Catching Up With The Films of 2018: The Last Movie Star (dir by Adam Rifkin)


Vic Edwards (Burt Reynolds) was once the biggest movie star in the world.

At times, that’s hard to believe.  Vic may have started out as a stunt man before moving on to star in westerns and action movies but Vic is now 80 and he moves slowly and with a permanent slouch.  At times, he appears to be so frail that you wonder how he even manages to get out of bed in the morning.  Though he still possesses the acerbic wit for which was once famous, the words now come out a lot slower and his voice is tinged with pain that is both physical and emotional.  It’s been a while since Vic appeared on a movie set.  After years of being a self-described asshole, Vic now spends most of his time alone.  His only friend appears to be his aging agent, Sonny (Chevy Chase).

When Vic receives an invitation to attend a film festival in Nashville and accept a career achievement award, Vic goes in hopes of not only getting his ego stroked but also visiting some of the places where he grew up.  It’s only once Vic has arrived that he discovers that the film festival is basically a group of wannabe hipsters hanging out in the back of a bar.  Under the direction of Doug (Clark Duke), the film festival has previously given lifetime achievement awards to everyone from Al Pacino to Robert De Niro.  Vic’s the first recipient to actually show up.

After a night of watching a younger version of himself and answering inane questions about his career and his turbulent personal life, Vic comforts himself by getting drunk and yelling at Doug and his friends.  The next day, while the film festival continues, Vic get Doug’s sister, Lil (Ariel Winter), to drive him around Tennessee.  Vic wants to visit the places of his youth.  As for Lil, she just wants to get rid of her cranky passenger so that she can deal with her emotionally abusive boyfriend.

As you probably already guessed, in The Last Movie Star, Burt Reynolds may have been cast as a character named Vic Edwards but he was basically playing himself.  (Director Adam Rifkin has said that he would have abandoned the film if Reynolds had turned down the role)  When Vic watches himself onscreen, the clips are from Burt Reynolds’s old movies.  When Vic falls asleep and has a dream in which he confronts his younger self, the film uses footage from Deliverance and Smoky and the Bandit.  (“Slow down!” Vic yells as the cocky, younger version of him speeds down a country road.)  When Vic considers his own mortality, it’s obvious that the aging and frail Reynolds was doing the same thing.

At the start of the film, both Vic and Reynolds seem so infirm that you wonder how he’ll ever make it through the weekend.  But, as the film progresses, an interesting thing happens.  Before our eyes, both Vic and the actor playing him become stronger.  His confidence returns and, as Vic confronts the past, we finally start to see some hints of the old charisma that once made him the world’s biggest film star.  As we watch the film, we realize that his body may be weak but his mind is still sharp.  We come to realize that Vic now understands that he will die someday but he’s still not going to give up.  He may accept his own mortality but he’s not going to surrender to it.

That Burt Reynolds passed away just a few month after The Last Movie Star was released adds an extra poignance to his performance in the film.  The Last Movie Star has its flaws.  The pacing is inconsistent and, when it comes to Vic relationship with Lil, the film too often falls back on anti-millennial clichés.  In the end, the film works best as a tribute to its star.  The film argues, quite convincingly, that if anyone deserved to be known as the last movie star, it was him.

Film Review: The Circle (dir by James Ponsoldt)


Earlier today, I got off work early and I finally saw The Circle!

The Circle is a film that I’ve been curious about for a while.  It’s based on a novel by Dave Eggers, a book that I absolutely loved when I first read it.  It stars Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Patton Oswalt, and John Boyega.  It’s directed by James Ponsoldt, who may not be a household name but who has previously directed such beloved films as The Spectacular Now and The End of The Tour.  It sounded like a film to which everyone should have been looking forward but instead, even with Watson appearing in the blockbuster Beauty and the Beast at the same time, The Circle opened with very little fanfare.

