Inaugural 2015 Groucho Movie Awards

Grouchos

So over the past several years, as 10-15 of you have seen (thank you!), I’ve done my top movies of the year lists. I’ve ranked anywhere from my top 25 to my top 50. Even the year I did my top 50, I semi-embarrassingly felt I had to make some tough cuts. I clearly see too many movies. But in an attempt to avoid ever becoming this guy, or this guy, both of whom not only saw way too many movies in 2014, but also have a lot of super questionable choices, I’m going to try out a new, awards-style format to display my favorite films of the year. I think the people deserve an awards process that doesn’t pander to Hollywood campaigns and that’s what I aim to do here. The “Grouchos” name comes from the obvious resemblance of our logo here at The Wise Guise to Groucho Marx and the fact that I’m pretty unabashedly a movie snob that easily gets grouchy arguing about movies. Just seemed fitting.

These awards are a kind of hybrid combo version of my personal favorites and what I personally thought was the “best,” all leaning more heavily towards my personal favorites in each category. I am the sole voter for these awards and, as you will see, I reserved myself the right to have as many nominees as I saw fit for each category. In addition to the winners, I would urge you to take close note of the nominees in each category. I took a lot of time to put real thought into my personal nominees regardless of what the Academy or Hollywood Foreign Press or anyone else has done. 

First, let’s meet the contenders. Here is a list of all the films I saw in 2014 (and early 2015 as many have limited releases and aren’t widely released everywhere in 2014):

22 Jump Street, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, A Most Violent Year, American Sniper, Big Hero 6, Birdman, Blue Ruin, Boyhood, Calvary, Chef, Citizenfour, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Dear White People, Divergent, Dumb and Dumber To, Edge of Tomorrow, Finding Vivian Maier, Force Majeure, Foxcatcher, Frank, Fury, Godzilla, Gone Girl, Guardians of the Galaxy, Horrible Bosses 2, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Ida, Inherent Vice, Interstellar, Into the Woods, Life Itself, Locke, Lone Survivor, Love is Strange, Memphis, Muppets Most Wanted, Nas: Time is Illmatic, Nightcrawler, Noah, Nymphomaniac, Obvious Child, Only Lovers Left Alive, Selma, Snowpiercer, St. Vincent, Starred Up, The Babadook, The Drop, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Guest, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part I), The Imitation Game, The Immigrant, The Interview, The Lego Movie, The Monuments Men, The One I Love, The Skeleton Twins, The Theory of Everything, The Trip to Italy, The Wind Rises, They Came Together, Top Five, Under the Skin, Venus in Fur, We are the Best!, Whiplash, Wild, and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

***To be clear, the nominees are listed alphabetically below. They are not ranked.***

We’ll kick things off with a random category I want to throw in and that’s Favorite Pre-2000 Film First Seen in 2014. In other words, these are my favorite older films I saw for the first time in 2014. All five of these are films I highly recommend checking out.

1. Ace in the Hole (1951)
2. The Night of the Hunter (1955)
3. Paris, Texas (1984)
4. Rashomon (1950)
5. The Red Shoes (1948)

Winner: Paris, Texas– Something about this film has really stuck with me. To be fair, that’s true with all of these, which is why they’re nominated, but especially Paris, Texas. I think it’s just the imagery and the way the story unfolds. I don’t want to spoil anything, but some of the specific scenes, especially those near the end, are absolutely stunning. This was probably among my toughest categories to make a selection from.

Paris, Texas

Now we’ll start things off for 2014 with the Favorite Animated Film category. Suck it Academy.

1. Big Hero 6
2. How to Train Your Dragon 2
3. The Lego Movie
4. The Wind Rises

Winner: The Lego MovieAnd it’s not even close. All three of the others nominated here are solid films but The Lego Movie was the most creative and the most fun.

Next we’ll go with the Favorite Foreign Language Film category. This is one area where I admittedly slacked off a little this year. I still have several from this category I want to see from 2014.

1. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
2. Force Majeure
3. Ida
4. Venus in Fur
5. We are the Best!

Winner: Force Majeure– Such a disturbingly profound and interesting exploration of relationships. It blows my mind that it wasn’t even nominated by the Academy.

Next up is the Favorite Screenplay category. This is kind of unintentionally a pretty even mix of original and adapted screenplays. Some of these also have multiple writers but I’m just providing the first one listed.

1. Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice)
2. Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
3. Walter Campbell (Under the Skin)
4. Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)
5. Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl)
6. Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler)
7. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman)
8. Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive)
9. Jennifer Kent (The Babadook)
10. Christopher Nolan (Interstellar)

Winner: Christopher Nolan (Interstellar)– Ugh. My answer has changed here several times since starting this post…err awards ceremony. Interstellar had its share of cheesy dialogue but deep down I can’t get over how well Christopher Nolan told such a beautifully simple story on such a grand scale. I don’t know that he’s the right pick here, but he’s my pick dammit. I think the most underrated in this category is Nightcrawler.

We’ll go with Favorite Cinematography next. There were a lot of beautifully shot films this year.

1. Jeff Cronenweth (Gone Girl)
2. Robert Elswit (Inherent Vice)
3. Greig Fraser (Foxcatcher)
4. Hoyt Van Hoytema (Interstellar)
5. Daniel Landin (Under the Skin)
6. Emmanuel Lubezki (Birdman)
7. Yorick Le Saux (Only Lovers Left Alive)
8. Fredrik Wenzel (Force Majeure)
9. Robert D. Yeoman (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
10. Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski (Ida)

Winner: Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski (Ida)– You could press pause at any moment in the film and have a stunningly beautiful still photo.

Next up is the Favorite Director category. Like with cinematography, there were a lot of great directorial works. It’s not necessarily displayed here in my awards but there were a lot of great debut performances by directors this year and a lot of great directorial works by women as well.

1. Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice)
2. Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
3. Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)
4. Ava DuVernay (Selma)
5. David Fincher (Gone Girl)
6. Jonathan Glazer (Under the Skin)
7. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman)
8. Jennifer Kent (The Babadook)
9. Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
10. Christopher Nolan (Interstellar)

Winner: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman)– This is one I’ve fought with a lot and had a really tough time with. There are several people in my mind that are somewhat equally deserving but I think at the end of the day, what Inarritu created was a work that will best stand the test of time from a direction standpoint. The whole “one take” feat that was accomplished was impressive but it ultimately had very little to do with my decision. It had far more to do with the vision for the film, the tone of the film and the execution of the film.

Now we’ll transition into acting and go with the Favorite Actress award. As you’ll see for this and the actor category, I’m not into separating leading and supporting performances. I just want to list what I deem to be my favorite performances.

1. Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
2. Marion Cotillard (The Immigrant)
3. Essie Davis (The Babadook)
4. Scarlett Johansson (Under the Skin)
5. Lisa Loven Kongsli (Force Majeure)
6. Elizabeth Moss (The One I Love)
7. Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
8. Emmanuelle Seigner (Venus in Fur)
9. Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive)
10. Agata Trzebuchowska (Ida)

Winner: Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)– This may be more of a credit to the film itself, but Rosamund Pike’s performance was the one from this group that has stuck with me the longest and the one that I feel holds up the strongest to repeat viewings. Honestly this could have gone to pretty much every nominee, but I had to make a tough call. As far as the nominees go, unfortunately I missed Julianne Moore in Still Alice who seems to be cleaning up awards elsewhere and I really didn’t think Reese Witherspoon was all that special in Wild. I think that Essie Davis’s performance in The Babadook is the most underrated.

Naturally we’ll now go to the Favorite Actor category. Not a lot of surprises with the nominees as I think this is a pretty comprehensive collection.

1. Steve Carrell (Foxcatcher)
2. Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)
3. Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
4. Brendan Gleeson (Calvary)
5. Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler)
6. Michael Keaton (Birdman)
7. John Lithgow (Love is Strange)
8. David Oyelowo (Selma)
9. Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
10. J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Winner: David Oyelowo (Selma)– This is a case where I went more towards who I thought was the most deserving. If I got to pick a runner-up I’d hands down pick Brendan Gleeson who did an unbelievable job in Calvary. His performance was really more my favorite of the year. Also, to be honest, I kind of think Michael Keaton has been greatly overrated other places for his performance in Birdman. I think he did a fine job but I don’t know that his performance was worthy of all the awards he has been winning. My third pick and probably the most underrated pick here probably would have been Jake Gyllenhaal. I don’t know that it’s fair to say that the Academy “got it wrong”, but in my personal opinion my top 3 here weren’t even nominated.

Quickly we’ll hit the Favorite Documentary category, which I admittedly dropped the ball on in regards to quantity of options.

