This column is the third and final chapter of a comparison between the best movies that the year 2003 and it’s 10-year senior, 2013, have to offer. You can find the other articles, which compare everything from action to comedy, here and here.
This week, we’ll finish off the Cinematic Showdown with the emotional heavy hitters, Best Drama and Best Romance.
Round 4: Best Drama
The Life of David Gale
Recap: Looking at this list, it seems like 2003 was the year of the Drama. Some (including the Academy) will argue that the best dramas are actually on what I consider the Undercard. Mystic River was heart-wrenching but ultimately just scene-chewing in my humble opinion. We witnessed a phenomenal transformation by Charlize Theron in the real-life serial killer biopic, Monster. One of the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman performances is on display in the gambling-addicted downward spiral witnessed in Owning Mahowny. AndBig Fish was a heartwarming father and son story, probably Tim Burton’s best film. When it comes to drama, 2003 is tough to beat.
Saving Mr. Banks
Recap: But 2013 is no slouch in this department, either. I was pleasantly surprised by the realistic peek into how the Disney magic is made with Saving Mr. Banks. Blue Jasmine features a great Cate Blanchett performance, even if the movie as a whole is somewhat pointless. American Hustle is a ton of fun and the acting is top-notch, though the script starts to fall apart upon repeated viewings. Prisoners was one of my favorite movies of last year as well, as Jake Gyllenhaal’s most nuanced role to date is electrifying to watch.
Main Event: City of God vs. Dallas Buyers Club
Tale of the Tape: Though it was nominated for four Oscars and was part of every college guy’s DVD collection, City of God is still an unseen treasure for many. The story spans the lives of two young boys growing up in Rio De Janeiro in the 1960s; one choosing a life of crime, the other pursuing his passion as a photographer. It’s an interesting comment on nature vs. nurture while also being an intense and wildly compelling story.
But Dallas Buyers Club was a tremendous, tour de force of a film, also based on a true story. I loved this movie; the performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto were as good as it gets, the script takes dark and depressing subject matter and adds some pop and comedy to the proceedings (without sacrificing reverence), and any movie that makes Jennifer Garner tolerable is a certified winner in my book.
Winner: For Jared Leto’s Oscar-worthy & winning performance, I have to go with Dallas Buyers Club. But if you haven’t seen City of God, it’s a requirement.
Round 6: Best Romance
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
Lost in Translation
Recap: Like most guys, I’m not much for this category in general, simply because you have to wade through too much fluff to get to anything unique. That said, the chemistry between Kate Hudson and a pre-McConaissance McConaughey is irresistable, and one of my few guilty pleasures. Just Married is another great romantic comedy, where Brittany Murphy’s smile could wash away any overacting that Ashton Kutcher brings to the table. 2003 was also the year for Sofia Coppola’s first film, Lost in Translation, where Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray turned in notable performances for a unique, honest, and quiet romantic flick set in Tokyo.
The Spectacular Now
Recap: I vastly prefer the romantic fare from 2013, as it’s not as cookie cutter. Enough Said, one of James Gandolfini’s last movies, is a quiet and realistic look at finding love in unlikely places later in life. Drinking Buddies usurped the tropes of the genre to deliver an ending that was more true-to-life than its viewers may have even wanted. Warm Bodies was charming, despite it being a romance between a zombie and a woman leading the resistance. And The Spectacular Now is proof that we have powerhouse talent in rising stars Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley.
Main Event: Love Actually vs. Her
Tale of the Tape: 2013 may have it all over 2003 in the Undercard, but 2003 brought one of the most celebrated and widely-loved romance movies in recent memory, Love Actually. First, it’s set at Christmas time, which is always a plus in my book. It was also the original, star-studded, ensemble cast romance that was ripped off countless times in subsequent years. Love Actually is the epitome of what fans of the genre want in their romances: laughs, tears, and happy endings.
Never one to be pigeonholed into a genre, Spike Jonze’s Her could be a drama, it could be considered sci-fi, but I see it as a romance. Though instead of just witnessing the birth, death, and revival of a relationship, as we see in most romances, Jonze also asks a bigger question: What is the definition of love, and who are we to define who love should exist between? Add Joaquin Phoenix at the top of his game and Scarlett Johansson doing Oscar-worthy voice work and you have an unmatched vision that is brand new and familiar all at the same time.
Winner: In possibly the most controversial of upsets, I cannot deny the brilliance of Her, despite the cultural touchstone that is Love Actually. Her wins by split decision.
So there you have it! 2013 was a better year for movies, despite some stiff competition from 2003. Will we see the trend continue when 2023 rolls out (I think not, since we’ll probably be seeing the likes of Avatar 6and Transformers 13, but I digress).
Here’s a recap of the winners:
Best Action Movie: Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
Best Animated Movie: Finding Nemo (2003)
Best Comedy: Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Best Sci-Fi: Gravity (2013)
Best Drama: Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Best Romance: Her (2013)
Do you agree with my picks over the course of this showdown? Do you disagree? Great! Let’s hear it in the comments, Cinedelphians!