A month ago The Academy of Arts and Sciences weighed in on the best films and best performances in film in the year prior. Now it's our turn. Ahead is who we would of picked and nominated for each of the major awards.
Also, each picture below is of famous Oscar snub, for each respective category. If you can name them all we owe you a handshake the next time we see each other. Enjoy.
If you read my top twenty a week or so ago then there are no surprises here. These are simply my five favorite films of the year. Though it started out slow, as this year has as well, 2014 turned into quite the year for film, and like many of the films I watched last year all five of these nominees are impressive in the level of creativity they exhibit and the amount of artistic prowess they display. All five are seemingly uncompromised visions by master filmmakers, and I will be returning to all of them often. If I were to nominate eight films, as the Oscars did, I would add in Foxcatcher, The Skeleton Twins and the documentary Mistaken for Strangers. If I’d nominated ten that would have added Interstellar and Guardians of the Galaxy. Regardless, there are tons of other films that I would have loved to include here. Overall, I was overjoyed with the huge majority of the films I watched last year. I hope 2015 is able, in time, to rise to the level of 2014. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Winner: Of all the movies I saw this past year Whiplash rose above a brilliant group, to find its place high in my heart. But it’s just a brilliant film about art and the struggle to make it, and, for me, it hit hard and near home.
The Others: Birdman came in second, and is without a doubt one of the most enjoyable films I saw all year, combining the ‘realities’ of its lead actors with a brilliantly written script and brilliant and purposeful cinematography. Boyhood was the favorite to win the real Oscars, and with good reason. It’s more than just a movie that took twelve years to make. It’s also a brilliant and well made movie about what childhood actually feels like, all in three hours of vignettes. Foxcatcher is a dark meditation on the darkness of isolation, wealth, and ambition, and it left its dark print upon me for days after its final minutes. The real Oscars allows for up to ten, so I added the next few, including Guardians of the Galaxy, which is one of the most inventive and enjoyable summer blockbuster films I’ve seen in many years--and for that reason it deserves a nod. Nightcrawler, the gritty, beautifully shot and acted thriller, that has probably one of the best written scripts of the year surprised me, a lot. I was expecting to enjoy it, but I absolutely fell in love with its neo-noir story, and with its lead character, Louis ‘Lou’ Bloom, who just might be one of the best villainous protagonists we’ve had in quite awhile. Yes, Inherent Vice was a step down from Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master and There Will Be Blood, but even a step down for Paul is well and beyond above ninety percent of the films released in a given year.
Damien Chazelle -- Whiplash
Dan Gilroy -- Nightcrawler
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu -- Birdman (WINNER)
Steven Knight -- Locke
Richard Linklater -- Boyhood
This was a competitive category this year for sure, and I had a great deal of trouble narrowing it down to these five nominees. Leaving out Paul Thomas Anderson for Inherent Vice, Christopher Nolan for Interstellar, James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy, Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher, Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Jennifer Kent for The Babadook and David Fincher for Gone Girl, among MANY other deserving candidates, was difficult. In the end, the large majority of my nominations for director were for films also nominated for picture, as is often the case. However, after much deliberation I decided that Steven Knight’s contribution to the success of Locke was just too significant to ignore so, hesitantly, I decided to remove Paul Thomas Anderson from the nominees. It wasn’t that he didn’t do a fantastic job on Inherent Vice, which he most certainly did. However, someone had to make way, and I selected him simply because his film was, perhaps, a bit less emotionally powerful than the work of these other nominees. This category is special because most of these nominees are simply not very experienced filmmakers. In my top 20 I said that Locke was Steven Knight’s first film, and I was wrong (research is for losers), but for a second film Locke is still remarkably assured. Whiplash is a second film as well, and Damien Chazelle’s first released with the backing of a major distributor. Most remarkably, Nightcrawler is Dan Gilroy’s first time behind the camera ever. The fact that all of these filmmakers could release brilliant works like these so early in their careers makes me incredibly excited to see what they do a decade or two down the line. As for Inarritu and Linklater, they are veterans who have, long after their debuts, reached a new level of filmmaking prowess, which is nearly as exciting for me. For me, it came down to Inarritu and Chazelle, though I ultimately gave it to Inarritu because of the sheer amount of planning, intelligence and luck that must have gone into filming a movie as complex as Birdman in a series of long takes. It’s kinda unfair really, since Chazelle didn’t have such an impressive gimmick on his side, but I have a feeling that he’ll be back here in a couple of years. Maybe he’ll win then.
