I have spent the past few weeks catching up on this year's crop of Oscar hopefuls. Like every year, some of the nominees have left me extraordinarily puzzled as to what the various branches of the Academy saw when they handed out their lists of finalists. While I am not a critic nor am I in any way involved with the movie industry other than being a fan of great work, I thought it might be fun to share with you, my twenty or so devoted readers, my personal film awards for this past year.
Here are the rules.
- Any film which I have viewed during the past 12 months is eligible.
- Since this is my space, all decisions by the judge (me!) are final and binding.
- These awards do not mirror the actual categories, because...well...I made them up and they involve some very worthwhile films that many will not have seen.
- As for the actual Academy Awards which will be handed out on February 22nd, I have managed to view most of the top contenders. (Boyhood is next in my On-Demand queue and will probably be the last, because I frankly have no interest whatsoever in American Sniper nor in Foxcatcher, although I might still change my mind about the latter.)
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: David Oyelowo for Selma. Whomever does win the actual statuette in a few weeks, should understand that he will always have an asterix following his name. The fact that Mr. Oyelowo wasn't even nominated for his transformative performance in one of the best movies of the year (historical inaccuracies notwithstanding), is a travesty that Oscar might spend years trying to live down.
Actor/Actress Most Deserving of the "Career Oscar": Julianne Moore for Still Alice. I really liked this movie and I thought that Ms. Moore was incredible and heartbreakingly authentic, but let's be honest. It's her turn. She has been nominated five times and the Academy loves her. It is a rare year where a women in her fifties is even in the conversation come awards season, so I am willing to put aside my bias for Marion Cotillard in order to back this one.
Best Musical: This one is easy. Into the Woods isn't just the best musical this year, it is the best movie musical in more than ten years. I had serious reservations about Hollywood turning one of my all-time favourite stage musicals into a film, but I was richly rewarded. Having James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim intimately involved with the adaptation of their project was a wise decision and one that is rarely made. And...Meryl Streep isn't even the Best Actress in the film. Emily Blunt was a revelation and might have been nominated by the Academy had her name been Emily Streep instead.
Worst Musical: Jersey Boys. Clint Eastwood directed this hot and holy mess. They actually took the music out of a musical. What a horror show.
Best Movie that I'll Bet You Haven't Seen or Even Heard of: Begin Again Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo are perfect in this piece about a struggling record executive and a talented, but yet undiscovered singer/songwriter who collaborate on a unique project. Both Knightley and Ruffalo are nominated this year for higher profile films, but they are incredible in this indie gem. From the director of Once, I cannot recommend this movie highly enough. (Note: The Academy did recognize it for a Best Song nomination. Not enough!)
Best Feel Good Movie: Chef I am not a foodie, but I loved everything about this movie, including the food porn. Sometimes a movie's sole purpose is to entertain and this one does it magnificently. Jon Favreau should act more often.
Movie that Was Saved by Critics' Best of Year Lists: Whiplash This is hands down my favourite movie of the year. It was first screened at last January's Sundance Film Festival and was all but forgotten until the critics' lists started appearing in November. This is a story about how much the artist is willing to suffer for his art. J.K Simmons is flat out fantastic and is proof positive that a great part and a great actor are often symbiotic. If he doesn't win the Oscar, I will need to buy a new television because I will have thrown a brick through it.
Weirdest Movie of the Year: Birdman I thought that the technical aspects of the film, i.e the fact that it appears to be one long take, and the amusing hook of Michael Keaton's real-life portrayal of Batman interesting, but I am still trying to figure out what the ending was all about.
Most Overrated Movie of the Year: The Imitation Game I like Benedict Cumberbatch, (hello Sherlock!) but I was disappointed in this movie. Maybe it was the hype or maybe I just wanted more details about the genius of Alan Turing. Mostly, I just wanted it to be as good as the documentary Codebreaker which told Turing's story much more effectively.
Best Animated Film: The Lego Movie I need to admit that I didn't see all that many animated films this year, but I loved this movie. So clever and so artistic. How this was overlooked by the Academy is anybody's guess.
Best Foreign Language Film: I loved loved loved 2 Days, 1 Night and Marion Cotillard was phenomenal, but it wasn't even her best performance of the year. The Immigrant was a stunning pictorial of the miseries faced by single immigrant women when they came through Ellis Island. Ms. Cotillard spends chunks of the movie speaking Polish. (A third language?) She is a remarkable actress. But my favourite foreign language film this year was Ida. I don't want to give it away. Trust me. See it. (As an aside....put some effort into foreign language film viewing. It is so worth it.)
Best Movie I had Never Heard of But Discovered on Netflix: Girl on a Bicycle Once again, put some effort into those foreign films.
Best Documentary: Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me Come on!! It's Elaine Stritch. Enough said.
Best Comedy: To be fair, really good comedies are in short supply these days, but I loved The Grand Budapest Hotel. I love anything and everything that Wes Anderson makes. Ralph Fiennes is great and a true Oscar snub.
Most Authentic Romance: Stay Starring Aidan Quinn and Taylor Schilling, (Orange is the New Black) this film deals with real people and real problems.
Two Hours I Will Never Get Back: The Interview What a piece of crap.
Worst Remake of a Foreign Film: The Grand Seduction Oh, how I wanted to like this movie. It is Canadian, set in Newfoundland, and an English language remake of the excellent French film Seducing Dr. Lewis. It was missing so much.
Movie I Should Have Enjoyed More: Mr. Turner It was just so very long and so very pretentious.
Best Adaptation of a Book: Gone Girl Rosamund Pike is the creepiest leading lady since Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. Once again, it helped that Gillian Flynn wrote the screenplay adaptation of her book. Where is her Oscar nomination?
Best Historical Drama: Belle I love period pieces and this is a really good one.
Best Special Effects: Bwahahahaha!! This is MY list.
So there you have it. My Personal Movie Awards for this past year. I realize that there is much that I have yet to see, but I am simply calling it like I see it. By the way, if you are not already a subscriber to a movie streaming service, you are missing a lot of great films. Most of these were in theatres for about five minutes. Netflix is my personal choice, mostly because Amazon Prime Video is not yet available in Canada and Apple TV is more costly, but do yourself a favour and sign up for one of them. Don't let the studios dictate what you watch. Support the industry and the art. I welcome your comments and criticisms of my list, and I would love to hear some of your favourites. I'm always looking for something new to watch.