Thursday, September 3, 2015

4 Ways a Best Picture: 2014


All good things must come to an end.  That is the bittersweet reality of this post right now.  We have reached the end of a very incredibly rewarding project, and that is killing me right now.  I'm glad it's over because we can now bask in the full glory of the project, but the discussions I have had with these bloggers about these films and these years and just everything has been so enjoyable and...UGH...I may cry, and I'm not joking, so I'm going to stop.

Yes, it's time to wrap up 4 Ways a Best Picture with discussion of 2014.

Let's just look at our panel and get into it.

Britt from Rambling Film
Drew (me, duh) from A Fistful of Films
Jeffery from jdbrecords
Wendell from Dell on Movies




Drew:  Alright guys, it's time to talk CITIZENFOUR!!!

Kevin:  Fucking terrifying.  But a little bit boring, at times, as a movie.

Drew:  I felt like I was being watched...while I was watching it!  Scary thing is...I probably was.

Kevin:  No doubt.  It is incredibly effective in that way.  Once they got to the hotel room in Hong Kong, I was literally scared.  The paranoia is intense.  Snowden just looks so fucking stressed, man.  All clammy and shit.  And rightly so.

Drew:  This is such an important doc, as well, because it's a subject (and reality) that reaches every pocket of America and something that we've all possibly suspected but maybe never really put much stock into.  It's strange because as I was watching this I was thinking, "I've always wondered if this was really happening" and then as it was all filling in and everything was becoming so clear it was this crushing reality of fears never really given the proper attention and I became absolutely paranoid.

Wendell:  Paranoia is definitely the key word here.  The entire movie oozes it.  More importantly, so does the viewer.  Drew, you make a great point about all of us having thought about this sort of thing happening, but laughed it off and made a joke of it, like "Haha, big brother is watching."  Sure enough, they are.  Might start using a blanket or something to cover my own laptop/pc.  Okay, I probably won't, but the movie is powerful enough to make you seriously consider it.  Snowden does look stressed, but he should.  Ironically, I also just finished watching American Sniper.  Talk about 2 entirely different takes on what it means to be a good American.  I don't think either is necessarily wrong, just different.  This is by far the better film, though.

Drew:  I find all the Snowden criticism to be almost laughable, honestly.  Blind faith in anything is just dumb, and to say that Snowden is anti-American for leaking this info is a shame because I find his actions honorable and the humanity and love for his fellow man is obvious.  He knew we had a right to know this, and I stand beside his decision.  So, I love that you mention 'good American' and if raise you by 'good human being, period'.

Wendell:  Good human being, indeed.  He absolutely did something right.  It was also a courageous thing that really could have, and still might, cost him his life.  And the irony of him getting asylum in Russia is priceless.

Kevin:  So ironic, and perfect.  Edward Snowden is one brave dude.  I actually wrote in my notes, "Dude's a fucking hero."

Wendell:  Are you sure those notes are private?

Kevin:  Dude, I know right!

Wendell:  Not sure if any of you are familiar with Jill Scott.  She's been a few (bad) movies, but actually isn't a bad actress.  However, she's a much better singer-songwriter.  On her debut album, I think it was even before 9/11, she had a song about precisely this sort of thing.  Drawing a blank on the title, but I'm fairly certain it was called Watching You.  At the end of the song, she talks about her TV and says she doesn't know if she's watching it, or it's watching her.  I kept thinking of those words as I watched this.  Just gave the song another listen.  Came out back in 2000.  I remember hearing it for the first time and thinking how interesting it was, but she's a little paranoid.  I mean, websites and cell phone companies tracking us wasn't even a thing, yet.  Oops.  Egg on my face.  The reference is actually to Direct TV, btw.  If anyone cares to hear it - 


[Just gave the song another listen.  Came out back in 2000.  I remember hearing it for the first time and thinking how interesting it was, but she's a little paranoid.  I mean, websites and cell phone companies tracking us wasn't even a thing, yet.  Oops.  Egg on my face.  The reference is actually to Direct TV, btw.  If anyone cares to hear it -]

Ignore the double send.  My phone is messing with me.  Or is it someone else?  Speaking of strange coincidences, how bout that fire alarm? Most tense moment ever?

Kevin:  That song sounds crazy.  Never heard of it.  About the viewer sensing and becoming paranoid.  I definitely felt that the same, Dell.  At times during this film, though, it just got over my head.  I sort of didn't understand it.  I never grasped onto this story when it originally broke and just sort of brushed it off, probably foolishly.

Drew:  Oh, I never felt lost.  This consumed me.

Kevin:  I felt the tension though.  The real time nature of it is just unreal amazing.  Seeing him actually watch the news coverage in that hotel room as the story broke.  Amazing stuff. 

Wendell:  When the story first broke, after a few days it got drowned out by all the other noise we hear, so I brushed it off, too.  The doc did a good job of keeping things where I could understand it, I thought.

Britt:  I actually ended up watching this one more than once while I waited for you guys to get your hands on it.  It's very consuming.  I thought it did a good job of condensing all of it and making it easy to understand.  When this story first broke, for me anyways, I found it almost overwhelming to process all of that information.  Like you said, it was mostly just a joke before.  Snowden looked insanely stressed.  When that fire alarm went off in his hotel room on Hong Kong, you could just feel the paranoia there.  Another minor thing I liked was the director reading the emails.  She has a nice voice.  That was a small touch I liked.

