Welcome, welcome, to the fifth annual I’m Right Awards, celebrating everything that I was right about in 2014. Actually, no, that would take me weeks to write, so why don’t we focus on something a little more specific, maybe…hmm, I don't know, there are so many options. Wait, did someone say movies? Sounds great!
The rules are pretty much unchanged from the last couple of years: I’m going to run through and give my own five nominees and winners for the traditional Oscar film categories, with a few exceptions. I’ve removed some of the categories that either a) I’m not really qualified to judge due to, you know, not having seen (m)any (see, e.g., Best Documentary), or b) I don’t give a turd about (like Best Original Song). But as Paul taketh away, Paul also giveth, so for every category I’ve taken away, I’ve added one of my own. These new categories are the same as last year, which means nothing more than I didn’t feel like spending time trying to think of new ones. The only real change from last year is that I have reinstated the two different Screenplay categories.
All of this is, of course, only in my own humble opinion…though I am right. It says so in the title.
And, without much further ado…the Pauls!
Best Visual Effects
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Hobbit: Five Armies All Battlin’
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Before you ask, no, I never got around to seeing Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, my apologies. For the second consecutive year, I’m giving this one to a hard-ish sci-fi movie starring Sandra Bullock…wait no, sorry, that last part isn’t right. But for its dedication to practical effects and trapping Matthew McConaughey in extradimensional space, I’m going with Interstellar
Best Performance by an Animal, Idea, or Inanimate Object
The first original category, this one’s been around for a few years but a quick primer if you’re new (or forgot. Or don’t care): This is the glibly-named category for something non-human that leaves a particularly strong impression. Past winners include Joey the horse from War Horse, the French flag from Les Miserables, and Debauchery from The Wolf of Wall Street.
Rocco the super cute pitbull puppy—The Drop
Fury (the main tank, not, like, the idea of anger)—Fury
The Edmund Pettus Bridge—Selma
The American West—Wild
There’s a simmering controversy about whether CGI animals qualify for this category, and Richard Parker from Life of Pi still sends me complaints (mostly in the form of dead fish). Joining him will be Thraduil’s moose from The Hobbit, but change will not be coming this year and CGAnimals remain tragically discriminated against. Instead, I’m going with the obvious choice here, and an idea wins for the second year in a row: Childhood, from Boyhood
Best Film Editing
The Edge of Tomorrow
I was tempted to give a nomination to Birdman for its lack of editing, but then I realized that was crazy. Three of these slots were easy, and all of Boyhood, The Edge of Tomorrow, and Whiplash were impeccably edited (the last two slots were a tossup between about ten other movies, and I don’t feel great about the two I ultimately went with). But I’m going to go with the least serious one and give it to The Edge of Tomorrow, which had fantastic action editing even before the multiple lives are woven in. The middle part of the film, which is basically an extended montage of Tom Cruise dying, is especially great.
Hmm, I think that sounded meaner than I meant it to. Oh well.
Best Costume Design
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Hobbit: The Battle of a Bunch of Armies
Only Lovers Left Alive
Hey, I managed to nominate a few things that aren’t period pieces, always tough to do. But that’s as far as I’m going, and at this point I’m basically just going to copy what I wrote last year and just change the words after the colon. It’s hard to look at The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and not notice the impressively thorough costume work. It also helps that I’ve watched all the special features from the original Lord of the Rings* and know how much effort goes into the costuming.
*Oh please, like you’re surprised
Hey it’s my random favorite category! Good crop this year, it’s a tough choice, but after a good deal I’m going to go with Ida. With its beautiful black-and-white cinematography, interesting framing, and…all right I can’t keep it up any longer. I mean, Birdman, Birdman, a hundred times Birdman. Emmanuel Lubezki is a genius and if you think otherwise you’re wrong.
Though I stand by that bit about Ida
The second original category, pretty self-explanatory. Like the last couple years, I feel it’s appropriate to have ten nominees—this list is already damn hard to winnow down. And again, I’ve kept the scene naming vague to avoid spoilers. Hopefully, if you’ve seen the movie you’ll know what I’m referring to.
