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Entries in Birdman (46)

Monday
Jan 05 2015

Best of the Year: Nathaniel's Top Ten

Previously we looked atten runners-up-- practically an alternate top ten if you will the year was so good.Now on to the list you've been waiting for as our own awardage begins.

The years best films marched in the streets in London and Alabama,cruised Scotland with nefarious intent,uncovered skeletons in Poland,and jogged around DC.They performed on the stages of Manhattan while also house hunting there;neither activity is for the faint of heart.Only two of them sprang from books though another cast its biggest spell while holding one.Two taught us about history in ways that felt absolutely relevant and useful to how we live now and one let us watch 12 years of it unfold.The thing that unites all ten is the imagination,fine judgement (when to employ a light touch and when to hit hard) and technical prowess of the filmmakers and actors,lifting their scenes,themes and stories however mundane,silly,deep or fanciful to greater heights that we could have reasonably expected.

With deep appreciation...

NATHANIEL'S TOP TEN FILMS OF 2014

CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER
(Anthony Russo & Joe Russo)
Disney.April 4th
138 minutes

The public has been more than generous with Marvel Studios over the years as they stumbled into surprising glory given that they were playing with a half deck having sold so many key characters.Ten films in: perfection!Captain America: Winter Soldierartfully dodges nearly every typical superhero movie problem (as well as general sequel problems) with a stunning grasp of mood,total commitment to a "square"character,a smart choice of villain,and thrilling action scenes that feel authentically dangerous (a complete rarity in blockbusters) rather than like stop-and-gawk "setpieces"with no actual stakes.Add in Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson both embracing their supersized charisma and physical perfection (while deepening their rapport and characterizations) and you have the year's best popcorn entertainment.

THEBABADOOK
(Jennifer Kent)
IFC Films.November 28th
93 minutes

You can't intellectualize away its terror,though reviews and many a future masters theses will try.This alarming horror film,a brilliant debut for Australian director Jennifer Kent,is as hard to shake as its title character whether you take it as a straightforward monster film,a mental illness or grief allegory,or get hung up on its minefield of taboos (mothers who don't much like their children / over-medication of children / weapons in schools).It's as rich and imaginative a study of depression in its own creepy-crawly way as Lars Von Trier'sMelancholiaso it's wonderfully apt thatJennifer Kent once apprenticed with the Danish provocateur.

Eight with more than enough Greatafter the jump...

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Saturday
Dec 20 2014

Critical Consensus: Boyhood or Birdman?

BirdmanandBoyhoodcontinue to split regional trophies.This round tips inBirdman's favor for a change though.I'm becoming more and more curious to see who SAG selects as "Outstanding Cast".Will they opt for the heartfelt dedication of 4 actors who spent a few weeks each year for over a decade making the same intimate masterpiece,or will they go with a very exciting movie that'saboutacting to a significant degree with the lively interactions of movie stars pretending to be theater stars who are actually acting together in frame in a way you rarely see in the movies but see all the time in theater where this is no camera and editing to distract you.

It's a tough predictive call though my vote goes toBirdmanbecause there's far more actingwitheach other (and more consistency in the quality of each performance) something that is pure pleasure if you're a lover of the art of acting as interacting.

Results and commentary from Florida,Las Vegas,Utah and St Louisafter the jump...

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Monday
Dec 15 2014

"Critics Choice"Flies With Keaton,Checks Into the Grand Budapest & Stands with Jolie, Unbroken

(We interruptyour Missi experiencethis morning to bring you more awards news.Missi returns this afternoon for two final posts.)


If you missed my predictions and would like to mock them,they were here.The Critics Choice which will be broadcast live on A&E this year from the Iconic Hollywood Palladium (a new home and venue) onJanuary 15th at 9 PM EST / 6 PM PST.I shall try and attend again.If I can get a better table.What?Travel expenses must be justified!

BEST PICTURE
Birdman- leading with 13 nominations
Boyhood- 8 nominations
Gone Girl- 6 nominations
Grand Budapest Hotel- second place with 11 nominations.wow
The Imitation Game- 6 nominations
Nightcrawler- 3 nominations
Selma- 5 nominations
Theory of Everything- 5 nominations
Unbroken- 4 nominations
Whiplash- 4 nominations

I suspected (aka predicted) that we'd seeUnbrokenandGone Girlresurface in the conversation here.In fact the only prediction I got wrong was I didn't foreseeNightcrawlerhappening,fearing that the AFI love forAmerican Sniperwas significant.I thinkBoyhoodwill probably win in the end (especially given the weird halfhearted "comedy"section of the awards pulling votes away fromBirdman) but good onBirdmanfor that astounding level of support.

