gARTh's 2014 Movie Awards: Winners

gARTh's 2014 Movie Awards

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W I N N E R S :

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Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Richard Linklater - Boyhood

Eddie Redmayne - The Theory of Everything

Rosamund Pike - Gone Girl

Supporting Actor:
J.K. Simmons - Whiplash

Supporting Actress:
Patricia Arquette - Boyhood

Adapted Screenplay:
Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness - The Grand Budapest Hotel

Original Screenplay:
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr, & Armando Bo - Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)


Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Production Design:
The Grand Budapest Hotel

Costume Design:

Hair & Make-Up:
Guardians of the Galaxy

Visual Effects:
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Sound Design & Mixing:

Music - Original Score:
Hans Zimmer - Interstellar

Music - Original Song:
Tegan & Sara featuring The Lonely Island - "Everything is Awesome!!!" - The LEGO Movie

Music - Use of Previously Recorded Song; Feature:
The Band - "The Weight" - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Music - Use of Previously Recorded Song; Trailer:
Blue Swede - "Hooked on a Feeling" - Guardians of the Galaxy

Animated Feature Film:
How to Train Your Dragon 2

Documentary Feature Film:

Foreign Language Film:
The Raid 2: Berandal - Indonesia

Animated / Vocal Performance:
Bradley Cooper - Guardians of the Galaxy

Villainous Performance:
Toby Kebbel - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Comedic Performance:
Ralph Fiennes - The Grand Budapest Hotel

Cameo / Bit-Part Performance:
Martin Short - Inherent Vice

Debut Performance:
Ellar Coltrane - Boyhood

Debut Filmmaker:
Jennifer Kent - The Babadook

Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Guardians of the Galaxy - Prison break / escape from the Kyln.

Whiplash - "There are no two words in the English language more harmful than 'good job.'"

Gone Girl - "You Don't Know What You've Got 'Til It's..."

Poster Art:

Inherent Vice (Teaser)

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Most Underrated Film:

Films that did not receive a wide release, were unsuccessful at the box office, were not nominated for any major awards or receive acclaim at any major film festivals, and were generally unknown to most audiences at the time of their release... but were well-liked by most critics and audiences that did happen to see them.

Man from Reno - Directed by Dave Boyle. Written by Dave Boyle, Joel Clark, & Michael Lerman.

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"Grindhouse" Film Award:

Films that uphold the "Grindhouse" traditions of off-beat, exploitative, and taboo subjects, guerrilla film making techniques, and unconventional narrative structures, without which film making as a whole cannot move forward.

Witching & Bitching (Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi) - Directed by Álex de la Iglesia. Written by Jorge Guerricaechevarría & Álex de la Iglesia.

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Special Achievement Award for Excellence in Filmmaking: :

James Gunn - Guardians of the Galaxy

Going into 2014, Marvel's latest comic book adaptation blockbuster was considered a risk.

Guardians of the Galaxy featured a rag-tag group of strange characters that were relatively unknown to anyone that wasn't an avid comic book fan, including a talking raccoon and a giant tree that only says, basically, three words. The cast was led by Chris Pratt, an actor known for his comedic roles on television, not summer blockbuster action films. The film itself was extremely science fiction, of the kind that - outside of Star Wars and the latest Star Trek reboots - doesn't always connect with mainstream audiences. It featured more humor, and more risqué humor, than any of Marvel's films have had to date.

And, to top it off, it was being directed by a guy whose only two films prior to this were an outlandishly violent horror-comedy, Slither, which cost $15 million to make, and an outlandishly violent superhero deconstruction, Super, which cost $2.5 million to make. Both of these prior films collectively earned $13.2 million at the box-office. So, he wasn't exactly the obvious choice to helm a $175 million summer tentpole, especially one that already had so much seemingly going against it.

But... James Gunn's style and flair meshed perfectly with the odd subject matter to form a film that not only defied expectations, earning $774 million at the box office and universal praise, but also injected a bit of fun and a bit of life into a genre that was starting to grow a bit too self-serious. The use of its classic rock soundtrack felt revolutionary after the ominous tones of countless comic book music scores. The colorful pallet of characters (even the black-clad villains are still colorful, and not just "dark") is enhanced only by the colorful pallet of the many different environments (from a Star Wars-ian cityscape to a Blade Runner-ish 'junk-metal' community inside of an ancient celestial beings skull, and every space-prison, rock planet, and villains' lair in between).

Guardians of the Galaxy is fresh, funny, full-to-the-brim with charm and excitement, and more than anything... it's highly enjoyable. It's so much fun to watch (a feat that can never be overstated), while still managing to juggle a dozen main characters seamlessly, a plot full of science fiction mumbo-jumbo that never feels cliché, confusing, or uninteresting, and a constant barrage of action scenes that service the story as well as deliver the requisite thrills audiences have come to expect. It's a space opera story straight out of Star Wars full of superhero characters straight of The Avengers, with the fun and humor of Indiana Jones and featuring two lead CGI characters and a former wrestler that somehow steal every scene they're in.

As of now, the reviews and ratings rank Guardians of the Galaxy as the second-best film released by Marvel, just behind The Avengers. On some sites, the two films are equal. Just days after it was released in theaters, a sequel was announced. James Gunn will return to write and helm Guardians 2, and already he's making decisions that Marvel is calling "risky."

If James Gunn has proven anything with his transition from independent films to mainstream success, it's that sometimes taking the risk to do something against expectations and outside of the norm is totally worth it.

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Special Achievement Award for Excellence in Performance:

Jack O'Connell - '71, 300: Rise of an Empire, Starred Up, and Unbroken

While he debuted in 2006's This Is England, and had featured roles in 2008's Eden Lake, 2009's Harry Brown, and the series "Skins," Jack O'Connell's breakthrough into lead actor in 2014 is quite amazing.

