Welcome to the third annual Reel Voice Film Awards. It’s the only awards show residing in my mom’s basement and catered by Hot Pockets. Actually, I’m a grown ass adult handing out fictional awards on the internet while I’m at my own house. Not sure that’s any better. Usually, I hand out my awards earlier in February, but I figured I’d match it up with the Oscars. We call that synergy people. Plus, it’s easier to get more views when I tag it to death with “Oscars”. Fearing that I’m wasting your time, here are my award winners for the year that was 2014.
Best Score: Interstellar. Composed by Hans Zimmer
Hans Zimmer isn’t known for his subtlety. Bombastic is one of the adjectives usually tethered to his name, but his work last year in 12 Years a Slave was simple, enlightening, and poetic. This newfound version of Zimmer found itself in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Zimmer’s score is whimsical and divine, as he uses an organ and strings to lift us to the heavens. There’s also a great deal of creativity emanating from Zimmer’s fingertips. Percussive beats mimic a clock ticking away, underscoring the film’s use of time and relativity. What’s most important about the score is that it’s restrained and emotional. Zimmer doesn’t rush his cues; he let’s them slowly build up, and then assaults us with a myriad of instruments that are equally wondrous as they are menacing.
Honorable Mentions: Jonny Greenwood for Inherent Vice, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for Gone Girl, Micah Levi for Under the Skin.
Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki for Birdman
Emmanuel Lubezki is one of the best cinematographers in the business. The amount of beauty this man captures with a lens is unparalleled, but he doesn’t simply point his camera at pretty things. Rather, he is a man who dictates the fluidity and power of the narrative by the grace of the camera. He dismantles characters and heightens experiences through composition, lighting, and movement. In Birdman, Lubezki does all of this while maintaining the film’s core assertion: it’s all one fluid shot. Lubezki’s camera sinks and soars, pans and peaks, as it follows characters through tight corridors and busy streets. Each decision exploits the film’s damning characters, baring their souls through visual splendor.
Honorable Mentions: Robert Elswit for Inherent Vice, Bradford Young for A Most Violent Year, Hoyte von Hoytema for Interstellar.
Best Special Effects: Interstellar
This was particularly a tough category. I had a hard time choosing between Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Interstellar. The creation of the apes in Dawn is an absolute marvel, but the seams showed from time to time. With Interstellar, the deepest recesses of space and time consume us, as Christopher Nolan’s special effects team perfectly integrates our actors with worlds unknown. From a planet that acts as one massive tidal wave to the real vision of interstellar travel, we firmly believe we’re in the midst of a dying planet and an exciting discovery.
Best Screenplay: Inherent Vice. Written by Paul Thomas Anderson
I’ve never read a Thomas Pynchon novel. From what I hear, they’re dense pieces of literature that dangerously dangle between many tones and a lot of themes, all while maintaining an irritating amount of ambiguity. Whether Paul Thomas Anderson’s screenplay adequately captures Pynchon’s Inherent Vice is irrelevant to me. What is relevant is Anderson’s deft ability in combining screwball comedy, film noir tropes, and an aching nostalgia into one cohesive piece of filmmaking. Even if it deliberately meanders into a thick fog from time to time, intent to lose us in its labyrinth plotting, the screenplay revels in its mystique, lovingly dissects its characters, and masterfully resurrects a place and time that’s dead and gone.
Best Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman
Birdman is a chaotic film overflowing with bold, egotistical characters and bravura moments. At any point, it could’ve turned into a ridiculous, over the top assessment of Hollywood and its artists. Well, it’s pretty over the top, but its jabs are sharp and incisive. Iñárritu’s employment of the “one take” method, or at least the perception of it being one take, not only keeps the film moving forward, but gives it a propulsive spark that mimics the crumbling mindset of its protagonist. For as showy as Birdman is, Innaritu excels at drawing out terrific performances from his actors. Iñárritu is fearless behind the camera, letting loose a technical juggernaut that magically finds fractures underneath the skin of every character, from the self-involved to those simply seeking validation.
Honorable Mentions: Richard Linklater for Boyhood, Paul Thomas Anderson for Inherent Vice, J. C. Chandor for A Most Violent Year, Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher
Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain for A Most Violent Year
Jessica Chastain was criminally overlooked in J.C. Chandor’s excellent A Most Violent Year, and I’m still stunned she wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award. But that doesn’t matter because she’s Reel Voice’s Best Supporting Actress. Chastain radiates off the screen, but not because of her beauty. It’s her possessive power that demands our attention. Underneath the expensive clothes and perfectly crafted fingernails, Chastain gives her character an unwavering grit and determination. She will not secede her dreams and ambition to anyone; not even her husband. Chastain gives us a memorable female character, one that isn’t defined by her husband or appearance, to relish in a time dominated by male characters.
Honorable Mentions: Emma Stone for Birdman, Patricia Arquette for Boyhood
Best Actress: Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl
Much like Jessica Chastain, Rosamund Pike delivers a female character cinema desperately needed. The only difference is that Chastain’s character had power from the get go, while Pike’s Amy was a suffocating housewife seeking liberation. If you haven’t seen Gone Girl by now, shame on you, because Pike’s performance is unapologetically cool and transformative. Without going too far into spoilers, Pike perfectly balances between vulnerable trophy wife and an all-consuming maelstrom of destruction. Pike is in such control, we never know which iteration of Amy will come forward. Watching Pike harness Amy’s anger and isolation into an uncontrollable weapon is dangerously alluring and strangely moving. As a matter of fact, Pike uses Amy’s suppression, both from her family and husband, as an empathetic tool. Even though her character is deeply troubled, Pike makes us feel as if Amy’s twisted behavior is semi-justifiable, if not always frighteningly fun.
Honorable Mentions: Scarlett Johansson for Under the Skin, Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything, Jenny Slate for Obvious Child
Best Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin for Inherent Vice
I’ll admit it, I never saw Whiplash. So, I have no opinion on the juggernaut known as JK Simmons, who has all but sewn up his Oscar win. But one of the most disheartening and hilarious performances of the year comes from Josh Brolin in Inherent Vice. Brolin plays Bigfoot Bjornsen, a hippy hating, banana pop sucking cop with a crew cut. On the outset, Brolin’s Bjornsen is a vindictive asshole with aggression issues. But as the film moves along, shades of pain and disappointment seep from Brolin’s pores, intimating that Bjornsen’s disdain for the hippy movement is born from envy and heartache. His best scene occurs at the end, where he dares us to cry and laugh at his character’s current state of affairs.
Honorable Mentions: Channing Tatum for Foxcatcher, Mark Ruffalo for Foxcatcher, Edward Norton for Birdman
Best Actor: Michael Keaton for Birdman
Michael Keaton’s inclusion in Birdman looked like a gimmick on paper. But Keaton is unforgettable as Riggan Thomson, the irrelevant actor seeking career validation through a stint on Broadway. Keaton’s manic performance provides Birdman with a great deal of humor and angst, especially when Riggan’s hubris gets the best of him, but Keaton doesn’t make Riggan the punchline. Keaton actually underlies Riggan’s ambition with an insufferable sadness and desperation. With his character on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Keaton bounces from scene to scene, grounding Riggan in humanistic follies. Most importantly. Keaton brings attention to a man lost in the dark, a man looking for anyone to shine the spotlight on him.
Honorable Mentions: David Oyelowo for Selma, Ralph Fiennes for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Steve Carrell for Foxcatcher