Daniel’s Top Ten Films of 2014

top-ten-02-01

2014 provided to be an incredible year all-around for film. Amazing blockbusters, spectacular indies, and epic Oscar films. It also happened to be the year I saw more movies than I ever have before. I saw 51 films in theaters this year (most of them for free, don’t worry), and 84 films released overall in 2014. It was truly difficult, as it always is, to lay out my top ten films. Some choices were easy, and there were some tough cuts. I even had to cheat a little bit with one tie. These are films that affected me in some way, challenged me, enlightened me, or even simply humored me. Check out the list, along with some honorable mentions.

TT13-01

10. TIE: CHEF, BEGIN AGAIN Okay, okay. So I cheated. But I really couldn’t decide between these two. The reason I paired them together is that I had very similar feelings about them both. They are purely happy films. They’re feel-good, enjoyable experiences. Begin Again was an absolute surprise going in, and I left the theater floored at just how fun the film turned out. Chef has an infectious energy that pervades the whole film. They both deal very much with creatives and the importance of an artist’s free expression. Both are musically driven and have fantastic soundtracks. I couldn’t decide which I like more, and I stand by that. They’re under-seen, happy films, and the world needs more just like them.

TT14

9. STILL ALICE The closest thing to a horror movie you’ll find on my list, Still Alice was a terrifying look at Alzheimer’s disease. I expected to like Moore’s performance, but I didn’t realize I would love the movie so much. It’s such a simple film, modestly shot, very few locations, small scale, but it’s so effecting. There are moments of shock at the progress of the disease. It’s frightening. “I wish I had cancer,” she declares at one point, and we get it completely. Moore’s performance is so pitch-perfect, capturing the fear along with the forgetfulness of Alzheimer’s. This a powerful film exploring a real-life killer. Watch it.

TT158. SELMA What an eerily well-timed film. In my life, the Civil Rights movement has always felt before my time, in the past. Of course as this year has taught us, it’s not that simple. Oyelowo gives an absorbing performance, showing MLK’s powerful authority, his zen-like leadership, and his behind-the-scenes boiling anger. Selma is an excellent, thrilling film, beautifully shot and exciting. It’s not a perfect film, yet I understand the confusion (read: anger) over it’s lack of a real presence at the Oscars, but let’s remember it’s nominated for Best Picture. When other films miss out on nominations, we don’t cry racism. Maybe that’s the reason, or maybe the voters just liked other films more. Either way, Selma works, and it’s a film that will last.

TT16

7. BIRDMAN What a captivating, unique film. Wonderfully shot as if in one-take, Birdman draws us in, making the camera, along with the audience, almost feel purely like a spectator of a real event. The performances are top-notch all around. I feel as though I need to see Birdman a second time. The first viewing was more to experience it, but a second time is necessary to really appreciate what Birdman is trying to say. There are plenty of excellent emotional moments, like when Sam rips her father apart, telling him he doesn’t matter. But there are plenty of hilarious moments too, like most of Mike Shiner’s scenes. Birdman is a such a unique creation.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-zoe-saldana-chris-pratt6. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Easily the best blockbuster this year, and there were a lot of great ones to choose from. Guardians of the Galaxy is funny, it’s surprising, and it’s just purely, unashamedly awesome. Sure it’s part of a franchise, but it’s a completely new universe. Everything feels fully developed and lived in. Chris Pratt proves he’s a star and gives a great performance. Guardians isn’t perfect, but it’s infectiously fun.

TT18

5. GONE GIRL Incredibly written and endlessly intriguing, Gone Girl never stops making you think. It’s a thriller that has you guessing from the moment you finish the trailer. Rosamund Pike gives one of the best performances of the year-or of most years- as Amazing Amy Dunne. The film is so spectacularly woven together, releasing precise pieces of info at very specific moments. Cutting back and forth from real-life to Amy’s diary was a beautiful choice that only muddied the waters even more. This is certainly one of the best written films this year. Gone Girl adds yet another powerful thriller to David Fincher’s near-perfect filmography.

TT19

4. INTERSTELLAR Interstellar is more of an experience than most films. I saw the movie in true 70mm IMAX, and it was worth it. It’s an immersive ride that drives you to want more. Story-wise, Interstellar is more interesting than impactful. The family drama is a little cliche, the characters aren’t all-in-all original. I stuck with the exploration aspect the whole time, but it lost me when we were brought into the staircase dimension. Still, in the end, none of that seems to matter. These are minor mistakes in a spectacular film. It didn’t reach the heights it hoped, but it reached farther than most. It’s a beautiful film filled with wonder. Inspiring and intriguing, Interstellar leaves me wanting more films just like it.

TT203. THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING This was a surprising film, but in many small ways. We go into Theory of Everything expecting an Oscar-caliber performance from Redmayne, and he delivers whole-heartedly. We expect less from Felicity Jones, who succeeds and exceeds these expectations at every turn. Theory is romantic and sad, painful and inspiring. Such a well-crafted film from beginning to end. Despite a sad ending, you can’t help but leave the film happy.

