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The 7th Annual Munchie Awards; or 2014 in Review

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It's Oscar time and that means it's once again time for me to steal their thunder and present the 7th Annual Munchie Awards, celebrating what I thought were the cinematic highlights of the year, since the Academy can just never seem to get it quite right (American Sniper? Come on).

Best Documentary

I didn't get a chance to see more than 4 or 5 documentaries this year, which was very disappointing to me, so I can't really offer much in the way of a shortlist. I did enjoy the eagerly anticipated biography of Roger Ebert, Life Itself. Ebert was something of an icon to me and it was quite an emotional experience to see his last days documented on film while also getting a pretty fun exploration of the seminal importance of his career. But hands down the best documentary I saw was the Oscar-nominated Finding Vivien Maier. Track this one down. Vivien Maier was an obscure photographer living in New York in the mid 20th century. To call her eccentric would be an extreme understatement. She was attached to her camera but rarely shared, published, or even developed many of the thousands and thousands of pictures she took. But the rub is - her photography is absolutely breathtaking. The film is full of some of the most striking, vibrant examples of photography you'll ever see. This film explores her bizarre life and the efforts to bring her work to broader attention. It's simply exhilarating.

Best Feature Film

The countdown:
15. The LEGO Movie
14. Birdman
13. St. Vincent
12. Force Majeure
11. The Drop
10. The Imitation Game
9. Pride
8. The Grand Budapest Hotel
7. Love is Strange
6. Locke
5. Wild
4. Selma
3. Nightcrawler
2. Boyhood
and...
So, for most of the year, I'd thought of Boyhood as my film of the year. Indeed, when people look back on this year, people are going to consider that film a truly exemplary achievement. Everything about, from what shows up onscreen, to the whole astonishing story of its production is just astounding. And yet, when I think of the films that truly affected me - that truly stayed with me - I realize that the film of the year for me is Damien Chazelle's Whiplash. This film danced in my mind for weeks after I saw it. The psychodrama is intense, the performances are hypnotically charismatic. Whiplash is constantly pulling the rug out from under us. Everything we think we know about the two main characters and their evolving dynamic is never quite what it seems and by the end, it seems that...well, they just deserve each other. The way that the climactic final scene is shot is truly, truly gripping. The less I say about, the more there is for you to enjoy if you haven't seen it. I will only say that the language of cinema is more electrifying than the any spoken language. Bravo!

Best Actor

Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel
Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler
Tom Hardy in Locke
Michael Keaton in Birdman
David Oyelowo in Selma
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything

So this was a really stacked category this year. Even narrowing to a shortlist of the lead actors this year wasn't easy. I feel bad about leaving out Miles Teller in Whiplash, but he was the odd man out. I was so close to giving this to Jake Gyllenhaal for his spine-tingling performance in Nightcrawler. He's one of the more unsettling on-screen presences I can recall. But this year's Munchie goes to Mr. Tom Hardy. So, perhaps many might consider Locke a bit gimmicky, but I was sucked in completely. Tom Hardy is the only character we see for the entirety of the film. He has to be compelling enough to hold our attention for 100 minutes all by himself and he comes through in pretty spectacular fashion. I'm in total awe of this accomplishment.

Best Actress

Emily Blunt inInto the Woods
Essie Davis in The Babadook
Julianne Moore in Still Alice
Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl
Jenny Slate in Obvious Child
Reese Witherspoon in Wild

Honestly, I don't think there were a ton of great lead roles for women this year. I was a bit disappointed. This award is going to Julianne Moore. Her performance is brave and powerful and heartbreaking and it's the kind of tour-de-force performance that we've all known that she can give, if given half a chance. For more, see her Oscar speech tomorrow.

