Mr. Reed’s Metaphysical Neighborhood Presents the Best Technical and Artistic Film Work of 2013

Best of 2013 Tech Collage_V3

Greetings on this first day of the new year! May 2014 bring you all that you most desire and need.

Today, I am going to name the films of 2013 that I think showcased some of the best technical and artistic work – some of which is considered “below-the-line” (crew) in a film budget – compared to my blog post of two days ago where I listed the best “above-the-line” (cast) achievements of the year. Those budgetary divisions do not do justice to the incredible talent of the folks who do the lion’s share of the labor to bring you the films you love. For a (relatively) complete list of who does what on a movie, you can check out this summary from Kodak (remember them?). Some people actually consider the Director of Photography (DP, or cinematographer) to be “above-the-line,” and the distinctions between the different roles become blurred as we move into the world of music and post-production. No matter – you get the idea. The list, below, is in honor of the brilliant artists whose names you probably don’t know, but would, in an ideal universe, celebrate as much as those of famous actors and actresses.

The way I made my selections was relatively simple. If the work in a particular category was – in my opinion – a significant factor in the success of the film, then I seriously considered adding it to my list. You may wonder at some of my omissions, however, such as Inside Llewyn Davis, which seems to be on the top 10 lists for many a critic, and is getting a lot of Oscar buzz, including for its cinematography. The reason I do not include it in my own choices for cinematography (or production design) – although I do, for music – is because I felt that Bruno Delbonnel’s DP work (and Jess Gonchor & Susan Bode’s production design) actually took away from my enjoyment of the story. The images were too clean – and too blue – and just did not feel right for a story about a down-on-his-luck folk singer in 1961 (although they were individually beautiful). Where was all the smoke, for instance? I also did not include Emmanuel Lubezki – the cinematographer of Gravity – who is likewise a possible Oscar contender, because of my very strong feelings about the role of the cinematographer in such an effects-laden film (see my thoughts on Life of Pi, from last year). I do, however, include both the production design and visual effects team from that film, as they all did an absolutely amazing job in creating the spectacular look of near-earth orbit. Finally, while I loved American Hustle, and included it in my top 10 films of the year, I did not think that the cinematography was particularly noteworthy (although the production design was superb).

There are also those artists whose work was truly exceptional in movies that I found to be good (maybe), but perhaps less than amazing, and who elevated those films without overshadowing them. I would include Bradford Young, the DP of Mother of George, in this category, as well as the visual effects teams of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Riddick. For music, I will admit that I fudged this category, since the Academy usually gives awards for “Best Original Score” and “Best Original Song,” and all I cared about here was the quality of the soundtrack, regardless of whether it was entirely composed – fresh – for the film, or compiled and/or arranged from previous work, or some combination of both, as was the case with the exceptional music in Inside Llewyn Davis and The Broken Circle Breakdown. I have also fudged the “sound design” category, since the Academy lists “Best Sound Mixing” (generally on-set recording) and “Best Sound Editing” (post-production sound), whereas what most interests me is the design of the overall soundtrack (with or without music). Unfortunately, determining who is most responsible for this on, alone, is quite difficult, and so I apologize if I am leaving important people uncredited. The same holds true for “visual effects,” as there are just too many people involved in the creation of the spectacular digital effects we see on screen. I have chosen to list just the visual effects supervisor(s), and hope that I have left no one out.

Again, if I have previously reviewed the film, then the title’s hyperlink will take you to my review. If I haven’t, then the hyperlink will take you to another critic’s review that I liked, with one exception: for the soundtracks, I have linked to the mp3 album on Amazon, so you can sample the music, yourself (although Her‘s soundtrack is not yet available, so I just linked to the movie’s website, for that category). For all lists, the order is not random, but the differences between #1 and #10 may not be that significant (to me).

Enjoy, and feel free to leave comments after you look it over!


