Friday, January 2, 2015

2014, Best in Film

This is one of my favorite things to do every single year is to kind of do my own mini-Academy Awards where I honor the movies that I felt were worthy of recognition.  I often go differing ways from critics and the industry as a whole due to my love of Hollywood blockbusters, but I think that's what makes my blog unique is that I am an amateur movie critic who's more ingrained in what is actually popular.  There is a lot of ground to be covered in one post, so I wont waste too much more space on idle chit chat.  Here is what I thought was the best work in film from 2014, and come back in a day or two to see what my 10 favorite movies of 2014 were!


Best Song - "Where No One Goes" from How to Train Your Dragon 2
This category is simply the best use of a song in a movie, period.  Whether the song already existed before the movie, or was written for the movie, it all boils down to how perfectly the song works with the visuals onscreen at that moment.  "Where No One Goes," is a picture perfect example of that.  Co-written by Sigur Ros frontman Jonsi and film composer John Powell, the song mixes the unique musical stylings of Sigur Ros with the unforgettable How to Train Your Dragon theme penned by John Powell to create an empowering song that is adventurous and hopeful.
2.) "Everything is Awesome" from The LEGO Movie
3.) "Come and Get Your Love" from Guardians of the Galaxy
4.) "For the Dancing and Dreaming Kind" from How to Train Your Dragon 2
5.) "Hiko-Ki Gumo" from The Wind Rises

Best Make-Up and Hair - Guardians of the Galaxy
From turning Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista into green skinned aliens, to turning Michael Rooker, Karen Gillian, and Lee Pace into blue skinned aliens, Guardians of the Galaxy was a rare modern blockbuster that utilized as much traditional make-up and hair work as it did CGI.  In the words of Stan Lee, "'Nuff said."
2.) Snowpiercer
3.) Unbroken
4.) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
5.) The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Best Costumes - Belle
Period costume dramas almost always win this category at the Oscars, maybe because these types of films tend to feature such showy costume pieces.  Well, I am not going to break from tradition here, cause I loved the costumes in Belle.  Yes, it is another period costume drama, but when costumes are this beautiful, elegant, and intricate, to where a close-up captures such amazing detail, you've just got to give props where props are due.
2.) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
3.) X-Men: Days of Future Past
4.) Noah
5.) Interstellar

Best Sound - The Wind Rises
The sound of The Wind Rises was just utterly innovative.  The sound designers utilized humans making the noises of airplanes rather than actually recording real aircraft, and it created a unique, dreamlike feeling to the idea of flight.  Then there was the myriad ways that the noise of wind was utilized almost like music.  Simply put, The Wind Rises sounds unlike any other film ever made, and that's why it gets this honor.
2.) Godzilla
3.) How to Train Your Dragon 2
4.) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
5.) The LEGO Movie

Best Special Effects - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The work done by WETA digital on this film was nothing short of spectacular.  With Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, WETA took another huge leap forward in the art of performance capture technology by filming so much on location and not in a controlled environment, proving that there really are no bounds to what mo-cap can do.  The effects work in this movie represent the future of moviemaking.
2.) Interstellar
3.) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
4.) Unbroken
5.) Godzilla

Best Production Design - Snowpiercer
I can only imagine the headache of shooting an entire movie on a train, but Bong Joon Ho managed to do that with Snowpiercer and I believe his success is all thanks to the production design.  Each train car is unique from the last, with varying forms of architecture being represented throughout the train.  To think that they built all of these claustrophobic train cars is astounding.  Since the spaces they were working in were so small, these sets had to be detailed, and they always pass inspection.
2.) The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
3.) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
4.) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
5.) Interstellar

Best Editing - X-Men: Days of Future Past
Truthfully, this one has a leg up on its competition due to the back-and-forth editing that editor John Ottman had to employ to tell the story in two separate time lines at the same time as if they were happening in one.  Sequences like the one in Paris in the the middle of the film, where Kitty Pride nearly loses Logan's consciousness in the future while chaos is unfolding in the Seventies, is a highlight of Ottman's career as an editor.  It doesn't hurt that he's also the composer, so there's a timing to every cut he does visually that matches the sound perfectly.
2.) Noah
3.) Interstellar
4.) Unbroken
5.) Godzilla

Best Cinematography - Unbroken
Roger Deakins is arguably the best Director of Photography currently working in the industry and his work in Unbroken is a perfect example of why.  The way he uses natural light without forsaking the clarity of the image is just breathtaking and makes me envious as a videographer.
2.) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
3.) Belle
4.) Noah
5.) Interstellar

Best Animated Film - The Wind Rises
This was no contest, the final film from one of my all-time favorite directors, how can it not be the best animated film of 2014?  The Wind Rises was a unique movie in Japanese animator, Hayao Miyazaki's repertoire, forgoing a lot of the traditional fantasy elements of his works for his most realistic film to date (though there are some pretty awesome dream sequences in the film).  This is a unique, one-of-a-kind biopic, loosely detailing the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of the Japanese Zero Fighter used in World War II.  What is fascinating about this movie is that it feels less about Horikoshi at times and more like its really an autobiography of Miyazaki.  While Miyazaki did rearrange a lot of events in Horikoshi's life to tell the story the way he wanted to tell it, when it's done this artistically, I don't care one bit.
2.) How to Train Your Dragon 2
3.) The LEGO Movie