Whiplash-5547.cr22. WHIPLASH It was a very, very difficult choice between my top two. I swapped the titles multiple times before posting. Despite a tough battle, Whiplash has settled at a very respectable number two. J.K. Simmons’ formidable, intimidating performance is what makes the film. But don’t get me wrong, Whiplash is so much more than just that. Through his screaming and torment, Simmons’ Fletcher forces his students to give him only the best. One of the best lines of the year is spoken more than halfway through the film: “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job.'” Honestly, it’s hard to disagree with him in the moment. His methods are maddening and horrifying but he begs a tough question: how far would you go for greatness? An intense, well-crafted, exciting, dramatic piece of art, Whiplash simply works.

TT211. BOYHOOD

Boyhood is exactly, perfectly my type of film. It’s an achievement all on it’s own: following a central actor portraying a character over twelve years of his life, filming a little bit each year. It’s a powerful concept flawlessly executed. The acting isn’t all around the best, and the story isn’t the most complex and original, but it doesn’t matter. It simply feels real. It’s life, pure and simple. We watch Mason grow up right before our eyes. It’s a truly effecting experience filled with catharsis. We all grow up searching for answers and meaning, and here we watch one such journey play out. It’s a powerful thing, this search for truth. While Mason certainly hasn’t found absolute truth in the end, his journey impacts us. Boyhood will remain an important film for decades to come. A pure slice of what it was like to grow up in this age. This is film history in the making. This is powerful, raw, emotional storytelling. Boyhood is the best film of 2014, and one of the best films in decades.

Honorable Mentions:

Best Animated Film: The Lego Movie

Best Documentary: Citizenfour. Incredible, thought-provoking real-life thriller.

Biggest Surprise: Edge of Tomorrow

Best Under-Seen Film: Snowpiercer

Worst Film of the Year (that I actually saw: Pompeii

Tyler’s Top Ten Films of 2014

TT11-01

Up front, let me be clear that this my list of my favorite films of 2014. This is not necessarily a list of which films should be nominated for any Oscars in particular. When I’m thinking of a list like this, I’m focusing on enjoyability, as well as rewatchability. I can watch a film and recognize that someone has a particularly outstanding performance , or that the film overall is technically superb, or even those few films that are so clearly, wholly phenomenal that they should garner an Oscar nod. Thus, this list may overlap with those we’ve been talking about this past weeks. However, I have to expand a bit: just because a film gets–and deserves–an Oscar nod doesn’t mean that it’s enjoyable or that I’d watch it over and over.

I’m looking for a whole moviegoing experience. Would I recommend it to others? Is it impactful or particularly important? Was it fun? Visually appealing? Obviously, this is largely a matter of taste, and it’s an incredibly unscientific process to formulate a result.

Here goes, in order:

1. Chef

chef-movie-banner-web

Chef might be my favorite film of 2014. It’s not the best, most technical film. I didn’t break new ground in cinematography; it didn’t have an actor contorting himself into a wholly different persona; it didn’t hit new heights of sexuality; and it won’t win Best Picture this Oscars Season. But I think it’s my favorite anyway–it’s just a joyful film. From the addictive, upbeat soundtrack to the redemptive relationship between a nearly estranged father and son, it hits on all cylinders. It’s a truly heartwarming film, yet it doesn’t fall into the cheesy category, something that I think has been missing of late.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy

gotg still and banner

3. American Sniper

BP1

This film reminded me of Zero Dark Thirty, which is a film I can watch and rewatch. I see that happening here. It is still an intriguing film, well-made and thoughtful. Bradley Cooper’s intense and true portrayal of PTSD, as well as the juxtaposition of war life and home life was poignant and significant. The quickness of the film was needed to highlight the blur of war, and the struggle that soldiers and their families must go through during transitions.

4. Gone Girl

gone-girl

Gone Girl was a crazy, intense film. First of all, I almost never like a film more than the book from which it is adapted: Gone with the Wind, the Bourne Trilogy, The Godfather, Parts I & II, and The Hunger Games series. In this case, it’s hard for me to decide which I liked better, because this film is quite faithful. The book is deeply mysterious and emotional, as is the film, yet the film was more visceral and impactful than the book. Usually I don’t think that, because my imagination is pretty vivid, but in this case it was more gripping.

5. Interstellar

interstellar new banner

Interstellar was one of those movies that I wanted but didn’t even know that I wanted. I love films like this: films that mess with time travel and space travel, that explore the ideas of what lengths we might have to go to in order to preserve the human race. That, combined with McConaughey, Chastain, and Hathaway’s stellar acting sells the gravity (puns intended!) of the situation that they’re in. Finally, add in Hans Zimmer’s rich organ-oriented score and the captivating visuals, and you have a perfect storm of a film.