This year I’ve limited it to one scene per movie, to get a little more diversity. There is at least one other scene in three or four of these movies that would threaten to make an absolute top ten (the toughest cut was the first march attempt from Selma), and a list with only five or six films didn’t seem as interesting.
The End Credits—22 Jump Street
The Vigil—Gone Girl
The Climactic Battle—How to Train Your Dragon 2
Twenty-Seven Years of Messages—Interstellar
MLK Visits the Morgue—Selma
The School Car—Snowpiercer
Saoirse’s Song—Song of the Sea
Dat Ending Though—Whiplash
Quicksilver in the Kitchen—X-Men: Days of Future Past
And somehow neither of my favorite two movies of the year (don’t worry, we’re getting there) makes it on this list. There’s some good variety here, from the funniest scene of the year (Jump Street, natch), to maybe the saddest (Selma). But ultimately I’m going to have to go with The Ending from Whiplash, which (without going into details) is simultaneously triumphant and troubling. I’ve certainly spent more time thinking about it than any other scene, and I still don’t really know exactly what (I think) happened. But I do know that it was a great, great scene.
Best Art Direction
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Hobbit: Like Seriously, That’s a LOT of Armies
It’s going to be a boring choice, but this category might as well just kinda be named the Wes Anderson Award for Best Art Direction. Anderson’s sets and costumes are just so inventive, memorable, and perfect that there just sort of isn’t another choice. Even when I don’t love the movie as a whole (and I’m capped out at a reasonably strong “like” in this case), the production design is always fantastic. So here you go Grand Budapest Hotel.
Best Sound Editing
My traditional preface, because the distinction always confuses me: Sound Editing is the actual creation of sound effects, while Mixing is the process of placing them (together with score and dialogue) into the actual film. Or whatever.
The Hobbit: Okay, Just Stop With the Armies Already
How to Train Your Dragon 2
I’ll be totally honest and admit I’m really just awarding this one based on one sound: they so totally nailed Godzilla’s roar that I can’t really go anywhere else. I mean, the whole thing had great sound editing, but, well…
Best Sound Mixing
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
Really strong crop here this year, the fifth spot had about ten films I considered. But the winner is actually pretty easy, and this one has to go to the movie this year with the most jazz drumming in it other than Whiplash, which would be Birdman. Fantastic combination of score, weird sound effects, voiceover, dialogue, and more.
Song of the Sea
I think I’ve realized that the score is something that I just don’t notice much during my first viewing of a movie unless it’s really good or really bad (it’s like coaching in basketball that way). Because I didn’t see any movie from 2014 twice (yet) this list of five is mostly just what I remember liking at the time…or at least that I think I remember liking.
But the one that I definitely remember thinking was fantastic was Birdman, as much as it may have annoyed my mom.
Read nothing into the fact that, like last year, my pick is one of the last movies I saw before writing this. On an unrelated note, I’ve heard this term, “recency bias”, but I don’t know what it means.
Best Animated Feature
Big Hero 6
How to Train Your Dragon 2
The Lego Movie
Song of the Sea
Hey, I actually saw a full five really good animated movies this year…and it might’ve been six if I had managed to get to The Tale of Princess Kaguya. All of these movies are really good, but there’s a top two that are reaaaaaaaally close in quality. Howver, much as I adored the lovely Song of the Sea*, I’m going to have to go with the best adventure movie of the year, How to Train Your Dragon 2**. HTTYD2 had just about everything you’d want from a movie like it, and there’s a reason people***are calling it the The Empire Strikes Back of the trilogy****.
*The director of Song of the Sea (and Secret of Kells) Tom Moore favorited one of my tweets. That’s not relevant or anything, I just wanted to brag about it.