Then the reviews came out and, with a few notable exceptions, they were all negative.  I did a little research and I discovered that, though filming was initially completed in 2015, The Circle spent a year and a half sitting on the shelf.  In January of this year, 16 months after shooting wrapped, a few scenes were refilmed.  That’s never a good sign.  One gets the feeling that, if not for John Boyega’s role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the excitement over Emma Watson starring in Beauty and the Beast, The Circle probably would have ended up going straight to VOD.

But here’s the thing.  I loved the book.  The book managed to put a new spin on the otherwise tired topic of how social media has changed our way of looking at the world.  The book was an Orwellian masterpiece, an homage to 1984 by a writer who, as opposed to most people who are currently claiming to appreciate the novel’s dark vision, understood what George Orwell was actually saying.

In fact, the more I thought about it, the easier it was for me to assume that most critics probably missed the point of the movie.  It was entirely possible, I decided, that the negative reaction to The Circle had to do with audiences not knowing how to deal with a movie that truly challenged their assumptions.  Naively, I assumed that the story and the themes of the novel had been brought to the screen and the critics couldn’t handle it.

Well, as I said earlier, I finally saw The Circle for myself and it turns out that I was wrong.  The Circle is an absolute mess.  Despite being co-written by Dave Eggers, this film actually has very little in common with the novel that it’s based on.  The novel was a sharply satiric portrait of a world that has become brainwashed by technology and social media.  The movie is a nagging anti-internet screed that would have felt out-of-touch in 2002.  The book ends with a powerful “and he loved Big Brother” moment.  The movie ends on a note that feels so completely false that you just know it was studio mandated.

Emma Watson plays Mae Hubbard, a recent college grad whose degree in Art History is pretty much going to waste.  (Speaking as the proud recipient of an Art History degree, I can verify that the film gets this detail absolutely right.)  Through a college friend named Annie (Karen Gillian, for once not having to disguise her Scottish accent), Mae gets a job working for The Circle, an all-powerful internet company that is pretty obviously based on Google Plus.  Through a series of silly events, Mae becomes the public face of The Circle.  The Circle wants to use technology (cameras everywhere, social media addiction, everyone carries tablet, you must have a credit card to join The Circle, oh my!) to do away with the concept of privacy.  When everyone is a member of the Circle, no one will be a stranger.  No one will have any privacy.  Anyone can be found.  Anyone can be watched.  And, of course, it’ll be easier to tell everyone what to think and who to support…

…and all of this would be shocking if The Circle had been made in a time before Twitter and Facebook.

Anyway!  The Circle was founded by three men.  Two of them (Tom Hanks, Patton Oswalt) are totally sinister.  Oswalt glowers in the background.  Hanks appears to channeling Christoph Waltz.  Meanwhile, the third man (John Boyega) has become disillusioned with The Circle.  He shows up occasionally, standing in the background and watching as Mae does stuff.

Throughout the film, Tom Hanks gives lectures to his employees.  They all applaud as he introduced the latest technology from The Circle.  These scenes are fun because it looks like Tom Hanks is appearing in a commercial for The Criterion Collection.

Anyway, Mae loves the brave new world but a few people don’t.  Her parents (Bill Paxton and Glenne Headly) are skeptical.  Though his role is small, Bill Paxton gave a good performance in this, his latest released film.  I got a bit emotional watching him, especially as he was playing a character struggling with his own poor health.  Ellar Coltrane, of Boyhood fame, plays the other voice of skepticism, Mae’s childhood friend who wants to live off the grid.  Coltrane is supposed to be the voice of reason but he gives such a strange and awkward performance that the main thing that comes across is that Luddites are weird.

Actually, with the exception of Bill Paxton and Karen Gillan, it’s hard to think of anyone who actually gives a good performance in The Circle.  (This is especially shocking when you consider that, in the past, Ponsoldt has proven himself to be an excellent director when it comes to getting noteworthy work from his cast.)  Everyone comes across like they were wishing that they were somewhere else.  Emma Watson, in particular, is bad.  That said, in her defense, Watson is also totally miscast.  Mae is meant to be someone searching for an identity in an overly complicated world but Watson plays her as just being dourly earnest.  As played by Watson, Mae’s just the boring person that you dread having to take a class with.  Neither Watson nor the film, as a whole, seems to be sure who exactly Mae is.  (In the novel, the character works because Mae isn’t meant to be likable.  The film, however, tries to have it both ways, making her both a true believer in the Circle and a sympathetic character.  It doesn’t work.)

