The time has come. This is the moment you’ve all been [passively] waiting for – the announcement of the 2014 Bobby James Awards for “Best of Film.” The awards go to…
…first, let’s start with one of the fan-voted awards, shall we?
Blockbuster Character of the Year:
“Emmett Brickowski” (Chris Pratt) – The LEGO Movie
With 38.1% of the vote, you selected Emmett as the “Blockbuster” Character of the Year. This is Emmett’s first win in this category. The previous victor (2013), “Katniss Everdeen” (Jennifer Lawrence) sends her congratulations to Emmett on this amazing honor.
Achievement in Cinematography:
Nightcrawler – Robert Elswit
Nightcrawler was one of 2014’s top dramas – it was also one of the most [darkly] beautiful films. There were many instances of brilliant cinematography – and Robert Elswit helped create a smarmy world for Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal). The image I’ve selected, I believe, captures the beauty of a neo-noir film – you see this gorgeous skyline as you’re confronted with deep shadows and claustrophobic feelings. The hues and tints in this image are incredible – and they represent how alluring this world can be, but also how dangerous. Classic.
Achievement in Editing:
Birdman – Douglas Crise, Stephen Mirrione
Birdman was one of the few films last year that made me consciously aware of how fantastic its editing was. I was surprised several times – most notably by the scene where Mike (Edward Norton) is entering stage left, for a Broadway production. The camera follows – and the edit flows so flawlessly that, for a moment, I was taken to a place where I seldom find joy in movies – to an edit point! That moment has stuck with me as a moment of editing perfection.
Achievement in Visual Effects:
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes –
Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist
Like its predecessor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) – which claimed this same award, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes features an incredible array of visual effects. I’m perhaps most interested in the process of performance capture. As you can see in the above image, the subtle nuances of the actor’s face – in this instance Toby Kebbell as “Koba – are captured, and then exquisitely designed and reflected in the chimpanzee character. How fantastic is that? How fantastic are these actors? Dawn of Apes boasts a serene and alluring, yet dangerous world for these apes to live in as well. From start to finish, every visual element is a treat – and they all serve the purpose of creating a visually stunning picture.
Achievement in Art Direction:
Interstellar – Dean Wolcott
Dean Wolcott was tasked with an incredible feat – executing the artistic vision of 2014’s most ambitious feature, Interstellar. Wolcott had to ensure and deliver a vision that was immensely imaginative – and he had to oversee the look and feel of a futuristic Earth – as well as the imaginings of outer space and other dimensions. Interstellar was a sensory masterpiece and Wolcott played a large part in that end result.
Achievement in Costume Design:
Maleficent – Anna B. Sheppard
I don’t think anyone could argue about the iconic greatness of Angelina Jolie’s costume in Maleficent. The cornerstone of great costuming is when it becomes reflected in fashion trends or pop culture. Designer Anna B. Sheppard’s exquisite gift to cinema was referenced at Halloween (in mass) and most recently at the Grammy Awards, where pop music icon Madonna had her dancers donning similarly inspired costumes. The detail is incredible and in every single frame, the costume is on par with Jolie’s performance.
Excuse me while I take a moment to interrupt this flow with the announcement of the second fan-voted award winner:
Blockbuster Villain of the Year:
“Artemisia” (Eva Green) – 300: Rise of an Empire
With 23.8% of the vote, Artemisia is your inaugural “Blockbuster” Villain of the Year. The antagonist of 300: Rise of an Empire was one of cinema’s strongest female characters – and portrayals – in a year plagued with a lack of strong roles for women. So I consider this an achievement – because it means that those of you who voted, felt the same way! Eva Green was perfect for the role – she dominated, just like her character did throughout the entire movie.
(Fun-Fact: This is Eva Green’s second Bobby James Award for 2014. She previously won for “Leading Actress in a Television Mini-Series or TV Movie,” for Penny Dreadful.)
Score for a Motion Picture:
Interstellar – Hans Zimmer
Hans Zimmer’s score of Interstellar was as ambitious as Christopher Nolan’s vision. It’s futuristic in its appeal and presentation – which compliment the movie tremendously. So many moments made such great use of the various compositions. Instantly, film buffs are going to recognize these beautifully hollow feeling, touching and uncertain instrumentals as specifically belonging to Interstellar. Notable compositions include: “S.T.A.Y.,” “Cornfield Chase” and “Mountains.”