**Do you suppose at any point they thought about calling it How 2 Train Your Dragon? No? You’re probably right
***Okay, maybe it’s just me.
****I don’t actually have anything to say here, just making sure you’re paying attention
Most Enjoyable Feature
This one makes a return from the last couple years. As the title indicates, this award is the movie that was the purest fun I had at a theater (I mean, it doesn't have to be, but I did happen to see all five of these movies in a theater) this year. Could be a kick-ass action movie, a really entertaining comedy, whatever. At some level, movies are supposed to be, you know, entertaining, and this category is my nod to that. Also note that this isn’t the Best Movie That’s Also Fun; a movie that’s pretty fun but very good (something like Die Hard ) wouldn’t necessarily win even if it’s one of the best movies of the year.
22 Jump Street
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Hobbit: Goddammit Seriously, Quit it With the Armies
How to Train Your Dragon 2
The Lego Movie
Selma (sorry, bad joke)
Though HTTYD2 is almost certainly the best of the nominees (and very, very fun), it can’t top this year’s winner, the clever and riotously funny 22 Jump Street. Maybe the most meta movie I’ve ever seen, it might as well be a superlong episode of Community. Which is definitely a complement.
Best Original Screenplay
So last year I combined all of the screenplays into one category (with ten nominees) because I was frustrated with the Academy’s weird rules about what’s adapted and what isn’t. This year has a doozy, with Whiplash being considered adapted because (to secure funding) the director had to make a shorter version of it first. Which is just dumb.
But I’m still going back to doing two separate categories, though I’m using my own criteria to decide what goes where—basically, if it’s an original story, it’s Original. That means that, in addition to the obvious, anything based on historic events and cleaves reasonably close to them is automatically going in adapted. But sequels, and movies that only are based on pre-existing characters (I.e. most comic book movies) are, for my purposes, original.
How to Train Your Dragon 2
All really good scripts, but I’m giving this one to the deeply, deliciously cynical Nightcrawler, which joins the likes of Network and Ace in the Hole in the pantheon of pitch black news media satires. While it isn’t as good as either of those films, it’s not that far off, which is mostly a credit to the screenplay (by director Dan Gilroy)…and one other thing (we’ll get there).
Best Adapted Screenplay
So yeah, see above for what this means
Edge of Tomorrow
Not nearly as strong a category (though that’s not atypical), but a very strong winner in Gillian Flynn’s adaptation of her own novel, Gone Girl. Fincher and Flynn work great together, and considering the gender (and, to a lesser extent, class) politics minefield the book and film happily waltz into, having her do her own adaptation was a very, very smart move.
Best Vocal Performance
And, returning from last year, one of my favorites! I wanted to find some way of recognizing vocal performances, which can be just as instrumental to the success of a movie as any filmed performance. The all-time best example here is Andy Serkis from The Two Towers.
Scott Adsit—Big Hero 6
Ben Kingsley—The Boxtrolls
Bradley Cooper—Guardians of the Galaxy
Cate Blanchett—How To Train Your Dragon 2
Allison Brie—The Lego Movie
And there were a bunch of other deserving choices too (the hardest cut was either Jay Baruchel from HTTYD2 or Bill Irwin from Interstellar), but again I found this one pretty easy to pick. An actress that really just pisses excellence and can basically do no wrong, Cate Blanchett was as phenomenal as always as Valka in How to Train Your Dragon 2. I won’t get into the specifics of her role for spoiler reasons (seriously the movie is really good and you should see it), but suffice to say she knocks it out of the park
Though if this award was Actor Most Obviously Having a Grand Old Time Recording His Lines, the easy winner would be Kingsley in The Boxtrolls
Hey another returner from last year, guess I really was too lazy to think of new categories. This one is for someone especially memorably from a movie who only appears in one or two scenes, and who might not really have enough screentime for a full supporting performance. Consequently, a scene-stealing performance need not even be all that “good” by normal standards.