I was really hoping for one non-Oscary thing though.I thoughtUnder the Skinmight have an outside chance for a shocker (and yes I voted for it).

JAKE GETS THE JOB and moreafter the jump...

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Monday
Dec 15 2014

Critical Kudos Continue: Kansas,San Francisco,Dallas, OFCS

(We interruptyour Missi experiencethis morning to bring you more awards news.Missi returns this afternoon for two final posts.)

The Film Critic (a monolith) floats in his room this month contemplatively,aging rapidly before our eyes.A difficult choice faces him/her:BirdmanorBoyhood?After the jumpsee which cities chose what and which categories they're allowing themselves to have a little fun with...

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Tuesday
Dec 02 2014

National Board of Review's Most Violent Awards

Glennhere with the NBR results as they come to hand.They used to be the first awards of the season to announce their winners,but now the National Board of Review are trumped annually by theGotham Awardsand theNYFCCin the merry-go-round that is award season.I maintain that unless you're a guild,your absence is more or less moot.However,it can definitely help get your name and face out there to be acknowledged early and often.The NBR is where the likes ofMoulin Rouge!and Amy Ryan made it known that they would be forces to be reckoned with.What did this 105-year-old group select this year?Let's find out...

NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW WINNERS

  • Best Film: A MOST VIOLENT YEAR
  • Best Director: Clint Eastwood,AMERICAN SNIPER
  • Best Actor: (tie!) Oscar Isaac,A MOST VIOLENT YEAR and Michael Keaton,BIRDMAN
  • Best Actress: Julianne Moore,STILL ALICE
  • Best Supporting Actor: Edward Norton,BIRDMAN
  • Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain,A MOST VIOLENT YEAR
  • Best Original Screenplay: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller,THE LEGO MOVIE
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Paul Thomas Anderson,INHERENT VICE
  • Best Animated Feature: HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
  • Special Achievement in Filmmaking: Appears to not exist this year?
  • Breakthrough Performance: Jack O'Connell,STARRED UP and UNBROKEN
  • Best Directorial Debut: Gillian Robespierre,OBVIOUS CHILD
  • Best Foreign Language Film: WILD TALES (Argentina)
  • Best Documentary: LIFE ITSELF
  • William K.Everson Film History Award: Scott Eyman
  • Best Ensemble: FURY
  • Spotlight Award: Chris Rock for writing,directing,producing and starring in TOP FIVE
  • NBR Freedom of Expression Award: SELMA and ROSEWATER

What exactly does Clint Eastwood have on these people that they give him an award for almost every single movie he makes?Best director forAmerican Sniperand a placement on their top ten (below) seems...extravagant.

Anyway,it was a big day forA Most Violent Yearwinning three big prizes including best film.Will this film fall alongside the likes ofQuillsas a NBR best picture winner without a corresponding Oscar nomination in the same category?That super,ultra,very-very late release date still makes me worried.Whatever the case may be,the NBR loved it and good on A24.Ever the wealth-spreader,the mysterious organization likedThe Lego Movieenough to give it a rather shocking (although not entirely undeserved) screenplay win and top ten placement,yet Dreamworks'How to Train Your Dragon 2took out the animated film prize.They consolidated their breakthrough prizes into one award for handsome Jack O'Connell.Fair enough,I suppose.Meanwhile,after Jennifer Kent's win at the NYFFF and now Gillian Robespierre's win at the NBR,women directors are staking a claim to breakthrough director awards in 2014!

TOP FILMS
(alphabetical)

  • AMERICAN SNIPER
  • BIRDMAN
  • BOYHOOD
  • FURY
  • GONE GIRL
  • THE IMITATION GAME
  • INHERENT VICE
  • THE LEGO MOVIE
  • NIGHTCRAWLER
  • UNBROKEN

Remember,this is basically places 2-11 henceA Most Violent Year's omission.I don't claim to know how that works,but let's just roll with it.Very happy to seeNightcrawlerhere as now that the flurry of indie nominations have surpassed,citations for the Jake Gyllenhaal movie may be hard to come by.The rest of the list is pretty standard,although the people behindThe Theory of Everything,Big Eyes,Foxcatcher,Into the Woods,Grand Budapest Hotel,WildandWhiplashwill all be a bit miffed that they didn't receive a single token nomination anywhere amidst the NBR's field.Selma,too,being stuck with that kiddie-table "Freedom of Expression"award feels like a disappointment for that team,too.