First, he played a violent youth in the prison drama Starred Up (which technically had it's premiere in 2013, but wasn't released until 2014) opposite Ben Mendelsohn and Rupert Friend. The film earned universal acclaim, holding at a 99% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 81 out of 100 on MetaCritic. The role of live-wire Eric Love earned O'Connell numerous awards and nominations, and confirmed his leading man status. His performance in Starred Up has been called "a revelation" (The Playlist), "brilliant... Brando-like" (JoBlo), and "electrifying" (The Observer).

Next, he starred in the historic action thriller '71, which featured O'Connell as a British soldier separated from his unit during a riot in Belfast in 1971 and pursued by IRA killers. The film also received universal acclaim, with a 97% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and a 79 out of 100 rating on MetaCritic. For his role as Gary Hook, he received a nomination for Best Actor at the British Independent Film Awards, and well as numerous wins and nominations for Breakthrough Performance (combined with Starred Up).

His success in British cinema led him to land a role in 300: Rise of an Empire, playing the part of Calisto, one of three supporting characters led by Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) into the Battle of Artemisium. While the film met with mixed reviews, his presence in a large-scale Hollywood film helped him win another lead role in a big Hollywood film.

In Unbroken, Angelina Jolie's adaptation of Louie Zamperini's true story of courage during WWII, O'Connell played Zamperini from fit young Olympian to bruised and battered prisoner of war. A Hollywood epic directed by Jolie, and written by the Coen Bros., Unbroken failed to reach the level of acclaim it aspired to, but O'Connell's performance nonetheless shined through. He earned a Breakthrough Performance nomination from the National Board of Review, and with such a high-profile part has now earned his place among the rest of Hollywood's leading men.

His next film, Tulip Fever from director Justin Chadwick (Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom) and writer Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love), finds O'Connell acting opposite Christoph Waltz, Dane DeHaan, Alicia Vikander, Holliday Grainger, and Judi Dench. The film is expected to be released sometime late 2015.

Jack O'Connell has won 11 awards for his acting and been nominated for another 6, and with a year like 2014 now behind him, he can become what decorated actor Michael Caine constantly yelled at him during their filming of Harry Brown in 2009... "The Star of the Future!" Not bad for a guy that just turned 24.

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Special Achievement Award for Excellence in Writing:

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr, & Armando Bo - Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Writer and director Alejandro González Iñárritu says that the inspiration for Birdman came from a simple thought, that "we live our lives with no editing." His previous film, 2010's Biutiful, was a depressingly tragic drama, and he didn't want to go to that sort of place again. So he decided on a comedy about the theater, and when the above realization hit him, the movie began to take shape.

To write a film that would be shot as a seemingly unending single take, he could "submerge the protagonist in an 'inescapable reality' and take the audience with him." He called up his previous writing collaborators, Giacobone, Dinelaris, and Bo, and they set out to write what would eventually become Birdman.

The three co-writers, as well as numerous other people in Iñárritu's life, originally told him not to attempt a single-take narrative. The problems would outweigh the good, and it was deemed "almost suicidal." He would not be deterred.

After a grueling year-and-a-half of writing - to ensure that everything in the script was exactly what was needed, because they wouldn't be able to shift scenes around, or take away or add scenes after the fact, because of the nature of the continuous one-take story - the results were a resounding success.

From the first frame of film to the last, the way the story is told, the way the story unfolds, and the fact that almost all of the story is extremely dialogue-heavy, Birdman is captivating, intelligent in ways that play on different layers at once, and very, very funny.

The acting is top notch, the camera work and editing to create the single-shot illusion are impeccable, the minimalist score is awesome in its simplicity, but none of these pieces would be possible or would even go together if it weren't for the screenplay that lays such a wild, imaginative, and yet humbly human story on the page. The dialogue, in particular, is sort of 'realistically poetic,' featuring a chaotic flow at times with the occasional bit of brilliant understanding thrown in for good measure.

That the writers took so long to get the screenplay finished shows not just their dedication to making sure it was right, but also their belief in the material. Birdman is exceptional, and in some ways... how exceptional it is may not be immediately noticeable, as more than likely, the underlying themes and layers will peel away over years and years of re-watching to reveal new depths to the story and it's rich characters.

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Special Achievement Award for Technical Innovation:

Andy Serkis - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, (as well as Godzilla and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies).

Featuring eight lead actors in performance-capture suits, as well as countless stuntmen and background extras, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes set a new bar for the technology. Serkis' expertise, reaching back to 2002 when he helped pioneer the first versions of the technology with WETA Digital on The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, continuing through 2005's King Kong and 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, was put to the test on this daunting sequel.

Not only did it feature more performance-capture actors on screen at any given time than any other film, but the film was also being shot in 3D. The cameras used for 3D are massive, and for motion-capture to work there are multiple cameras filming from multiple angles. Plus, the director wanted to film on location, not in a controlled environment studio.

Serkis' performance capture team, The Imaginarium Studios, and the film's visual effects heads deserve special praise for the amount of work put into achieving what has never been attempted thus far with visual effects, and to a level of sophistication that challenges the very notion of what is considered visual effects and what is considered simply performance.

Serkis' talents has surpassed anyone else in his field, so much so that he's now being brought in as an adviser, working with the visual effects heads to make Godzilla's movements more life-like, acting as the second unit director on all three Hobbit films to ensure the visual effects teams have everything they need, and working with Mark Ruffalo on his performance as the Hulk in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron. He is currently working on Jungle Book: Origins, which he'll direct as well as star in the role of Baloo, and beginning the arduous task of 'topping himself' for the upcoming third Planet of the Apes film.

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Thanks to all that participated.

- gARTh -