Saturday, February 21, 2015

the 2014 jdb awards

Happy Oscar weekend! Here are my film nominees and winners for 2014.


PICTURE







What we see in Director Richard Linklater's depiction of Mason Evans, Jr.'s young life is relatively low on drama and conflict, but the cumulative effect of the film has a unique power.



"I never doubted this movie, for one second.  I never felt anything but excited and joyful, and I loved the experience, until last year.  When it was starting to end, I felt really sad about it ending and really worried about letting it into the world.  After I saw the film, I was like, “When I’m a real old gal and my time has come, I will know that I was a part of a real work of art that’s something really special.” -Patricia Arquette





nominees









DIRECTOR







For nearly three decades, Linklater has racked up an idiosyncratic resume of films. His vision for Boyhood as a sprawling yet restrained family odyssey was daring, especially positioned as a 12-year project, but he pulled it off beautifully.


"It’s rare that a film gives you that chance to edit and think about what it needs. There was this ever-growing film that I got to just contemplate that was pretty amazing. I never did a film that wanted to be itself so much. Just its own thing. So it was a very incremental adjustment every year with the actors. It’s a methodology that’s so unnatural, so different, but there was a real upside within that" -Linklater






nominees




Ava DuVernay, SELMA
Andrey Zvyagintsev, LEVIATHAN






ACTOR



Michael Keaton, BIRDMAN




As an actor desperately trying to pull together a dramatic Broadway play, Keaton's welcome comeback tour de force is funny, buoyant, and occasionally devastating.



“You would have to go from funny to disturbing to deeply sad back to darkly funny. And because of the nature of how it was shot, you didn’t have the luxury of edits, where you can do 15 takes of that one line from that angle. You had to get it all in one, and be word perfect, and in the right place physically to accommodate the camera.” -Keaton




nominees



Ralph Fiennes, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
John Lithgow, LOVE IS STRANGE










ACTRESS







Smartly, Witherspoon grabbed the reins and started acquiring projects (such as this and the smash Gone Girl). It's been a while (nearly ten years maybe?) since I've seen her so carefree and commanding. A tricky and likely physically demanding role, this is one of those rare turns where I'm not really viewing a performance but rather just enjoying the actor's company.



nominees

Rosamund Pike, GONE GIRL








SUPPORTING ACTOR



Alfred Molina, LOVE IS STRANGE




I'm not usually a fan of Molina's tendencies towards ham, but in Love is Strange, I found him completely believable, graceful and quietly affecting.



"Whenever you talk about a director's style being restrained, there's always a kind of implication that it lacks fire or it lacks emotional tension. But with Ira [Sachs], it's that very thing—that restraint, the big emotional thing happening on the edge of the frame, or even slightly in the background—that gives it that emotional punch." -Molina



nominees



Ethan Hawke, BOYHOOD
Edward Norton, BIRDMAN






SUPPORTING ACTRESS






It was one of the early scenes in the court room where I was immediately transfixed by Kulesza's dark eyes. She wasn't saying anything, just staring--and somehow, I sensed her character's heavy past of complication and pain. A haunted and haunting performance.



"[Kulesza] was offering a lot, and what she was offering needed to be channeled all the time, sculpted, and often reduced. And she got into the character really deeply, because she rehearsed and researched a lot, and we spent a lot of time thinking through Wanda’s character." -Pawel Pawlikowski



nominees



Carmen Ejogo, SELMA
Rene Russo, NIGHTCRAWLER
Anna Ukolova, LEVIATHAN






ADAPTED SCREENPLAY


Gillian Flynn, GONE GIRL





Gillian Flynn's adaptation of her novel Gone Girl is sly and satiric entertainment with punchy twists, clever characterizations and crackling dialogue.



"I was a writer for 10 years for a weekly magazine [Entertainment Weekly], and had spent so much of my time having my 1,000-word piece suddenly be a 200-word box, and having to disassemble it and create it as a new thing. I think that helped me be pragmatic about it; I sort of had a ruthless, 'I killed my darlings' approach to it." -Flynn




nominees




Walter Campbell & Jonathan Glazer, UNDER THE SKIN
Javier Gullón, ENEMY
Nick Hornby, WILD
Gillian Robespierre, OBVIOUS CHILD







ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY



Andrey Zvyagintsev, LEVIATHAN






This sprawling, heavily symbolic tragedy digs and digs at its characters and ends with a resounding damnation of oppression and greed.


“It’s like being in a minefield, this is the feeling you live with here [Russia]. It’s very hard to build any kind of prospects – in life, in your profession, in your career – if you are not plugged in to the values of the system. It’s a stupid construction of society, and unfortunately the eternal curse of our territory. The ideas of the rule of law, of equal rights are hardly discussed here. There is discussion in society, but it’s pointless. I have a feeling of the absolute futility of pretending to the right to have a say in any situation. I’ve turned 50 and I’ve never voted in my life. Because I’m absolutely certain that in our system it’s a completely pointless step.” -Zvyagintsev


nominees




Wes Anderson, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, & Armando Bo, BIRDMAN
Rebecca Lenkiewicz & Paweł Pawlikowski, IDA
Ira Sachs & Mauricio Zacharias, LOVE IS STRANGE








ENSEMBLE



SELMA




There are some interesting instances of stunt casting in Selma (notably Oprah, who is very effective, and Common). Besides the outstanding principals, on the whole, there are many in this ensemble who are given very little screen-time--just faces flashing by--and yet aid in the film's ultimate emotional wallop.



