The Taylor Awards

Since the Oscars are upon us, I thought it appropriate to form my own list of favorites from this last Oscar season/year. I have bolded those that were my favorite; those that do not have a bolded entry were simply too close to call. Multiple bolded entries signify a tie. Also, I probably forgot a few films, so sorry to those famous/important creative minds who read this and are saddened by being excluded.

Best Picture – Academy-esque Films

Birdman

Whiplash

Nightcrawler

Selma

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Boyhood

The Imitation Game

The Theory of Everything

Inherent Vice

Wild

It was truly an awesome year for movies. Wes Anderson returned to deliver us his tightest, most affecting film to date with The Grand Budapest Hotel. Damien Chazelle brought us a masterclass in pacing, style, and performance in Whiplash. Selma offered us a moving portrait of one of modern history’s most important figures while also spotlighting issues that are both timely and worthy of attention. Nightcrawler gave us a fascinating character study of a sociopath, commenting upon our sensationalist news culture while also delivering an entertaining, hypnotic experience as well. The Imitation Game illuminated the story of one of history’s forgotten heroes, detailing a little known part of recent history in a way that was both compelling and educational. The Theory of Everything showed us a romance that was both realistic and touching, detailing the personal life of one of our greatest scientific minds. Boyhood gave 90s kids a good dose of nostalgia while also managing to tell a modern day bildungsroman that never felt false or pandering. Wild told a moving story of healing and renewal, powered by a strong script and stylish direction. Inherent Vice took us on a drug-fuelled, rambling journey that was both hypnotic and refreshing in its unabashed weirdness, though it never sacrificed story for confusion’s sake.

However, despite all of these incredible films, my favorite film has to be Birdman. It is exemplary in every category; the performances are wonderful, the cinematography is beautiful, the direction is ambitious, and most importantly, its story is equal parts compelling and thoughtful. Birdman is a film that demands to be seen by any cinephile or artist in general. The way it handles its themes of creation, criticism, and validation is brilliant and challenging. There’s truly nothing else like it and I urge anyone who has ever felt even the smallest spark of creativity to watch it. Inspired doesn’t even begin to describe its level of accomplishment.

Best Picture – Science Fiction or Fantasy Films

Snowpiercer

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The Babadook

Interstellar

Under the Skin

Edge of Tomorrow

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Guardians of the Galaxy

X-Men: Days of Future Past

It was also a great year for science fiction and fantasy. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes built upon its predecessor’s strengths, furthering Caesar’s tale in a film that was not only a spectacular showcase for Weta Digital’s amazing special effects, but also one that had a lot to say about acceptance and (oddly enough) humanity. On the other side of the spectrum, Under the Skin gave us the story of an extraterrestrial discovering her humanity in a film that was both hypnotic and arresting. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies finished Peter Jackson’s Middle-Earth story on a triumphant high note. I particularly appreciated Jackson and company’s efforts in trying to bring us the complete story of what happened in a particularly tumultuous and important time in Middle Earth’s history. Farewell, Master Burglar, until the extended edition. The Babadook offered a genuinely terrifying tale that not only managed to tell a compelling drama, but one that also had absolutely no jump scares, imagine that. Interstellar continued to prove that there’s really no limit to Christopher Nolan’s vast imagination; I was transfixed from beginning to end. Edge of Tomorrow, the best film that nobody saw, showcased why Tom Cruise remains one of our most enduring stars, while also telling an intelligent time-travel tale that was equally fun and unpredictable.

On the superhero side of things, it was another year of winners. Captain America: The Winter Soldier showed us that Marvel can tell a story that is not only wildly entertaining, but one that also has some real weight and meaningful things to say. X-Men: Days of Future Past delivered on the promise of First Class, bringing together the old and new teams in an extremely satisfying medley of mutant fun. And finally, Guardians of the Galaxy, this year’s surprise/not really a surprise smash hit proves that Marvel can really do no wrong. They managed to make a talking tree and raccoon steal audiences’ hearts worldwide. An old-school adventure romp that was both funny and exciting, it was also a reminder that science-fiction does really have a wide appeal and is a genre that demands more attention and funding.

Despite all of these strong entries, I must say that Snowpiercer remains my favorite science fiction/fantasy film this year. Filled with potent social commentary, a truly speculative story, and excellent performances from a diverse, multinational cast, it’s a film that demands to be seen. For the people that said the premise was too ridiculous, please reevaluate your feelings based on how much you enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy.

 

Best Action Film/ Best Films that Happen to Have Great Action Scenes in Them

John Wick

Snowpiercer

The Raid 2: Berendal

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Fury

All of the films above had amazing action scenes; they remind us there are many ways to hurt/maim others. However, none could top the sheer martial arts insanity of The Raid 2: Berendal. Where the first film was an adrenaline-fuelled bottle story powered by its intense fight scenes, the sequel is a sprawling crime drama that also happens to have some of the most heart-pounding, breathless, most beautifully shot and choreographed fight scenes in the history of cinema. From Rama’s desperate fight against characters named Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man, to the climactic 15 minute kitchen brawl, to the ridiculous car chase that Gareth Evans included just to show that he could film vehicular carnage just as well as two people going at it, The Raid 2: Berendal is one of the best action films I have ever seen.