Cate Blanchett—The Hobbit: Okay Fine, I Give Up
Michael Rooker—Guardians of the Galaxy
Martin Short—Inherent Vice
Evan Peters—X-Men: Days of Future Past
I was tempted to put either/both of Vanessa Redgrave from Foxcatcher or John Hurt from Only Lovers Left Alive in Here, but the latter is probably in too much of the film and the former, though more limited, isn’t really what I’m looking for in this category (she more looms over scenes than steals them). No, what I’m looking for here is more like Allison Pill in Snowpiercer, who is really only in one scene but gives such a demented performance as a heavily pregnant, psychotic elementary school teacher that it’s easily the most memorable part of the movie, and the most memorable bit part of the year. Though Martin Short’s turn as a horny, drug-addled dentist in Inherent Vice is a very close runner-up
Another returning original category, this one celebrates the overall casting and depth of performance in a movie.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Gone Girl would have made this list (in the X-Men spot) except it had one performance I genuinely didn’t like (Neil Patrick Harris, surprisingly). Again, despite the strength of the field, this one’s pretty easy for me—or maybe I’m just having a decisive evening as I write this. Anyways, the clear choice here is the absurdly loaded Birdman, which is so overflowing with fantastic actors and performances that it’s almost embarrassing.
Best Supporting Actress
Carrie Coons—Gone Girl
Emily Blunt—Edge of Tomorrow
I’m as happy with that batch as I have been with a group of supporting actress nominees since I’ve been doing this, and I had several more who easily could be here (Rene Russo in Nightcrawler, Carment Ejogo from Selma, Naomi Watts from Birdman, Hathaway or Chastain from Interstellar, etc, etc). But yet again, it’s a pretty clear winner for me, and as good as all of these women and more were this year, no one really came close to Patricia Arquette in Boyhood, who is, really, the emotional grounding of that film.
Note that Blunt is riiiiiiight on the edge of being a lead in that movie, but I ultimately decided to put her in supporting for reasons that I’ll get into in a moment.
Best Supporting Actor
Okay, I think in the interest of not opening myself to tort liability for any injuries resulting from fainting, I should probably warn any readers of delicate sensibilities to sit down. Sitting? Okay, good.
Tyler Perry—Gone Girl
Yes you read that right, and I promise it isn’t a joke—Shia Labeouf and Tyler Perry gave two of the five best male supporting performances in movies I saw this year. Now, granted, it was something of a weak year for this category (there’s a few others I considered, but honestly not that many—and definitely less than Supporting Actress. Read that as you will), but still. I mean, I’m not going as far as to have either of them win, of course, I haven’t totally taken leave of my senses.
This one might be the closest category this year in terms of the top two, and it really pains me not to give it to Norton. But I just cannot in good conscience go with anyone other than Just Kidding Simmons from Whiplash, and not just because I’m afraid he might throw a chair at my head if I didn’t. Now I just need to stay on his fucking tempo...
Side note: Some have argued that Simmons really is a second lead in Whiplash, and they have some good points. He is in a huge amount of the film; not as much as Teller (an unambiguous lead), but more than most supporting performances. So ultimately why did I decide he (and Blunt, above) were supporting? It sure isn’t the official awards season categories, which sometime have absurd results for gamesmanship reasons, usually when studios think they have a better chance of getting nominations/wins if they submit in one category or the other—the most ridiculous example from recent memory being Hailee Steinfeld being nominated as a supporting actress even though she was the main character of True Grit. Instead, I try and look at whose story the film is telling. A lead, to me, is someone whose story is being told, at least in significant part. A film can certainly have two leads without exactly 50/50 split of the story—for example, Gone Girl this year is probably something like 60%-65% Nick’s story, but a significant enough chunk is Amy’s story for Rosamund Pike to be a pretty obvious lead. A good test is whether a character has scenes that the other lead isn't in, something that neither Blunt or Simmons does.
Of course, at the end of the day, it’s really just my call, and I have spoken
Rosamund Pike—Gone Girl
Marion Cotillard—The Immigrant
Tilda Swinton—Only Lovers Left Alive
While not as deep as last year’s field, again I had some good choices here (Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything and Jenny Slate in Obvious Child being the toughest cuts). But I’m going to go with the performance that got under my skin about as much as any I can remember, and that still makes my skin crawl whenever I think about it, Ja…err, whoops, getting ahead of myself. I meant to say, Rosamund Pike, who gives a performance in Gone Girl so great I can’t really talk about it without getting into spoilers. Suffice it to say it’s a very juicy role, and she rips it to pieces. Really slashes its throat, if you will.
