2013 was a magnificent year for in-depth, emotionally wrought performances. We’ll have a list of our favorite performances from humans up tomorrow. But let’s not be too hasty. In our rush to praise human performers with our Oscars and our Golden Globes and our Pajiba lists, we’ve forgotten the unsung heroes: the inanimate objects. Listen, I’m not talking about that nifty wooden panel phone in Her. That little sucker had the unfair advantage of being voiced ever-so-sultrily by Scarlett Johansson. That’s dirty pool.
But we’re here to glorify the rest. Those things that don’t have a sex bombs to announce their importance. I speak for these, for these have no tongues.
Christian Bale’s Hair — American Hustle
There were a lot of wigs vying for inclusion on this list in David O. Russell’s luscious tribute to the ’70s. Jeremy Renner’s pompadour and Bradley Cooper’s perm (allegedly Cooper’s idea) were certainly strong contenders. But the opening scene of the film itself is dedicated to the construction of Bale’s magnificent comb-over. Bale explains why: “I can’t honestly remember if it was written in the script, I don’t think it was. But we had been doing it for weeks, every morning getting ready to go to work, and we [had] people who would just come and sit and watch my hair get ready because it was entertaining. And so we went, ‘Well, let’s stick it on film!’” Clothes make the man, sure. But the toup makes Irving Rosenfeld.
James Franco’s Grill — Spring Breakers
We can’t talk about chameleonic performances this year and not talk about Franco’s amazing Alien. The cornrows helped, but it was that flashing grill that really did the trick.
That Throbbing Green Light — The Great Gatsby
Luhrmann got a lot of things wrong about this Fitzgerald adaptation. A lot. But among the things he got right was that ever-throbbing green light at the end of Daisy’s pier. It would be hard to mess up, sure. But it was a necessary touchstone to the source material. Whenever things got too chaotic, too lush, too Baz, that green light pulsed and reminded us why we loved Fitzgerald and why we should care about Gatsby’s inexorable fate.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s Billowing Coat — Star Trek Into Darkness
One of the biggest (non) mysteries surrounding this Star Fleet sequel was the identity of Benedict Cumberbatch’s character. Was he Khan? Was he not? Why wouldn’t they tell us?!! When the movie started, however, that mystery became instantly irrelevant. Why? Well as soon as that Sherlockian coat billowed we knew exactly who we were watching. Relax, that coat said. It’s just Cumberbatch. He of the swishing hem and dramatic collar. It doesn’t matter that they’ve been lying to us. They hired the right man for the job and when all else in the film failed, he delivered everything that silhouette promised.
India’s Shoes — Stoker
India, played by the delightfully understated Mia Wasikowska, has worn saddle shoes her whole life. Every year on her birthday, in fact, she got a new pair. So when she turns 18 and slips on something new, well, spoilers. But the shoeing ritual alone is something stunningly breathtaking. Never has a pair of heels carried such significance.
Those Poor Poor Buildings — Man Of Steel
Were it not for the fine, stalwart performances of these brave, brave edifices, Zack Snyder’s Superman movie would have been in danger of complete emotional bankruptcy. Thank heaven for each dramatic crumble. Each groaning heave. Without these buildings, there would have been nothing to empathize with at all.
Josh Hutcherson’s Lifts — Catching Fire
Listen, those lifts are the hardest working things in show business. I know it. You know it. Hutcherson knows it.
That Penis Sculpture — This Is The End
To say that this movie is penis-heavy would be putting it mildly. Penises are the fulcrum on which this movie swings. But even more importantly, This Is The End is such a fantastically modern, liberal bro comedy. There are penises galore (and far, far too much Danny McBride), but there’s also tender snuggling between straight dudes without a hint of homophobia. I think the artsy penis in Franco’s fictional Hollywood home is the perfect visual of that blend of the stereotypically masculine vulgar and the stereotypically feminine tender. Or, possibly, it’s just a penis. Sometimes a penis is just a penis.
Jonah Hill’s Teeth — The Wolf Of Wall Street
Much like Franco’s grill in Spring Breakers, these puppies had a weird transformative property. Hill is not nearly as adept as Bale or Franco at disappearing into a role but somewhere between the accent and the glasses and those pearly whites, I stopped thinking about Superbad and started buying Hill as a serious enough actor to swing with a heavyweight like DiCaprio. He didn’t disappoint.
Charlie Hunnam — Pacific Rim
I mean. He was almost life-like. Uncanny.
In conclusion and with much love.