Jeffery:  I'm about as mixed on this doc than I am on Snowden himself.  While the job Laura Poitras does is undeniably commendable and the intimate access she gets is amazing, I still feel as if I'm not as terrified by what Snowden uncovered as maybe I should be?

Wendell:  I imagine Will Smith and Gene Hackman watching this together and knowingly nodding along. 


Kevin:  Enemy of the State.  Yes!  Great flick.  Anyway, this is a powerful doc.  So tense and really amazing in a lot of ways.  Poitras and Greenwald are world class journalists with balls of steel.  Almost as much balls as Snowden himself.  Some of the things this movie sheds light on (what Snowden shed light on) is shocking and sickening.  Yet, at times, I found myself zoning out during the hotel conversations.  I was much more in tune with this film in the first hour or so.  I haven't seen any of the doc nominees either but the absence of Steve James' Life Itself on this list is atrocious.  Not sure how that happened or why.  But that is a sad thing.  Great film!  CitizenFour is a worthy nominee and winner, I have no doubt.

Drew:  Yeah, Life Itself missing here was shocking and wrong.  That was such a beautiful and honest portrait of a very important contribution to cinema.

Britt:  The only other doc I saw was Life Itself and its snub is disgusting.  That film was beautiful and would've been worthy competition for Citizenfour.

Wendell:  Haven't seen the other noms, but this feels both important and compelling.  Giving it an A.

Drew:  I’m right there with you.  A

Kevin:  B+

Britt:  I give this an A.


Jeffery:  B-

FINAL SCORE: 80/100


Drew:  Well, let’s talk about Ida.

Britt:  I was so disappointed in this.  It sounded excellent on paper and it didn't play out that way at all.

Drew:  …

Britt:  I mean, I know how much you loved it, Drew.

Drew:  …

Britt:  Like I said, I liked the premise, and I was stoked that this came on Netflix BEFORE The Oscars because it's rare that I actually get to see the foreign noms beforehand.  But I felt like they had too much filler for such a short run time I didn't care about Ida's romance with that musician.  I get he was just a plot device for her to experiment with, but because of that, it felt useless.  I also though the film's big climax felt wildly out of place with the tone of the rest of the film.  Then there's the logic of this anonymous adoption.  If this guy, who is a complete random to this family just leaves the baby at the church, how on Earth did they find out who Anna's aunt was?  Did I completely miss that?  The cinematography was beautiful, and both Agatas were excellent, but I my gripes outweighed the positives.

Drew:  …

Britt:  Don't you "..." me!

Kevin:  Ida is one of the prettiest movies I've ever seen.  It's also one of the most forgettable.  I zoned out so bad towards the end and pretty much had no idea what was going on.  Like last year's winner, The Great Beauty, there is only so much "pretty" can do.  Like Britt, I was intrigued by the premise.  And excited to see it on Netflix, even before Oscar.  I didn't watch it until we started this.  It was one of the first I watched.  And, at this point, I can't even remember what happened.  I just remember loving how beautifully shot and well-acted it was.  Then just sort of losing track of it by the last part of it.  And this is a movie only 82 minutes long.  How does a film manage not to compel me in such a short span of time?  Is "pretty" all foreign films are to Oscar?  Can we not get something richly intriguing and/or entertaining as well as "pretty"?

Drew:  …

Kevin:  I haven't seen the other nominees, but, from what I've read, Leviathan, which was probably second place, was a major slog as well.  Let it out, Drew.  Come on!  This whole conversation makes me realize how easy I went on The Great Beauty.  I wish I hadn't.  This is two years in a row where all these critics and Hollywood people just decided to kiss the ass of the prettiest girl at the ball, when they could've at least nominated the small French film featuring the prettiest girl in the whole world.  I haven't seen Two Days, One Night yet.  But it seems like the real winner from what I kept hearing.  And, while I love the little comeback of the boxy aspect ratio last year.  I hope that doesn't keep happening all the time.  Anyway, Ida.  Absolutely gorgeous.  I may try it again one day.  Maybe I'll be able to stay on it for the whole 82 minute.  And get something more.

Drew:  …

Britt:  Leviathan was pretty damn boring too, but I'd rate it above Ida.  I haven't seen Two Days, One Night yet.  It doesn't come on Netflix until next month, and Tangerines is next in my queue.  I'm happy Poland won something, but I wish it would've been stronger.

Wendell:  It wasn't just Ida's romance that was useless, it was pretty much the whole movie.   And I am so with you, Britt, on the anonymous adoption.  You didn't miss anything.  It was just a mighty big plot hole.  The cinematography was gorgeous.  There were breath-taking shots, that might have been better served as still photos.  Pretty, but forgettable sums it up nicely.

Drew:  …

Wendell:  There are a couple other positives, here.  The performances by both Agatas were excellent.  And the music of Coltrane was heavily featured.  But, that’s about it.

Kevin:  See. I didn't even remember the Coltrane.  And that's something I would remember.  I must've really spaced at some point.

