Show of hands, how many of you have seen Cavalo Dinheiiro? Maybe you know it is as Horse Money. The Portuguese documentary from director Pedro Costa tied for third in the 2014 Sight & Sound critics poll, making it the highest-ranking documentary on this respected list.
Didn’t catch it? How about Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye to Language, the number two movie on the list? Winter Sleep? The Tribe? Jauja? All top ten movies for 2014. How many have you seen?
In the wake of the righteous contempt that follows every Oscar nomination Thursday, it is always amusing to recognize just how silly trying to rank the diverse universe of movies from any given year truly is. The first truth to accept about any list – top ten or otherwise – is that precious few of us have seen everything out there. But that doesn’t stop us when our artistic passions rev high. As Jane Fonda famously proclaimed back in 1979, her Viet Nam movie Coming Home was better than the Oscar winner The Deer Hunter, even though she hadn’t yet seen The Deer Hunter.
Or take it from another source. Bill Murray, predicting the Oscars on SNL’s Weekend Update in 1978, offered the following analysis: “Julia … didn’t see it. Sorry. Turning Point? I didn’t see it. Star Wars? I saw it on the small screen in Canada, so I really don’t know what it was like. Annie Hall? I did not see it. The Goodbye Girl? I saw it. So, on the basis of what I’ve seen, I would have to say The Goodbye Girl is gonna be this year’s winner.”
Murray was, and remains, a smart guy.
So, right up front, I admit to you that I have seen a lot, but by no means all, of the worthy movies released in 2014. Here is my list of the bests in standard award-speak:
BEST MOVIE (non documentary)
Worthy contenders: Gone Girl, The Rover, Nightcrawler, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Birdman, We Are the Best!, Two Days One Night, Selma, The Imitation Game, Snowpiercer, Blue Ruin, Calvary, and the best movie of the year…
Notes: No Boyhood for me. Good movie. Wonderful experiment. Started to get a little dull toward the end. No Grand Budapest either, though I certainly liked it.
BEST MOVIE (documentary)
Worthy contenders: With the exception of Citizen Koch, which I don’t think ever quite figured out what story it was actually trying to tell, I think all of the shortlisted Oscar contenders were worthy, as was Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me. Google the list if you must. But the best I saw this year was…
Worthy contenders: Elisabeth Moss (The One I Love), Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars), Gina Piersanti (It Felt Like Love), Essie Davis (The Babadook), Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Scarlett Johansson (Under the Skin), Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night) and the best performance I saw this year by an actress…
Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
Notes: This is a dead heat between Pike and Cotillard, but I give the nod to Pike because I think she had a tougher role to play. I would have Patricia Arquette in here for Boyhood since I consider hers to be a lead role, but I’ll bow to the Academy on such decisions. Finally, seven of my nine selections are from films that I did not rank on my Best Movies list, which says something about the way interesting roles for women are often relegated to lesser movies.
Worthy contenders: Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Tom Hardy (Locke and The Drop), Earl Lynn Nelson (Land Ho!), Philip Seymour Hoffman (A Most Wanted Man), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Macon Blair (Blue Ruin), Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), David Oyelowo (Selma), Brendan Gleeson (Calvary), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), and my choice for the best…
Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler)
Notes: Another virtual dead heat between Gyllenhaal and Cumberbatch. Maybe I’m just being a jingoistic American. As if such a thing were possible.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Worthy contenders: Stacy Martin (Nymphomaniac: Vol. I), Marion Bailey (Mr. Turner), Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game), Meryl Streep (Into the Woods), Mira Grosin (We Are the Best!), Lorraine Toussaint (Selma), Emily Blunt (Into the Woods), Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year), Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer and The Grand Budapest Hotel), and the winner is…
Agata Kulesza (Ida)
Notes: I know Meryl is getting some backlash for getting nominated so often. Screw that. She’s that good.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Worthy contenders: Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice), Astro (A Walk Among the Tombstones), Tom Felton (In Secret), Cedric the Entertainer (Top Five), Takamasa Ishihara (Unbroken), Roly Mintuma (Tracks), Chris O’Dowd (Calvary and St. Vincent), Mandy Patinkin (Wish I Was Here), Matthias Schoenaerts (The Drop), Robert Pattinson (The Rover), Edward Norton (Birdman), and the best I saw was …
K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Simmons really has a lead actor role, almost identical in terms of screen time and dramatic function as Denzel Washington’s Best Actor role in Training Day. But for some reason, this is deemed “supporting.” Had he been in the lead actor category, I still would have given him the nod.
MICRO BUDGET: We Are the Best!
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: John Michael McDonagh (Calvary)
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) (Whiplash should be considered an original screenplay, but I don’t make the rules.)
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Ted Pope (Mr. Turner) (please – no more Ted Poop jokes – this is the best cinematography this decade.)
DIRECTOR: Joon-ho Bong (Snowpiercer) (I wasn’t going to choose one, since I think directors get too much credit as it is. But that’s a pretty petulant POV, and I’m the least petulant person in the room right now.)
Since The Lego Movie and The Boxtrolls were the only two animated features I saw this year, I will refrain from pulling a Bill Murray and picking one. And since I know nothing about sound effects editing or hair design, I’ll leave those alone. Besides, I have to go track down a print of The Duke of Burgundy (number 15 in the Sight & Sound rankings) and potentially reconstruct my entire list.