Best Supporting Actor

Riz Ahmed in Nightcrawler
Ethan Hawke in Boyhood
J.K. Simmons in Whiplash
Alfred Molina in Love is Strange
Edward Norton in Birdman
Tyler James Williams in Dear White People

A large range of performances here. I was very taken with Tyler Williams in Dear White People, a film I didn't love as much as I thought I would. But Williams shone much brighter than the rest of the cast and was, by far, the most sympathetic and interesting character. And honestly, he reminded me an awful lot of myself 10 years ago. But perhaps I'm a little partial to the bigger performances - this one just has to go J.K. Simmons. The Oscars are going to agree with me on this one, much like Julianne's Munchie earlier. Simmons's music teacher is just the most ruthless authority figure I can recall seeing on screen but Simmons plays him with a lot of complexity. There are layers upon layers to the character, and the layers are more and more sinister the deeper we go. But when we, at long last, get to the core of this character, we're left with a disturbing and complicated picture of one of the more memorable characters in recent cinema.

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette in Boyhood
Laura Dern in Wild
Imelda Staunton in Pride
Emma Stone in Birdman
Meryl Streep in Into the Woods
Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer

First off, congratulations to Tilda Swinton who I'm compelled to nominate just about every damn year for one Munchie or another. This has to be 5 or 6 for her. She's still got to be my favorite working actress. But...she doesn't get the win this time. This year, I'm giving it to the magnetic Laura Dern in Wild. Wild was maybe my surprise of the year. Nothing about the trailer made me think it was going to be the deep, emotional, fulfilling journey that it was. Laura Dern's character is kind of a spectral presence in this film, almost haunting us as she haunts Reese Witherspoon's lead character throughout her own journey. As much as Reese is on screen, Laura Dern's presence is what I remember most. She's the warm, sympathetic glow in a raw, psychologically fraught film about a character who can't seem to show herself any warmth or sympathy. She's hard not to love and hard to forget.

Best Director

Wed Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel
Damien Chazelle for Whiplash
Ava Duvernay for Selma
Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler
Alejandro G. Iñárritu for Birdman
Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Oh what a tough one this is. The ambition, scope and vision of these directors and their projects is so utterly impressive. I have to mention that, as someone who is simply not attuned to Wes Anderson's sensibilities, I was really blown away by his film this year. He's perfected his craft and I think he's probably made the best possible "Wes Anderson film." Now it's time to branch out, Mr. Anderson. I was also impressed by the confidence shown by some of the newer filmmakers - Gilroy, Duvernay, and Chazelle don't have a lot of feature films to their names as directors, but they sure showed a lot of surefootedness in their nominated films. The winner, though, is Richard Linklater. If you want to talk about ambition, scope, and vision, as well as pure, stubborn dedication, you have to talk about Boyhood. The care and discipline that went into this film are apparent in every frame. I'm still in awe.

And that's what I loved this year. As always, I never get to see everything I want to. The big ones I missed and regret are Inherent Vice, A Most Violent Year, Night Moves, citizenfour, Cake, Two Days, One Night, and The Judge. I'll try to do better next year! Thanks for reading!

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Tags: 2014, movies, munchies
Categories
Entertainment , Movies

Comments

  1. GlennHarman's Avatar
    Munchie, I don't pay nearly enough attention to who blogs what on TAT, and I did not know about the Munchie Awards until you directed me to the ones this year. I would have agreed with almost everything you said for 2014 : Whiplash was, for me, easily the best movie of the year. And Boyhood was easily number 2. And J.K. Simmons gave, for me, the performance of that year in any category. I also liked Wild better than the Academy did, so I liked your comments on that. The only minor disagreement I would have with you is that you have Birdman in 14th place. I wouldn't have it ranked, no matter how many I ranked. I really rather intensely disliked it (but like my reaction to 45 Years this year, there is a lot of that reaction that has to do with personal history.....since one's opinions of movies is subjective and therefore "personal", I don't really try to apologize for that).

    You do see more movies than I do, and I am grateful that you post your opinions.....very insightful. GH
  2. munchin's Avatar
    Thanks Glenn. Birdman is a movie I respected more than I "liked." I don't think I have much desire to see it again unless I get on a "cinema studies" kinda kick. It's kind of a homework-y kind of film.