Wendell:  They played "Naima" three times, if I remember correctly.  They made a point of naming the song and artist after the first time Sax Dude and the band played it.  It basically became his and Ida's song.  My biggest problems with this movie all revolve around the lead character.  First, and foremost, she was a bland sideline player for much of her own movie.  I spent the entire runtime thinking how much better this would've been if it were actually about Wanda.  She was the far more interesting character.  Every single compelling moment in the movie was hers.  If she were the protagonist, this could have been a great tragedy.  As it is, we're just teased with the tip of the iceberg, but she's ultimately a flat character.  She already seems to be on the path to the place where her story ends when we meet her.  The movie compounds this error by making Ida flat, also.  She ends up exactly where she would have if the events of this movie not happened.  The only thing that changed for her was her brief excursion, which was totally botched.  The entire time she's with Wanda, she's completely miserable except for a few seconds with Sax Dude.  Even that was rather tepid.  Next thing you know, she's just yukking it up, and scoping out chicks at the convent, runs off for a night of debauchery and...nothing.  I just couldn't buy it.

Drew:  …

Wendell:  I haven't seen any of the other noms, but this one, sadly, ticks off a lot of the needed boxes for a foreign language winner.  Has something to do with the Holocaust.  Check.  Beautiful cinematography.  Check.  Well-acted.  Check.  Black and white.  Bonus points.  Unfortunately, it is merely the framework for a good movie without the actual guts of one.  I'm way behind on my foreign language flicks from '14, in general.  Seeing this one, makes only three.  This was way better than one, Stranger by the Lake, but lags far far behind the good ol' martial arts of The Raid 2.  Though it's a second consecutive disappointment in this category, Ida is better than The Great Beauty.

Jeffery:  I saw in theater when came out and was captivated by it.  Especially its unusual cinematography (so fun to see it nominated) which most have noted even if they didn't like the movie.  I was very drawn to Agata Kulesza's haunting performance as well.  I appreciated its short run time and the heft of its theme which concerns the inability to change circumstance.  I really love this movie and its meditative feel. I can see why it would have detractors.

Drew:  …

Wendell:  I can’t wait to hear what Drew actually says.

Kevin:  The suspense is killing me.  LOL!

Drew:  I'm sorry, I was under the impression that I WAS giving my input on Ida.  I've been trying my hardest to suppress my sailor mouth #BeABetterPerson, but my actual notes for this film read, "What the actual fuck is this", and for many, many reasons.  Like, this isn't even a movie!  #WhatAreYouTalkingAbout #DotDotDot #GoBackToPoland.  I'm sorry, Ida may be pretty, in a 'random postcards that I found in grandma's attic' kind of way, but does everyone wanna #VisitPoland now?  No.  Maybe I'm bitter because Ida had promise.  The trailer was beautiful, the prose was intriguing and the reviews were rock solid.  I was EXCITED for this.  Maybe I'm bitter because this is the same year that brought us BRILLIANT foreign films like Two Days, One Night, We Are the Best!, Leviathan, Force Majeure and MOMMY!  Maybe I'm bitter because Oscar went all, "Look, it's a pretty Holocaust movie" and apparently didn't bother to watch it (or any other film) before casting votes.  No, I'm most bitter because Ida is one of the most nonsensical, pointless Oscar winners I've ever seen.  #TryHarderPoland or, better yet, next time #DontTry.  What is this movie even about?  When I first saw this movie, I likened it to someone who watched the very best of Ingmar Bergman, digested the point, and shit out the remains.  In other words, this is a shell of a movie.  Like Wendell said, there are no guts here.  Oh no, you're faith is conflicted by atrocity and dark family secrets.  Been there done that...much better.  And what was with that tacked on ending of nonsensical fuckery?  Up until she jumps in the sack, Ida was a roving pit of non-emotion and yet we're supposed to believe that a situation she seemingly is unmoved by suddenly shifts her convictions long enough for her to pop her cherry and then it's back to the convent we go?  My god, this movie is so dumb!!!

Wendell:  YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kevin:  Do it, bro!  Damn.  I’m too nice.  I definitely didn't hate it like that at all though.  Even if it hasn't stuck with me.  Love your passion.  This movie is really the definition of over-hyped.  That's for damn sure.

Britt:  Yess! yessssssssssssssssssssssss!  Let the hate flow through you!  Your Ida is like my Amour.

Drew:  I'm sorry, only ONE Agata delivered a good performance here; Kulesza. Wanda was a very interesting character, and Kulesza deserved a better movie.  Ida was such a non-character that the 'other' Agata got fucked here.  Now, after all that I bet you're expecting an F...right?  Ok, you can have it!  F

Wendell:  I love it!  Not quite going that low, because I did find it better than The Great Beauty.  Not going much higher, either.  D

Britt:  C+

Kevin:  For now, I'm going C+.  (I really wish I'd given The Great Beauty that grade as well.)


Jeffery:  A

FINAL SCORE: 43/100


Drew:  What are we thinking about Big Hero 6?

Britt:  All the funny parts of this movie (Aside from not being able to cut in a perfect circle, which is totally accurate) were in the preview.  I wanted to like this so much, but it looked like every other cartoon Disney has on TV right now.  It just felt too generic.

Drew:  Big Hero 6 has a lot of elements I really admire and enjoy, and upon leaving the theater, I was really excited for the future of this team.  Still, Britt kind of nails it with the generic comment.  As the dust has settled I realize I'm more excited for what they could do next, and not what they've already done.  This was a nice setup for a trilogy(?), but on its own it really isn't anything special, sadly.  There are moments though, like the scene where Hiro loses his head and leaves his teammates behind in thirst of blood, but overall this was pretty 'by the books'.  It's better than How to Train Your Dragon 2, though.