For that matter, the film also appears to be confused as to just why exactly Hanks and Oswalt are villains.  We know that we’re supposed to distrust them because Hanks is way too quick to smile and Oswalt is always standing in the background and looking like he’s just deliberately killed all of his Sims.  But how evil are they actually supposed to be?  What are the stakes?  The film doesn’t appear to be sure.

Now, I’m not totally trashing The Circle.  There were a few moments that I did like.  I enjoyed the scenes that were meant to illustrate the cult-like atmosphere at the Circle.  There’s a hilarious scene where two enthusiastic Circle employees interrogate Mae as to why she never told them that she enjoys kayaking.  (“I enjoy kayaking!  We could have kayaked together!”)  And there’s another scene where Hanks and Oswalt talk about how, if countries allow The Circle to run their elections, they could then require everyone to join The Circle and then make voting mandatory.  Mandatory Voting is a really terrible idea, the type that is always embraced by people who should know better.  I appreciated seeing the idea exposed for being the ticket to totalitarianism that it truly is.

But, for the most part, The Circle was just a mess.  Like a lot of cautionary tales (especially ones dealing with the internet), The Circle will probably eventually become a bit of a camp classic.  But for now, everyone involved with the film has done better work in the past and, hopefully, will continue to do so in the future.

Award Season Continues! Here Are The Winners From Georgia!


selma

Yes, awards season is still going on and critics and guilds from across the country and the industry are still announcing their picks for the best of 2014!

The latest group to make their picks known?  The Georgia Film Critics Association!  Here are their nominees for the best of 2014!

Best Picture
BIRDMAN
BOYHOOD
GONE GIRL
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
IDA
A MOST VIOLENT YEAR
NIGHTCRAWLER
SELMA
SNOWPIERCER
WHIPLASH

Best Director
Richard Linklater BOYHOOD
David Fincher GONE GIRL
Wes Anderson THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Ava DuVernay SELMA
Damien Chazelle WHIPLASH

Best Actor
Ralph Fiennes THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Jake Gyllenhaal NIGHTCRAWLER
Michael Keaton BIRDMAN
David Oyelowo SELMA
Eddie Redmayne THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING.

Best Actress
Marion Cotillard TWO DAYS ONE NIGHT
Scarlett Johansson UNDER THE SKIN
Felicity Jones THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Lisa Loven Kongsli FORCE MAJEURE
Julianne Moore STILL ALICE
Rosamund Pike GONE GIRL

Best Supporting Actor
Riz Ahmed NIGHTCRAWLER
Ethan Hawke BOYHOOD
Edward Norton BIRDMAN
Mark Ruffalo FOXCATCHER
JK Simmons WHIPLASH

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette BOYHOOD
Jessica Chastain A MOST VIOLENT YEAR
Rene Russo NIGHTCRAWLER
Emma Stone BIRDMAN
Tilda Swinton SNOWPIERCER

Best Original Screenplay
BOYHOOD
CALVARY
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
NIGHTCRAWLER
SELMA

Best Adapted Screenplay
GONE GIRL
THE IMITATION GAME
INHERENT VICE
SNOWPIERCER
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
WILD

Best Cinematography
BIRDMAN
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
IDA
INHERENT VICE
INTERSTELLAR

Best Production Design
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
INHERENT VICE
INTERSTELLAR
INTO THE WOODS
SNOWPIERCER
UNDER THE SKIN

Best Original Score
BIRDMAN (Antonio Sánchez)
GONE GIRL (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross)
INTERSTELLAR (Hans Zimmer)
LIFE ITSELF (Joshua Abrams)
UNDER THE SKIN (Mica Levi)

Best Original Song
“Everything is Awesome” from THE LEGO MOVIE
“Glory” from SELMA
“We Will Not Go” from VIRUNGA
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from GLEN CAMPBELL: I’LL BE ME
“Something So Right” from MUPPETS MOST WANTED

Best Ensemble Cast
BIRDMAN
BOYHOOD
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
GONE GIRL
SELMA

Best Foreign Language Film
FORCE MAJEURE
IDA
SEPIDEH
TWO DAYS ONE NIGHT
WE ARE THE BEST!