"This was as much the story about the band of brothers and sisters that were around him as it was King's story. There haven't been great pains taken to show that he was a leader among leaders — all of them could've probably done it. Why him? He could talk the best. He was an orator who was able to synthesize all these ideas in a way that spoke to the masses and also that spoke to people in power. But they were there and they were the masterminds behind it. I tried to show the strategy, the tactics, the arguments. That's how history is made, not by consensus, but by people freakin' battling it out, right? That's how change happens." -DuVernay




nominees


BIRDMAN
GONE GIRL
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
LEVIATHAN





FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM



LEVIATHAN




Andrey Zvyagintsev's Elena won this category in 2012 (and also Best Director). This vodka-soaked odyssey is another sobering masterpiece from him--crushing and bleak but spiked with dry humor and heart.


"I do indeed hope that we will reach mutual understanding, that freedom will prevail. I think in all countries around the world, the problem of liberty is important; it's the duty of everyone to combat the state and uphold liberty – to address it in an honest, frank, forthright manner." -Zvyagintsev



nominees




CHILD'S POSE
A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT
IDA
STRANGER BY THE LAKE






DOCUMENTARY


LIFE ITSELF




For some reason, I didn't see many great documentaries this year, but this moving, clear-eyed doc by Steve James showing Ebert in his final days and an illustrious overview of the celebrated critic's years in a bygone era of journalism, stood out.


nominees












CINEMATOGRAPHY



Lyle Vincent, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT





This was another wonderful year for cinematography (Lubezki helped deliver a virtuoso trick of a one-take feel on Birdman and every single shot in Ida is stirring) but there was something unique and seductive about Lyle Vincent's evocative, spooky shots of "Bad City" and its inhabitants.


nominees




Nicolas Bolduc, ENEMY
Emmanuel Lubezki, BIRDMAN
Robert Yeoman, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Lukasz Zal & Ryszard Lenczewski, IDA






FILM EDITING



Mike Flanagan, OCULUS





Modern horror films are usually overlooked for their technical merits. Flanagan's editing on Oculus is a masterful piece of work--a well-crafted puzzle that clicks in and out of the past and of reality (?).



nominees

Sandra Adair, BOYHOOD
Julia Bloch, BLUE RUIN
John Gilroy, NIGHTCRAWLER
John Mac McMurphy & Martin Pensa, WILD








FILM SCORE








Tuneful, varied and beautiful, another gem from Hisaishi. "The Procession of Celestial Beings" is the most sublime pieces of film score from the year.





nominees

Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans, ENEMY
Mica Levi, UNDER THE SKIN
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, GONE GIRL
Jonathan Snipes, STARRY EYES




SONG



"Lost Stars," BEGIN AGAIN






I gave in to the cheese that is Begin Again and enjoyed it. It's no Once and "Lost Stars" is no "Falling Slowly" but the tune sounds lovely when soft-voiced Knightley sings it and even when Levine hams it up and clinches it in the finale.







nominees


"Coming Up Roses," BEGIN AGAIN
"Everything is Awesome," THE LEGO MOVIE
"Glory," SELMA





PRODUCTION DESIGN



THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL





Can it be anything else? Another spectacular stunner of production design from Anderson's filmography and perhaps one of the finest. The shots of the hotel in more modern times are quite astonishing as well.


nominees

SELMA






COSTUME DESIGN


Milena Canonero, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL




In an array of bold colors, this lively, pitch-perfect, and already iconic costuming from Canonero is a vital part of the grandeur of Grand Budapest.


nominees



Mark Bridges, INHERENT VICE
Ruth E. Carter, SELMA
Sonia Grande, MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT
Patricia Norris, THE IMMIGRANT





MAKEUP & HAIR


STARRY EYES




In this low-budget indie horror flick, a gruesome transformation is created by the stunning practical make-up effects.



nominees



A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL







SOUND


THE BABADOOK





Whether it be the sounds of fuzzy TV reception, pages of a book turning, a child screaming or a monster roaring, the sound design on The Babadook is crisp and masterly.


nominees


A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT
NIGHTCRAWLER
WHIPLASH
WILD




SOUND EDITING


WILD




Though it did receive attention and some acclaim, I still kind of feel Wild is an underrated movie. But perhaps one of its most underrated aspects is its risky sound work. The juxtaposition of music, nature and dialogue running through Cheryl's mind is deftly handled here.


nominees


THE BABADOOK
THE LEGO MOVIE
NIGHTCRAWLER







VISUAL EFFECTS


DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES





One of the better effects-driven movies of the year, the visuals in Apes are eye-catching, especially the seamless, brilliant motion capture work.


nominees



THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
INTO THE WOODS







My Top 10 Films of '14.

And a look back at my major category sweep last year for Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave.

Until next time!

Friday, February 20, 2015

summer soul mix



Thanks to Pontchartrain for getting me through this frosty Friday with a sublime mix tape.


Thursday, February 19, 2015