Kevin:  I hate how animated movies are marketed.  The trailers made this look like a sweet animated movie about a boy and his balloon robot.  Then, I watched it and got a run-of-the-mill superhero movie.  That is neither intelligent or fun, no matter how much it thinks it is.  So boring.  All the best parts were in the trailer.  Scott Adsit's brilliant portrayal of Baymax.  That is the intelligent and fun.  Just that character.  The rest sucks ass.

Britt:  No, it was not better than HTTYD2!  Admittedly, that plays into my my indifference to Big Hero 6.  I loved HTTYD2.  I thought it was excellent, great score, good story flawless Animation, but it's Dreamworks and they barely win.

Drew:  Lol, I actually thought this was a great deal of fun, even if it was generic fun.  Song of the Sea should have taken this in a walk.

Britt:  I haven't seen Song of the Sea yet, it's in my Netflix queue.

Drew:  OMG, it’s perfect!  Also, the opening scene here was pretty spectacular as well (another moment).

Kevin:  There are moments in this movie that are great.  The opening scene was great.  Most of the touching stuff with Baymax worked.  Other than that, Big Hero 6 was just a big bummer for me.  Maybe if I had been expecting a superhero movie, I would've liked it more.  I seriously didn't know that's what it was until I watched it.  And that element is the worst thing about it.  Maddeningly generic.  This is like Joel Schumacher doing Batman bad.  "Green blade of fury!!!"  I think the Wayans Jr.'s character screams in the last action sequence.  UGH!

Drew:  LOL, it’s a kid’s movie!  And my kids LOVE THIS, so Disney wins.

Kevin:  Maybe this is one of those where watching with a kid would've helped.  Like it did for Frozen.  But then again I loved Frozen just watching it at home with my wife, so... I usually skip all the big superhero blockbusters anyway, so... Just wasn't meant to be.  I just started hating this movie after a while.  And who cares if it's a "kids movie."  Kids love Wall-E and even at its worst it doesn't have anything as bland and generic as this.  That said. I might have liked this when I was a kid.  I bet little boys love this shit.

Drew:  I was referring to your "Green blade of fury" comment.  We have to remember who this is directed at.  Even still, adult superhero movies also have ridiculous one liners.

Britt:  I watched it with my kid, and while he liked it when we left the theater, he hasn't mentioned it since.  And this kid is STILL talking about Penguins of Madagascar.

Drew:  I wish Penguins had been nominated!  I was pulling for it to pull a Pirates and sneak into the race.  Song of the Sea, The LEGO Movie and Penguins were all better than Big Hero 6...but I still 'like' this movie.

Britt:  Lego Movie's snub is just offensive, really.  I was predicting that to win the whole thing.

Kevin:  Not seeing The Lego Movie is one of my big regrets of last year.  Need to finally do that one.

Wendell:  I love this one.  I wasn't expecting a superhero flick, either, but once I got one I enjoyed it a great deal.  It did such a wonderful job building the relationship between Hiro and Baymax.  I thought the humor was wonderful and the action nicely spaced.  A few of the plot points were generic, I'll grant that.  Still, it had enough heart to overcome that.  And I am more than willing to watch a sequel because it is a great setup.  Sorry, Kev, but there is nothing as bad as Joel Schumacher doing Batman.  And there's not even a hint of jest in that statement.  I've seen HTTYD2, twice now.  I like it, but no.  Not even close to BH6, for me.  I really like The Boxtrolls, but would still go with BH6 for my winner.  The problem is that the field is glaringly incomplete.  The LEGO Movie snub is one of the most ridiculous of all time, in my eyes.  As much as I like BH6, The LEGO Movie is that much better.  Forget, the animated category, I have it among the very best films of last year regardless of genre.  I generally don't get too worked up about snubs, but I was one of those that were pissed over it not at least getting a nom, here.  Warning for Kevin:  Batman is a major character in The LEGO Movie.

Drew:  DARKNESS!!!  NO PARENTS!!!

Kevin:  Now, that statement I made is biting back.  I fucking love Batman.  When I was a kid, I especially liked Batman Forever.  I was a kid.  I suppose when I watched Big Hero 6, I didn't get what I expected and I just wasn't up for a superhero movie.  I felt like it was cheesy and wasn't into it at all.  I just plain didn't have fun with it.  Kids are its audience, and, as far as comparing with many of the other animated movies we've discussed over the course of this project, Big Hero 6 is on the lower end.

Drew:  Did you guys watch the trailer for this?  Like, it was clearly marketed as a SUPERHERO movie.  I was on board from the beginning for that.  My daughter is obsessed with superheroes and has been BEGGING me to let her watch a superhero movie, but I'm not about to let her watch something like Guardians of the Galaxy (she's 7), so when Disney announced it was making this movie, I was all in.  I was literally excited to see it.  We had a blast.  All three kids ate this up.  Like I said, over time I see how this has many generic tropes and is more of a great set up to what will hopefully be a great sequel, but it's still enjoyable, fun and has wonderful moments.  I preferred this to every other nominee that wasn't Song of the Sea.

Kevin:  The only trailer I saw (maybe a teaser) was just Hiro and Baymax and the tape dispenser gag.  Hilarious.  I seriously thought I was going to be watching a buddy movie about a kid and his funny robot.  I was with this movie for a good while before it turned me off and I tuned out.  Baymax is a great movie character.  I felt real love and emotion when he was onscreen and not being reprogrammed into a killing machine.  (I know that was part of the lesson Hiro had to learn).  The end of Big Hero 6 just devolved into something I didn't expect or really want.  I lost what little bit of a loving feeling I had by the end.

