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Southeastern Film Critics’ Association selects the best of 2013

by Mark Burger

The holiday crush is upon us, perhaps nowhere more so than in Hollywood, as studios large and small align their best bets for the 2013 Oscar race.

In the last few weeks, the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) nominations were announced, as were the selections of critics’ groups from around the world, all of it

leading inevitably to the big one: The Academy Awards. The 86 th annual ceremony will take place March 2, 2014, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres and broadcast on ABC.

This is a busy time of year for film critics — and that certainly includes yours truly as a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA). It always seems that Hollywood saves its best for last, and this holiday season is stuffed with potential Oscar contenders. (Of course Hollywood saves its best for last, because sometimes Academy voters have short memories.)

Established in 1992, SEFCA currently boasts 51 members, all of whom voted this year. Yes it’s true, during holiday season SEFCA critics make their lists and check them twice — in my case, three or four times — to select the best that cinema had to offer during the last 12 months. Happily, there were more than enough worthy contenders to choose from… which hasn’t always been the case.

This year saw some familiar filmmakers whose films made the 10-best list, including Martin Scorsese, Joel and Ethan Coen and Alexander Payne (Oscar winners all), but SEFCA’s 2013 selections were dominated by 12 Years a Slave, the screen adaptation of Solomon Northup’s best-selling, first-hand chronicle of slavery in the pre-Civil War South, which was selected in four categories: Best Film, Best Director (Steve McQueen), Best Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong’o). The film was also the runner-up in Best Supporting Actor (Dallas Buyers Club’s Jared Leto besting Michael Fassbender) and Best Ensemble (won by American Hustle). Noted Philip Martin, film critic for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and blooddirtandangels.com and current SEFCA president: “While 12 Years a Slave was a clear-cut winner, the voting indicates that this is an exceptionally deep year for the movies; 81 different films received votes.”

SEFCA’S 10 BEST FILMS OF 2013:

1. 1. 12 Years a Slave2. 2. Gravity 3. 3. American Hustle 4. 4. Her 5. 5. Inside Llewyn Davis 6. 6. Nebraska 7. 7. Dallas Buyers Club 8. 8. Philomena 9. 9. Captain Phillips 10. 10. The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Director: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave. Runner-up: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity.

Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave. Runner-up: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club.

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine. Runner-up: Judi Dench, Philomena.

Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club. Runner-up: Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave.

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave. Runner-up: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle.

Best Ensemble: American Hustle.

Runner-up: 12 Years a Slave.

Best Original Screenplay: Her (Spike Jonze). Runner-up: American Hustle (David O. Russell and Eric Singer).

Best Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave (John Ridley). Runner-up: Philomena (Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan).

Best Documentary: Act of Killing. Runners-up: Blackfish and Muscle Shoals.

Best Foreign Language Film: The Hunt. Runner-up: Blue is the Warmest Color.

Best Animated Film: Frozen. Runnerup: The Wind Rises.

Best Cinematography: Gravity (Emmanuel Lubezki). Runner-up: 12 Years a Slave (Steve Bobbitt).

Gene Wyatt Award: Mud (Jeff Nichols).

Runner-up: Muscle Shoals (Greg “Freddy” Camalier).

The latter award, named for the late Nashville Tennessean critic and founding SEFCA member Gene Wyatt, is awarded to the film that best evokes the spirit of the South. This marks the second time that Jeff Nichols, a UNCSA graduate, has received the Wyatt Award, having also won for Shotgun Stories in 2008.

“Jeff is a great storyteller in the Southern tradition and Mud is a film that stands in the tradition of Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor — filtered through a visual sensibility that recalls Terrence Malick,” says Martin. “I’m proud that SEFCA recognized him early — his first film, Shotgun Stories, won the Wyatt Award in 2008.” !

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