  1. Hoyte Van Hoytema: Her
  2. Chung-hoon Chung: Stoker
  3. Sean Bobbitt: Twelve Years a Slave
  4. Reed Morano: Kill Your Darlings 
  5. Ruben Impens: The Broken Circle Breakdown
  6. Lol Crawley: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
  7. Phedon Papamichael: Nebraska
  8. Benoît Debie: Spring Breakers 
  9. Bradford Young: Mother of George
  10. Anthony Dod Mantle: Rush


  1. Jeff Buchanan & Eric Zumbrunnen: Her
  2. Douglas Crise: Spring Breakers
  3. Nicolas De Toth: Stoker 
  4. Daniel P. Hanley & Mike Hill: Rush
  5. Brian A. Kates: Kill Your Darlings
  6. Brian A. Kates & Joe Klotz:  Lee Daniels’ The Butler
  7. Roger Barton & Matt Chesse: World War Z
  8. Christopher Rouse: Captain Phillips
  9. Joe Walker: Twelve Years a Slave
  10. Rick Russell: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom


  1. Bjorn Eriksson & The Broken Circle Breakdown Bluegrass Band: The Broken Circle Breakdown
  2. Mark Orton: Nebraska
  3. T-Bone Burnett (Music Supervisor) & various others: Inside Llewyn Davis
  4. Owen Pallett & Arcade Fire: Her
  5. Cliff Martinez & Skrillex: Spring Breakers 
  6. Graham Reynolds: Before Midnight 
  7. Rob Simonsen: The Spectacular Now
  8. Clint Mansell: Stoker
  9. Steven Price: Gravity 
  10. Joseph Bishara: The Conjuring

Production Design[note: the Academy convention is to list the Production Designer and Art Director(s) under this heading, and I have done likewise – the first name is always the P.D; there may be more than one A.D.]

  1. K.K. Barrett & Austin Gorg: Her
  2. Andy Nicholson & Mark Scruton: Gravity
  3. Judy Becker & Jesse Rosenthal: American Hustle
  4. Thérèse DePrez & Wing Lee: Stoker
  5. Stephen H. Carter & Alexios Chrysikos: Kill Your Darlings
  6. David Gropman & Nancy Haigh: August: Osage County
  7. John Paino & Javiera Varas: Dallas Buyers Club
  8. Volker Schäfer & Anja Fromm: Hannah Arendt
  9. Johnny Breedt, Willie Botha, Patrick O’Connor & Cecelia van Straaten: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
  10. Mark Digby, Daniel Chour, Katrina Dunn, Patrick Rolfe, Ivan Weightman & Christopher Wyatt: Rush

Sound Design:

  1. Chuck Michael & John Morris: Stoker
  2. Aaron Glascock: Spring Breakers
  3. Danny Freemantle & Glenn Freemantle: Gravity
  4. Steve Boeddeker: All Is Lost
  5. Ren Klyce: Her
  6. Danny Hambrook: Rush
  7. Erik Aadahi & James Boyle: World War Z
  8. Oliver Tarney, Michael Fentum & James Harrison: Captain Phillips
  9. Robert Jasckson: Twelve Years a Slave
  10. Jay Nierenberg: American Hustle

Visual Effects:

  1. Tony Clark, Matt Kasmir, Richard McBride, Ben Morris & Timothy Webber: Gravity
  2. Matt Aitken, Jeff Capogreco, Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, Charles Tait: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  3. Mat Beck, Tim Carras, Ryan Epp, Gunnar Hansen, Alain Lachance, Pierre- Simon Lebrun-Chaput, Jonathan Legris, Nordin Rahhali, Ollie Rankin & Mathieu Raynault: Riddick
  4. Paul Butterworth, Adrian De Wet, Thierry Delattre, Matt Dessero, François Dumoulin, Jeffrey Kalmus, Richard Martin, Stephane Naze, Janek Sirrs, Philippe Theroux, Marc Varisco, & Guy Williams: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire 
  5. Kevin Baillie, David Burton, Simon Carr, Urs Franzen, Ben Grossmann, Jörn Großhans, Roger Guyett, Alex Henning, Thomas Lautenbach, Sven Martin, Saku Partamies, Eddie Pasquarello, Patric Roos & Michael Wortmann: Star Trek Into Darkness
  6. Matt Johnson, Adam McInnes, John Nelson, Jessica Norman, Simon Stanley-Clamp & Adam Valdez: World War Z
  7. Mark Breakspear, Matthew E, Butler, Tim Carras, Max Dennison, Swen Gillberg, Stephen Pepper & Sue Rowe: Ender’s Game
  8. Matt Aitken, Mark Bakowski, Paul Butterworth, Alessandro Cioffi, Vincent Cirelli, Dan Deleeuw, Matt Dessero, Sheena Duggal, Venti Hristova, Stéphan Kosinski, Simon Maddison, Keith Miller, Erik Nash, Stephen Pepper, Simon Stanley-Clamp, Christopher Townsend & Guy Williams: Iron Man 3
  9. Colin Davies, Bob Munroe & Martin Tori: All Is Lost
  10. Janelle Croshaw & Charlie Iturriaga: Her

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