Jeffery:  Was looking forward to Big Hero 6 and was sort of letdown.  Not a bad movie but sort of simplistic and boring.  Didn't really come to life for me.  The LEGO Movie was wayyy better. Also strong was 'Tale of Princess Kaguya' which is a bit of a slow burn and pays off emotionally in its haunting conclusion.

Drew:  B+

Kevin:  C

Britt:  I’m also going with a C.  Penguins of Madagascar was more memorable.  #DibbleMe

Wendell:  Really like the movie, but not getting into A territory.  Consider that my protest vote for AMPAS snubbing The LEGO Movie.  B+


Jeffery:  The Fall Out Boy song lowers this one from a B- to a C+.

FINAL SCORE:  56/100


Drew:  BIRDMAN!!!

Britt:  I love this movie so much.  The way it was shot, that awesome score, the performances.  Ugh.  It's perfect.

Drew:  IT IS PERFECT!!!  I'm just going to put this here and walk away: Best 'Best Picture' winner of the whole project.  Boom.  I said it.  I mean it.  It's fact.

Britt:  I agree with that 100%  I've loved some of our Best Pic winners, but this one is my favorite as well.

Kevin:  Birdman is the shit!  It is perfect.  It is cool.  It is why we go to movies.  It broke new ground in directorial style, cinematography, and screen acting.  And, without a doubt, Drew, you are 100% correct.  This is the best Best Picture of this project.  The only one close for me in terms of cool and originality in style is No Country for Old MenBirdman has everything.  Hilarious dark comedy, satire, drama, suspense.  It's weird and thoughtful and fun as shit.  Without a doubt the best time I had in a movie theater last year.  It opened on Halloween in Knoxville.  Great crowd.  Great times.  Great date night.  My wife loved it too.  In fact, I've yet to talk to anyone who's seen this movie and not been game for an interesting conversation about it, even people not as well-versed in cinema as we.  Keaton and Norton just kill it in this movie.  That fight scene is one of the best things I've ever seen.  And the last act of this movie is just brilliant. Purely.  I am rarely so engaged in a movie.  I left the theater that night full of life.  Nothing but smiles.  Keaton got hosed on Oscar night.  Redmayne did a fine job.  But Keaton was fucking fierce.  Huge blunder.  Birdman is the one that will stand the test of time.

Drew:  You’re right on the money, Kev.  I sat here all day trying to think of what to say other than, "this is a perfect movie"...but that kind of says it all.  This ensemble is BRILLIANT.  Norton, Keaton, Stone, Watts...every bit part, cameo, everyone was so ON POINT!  The cinematography is full of so many moments.  Chilling almost.  That shot of Keaton entering the store, the hanging lights, is my single favorite 'shot' of the year.  It's beautifully framed.  I also want to mention the editing here.  It's often ignored because this is a series of long shots that seems like there are no actual edits, but that's the beauty of the editing here.  It's so seamless you don't notice it!

Kevin:  Yes.  It's perfect on every level.  I never saw a single cut.  That's unreal level editing.  And, how could I forget the drum score!  Good call, Britt.

Drew:  All the technique aside, this film soars because, at its core, it's so brutally honest and human.  It says so much about self-value, personal pressures and, like the title suggests, encouraged ignorance.  It cuts to the heart of things with unreal depth.

Jeffery:  Birdman is extremely entertaining and fun.  Love the photography and score as well.  Zesty scenery-chewing (literally) performances all around.  Kind of an odd Best Picture winner but an exciting one nonetheless.  I thought it was even better a second time.  Keaton's Oscar loss is painful.

Wendell:  Not much game for me to bring on this one.  I loved it, also.  It's extremely well crafted and directed and just draws you in right from the beginning.  Keaton is absolutely on fire and even he has trouble keeping up with Norton is doing, here.  Theirs is a brilliant pair of performances.  The entire cast is outstanding.  There's hardly a weak moment from any of them.  As good as they are, Inarritu is really the star of this one.  What he and his cinematographer(s) accomplish on this movie is breathtaking.  That first time we see Birdman flying was one of my biggest 'wow' moments of all the 2014 movies I've seen.  And I love how the character and voice of Birdman was used to show both Keaton's...er...Riggan's slipping grasp on reality and his uncheckable ego.  With its critique of critics and a bleak ending dressed up in wonder, this is a slyly, but very cynical film.  It takes a Hamlet-esque tragedy and dresses it up like a 'happily ever after' moment and it is such a stroke of genius, I could hardly believe it.

Drew:  That ending was marvelously played, and Stone nails that look.  She pulls you into the ambiguity of it all beautifully.  I love that you mention the voice.  Such a clever nod to Keaton, the actor.  Much like Rourke in 08, this was made for Keaton.  Sadly, this year was so stacked in pretty much every category, and I don't personally nominate any of Oscar's leading men... but Keaton deserved the win of the five, with Cooper a close second.  Yes, this film belongs to Inarritu.  He just permeates every scene.  He gets under the skin of every scene.  He drives it beautifully.

Kevin:  I love that ‘Wow!’ moment as well, Dell.  I was in awe by that point through the very end, which, yes, is so perfect and Stone just nails it.

Wendell:  This was definitely tailor-made for Keaton.  I mean, would it really be any different had it been named Batman (or the Unexpected Virtue...)  Inarritu more than drives it, he flat out kills it.