6. Whiplash

BP8

I had to pick my jaw up from the floor at multiple points throughout Whiplash. It was a deeply dark and disturbing film, but one that also probes the depths of passion and perseverance. This isn’t an inspirational film, but it is a film that readily delves into the dark corners of the drive to achieve greatness, not necessarily for the love of the creativity of art, but for the notoriety of that greatness. I loved the film, but I would have to think twice before getting ready to sit through it again, because it brought me to a dark place. The opening scene, however, is maybe the most precise and concise piece of characterization I have seen in a long time.

7. Birdman

Birdman-banner

Birdman was a singularly immersive experience. From the opening moments, I was enraptured by almost every element: Keaton’s (dare I say) breakout performance, the single-take conceit, the seamlessly woven play within a film, and the slow psychological burn that underpins everything we see. Each performance was spot on, though not all are nomination-worthy. This film will battle for Best Director as well, and I think it may deserve both awards (as well as Keaton’s Best Actor nod). However, no other film on this list tries to do what this one accomplishes, nor possibly leaves such an impact.

8. Selma

BP5

I was riveted by Selma, from the bombing early on to the frenetic, emotional riots and brutality throughout. This move easily deserves its place on this list of nominees, if only to balance out The Imitation Game‘s shortcomings. The acting is superb from all angles (every actor is British, except for Common and Oprah), the music accents everything emotionally, the story is relevant and impactful, and they didn’t have to hit anyone over the head with the message of peace and equality. It does it on its own without being underscored by epigrams at the end.

9. Jodorowsky’s Dune

jodorowskys-dune-poster-banner-e1404891165549

Jodorowsky’s Dune is a film that is many things at once, and they all work together to form a compelling narrative about a madman’s dream about a hippie’s trippy novel about drugs and war. It was described as the greatest movie never made, an influential film that preceded seminal movies like Star Wars, Alien, and Blade Runner. To see the inner workings of the making of this film, as well as the exploration of Jodorowsky’s film career, is like a bit of a film history class, but the most exciting one you’ll ever take.

10. Still Alice

still alice

Still Alice was excellent, and Julianne Moore is the quiet, yet standalone winner for me. Even with the other good performances on this list, Moore is clearly at the forefront. Where Felicity Jones is the rock next to Redmayne’s deteriorating academic husband, Moore is both the rock and the quicksand, clasping desperately at sanity, hoping that it will remain, and preparing herself and her family for the inevitable. It was a heart-rending performance, and one that is all-too applicable to audiences today.

Runners Up:

I understand that, with some of the films above, you may be scratching your heads a bit. There are some surprises on my list. To comfort you, here’s my long list (in no particular order) of the top films of the year overall. Remember that I was looking for rewatchability, more than simply the greatness of the film itself.

  • Foxcatcher
  • Boyhood
  • Theory of Everything
  • Begin Again
  • Fury
  • Big Eyes
  • The Judge
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier
  • The Lego Movie
  • Babadook

Oscars 2015: FINAL Predictions

Daniel: Here they are! My final predictions. I’ve been a certified Oscar junkie for five or six years now, and those years were fairly easy to predict. Best Picture was pretty much sown up before the award show even began. Last year I correctly predicted 22 out of 24 categories. That’s a lot, if I do say so myself. This year, however, I expect different results. The 87th Academy Awards have been a really tough to predict, and that’s super exciting for movies! Take a look at our guesses, and let’s see how we do!

Tyler: This has been an excellent year for films, with some categories clearly locked, while most are wide open. I haven’t kept track of how many predictions I’ve gotten right, but I do OK. Here are our choices; see how we match up!

Don’t forget to fill out your own predictions and guess along with us on Sunday, Feb. 22nd!

 

m21

BEST PICTURE

Will Win:

T: Birdman

D: Boyhood, but it’s probably wishful thinking.

Should Win:

T: Birdman

D: Boyhood

BEST DIRECTOR

Will Win:

T: Richard Linklater, Boyhood

D: Alejandro Iñárritu, Birdman

Should Win:

T: Alejandro Iñárritu, Birdman

D: Richard Linklater, Boyhood

BEST ACTOR

Will Win:

T: Michael Keaton, Birdman

D: Michael Keaton, Birdman

Should Win:

T: Michael Keaton, Birdman

D: Eddie Redmayne, but Michael Keaton will be a deserving winner.

BEST ACTRESS

Will Win:

T: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

D: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Should Win:

T: Julianne Moore

D: Rosamund Pike, but Moore also deserves it.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Will Win:

T: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

D: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Should Win:

T: J.K. Simmons

D: J.K. Simmons

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Will Win:

T: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

D: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Should Win:

T: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

D: Emma Stone, Birdman

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Will Win:

T: The Grand Budapest Hotel

D: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should Win:

T: Boyhood

D: Boyhood

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Will Win:

T: The Imitation Game

D: The Imitation Game, but this is close with Whiplash

Should Win:

T: The Theory of Everything

D: Whiplash

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Will Win:

T: How to Train Your Dragon 2

D: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Should Win:

T: Big Hero 6

D: The Lego Movie. Wait what do you mean it’s not nominated?!