Best Animated Feature Film
BIG HERO 6
THE BOOK OF LIFE
THE BOXTROLLS
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
THE LEGO MOVIE

Best Documentary Feature Film
CITIZENFOUR
FINDING VIVIAN MAIER
KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON
LIFE ITSELF
SEPIDEH

Breakthough of the Year
Ellan Coltrane
Ava DuVernay
Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Jenny Slate
Tessa Thompson

Selma

 

Here Are The Nevada Film Critics Winners!


Tyler Perry in Gone Girl

Gone Girl, which — with the exception of Rosamund Pike’s performance — has not quite been the precursor powerhouse that some were expecting it to be, was named best picture by the Nevada Film Critics!

(I’m actually enjoying the precursors this year.  They’re spreading the wealth around, as opposed to every critics group moving in lockstep and slavishly honoring only one film, like they did with The Social Network.)

Check out the rest of their winners below!

Best Film
Gone Girl

Best Director
Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler)

Best Actor
Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler)

Best Actress
Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)

Best Supporting Actor
J. K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year)

Best Screenplay
Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler)

Best Cinematography
Hoyte van Hoytema (Interstellar)

Best Production Design
Adam Stockhausen (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Best Visual Effects
Interstellar

Best Ensemble Cast
Guardians of the Galaxy

Best Animated Movie
Big Hero 6

Best Documentary
Citizenfour

Best Youth Performance
Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood)

Here Are The Chicago Film Critics Association Nominations!


Happy Valentine's Day!

Finally, from the former hometown of Al Capone and President Obama, here are the Chicago Film Critic Associations Nominations!

BEST PICTURE
Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Under the Skin
Whiplash

BEST DIRECTOR
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
David Fincher, Gone Girl
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Christopher Nolan, Interstellar

BEST ACTOR
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
Michael Keaton, Birdman
David Oyelowo, Selma
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

BEST ACTRESS
Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
Scarlett Johannson, Under the Skin
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
Laura Dern, Wild
Agata Kulesza, Ida
Emma Stone, Birdman

BEST ORIGNAL SCREENPLAY
Birdman, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo
Boyhood, Richard Linklater
Calvary, John Michael McDonagh
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson
Whiplash, Damien Chazelle

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
The Imitation Game, Graham Moore
Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson
Under the Skin, Walter Campbell
Wild, Nick Hornby

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM
Force Majeure
Ida
Mommy
The Raid 2
Two Days, One Night

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Citizenfour
Jodorowsky’s Dune
Last Days in Vietnam
Life Itself
The Overnighters

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
The Lego Movie
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

BEST ART DIRECTION/PRODUCTION DESIGN
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Interstellar
Into The Woods
Only Lovers Left Alive
Snowpiercer

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Birdman
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ida
Inherent Vice
Interstellar

BEST EDITING
Birdman
Boyhood
Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Whiplash

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Birdman
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Interstellar
Under the Skin

MOST PROMISING PERFORMER
Ellar Coltrane, Boyhood
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Belle/Beyond the Lights
Jack O’Connell, Starred Up/Unbroken
Tony Revolori, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Jenny Slate, Obvious Child
Agata Trzebuchowska, Ida

MOST PROMISING FILMMAKER
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
Jennifer Kent, The Babadook
Jeremy Saulnier, Blue Ruin
Justin Simien, Dear White People

The Brief Thrill Of The Phoenix Film Critics Nominations


Lego MovieI have to admit that, when I first looked at the just-released Phoenix Film Critics Nominations for 2014, I got really excited.  I saw The LEGO Movie listed among the nominees for best picture and I thought to myself, “Oh my God!  Could The LEGO Movie be set to be the fourth animated film to score a best picture nomination from the Academy!?”