Damien Chazelle- Whiplash
Wes Anderson- Grand Budapest Hotel
Richard Linklater- Boyhood
Alejandro G. Innarittu- Birdman
Paul Thomas Anderson- Inherent Vice
The Winner: Damien Chazelle was in his late twenties when he wrote the script for Whiplash, and in his final year when he directed the film, which is a feat, considering the utter brilliance of the film. But what’s even more impressive than his age, is that Whiplash was his debut feature--unless you include a small low budget film he made in college, which I wont. But, as a debut it’s a big, big feat, and as such it deserves a great deal of respect. And for that reason it beats out the competition, for me.
The Others: Birdman’s Innarittu is the clear second, and could, in many circles, be third behind Richard Linklater. But he deserves the clear second, as it takes a great deal of skill to direct a film as brilliant as Birdman, and to hold it all together, beautifully choreographed and shot to perfection. The direction on Birdman will without a doubt be study material for aspiring filmmakers for years to come. Linklater’s direction on Boyhood is so impressive because over twelve years he was able to maintain the film’s flow, an act of pure terror for most. For over two decades now two Anderson’s have stood atop the filmmaking elite, along with a few peers, and as always they’ve yet to disappoint. Wes, finally receiving a nomination, despite the fact that few directors today pay as much attention to mise en scene as he does. And Paul, has spent almost two decades residing in the place among the filmmaking elite once reserved for the likes of Orson Welles (as Ben Affleck once likened him to when he won for Argo) and yet he’s still been slighted year after year. Which is a crying shame. Yes, he shouldn’t win for Inherent Vice--especially because the competition is so vast this year--but one day he’ll probably end up with an Oscar ala Martin Scorsese for The Departed.
Jake Gyllenhaal -- Nightcrawler (WINNER)
Tom Hardy -- Locke
Michael Keaton -- Birdman
Channing Tatum -- Foxcatcher
Miles Teller -- Whiplash
There were tons of great candidates for best actor whom I wish I could have included here. Leaving out Bill Hader’s remarkable work in The Skeleton Twins was probably the hardest for me, though I would have also loved to include Ellar Coltrane for Boyhood, Ralph Fiennes for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ben Affleck for Gone Girl, Guy Pearce for The Rover, Macon Blair for Blue Ruin, Brendan Gleeson in Calvary and Oscar Isaac for A Most Violent Year, among others. I was also sad not to be able to include Joaquin Phoenix, who delivered two excellent (and radically different) performances last year in Inherent Vice and The Immigrant. I think it’s worth noting that unlike 2013, where the actors I would have chosen and the ones the Academy picked were virtually identical (minus Robert Redford’s ridiculous snub), only one of the people I included here was also nominated for best actor: Michael Keaton. I considered giving it to him too, because I think his performance is just as central to the success of Birdman as the work of director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu or cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, but in the end I just couldn’t ignore the sheer power of Jake Gyllenhaal’s work in Nightcrawler. Whereas Keaton plumbed the depths of his ego and id to portray Riggan Thomson, Gyllenhaal seemingly invented Lou Bloom from thin air. Neither strategy is objectively more impressive or worthy, but I feel that while Keaton succeeded in giving a very impressive performance, Gyllenhaal managed to create a more memorable character, easily the most intriguing I saw all year. Miles Teller and Channing Tatum were both almost entirely ignored by the awards circuit this year, disappearing into the shadows of showier work by J.K. Simmons and Steve Carell respectively, but I thought they were just as remarkable as their more widely lauded collaborators. I also thought that Tatum had the lead in Foxcatcher and that Carell should have been nominated for supporting (and probably should have won), but we won’t dwell on that. As for Tom Hardy, he’s simply here because he was incredible, as usual, and because if his performance hadn’t worked his film, as well made as it was, would have been a complete failure.
Michael Keaton- Birdman
Brendan Gleeson- Calvary
Miles Teller- Whiplash
Ralph Fiennes- The Grand Budapest Hotel
Jake Gyllenhaal- Nightcrawler
The Winner: Picking a winner for this was absurdly hard (especially because Max and I decided that Carell was obviously a Supporting Actor, since Channing Tatum is the protagonist) but I finally decided upon Michael Keaton, not only because he was playing a bizarro version of himself, but also because he did a brilliant job in a performance that required him to memorize pages upon pages of dialogue, and still he maintained to be utterly brilliant.