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Will Win:

T: Citizenfour

D: Citizenfour

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Will Win:

T: Birdman

D: Birdman

BEST FILM EDITING

Will Win:

T: The Grand Budapest Hotel

D: Boyhood

Should Win:

T: Boyhood (Well…Birdman…)

D: Whiplash

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

T: Ida

D: Ida, but it’ll be a close fight with Leviathan.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Will Win

T: The Theory of Everything 

D: The Theory of Everything

Should Win

T: (Interstellar should win…)

D: The Theory of Everything

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

T: Glory, Selma

D: Glory, Selma

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

T: The Grand Budapest Hotel

D: The Grand Budapest Hotel

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

T: Into the Woods

D: The Grand Budapest Hotel

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

T: The Imitation Game

D: The Grand Budapest Hotel

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

T: Interstellar

D: Interstellar

BEST SOUND EDITING

T: Birdman

D: American Sniper

BEST SOUND MIXING

T: Whiplash

D: Whiplash

BEST ANIMATED SHORT

T: Feast

D: Feast

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

T: Joana

D: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT

T: The Phone Call

D: The Phone Call

Oscars 2015: Miscellaneous Category Roundup

Rather than break down every one of the 24 Academy Award categories, we dedicated posts to Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Supporting Actor and Actress. Here, we’ll take a brief look at a few other major categories. We’ll also post our full Oscar Predictions a few hours before the Awards, so you can see how wrong we’ll be!

M1-01

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo Boyhood Richard Linklater Foxcatcher E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness Nightcrawler Dan Gilroy

Tyler: Here, we’re looking at writing, rather than all of the elements that makes or breaks movies (like direction or acting…small things like that). This year, we’ve seen quite a number of solidly-written films (though I feel like a more than usual number were adapted, rather than original…). With all the love that there is out there for The Grand Budapest Hotel, I suspect that it will win, though I think either Birdman or Boyhood should get it. Birdman‘s intense whackiness and exploration of darkness and psychopathy just beg for this award. Much like the Direction nominee, I’m looking at vision and construction here, and this film relies on its construction. Similarly, with Boyhood, Linklater had a 12-year vision, writing and revision over that period of time, planning in detail what would happen, yet adapting on the fly as the years stretched on. What’s really missing here is Chef by Jon Favreau.

M2-01

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper Jason Hall The Imitation Game Graham Moore Inherent Vice Paul Thomas Anderson The Theory of Everything Anthony McCarten Whiplash Damien Chazelle

Daniel: This category was significantly weakened by the surprise omission of potentially the best-written film of the year, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Without that incredible screenplay, that narrows this to a fight between The Imitation Game and Whiplash. I’ve already laid out my thoughts on Imitation. It’s a perfectly fine, very average film, but I would not be surprised to see the Academy reward it, especially with the focus on homosexuality. That said, I strongly think Whiplash is a better written film. Chazelle’s script builds tension and asks intriguing questions, making you question whether or not you agree with the villain. American Sniper could be a dark horse, and the Academy certainly loved the film and loves a war movie, and Theory of Everything made a big splash as well. Inherent Vice was the surprise nominee here, so don’t expect it to win.

M9-01

Best Original Score

The Grand Budapest Hotel Alexandre Desplat The Imitation Game Alexandre Desplat Interstellar Hans Zimmer Mr. Turner Gary Yershon The Theory of Everything Jóhann Jóhannsson

Tyler: This is my favorite category, and I’d have liked to write a full post solely on the film scores of the year, but I’ll try and hold my tongue a bit. I listen to film scores while I work, grade, and write. They’ve become the soundtrack of my life, in many real ways. I’ve made assignments for my students, having them score books we read just as they would a film, because without music, films wouldn’t affects us as they do. We’ve got two Alexandre Desplat scores, so statistically we’re looking at a clinched win for him. He’s one of my favorite composers, and I can always rely on him to produce a memorable score that’s subtle and moving. If I had to choose between the two Desplat entries, The Grand Budapest Hotel (which I’ve been quite hard on throughout this Oscar Season) stands out as more memorable, though that does not diminish The Imitation Game‘s quality (another film whose score works better than the film overall). Mr. Turner had a surprisingly good score, though it doesn’t stand up against the rest. I’m torn between The Theory of Everything and Interstellar here, because they both rise above the rest. Theory boasts a lush, magical score filled with wonder and sadness, while the pipe organs of Interstellar is so memorable and impactful that, like its cousin 2001: A Space Odyssey, it works best while paired with the visuals. If you twist my arm, though, Interstellar has it because of it’s shocking originality.

