The 2014 Floyd Film Awards and Top 10 List

linklater-boyhood-trailer

2014 was full of flawed and frustrating films. It’s been a while since so many films have left me as disappointed as they did this year. Few films are ever even subjectively perfect (and then we’d have to debate what exactly perfect is) but I think what characterized my frustration with many films this year was that too many were flawed in the wrong way: they were uninterestingly flawed. Too many films either played it safe, had some inexplicable lazy elements, or recanted on their themes or forms instead of going all the way in their assertions or formal explorations. And then some didn’t have the substance to justify what they did do. I didn’t see nearly as many movies as I’d hoped, but I was let down by so many that I did see that at times I wasn’t quite sure I’d find 10 movies that I’d feel comfortable being on a year-end list (I’m still only really comfortable with my top 6).

In the end, I think my top 10 list is full of the 10 interesting and principled flawed films (in retrospect, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, for what it is, may be a perfect movie so I guess I have some genre bias even in my imaginary award show) that took chances, were formally interesting, or were not afraid to go places where they might fail. A few emblematic examples: Enemy may be a brilliant film or a pretentious con-job, and while I’ve obviously leaned to one side I’m still not quite sure, but it gave me a lot to think about marriage. Selma is partially on the list to correct the wrongheaded assumption that I’ve read from some Academy voters that it’s not “that good of a movie”; while it had its formulaic moments, it also had some deeply important ones. Every year a movie or two get released, often about history, that claims its the “most important movie of the year.” Selma was the rare one of these films that felt contemporarily vital. The Overnighters may suffer from being a movie that ends up dealing with everything, but at the same time it’s also a movie about everything (America, Christianity, community, capitalism, etc.)  and is it fair to fault a movie for being unwieldy when the real life situations it is chronicling are equally contradictory and turbulent? That last question could also easily apply to Inherent Vice, a flawed, confusing, and self-indulgent film that nearly perfectly expresses the flaws, confusion, and self-indulgence of its time, place, and characters.

In deciding on the “best” movie I went with the film that affected me the most even though its selection is obvious and unadventurous (in fact, my top 10 is comprised mostly by which films affected me the most; or more correctly, the 9 movies that affected me plus the Lego Movie which was just awesome). There was something about the temporal nature of Boyhood  that I can’t quite describe. To say that it’s just a coming of age film with a gimmick is partially true, but dismissive. Still, it points to the fact that there is some kind of indexicality to the passing of time. That seeing these actors age on screen in the rather meandering way that Linklater makes his films, was experiencing time in a way that I haven’t experienced watching a film before. Now, how much of this was contained on screen? Did I really see the marks of the 4th dimension like those early cinema spectators watching noticing the physical manifestations of the wind shake the leaves in that Lumiere film? Or was I influenced by extra-textual information; that I had, through the information that this was made over 12 years, bought into some kind of suggestion that changed my experience watching the film? Either way, and not to dismiss those questions, the reason that this film affected me so much was that, as someone entering their 30’s and struggling (again) a little bit trying to figure out how I fit into the world as an actual, real life adult, seeing characters struggle with getting older hit home. I thought about the film to the point that I had a dream about it, and I think if that ever happens it’s the ultimate success a film can have.  The film also probably gained a ton of bonus points for its brilliant use (dang, that’s right, I have an unfinished article about this that I need to finish and publish on here) of the Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, my favorite album of all-time, in a crucial scene and “Deep Blue” is the best, most perfect, end credits choice since Max Fisher danced off to “Ooh La La.”

Best Film:

  1. Boyhood
  2. Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons
  3. The Overnighters
  4. Under the Skin
  5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  6. The Lego Movie
  7. Inherent Vice
  8. Blue Ruin
  9. Selma
  10. Enemy

Barely missed: A Most Violent Year, Citizenfour

My 7 Favorite Movies of 2014:

  1. The Lego Movie
  2. Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons
  3. Housebound
  4. Top Five
  5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  6. Get on Up
  7. The Raid 2

Best Documentary: The Overnighters

Best Director: Jonathan Glazer, Under the Skin

Best Actress: Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin

Runner up: Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Best Actor: Jake Gyllenhaal, Enemy and Nightcrawler

Runner up: Chadwick Boseman, Get On Up

Best Sup. Actress: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Runner Up: Carrie Coon, Gone Girl

Best Sup. Actor: Gary Poulter, Joe

Runner up:Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice

Best Short acting performance: Alison Pill, Snowpeircer

Best Cameo: DMX, Top Five

Best Performance by a young actor:Noah Wiseman, The Babadook

Best Voice Over/Narration/Voice Acting:  Morgan Freeman, The Lego Movie

The Andy Serkis honorary motion capture/puppetry/misc. performance award: Toby Kebbell, Dawn of the Planet…

Best Stuntwork/Choreography: The Raid 2

MVP in a less-than great movie: Randall Park, The Interview

Best Original Screenplay:  Top Five

Best Adapted Screenplay:The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Editing: Whiplash

Best Cinematography: Ida

Best Art Direction:The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Animated Film: The Lego Movie

Best Horror Film: Housebound

Achievement in Comedy (aka the funniest movie): 22 Jump Street

Achievement in Genre Filmmaking Subversion: Blue Ruin

Best Original Score: Birdman

Best Adapted Score: Boyhood

Best Sound Design: Under the Skin

Best Poster: Borgman

Best Trailer:The Raid 2

Best Title/Credits sequence: The Lego Movie

Award for Indigenous Filmmaking: Rhymes for Young Ghouls

This was a great year for Indigenous cinema, so unlike some years this was a difficult to pick a winner. Is this a problematic film? Sure. But this film has a fire, energy, and individual visual style to it that Native cinema desperately needs more of.

Award for religious filmmaking: Selma

As explanation, I’ll cross-reference this Twitter essay by Matt Zoller Seitz.

Award for political filmmaking: Citizenfour

Entertainers of the Year: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, The Lego Movie/22 Jump Street

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