The Others: Miles Teller was not nominated, and has yet to get the credit that he’s been due for quite some time. In due time we’re all going to be talking about how brilliant an actor this young kid is, and how bright his future is, because it is. Without Brendan Gleeson I doubt Calvary would of been as sharply dark and witty, and yet still sweet and heartfelt as it was. It’s not the type of part that would obviously get him an Oscar nomination, but it’s definitely a brilliant performance and as such deserves its due credit. Ralph Fiennes as Monsieur Gustave H. was probably my favorite performance of the year, and might be my second place. Easily one of his best performances in a career filled with brilliant performances. (Heck, the guy made a Bret Ratner movie tolerable.) Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance as Lou Bloom is helped largely by the well written script, but his transformation into the bulging eyed skeleton of a madman is all him, and he does it well, shining chops that many people didn’t know were there.
Rose Byrne -- Neighbors
Essie Davis -- The Babadook (WINNER)
Scarlett Johansson -- Under the Skin
Rosamund Pike -- Gone Girl
Kristen Wiig -- The Skeleton Twins
2014 wasn’t a great year for powerful female performances, though blame for this should be placed squarely on Hollywood, an industry which generally saves its most complex and showy roles for men. For really rich female roles, particularly for leading roles of that nature, you usually need to look into the world of indie film. However, there were a couple of exceptions this year: namely Rosamund Pike, who got what was easily one of the meatiest roles of the year in Gone Girl, and Rose Byrne in Neighbors. For a lot of readers that choice might seem out of left field, but I absolutely loved her performance, considering it to undoubtedly be the highlight of the film. Throughout she radiated likability in a way that reminded me, at times, of Kate Winslet’s work in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Essie Davis was at the opposite end of the spectrum with a performance which was unflinching in its honesty. She clearly wasn’t afraid to make her character unlikable at times but, in the end, what emerges from her performance is a portrait of a good person suffocating beneath the weight of an incredible level of stress. I picked her to win simply because her performance made the biggest impression on me, but regardless it would be remiss of me not to mention Scarlett Johansson’s similarly haunting work in Under the Skin. In that film, Johansson plays an alien wearing the body of a human woman, and what really impresses about her performance is how authentic it feels. Throughout, she really does seem like a different kind of creature entirely. In fact, it’s probably the most convincing depiction of an alien I’ve seen since Joe Morton’s work in John Sayles’ Brother From Another Planet. Rounding out my nominees is Kristen Wiig, who is quickly becoming not only one of my favorite comedians, but one of my favorite actresses as well. That being said, I had no idea she could be so effective in dramatic work. Though there are comedic elements to Wigg’s character, when you walk away from the film what you really remember is how much you empathized with her character, not how much she made you laugh. I was sad not be able to include a number of great performances here, chief among them Marion Cotillard for The Immigrant and Alexie Gilmore for Willow Creek. Also, I haven’t seen Julianne Moore’s Academy Award winning performance in Still Alice (has anyone?), but considering her track record I’m sure she was absolutely fantastic, as always.
Essie Davis- The Babadook
Scarlett Johansson- Under the Skin
Rosamund Pike- Gone Girl
Emily Blunt- Into the Woods
Marion Cotillard- The Immigrant
The Winner: It’s a crying shame that there aren’t as many great leading lady parts as there are leading male parts. I just wanted to say that, because picking five (despite not having seen Still Alice or Wild) was very hard. There just aren’t that many great leading lady parts. But, Essie Davis, well, she got a monster part, literally, and she ran with it. Creating one of my favorite performances of the year among both men and women. And, for me, no one else was gonna win this award. It’s a shame the Academy didn’t recognize her.