Kevin:  Drew, we are right in line on Best Actor.  I so wanted Keaton to take it and had Cooper as a close second.  I was torn.  Bradley Copper blew me away in American Sniper.  You definitely need to see that one, Dell.

Drew:  I also can't say enough about Norton here.  He really was MVP for me and one of the best Supporting turns ever.  So sharp, so funny, so brutal in the internal heartbreak.  It didn't hurt that he was also playing a variation of his perceived persona, but he was absolute perfection.

Wendell:  Yes, he was.  I won't go quite so far as to say it's the best BP of the bunch we've discussed.  I have The Departed and No Country for Old Men ahead of it.  Part of the reason is really a "me" problem.  It's a little too new and shiny for me to fully trust my own judgment.  I need to watch it a time or two and let a couple years pass before I fully commit to it.  That said, I'm also not sure if it's the best of the year, for me.  I have it in a tight race with Gone Girl, Blue Ruin, and The LEGO Movie.  Yes, I'm riding hard for TLM.  Birdman is clearly the best of the actual nominees I've seen, and it's not even close. By the way, I still need to see The Theory of Everything, American Sniper, and The Imitation Game.

Drew:  Birdman is my #3 of the year, right behind Under the Skin and Mommy.

Wendell:  Oh shit, I forgot about Under the Skin.  Throw that into the mix, too.  Man, this movie blogging stuff is hard!

Kevin:  Birdman is my #2 of the year behind Inherent Vice, which is just the weirdest piece of beauty maybe I've ever seen.  Then, Whiplash.  I would go A+ on all three of those.  Like I said, No Country is up there as best Best Picture.  So is The Departed.  True that Birdman is a bit too new, and I should see it a time or two more, but the feeling I got upon my initial screening was exactly what I want from a movie and it only happens once or twice a year.  The stylistic choice to make Birdman a one shot in its entirety is a bold (and genius) move by Innaritu and Lubezki.  It paid off perfectly as a means to truly get at the human elements both of you, Drew and Dell, have mentioned.  Few movies are able to be stylistically perfect and also reach audiences with the story of such a flawed, relatable character.  Birdman is a great movie.  And it has a magical, unbelievable quality in delivering its truths that I love and wish more movies could pull off.

Drew:  Either way though, Birdman was actually one of the best films of the year.  Whether it WAS the best is always subjective, but we can all agree that this was a moment where Oscar actually did really, really good.

Wendell:  Agreed.  The Academy did a wonderful job in picking this one.

Britt:  I was so happy when this film won too because I thought Boyhood would take it.  So many said Boyhood is the one people will be talking about in 10 years, no.  I think people will still talk about Birdman and how brilliant it is.  I hate that it's score wasn't eligible because that was one of the greatest things about it.  I would've liked to see Keaton take it home too, but Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler was the star of Lead Actor for me last year.  It's a shame he missed out.

Drew:  Oh yes, I was so happy when this derailed Boyhood's Oscar train.

Britt:  Especially directing wise. What Iñárritu was stunning.  And I'm a huge sucker for that shot of Riggan walking through the pepper lights.

Kevin:  The Gyllenhaal snub was sad.  But such a packed house for Lead Actor last year.  Tough category.

Kevin:  A+

Drew:  A+

Wendell:  Going with a straight up A.

Britt:  A+ for me.


Jeffery:  A-

FINAL SCORE: 94/100

YEAR SCORE: 273/100

RANKING:

1)  Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (94 Points)
2)  CITIZENFOUR (80 Points)
3)  Big Hero 6 (56 Points)
4)  Ida (43 Points)

Closing Comments

Drew:  Closing comments!  So, this was a decent year of winners.  Had that Dragon movie and that movie about the dumb boy won Oscars, then this would have turned out to be the WORST year for winners since 2005, but we were saved by two superheroes, and I'm all for that!

Kevin:  2014 was a great year.  I find special importance in this in that this was the year I really got my blog going and met all of you.  I couldn't be happier with that.  Big Hero 6 just wasn't for me, quite obviously, though it had its moments.  Ida is beautiful but not very memorable.  Powerful doc and PERFECT Best Picture.  Yeah.  Good year.

Britt:  Foreign and Animated were too mediocre compared to some of the wonderful competition they had.  (Since we talked about Ida, I saw Tangerines and that really should've won)  But Best Pic and Doc were so strong that it makes this a good year.

Wendell:  Overall, this was an excellent year in terms of winners.  The Best Pic and Doc winners were outstanding.  I also thought the animated winner was excellent.  My one point of contention is in the Foreign category.  Ida was dreadful.  Okay, one more point of contention is that The LEGO Movie should have won Animated, but wasn't even nominated.  Still really enjoyed BH6.

Jeffery:  Love it or hate it, Birdman was one of the more interesting BP winners.  I also loved IDA (and its astoundingly beautiful photography) quite a bit though I understand people's misgivings.  The Budapest wins in the below the belt categories were certainly deserved.

Kevin:  I have had an absolute blast doing this project.  It was so much fun to revisit and see many of these films for the first.  Love everyone's passion.  You all rock!

Britt:  I really had fun doing this project!  I hope we can kind of make this a thing after each Oscars.  I loved being pushed to watch so many films I missed.

Wendell:  Thanks for hosting this, Drew.  I had so much fun participating (arguing) with all of you.  You are all great sports and I love visiting your blogs.  I got to see a number of movies for the first time because of this project which I always appreciate even if I didn't always like what I saw.  So I was either going to see something good, or get to bitch about something bad.  I call that a win-win.  I also got to revisit a number of movies I had seen with fresh eyes.  It's always interesting to see how films hit you at different points of your life.  Thanks again to all of you for making this a memorable experience.

