AARON BILGRAD MOVIE AWARDS 2015
Here are some fun awards looking back on 2014:
BEST MOVIE THAT CLEARLY WANTED TO STICK IT TO ‘BACK TO THE FUTURE’: INTERSTELLAR
For as much as we all love ‘Back To The Future’, the filmmakers of Interstellar obviously made the movie to punish Back To The Future for not being familiar with the theoretical possibilities of astrophysics, black holes, and the space time continuum. For example, one major flaw about Back To The Future: Why did we (the audience) always clearly know exactly what time period Marty McFly was in? That’s no fun. Wouldn’t it be more impressive if we were utterly confused and disoriented watching Back To The Future? Also, remember the scene back in 1955 where Marty orders a shockingly inexpensive 10-cent Pepsi in the old-fashioned 50′s diner. Ugh, such a flat scene. Imagine if, instead, Back To The Future took a tip from Interstellar, and Marty was floating around the diner, and instead of just one 50′s diner, there were something like forty trillion 50′s diners, and Marty was shouting at forty trillion different soda jerks for the Pepsi (all of which were flickering in and out of potential existence). Oh, and wouldn’t have it been cool in Back To The Future 2 if instead of Marty getting the sports almanac, he befriended a robot whose design was inspired by walking your index and middle finger along a table. Look, years ago, I read the book that Interstellar was based on (Black Holes and Time Warps by Kip Thorne). I’ll admit, it’s awesome subject matter, but Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s cinematic interpretation definitely missed the mark. The book’s author, Kip Thorne, supports the movie, but I have a hunch that this is because he’s being paid a few million dollars. It’s hard for me to truly remember any scene from this movie, as I was distracted by the blur of nonsense, but here is what I recall:
1. Michael Caine explaining a large amount of theoretical science, and me tuning out every time.
2. Lots of scenes in corn fields.
3. Matt Damon showing up, and arguing about something. I’m not sure what.
4. Chris Nolan repeating the buildings folding on buildings effect from Inception.
5. Me being impressed that they cast and filmed Jessica Chastain as an 8 year old, then, for space-time authenticity, filmed the movie again 20 years later when she was an adult.
BEST MOVIE THAT INEXPLICABLY FELT IT NEEDED TO WEAVE A STORY AS COMPLEX AS ‘BREAKING BAD’: GODZILLA
Godzilla is over 2 hours long. Yet, Godzilla is only in about 10 minutes of this movie. To be honest, I would have been happy just paying to see those 10 minutes. Instead, however, the filmmakers explained… and explained… and explained why everything was happening. Clearly the filmmakers deeply wanted the audience to have a thoroughly rich story experience on par with Breaking Bad. I can only imagine this is why they actually cast Walter White himself in the film. We got to listen to explanations on military science experiments, Godzilla’s theoretical motivations, what could happen if THIS connects with THAT, and worst of all, if THAT collides with THIS. But all I really needed was more Godzilla stomping on stuff. For information on how to make a good Godzilla movie, please check out this classic Godzilla short that played before the Godzilla film in 1969. Perhaps they can get its creator, Marv Newland, to write the upcoming Godzilla film.
BEST MOVIE STEVE CARELL MUST HAVE PAID FOR WITH HIS OWN MONEY: FOXCATCHER
A man speaks in a nasally voice for over 2 hours with a prosthetic nose in a movie where almost nothing happens. Did you know that was Steve Carell? Yes, the funny guy from Anchorman. Yes, I’m serious! That’s him!!! That’s the whole marketing crux of this movie (i.e. It’s Steve Carell, can you believe it?) This movie is the biggest vanity/Oscar-bait project since Nicole Kidman and her fake nose in The Hours. If you haven’t seen Foxcatcher, let me save you same time. *SPOILER ALERT (Actually, just let the movie be spoiled and watch one of the good movies on my list above). Here is what you missed:
1. Many Scenes played for tension that are not tense (e.g. a long, weird scene in which Steve Carell gives Channing Tatum a book on birds, and Tatum feels that he should accept it. Note: There are a lot of awkward pauses in this scene)
2. Scenes with homoerotic undertones between Steve Carell (John du Pont) and Channing Tatum (Mark Schultz) that the real Mark Schultz furiously and publicly said never happened. He said the director invented that tone for dramatic purposes, which I believe, because there ain’t much else there.
3. A subplot between Steve Carell and his neglectful mother to rationalize why Steve Carell might want Channing Tatum as a friend (all boring scenes).