The Others: As I mentioned before, I missed out on a lot of the great lead female performances, because of our place in the Midwest. But, I feel confident in this list. Rosamund Pike was cold, collected, and still somewhat likable (upon second viewing) as Amy Elliott-Dunne--and should win out of the actresses nominated for the real Oscars. Marion Cotillard has been a hell of an actress for some time now, and sadly, I didn’t see the part that got her a nod, but she was quite wonderful in The Immigrant playing a character that is simultaneously strong and vulnerable, as she rode the stormy and tragic seas of her relationship with Joaquin Phoenix’s character, displaying both sympathy and hatred in equal measure. Scarlett Johansson’s performance in Under the Skin was not that showy, which is probably why she didn’t get a nod. Long have they misunderstood that the difficulty of mostly silent roles, and just how hard they are to pull off. But despite it being overlooked it was among the best of the year, in my opinion, as she displayed a slow growth of empathy, in an almost silent role. I actually went to see Into the Woods because my brother and his girlfriend were going to see it. Thankfully I did, because Emily Blunt’s performance in it was without a doubt the best in the entire film. No offense to Meryl. But Emily maintains charm and deals, in a somewhat comical scene, with infidelity, and shines in a well casted, if somewhat twee musical.
Josh Brolin -- Inherent Vice
Steve Carell -- Foxcatcher (WINNER)
Ethan Hawke -- Boyhood
Edward Norton -- Birdman
J.K. Simmons -- Whiplash
This was the hardest category to narrow down this year by far. JK Simmons and Edward Norton were in automatically. They were simply too impressive, and too attention grabbing, to deny, both of them playing pompous assholes with a surprising amount of complexity and (for lack of a better word) likability. Ethan Hawke was also an obvious choice for doing the best work of his career in Boyhood, portraying a divorced father alienated from his children with delicacy and care. However, for me Josh Brolin was just as obvious a pick as those other three. I’ve always considered Brolin a competent dramatic actor, but not a particularly exciting one. However, I think he is a great comedian. My favorite roles of Brolin’s, by far, have always been those which incorporated more comedic elements, like his characters in W and True Grit. Inherent Vice gave Brolin his most broadly comedic role yet, and he responded by turning in what was, in my opinion, his greatest performance to date, easily stealing every scene in which he appeared and emerging as the single most memorable element of a film chock full of memorable elements. However, I’m giving this one to Steve Carell for his transformative work in Foxcatcher. I usually find Carell very likable and sympathetic, so the fact that he utterly repulsed me every time he appeared on screen as John Du Pont speaks to his tremendous skill as an actor, and Bennett Miller’s brilliance in taking a chance and casting him in the first place. I know that Carell received a best actor nomination for his performance, but as I said above I believe that Channing Tatum, and not Carell, is the true lead in Foxcatcher and that his nomination in the lead category was some kind of weird campaign strategy implemented to get the film an additional nomination for Mark Ruffalo, as the film probably wouldn’t have gotten two supporting nominations in such a crowded field. It was a choice that might have cost Carell a much deserved Oscar. Speaking of Ruffalo, putting Carell in meant taking Ruffalo out, which was a real shame as I think it’s probably the performance of his career to date. For the sake of brevity, here, without explanation, are just a few of the other people I wanted to include here: Martin Short and Benicio del Toro for Inherent Vice, Riz Ahmed for Nightcrawler, Ty Burrell and Luke Wilson for The Skeleton Twins, Matt Damon for Interstellar, Dave Bautista for Guardians of the Galaxy, Willem Dafoe for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Sebastian Stan for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Chris O’Dowd for Calvary, Kim Bodnia for Rosewater, Don Johnson for Cold in July and Sam Worthington for Sabotage (sorry, I promised to list these without explanation, so you’re never going to get to hear my spirited pro-Sam-Worthington-in-that-shitty-piece-of-shit-Sabotage argument). I am saddest of all to have had to leave out Michael Parks for Tusk. Also, though they weren’t exactly physically present in their respective films, I do have to mention Andy Serkis’ work in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Scott Adsit’s performance in Big Hero 6 as being particularly noteworthy. And who would have guessed that Will Arnett would be a perfect choice for Batman? It seems so obvious in retrospect...
J.K. Simmons- Whiplash
Mark Ruffalo- Foxcatcher
Steve Carell- Foxcatcher
Ethan Hawke- Boyhood
Robert Pattinson- The Rover
The Winner: Okay, maybe it’s a showy role. Casting a comedic actor to play a disgusting troll of a villain. But Carell pulls it off considerably well, taking the jealousy and want to be loved found in Michael Scott and turning it up to creepy eleven.