Top 5 Foreign Language Films
(In Alphabetical Order)

  • FORCE MAJEURE (Sweden)
  • GETT: THE TRIAL OF VIVIAN AMSALAM (Israel)
  • LEVIATHAN (Russia)
  • TWO DAYS,ONE NIGHT (Belgium)
  • WE ARE THE BEST!(Sweden)

I think the recognition of Lukas Moodysson's ace teen movieWe Are the Best!is my favourite of the NBR's choices.Way to go,NBR!Y'all should go watch it immediately.Three of these films (plusWild Tales,their actual foreign film winner - again,confusingly) are eligible for Oscar,with the Dardennes'Two Days,One Nightnow appearing on multiple award lists after the NYFCC yesterday.

Top 5 Documentaries
(In Alphabetical Order)

  • ART AND CRAFT
  • JODOROWSKY'S DUNE
  • KEEP ON KEEPIN' ON
  • THE KILL TEAM
  • LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM

All six documentaries cited -Life Itselfwon the big prize as noted up top - are onOscar's 15-wide doc shortlist.That's some good dart-throwing,NBR!

Top 10 Independent Films
(In Alphabetical Order)

  • BLUE RUIN
  • LOCKE
  • A MOST WANTED MAN
  • MR.TURNER
  • OBVIOUS CHILD
  • THE SKELETON TWINS
  • SNOWPIERCER
  • STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING DOORS
  • STARRED UP
  • STILL ALICE

Ignoring the pure idiocy of a list like this that makes no sense (are independent films not eligible elsewhere?),this is a good batch of flicks.Blue Ruin!I was ecstatic to seeStand Clear of the Closing Doorsget an acting nomination at the Indie Spirits the other day,and now this little mention.That film is so good and I suggest y'all check it out if you can.It's small,but beautiful.Beautiful can't be used to describeStarred Upstarring Ben Mendelsohn and breakthrough winner Jack O'Connell,but I'm glad it showed up,too.LikewiseThe Skeleton TwinsandObvious Child,two of the best comedies this year that I'm sure the Globes will ignore almost entirely.

What do you make of this year's NBR awards?I'm sure we'll have more to say about them later when Nathaniel returns from hobnobbing with Angelina Jolie and I am salivating at the thought of another hilarious podcast as they discuss Clint Eastwood's magnetic hold over the NBR,but for nowdid they get it right?Embarassingly wrong?Let us know!

Tuesday
Nov 11 2014

Tuesday Top Ten: Fictional Pop Culture of 2014

Manuelhere bringing a fun list to enjoy the fictional pop culture 2014 has brought us.

I have to admit it;I like my pop culture like I like my ouroboros - constantly eating itself.That is to say,I'm a sucker for meta-fictional drama and particularly enjoy when films,books and TV shows create their own pop cultural world to satirize,comment on and critique (it won't surprise you that two of my favorite movies,All About EveandAll About My Mother,are twinned images of one another).We're weeks away from end-of-year Top 10s,but I figured we could begin early by I celebrating the fictional pop culture landscape of 2014.

The criteria?I looked for fictional pop culturalthingsin the films and TV shows from this past year that I wish were real and we've definitely had plenty to choose from.There was reality TV showBlack Face/White PlacefromDear White People,"The King in Yellow"(a fictional play embedded in the eponymous novel that featured so prominently inTrue Detective),the30 Rock-esqueHammy Beartrilogy from Chris Rock's upcomingTop Five,SNL's amazing-lookingThe Beygency,not to mentionInside Amy Schumer's spot-on Sorkinean parodyThe Foodroom.These are,of course,all runners-up to the 10 I've chosen to make up our list.Incomprehensible algebraic equations were designed to rank them all,though I'm eager to hear what I inadvertently missed and/or placed too high.

TOP TEN FICTIONAL POP CULTURAL ARTIFACTS OF 2014

10."Everything is Awesome!!!"fromThe LEGO Movie
You could say the entire film is a pop cultural kaleidoscope as it is both creating a universe dependent on our own pop culture (Wonder Woman!Gandalf!C3PO!) yet populated entirely by beings unaware of it.Unsurprisingly then,this ear worm of a conformist anthem (written by The Lonely Island,they of "D**ck in a Box"fame) was as ubiquitous in the film as it was in everyone's minds after watching the film.To assure us of its own pop cultural caché,the song was recorded by,implausibly enough,Tegan and Sara!Shoutout to the wonderfully plausible CBS-like sitcom "Where are my pants?"which fits oh so well in this perfectly mundane yet quirky LEGO World.

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