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January 5th, 2014

The 2013 Gold Reel Awards 

The word to describe movies in the year 2013 is Competitive. This is by far one of the hardest years to pick just one winner from every category. Not to mention the Top 10 Best of the year could truly be ANY 10 of the great movies from this excellent year of movies. With movies such as Mia Wasikowska’s creepy performance in Stoker, Sarah Polley’s soul searching Documentary- Stories We Tell, or coming of age films such as The Way, Way Back or The Spectacular Now, movies have been good from the beginning to end. As the year comes to a close it is topped off with Oscar contenders American Hustle, Her, or The Wolf of Wall Street, ending one of the best years of movies this critic has witnessed. The people of Hollywood are getting the film making process down. 

It was also an excellent year for! We were proud to officially cover The Chicago International Film Festival, interview well known Directors such as Lance Edmands and Michael Mohan on the Hot Seat, and cover the Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival as well. So here we are at the end of December and it is up to me to tell you what were the Best and Worst movies of 2013. I will also hand out Awards to performances and movies that stood higher above all the rest. It is a daunting task with this years competition, but here are the winners (and losers) for the 2013 Gold Reel Awards! 


STOKER: Director Chan-wook Park’s American debut was released in February right after the Academy Awards were announced which pretty much means if it was good nobody will remember it come December. Meanwhile, as Spike Lee was making a re-make of the Directors original film Oldboy, nobody was acknowledging that Park had already made a new creepy and twisted film about the Stoker family. It stared Mia Wasikowska as India Stoker, a high school girl whose father has been mysteriously found dead. Things get even weirder when her Uncle Charles (Matthew Goode) comes back for the funeral and attempts to seduce mother Evelyn Stoker (Nicole Kidman being sexy and delusional all at once). Park uses excellent camera work and style that mesmerized me and drew me into the story. This movie proves that everyone forgets the movies at the start of the new year. 

PRISONERS: When Prisoners opened it seemed like a sure lock for receiving awards for its strong performances from both Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. The movie about two families whose daughters have been abducted had all the ingredients that would lead to award nominations. An all-star cast, a thrilling story, and praise from movie critics. But, that would go for not. As of this print, Prisoners had not received a single nomination for the SAG and Golden Globe awards. These reasons alone is enough for it to be nominated for Most Underrated Movie of the Year. Hugh Jackman gave one of his best performances in his career and Director Denis Villenueve made a name for himself.

RUSH: For the life of me, I cannot understand why film critics found it wrong to enjoy Rush. Ron Howard’s film about the Racing rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) is an exciting film. Howard’s filming of racing scenes are action packed and the relationship between the two Formula 1 racers is fun to watch. Actor Daniel Bruhl’s performance as Lauda is in depth and realistic. The competition between the two racers makes for a good pace of back and forth and it is a well done sports film. The fact is that Howard knows how to make good movies. Sure, Rush was not groundbreaking in cinema, but performances from Bruhl and Hemsworth are well done and it was still a fun time had at the movies. 

And the GOLD REEL goes to…STOKER!


SPRING BREAKERS: I will one hundred percent admit that Director Harmony Korine’s film had style and a forever memorable performance from James Franco as the gold mouthed, gun swinging, bad rapper named Alien. But, Spring Breakers was a long and repetitive film that was hard to get through. The Brittany Spears rendition of “Every Time” was funny in a way but this film could not help itself from hitting us over the head with “Spring Break, Spring Break, Spring Break” every five seconds. It made it really hard to appreciate anything well done in the film. I understood all of the artistic nature of the film and the hilarity that the big talking Alien goes down easier than a sitting duck in the end, but Spring Breakers grossed me out and bored me numb. 

UPSTREAM COLOR: Pretentious is the word that continues to come to mind when I think of the Director Shane Carruth’s film Upstream Color. It is an odd tale of hypnosis, worms, pigs, and a couple that is in love. This film is shot in some of the same styles as a Director like Terrance Malick so I understand that this is supposed to be an art house film. But, this is a film with no real plot at all! There is very little dialogue and the images on screen are usually out of focus or out of frame. Upstream Color has been put on many end of the year Top 10 lists by critics such as Christy Lemire and Alonso Duralde, but is it really a great film? Or is this just a “look how much I know about film” type of movie? I wonder if some critics are afraid to admit that they did not “get” a movie like this so they say they love it just to fit in. I will not be one of those critics. Upstream Color was boring and had no narrative whatsoever. Does it look nice at times? Yeah, but I thought After Earth looked nice. It doesn’t mean its good. You want to watch a better art house film, go see Malick’s “To the Wonder”. Its better. 