The Others: I’m actually really surprised that more people weren’t talking about Pattinson’s performance in The Rover. Yes, he played a mentally challenged character, and the Academy has been criticized as of late about that, but Pattinson was genuinely good in spite of that, displaying a brilliant range for both weighted dramatic scenes, and at times, comedy, in a role that should have garnered him more attention. Mark Ruffalo transforms nearly to the same degree as Steve Carell does in Foxcatcher, and he definitely deserved his nod on the actual Oscars. Ethan Hawke plays a dead-beat dad, and makes him easily one of the most wonderful characters in a film filled with lived-in, warm characters. And finally, probably the second best performance, for me, was J.K. Simmons’ role in Whiplash, which got him a deserved award this year. It’s a showy role, but he does it with such a touch that he maintains both sides of Terrence Fletcher, something that isn’t as easily achieved.
Patricia Arquette -- Boyhood
Lorelei Linklater -- Boyhood
Rene Russo -- Nightcrawler (WINNER)
Emma Stone -- Birdman
Katherine Waterston -- Inherent Vice
As I said above, it wasn’t a great year for powerful female roles. However, there were a number of fantastic supporting roles for females out there this year if you were willing to look for them, and most of them were in Birdman. Emma Stone had the meatiest role and did the most immediately impressive work, but Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan and Andrea Riseborough were all excellent as well. Inherent Vice also had a number of excellent female roles, though Katherine Waterston’s work shone above the rest for her unique twist on the standard noir femme fatale, which she played with an unusual amount of vulnerability which belied a deeper hardness. Though Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke got all of the awards love I thought that Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater were overlooked for their performances, which were just as demanding in my eyes. However, you can’t deny that Arquette’s work, particularly later in the film, is of the true highlights of Boyhood. She portrays a character who is equally loving and wounded so unflinchingly that it’s hard to watch at times due to the great deal of empathy you feel for her. In fact, I had her down as the winner of this category until I began writing this wrapup. However, once I really began reflecting on the work of these actress I changed my mind and decided to choose Rene Russo. Arquette was incredible in Boyhood, and I couldn’t be more pleased with her Oscar win, but Russo’s work was just stunning. I never even thought she was a particularly great actress, and I hadn’t seen her in anything in years, but in Nightcrawler Russo gave what was, in my mind, one of the most memorable performances of 2014. Not only did she hold her own against Jake Gyllenhaal’s powerhouse work, she actually rose to his level, and their scenes together are thrilling to watch. Their collaborative work is a huge part of what makes the film special, and because their parts are so intertwined, and are both incredibly impressive, I couldn’t justify giving an award to Gyllenhaal and leaving Russo without one. Other than every major female performer in Birdman who wasn’t Emma Stone, I am saddest about having to leave out the following: Saoirse Ronan for The Grant Budapest Hotel, Jena Malone for Inherent Vice, Jessica Chastain for Interstellar and Carrie Coon for Gone Girl.
Patricia Arquette- Boyhood
Rene Russo- Nightcrawler
Emma Stone- Birdman
Kelly Reilly- Calvary
Katherine Waterston- Inherent Vice
The Winner: I must admit that this was one of the weakest years for strong female roles in general (which is sad, come on Hollywood) but when I think back on the year few scenes hit quite as hard as Patricia Arquette’s last scene in Boyhood. Though, she was solid throughout, it was in her final scene that she summed up the pain of growing old, and nearly forced me to make a sobbing call to my mother.
The Others: Rene Russo had to fight off Jake Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom, and she provided a worthy ally. There was absolutely zero nepotism in Dan Gilroy choice in casting his wife; she brought it. The Kelly Reilly scenes in Calvary were among my favorite, including two beautiful scenes with Brendan Gleeson’s character, which bring a considerable amount of heart to this dark comedy about a town full of sinners and one good priest paying for their sins. Emma Stone has been somewhat under the critical radar for some time, but when she’s been given something good she does great with it. And she’s brilliant in Birdman, holding her own against both Michael Keaton and Edward Norton. Katherine Waterson may not be in a lot of Inherent Vice, but her presence certainly looms over the film throughout its running time. No small feat in a film starring as many great actors as Paul Thomas Anderson has assembled here.