Supporting Actress in a Voice-Over Role:
Cate Blanchett – “Valka” – How to Train Your Dragon 2
As “Valka,” Blanchett’s voice conveyed an array of emotions from regret and sorrow to joy. She fit into the Dragon franchise voice cast perfectly and brought a sense of maternal nurturing to a patriarchal world. There was something genteel and regal about the character, and that can be attributed to her soothing vocal.
Supporting Actor in a Voice-Over Role:
Scott Adsit – “Baymax” – Big Hero 6
“Hello. I am Baymax, your personal healthcare companion.” Reading that line alone is enough to make you gush over this oversized balloon man, but hearing it? That’s a magical story. Actor Scott Adsit gave his voice to what I consider one of the most lovable Disney characters, ever. I wish I had a Baymax, programmed with that voice – that calming, assuring voice – and that pace of speech. Bravo, Mr. Adsit, bravo.
Documentary Feature of the Year:
Rich Hill – Andrew Droz Palermo, Tracy Droz Tragos
Rich Hill is deeply affecting. Perhaps it was the personal connection I felt to this story that moved me so much. I grew up in an area (Bloomsdale, MO) and rode the bus with impoverished classmates. My family wasn’t well-off, but we were in a much better circumstance than the three young men (and their families) documented here. After seeing this story – I felt an overwhelming sense of compassion and frustration.
How could this be happening in America so prevalently? Knowing that I alone couldn’t make a difference, I hoped that these young people would be able to navigate through and past their economic situations. I wished success for them – and when they had an opportunity, I hoped that those providing the opportunity would be doing so based on the incredible characters of these young people. That was my compassion. Then, I wondered, what had happened to those classmates of mine – did they make it out? Are they okay? Or are they stuck in a perpetual cycle of poverty, unable to escape?
This is where frustration sets in. On the bus, people looked down on those classmates, some of whom were my friends. They were teased – and their family’s circumstance was to blame. This was infuriating. I also found frustration in this movie’s limited distribution. I saw it in a theater in an affluent neighborhood – a place where at least 50% of those seeing it wouldn’t get it because they’ve likely never experienced it.
I imagined the judgment and “pity” those [elitist] moviegoers would pass or have, respectively – and it frustrated me. Rich Hill is an important film – because it documents human existence in small town America. This is America for a great many of our population. More people should see this. I was moved – and still, months later, I can’t stop thinking about these people or this documentary. How hard must it have been for the directors not to intervene – to simply document this ugly situation?
Foreign/Independent Feature of the Year:
The Way He Looks (Brazil) – Daniel Ribeiro
One of the best movies I saw in 2014 was the foreign feature The Way He Looks from Daniel Ribeiro. I remember feeling everything throughout this tender and loving story. It’s a story about friendship – about coming of age – about love – and about internal and external conflict. I felt anxious at parts – because I knew the conventions of gay cinema foreshadowed a tragedy – but what transpired was miraculous, in the best way possible.
Ribeiro’s emphasis is acutely focused on the characters and their relationships to one another. It’s because of those relationships – and because of this story – that those very conventions of gay cinema may be challenged moving forward. I was so elated after this movie ended. I felt proud – and viewed this movie as a cinematic cornerstone – and evolutionary step in the portrayal of gay characters. This is another important movie that will surprise you – because of its dimension – and its ability to focus on more than sexuality (I’m going to stop there, I can’t give away too much!).
OK – I’ll break from my praise-heaping to reveal the third fan-voted award for 2014:
Most Lovable Animated Character:
“Emmett” – The LEGO Movie / “Toothless” – How to Train Your Dragon 2
Each with 35% of the vote, you (nor I) could decide who the most lovable animated character was last year. In a field crowded with the likes of Baymax, Benny (the spaceship-obsessed Lego) and Peabody, Emmett and Toothless stood atop the mountain together. Poor Hiccup, looks like Toothless’ buddy has been traded in for a Lego mini figure.
Original Song in a Motion Picture:
“The Hanging Tree” – performed by James Newton Howard ft. Jennifer Lawrence –
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
James Newton Howard’s “The Hanging Tree” features a harrowing and beautifully vulnerable vocal performance from Jennifer Lawrence as “Katniss Everdeen.” The build of the song is dramatic – used solely for affect. The lyrics and instrumental composition represent fear and atrocity – division. They paint a bleak world that gives way to unity and a rise against oppression. The song is a call to action to stand against a host of situations and inequalities in our present day societies without being too overt (ahem, “Glory.”).
Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy
Sometimes, it takes a team of greats to make a story great, but other times, the story itself is just really damn good – and a team of greats is an added bonus. That’s the case with Dan Gilroy’s neo-noir thriller Nightcrawler. Following Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), the audience bears witness to hunger and determination giving way to something much darker – and far more calculating (I’m talking about that nice twist at the end). The dialogue is witty (giving us some take-away quotes, ex. “If you want to win the lottery, you have to make the money to buy a ticket…”) and at times discomforting. The situations fluctuate between being [what you think] honest and determined to claustrophobic, unnerving and unpredictable. Then, there’s the character – Louis Bloom…
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
What makes Dawn of the Planet of the Apes so spectacular [to me anyway] is the nuance and humanity presented by the script. I admire that the screenwriters [obviously] researched (in detail) the lifelong work of primatologists like Dr. Jane Goodall. Her efforts – and her research – show through in every scene, especially through the differing personalities – the expressions of emotion – and natural behaviors (ex. using tools, hierarchy). This is a well planned franchise entry (much better than the 1960s adaptations). Dawn of Apes gives us action and adventure in a science fiction world that’s rooted deeply in our present one. It’s a thought-provoking and cautionary tale that tells us we are not alone when it comes to feeling. Do we even need to discuss the ridiculous amount of tension? It’s incredible that this story sustained it so well for so long.
Jessica Chastain – “Murph” – Interstellar
Jessica Chastain delivers again, proving to be one of contemporary cinema’s greatest actresses. As a NASA scientist, “Murph” works tirelessly on an equation that’s haunted her life – and that could be the key to finding her father, who’s been out to space since her childhood. For the part, Chastain gives a conflicted performance – of a woman clinging to hope and science to combat insecurity and the unknown. Her emotions appear raw as her gripping talent shines through.
(Fun-Fact: This is Jessica Chastain’s third Bobby James Award. She’s won previously for her supporting role in The Help and her leading role in Zero Dark Thirty. This win ties her with Meryl Streep as the most decorated film actress.)
Robert Duvall – “Joseph Palmer” – The Judge
Robert Duvall delivers a heartbreaking performance as “Joseph Palmer” in The Judge. While I won’t go into detail about the specifics (for those who haven’t seen it), just know that the physical and emotional depth of this performance alone make this one to watch. He’s a hardened and proud man who has to suddenly confront being wrong – being uncertain – and being vulnerable. Duvall is great.
Feast – Patrick Osborne, Kristina Reed
Disney’s hand-drawn animated short, Feast, instantly reminded me of the Disney-Pixar feature Up (2009) and Disney’s Lady and the Tramp (1955). Two very great impressions. Winston, the adorable little puppy – through meals reveals the life of his best friend – through love and loss. It’s an endearing short film that I’d love to see given a feature-length treatment!
Leading Actress in a Voice-Over Role:
Elizabeth Banks – “Wyldstyle” – The LEGO Movie
Elizabeth Banks nabs this award for her vocal portrayal of “Wyldstyle,” the wannabe, cool-chick mini figure in The LEGO Movie. “Wyldstyle” is clever and determined – and she’s dating Batman. The way Banks plays her though is awesome (no pun intended!). The voice she gives her character is reserved, yet confident. Like she knows she’s bad-ass and really, super cool – but it’s whatever…no big deal, just another day in Lucy’s, I mean, Wyldstyle’s life.
(Fun-Fact: This is Elizabeth Banks’ second Bobby James Award, she previously won for her portrayal of “Effie Trinket” in The Hunger Games.)
Leading Actor in a Voice-Over Role:
Chris Pratt – “Emmett” – The LEGO Movie
Chris Pratt made The LEGO Movie‘s “Emmett Brickowski” truly something special (you know he did – you voted for him!). His voice brought to life a naïve mini figure Lego who just wanted to be special. Pratt’s energy was infectious and every time Emmett spoke, I quite literally thought everything was awesome (pun – pun – pun alert! Ha!). He was lively and fun – and funny. His intonations were spot on and in those sadder moments, Pratt’s voice was tender, making you all the more sympathetic to his Lego plight.
(Fun-Fact: This is technically the third 2014 Bobby James Award for the “Emmett Brickowski” character and the voice of Emmett, Chris Pratt.)
Animated Feature Film of the Year:
The LEGO Movie / How to Train Your Dragon 2
In retrospect, there were so many great animated features last year. From The LEGO Movie and Mr. Peabody & Sherman to Big Hero 6, the year was stacked. But only one could be named animated feature of the year, right? Wrong!
Honestly, I’d considered a 4-way tie, but only for a moment. Then, I grappled with which one to choose – and I couldn’t do it.