DALLASS BUYERS CLUB: All the outrage during Oscar season was the endless discussions about Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street and its depiction of misogynist and disgusting behavior from the lead character Jordan Belfort. As true as this may be, Dallas Buyers Club obviously just did a better job of making a hero out of a homophobic disgusting person like Ron Woodroof instead. Not many critics seemed to cause an uproar about this. Even film critic Alonzo Duralde from Rotten Tomatoes said that their were so many other AIDS Pioneers who deserved to have a movie made about them. That is 100% true. DBC is a good film with an excellent performance from Matthew MacConaughey (scroll down to Best Actor) that is worthy of an Academy Award nomination. Actor Jared Leto gives a very nice performance as the transvestite Rayon, but the performance seems like a plot device to me in order to make Woodroof seem like a person who is caring for the homosexual community. Not to mention the relationship between the two never really blossoms into this change of heart for the main character. Leto’s performance is good, but I did not view it the same way as a lot of critics. At the end of the day Ron Woodroof was a pioneer for fighting the FDA because he happened to be someone who contracted AIDS. For those reason his story is interesting and he was a person who would fight to live. The other stuff seemed like a way to glorify a white trash guy. There are so many people in the gay community that died from this horrific disease. They deserve a movie! Not Ron Woodroof.         



JENNIFER LAWRENCE (AMERICAN HUSTLE): Do not get sick of Jennifer Lawrence just yet. The 23 year old actress continues to surprise more and more. She may be a little to young to play the passive aggressive Rosalyn Rosenfeld, but boy does she play it strong. When she is introduced in the film she is aggressive and memorable. In a film with excellent actors like Amy Adams and Christian Bale, it is Lawrence who holds her own throughout the entire film. When Rosalyn and Irving (Bale) get into a heated argument because Rosalyn has narked on Irving, it is Lawrence who steals the scene. Bale is an accomplished veteran actor and it is so impressive to see Lawrence hold her own. The beautiful blonde has become a household name and is continuing to impress more and more. The second installment of The Hunger Games was a great to watch and she is even better in American Hustle. She could be getting a second Oscar this year! 

LUPITA NYONG’O (12 YEARS A SLAVE): Nyong’o was an unknown until Director Steve McQueen found the beautiful graduate from Yale University. Her performance in the groundbreaking 12 Years a Slave is heartbreaking and passionate. She is the abused and used slave owned by Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) who becomes the eye of his affection and mistreatment. Nyong’o performs with such passion that it pours from her very soul. She is a rising star of actresses in the world. Every word she speaks is as her character Patsey is filled with reason, regret, and a will to survive. Her character excels at picking the most cotton on the plantation because she wants to survive and when we see her mistreated it is heartbreaking and wrong. McQueen does not take the camera off her because we must see the brutality, but it is Nyong’o who becomes the apple of all of our eyes. She is amazing in this film!

JUNE SQUIBB (NEBRASKA): The 84 year old Squibb is the funniest character in the midwestern road trip film Nebraska. Her portrayal as the bickering mother Kate Grant is a scene stealer throughout the entire film. She is the gossiping know it all who is sticking her nose in other peoples business but never showing mercy for her own families issues. When she delivers a monologue of pointing out all the issues with those that are dead in their families cemetery plot it is part uncomfortable and brilliant. It is the type of scene that makes you want to scream at her to stop, but this is who she is and what she has become known to do. I could not help but feel the authenticity of her character. She is just like midwestern mothers that gossip in small towns. For the veteran Squibb a nomination is a long time coming and her performance is one of the most memorable of the year. 