Greig Fraser -- Foxcatcher
Daniel Landin -- Under the Skin
Emmanuel Lubezki -- Birdman (WINNER)
Robert Yeoman -- The Grand Budapest Hotel
Haris Zambarloukos -- Locke
There were a great many worthy people I could have nominated here. I am most disappointed that I could not include Darius Khondji’s work on The Immigrant, but I am also very sorry to have left out Roger Elswit’s work on both Nightcrawler and Inherent Vice and Hong Kyung-pyo’s work on Snowpiercer. Also, though they may be odder choices, Jonathan Sela’s work on John Wick and Brandon Trost’s work on The Interview both stood out to me as well. Both are b-films covered up in the skin of more prestigious works, and both wear their costumes well. As for the people I actually nominated, the work of Greig Fraser and Daniel Landin was bleak and beautiful, much like the work of another worthy nominee I had to leave out, Jeff Cronenweth for Gone Girl. Robert Yeoman’s work on The Grand Budapest Hotel was just the opposite, full of vibrant colors and brimming with life. Yeoman was my runner up for his perfect framing and seamless transitioning between aspect ratios, but in the end I had to go with Emmanuel Lubezki for Birdman. If you’ve seen the film then I don’t need to explain why. And if you haven’t, watch it. As for Haris Zambarloukos, it can’t be easy to film a whole movie in a car and make it visually engaging (and even gorgeous at times), so I couldn’t bring myself to leave him out.
Emmanuel Lubezki- Birdman
Larry Smith- Calvary
Robert Elswit- Nightcrawler
Robert Elswit- Inherent Vice
Robert Yeoman- The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Winner: I assume a large group of people assume that the ‘single take’ or ‘oner’ as some people call them, is just a parlor trick and is unnecessary. And yes, Birdman didn’t have to be filmed in one ‘unbroken take’, but this is where function comes in; you see, that one long take provides for Birdman two functions. The first being somewhat obvious; a film about a man putting on a play should be shot like it is a play, and you only achieve that with one long, unbroken shot. The other function and the more important function being that the single take provides the viewer with the anxiety that Michael Keaton and the other actors are feeling, zipping from place to place like a literal fly on the wall, ala cinema verite, engulfing the viewer into the madness that is the world of the reality of any creative endeavor. Lubezki is one of the finest cinematographers working today, and he deserves his second Oscar in a row.
The Others: Roger Deakins was nominated this year, and for a lesser work, in my opinion; so, instead I’ll go with another great cinematographer and double up his nominations, giving him both a nomination for Nightcrawler’s gorgeous L.A. underbelly landscapes in modern day and in the early ‘70s. Likewise Yeoman’s various aspect ratios and otherwise brilliantly composed shots in The Grand Budapest Hotel get him a nod as well, and Larry Smith’s capturing in wide, the beautiful expanse of Ireland gets him a nod as well.
Sandra Adair -- Boyhood
Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione -- Birdman
Tom Cross -- Whiplash (WINNER)
Leslie Jones -- Inherent Vice
Barney Pilling -- The Grand Budapest Hotel
There were a number of films this year with really inventive editing. In fact, I think that some of the nominees I left out were just as deserving as the ones I left in. The fact that I left out people like Kirk Baxter (Gone Girl), Hoyte van Hoytema (Interstellar), Justine Wright (Locke), John Gilroy (Nightcrawler), Paul Watts (Under the Skin) and the team behind Foxcatcher is absolutely absurd to me. More than any other category, I wish I could have included a full ten nominees here, and even then I wouldn’t have had enough space to include everyone worthy. So why did I pick these five nominees ahead of these others? Well Sandra Adair got in automatically for (along with Richard Linklater) taking footage that spanned 12 years and made it flow effortlessly together. Barney Pilling was another obvious choice for me, as Grand Budapest’s timing is impeccable and is a big part of what makes the film so successful. Tom Cross’s work was simply my pick for the most artistically performed editing of the year. Birdman’s nomination might strike some as odd, as the huge majority of the film is presented as a single shot, but it only works on that level because of Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione’s perfectly hidden cuts. Leslie Jones’ nomination was the one I debated the most. I went back and forth on including her, at times replacing her with Baxter or Wright or Watts. However, in the end I felt that she should be included due to the sheer scope and complexity of Anderson’s film. Inherent Vice already has a very confusing narrative, and had it been edited poorly the whole thing might have fallen apart completely. Jones’ work is a big part of what keeps the film more mysterious than frustrating, and it gives Anderson's (and Pynchon’s) willfully messy narrative the support it needs to stand. However, I’d prefer to call this final slot a four way tie, if only that were possible.
