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Originally published January 2, 2014 at 2:58 PM | Page modified January 7, 2014 at 8:47 AM

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Film tradition continues with ‘Dubious Achievements’ 2013

We wrap up the film year with our annual “Dubious Achievements,” from the best mustache to breakout performance.

Seattle Times movie critic

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I am pleased to see the nod to mr. John Hartl in your article. well done! MORE


Long ago, my honored predecessor John Hartl began — and I’ve continued — a tradition of wrapping up the movie year with a list of “Dubious Achievements.” Here we go, for 2013:

Best performance in a lost cause: Lily Tomlin in “Admission,” Jim Carrey in “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” Bret McKenzie in “Austenland,” Helena Bonham Carter in “The Lone Ranger,” Melissa McCarthy in “Identity Thief,” Owen Wilson in “The Internship,” Pink (Alecia Moore) in “Thanks for Sharing.”

Best vampire: Didn’t it seem like an unusually snappy and sunny year, just because we didn’t have to watch another “Twilight” movie? Nonetheless, Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan stylishly carried on the bloodsucking tradition in Neil Jordan’s “Byzantium.”

Best performance by an animal: That extremely calm orange tabby (or, rather the three cats that played him) in “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

Best chemistry: Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley in “The Spectacular Now,” Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in “Before Midnight,” Idris Elba and Naomie Harris in “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” James Cromwell and Geneviève Bujold in “Still Mine,” Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini in “Enough Said,” Lake Bell and Demetri Martin in “In a World ...,” Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson’s voice in “Her.”

Worst chemistry: Naomi Watts and Naveen Andrews in “Diana,” Justin Timberlake and Gemma Arterton in “Runner Runner,” Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel in “Safe Haven.”

Funniest chemistry: Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in “Philomena,” Jennifer Lawrence and everyone she interacts with in “American Hustle,” Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in “Saving Mr. Banks,” Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in “The Heat.”

Best breakthrough performance: Lupita Nyong’o in “12 Years a Slave,” Will Forte in “Nebraska,” Dane DeHaan in “Kill Your Darlings,” Oscar Isaac in “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Michael B. Jordan in “Fruitvale Station.”

Best breakthrough performance, over-70 division: Robert Redford, who almost wordlessly reminded us of his great gifts as an actor in “All Is Lost.”

Best mustache: There was just something endearing about Joaquin Phoenix’s ’stache in “Her,” wasn’t there?

Best screen debut: Barkhad Abdi in “Captain Phillips.”

Best kid performance: Kelyna Lecomte in “Nana,” Onata Aprile in “What Maisie Knew.”

Best popcorn movies: “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “Gravity,” “Captain Phillips,” “The Heat,” “Monsters University,” “Star Trek: Into Darkness.”

Best superhero: Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” I’d pit that icy gaze against Superman any day.

Best sequel: “Before Midnight.”

Best villain: Benedict Cumberbatch in “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” Ben Kingsley in “Iron Man 3,” Michael Shannon in “The Iceman.”

Most disappointing villain: Those Nazis in “The Book Thief” just seemed kind of cranky.

Best evidence that the romantic comedy isn’t dead: “Enough Said,” “In a World ...,” “Her.”

Most convincing evidence that the romantic comedy is, indeed, dead: “The To-Do List,” “The Big Wedding.”

Best stories you couldn’t make up: In yet another year of great documentaries, applause for “Let the Fire Burn,” “At Berkeley,” “Blackfish,” “56 Up,” “Stories We Tell,” “The Waiting Room,” “A Place at the Table,” “Good Ol’ Freda” and so many more.

Slyest scene-stealing: Alison Janney in “The Way, Way Back,” Brian Cox in “Blood,” George Clooney in “Gravity,” Richard Cordery in “About Time,” Morgan Freeman in “Last Vegas.”

Best costumes: “The Great Gatsby,” “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “Beautiful Creatures,” “Diana.”

Best demonstration of the beauty of black-and-white cinematography: “Nebraska,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Frances Ha.”

Most compelling reason to never, ever go down into the basement: “The Conjuring.” Brrr.

Best singing: It wasn’t much of a year for musicals, but Jennifer Hudson and the cast of “Black Nativity” raised the roof in song. And “20 Feet from Stardom” left a lot of us happily humming.

Busiest bees: The very productive Benedict Cumberbatch turned up this year in “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” “The Fifth Estate,” “12 Years a Slave,” “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” and “August: Osage County” (opening in Seattle next week) — and squeezed in a new season of “Sherlock,” too.

Most uncanny transformation: Matthew McConaughey, skinny as a cigarette in “Dallas Buyers Club” — and turning in one of the great performances of the year.

Saddest goodbye: James Gandolfini, leaving behind perhaps the sweetest performance of his career in “Enough Said.”

Best reason to look forward to 2014: I could argue all day whether Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike were the best choices to play Nick and Amy in “Gone Girl” (my picks: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Charlize Theron) ... but I can’t wait to be proved wrong.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

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