1. Citizenfour
2. Finding Vivian Maier
3. Life Itself
4. Nas: Time is Illmatic
5. Virunga

Winner: Citizenfour– While all of these are incredible films and are all very much worth watching, Citizenfour was a film that should be required viewing for all Americans. I think that last year’s The Act of Killing was the best documentary I’ve ever seen, but Citizenfour deserves to be in the conversation. I don’t think that’s being a prisoner of the moment either. Finding Vivian Maier and Virunga were also fascinating and I highly recommend checking them out on Netflix.

And finally the obvious big one- Favorite Film.

1. American Sniper
2. Birdman
3. Boyhood
4. Calvary
5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
6. Gone Girl
7. Guardians of the Galaxy
8. Interstellar
9. Nightcrawler
10. Only Lovers Left Alive
11. Selma
12. The Grand Budapest Hotel
13. The Imitation Game
14. Under the Skin
15. Whiplash

Winner: Interstellar– I swear I’m not trying to be controversial by picking a film that wasn’t even nominated by the Academy. Interstellar just hit me the hardest and had the most profound impact on me of any film I saw in 2014. I don’t think it’s a film without flaws, but I saw it twice in theaters and got even more out of it the second time I saw it. I highly recommend Joseph Williams’ review and especially the anecdote in it about Christopher Nolan’s experience with Hans Zimmer. I ate that sappy mess up.

Sadly, I kind of think Interstellar won’t be the same if you were to watch it in the near future on your 32″ Vizio at home. If you missed it in theaters, you probably won’t ever get to experience it in all of its glory. Honestly, that’s the case for a number of the films on that list. This was a great year as a whole for theater-going experiences.

Other Notes

There were so many great films in 2014 and so many that deserve tons of attention and accolades. They are the two main contenders for the Best Picture Oscar,  and I believe Birdman and Boyhood are my two main runners up for Favorite Film. Both are major technical achievements and I really loved how creative both were in telling their stories. I kind of think it’s unfair to really all of the movies nominated to deem one the best and that’s why I felt it appropriate to merely select my personal favorite.

I think there were a lot of other great films that flew under the radar this year too. I mean I held my own awards ceremony here and didn’t even nominate The Skeleton Twins once, a film which I really loved. St. Vincent was such a great crowd-pleaser. The Grand Budapest Hotel was really wonderful and maybe Wes Anderson’s best film as a whole. I really love and respect the hell out of his ability to transfer the visions from his head onto the screen. He has to be one of the best, if not the best at doing that. The Guest had one of my favorite scenes of any movie in 2014 (in the school near the end). The Drop displayed once again that Tom Hardy is a top 3 working actor right now. Freakin’ Calvary was recognized by no one for the fantastic movie that it is. You guys, Calvary was my jam.

Then you have The Babadook, which was amazingly done by a first time director! Sidenote- the trailer for The Babadook easily wins the award for best/freakiest trailer of 2014Only Lovers Left Alive was definitely a contender for the most creative film of the year. I think had I not been so mindf’d by Under the Skin it would have won more Grouchos. What a beautifully bizarre, but also brilliantly way-over-my-head movie. Also in the mindf’d category that I loved was The One I Love. You know who I love? The Duplass brothers. What a strange and creative film. I suggest checking it out on Netflix.

In fact, here’s a list of all the films I saw and would recommend from 2014 that are on Netflix right now (in alphabetical order with the category I’d place them in)- Blue Ruin (Action), Chef (Drama/Comedy), Finding Vivian Maier (Documentary), Frank (Drama/Comedy),  Ida (Foreign), Snowpiercer (Action), The One I Love (Drama), The Trip to Italy (Comedy) and Virunga (Documentary). There are others on there but those would be my most recommended.

As a final note, I want to also say that despite being a big proponent of smaller, independent films getting more attention (which actually happened pretty well this year), this was also a solid year for the bigger “popcorn” type movies. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Edge of TomorrowGuardians of the Galaxy and X-Men: Days of Future Past are all very much worth your time and are genuinely good movies. I am kind of notorious for rolling my eyes at big popcorn movies because I feel like they are never creative and they just recycle the same ideas over and over – BUT there were some great ones this year and I want to give credit to them where it’s due. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy especially were genuinely good movies.

Thank you all for joining me for my first time trying a different format! I feel like I could have rambled on and on more about the year in movies but I think this is sufficient for now. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these films and/or suggestions for the awards in the comments here or on social media.

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Posted on by Clayton Martin in Entertainment, Featured, Movie Reviews, Movies

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