Jeffery:  Thanks everyone for the commentary and the trips down memory lane.  I found a few gems (esp. in the doc categories) I hadn't seen before and a few I'd like to never see again.  Some bland Best Picture wins and some exciting / challenging ones.  It's definitely a near 2-decade group of interesting cinema in all the categories.

Drew:  THANK YOU SO MUCH for doing this with me.  Like, this has been one of (if not THE) most rewarding experiences of my blogging life so far, and I owe it to each of you for taking the time to not only watch these films and give a grade, but debate and shape conversations and just be so passionate about what we were doing here.  I think this was something special, and yes Britt, every year!

Let's Get TRENDY!

Alright, it's our last hashtag!  For this week we're going with #DotDotDot from my freakout over the horrendousness that was Ida.  What better way to be remembered than by an epic meltdown!  So, get on Twitter and make us trendy, and be sure to leave your comments below.

And there is one more post coming...because there has to be a wrap up post...with a FULL RANKING!!!

36 comments:

  1. I rarely leave a comment on your 4 Ways posts but I've read so many of them, and have loved every minute!
    Brit's #DibbleMe just killed me by the way, I'm still laughing now.
    - Allie

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    1. I'm glad that you've enjoyed reading these! Don't be a stranger :-D

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  2. Great post! I've enjoyed following the series, even if I haven't seen a ton of films you talk about. I've already listed some of them to watch!

    I haven't seen the doc and foreign winners - Citizenfour is on my watch list, and Ida doesn't appeal that much to me. I've heard great things about both of them. I was expecting Force Majeure to get nominated, everyone was talking about that film as well. I liked Birdman, most especially the way it was shot. It's not my top film of the year though, really wished that Gone Girl was nominated for the category. Big Hero 6 is a great movie, but after a couple of rewatches, it kind of dies down. LEGO Movie should have also been nominated - my win for this would still go to Song of the Sea.

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    1. YAY! So glad you've enjoyed the series. We loved doing this, and we can't wait to tackle next year. I hope you do check out some of these titles. Even the terrible ones can be entertaining!

      Force Majeure was the only film that could have given Ida a run for its money...and it should have, because it's 1000 x's better!

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  3. YES! to all the Ida hate, one of the worst Foreign Film winners I can recount seeing, the fact that Force Majeure and Mommy didn't even get nominated pisses me off even more. And an even bigger YES to the Birdman love. It is one of my Top 5 favorite films of all time and definitely stands out as the 'Best' Best Picture winner from this millennium.

    I really enjoyed reading these posts and the conversations you guys had, will definitely miss this series.

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    1. UGH...Ida...LOATHE!

      Love the Birdman love as well, and thanks so much for loving these conversations.

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  4. The Best Picture winner till now. Better than The Artist and A Beautiful Mind and one of the only films (covered by this roundable) that you gave an A+. And for merit. 2014 is one of the best years in film in history: Under the Skin, Enemy, The Lego Movie, MOMMY, Gone Girl, The Grand Budapesta Hotel, Whiplash, Nightcrawler, 22 Jump Street, Inherent Vice, Interstellar, Boyhood, just greatness. I need to see Ida and Citizenfour, but Big Hero 6 was mediocre at best. Not that it had a Fall Out Boy song but it had the worst Fall Out Boy song of their new album.

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    1. Poor Fall Out Boy...

      And yes, 2014 was a brilliant year for film!

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  5. I still haven't seen Ida because I've just not been in the mood for slow contemplative "cold" cinema. I feel like it could go either way.

    Actually (and I feel terrible about this), the only winner from 2014 I've seen is Birdman, which is truly spectacular and deserved that win about a dozen times over, so YAY for all the love you guys expressed towards it. Although every time people praise it to the heavens for the "boldness" of shooting the whole thing designed to look like one shot, I kind of want to remind them of Irreversible, which did the same thing to very different ends. But I don't want to take anything away from Birdman, which is one of the best times I've had in the cinema both times I saw it.

    I've loved reading each and every single one of these! Kudos to all of you.

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    1. Irreversible took it a step further and shot it all backwards...which in actuality broke it up in vignettes and so it wasn't really as experimental with the whole 'one long shot' scenario. It was like 8 long shots played back to back to back.

      It was also so hard to stomach that I kind of want to forget I saw it...but can't.

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    2. LOL so true, at times I was worried that I was actually going to be sick, instead of just being emotionally queasy - the camerawork totally adds to the feeling of it, but the whole thing does look like one long shot. It's super impressive.

      Also, I have to add: I ain't mad at Eddie Redmayne's win. I wish Keaton had that Oscar as much as anyone, but the whole thing is null and void anyway since the actual best performance of the year - Ralph Fiennes in Grand Budapest Hotel - wasn't even nominated.

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    3. I nominate neither Keaton or Redmayne, so I honestly don't care either. Fiennes was FAR better than both, and honestly, Gleeson, Pilon, Crowe, O'Connell, Gyllenhaal and possibly even Tatum were better than any of the actual nominees and of the nominees I would have probably voted for Cooper, so whatever. It was an underwhelming ballot, to be honest.

      Redmayne's thirst was more interesting than his performance, though.