Seriously, my inner movie trivia lover was so excited!

Then, of course, I remembered that critical recognition doesn’t necessarily translate into Oscar nominations.  And I was forced to admit that The LEGO Movie probably will not be nominated for best picture, though it definitely remains a front runner for best animated feature.

But, for a few moments there, I was truly an excited Oscar watcher.

Anyway, here are the Phoenix Film Critics Nominations!

(h/t to Awards Circuit)

BEST PICTURE/ TOP TEN FILMS OF 2014

  • A Most Violent Year
  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • Gone Girl
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • The Imitation Game
  • The Lego Movie
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
  • David Fincher, Gone Girl
  • Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman
  • Richard Linklater, Boyhood

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
  • Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
  • Brendon Gleeson, Calvary
  • Tommy Lee Jones, The Homesman
  • Michael Keaton, Birdman
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Amy Adams, Big Eyes
  • Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
  • Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
  • Hilary Swank, The Homesman
  • Reese Witherspoon, Wild

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
  • Logan Lerman, Fury
  • Edward Norton, Birdman
  • Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
  • J. K. Simmons, Whiplash

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
  • Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
  • Carrie Coon, Gone Girl
  • Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
  • Emma Stone, Birdman

BEST ENSMEBLE ACTING

  • Birdman
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Into the Woods

BEST SCREENPLAY WRITTEN DIRECTLY FOR THE SCREEN

  • A Most Violent Year
  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Whiplash

BEST SCREENPLAY ADAPTED FROM ANOTHER MEDIUM

  • American Sniper
  • Gone Girl
  • The Imitation Game
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Wild

BEST LIVE ACTION FAMILY FILM

  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Into the Woods
  • Maleficent
  • Muppets Most Wanted

BEST ANIMATED FILM

  • Big Hero 6
  • The Boxtrolls
  • The Lego Movie
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2

OVERLOOKED FILM OF THE YEAR

  • Calvary
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • Obvious Child
  • The Skeleton Twins
  • Snowpiercer

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • Force Majeure
  • IDA
  • Mood Indigo
  • The Raid 2

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • Citizenfour
  • Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me
  • Jodorowsky’s Dune
  • Life Itself
  • Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  • Everything is Awesome, The Lego Movie
  • Immortals, Big Hero 6
  • Lost Stars, Begin Again
  • Miracles, Unbroken

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  • Birdman
  • Gone Girl
  • The Imitation Game
  • Interstellar
  • The Theory of Everything

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • A Most Violent Year
  • Birdman
  • Interstellar
  • Into the Woods
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Unbroken

BEST FILM EDITING

  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • Gone Girl
  • Interstellar
  • Into the Woods

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Interstellar
  • Snowpiercer

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Inherent Vice
  • Into the Woods
  • Maleficent
  • The Theory of Everything

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  • Interstellar

BEST STUNTS

  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • John Wick
  • Need for Speed
  • The Raid 2

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE ON CAMERA

  • Ellar Coltrane, Boyhood
  • Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
  • Jenny Slate, Obvious Child

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE BEHIND THE CAMERA

  • Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
  • Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
  • Gillian Robespierre, Obvious Child
  • Jon Stewart, Rosewater

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A YOUTH – MALE

  • Ellar Coltrane, Boyhood
  • Daniel Huttlestone, Into the Woods
  • Jaeden Lieberber, St. Vincent
  • Ed Oxenbould, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
  • Tony Revolori, The Grand Budapest Hotel

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A YOUTH – FEMALE

  • Lilla Crawford, Into the Woods
  • Mackenzie Foy, Interstellar
  • Sterling Jerins, And So It Goes

grand-budapest-hotel

The Washington D.C. Film Critics Honor Boyhood!


Boyhood

The Washington D.C. Film Critics announced their picks for the best of 2014 today and, much like almost every other critics group in America, they named Boyhood best picture!

You can revisit the Washington D.C. nominations here.  And you can find the winners below!