MICHAEL FASSBENDER (12 YEARS A SLAVE): Actor Michael Fassbender has began to create a resume of acting performances that put you in line to be one of the greatest. The man is a risk taker in all the sense of the term. He loves good material and he respects great Directors. Fassbender won the Gold Reel two years ago for his role in Shame as a Sex addicted loner. His performance as Edwin Epps in 12 Years a Slave is a vile and disgusting portrayal of a man who is manipulative and controlling. Epps is the Louisianan slave owner who psychologically and physically abuses the slaves on his plantation. Not to mention his abusive treatment towards Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) as he shows her love only to turn it around with whip lashings. Fassbender never pulls punches. He goes to a place that can be quite scary for an actor, playing a character that is so disgusting that you yourself are playing a character that you cannot stand to be. I applaud him for such an excellent performance.  

DANIEL BRUHL (RUSH): In Ron Howard’s film Rush you have a Formula 1 racing film about a rivalry between two racers. What emerges is a superb performance from Actor Daniel Bruhl as Niki Lauda. Bruhl portrays the character as a stubborn and determined man who battles a giant in James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth). He quickly accepts the “bad guy” role and continues his pursuit of being the best. What Bruhl does an excellent job is portraying Lauda’s blinding determination, almost an obsession which leads to the unfortunate car crash that nearly steals Lauda’s life. The in the car scenes and after crash moments is when Bruhl earns his nomination. As he lies on a surgical bed and has tubes and pipes put into his throat it looks uncomfortable and real. It is a performance that overshadows everything else about Rush. Bruhl is going to be around a long time!   

JONAH HILL (THE WOLF OF WALL STREET): Never in this film critics life did I ever think I would be praising Jonah Hill of all people for his acting! And yet, here I am to let you know that this young man, who we watched get his start in bro-comedies like Superbad and Knocked Up, has become a serious actor. In fact, after watching his superb performance in Wolf of Wall Street, I would suggest that Jonah limit his comedies and continue to focus on dramatic roles. His portrayal in “Wolf” as Donnie Azoff is loud, funny, improvisational, and serious. Hill wears his pearly white chompers as a shield of false character. As Hill experiences his Quaalude induced scenes he almost steals scenes from his co-star Leonardo DiCaprio which is impressive enough. Jonah Hill is going to be one of those actors that we will always be scratching our heads asking, “This guy? That Jonah Hill? Oscar Winner?” It could happen. He is getting better and better! 



SANDRA BULLOCK (GRAVITY): Now this is a performance from Bullock that I believe the actress would be worthy of winning the Academy Award for. The individual struggle that Bullock had to endure in making Alfonso Curon’s space journey was the performance of legends. When we think of individual performances where the actor is alone and isolated many think of Tom Hanks in Castaway or James Franco in 127 Hours, now we have a film where a female lead is given the chance to prove that this is a woman’s world in acting and Bullock dominates! The character that she creates in a small amount of time and space is where the real achievement is. Not to mention the physical aspect of her floating around, spinning and turning her body in different ways, make her efforts a total mind and body effort. This is Sandra Bullocks greatest performance of her entire career! 

GRETA GERWIG (FRANCES HA): Actress Greta Gerwig has already been in one Woody Allen film in her career, but after her performance in Frances Ha, I have a feeling the actress may become one of Allen’s typical muses. And if not, she has certainly played the Woody Allen style character in her performance as Frances. I cannot say that I thought Frances Ha was the greatest movie this year but Gerwig’s performance was certainly one of the most memorable. The character of Frances is memorable like Ferris Bueller or even Allen himself. She is floating in the wind from apartment to apartment. Always trying to make ends meet and at the same time filled with excitement. Gerwig does an excellent job of making this character come to life. Always rambling and losing her train of thought. I know people like Frances and Gerwig is excellent. 

CATE BLANCHETT (BLUE JASMINE): If Blanchett had not been in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine than someone like Greta Gerwig or Amy Adams may have had a chance to win an Oscar this year. Unfortunately, even with all the other great female performances this year they seem futile with Blanchett’s full mind and body performance as Jasmine. She plays a martini and prescription pill concoction of a woman who displays her dreams with her dialogue and her emotions with her eyes in every scene. When she is forced to move in with her half sister and her working class grease monkey of a boyfriend it seems like the recipe for disaster and it is just that. Jasmine was comfortable in her high class living lifestyle with her Bernie Madhoff-like husband played by Alec Baldwin. When those things come crashing down all around her it begins her dissension into madness. Blanchett is the poster for what acting is all about. Her performance is going to be the perfect example of taking on a role and becoming the character that we see on the screen. 



MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY (DALLAS BUYERS CLUB): Usually during every award season there is one actor who does some drastic commitment to his or her character. That actor this year is Matthew McConaughey. The “McCona-ssance” just keeps going and going! It is safe to say that McConaughey has had the best overall acting year with Oscar worthy performances in Mud and with his role as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club. For this role McConaughey lost at least 30 pounds to look like the lead role who suffered from contracting the AIDS virus. After catching the disease Woodroof became a pioneer against the FDA who were prescribing the drug AZT which was hurting more than helping. Woodroof took it upon himself to get the proper medicine and created the title of the film- The Dallas Buyers Club. In a year where the Best Actor category is the most competitive, McConaughey should be a lock for nomination. He commitment and work in film is too good to go unnoticed.  

CHIWETEL EJIOFOR (12 YEARS A SLAVE): Chiwetel Ejiofor is a name for everyone to get used to hearing. This man is everything and more when it comes to the hype of his performance in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. He becomes the man Solomon Northup and gives one of the best performances of they year. What is felt in this film is from the passion in Ejiofor’s voice. As he delivers his lines he has a will and courage of a champion. I cannot express enough how good 12 Years a Slave is as a movie. And Ejiofor is the driving performance of this vehicle. Where the performances comes from best is Ejiofor’s eyes. What is always constant is fear, possible tears, and the disbelief that he has been taken hostage and put into slavery. Ejiofor will be the front runner for the Oscar!

LEONARDO DICAPRIO (THE WOLF OF WALL STREET): In a year full of actors that could be considered for Best Actor the third and final choice was the toughest. It could have been Bruce Dern for Nebraska, or Robert Redford for All is Lost, Christian Bale for American Hustle, or Oscar Isaac for Inside Llewyn Davis, or especially Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips. But the actor who clearly put his heart, soul, money, effort, and life on the line for his film was Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street. DiCaprio’s performance as Jordan Balfort, the man who created his own Wall Street empire selling garbage stocks and making millions on it, is a tour de force! DiCaprio is in almost every scene of a 3 hour film that involves some of the craziest lewd and crewed acts ever put on screen. If you wonder what is the main reason for DiCaprio’s nomination here than look no further than his continuous solo monologues pumping up his crowd of followers like a dictator. Look no further than his quaalude induced struggle to drag his body from the door to his Lamborghini. This performance is in DiCaprio’s top 5 performances and is more than worthy of him winning the Academy Award! 



MOVIE 43: What is known now about Movie 43 is that even the celebrities who were in it do not even want to acknowledge that they were a part of the debacle of a movie. The premiere only had a few of the actors in it show up. The “comedy” is a movie of 13 different skits that include some of the most grotesque scenes that are neither funny nor fun. And the cast in this one is heartbreaking. I mean what was Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman thinking? I laughed at about two scenes and only continued to watch because finding out what well-known actor showed up next was worth the wait. Just a really bad movie that was only funny to the people making the movie. It is one of the worst movies of all time!   

R.I.P.D.: With a title that is dumb enough to get viewers to not go see it in the first place, R.I.P.D. is one of the most embarrassing movies of the year, The budget for this film was too high, the box office numbers were terrible, and the movie was not good. Not to mention two respectable actors in Kevin Bacon, Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges were in a movie that was the exact same plot as Men In Black but instead of aliens they were called Dead-os? The running time is actually quick so thats good but it feels like a bank job. The actors, directors, and all else involved got into the studio, made the movie, got paid and left. That was all that mattered. You get what you put in and the effort on this one is crap! Not fun. Just time wasting.   

