The Oscar Nominations: Outside “Llewyn Davis,” Little to Complain About

Hemsworth

First, some obligatory awards season perspective: the Oscars don’t matter to you. You’re allowed to like a movie whether it was nominated for Best Picture or not. You are your own Oscars.

If that’s the case, why do we get so worked up about snubs and surprises and predictions and hopes and dreams? We want to see quality work recognized. The Academy Awards are one of the most common starting points for someone looking at the films of a particular year. If the awards don’t reflect the best movies, they’ll provide an inaccurate reflection of what we thought about film in 2013.

Nonetheless, complaining about the Oscar nominations is futile. It’s better to look at them as a starting point for discussions about the merits of movies. In that spirit, I’ve chosen four nominated-related things that made me happy this morning, and four that made me less than happy. Let’s use this list as a way of talking about movies, not awards.

(For more of my thoughts on the subject, stay tuned for this week’s episode of The M&M Report, in which Devin Mitchell and I will talk in depth about the year in movies.)

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“American Hustle”: The Roaring 70s

American Hustle

Perhaps the biggest pleasure of the enormously pleasurable American Hustle is watching four of the finest living movie stars sink their teeth into meaty roles and have more fun than you’re ever likely to have. Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence make up the movie’s central quartet of lovable conmen and conmen wannabes, each apparently engaging in a contest to see which one can generate the most onscreen sparks. Anchored by this magnificent quartet, director David O. Russell’s follow-up to last year’s Oscar winning romance Silver Linings Playbook is overlong, narratively confounding, tonally precarious and utterly exhilarating.

Though the story is inspired by the FBI’s utterly insane Abscam sting, which claimed four senators and one representative in the late 1970s, an amusing introductory title card makes Russell’s intentions quite clear. “Some of this actually happened,” the card reads, absolving the movie of any pesky adherence to historical fact. The movie revels in this freedom. It’s not a documentary, nor does it pretend to be. Rather, as scripted by Russell and Eric Singer, it’s an exploration of four characters searching for their own identities even as they assume others.

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2013 in Review: Justin Timberlake’s Fractured Reign

Timberlake

During the first track on The 20/20 Experience, the first of two 2013 albums from Justin Timberlake, the multi-hyphenate superstar describes the love of his life as “my drug,” “my dealer” (yes, both), “my heroin” (rhymes with “wine”), “my cocaine,” “my nicotine,” “my blue dream” and “my hydroponic jelly bean.” (OK, that last one’s just plain weird.) He could have just as easily been describing his relationship with the American public, who gobbled up every morsel on his multi-course musical comeback menu with the vigor of, well, an addict. America simply couldn’t get enough of the suit and tie this year.

Or could they? Years from now, will we remember this year as the latest triumph in Timberlake’s impressive multi-decade streak, or the slow fade of an artist with plenty of energy but little substance beneath the style? The evidence from the first half of the year suggests the former, but the second half of the year brought its fair share of disappointments, casting a shadow over the Year of JT.

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2013 in Review: The Rest of Television’s Best

Arrested

Yesterday, I unveiled a list of my ten favorite shows of 2013. As I argued in my piece on Wednesday, though, this year’s television can’t be summed up in terms of just ten shows. Here, then, is a snapshot of other things I enjoyed on TV in 2013.

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2013 in Review: My Ten Favorite TV Shows

Parks

Yesterday I offered an overview of the year in television. Today, check out my list of my ten favorite TV shows of 2013. A few caveats:

1. I haven’t seen everything. Here’s a partial list of shows I can’t include on this list because I haven’t watched them: The Good Wife. Game of Thrones. Enlightened. Bob’s Burgers. Girls.Veep. Eastbound and Down. Treme. Broadchurch. The Fall. Masters of Sex. Justified. Sons of Anarchy. Boardwalk Empire. I’m not paid to watch television. I’m doing the best I can.

2. I didn’t rank these ten shows because I didn’t have the energy. Why bother? They’re all great. I’d recommend any of them to people who love watching TV.

3. Making lists is fun but inevitably arbitrary. Tomorrow, I’ll post another list of shows that missed this list but still deserved recognition. Boiling things down to a list of ten is important for the purposes of making difficult judgment but meaningless for the pursuit of quality viewing.

And now, the list.

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The Year in Review Begins

Breaking Bad

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, not the holidays, though those are nice too. It’s time to recap, review, analyze, dissect, quantify, qualify, discuss, debate, demystify, debunk and debrief the year in pop culture. I’ve fully immersed myself in the spirit of summing up the past 365 days, and I’ll be unveiling a steady stream of blog posts in that spirit over the next couple weeks.

I started my 2013 Nostalgia Tour over at The Eagle. My final Take 5 column of the year briefly summarizes major trends in movies, music and television. I also left room to shine a spotlight on the year’s best performances and had fun using some of the year’s most memorable quotes to tell a little story about what we’ve learned from our entertainment. You can read my “Take 5: 2013 in Review” here.

Keep an eye out for my thoughts on the year’s best movies, TV shows, albums, songs, awards show moments and much more. Read on for a few of my parameters and guidelines for year-end recaps.

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Three More Thoughts on the 2013 AMAs

JT

Even though I live-blogged the entire three-hour behemoth last night, I have lots to say about the 2013 American Music Awards. The live-blog format is necessarily limiting, and I’ve revised or expanded many of my opinions since the show aired. With that in mind, here are three big takeaways from this awards show (one of the silliest around, don’t forget.)

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