - Gentle contemporary Puerto Rican film (subtitled).  Dad lands a promotion that could take the family Stateside (to the Orlando area) from San Juan.  BUT his high school aged son has all his friends on the Island AND what about Grandpa?   
         Honorable Mentions -
                    Nebraska [2013] - yes, dad's an old drunk and ma' doesn't seem to have a single nice thing to say about anybody, but they're the ones who made you.
                    The Man in the Silo [2013] - A previously successful, college educated black man is left to take care of his white racist rural Wisconsin mother-in-law after his beautiful white "farmer's daughter" wife and their 8 year-old mixed-race son were killed in a tragic car accident.
                    For the Cause [2013] - A young woman lawyer asked by her father to defend him in a trial even though both she and her mother have hated him for years for having abandoning them.
                    Black Nativity [2013] -A teenage boy tries to find his place in the world even as none of his elders (parents / grandparents) will tell him anything because they all have their secrets that they're hiding.
                    About Time [2013] - A lit. professor at a small provincial college somewhere in England makes (and is able to make ...) the spectacularly wise choice of putting his family and especially his son over his career
                    Aquí y Allá [2012] - After several years away working "up North", father comes home to his family in rural Guerrero, Mexico.  But how long is he gonna stay?
                    La Paz [2012] - Argentinian youth from a loving but apparently quite suffocating upper-middle-class family from Buenos Aires doesn't find inner peace until he leaves everything to teach kids at a school in Bolivia.

         Best - 
               Wolverine [2013] - Best of another great year of Marvel inspired films. 
         Honorable Mentions -
               Thor: The Dark World [2013] - Again, can't really go wrong with Thor, and Loki's getting more interesting with each film ;-) 
                 Iron Man 3 [2013] - Does Marvel ever "flop"?
                The Lone Ranger [2013] - Better than most critics give it credit for, helps if you know what "Tonto" means in Spanish ... ;-)

         Best -
             Epic [2013] - maybe more for "younger teens" / "tweens" but actually a nice father-daughter tale.        
         Honorable Mentions -
              Hunger Games: Catching Fire [2013] - teenage heroine Katniss continues her struggle to both survive and save her people from world where Life has been turned into a terrible/evil Game.
              The Host [2013] - a teenage girl is able to make friends/peace with even the "alien soul" that's invaded/possessed her.  Offers a fascinating (and ultimately more peaceful alternative) to simply shooting/blowing-up "aliens.

        Best -
              The Great Gatsby [2013] - Faithful to F. Scott Fitzgerald's book to a tee, with Leonardo DiCaprio played an almost perfect Gatsby.  You'll definitely understand the book after this film.
             Much Ado About Nothing [2013] - GREAT stylized (black & white) contemporary staging of this Shakesperean comedy using Hollywood TV stars as actors and dialogue straight from the Bard
        Honorable Mentions -       
             On the Road [2012] - Based on Jack Kerouac's famed novel.  Not really for "high schoolers" (the R-rating is DEFINITELY APPROPRIATE).  However will help college aged adults and above understand how we got from Steinbeck and Hemingway to today.

         Best -
              All is Lost [2013] - If you're just "floating through life" what's gonna happen if something goes wrong?
              Gravity [2013] - Is there Space for God in the midst of all our technology?  You betcha.  Who's going to remember you when everything seems to go wrong?
         Honorable Mentions -

         Best -
              Much Ado About Nothing [2013] - Shakespeare filmed (in contemporary dress / black and white) at a Hollywood producer's Santa Monica house  
         Honorable Mentions 
              Nebraska [2013] - Again filmed in b&w, story of an old guy and his family with initial reluctance stepping-up to take care of him (even if he hadn't been the best of fathers / husbands)
              All is Lost [2013] - story of an older guy who's been "drifting alone" on his yacht, until...
              Zero Charisma [2013] - story about the fantasy gamer set (but really about much more than that).  What if you ran into someone who was "just like you" only a "far better version" of you?    
              Drinking Buddies [2013] - even today can men and women be "just friends"?
              7 Boxes (orig. 7 Cajas) [2012] - a Paraguayan film about simply a young teen working at the central market in Asuncion, Paraguay tasked with transporting 7 boxes from one end of the market to the other for a fairly large sum of money.  It's a simple task, but why are they paying him so much to do it?  And does he want to know?