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD: The Die Hard series is doing just what the title says, Dieing hard. The final (and I hope it is the final) installment in the Die Hard series is not just the worst, but it is on multiple lists for Worst Movie of the year! I mean this movie is that bad! Bruce Willis is able to be John McClane again and the actor still has the physical ability to do the stunts and action. The only problem is that the action looks terrible! Not everything needs to be CGI! It looks so bad as bullets fly, bodies fly, and nobody is killed. The plot of McClain going to Russia to save his son from Russian terrorists sounds like it would work but it does not go well when the bad guy has no character development and is not even close to the classic Die Hard bad guys we have seen before. The cherry on the top of this terrible movie is the sentimental family get together at the end. This movie that is supposed to be in the Die Hard realm gets mushy! So bad! 

And the GOLD REEL goes to…MOVIE 43! 


12 YEARS A SLAVE: Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave moved me as a film critic and as a viewer of cinema. Here is a film that projects on the screen and tells the people of America to look. Look at your history. Look at the way African Americans were treated. It is not comfortable to look at, but it is something that must be discussed if we are to move past it. That is what Steve McQueen achieves from this film. The story of Solomon Northup is a story of survival and triumph. The fact that this man who was wrongly put into slavery, was able to make it out alive is an achievement. And yet as the film comes to a close we can only feel heartbreak. In the middle of all these emotions are shinning performances from all the major actors and actresses. Lead by Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon and supported by Lupita Nyong’o and Michael Fassbender. Not to mention the whose who of great actors that appear such as Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodard, Paul Dano, and Brad Pitt. This is a film that will be remembered putting McQueen at the top of art directing today! 

AMERICAN HUSTLE: Christian Bale’s character Irving Rosenfeld asks “Who is the master? The artist? Or the forger?” David O. Russell has used the look and style of Director Martin Scorsese, but is he copying Scorsese or is Russell the artist? That is the question you will ask yourself after watching the electric- American Hustle. The Abscam story about a con-artist who was caught by the Feds and used in order to entrap some local Politicians. What sticks out in this film is four top of the line performances from actors who are on a winning streak. Lead by Christian Bale, who underwent some serious transformation to make himself look like an out of shape con-artist butter ball. Amy Adams throws herself in the middle of the leading men wearing the sexiest clothing of the 70’s while Bradley Cooper plays a misguided detective who is looking for his big bust. Oh and Jennifer Lawrence, yeah she is better than all of them! She may be miscast for her age, but she outplays Bale making her look like another Oscar front runner. Russell may have stolen a lot of Scorsese’s skills, but he certainly made it all look so good, so real! 

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET: Marty has done it again. This time he really riled up the masses. The Wolf of Wall Street is Martin Scorsese’s newest film about Jordan Balfort, a young pup on Wall Street who made millions turning penny stocks into millions of dollars in commission. Not to mention turning all that into a major stock firm empire. This guy was greedy, addicted to pills, lived life in the fast lane, and did not care about anyone he hurt along the way. This movie was the most controversial film of 2013 and it opened at the end of the year. Not bad for a Director who is 71 years old. Wolf is everything that people who loved it and hated it are talking about. It is sexist, lewd, funny, long, and will infuriate you. That is all lead by one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s greatest performances. A movie like Wolf of Wall Street is the perfect example of why Cinema is the greatest form of art. Whether you love it or hate it, it moves you and provokes you to think. This movie does all of that. Scorsese is a master! 

And the GOLD REEL goes to…12 YEARS A SLAVE! 


1) 12 Years a Slave

2) The Wolf of Wall Street

3) American Hustle

4) Inside Llewyn Davis

5) Gravity

6) Frances Ha

7) Blue Jasmine

8) Her

9) Nebraska

10) Blue is the Warmest Color 

HONERABLE MENTION (11 thru 30): Mud; Stories We Tell; Drug War; Stoker; The World’s End; The Great Beauty; Don Jon; Captain Phillips; The Way, Way Back; Rush; Le Week-end; Concussion; The Spectacular Now; Dallas Buyers Club; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; Star Trek: Into Darkness; Prisoners; In a World…; What Maisie Knew; World War Z


1) Movie 43

2) R.I.P.D.

3) A Good Day to Die Hard

4) Paranoia

5) After Earth

6) G.I. Joe: Retaliation 

7) Evil Dead

8) The Lone Ranger

9) The Hangover: Part 3

10) Gangster Squad

DISHONERABLE MENTION (11 thru 15): Broken City; Upstream Color; White House Down; The Internship; Olympus Has Fallen

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