M3-01

Best Cinematography

Birdman Emmanuel Lubezki The Grand Budapest Hotel Robert Yeoman Ida Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski Mr. Turner Dick Pope Unbroken Roger Deakins

Daniel: There were a lot of great-looking films this year. The legendary Roger Deakins racks up another nomination, but he’ll still be left without a win for Unbroken. Rightly so. Even though it looks great, it’s far from Deakins’ best work. Ida and Mr. Turner are certainly nice to look at, if not much else. The Grand Budapest Hotel is very well shot and executes the director’s vision perfectly. But, none of them compare to the achievement of Birdman, presenting in one take. This is an incredible feat, and it looks amazing. Emmanuel Lubeski will win back to Oscars here after last year’s Gravity.

M15-01

Best Visual Effects

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Guardians of the Galaxy Interstellar X-Men: Days of Future Past

Tyler: This is a fun category, because it involves the more popular films, and usually the more exciting films. Usually, the winner here is the one also nominated for Best Picture (Gravity, Life of Pi, Inception). I’m looking here for the films that are pushing boundaries in visual effects. X-Men: Days of Future Past was a blast of a film, with some great effects, but it didn’t do new things, and I’d say the same for Captain America 2 and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which I know is winning awards all over the place. It’s a great film, and visually impressive, yet it’s not too different from its predecessor. Guardians of the Galaxy, however, does. It steps forward in the Marvel Universe as a wholly visual film, an experience from the opening seconds through the final battle. For me, it’s Interstellar all the way. Hands down, done and over with. It is stunning, with over the top visuals and subtle visuals that form an atmosphere and aesthetic for the film.

m20-01

Best Film Editing

American Sniper Boyhood The Grand Budapest Hotel The Imitation Game Whiplash

Daniel: Every Best Picture winner since 1981 have received a nomination for editing. That long record may change this year, as Birdman surprisingly missed out here. The Imitation Game is unimpressive. American Sniper is great, and war movies often succeed here. Budapest Hotel is benefitted by some hilarious cuts, but the frontrunners are Boyhood and Whiplash. Boyhood succeeds in keeping a consistent tone and pace over twelve years of filming, but my bet is on Whiplash for it’s intensity and power through strong editing.

Check back on 2/21/15 for our Final Oscar Predictions!

Oscars 2015: Best Director Roundup

BD1

Daniel: Just as with Best Picture, this category benefits from a wealth of options in this incredible year of films. There were plenty of worthy nominees, and thus, a few perceived snubs. Nevertheless, this turned out to be a decently chosen category.

Tyler: I’m looking for vision here. Each of the nominees should demonstrate an ambition of vision, a desire to push boundaries in the technical areas of film. Where and how did they step outside of the box? Are they comfortably seated within their own, pre-fabricated boxes?

BD3Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Daniel: I think Tyler and I pretty well summed up our feelings for this film in Best Picture Roundup. It’s any director’s dream to be recognized unmistakably by the style of your movie, and Wes Anderson is s prime example. Few can claim it. A film like The Grand Budapest Hotel is certainly a directorial achievement, but that doesn’t mean it’s everyone’s thing. I, for one, much prefer a realistically themed movie. Doesn’t make this bad, just not my thing.

Tyler: As I said in the Best Picture Roundup, I love Wes Anderson. He is a precise, intentional director who conceives of and executes each shot perfectly. His films are visually arresting, exquisitely artistic creations through and through. He has a style that is immediately distinguishable from every other director. I believe that, at some point in time, he should win an Oscar. He deserves an Oscar. Aesthetically, this is a beautiful film, but this is not a wholly excellent film through and through.

BD4Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman

Tyler: Birdman is a movie that’s going to change the direction (pun intended) of filmmaking. This will, in different forms, be emulated with differing degrees of success in the near future. It is a stunning film that challenges the viewer and had to challenge everyone involved in the technical filmmaking process. Helming such an ambitious project should be rewarded.

Daniel: Without a doubt, Birdman is one of the best directed films in recent memory. Presenting a film in a single take isn’t completely original, but it’s never been done so fantastically. It fuels the immersive, insane nature of the film. Iñárritu’s direction is seamless, flawless, and steady. The film is constantly at 100%, never slacking or relenting. Birdman is a film driven by a singular purpose, and it’s executed with finesse. Any other year, he would have my vote, but he didn’t direct the film over twelve years.

kinopoisk.ruRichard Linklater, Boyhood

Daniel: Boyhood is my kinda movie. I’ve said it and I’ll say it again: it just feels so real. There’s nothing quite like Boyhood. Directed over twelve years, Linklater has kept the same feel and vision throughout those years. Moments important or mundane are treated with the same objective eye. He keeps us at a place without judgement. Linklater wants us to simply observe a life, and that’s exactly what we do. This is pure cinema: life on screen. The acting isn’t the best all around, but it doesn’t matter. It’s life, plain and simple. Linklater has made a film that will remain relevant and affecting for years to come.