(h/t to Awards Circuit)

Best Film
“Boyhood”

Best Director
Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”

Best Actor
Michael Keaton, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Best Actress
Julianne Moore,”Still Alice”

Best Supporting Actor
J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”

Best Acting Ensemble
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Best Youth Performance
Ellar Coltrane, “Boyhood”

Best Adapted Screenplay
“Gone Girl”

Best Original Screenplay
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Best Animated Feature
“The LEGO Movie”

Best Documentary
“Life Itself”

Best Foreign Language Film
“Force Majeure”

Best Art Direction
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Best Cinematography
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Best Editing
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Best Original Score
“Under the Skin”

The Joe Barber Award for Best Portrayal of Washington, DC
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

Here are The Washington D.C. Film Critics Picks For The Best of 2014!


I like the Washington D.C. Film Critics because they don’t just give out awards.  Instead, they nominate multiple films and leave everyone in suspense until they get around to giving out their awards.  Just like the Oscars!

Anyway, here are their nominees for 2014!

WDC

Best Film:
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Boyhood
Gone Girl
Selma
Whiplash

Best Director:
Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)
Ava DuVernay (Selma)
David Fincher (Gone Girl)
Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance))
Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Best Actor:
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year)
Michael Keaton (Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance))
David Oyelowo (Selma)
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

Best Actress:
Scarlett Johansson (Under the Skin)
Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)
Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

Best Supporting Actor:
Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)
Edward Norton (Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance))
Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)
Andy Serkis (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Best Supporting Actress:
Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year)
Laura Dern (Wild)
Emma Stone (Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance))
Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer)

Best Acting Ensemble:
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Into the Woods
Selma

Best Youth Performance:
Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood)
Mackenzie Foy (Interstellar)
Jaeden Lieberher (St. Vincent)
Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Noah Wiseman (The Babadook)

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl)
Graham Moore (The Imitation Game)
Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice)
Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything)
Nick Hornby (Wild)

Best Original Screenplay:
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., Armando Bo (Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance))
Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (The LEGO Movie)
Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)

Best Animated Feature:
Big Hero 6
The Book of Life
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
The LEGO Movie

Best Documentary:
Citizenfour
Jodorowsky’s Dune
Last Days in Vietnam
Life Itself
The Overnighters

Best Foreign Language Film:
Force Majeure
Ida
Mommy
Two Days, One Night
Wild Tales

Best Art Direction:
Production Designer: Kevin Thompson, Set Decorator: George DeTitta Jr., SDSA (Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance))
Production Designer: Adam Stockhausen, Set Decorator: Anna Pinnock (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Production Designer: Nathan Crowley, Set Decorator: Gary Fettis (Interstellar)
Production Designer: Dennis Gassner, Set Decorator: Anna Pinnock (Into the Woods)
Production Designer: Ondrej Nekvasil, Set Decorator: Beatrice Brentnerova (Snowpiercer)

Best Cinematography:
Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC (Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance))
Robert Yeoman, ASC (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Hoyte Van Hoytema, FSF, NSC (Interstellar)
Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC (Unbroken)
Daniel Landin, BSC (Under the Skin)

Best Editing:
Douglas Crise, Stephen Mirrione, ACE (Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance))
Sandra Adair, ACE (Boyhood)
Kirk Baxter, ACE (Gone Girl)
Lee Smith, ACE (Interstellar)
Tom Cross (Whiplash)

Best Original Score:
Antonio Sanchez (Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance))
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross (Gone Girl)
Hans Zimmer (Interstellar)
Jóhann Jóhannsson (The Theory of Everything)
Mica Levi (Under the Skin)

The Joe Barber Award for Best Portrayal of Washington, DC:
Anita
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Kill the Messenger
Selma
X-Men: Days of Future Past

WDC2

Here Are The Gotham Nominations!


Under the Skin

Under the Skin

Here are the nominations for the Gotham Independent Film Awards!  It’s debatable just how reliable the Gothams are as an Oscar precursor.  For one thing, the majority of the big studio productions are not eligible for the Gothams.  However, when you’re an indie film trying to win mainstream awards, any recognition is good recognition.