The LEGO Movie gave us action and excitement, as well as a commentary on capitalism and the power of imagination and confidence. It played with very real human emotion and had some great one-liners (“Awesome!” “Spaceship!”), a memorable song (“Everything Is AWESOME!!!”) and some really great characters (not to mention, vocal talent). Perhaps what I liked most was the empowering message behind the movie as a whole – and all of that detailed scenery and bright, bold color! (I’m secretly kind of like Unikitty!)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 was spectacular because it was better than the original! I’ll admit, I was skeptical at first, because sequels usually get progressively worse, but this one surprised me. On a different level, I connected with HTTYD2 because it raised the stakes – and introduced us to some of the most magical animated scenes of the year. A formidable picture of the year contender (like The LEGO Movie), the characters and story made audiences laugh and cry (and don’t tell me that one scene didn’t choke you up!) – making it easily the most emotive animated movie of them all.
Julianne Moore – “Alice Howland” – Still Alice
Julianne Moore as “Alice Howland” is at the top of her craft. She’s untouchable for 2014. She was/is the best. By far the most emotionally dynamic performance of the year, Moore gives us “Alice,” a woman battling early onset Alzheimer’s. Moore plays the part remarkably – and Alice’s pain becomes our own – particularly in the monologue (the photo is a still of that moment) that moved me – and others in the theater to tears. How can a performance be so heartbreaking, yet so empowering and inspiring? I don’t know – but Moore does, and this milestone performance is.
(Fun-Fact: This is Julianne Moore’s second Bobby James Award. She won previously for her role as “Charley” in A Single Man.)
Andy Serkis – “Caesar” – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Watch Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, then explore the performance capture process – and tell me that Andy Serkis isn’t deserving of recognition. On merit of his performance alone, he should have won an Oscar at least a decade ago (remember “Gollum” from The Lord of the Rings?). Now, he’s even better and bringing “Caesar” to life in the Planet of the Apes franchise. Serkis’ work speaks for itself as you watch each and every expression come across Caesar’s face, and as you see every body movement. The performance is incredible.
(Fun-Fact: Andy Serkis becomes the first actor to win a Bobby James Award acting award for a performance capture.)
The Lumiére Award for Directing:
Matt Reeves – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Matt Reeves did a phenomenal job crafting a meticulous and increasingly tense story about the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. What he does is give us an expectation-exceeding science fiction movie. This could have easily fallen by the wayside – and been a subpar sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Instead, it is a movie that flourishes because it builds on its original franchise entry, then it expands its human themes and elements to create its own story, while generating an insatiable desire to see what’s next. That can’t be an easy task, especially for a director who’s relatively new to “blockbusters,” but Reeves holds his own and gives us a sci-fi masterpiece.
We’re getting closer to revealing the Feature Film of the Year, but first – here’s what you selected in the final fan-voted category:
Blockbuster Movie of the Year:
Guardians of the Galaxy
With 25% of the vote, and just edging out Maleficent, you all voted Guardians of the Galaxy as the “Blockbuster” Movie of the Year. I’m not surprised at all…if anything, I’m surprised that it only took 25% of the vote! I expected an overwhelming majority for Guardians of the Galaxy – because who didn’t love Star Lord (Chris Pratt) and Groot (Vin Diesel)? …don’t answer that – because after all, you did pick Emmett as the character of the year. So perhaps I should be surprised by not seeing The LEGO Movie here. Awesome!
Finally, before we get to Feature Film of the Year, I’d like to take a moment to introduce you to – and to recognize some true greats – the first annual Oz Awards (kind of like my Hall of Fame!). The Oz Awards will recognized timeless figures, characters and films from cinema’s great history. Please, join me in honoring the inaugural class:
The 1st Annual Oz Awards Recipients:
The Wizard of Oz (1939):
- Synopsis: Victor Fleming’s Technicolor masterpiece has been a source of magic and wonder for decades. People around the world know the movie – and its iconic characters and landscapes. We all know the songs and the memorable quotes – and whether we’d like to admit it or not, I’d bet each of us has a personal connection to this adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s fantasy novel.
- Memorable Characters: Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland), Toto (Terry), The Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton), The Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), The Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr), The Tin Man (Jack Haley), Glinda (Billy Burke), The Wizard of Oz (Frank Morgan) and The Munchkins.
- Memorable Songs: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “We’re Off to See the Wizard…,” “If I Only Had a Brain”
- Memorable Quotes: “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!” – Wicked Witch of the West / “There’s no place like home.” – Dorothy / “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” – Glinda / “Follow the yellow brick road.” – Glinda, The Munchkins / “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” – Dorothy / “You have no power here, now be gone before somebody drops a house on you.” – Glinda / “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” – Dorothy.