Tyler: I respect the vision of Richard Linklater–for all of his films, really. But this one stands out because he’s been able to lay out a single, guiding plan for this film that he executed and kept running for 12 years. This could have fallen apart easily. The boy could have turned out to be the worst actor ever. Someone could have dropped out of production. But he held it together. He didn’t make an eternal statement that will resound throughout time, but he simply showed the procession of life. He handily deserves the nomination, whether or not he wins.

BD2Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

Daniel: The surprise nominee here, as this is the first nominee for Best Director to not be nominated for Best Picture since the expansion of the category. I get the nomination. Foxcatcher while not the greatest film of the year, was guided by a sure hand. Miller’s film is slow- almost painfully slow, but it’s intentional. He drives us through this slow burn, leading up to the inevitable dark end. Every time we think the film will ramp up, Miller holds us back. Personally, I think he holds back too much, and the slow pace isn’t worth the conclusion, but it’s this intentional, steady direction that led to this nomination.

Tyler: I enjoyed the intentionality of Foxcatcher, the way that it gives us a bait and switch about this being a sports film. It is but it’s also definitely not. This is a film about a controlling sociopath who ensnares athletes to help him massage his ego. This could easily fall into the trap of the sports movie cliches, but there is no winner here. Miller is helped by the fact that this is a true story, helping him stay the true course. This film focuses clearly on the inevitable yet shocking doom befalling the Foxcatcher team.

BD6Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

Daniel: The Imitation Game is a well-made film. The acting is top-notch. The design and look of the film is excellent. But there is not one moment in this film that is surprising. Tyldum’s direction is fine, certainly not bad by any means, but it is unremarkable. I can’t name anything from the film that stood out as unique or spectacular. I don’t think this makes Tyldum a bad director. With a better story I think he’ll do far better. The craft of this film is there, it’s just been done a hundred times before.

Tyler: Agreed. The Imitation Game is a standard World War II spy film, albeit with a closeted homosexual main character. For me that’s the stand out. This, to me, unfocuses the film. Is it a film about winning the war or about abuses against homosexuals? Both make for good films, but it seemed that the film’s title lived up to its name: it was imitating one thing while actually it was trying to be about another, and I don’t think that the divided attention worked.

Will Win:

Daniel: Alejandro Iñárritu , but it’ll be close!

Tyler: Richard Linklater, because the Academy is gonna love the novelty of his long-term vision.

Should Win:

Daniel: Richard Linklater

Tyler: Alejandro Iñárritu, because of his ambition of his vision and the technical skill he demonstrated.

Should’ve Been Here:

Daniel: Damien Chazelle, Whiplash. The intensity of Whiplash was largely due to the excellent direction. I thought he would’ve made the cut, but at least they got the Picture nom.

Tyler: Christopher Nolan, Interstellar. I know this is one of those times where I loved a film and want it to be recognized by the Academy. I think that the complexity of the film, addressing difficulties of time travel in a real manner, not coddling the audience, along with the clear vision, earns a nomination.

Oscars 2015: Best Supporting Actress Roundup

Best supporting actress composite

Daniel: It’s been said for every acting category this year other than Best Actor, but this is the worst of them all. Where are the actresses this year? Here we’ve got two legitimate supporting actresses, one who barely qualifies as a cameo, one who’s nominated as a courtesy, and a frontrunner who’s really a leading role. Hopefully years like this will show the need for more and better roles for women.

BSA2PATRICIA ARQUETTE, Boyhood

Daniel: The easy winner this year. Arquette benefits from a large, meaty role and a lack of contenders. That’s not to say she doesn’t deserve the award, because I think she does. It’s not a traditional Oscar role, and probably not as good as most Oscar winners, but it’s still good. Playing the role over twelve years, Arquette manages to grow with the role, staying consistent in character but changing as the character would over time. Hawke is definitely better in his role than Arquette, but I think she plays it well overall here.

Tyler: Patricia Arquette is not my favorite actress. I can’t help but see her as a screamer in the A Nightmare on Elm Street series. If this was a stronger field of actresses, I don’t think she would win, but she’ll take it for sure this year. What this movie did was showcase Arquette’s growth as an actress. She began as a weaker actress, much like her character’s kids. However, over the twelve year filmmaking process, she got noticeably better, and in the end holds her own quite well. For that on screen growth, I would accept her as the winner.

FOX_3940.psd

LAURA DERN, Wild

Daniel: How did she end up here? This is our cameo nomination. Sure, short performances have been nominated, and even won, at the Oscars before, but Dern’s performance hardly deserves the spot here. She’s fine in the role, even good at some moments (I was going to say scenes, but she’s hardly there enough). Wild just doesn’t have the intended effect on me. It’s an okay film, but the themes didn’t hit me quite right. Perhaps if they had, Dern’s role would’ve also had more impact.