As far as the nominees go, Birdman and Boyhood are already Oscar front runners.  However, the Gotham nominations will perhaps remind some people that The Grand Budapest Hotel is eligible for Oscar consideration as well.

Here are the Gotham nominations!

Best Feature

  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Alejandro G. Iñárritu, director; Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher, Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole, producers (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
  • Boyhood – Richard Linklater, director; Richard Linklater, Cathleen Sutherland, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, producers (IFC Films)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson, director; Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales, Jeremy Dawson, producers (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
  • Love Is Strange – Ira Sachs, director; Lucas Joaquin, Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, Ira Sachs, Jayne Baron Sherman, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Under the Skin – Jonathan Glazer, director; Nick Wechsler, James Wilson, producers (A24 Films)

Best Documentary

  • Actress – Robert Greene, director; Douglas Tirola, Susan Bedusa, Robert Greene, producers (The Cinema Guild)
  • CITIZENFOUR – Laura Poitras, director; Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky, producers (RADiUS, Participant Media, and HBO Documentary Films)
  • Life Itself – Steve James, director; Zak Piper, Steve James, Garrett Basch, producers (Magnolia Pictures and CNN Films)
  • Manakamana – Stephanie Spray & Pacho Velez, directors; Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel, producers (The Cinema Guild)
  • Point and Shoot – Marshall Curry, director; Marshall Curry, Elizabeth Martin, Matthew Van Dyke, producers (The Orchard and American Documentary / POV)

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award

  • Ana Lily Amirpour for A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Kino Lorber)
  • James Ward Byrkit for Coherence (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
  • Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler (Open Road Films)
  • Eliza Hittman for It Felt Like Love (Variance Films)
  • Justin Simien for Dear White People (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)

Best Actor*

  • Bill Hader in The Skeleton Twins (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)
  • Ethan Hawke in Boyhood (IFC Films)
  • Oscar Isaac in A Most Violent Year (A24 Films)
  • Michael Keaton in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
  • Miles Teller in Whiplash (Sony Pictures Classics)

* The 2014 Best Actor nominating panel also voted to award a special Gotham Jury Award jointly to Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, and Channing Tatum for their ensemble performance in Foxcatcher (Sony Pictures Classics).

Best Actress

  • Patricia Arquette in Boyhood (IFC Films)
  • Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Beyond the Lights (Relativity Media)
  • Julianne Moore in Still Alice (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin (A24 Films)
  • Mia Wasikowska in Tracks (The Weinstein Company)

Breakthrough Actor

  • Riz Ahmed in Nightcrawler (Open Road Films)
  • Macon Blair in Blue Ruin (RADiUS)
  • Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood (IFC Films)
  • Joey King in Wish I Was Here (Focus Features)
  • Jenny Slate in Obvious Child (A24 Films)
  • Tessa Thompson in Dear White People (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)
Boyhood

Boyhood

Back to School #78: Boyhood (dir by Richard Linklater)


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I hate to admit it but it actually took me a day or two to really warm up to Boyhood.  

When I first saw it, I knew that I was watching a great film and it was a movie that I had a good deal of respect for.  By now, we’ve all heard the story of how the film was made and how director Richard Linklater first started the film in 2002 when star Ellar Coltrane was only 6 years old.  Over the next 12 years, Linklater would spend a few weeks out of each year filming.  The script was written on a year-by-year basis, allowing the story to develop organically and often taking into account whatever was happening in Coltrane’s life at the time.  The end result is that Coltrane grows up on screen in much the same way that Mason, the character he’s playing, does.  As I watched Boyhood, I knew that Linklater had somehow managed to turn what could have been a mess into an undeniably effective movie.

But yet, in the hours immediately following the showing, I had a nagging feeling.  I realized that, as much I respected the film and as much as I wanted to love the film, there was a part of me that was slightly disappointed.  In some ways, it made sense.  Richard Linklater is a director whom I absolutely revere and, as a result, I am always going to watch his movies with extremely high (and occasionally unrealistic) expectations.  As for the film itself, Boyhood is the most acclaimed film of the year so far.  For the longest time, it had a perfect 100% rating over at Rotten Tomatoes.