And, in what has by now become a fairly ironclad tradition of this piece, I have to take a moment to apologize to Amy Adams for leaving her off (this time for Big Eyes, a mediocre-to-bad film that she is quite good in). I’m so sorry Amy, you’ll always be in my heart.
Ralph Fiennes—The Grand Budapest Hotel
And, though I had a pretty number of great choices for Actress, I had (unsurprisingly) a ton of great choices for Actor. This was as tough to cut down to five as any category I’ve done since I started doing these essays, and I still can’t believe some of the people who aren’t on this (starting with Keaton). I could probably fill in this category twice more and still have some very good performances missing.
But, all that said, again I actually didn’t have much difficulty picking the winner, and for the second year in a row I’m giving it to an actor who, at one point, I didn’t really think much of. Just as DiCaprio showed me some real chops in The Wolf of Wall Street last year, so did Jake Gyllenhaal absolutely blow me away in Nightcrawler. As I referenced above, Gyllenhaal gives a tremendously creepy and disturbing performance, but also one that, at times, is hilarious as well. Though he’s been good before (probably most notably in Brokeback Mountain), I didn’t know Gyllenhaal had this in him.
So both of my favorite performances this year played murderous sociopaths. Does that say something about me or the movies? Actually…don’t answer that
And, for the first time in the history of the I’m Right Awards, I’m actually going to split the Best Director and Best Picture vote. Part of it is that the two films are very close in quality, part of it is one is much more, I guess, directed than the other, and part of it probably makes no sense
Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu—Birdman
David Fincher—Gone Girl
And the best directed film of 2014—but not, I think, the best film—was Birdman, and so the award goes to Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, the much-maligned (at least by a bunch of critics I follow) director of a bunch of movies that are hard to watch. But hard to watch is definitely not something I’d say about the super entertaining Birdman.
By total coincidence, that alphabetical list is also how I’d order my preference for the top five movies of 2014 (if you’re curious, number six was Selma), meaning our winner is the transcendent, incredibly touching, and really, really long Boyhood. A consensus pick, to be sure, but in this case I’m on board with the consensus. No film touched me and gave me nearly as a bad case of The Feels this year more than Boyhood, and it isn’t really close. Hell, I’m even going to link to that song that played in all the trailers and whenever it won anything at the Oscars, right here.
Speaking of, in a way I’m glad Boyhood ended up not winning Best Picture. The awards season does perverse things to movies, as the whole concept of “hype”, and awards season politicking, inevitably leads to a predictable (and annoying) backlash. Somehow in about six months Boyhood went from an incredibly ambitious, personal, and beautiful little indie film to an overhyped, gimmicky, and boring piece of Oscarbait. This is only amplified if a movie actually wins, as people start watching it with crazy expectations. I’m hoping the “snub” will make the pendulum swing back a little…though it does come at the expense of Birdman, which is already getting backlashed. We’ll probably hear about how undeserving it is for the next twenty years. The lesson, as always: awards season is dumb. Well, except my awards, of course. Those are great.
And that’ll about do it for the fourth annual I’m Right Awards. Thanks so much for hanging around, and I’ll see y’all next year—if being a 1L didn’t stop me from doing this, I can’t imagine being a 2L will stop me.
Famous last words, I know.