- Acclaim: Won 2 Oscars. Another 7 wins & 13 nominations.
- Synopsis: Judy Garland is one of the most iconic movie stars of all-time. Renowned for her voice and infectious spirit, Garland is considered one of the Golden Era’s greats. She is the voice behind iconic songs like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” Garland is considered a tragic star (because of an accident barbiturate overdose) and a gay icon (because of “Dorothy Gale’s” accepting nature).
- Notable roles include: “Dorothy Gale” from The Wizard of Oz (1939), for which she was awarded a special Oscar in 1940; “Esther Smith” from Meet Me In St. Louis (1944); “Hannah Brown” from Easter Parade (1949); “Vicki Lester/Esther Blodgett” from A Star is Born (1958).
- Acclaim: Won 1 Oscar. Star on the Walk of Fame. Another 6 wins & 8 nominations.
- Synopsis: Marilyn Monroe is without question one of Hollywood’s most recognizable names and faces. Her story from rags to riches – and her death (a “probable suicide”) continue to fascinate people around the world. When you think of classic Hollywood – or glamour, Marilyn Monroe has to come to mind. She’s the 20th Century sex symbol. Known for her songs: “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “I Wanna Be Loved By You.”
- Notable roles include: “Lorelei Lee” from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953); “Sugar Kane Kowalczyk” from Some Like It Hot (1959); “Pola Debevoise” from How to Marry a Millionaire (1953).
- Acclaim: Won 1 Golden Globe. Star on the Walk of Fame. Another 7 wins & 9 nominations.
- Synopsis: “Monty” Clift was recognized as a powerhouse actor. After debuting alongside John Wayne in Red River (1948), Clift went on to be nominated for 4 Academy Awards between 1949 and 1962. He’s famed for his emotional acting style, good looks and for pioneering the “brooding” character, later popularized by actors like James Dean and Marlon Brando.
- Notable roles include: “Matt Garth” from Red River (1948); “George Eastman” from A Place in the Sun (1951); “Robert E. Lee Prewitt” from From Here to Eternity (1953).
- Acclaim: Nominated for 4 Oscars. Star on the Walk of Fame. Another 1 win & 3 nominations.
Jurassic Park (1993):
- Synopsis: Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park has withstood the test of time and is regarded as one of the greatest science fiction films ever made (and it’s my favorite movie, ever!). Like Jurassic Park itself, Jurassic Park offers a host of attractions, from the iconic tyrannosaurus roar to the groundbreaking and innovative blending of CGI and animatronics. This film truly is a treat – and is the reason why, 22 years later, fans are about to embark on another franchise installment (Jurassic World).
- Memorable Characters: Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), Tim Murphy (Joseph Mazzello), Lex Murphy (Ariana Richards), Mr. D.N.A. (voice: Greg Burson), Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight), Ray Arnold (Samuel L. Jackson) – and of course, the dinosaurs – notably T-Rex and the raptors!
- Memorable Quotes: “Welcome to Jurassic Park!” – John Hammond / “Hold onto your butts.” – Tom Arnold / “God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.” – Ian Malcolm; “Dinosaurs eat man, woman inherits the Earth.” – Ellie Sattler.
- Acclaim: Won 3 Oscars. Another 24 wins & 16 nominations.
Now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for, I present to you…
Feature Film of the Year:
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Without a doubt in my mind, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was the feature film of 2014. I loved the story, the characters and the range of emotion this film displayed. Dawn of Apes’ tension was tempered by an incredible amount of heart and humanity. The film serves as a cautionary tale to the dangers of science and exploitation of the natural world – and as a conservation message.
The reference to the legendary works/studies (which the right to do was fought for) by scientists like Dr. Jane Goodall is apparent and the abilities of the cast are incredible. Through their movements and expressions to their personality traits and struggle for hierarchical dominance, one can clearly see the influence of such works at play. Dawn of Apes exquisitely blends science and fiction to deliver a wildly tense cinematic experience that fluctuates between in your face action and quiet tenderness.
Top 25 Films of 2014
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
- The Way He Looks (Brazil)
- The LEGO Movie / How to Train Your Dragon 2
- Gone Girl
- 300: Rise of an Empire
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
- Big Hero 6
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Mr. Peabody & Sherman
- The Hundred-Foot Journey
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- Ida (Poland)
- The Grand Budapest Hotel
- Force Majeure (Sweden)
- The Theory of Everything
- The Imitation Game
- The Normal Heart (Made for TV)