            Best -
                 The Bible [History Channel-Television Series 2013]  - Excellent, well thought out Television series focusing on key episodes across the span of the Christian Bible leaving the viewer with a fair amount to reflect about.
            Honorable Mentions -                     
                 Pietà [2012] - an often ghastly (R-rating definitely deserved) reflection on Our Lady of Sorrows coming from South Korea (about 1/3 of South Korea is Christian about about 1/3-1/2 of those are Catholic).  A random 20-something enforcer for the mob is visited-upon by a woman who claims to be his mother and blames herself for how he turned out.  But she's also concerned for his victims ...

            Best -
                Mothers [2012] - Chinese documentary about enforcement of its "one child" policy

            Best -
                  The Great Gatsby [2013] - great doomed young-adult love story, with great performances by all the key actors involved Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Daisy, Tobey McGuire as Nick Caraway telling the story.
            Honorable Mentions 
                  Her [2013] - truly modern RomCom - A guy of the near future falls in love with his Apple Siri-like operating system (voiced by Scarlet Johannsen).  She for her part, after obsessing for over half the film over her lack of having body "gets over it" and finds her self-worth elsewhere ;-)  A great story with a message for everyone.
                  Much Ado About Nothing [2012] - a great/sharp modern rendition of one of the first "romcoms" EVER.
                  Warm Bodies [2013] - probably the cutest RomCom in recent years, featuring a Zombie named "R" and a human named "Julie" ;-) ... there's even a balcony scene ;-).  Can this relationship possibly work? ;-) 
                  Will you still love me tomorrow? (orig. Ming tian ji de ai shang wo) [2013] - Taiwanese film (subtitled) about a (still) young, by appearances generally happy, 30-something couple, 10 years married, that comes to a breaking-point when the husband (after much internal turmoil) comes out as gay.
                  Faith, Love and Whiskey [2012] - A young attractive Bulgarian foreign exchange student makes good and lands a good, successful American guy in New York.  But what of the less successful but still great Bulgarian flame she left back home? 
                  Drinking Buddies [2013] - Even today, can a young man and a young woman simply be "drinking buddies"?
                  Upside Down [2012] - Great Argentinian parable involving two planets who's orbits around their sun are so close that they almost touch each other.  She's from "UpTop" while he's from "DownBelow." Can their relationship ever work out? ;-)
                  Enough Said [2013] - A great story about the harm of learning too much about someone.

            Best -
                  The Great Gatsby [2013] - Great story, eye-popping visuals, all lead actors/actresses playing the hilt out of their roles, honestly don't understand why this film was better appreciated by other critics.
                  Much ado About Nothing [2012] - Again great, classic story, well rendered by a cast obviously loving every minute of making this film.
            Honorable Mentions -
                  Spring Breakers [2013] - visually jarring and very well-acted, certainly about "girls gone wild" ...

                  All is Lost [2013] - One man on a boat, almost no dialogue, but wow, what a cautionary tale about Life and (the need for) Relationships ...
                  Gravity [2013] - Hands down best use of 3D of the year, feels like you're there, while the gripping story leads the viewer to ask some very good questions about the meaning / precariousness of Life in our very technological age.
                  Nebraska [2013] - simple story, rendered in b&w about family and the ties that bind.

            Best - 20 Feet from Stardom [2013] - great documentary about those who've been singing the backup voices in some of the most famous rock songs of our time.
            Honorable Mentions -
                       The Gatekeepers [2012] - Interviews with the last 6 heads of the Israeli Shin Bet about various moral questions that arise during covert, counter-insurgency, and counter terrorism operations
                       African Independence [2013] - a nice primer on the history of the independence movements across Africa during the 20th Century
                       We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks [2013] - Documentary about how Wikileaks came to be.

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