Over 61,000 votes were cast by nearly 5,000 New Zealanders to decide the winners of the 2014 NZ People's Choice Movie Awards.
Thank you all for turning out en masse.
The sci-fi movie for people who can’t stand the stuff. The 3D movie for people who hate the gimmick. The Sandra Bullock movie for… well, you get it. Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón knocked this out of the park - a mix of eye-popping visuals, vertiginous orbital sequences and an emotional core supremely provided by the aforementioned Bullock. For these reasons and the sheer viewing experience, Gravity truly was the must-see movie of 2013.
One of the great novels by a New Zealander, Mr. Pip got the film adaptation to match with Kiwi Andrew Adamson (who himself lived in Papua New Guinea as a teen) bringing to life this tale about the power of the imagination set during the Bougainville civil war. Hugh Laurie may have been the big draw card, but it was inexperienced newcomer Xzannjah that was the revelation as she captured the essence of her character Matilda to heartbreaking effect.
Will Ferrell continued the legacy of Ron Burgundy, the newsreader extraordinaire who would do whatever it took to achieve excellence in both his broadcasting career and overall life. At various times that took the form of smoking crack live on air, adopting a shark, destroying the fabric of modern news coverage and beating the crap out of his competitors. We condoned none of it, but like you found it side-splittingly hilarious.
After killing Nazis in Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino turned his attention to the shameful slave-trading past of the United States. Somehow he managed to depict the horror of the era amidst a rollicking adventure tale that (unsurprisingly given the imagination it stemmed from) often strayed into pulp and comedic territory. What a balancing act, and what a film. Spike Lee hated it without even seeing it - one of many recommendations.
The first Iron Man was an early example of how Marvel would go on to match great characters with superb talent. The 2013 masterstroke was to get Shane Black to take the helm, reigniting a partnership with Robert Downey Jr. that started with 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Black’s trademark dialogue peppers the film, his take on The Mandarin ruled and he’s a perfect match for Downey Jr. - but most importantly Iron Man 3’s action kicked ass.
This orbital nailbiter could have fit into a number of different categories in these awards, but after holding our breath for far too long and far too often throughout (and coming close to ripping off cinema armrests with nerves at times) it’s safe to say Gravity ran rings around other thrillers this year. Sandra Bullock brought a much-needed human dimension, but this only served to make the panic and tension all the more inescapable.
Perhaps never has Ryan Gosling’s beautiful mug attracted a more unsuspecting audience than here. Reteaming with Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn, less happens than in their previous film, Gosling somehow has even fewer lines and the resolution is more unclear. We loved it and you loved it too – a solid result for a film that has appeared on almost as many worst of 2013 lists as polls of the best films. Can it be both at once? Why not!
Some nominees in this category were tense, others awe-inspiring. This year’s best documentary winner combines the two, while adding several liberal dashes of national pride. The world-shaking achievement of Kiwi mountaineering legend Sir Edmund Hilary in conquering the summit of Mt Everest was brought to life with Beyond The Edge’s 3D re-enactments in a way that no textbook, newsreel footage or oral account could ever compete with.
Boasting one of the best trailers of the year, itself scarier than many horrors, The Conjuring was a welcome assemblage of old school jump scares. The lack of gore may have put off some of the more rabid horror fans and the film certainly didn’t reinvent the wheel, but this ghostly tale must have made great date material as entire cinemas of women shrieked and dudes pretended they didn’t just jump in their seat - nope, no we didn’t. Did you?
Dystopian post-apocalyptic futures are our personal favourite futures, and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire continued to bring to life the brutal nation of Panem. Expanding on the world built in The Hunger Games, Catching Fire lingered more on the social dynamics of the future, the disparities between the haves and have-nots and the appeal of rebellion and revenge - all weighty sci-fi alongside the action, stunning cityscapes and flying machines.