Tyler: I heartily agree with Daniel here. What happened? I like Laura Dern. She’s a fine actress. Maybe this is “her time” to be nominated. But really, this is a headscratcher, much like Wild itself. Although I can understand Witherspoon’s nomination, even if I didn’t love the film. This one, not so much.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira KnightleyKEIRA KNIGHTLEY, The Imitation Game

Daniel: I feel the same about Knightley’s performance as I do about the film itself: good craft in an average film. She’s good here. I’ve always liked Knightley, and I think she does a nice job in her role. She’s strong, funny at times, and solid. Her character doesn’t have a lot to do other than support Alan, which she does well throughout. There’s not much more to say, as her character has little to make her stand out. Good, truly supporting performance.

Tyler: Once again, I’m echoing Daniel’s thoughts. Cumberbatch tidily deserves the Oscar nod as the tragic, brilliant, misunderstood, scientist. Knightley, like the film, is good but not exceedingly amazing.

BSA5EMMA STONE, Birdman

Tyler: Emma Stone, like Edward Norton, gives a memorable performance in Birdman as Riggan Thomson’s recovering addict-daughter. She’s subtle in how she delivers it, not trying to steal the show or fall into the background. Rather, she plays the all-too-often seen screw-up daughter of a famous person who spends her life trying to blame her dad. She has a great character arc in the film and ultimately, quietly, she finds a bit of reconciliation with her father. She does a nice job.

Daniel: Now here’s a performance. Emma Stone is destined to win an Oscar one day. I think in any other year she’d have this in the bag, but Arquette got the ball rolling too quickly for her to catch up. Stone’s ex-addict, slightly depressed yet hilarious performance is completely spot on. She’s flawless here. Stone delivers her lines with piercing effect. When she gets her time to shine, she does exactly that. A great role in a great film.

BSA6MERYL STREEP, Into The Woods

Daniel: It’s a showy, flamboyant performance, Streep’s Witch. She sings well, she acts with conviction. A good role yes, but let’s ask the real question: if this was any other actress, would she be nominated? The answer is a resounding and decided NO. Streep racks up a 19th nomination (breaking her own record help since 2003). There’s not much new here. Solid, funny performance in a decent if fluffy film. Streep is one of the greatest actors of all time, but that doesn’t mean we should nominate unworthy performances. Save it for the truly Oscar-caliber roles. I’m sure she’ll have one next year.

Tyler: Come on, Academy. Just get a room already. We know you love Meryl Streep. We all do. Let’s move on now. Let’s put this next to last year’s astounding performance in August: Osage County. Streep is amazing actress. She’s truly gifted and stands far above the rest, but sometimes a fun movie is just a fun movie. This isn’t Sophie’s Choice. I truly think that the Academy just doesn’t know what to do with her anymore because she has set the bar so high. Let’s just think before we nominate.

Will Win:

Daniel: Patricia Arquette

Tyler: Patricia Arquette

Should Win:

Daniel: Emma Stone

Tyler: Patricia Arquette

Should’ve Been Here:

Daniel: Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year. This was a tough call, considering the lack of options, but her performance is certainly better, and more valuable, than Rene Russo in Nightcrawler (many people’s second choice).

Tyler: Oddly, I’m going with Jessica Chastain, but for Interstellar. She did an amazing job as Matthew McConaughey’s abandoned daughter.

Oscars 2015: Best Supporting Actor Roundup

Best supporting actor nominees at the Oscars

Daniel: For as stacked as the Best Actor category is this year, the Supporting equivalent is surprisingly bare. The nominees were exactly as expected. Sure there were a few other good supporting performances this year, but at the end of the day there are no real snubs here.

Tyler: Four out of the five actors here deserved this nomination handily. The job of the supporting actor is hard, and even though my pick stole the show from the star, going against what I think that the supporting actor’s job is, he easily deserves it and would accept nothing less.

BS2

ROBERT DUVALL, The Judge

Daniel: Four of the five nominees here were locks. Only the fifth spot could’ve realistically seen a different nominee. Yet, with a distinct lack of options, Robert Duvall received the nomination. The Judge lacked almost any originality. It was fine and all, but utterly unremarkable. Duvall is a legend, obviously. He’s an actor on another level. That said, the only reason he’s nominated is because he’s an aging legend who might have just had his last decent performance. Look, his role in The Judge was okay. He had some nice moments (and even some dark ones), but this is not an Oscar-worthy performance. What is unique here? What is surprising? Everything is good and nothing more. There’s not much more to say.

Tyler: I disagree with Daniel on this one, to a point. I think that Duvall really nailed this performance. It’s subtle, not intense as maybe expected. I think that he is probably being nominated largely because it’s time and he did a good job. Yet, there are some difficult moments, some potentially cliche moments, that were handled well. The bathroom scene is embarrassing and yet all too real. His moments with Robert Downey Jr. were filled with tension and history. He did a great job, though I don’t think that he deserves the win.

CREDIT: Matt Lankes for IFC FilmsETHAN HAWKE, Boyhood

Tyler: I’ve always been a fan of Ethan Hawke, and even moreso when he’s collaborating with Richard Linklater. Hawke absolutely, completely feels like Mason’s father. They have great chemistry, particularly when they’re just one on one, and it just feels natural and right.

