Monday, February 16, 2015

End-Of-Year: 2014 Film Winners

The Oscars are less than a week away so before we find out who they picked as their favorites, here are mine. (See my nominations).

Best Actor: Tom Hardy, Locke
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Other Nominees:
Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel
David Oyelowo, Selma
Dan Stevens, The Guest
Ben Whishaw, Lilting

It's probably true every year, but this year especially I felt the leading actor category was pretty stacked. There were plenty of names I could've nominated still like Keaton, Gyllenhaal, Pratt, etc. so I guess I shouldn't have been too shocked when I found it difficult to pick a favorite from my shortlist. Fiennes, for example, really seemed like he was meant to play the charismatic concierge while Oyelowo fully inhabited the spirit of the late great Dr. King. Meanwhile Whishaw's performance broke me with its sincerity and tenderness while Stevens pleasantly surprised me with his fierceness. Redmayne, my Oscar wish to win this category, ended up as my runner-up though because his Hawking just felt so natural making it all the more affective as a result. Locke then rose to the top with a brilliant and singular performance in a film that absolutely required one if it had wanted to work at all.

Best Actress: Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Belle/Beyond the Lights
Other Nominees:
Marion Cotillard, The Immigrant
Agata Kulesza, Ida
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Jenny Slate, Obvious Child

After I posted this shortlist, I realized I hadn't fully considered Johannson who was sublime in a few films this year. But even with that caveat, the actresses I did choose more than deserve attention. Cotillard for one gave such a nuanced performance that I likened it to Streep's Sophie's Choice while Kulesza made it impossible for the audience to really notice anything else if she was in the scene. Moore will certainly NOT be ashamed if she wins the Oscar for this particular role since even if it's not her best, her portrayal of a linguistic professor suffering from Alzheimers is touching, brave, and just so damn good. Slate was a revelation and she elevated her tiny and charming film with smiles and tears to spare. My runner-up pick Mbatha-Raw impressed in two very different films and in two different roles that she both made entirely her own cementing her status as a star. Pike, however, is my overall favorite with a once-in-a-lifetime role so unlike anything she's ever done that it's impressive just how bloody perfect she was.

Best Supporting Actor: Edward Norton, Birdman/The Grand Budapest Hotel
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Other Nominees:
James Corden, Begin Again/Into the Woods
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Toby Kebbell, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Andrew Scott, Pride

My top two picks turned out to be Oscar-nominated and are probably the two who would likely win, but it's hard to argue against their deservedness. First, my favorite Norton was just fantastic in two (Best Picture nominated) films fluidly working in a sprawling ensemble in one and going toe-to-toe with another master class actor (Keaton) in another. Runner-up Simmons, aka your likely Oscar winner, was such an electric force that I could totally buy him as a second-lead versus a supporting character and I'll be happy when I see him pick up an Oscar for this fear-inducing role. The other nominees are hardly chopped liver. Corden pretty much stole the movies from his more well-known co-stars while Hawke provided such a grounding presence that probably did more for the movie that anyone thought. Kebbell meanwhile channeled Serkis' brilliant work and did something special all his own. Finally, Scott had a small, but important role that seemed to give heart to an already great film.

Best Supporting Actress: Emily Blunt, Edge of Tomorrow/Into the Woods
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Other Nominees:
Carrie Coon, Gone Girl
Imelda Staunton, Pride
Emma Stone, Birdman
Tilda Swinton, Only Lovers Left Alive/Snowpiercer

I can't say enough about the wonderfulness of all of these ladies only to say that this was a tough category to narrow down. A few names that almost made it in include BIG names such as Winfrey, Streep, Russo and not so big names like Dickens, Driver, Cheng, etc. Blunt is my top pick solely due to how much she kicked ass as the Full Metal Bitch, but also including her MVP work as (the lead) the Baker's Wife in her film musical debut made it that much easier. Arquette, my runner-up, is going to win an Oscar for the exquisite work she does in her film and I'm just so over-the-moon about it. Coon and Staunton were both part of superb ensembles and yet doing their best to shine just slightly brighter than the rest while Stone really does some of her best dramatic work I've ever seen her done. Finally, Swinton is such a unique and singular performer that it makes sense for her to excel in two roles that seemed like she was the only one who could've done them.

Best Young Actress/Actor: Ellar Coltrane, Boyhood
Alex Lawther, The Imitation Game
Other Nominees:
Mackenzie Foy, Interstellar
Maika Monroe, The Guest
Tony Revolori, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Tyler James Williams, Dear White People

Though 20 now, Coltrane's journey with his ground-breaking film started when he was 8 and continued for the next 12 years enabling the audience to see him grow as both a person on screen and an actor. My runner-up pick Lawther nails his dramatic moments that actually humanizes the slightly less interesting adult part of the film. The other young actors I've nominated should have bright futures ahead at least I'm hoping.

Best Ensembles: Pride and Selma
Other Nominees:
Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy

This is the category I kinda wish I didn't have to pick a winner since I honestly think all of them have excellent ensembles. I wouldn't have nominated them if I didn't! So I just decided to do a tie for two films that actually highlighted the power of a group of people coming together to enact social change. Seek out all of these films if you can.

Most Disappointing Film: The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Other Nominees:
Jersey Boys
Labor Day
Magic in the Moonlight
Men, Women, & Children

Foxcatcher should probably be the "winner" of this category for me since it's the only film that received great notices from critics and other film lovers while the others received mixed to bad receptions. But I went with Spider-Man 2 because I honestly did think that the Garfield/Stone (romcom) part of the film without the super villains and the action was aces and the fact that most everything else failed meant that Garfield, expertly cast I thought, will no longer be Spider-Man. Foxcatcher, by the way, was hampered by a confounding central performance from Carrell and slow pacing that I just couldn't get behind. As for the others... Jersey Boys was dull, Labor Day was languid, Magic in the Moonlight was a mess, and MWC just had way too much happening.

Worst Film: Tammy
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Other Nominees:
A Million Ways to Die in the West
Let's Be Cops
Winter's Tale

If you've seen any of these films last year then I understand your pain. Weirdly enough, even amongst these 6 films there's a hierarchy of badness. A Million Ways and Let's Be Cops at least had some funny moments while Pompeii and Winter's Tale had some technical achievements which weren't so bad (plus both seemed to somewhat embrace their utterly ridiculous campiness to varying degrees). My bottom picks though were just plain atrocious. I enjoyed the first Sin City film so the fact that I found its sequel to be devoid of any excitement or spark makes me re-think my good feelings for the first. And Tammy, oh GOD Tammy. So, so many good actors wasted on a film that had absolutely no idea what it wanted to be. It just made me feel bad for everyone involved.

Hopefully I can post my ranked list of films before the Oscars!

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