With a stupendous river-chase sequence, further plot ties to The Lord of the Rings and the grand reveal of badass dragon Smaug, part two of The Hobbit smote the living crap out of competing fantasies in 2013 – not to mention everyone else at the box office. Accelerating the prequel saga’s pace and delivering a welcome reminder of Peter Jackson’s appetite for action, this was a more satisfying return to Middle Earth than its predecessor and points to a fittingly awe-inspiring conclusion to the saga at year’s end.
Breaking the global box office’s piggybank, Gru and his minions successfully achieved world domination with this money-printing sequel that sees the ex-villain-turned-foster-dad side with the good guys for a change. You can praise the sequel for its slapstick humour, Illumination’s beautifully hyperkinetic animation and a villain far superior to the first, but let’s be honest – it was those little yellow guys that won you over, right?
Director Baz Luhrmann worked with Jay Z to blend the Jazz Age with modern sensibilities – meaning covers of Amy Winehouse, Roxy Music and U2 sit alongside originals by The xx, Lana Del Ray and (wow, here’s a surprise) Jay Z. The collaboration bore fruit, taking an often-subtler approach to Luhrmann’s trademark use of modern music than some of his other films, helping establish the wistful, longing, and tragic mood (and soundtrack the odd party).
The world’s most gif-able starlet won you over with her superb portrayal of a mentally broken young widow in last year’s 5-star rom-com Silver Linings Playbook. Tiffany is a difficult character to make likeable, but Lawrence expresses her flaws with equal amounts of socially-brutal bluntness and heart-aching inner anguish, evoking the necessary mix of frustration and sympathy that has you rooting for her to tip the scales and find her happiness.
Hanks’ resounding portrayal of the real-life captain forced into a Somali hijacking situation wasn’t simply one of the best performances of the year – it was one of the best performances in the veteran actor’s entire career. The much-talked-about final scene most likely won your vote, a masterful impromptu display of rattling emotive disfigurement that wasn’t even in the original script. That’s Uncle Hanks showing you how it’s done.
Jennifer Lawrence had plenty to do in The Hunger Games, but Catching Fire saw plenty more required as her character dealt with the ramifications of its predecessor. Naïvety was replaced by a wary cynicism and while Katniss had survived outwardly intact, there were plenty of psychological scarring. Nothing an A-list, award-winning actress couldn’t handle though, J-Law even getting in a trademark eye roll among the drama and action aplenty.
Not long after we meet Leonardo as Monsieur Calvin Candie - who can’t speak a word of French, the fraud - he’s forcing two black men to battle to the death in a spot of "Mandingo fighting". Standing in for every sadistic racist of the American South, DiCaprio delivers a loathsome performance through terrible, terrible teeth. This really wasn’t a lovable year for Leo, and we lapped up this role in particular. Plus, was Calvin shagging his sister?
Waiting nearly a decade to see Will Ferrell reprise his Ron Burgundy character on the big screen turned out to be well worth the anticipation. From his most outrageous physical contortions to adlibbed outbursts, displays of monumental stupidity to the simplest of reaction shots, Ferrell was nothing but almost supernaturally funny. Like he cursed someone or sacrificed a child or something. We’d do the same thing if it worked this well.
It’s almost unthinkable to imagine anyone else starring in Life of Pi other than Suraj Sharma, so strongly did he make the film his own as the shipwrecked boy around whom Ang Lee’s visual feast of a fantasy revolved. Even harder to grasp is the young fellow’s lack of prior acting experience. It’s as if Lee was setting out to make adapting the “unfilmable” novel even harder, but the results proved captivating, and Sharma one hell of a discovery.
Facing the pressure of having this whole film rest on their performances, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence rose to the occasion, both walking delicate lines in their depictions of mental illness. While often infuriating, they were always believable and as we fell for each of their characters, so they fell for one other in a display of undeniable chemistry that made us long to be that twinkle-toed on the dancefloor – if, perhaps, not as damaged.