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    4. I quite liked the Best Actor ballot, actually, although it would have been improved by leaps and bounds if they nominated Tatum over Carell (I actually found that performance kind of insulting, so full was it of easy choices).

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    5. Carell's performance was so 'creepy villain 101' that it lacked any real substance. Tatum's performance had so many more layers.

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    6. THANK YOU. "Creepy Villain 101" with a bit of "mentally challenged" for "flavor". I never understand the praise of that performance.

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    7. Yeah...I was hopeful that Tatum's reviews out of Cannes would change the way Foxcatcher's Awards trajectory would go...but the same old tropes were embraced, unfortunately.

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  6. Yes, Drew, the Ida meltdown was EPIC! Actually, I'd forgotten how much vitriol we directed at that movie. Poor Jeff got shouted down on that one.

    By the way, I've since seen American Sniper.

    http://dellonmovies.blogspot.com/2015/09/american-sniper.html

    Thanks again, Drew and my fellow panelists. This was a blast!!!

    Thanks also to all of the readers who have been following along. Glad we were able to entertain you.

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    1. I meant to say earlier I dig that Jill Scott song. Had a blast with this as well! Awesome crew of bloggers to talk movies with!

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    2. Yeah...when I was compiling this and reread my Ida meltdown...I had a really big smile.

      And you guys were so awesome here. Like, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

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    3. And, I'm with Kevin. Dig the song as well. I've always liked Jill Scott (the singer)...lol...and then again...she's elevated her scenes in those Tyler Perry disasters, so I guess she's an alright actress as well.

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    4. If you haven't watched Jill Scott's HBO series, No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, you are missing out. The show is fun and she (and Anika Noni Rose) is fantastic in it. Loved her as a singer ever since she first appeared, and she's done some pretty great stuff as an actress, too.

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    5. I vaguely remember hearing about that show. I'm intrigued!

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  7. I still have to get my nerve up to watch Ida especially now with all the hate:) I have not seen Citizenfour or Big Hero. Big Hero doesn't impress me much. The credit for the Penguin movie intrigued me more than Big Hero. I am glad Birdman won and wished Keaton would have won. I found that film so memorable that I still think about months after seeing it. All of you did a great job discussing the films-congrats!

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  8. Citizenfour was probably scary than any horror film in recent memory and while you weren't crazy about it, I actually really liked Ida. Sure, there were other great foreign films that year (Two Days, One Night, Force Majeure, We Are The Best!, and my personal choice, Stranger By The Lake), but I thought Ida was great.

    Now onto Birdman. You know what is so exciting about the Oscar race? Even as one film begins sweeping everything, there is still one movie that you pull for to win the big prize and it eventually does. That was the case with Birdman as I rooted for it even when Boyhood was the early frontrunner. Boyhood was fine, but as it won every Best Picture award in the different critics circles, it was getting very overrated. I have seen Birdman a handful of times and I can always find something to appreciate about it. I literally lept with joy as it won Best Picture!

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    1. CITIZENFOUR was so unnerving. Like...it was terrifying.

      I hated...HATED Stranger By The Lake, but it automatically wins out over Ida for all the nudity, duh.

      Birdman is just so many notches above the rest of the nominated films. SO MANY.

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  9. I could've sworn I left a comment here yesterday - anywho. I'm a little more irritated at an Ida win then I was when we talked about this. Having seen Tangerines, I'm so annoyed that the conversation was always about either Ida or Leviathan when Tangerines was SO much better than both of those films! Ugh.

    Thanks again for hosting this. This was so much fun. :)

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    1. UGH, I need to see Tangerines!

      And right back at you, Britt. Thank you so much for being such a great addition to this panel. Loved all the conversations we've had.

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  10. This is the first week that I've only seen one of the four, Birdman. I had wanted to see CITIZENFOUR but it wasn't available when I checked, looks like it is now so I'll have to follow up on it.

    I didn't love Birdman but appreciated the craftmanship of the film. Keaton, Norton and Stone were all very good and I'm glad I watched it but I don't think it's anything I'd revisit.

    Even though I hadn't seen the others it was a pleasure to read the discussions about them. Sorry to see the series end but it was highly enjoyable while it lasted.

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    1. So glad to have you adding to the discussion every week. Love hearing from you, and so happy you enjoyed the discussions.

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  11. This was a really cool undertaking guys, and you've done such a good job. I've always enjoyed reading along and I, too, am a little devastated it's over. But there will always be more movies!

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    1. We're going to try and do this with every new year, so look forward to those!

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  12. This was a solid year for winners, though Big Hero 6 takes it down a notch for me. "Generic" describes it perfectly, even if it is mostly enjoyable.

    You know I'm a fan of Ida, so... :P

    Citizenfour is such an arresting film, and it's a great winner. The subject matter is fascinating, though I found it a bit too meat and potatoes in terms of doc filmmaking. A- for me.

    I wish I didn't have Mommy in 2014, so I could give Birdman the win for Best Picture. Like, Birdman is a film I'll watch more, but Mommy is the better one. :/ Awesome choice from the Academy!

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    1. I agree with you on the Mommy/Birdman front. It actually pained me to take the win away from Birdman, and you know how much I LOVED Mommy...so that shows how much I wanted Birdman to be recognized (but it still wins 3 Fistis).

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  13. For what it's worth, here's how I'd rank them:

    Birdman: B+/A-
    Citizenfour: A
    Big Hero 6: B-
    Ida: C-

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    1. Pretty much in line with our panel (although we had Birdman higher).

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