Best Director

Ava DuVernay – Selma

Dan Gilroy – Nightcrawler

Jennifer Kent – The Babadook

David Fincher – Gone Girl

Damien Chazelle – Whiplash

Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman

Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Paul Thomas Anderson – Inherent Vice

This was a tough one. Each director left a distinct mark upon the film they made. For me, it came down to Iñárritu and Chazelle. I would be happy if either took home the award tonight, but I think I shall give my Best Director award to Iñárritu due to the sheer ambition of what he accomplished in Birdman.

 

Best Actress

Julianne Moore – Still Alice

Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything

Reese Witherspoon – Wild

Essie Davis – The Babadook

Jessica Chastain – A Most Violent Year

Scarlett Johansson – Under the Skin

This one was too close for me to call. Unfortunately, I have not seen Two Days, One Night, so I cannot comment on Marion Cotillard’s critically acclaimed performance. However, the rest of the women in this category were uniformly brilliant. If I had to choose a winner, I’d pick Essie Davis for her harrowing portrayal of the beleaguered mother, Amelia in Jennifer Kent’s masterful Aussie horror/drama, The Babadook.

Best Actor

Michael Keaton – Birdman

Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler

Joaquin Phoenix – Inherent Vice

David Oyelowo – Selma

Oscar Isaac – A Most Violent Year

Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Miles Teller – Whiplash

Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game

Channing Tatum – Foxcatcher

Martin Freeman – The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

This too was a tight race. For me, it all came down to Keaton and Gyllenhaal, who both delivered mesmerizing performances this year. Gyllenhaal’s dedication to the brilliant apathy of Louis Bloom was hypnotizing. He is just as deserving of the win as Keaton (despite not being nominated by the Academy); however, Keaton effortlessly carried my favorite film of this year, and really dug into a character that was both sympathetic and neurotic in a way that any artist can understand. This being said, all of the performances in this category are worthy of praise.

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Laura Dern – Wild

Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game

Emma Stone  – Birdman

Rene Russo – Nightcrawler

Carmen Ejogo – Selma

Kim Dickens – Gone Girl

Tilda Swinton – Snowpiercer

Kristen Stewart – Still Alice

Though a strong outing this year for all the entrants, I think this award belongs to Patricia Arquette for her performance as the Mom in Boyhood. Her character’s growth was palpable, as well as her love for her children and her frustrations with life and love in general. That being said, the quiet strength Carmen Ejogo imbued within Coretta Scott King in Selma was extremely moving, as well as Laura Dern’s brief, yet touching performance as Bobbi in Wild. A very tough category, indeed.

Best Supporting Actor

Ethan Hawke – Boyhood

Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher

Steve Carrell – Foxcatcher

Edward Norton – Birdman

J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Josh Brolin – Inherent Vice

Richard Armitage – The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Like the rest of the acting categories this year, this was a tight one and every entrant is easily deserving of the prize. Ethan Hawke displayed an astounding amount of growth as the Dad in Boyhood, managing to create a compelling, genuine character with an impressive amount of emotional continuity for a film shot over such a long period of time. However, that being said, J.K. Simmons gave one of the most terrifying performances I have ever seen. Though he’s been around forever, this is the first time I’ve ever seen him get the praise that he deserves. I left Whiplash feeling shaken and that’s mainly because of his unforgettable performance.

Writing – Adapted Screenplay

Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson

Whiplash – Damien Chazelle

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Snowpiercer – Joon-ho Bong, Kelly Masterson

The Imitation Game – Graham Moore

The Theory of Everything – Anthony McCarten

Writing – Original Screenplay

A Most Violent Year – J.C. Chandor

Selma – Paul Webb

Interstellar – Christopher Nolan

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness

Boyhood – Richard Linklater

Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy

Birdman – Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo

 

Music – Original Score

Inherent Vice

Interstellar

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Whiplash

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Only Lovers Left Alive

Frank

Birdman

 

Music – Original Song

“Glory” from Selma, performed by Common and John Legend

“America for Me” from A Most Violent Year, performed by Alex Ebert

“Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie, performed by Teagan & Sara

“Lost Stars” from Begin Again, performed by Adam Levine

“The Last Goodbye” from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, performed by Billy Boyd

“Yellow Flicker Beat” from The Hunger Games: Mockinjay, Part I, performed by Lorde

“Spooks” from Inherent Vice, performed by Johnny Greenwood (and Radiohead)

“Big Eyes” from Big Eyes, performed by Lana Del Rey

Visual Effects

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Interstellar

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Guardians of the Galaxy

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Most Majestic

Richard Armitage – Thorin Oakenshield from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Best Film Insecure Men Completely Misread

Gone Girl

Other Great Films This Year

22 Jump Street

A Most Violent Year

Begin Again

Dear White People

The Fault in Our Stars

Foxcatcher

Frank

Fury

Godzilla

Only Lovers Left Alive

The Lego Movie

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

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