Douglas Crise, Stephen Mirrione- Birdman
Sandra Adair- Boyhood
Tom Cross- Whiplash
Barney Pilling- The Grand Budapest Hotel
Justine Wright- Locke
The winner: For anybody who doesn’t realize this, especially the Academy, who didn’t nominate Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione; the editing of the seemingly seamless transitions, making the movie look like one long shot, is without a doubt one of the hardest editing jobs one can get. And they did wonderfully here, making the series of extended tracking shots look like one, long, unbroken shot.
The Others: Boyhood’s three hours moves along at a brisk pace, making a three hour long movie move as it spreads over twelve years, without a single hitch. Every battle between J.K Simmons and Miles Teller explodes with kinetic energy and feels like the men are taking arms (sometimes they literally are) up against each other. The madcap tomfoolery on display in Grand Budapest is all reigned in beautifully by Barney Pilling, pushing the film forward and never removing even an ounce of joy from the experience of watching. Justine, Tom Hardy, Steven Knight (the director) and Haris Zambarloukos (the cinematographer) all deserve a lot of credit for their jobs on Locke, a movie that takes place entirely in Tom Hardy’s character’s car, and still maintains entertainment value and is simultaneously rather compelling. (also it was filmed in SIX FUCKING DAYS!!!! That is insane.)
Paul Thomas Anderson -- Inherent Vice
Wes Anderson -- The Grand Budapest Hotel
Dan Gilroy -- Nightcrawler (WINNER)
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr. and Armando Bo -- Birdman
Richard Linklater -- Boyhood
There were about a billion worthy nominees I could have chosen for this category, particularly because I chose not to separate it into original and adapted screenplay. In my experience, both are equally difficult to write and both require the same level of skill to pull off, so why separate them? As such, there were a ton of candidates I had to leave out, like The Skeleton Twins, Foxcatcher, Guardians of the Galaxy, Gone Girl and Edge of Tomorrow. Worst of all, I just didn’t have room for Damien Chazelle’s script for Whiplash. Out of the people I did nominate I feel that any would be deserving of the win in another year. Paul Thomas Anderson managed to capture Pynchon’s spirit in a much more compact (but no less insane) manner, Wes Anderson did his usual witty and imaginative work, Linklater wrote twelve beautiful short films about growing up and getting older and the writers of Birdman fully realized Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s absurd vision with grace, complexity and humor. However, in the end the standout in this category is definitely Dan Gilory for his work on Nightcrawler, not just for the important issues it raised and for its beautiful (and surprising) characters but for its sheer level of craft alone. Seriously, just read one of those astounding monologues that Jake Gyllenhaal delivered so flawlessly and you’ll see why. Nothing more really needs to be said.
Dan Gilroy- Nightcrawler
Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness- The Grand Budapest Hotel
Damien Chazelle- Whiplash
Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, Amanda Bo, Alexander Dinelaris- Birdman
Paul Thomas Anderson- Inherent Vice
Winner: This is probably the strongest year in recent memory, in terms of great scripts, and especially, scripts that just surprised me. And the script that surprised me the most was Birdman's script. It was like watching some giant, brilliant masterpiece unfold; a script that might as well of been written by Mellville, it was so weird and wonderful.
The Others: Dan Gilroy’s script for Nightcrawler was, for me, a close second; with its beautifully written dialogue and its brilliantly conceived and displayed characters, we know everything we need to know about its main character, the unforgettable Louis Bloom, within the first five minutes. That’s some brilliant writing. Damien Chazelle’s script for Whiplash also almost won for me. It’s an unforgettable and scathing script about obsession that poses one hell of a question about what it truly takes to be a great artist, and I’m still pondering the question months later. Steven Knight’s script for Locke is the driving force behind Locke, and it, sadly, went unnoticed, as it made a movie, shot entirely in a car, exciting. Wes Anderson has been one of my favorite writers of characters in the past decade or so; and once again he crafts beautifully written, dynamic characters that stick with you long after the credits have rolled. It’s truly a joy to hang out with Wes Anderson’s characters.