4. Many many many shots of open fields at dawn.
5. Lots of jogging — both indoors and outdoors.
BEST MOVIE TOUTED FOR ITS INCREDIBLE CINEMATOGRAPHY THAT, WHILE GOOD, ISN’T ALL THAT INTERESTING: IDA
Most of you probably haven’t seen this Polish foreign film (although it’s on Netflix) but it will likely lock up the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar and even more notably the Best Cinematography category. Going into this movie, I really wanted to like it, especially since it had ‘something’ to do with the Holocaust, and that typically makes for a good emotional impact. But I found this story of a nun who finds out she’s Jewish simply less interesting than the filmmakers would have preferred. This movie also made a lot of Top 10 lists, primarily on account of its cinematography. All the reviews said that each shot is “impeccably crafted”. That’s likely true, as I have to assume that the cinematographer did craft his shot, and did his best to do so in impeccable manner. However, in many of the character shots, they just put the character at the bottom of the frame (as seen in the pics below), and I simply didn’t find these shots all that interesting or creative. So, in order to save you the trouble of actually seeing the film and its cinematography, take a look below for some example frames from the film, and then you can enjoy some of my re-creations of their Oscar nominated shots:
BEST MOVIE THAT I THINK, ALTHOUGH I’M NOT TOTALLY SURE, IS A REFERENCE TO ‘BATMAN’: BIRDMAN
First and foremost, I’m not sure why Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is still allowed to make movies after BABEL. That should have been the end. But, anyway, making the movie seemingly with one, long tracking shot is a challenging endeavor, made even more challenging when your subject matter is pretty dumb. I can embrace the idea that Michael Keaton is battling with the demons of not being on top of the world as a superhero actor anymore, and the best scene is when he breaks down and confronts/stands up to a tough theater critic, but the rest of the movie may as well be Inarritu masturbating. He thinks he’s offering up a mystical, cerebral journey, but gone are any genuine emotional elements to cling to (unlike ‘Boyhood’, Birdman’s biggest competitor for the Best Picture Oscar). The movie is grating, the director’s ambition is too in-your-face, and at many times it feels cheesy and lame. Ultimately, here are pictures that represent both Boyhood and Birdman. The first, Boyhood, is a genuine, authentic, impressive film that took 13 years to make, requiring and establishing a firm relationship between the director, Linklater, and his main ‘from-boy-to-man’ actor (Ellar Coltrane). That type of chemistry showed up on screen in a major way, had effective emotional impact, and this first picture is after the filming of one of the final scenes of the 13 year journey. The other pic sums up the tone and experience of Birdman pretty well.
So here are my ACTUAL Top 10 movies of 2014 in descending order (this list includes only movies I wanted to see. So I suppose there is a chance that The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, that new Wes Anderson movie, Need For Speed, or Let’s Be Cops could possibly be superior to items on this list).
10. AMERICAN SNIPER: A movie I only watched so that I could rip it apart, but was actually pleasantly surprised by its pacing and Bradley Cooper’s performance. It was certainly melodramatic in places, but I didn’t mind. This movie got criticism about being pro-war propaganda, but any of that felt organic to the film and the character. Plus Clint Eastwood needed to direct something good after making something as dumb as Jersey Boys. (Note: The play is ridiculous too).
9. INHERENT VICE: I’d be lying if I told you I understood everything in this movie (and my friend Scott said that this is one of those movies where you absolutely have to read the book to understand it) but even so, it’s fantastic filmmaking from Paul Thomas Anderson — still arguably the greatest filmmaker out there.
8. FORCE MAJEURE: A very clever, well made, and stunning Swedish film about what happens when a father, in the heat of the moment, abandons his wife and children during an avalanche scare. Clever premise for a film, and well executed.
7. THE DROP: A simple small crime story, with solid acting from the late James Gandolfini and the ‘under utilized in good roles’ Tom Hardy. Hardy should never do a ‘made-me-roll-my-eyes’ role again. Thus, hopefully Hardy has blocked Christopher Nolan’s phone number.
6. GONE GIRL: I’m confused as to why this movie didn’t get much respect at the Oscars. It’s creative, highly engaging, and well acted (even Tyler Perry is good), and works on so many levels. Seems like people just forgot about it. That’s too bad.
5. THE BABADOOK: A truly scary film that you won’t stop thinking about. Most horror movies made today are all about “startling” the audience. But that’s cheating. Everyone will jump when something pops into frame (especially if it’s accompanied by sound effects). However, it is a true accomplishment to actually create a terrifying TONE and MOOD for a movie. Rosemary’s Baby did this, and so does The Babadook. It’s about an evil children’s book that comes to life. Fans of the movie want a real life version of the book — have they lost their god damn mind?!
4. NYMPHOMANIAC VOL 1 & 2: Just when I wish there were more gripping, stimulating, make-you-think movies, Lars Von Trier comes along and makes a classy, imaginative, stylized, and utterly watchable 4-hour film. (Note: Christian Slater was grossly miscast in this film, but it’s only a supporting role, so you will be ok).
3. BOYHOOD: I wanted so badly to dislike this movie, but it’s just so disarming and likable from the first scene. It’s a wonderful vision from Richard Linklater; a simple, yet genuine film, in which every scene is impressively enjoyable. I understand and agree with the hype around it. The Best Picture Oscar race is between Boyhood and Birdman. And that’s a battle between two ambitious films (good ambition vs. evil ambition). Boyhood is ambitious in that it was filmed over 13 years so we could literally watch the same boy go through boyhood, while simultaneously observing the unfolding of motherhood, fatherhood, and adulthood in general. Birdman is ambitious merely because the director is addicted to ambition — wanting only to one-up his director friend, Alfonso Cuaron, who made last year’s meandering and pointless Gravity.
2. THE GUEST: Dan Stevens gives the most charismatic performance of the last 20 years. Hands down. He should have won best actor. I care more about a terrific acting performance more than anything. This movie was pure fun from start to end (extremely difficult to pull off). Nobody, and I mean nobody, saw this movie (it only made $200,000 box office). It came and went because it was marketed incorrectly and inaccurately. But it’s hysterical and incredible in so many ways, a throwback to the fun films of the 80s, and a reinforcement of what I (and conveniently Paul Thomas Anderson) believe, that above all else, actors and charisma matter most in a movie — everything else is underneath. It should be On Demand by now. Watch it, thank me later.
1. WHIPLASH: A simple, perfect, exciting, highly entertaining film that must be seen. A drummer and his oppressive teacher. That’s all you need to know. The last 15 minutes are intensely riveting. Such a smart film. Flawless filmmaking. Best film of the year.