The final tally:
22 Jump Street: Two nominations and one Paul (Most Enjoyable Feature)
Big Hero 6: Two nominations and zero Pauls
Birdman: Nine nominations and five Pauls (Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing, Best Score, Best Ensemble, Best Director for Alejandro Gonzales Innaritu)
The Boxtrolls: Three nominations and zero Pauls
Boyhood: Seven nominations and three Pauls (Best Performance by an Animal, Idea, or Inanimate Object for Childhood, Best Supporting Actress for Patricia Arquette, and Best Picture)
Calvary: One nomination and zero Pauls
The Drop: One nomination and zero Pauls
The Edge of Tomorrow: Three nominations and one Paul (Best Film Editing)
Foxcatcher: Three nominations and zero Pauls
Fury: Three nominations and zero Pauls
Godzilla: Three nominations and one Paul (Best Sound Editing)
Gone Girl: Ten nominations and two Pauls (Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress for Rosamund Pike)
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Three nominations and one Paul (Best Art Direction)
Guardians of the Galaxy: Six nominations and zero Pauls
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: Six nominations and one Paul (Best Costume Design)
How to Train Your Dragon 2: Seven nominations and two Pauls (Best Animated Feature, Best Vocal Performance for Cate Blanchett)
Ida: Two nominations and zero Pauls
The Immigrant: Two nominations and zero Pauls
Inherent Vice: Two nominations and zero Pauls
Interstellar: Six nominations and one Paul (Best Visual Effects)
The Lego Movie: Three nominations and zero Pauls
Nightcrawler: Four nominations and two Pauls (Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor for Jake Gyllenhaal)
Only Lovers Left Alive: Two nominations and zero Pauls
Selma: Seven nominations and zero Pauls (uh oh…)
Snowpiercer: Three nominations and One Paul (Best Scene-Stealer for Allison Pill)
Song of the Sea: Four nominations and zero Pauls
Wild: Four nominations and zero Pauls
Whiplash: Eight nominations and two Pauls (Best Scene and Best Supporting Actor for J.K. Simmons)
X-Men: Days of Future Past: Four nominations and zero Pauls
That’s thirty movies nominated and thirteen with at least one win, out of the fifty-one I saw as of this writing (for a complete list of what I’ve seen from 2014, in totally fluid and arbitrary order of overall preference, click here. Note: that list will be updated as I see more movies, so if there’s more than fifty-one there, I’ve seen stuff since writing this).
Now, just for fun:
Most Overnominated: Probably The Immigrant
Most Undernominated: Almost certainly Ida, which I liked a lot but only shows up here twice
Winner of the Inside Llewyn Davis Award for most nominations without winning: Selma, which is, ahem, a little awkward…moving on
Best Movie You’d Never Know I’d Seen By Reading This: That’d be either American Sniper or Captain America: The Winter Soldier, both of which were pretty good
Movie I Promise I Saw But Just Couldn’t Find Anywhere On Here For: I did see both of the big prestige-y British biopics, The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything. Official verdict: Meh.
Worst Movie Represented: The Immigrant again, which isn’t a bad movie, exactly. It just doesn’t have much to it other than Cotillard and the impeccable period touches.
Worst Piece of Crap I Saw from 2014: Look, everyone who watches a lot of movies fucking loved Under The Skin, but man…I just don’t see it.
Movie I Should Be Most Ashamed of Not Seeing Before Writing This: I think I did a pretty good this year, maybe Dawn of the Planet of the Apes? Maybe The Tale of Princess Kaguya? Maybe Force Majeure? Mr. Turner? I dunno.
Movie That I Insist Is Actually Kinda Good But No One Agrees With Me: Look, I get it, but nothing you can say can make me enjoy The Hobbit (any of them, really) any less.
Movie That I Insist Is Awful But No One Agrees With Me: Gotta be Under the Skin again, my least favorite movie of the year and one that fucking everyone loved. Runner up is probably The Immigrant, but I certainly wouldn’t use the word “awful” for it.
Most Pleasantly Surprising: I’m going with Edge of Tomorrow, which is a very solid sci-fi action movie that I had mediocre (at best) expectations for.
Most Disappointing: Transcendence, probably. An interesting premise, a good cast, and directed by Wally Pfister (Christopher Nolan’s longtime DP)? Awesome, right? Nope.
And that's it. G'night all and, if by some miracle (or desperate boredom, or maybe you're, like, in prison and this is all you have access to) you're still here than thanks for reading.
Or g'day, or g'morning, or...hell, I don't know when you're reading this.