Best Supporting Actress - Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer
Let's be honest, Tilda Swinton is always good, but she was great in Snowpiercer.  To say that she plays a villain almost feels like an overstatement after all is learned in the movie.  While she does heartless things, she's so brainwashed it's almost hard to not somewhat pity her as if she were a small child who just didn't know any better.  Key word is almost.  She still is sleazy, though Swinton manages to bring a comic goofiness to the sleaziness that also exudes a slight innocence and ignorance that makes her latest turn at playing a villainess one of her best, though still nowhere close to her work as the White Witch in Narnia.
2.) Karin Konoval, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
3.) Julianne Moore, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
4.) Jessica Chastain, Interstellar
5.) America Ferrera, How to Train Your Dragon 2

Best Supporting Actor - Toby Kebbell, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arguably this was the best performance of the year for me, though Miyavi's work as the Bird in Unbroken came awfully close.  I have always been a big proponent for motion capture and voice performance, and Toby Kebbel's mo-cap performance as Koba in Dawn is arguably one of the best examples of what this technology can achieve.  Take an awesome actor like Kebbell, turn him literally into an ape through computer technology, and magic happens.  And on a character level, Koba was also just the best villain in any movie this year.  He had strong motivations, and when Koba finally went bad, he became just like a livewire, you never knew what he was going to do and that was all credit to Kebbell.
2.) Miyavi, Unbroken
3.) Tom Wilkinson, Belle
4.) Gerard Butler, How to Train Your Dragon 2
5.) Anthony Mackie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Best Actress - Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Belle
Mbatha-Raw has been around for a few years, but she really started to breakthrough this year, a large part thanks to her performance in Belle.  Her work as Dido is nothing short of revelatory, playing a free mulatto gentlewoman in 1779 England.  She plays the role with a quiet ferocity that is just so miraculous to behold.  Her character starts off more Age of Innocence reserved, but as she falls harder and harder for British lawyer, John Davinier, she becomes more outspoken about those hidden feelings that Mbatha-Raw was able to deliver earlier in the film through just looks.  The clear character arc that Mbatha-Raw manages to convey with Dido is the best of both worlds for an actor, she gets to do subtle, reserved, and showy all in one remarkable role.
2.) Shailene Woodley, The Fault in Our Stars
3.) Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
4.) Angelina Jolie, Maleficent
5.) Emily Blunt, Edge of Tomorrow

Best Actor - Chadwick Boseman, Get on Up
Let me preface by saying, I loved Boseman's performance in Get on Up but didn't like the movie itself.  Boseman's lived in portrayal of James Brown is what saved Get on Up from being another biopic that just tried to do too much in two hours.  This is the same actor who played Jackie Robinson perfectly and is now going to play the Black Panther for Marvel.  He is such a diverse young actor and an immense talent, perfectly capturing the unique rhythms of Brown's movement and speech.  Even when the old age make-up was sketchy in the scenes representing Brown's later years, Boseman still managed to sell the performance.  This is an Oscar worthy performance that unfortunately has gotten overlooked because of the poor reception the movie received.
2.) Ansel Elgort, The Fault in Our Stars
3.) Andy Serkis, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
4.) Jay Baruchel, How to Train Your Dragon 2
5.) Chris Pratt, The LEGO Movie

Best Ensemble - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
I seriously don't see how you can look at the cast list of this movie and not say this is the best ensemble of any movie this past year.  When you have Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, not to mention the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, you have magic.  This is like watching a football team with an insanely deep bench.  Even the most minor of characters in these films are played by phenomenal actors.
2.) How to Train Your Dragon 2
3.) Captain America: The Winter Soldier
4.) Unbroken
5.) Guardians of the Galaxy

Best ScreenplayThe LEGO Movie
So I'm going with the movie that made me laugh the most this year, I don't care, The LEGO Movie was funny.  The most spectacular thing about the script is how it adheres strictly to the traditional three-act structure of Hollywood storytelling,while also lampooning it at every turn, ultimately having a nice, emotional twist at the end to make it something unique in the realms of animation.  Plus, this movie is chock full of quotable lines at every single turn.
2.) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
3.) Unbroken 
4.) The Wind Rises
5.) Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Best Director - Angelina Jolie, Unbroken
Angelina Jolie proves with Unbroken that she is one of those rare entertainers who is a better director than they are an actor.  With this movie, she joins the ranks of Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner, and Emilio Estevez.  She just has a good eye, being able to figure out where best to place the camera, not to mention her ability to speak with fellow actors and lead them to great performances.  Also, those action sequences she directed in this film were insanely engaging.  I really think that Angelina Jolie should direct an action film after seeing this one, but even if she doesn't, she proves with Unbroken that she can probably direct anything you throw at her.
2.) Hayao Miyazaki, The Wind Rises
3.) Matt Reeves, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
4.) Joe and Anthony Russo, Captain America: The Winter Soldier
5.) Gareth Edwards, Godzilla

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