And, when you’re continually told that a film is the greatest movie ever made, it’s going to be a challenge to then judge the film on its actual merits.

And so, I was content to think of Boyhood as being one of those undeniably important films that I respected more than I enjoyed.

But then something happened.

Boyhood stuck with me.  Boyhood is a film that has stuck with me more than almost any other film this year.  (Interestingly enough, perhaps the only 2014 film that I’ve seen so far that has stuck with me more was Guardians of Galaxy, which in many ways is the exact opposite of Boyhood.)  There are scenes in Boyhood that are still as fresh in my mind as they were when I first saw them.  Interestingly enough, they’re not big, dramatic scenes.  (Indeed, Boyhood is memorable for just how determined it is to avoid the big, dramatic scenes that usually appear in coming-of-age films.)  Instead, what stuck with me were the little details.

I remembered how, when Mason was 6 and his family was moving down to Houston, his best friend rode by on a bicycle and waved goodbye, never to be seen again in the film but definitely destined to be remembered by both Mason and the audience.

I remembered how, from the minute that Mason’s mom (Patricia Arquette), met and married the seemingly friendly Bill (Marco Perella), I knew that the marriage wasn’t going to work.  I remembered the scenes of Mason and his sister (Lorelei Linklater) trying not upset Bill and failing every time.  Years later, when Arquette marries yet again, I knew that it wasn’t going to work out any better.  By that point, Mason knew it too but what can you do when you’re only 16?

I remembered how Mason, after having been moved to San Marcos, had an awkward conversation with a girl from his school.  The girl obviously liked Mason and Mason obviously liked the girl but neither one had a clue how to say it.

I remembered feeling stunned when, over the course of just one scene break, Mason went from being an innocent-looking 14 year-old to a skinny and angrily sullen 15 year-old.  It’s hard for me not to feel that, in that regard, Boyhood serves as a warning of what’s probably in store for me once I actually have kids.

I also remember being surprised when Mason’s Dad (Ethan Hawke) went from being the guy who ranted about George W. Bush in 2004 to a 2011 newlywed who asks his children to come to church with him.  But then again, in retrospect, was it that much of a shock or, like Mason, did I unfairly expect his Dad to remain a rebel for the rest of his life?

(One of the most interesting things about the film is that, since it was literally filmed while the story was occurring, Boyhood serves as a time capsule of life and culture throughout the beginning on this century.  While the scenes set in 2004 and 2008 are dominated by Mason’s father enthusiastically talking about politics, he never mentions anything about the presidential election in 2012.  And it actually makes sense because was anyone enthusiastic about 2012?)

That’s the thing that sets Boyhood apart from other coming-of-age films.  Many of the events that would be major scenes in other teen films — like losing one’s virginity or learning to drive — happen off-screen in Boyhood.  Instead, Boyhood is just about watching life unfold.  Many questions are not answered.  Characters come and go, playing their part in Mason’s life and then disappearing as Mason moves on.

Some of them, like Mason’s stepbrother and step sister who are both left behind when his mother leaves Bill, we wonder about, just as surely as Mason wonders about them too.  But life is rarely neat enough to provide all the answers and Boyhood, if nothing else, is about life.

And that, ultimately, it why Boyhood sticks with you.  Looking back on the film, you can see how Mason the 6 year-old who had to be forced to leave behind his best friend eventually grew up to be Mason the 18 year-old who is almost insensitive in his eagerness to leave behind his mother and drive himself to college.  But, and this is the key, you have to be willing to look back on the film to truly understand at.  Trying to figure out how the pieces of puzzle fit together while watching the film will only leave you frustrated, as life often does while you’re living it.  It’s only after the film that you can truly understand what it all means.  It’s only when you look back that you realize just how much Richard Linklater has accomplished with Boyhood.

As such, Boyhood is not an easy film.

But it is a great one.

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