Johnny Greenwood--Inherent Vice
Justin Hurwitz -- Whiplash
Mica Levi -- Under the Skin
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross -- Gone Girl
Antonio Sanchez -- Birdman (WINNER)
This was probably the easiest category to narrow down. These five nominees, in my mind, wrote the most creative, innovative and significant scores of the year without question. I would have liked to add Hans Zimmer for Interstellar and Alex Ebert for A Most Violent Year, but you can’t have everything. These nominees all wrote scores which went above and beyond to help define their films as something special. The minimalistic scores for Under the Skin and Gone Girl add to their films’ sense of looming dread and alienation. Jonny Greenwood’s score for Inherent Vice doesn’t call attention to itself in the same way that his work on There Will Be Blood did, but it fits the film perfectly and meshes perfectly with its strange settings and situations. Overall, it’s a great example of a composer doing precisely what is right for their film, not for their ego. As for Justin Hurwitz, Whiplash’s music (that which is outside the scenes in which the jazz band is playing of course) is used very wisely, in just the right places, and when it does show up it perfectly suits the mood of the scene. Plus it’s insane to think that some of the compositions played by the band were actually original, as I could not tell the difference between the established compositions and the ones written specifically for the film (admittedly I know nothing about jazz…). In the end, I gave the award to Antonio Sanchez for his incredible score, frequently involving nothing more than a single drummer, because of how it drives Birdman and propels the long takes forward. More than any other score on this list, Sanchez’s work was central to Birdman’s overall feel and approach, and as such I thought it would be a fitting winner. However, in another year any of these candidates could have easily won.
Alexandre Desplat- The Grand Budapest Hotel
Hans Zimmer- Interstellar
Antonio Sanchez- Birdman
Jonny Greenwood- Inherent Vice
Mica Levi- Under the Skin
The Winner: There was a great deal of deliberating here, and, finally, I ended up giving it to a score that wasn’t even nominated for an actual Oscar. The reason being that Antonio Sanchez’ fervent drumming was the driving force behind Lubezki’s beautiful visuals, further accentuating Bridman’s frantic pace; being the most purposeful score out of all the nominated films.
The Others: Alexandre Desplat is without a doubt one of the hardest working composers in the business today, and somehow all of his scores seem to be quite different and all serve beautifully their respective films. The score for Grand Budapest being a shining example of just that eclecticism. Jonny Greenwood deserved an Oscar for his word on There Will Be Blood, and The Master, respectively. But he at least deserves a nod here for his moody and beautiful score on Inherent Vice; this guys might be one of the more original composers in years. Mica Levi’s score for Under the Skin is much like the movie: dark and foreboding. It’s also very grotesque, framing the dark and occasionally beautiful world of Under the Skin. I know Hans Zimmer gets so much credit, some more than he deserves, but there might be a reason for it. The guy simply composes really memorable themes, and as such, I think, that’s something that deserves notice.
And in case you were playing the 'Name That Picture Game', the answers are: Citizen Kane, which famously lost to John Ford's How Green Was My Valley. For director it was Alfred Hitchcock, who amazingly, has NEVER won an Oscar for his directing. For Actor it was Mickey Rourke, who amazingly didn't win for The Wrestler, which is a crying shame. At Actress we had Mary Tyler Moore for her brilliant performance in Ordinary People. In the Supporting categories are Ralph Fiennes for his performance in Schindler's List and Jullianne Moore, who FINALLY won an award for her work in Still Alice this year, if anybody saw that movie. The Best Editing goes to Daniel Rezende for his work on City of God, which got robbed at the 76th Academy Awards. For the cinematography award we had to give it to Roger Deakins, especially for his work on The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford, which lost out to Robert Elswit's work on There Will Be Blood, which is fair. (In fact, Deakins was nominated for both Jesse James and No Country For Old Men, making up--with There Will Be Blood included--the best list of films in terms of cinematography in the first ten years of the 2000's.) But we still would of given the award to Roger Deakins, if not that year, than at least for his work on Fargo. Basically, the guy should of won an Oscar by now, and it's insane that he hasn't. For the screenplay award we decided to give it to The Third Man, which was up against All About Eve and Sunset Boulevard, but Sunset won for Best Story and Screenplay (which is an odd side award that doesn't make a lot of sense to me). So, with that in mind, we gave it to The Third Man, if only for Orson Welle's speech (which was famously improvised, but they would of still counted it, so we are too.). And, possibly one of the biggest snubs in the history of The Academy Awards goes to Ennio Morricone's work on Once Upon a Time in the West, which is one of the most iconic scores in the history of film, and yet, it wasn't even nominated in '68.
Hope you enjoyed all of that. Have a good one, and we'll see you next year for all of this again.