Daniel: Boyhood isn’t exactly a specimen of a perfectly acted film, but Ethan Hawke excels here. This is the ideal role for Hawke: realistic, friendly to improv, relatable. He nails it all. While J.K. Simmons certainly deserves the win here, I wish Hawke was getting more acting recognition from Boyhood. With Patricia Arquette dominating her similarly weak field, people aren’t talking about Hawke’s superior performance. He feels completely in the role. It doesn’t feel like acting. All this on top of the fact that he played this role over the course of twelve years. Twelve years. And over all that time he’s still seamless. Hawke isn’t in the film as much as Arquette or the others, but when he’s there, he’s committed. This is a great performance.

BS4EDWARD NORTON, Birdman

Daniel: My feelings on Edward Norton’s performance in Birdman are very similar to Michael Keaton’s. Norton’s Mike Shiner is a complex character. He’s arrogant, smug, annoying, and a class-A douchebag. He’s hilarious and so much fun to watch on screen. Norton’s a great actor, so that wasn’t surprising, but his portrayal was a surprise here. Just when you think Mike is nothing more than a conceited jerk, he opens up to Sam on the roof. Not in a cliche, “let’s talk about our feelings” sort of way, but in an honest human sort of way. This is a complex and endlessly entertaining role.

Tyler: Edward Norton is one of those actors who never ceases to surprise. He owns the role and shows us exactly what Keaton’s Thomson is trying to avoid, but maybe needs for his ill-fated Broadway debut. Thomson calls in a ringer to ensure that his show succeeds, but instead he gets a fully-formed foul-up whose ego overshadows everything possible. He’s a terrible person, but Norton’s ability allows him to dial it back appropriately to believable and earnest, while still allowing us to hate him whole-heartedly.

foxcatcherMARK RUFFALO, Foxcatcher

Tyler: When I finally got around to watching Foxcatcher I was underwhelmed by Ruffalo. Now, this is not his fault. This is the fault of the people who lauded this as the greatest role ever. It is not. He has done better, more standout roles. On reflection, Ruffalo does a great job, and he does the job he’s supposed to do: support. He holds up the actors surrounding him, through his steadfast goodness (in terms of both character and reliable acting ability). He does a good job, though he won’t win.

Daniel: Similarly to the way Hawke’s performance is overshadowed by Arquette, Ruffalo’s superior performance is under-appreciated in the light of Carell’s surprising turn. Carell’s a comedian; he’s well-loved, but an Oscar nom was unexpected. Ruffalo on the other hand already has a nomination in this category, and no one would be surprised and many more nominations in the future. Thus, since he’s not going to win here, his real, subtle, deep role receives little conversation. It’s a shame, because Ruffalo’s Dave Schultz is easily the best performance in Foxcatcher. He’s a truly supporting character here, serving to support his brother Mark and steal attention from Du Pont. Dave feels so real and vital. Ruffalo is a great performer. This may not be his year, but he’ll be back at the Oscars many more times in his career.

BS5J.K. SIMMONS, Whiplash

Daniel: J.K. Simmons’ performance grabs you and doesn’t let go. When he enters the room for his first scene, the tension is unbearable. He commands authority from beginning to end. When Simmons’ Fletcher directs the ensemble, you want to beg the musicians to give him what he wants. When Miles Teller’s Andrew screws up, your stomach drops. Fletcher’s swagger and imposing physicality demands respect even without saying a word. Of course, he does speak, and he moves from a simple correction- “Not my tempo”- to pure rage- throwing a music stand at a student- in less than a minute. He’s of course the villain in this story, but in the end, the film questions whether he’s completely wrong. He’s intense and horrific to be sure, but not without a sympathetic side. It’s a wonderful and surprising performance, and what makes Whiplash fantastic. J.K. Simmons has my favorite performance of the year.

Tyler: This was another film with an actor whose performance was built-up a lot. However, in this case, Simmons does not disappoint–he won’t let you be disappointed. He’ll throw something at you if he feels that you’re not blown away. Simmons is an evil bully, whose psychopathic philosophy of excellence drives the people around him to tears, bone-breaking-bloody loyalty, public brawling, and suicide. From his first moment on screen, J.K. Simmons owns the film and, like Andrew, we are simply his pawns there to laud him.

Will Win:

Daniel: J.K. Simmons

Tyler: J.K. Simmons

Should Win:

Daniel: J.K. Simmons

Tyler: J.K. Simmons

Should’ve Been Here:

Daniel: Tom Wilkinson, Selma. As I said earlier, there aren’t a lot of excellent options for a deserving nominee, but Wilkinson really captured LBJ well.

Tyler: Christoph Waltz for Big Eyes. Like Amy Adams, Waltz’s performance has been lost in the noise of others, but he does an excellent job of playing the smarmy salesman turned sociopath.