Department of Awards: ‘Boyhood’ the Best Film of 2014

Dreaming of greatness, or just dreaming, in 'Boyhood' (IFC Films)

Dreaming of greatness, or just dreaming, in ‘Boyhood’ (IFC Films)

Earlier today, New York Film Critics Online—a group that quite generously includes yours truly in its membership—met to hash out the most notable films, filmmakers, and performers in various categories during 2014.

In short, Richard Linklater’s 12-years-in-the-making Boyhood won for best picture and in two other categories, with Alejandro Inarritu’s meta-fictional satire Birdman tied at three wins. Other films like The Imitation Game and particularly The Grand Budapest Hotel received many votes in particular categories but ultimately couldn’t pull out a win. (Note that last year, NYFCO chose 12 Years a Slave as best film, and it went on to win the Oscar … just saying.)

The Hollywood Reporter noted the proceedings, as did award news mavens GoldDerby and The Wrap.

Here’s the full reckoning of what we as a group liked best from 2014, broken down first by category and then our annual Top 10 list; note that several of them (Unbroken, A Most Violent Year, Selma, and Two Days, One Night) won’t get released until Christmas or later this year:

  • Best Picture — Boyhood
  • Best Director — Richard Linklater, Boyhood
  • Best Actor — Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
  • Best Actress — Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
  • Best Supporting Actor — J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
  • Best Supporting Actress — Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
  • Best Screenplay — Birdman
  • Best Cinematography — Birdman
  • Best Breakthrough Performance — Jack O’Connell, Starred Up and Unbroken
  • Best Use of Music — Get On Up
  • Best Debut Director — Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
  • Best Ensemble Cast — Birdman
  • Best Foreign Language Film — Two Days, One Night
  • Best Documentary — Life Itself
  • Best Animated Film — The Lego Movie

The Top 10 Films of 2014

  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • The Imitation Game
  • A Most Violent Year
  • Mr. Turner
  • Selma
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Under the Skin
  • Whiplash

Reader’s Corner: #FergusonReads

warriorcop1There’s been some attempts to grapple with the deeper impact of what’s been happening in Ferguson—not to mention what will continue to happen in the St. Louis for months and years after the national media’s attention has turned away.

While small in focus, this book discussion group seems just about the perfect way to talk about the dangerously deep gulfs in an ever-more segregated America. According to #FerugsonReads:

This reading group is an attempt to add some civility and context to the mix by exploring race, not only in St. Louis, but America as a whole.

November’s book was Radley Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop; chosen for obvious reasons. January’s will be Lisa Bloom’s Suspicion Nation, on how the Trayvon Martin tragedy will continue to be repeated.

Department of Weekend Reading: December 5, 2014

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New in Theaters: ‘Wild’

Reese Witherspoon explores the great outdoors and finds herself in 'Wild' (Fox Searchlight)

Reese Witherspoon explores the great outdoors and finds herself in ‘Wild’ (Fox Searchlight)

wild-bookCheryl Strayed’s 2012 memoir Wild—about her brave and highly foolish decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail with no training as a way of exorcising her painful past—was many things that a bestseller and Oprah often aren’t: emotionally lacerating, unexpected, vulnerable, and clear-eyed about people’s weaknesses and dark sides. For the inevitable and surprisingly spot-on film adaptation, Reese Witherspoon plays Strayed in what could be an Oscar-worthy performance. That’s Nick Hornby of High Fidelity behind the keyboard.

Wild hits theaters this week. My review is at Film Racket:

Strayed is first spotted on the side of a mountain, pulling a bloody toenail out after days of grueling walking in too-small boots under a groaning pack one could fit the possessions of a small nation-state into. Dropping one boot down the side of the mountain by mistake, she impulsively throws the other boot after it, screaming in rage. Director Jean-Marc Vallee shoots it in all the wrong ways, with slow-motion and elongated vocals, trying to create a drama that the story hasn’t earned yet. It’s a rough start to what is mostly a solidly-crafted and cathartic drama of discovery about a woman who nearly kills herself in order to learn how to live again…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Zero Motivation’

Nelly Tagar tries to be all she can be in 'Zero Motivation' (Zeitgeist Films)

Nelly Tagar tries to be all she can be in ‘Zero Motivation’ (Zeitgeist Films)

The new Israeli film Zero Motivation—which played the film festival circuit earlier in the year—is a smart, dour comedy set in a military office where little gets done. The military satire is punched up with the occasional flash of surrealism; it’s a fantastic mix.

Zero Motivation is opening this week in limited release. I reviewed it at the Tribeca Film Festival for PopMatters:

On a base that feels as removed from any actual war as Sgt. Bilko, the human resources office is a den of sloth and ineptitude. Commanding officer Rama (Shani Klein) is frazzled trying to get any of the women in her command to care even remotely about their assignments. Her best friends Daffi (Nelly Tagar) and Zohar (Dana Ivgy) can’t be bothered to do much besides complain and play Minesweeper, as they all survive in a casually sexist division, where the men are assigned all the combat roles and so ascend to higher ranks, and female soldiers fetch coffee and bicker…

Here’s the trailer:

Reader’s Corner: Keeping Up

bookswantedAny serious reader is never satisfied with how much they’re reading. They’re more likely to be anxious and perturbed by the ever-growing stack(s) of books that threaten to blot out the season’s weak winter sun.

Still, few readers have a to-read list to rival that of Times critic Dwight Garner, who says he gets about 25 books a day in the mail and that it takes him on average 8 hours to read one. Do the math.

Here’s a few of the better lines from a recent interview with Garner:

One doesn’t review one’s friends. Having said that, “friend” is an elastic term.

A lot of books are like first dates. You know in 25 seconds if it’s going to work out.

[On whether he reads every page of every book he reviews] I do. Out of moral obligation. Also out of fear. You don’t want to miss something crucial. You want to be definitive in your pronouncements. You want to be able to write things like, “Not once in 350 pages does Mr. Borges huff paint.” You don’t want to worry about a huffing scene on Page 211 that you skipped over.

New in Theaters: ‘Horrible Bosses 2′

'Horrible Bosses 2' (New Line Cinema)

‘Horrible Bosses 2′ (Warner Bros.)

There wasn’t much to know about the comedy Horrible Bosses beyond that it featured three guys (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day) who hated their bosses and wanted revenge. There isn’t much else to know about the sequel, except that it’s not about plot so much as watching three great comic actors bicker and squall.

Horrible Bosses 2 opened this week and will be playing pretty much everywhere for at least a couple weeks for anybody already sick of Oscar contender films. My review is at PopMatters.

Here’s the trailer: