The time has come again for my favourite blog of the year in which I can look back upon all those great movies from the past 12 months and decide who will receive a Luke’s Film Blog award. Some have argued that 2014 hasn’t exactly been a vintage year for film; however, there was still a huge amount to enjoy and to choose from. With the awards season already in full swing, and with no real consistency in some of the key categories, including Best Actor and Best Director, it is a very exciting and unpredictable time. Hopefully, my personal choices will celebrate some of those in contention for Academy Awards and mention those whom have been overlooked in the last few months. So, please read on and discover who has excelled and enticed this humble film blogger this year:
A few months ago, when I was in the early stages of thinking of the films I’d enjoyed over the year I thought of The Grand Budapest Hotel and thought it would never get near an awards ceremony because it was released so early in the year. I was both shocked and delighted in equal measure when I discovered how many various nominations it had attained. For a film to have come out this time last year and still be in contention for some of the top prizes is usually unheard of. However, it is a film with a certain magic about it. A spectacular ensemble of a cast, headed by a delightful Ralph Fiennes, and Wes Anderson’s wonderful script and direction are just a few of the reasons that it would stay in the mind long after its theatrical release. There isn’t a more innovative auteur working today than Wes Anderson. The Grand Budapest is vibrant, colourful with effortlessly beautiful cinematography throughout that gives the film a unique originality lacking in many Hollywood productions today. The dialogue is sharp, witty and ultimately it’s a great story. It’s a film I can go back to again and again and enjoy new things, whether it’s a small line I’ve missed or a miniscule aspect of the mise-en-scene. Although it was tough to decide against the likes of Birdman, Interstellar and Calvary it is a truly deserving winner of this and any other award it accumulates.
Birdman was a real treat of a film; original, intelligent and very funny. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu did an outstanding job of building up a huge amount of intensity in the confined area of its theatre setting. The idea of having the movie shot in very long takes worked so well and both Inarritu and his cinematopgher Emmanuel Lubezki should be applauded for that. It gives Birdman a very natural and realistic feel. Inarritu must have asked a lot of his performers to cater to the technical nature of the movie but they all certainly delivered to his high standards. It’s different to his other movies that have been in contention for awards in the past, the gripping 21 Grams and overrated Babel but Birdman must certainly be his masterpiece.
Brendan Gleeson is an actor who gives consistently fantastic performances but is rarely given much of a mention when awards season comes around. In recent years he has been outstanding in In Bruges and The Guard and he re-teamed with the latter’s director John Michael McDonagh in Calvary. Gleeson plays an Irish priest, who is told in confession he will be killed in a week, he must deal with the issues surrounding religion in the modern day and his own personal problems, not to mention the problems of his congregation as the date of his doom marches towards him. Gleeson is believable in the role and very likeable with the most subtle of glances giving the character real depth, but there is also a great pain at times that he pulls off wonderfully. It is both a terrific film and my favourite performance of the year.
Although this role didn’t receive a huge amount of praise because she has been so good in other things recently I feel that Anne Hathaway deserves some recognition for her role in Interstellar. Hathaway Plays it a lot straighter than she usually does as Biotechnologist Amelia Brand and loses the glamour we usually associate herself with in other roles. She is really developing as an actress and this role adds another element of versatility, building upon roles such as Fantine in Les Misarables. The character is believable and has great chemistry with Matthew McConaughey. She’s a very strong female character with a drive and purpose and played excellently by Hathaway.
Best Supporting Actor
The supporting actor category of any awards has always been a tricky one as one must always decipher if an actor is a lead or a supporting role. It is sometimes the case that a definite lead will sometimes find themselves in this category, such as Steve Carrell for Foxcatcher. However, although Edward Norton can very well hold up a film by himself, he is my best supporting actor for his role in Birdman. Lately, Norton has been in a great deal of comedy roles including Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel and has demonstrated a real talent for it. Although his performance in Birdman seems merely idiosyncratic there is a lot more depth, hiding underneath and Norton has a real talent for delivering dialogue with his own unique style. His performance in Birdman is still, at times, as intense as Fight Club or American History X and Norton has a wonderful unpredictability and likeability to him.
Best Supporting Actress
Scarlett Johansson has had one hell of a year; with leading performances in both Under The Skin and Lucy she has been extremely busy. She has also had time to appear in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as Black Widow (Aka Natasha Romanoff) where she was fantastic. She has developed her character over the last few Marvel films to give Black Widow her own unique character so she doesn’t just fade into the background. Her partnership with Captain America played by Chris Evans really delivers and I look forward to seeing her in Avengers: Age of Ultron in a few months’ time.
Best Original Screenplay
Last year, Gravity came very close to winning the Best Picture Oscar but was beaten by 12 Years a Slave. However, it did still win a huge amount of awards. Whether this is the reason Interstellar has failed to take the Oscar nominations by storm I don’t know. The thought of two science fiction films doing well in two years may be overkill for the Academy. However, Interstellar was a film I thoroughly enjoyed and respected. It had a very intelligent script that was so full of original ideas that it could have lost many of its audience in the telling but didn’t. Written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan with much of the physics coming from scientific consultant Kip Thorne Interstellar was not only the story of finding a new planet and travelling through wormholes but that of a family and these two themes combined to make a great script. It’s clever, inspiring and funnier than a lot of Nolan films before with TARs providing a great deal of the comic relief. There is always a risk that the script can get lost with so many special effects but there is no danger of that and there are real moments of intensity and poignancy throughout.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Frank was based on a book called ‘Oh Blimey’ by author Jon Ronson. Ronson had once been in a band alongside the eponymous Frank (Sidebottom, who was the alter ego persona of Chris Sievey). This is an adaptation of what he encountered during his time with the band and although the majority of it was fictionalised for the book there is a certain reality that remains. Written by Ronson and Peter Straughan the script has some great set pieces, very well written characters and a real journey for the lead played by Domhall Gleeson. The way in which Frank (played by Michael Fassbender) is presented is intriguing and his story slowly comes out in a very moving way. Frank also conveys the quirky narrative in a way that the audience can still become involved and is a great deal of fun.
You just have to look at the poster for The Grand Budapest Hotel and you are wondering how all of these actors can fit into one movie. A collection of Wes Anderson favourites old and new collaborate to make a superbly acted film. The names just roll off the tongue: Fiennes, Brody, Goldblum, Murray, Dafoe, Wilson, Law, Schwartzman, Ronan, Norton, Swinton, Wilkinson etc. Combined with a magnificent breakthrough performance from Tony Revolori as Zero this is truly the cast of the year.
Best Superhero Movie
This was one of the trickiest categories this year because there have been so many stand out Superhero movies throughout the year. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was an amazing, darker look at the next phase of Marvel whereas Bryan Singer’s return to the X-Men franchise with Days of Future Past yielded successful results, both critically and at the box office. However, for its humour, innovation and great script this year the award goes to The Guardians of the Galaxy. A mix of wonderful casting and razor sharp dialogue has catapulted one of the more obscure Marvel entities into the public mainstream and shows you don’t need a the most well-known superheroes to hold a film.
So there are the Luke’s Film Blog awards for the last year. Who knows what will be here next year, maybe Jurassic World, The Avengers:Age of Ultron or Star Wars: The Force Awakens perhaps. It may even be some movies I haven’t heard of yet and will surprise us all. Nobody knows but I can’t wait to watch these films and ultimately find out.
Feel like reminiscing? Here are some links to older Luke’s Film Blog awards: