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Published: Thursday, 12/12/2013

Film critics fell in love with ‘Her’

BY KIRK BAIRD
POP CULTURE

Her, Spike Jonze’s offbeat and poignant romance between a man (Joaquin Phoenix) and his advanced Siri-like operating system (voice of Scarlett Johansson), was voted Best Picture of 2013 by the Detroit Film Critics Society.

This slightly futuristic sci-fi tale of love and human connection in a world increasingly tethered to technology also won three of the four awards for which it was nominated. The film opens in Toledo sometime next month.

Best Picture was a tough vote, I can assure you as a member of the Society. Consider the other nominees: 12 Years a Slave, which I still think is the favorite for Best Picture going into Oscar season; Before Midnight, the third film in Richard Linklater’s a-day-in-the-life series about a couple’s often tumultuous relationship; Gravity, the spectacular space disaster flick; and Short Term 12, an indie drama about staff members and the teenage residents at a foster care treatment facility, a film you’re likely never to see unless you have a Netflix account.

It didn’t get easier in the other categories, either.

For Best Actor — which offered perhaps the most difficult group of choices — we selected Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) and his transformational performance as a Texas redneck dying of AIDS who was inspired to lead a crusade for access to non-FDA approved AIDS medicines. McConaughey won out over equally worthy performances by Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), and Robert Redford (All is Lost).

McConaughey’s win shouldn’t be a surprise. Our Best Actress winner probably will be: Brie Larson (Short Term 12) as a counselor as dysfunctional as those she helps. Larson also won our Breakthrough category. Her Best Actress competition was Amy Adams (American Hustle), Julie Delpy (Before Midnight), Meryl Streep (August: Osage County), and the young French actress Adele Exarchchopulous as a new-to-love (and heartbreak) lesbian in Blue is the Warmest Color.

I would be stunned if Larson or Delpy — and probably Exarchchopulous — make the Best Actress cut for the Academy.

Our Best Supporting Actor winner is the Oscar favorite: Jared Leto (The Dallas Buyers Club). McConaughey’s performance is worth seeing the film, but Leto is every bit as impressive and moving as a troubled transvestite dying of AIDS. The category’s nominees also included McConaughey (Mud), Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), and two off-beat but certainly worthy selections: James Franco (Spring Breakers) and Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire).

Best Supporting Actress was Johansson, a role for which she won Best Actress at the Rome Film Fest, but she will probably be overlooked for an Oscar nomination. The other nominees were Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), and my favorite, June Squibb (Nebraska).

Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) won a deserving Best Director nod over Jonze, Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street), and David O. Russell (American Hustle). American Hustle won Best Ensemble, while Jonze won for Best Screenplay for Her.

Best Documentary was Stories We Tell.

The Detroit Film Critics Society was founded nearly six years ago and consists of a group of 20 film critics who write or broadcast in the Detroit area as well as other major cities within a 150-mile radius of the city including Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Flint, and, of course, Toledo.

Contact Kirk Baird at 
kbaird@theblade.com 
or 419-724-6734.



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