Every year before the Oscar's, I like to make a list of very deserving artists, be it actors, directors, writers, etc., that will 10 times out of 10 be completely ignored by the Academy and their categories. I try to stay away from omissions that are widely considered "snubs" (David Oyewolo, Jake Gyllenhaal, etc.) but every once in awhile a few will find their way in (like one in mine). So now, I'd like to share this list with you all:
The categories I would like to talk about are Actress, Actor, Director and Screenplay. Well enough of that, let's get to it!
Best Performance by an Actress
Essie Davis, The Babadook
Listen, I don't know about you guys, but The Babadook blew me away. it wasn't just one of the best horror films made in 2014, it was one of the best films made period. It may not have been "scary" in the traditional sense we think of horror films being, but the atmosphere created by director Jennifer Kent was suffocating, intense, and unrelenting- with Essie Davis at the center of it all. Her performance as a single mother trying to balance a full time job and raising her child, all while still grieving her husbands death, was quite remarkable and touching. Dealing with emotions like grief, anger, frustration and desperation, can often elicit some pretty awful performances from even the best of actors (i.e.- Al Pacino post Heat), Davis never moves the needle too far. Her moments of madness never seem campy or over the top, her moments of weakness never overly dramatic, she walked a tightrope and gave a tour-de-force performance.
A film this metaphorical not only needs a talented director, but a world class performance from a superstar actor, and Essie Davis knocked this one out of the park.
Best Performance by an Actor
Matthew McConaughey, Interstellar
A lof has been made about the negatives of Interstellar, whether it be the plot holes or the sound design and mixing, but I don't hear to many people talking about what this film did right. One of the things I took away from such a huge film, was the heart of it: Matthew McConaughey. In a film with such big, bombastic moments, Matthew McConaughey kept the film grounded with his superb, emotional performance as a reluctant astronaut chosen to help find a new inhabitance for mankind. In my opinion, Interstellar boils down to being about a father's devotion to his daughter and trying desperately to keep his promise to her. McConaughey really drives this notion throughout the film and I believed every second of it. He was endearing, determined and fiery in his pursuit of his goal and it raised what was at stake to me.
Interstellar is the best movie going experience of my life and it took me to places far, far away from here, and Matthew McConaughey was at the heart of that journey.
Tom Hardy, Locke
Tom hardy is one of the best actors working today and yet somehow is never in that discussion. From Bronson to The Drop, Warrior to The Dark Knight Rises, Tom Hardy shines no matter the role, and his performance in the one man show Locke is no exception. For 85 minutes, the camera is on Tom Hardy playing a construction manager who receives a life changing phone call. In a car. The whole time. Because of this, the film is heavy on dialogue, naturally, since there are no scenes outside the car. In spite of this, Tom Hardy often times shows more emotion when he is not speaking, thanks to the distinction of "most expressive eyes in Hollywood". I just made up that distinction right now so don't look it up or anything, it's not official....yet. As Bane in the blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises, his performance was all body language and eyes (most expressive in Hollywood!!). Being that he is sitting down the entire time, Hardy had to convey all of the complex emotions he experiences with his eyes and facial expressions.
Tom Hardy has never played the same character twice and I get lost in whomever he's playing. Can't wait to see him in Mad Max!
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
Here's one of the snubs I was talking about that manage to sneak in. How this man was not nominated for best director is mind boggling to me. Damien Chazelle's directorial debut, Whiplash, about a promising young drummer attending an elite music conservatory and is mentored by a ruthless instructor, is a filmmaking tour-de-force. From the opening shot, the camera slowly pushing into Miles Teller playing the drums in a room, Whiplash grabs you and never lets go. Chazelle maintains a break neck pace barreling toward one HELL of a climax, all while pulling a career best performance from JK Simmons and a career making performance from Miles Teller, and managing to find time to incorporate small, but essential, character moments that make these characters believable and, most importantly, relatable - something a lot of young filmmakers lose sight of.
The sky is the limit for Chazelle and it's scary to think he can only get better. I will anxiously await the announcement of his next project, one which I will be first in line for.
Best Original Screenplay:
Obvious Child, Gillian Robespierre
Obvious Child follows a single, twenty-something comedienne, played wonderfully by Jenny Slate, as she deals with her unplanned pregnancy and being thrust into reality and independent womanhood for the first time. It is also brilliant. Gillian Robespierre constructed a very real, bittingly funny take on a woman's coming of age story that, for one reason or another, feels very timely. The protagonist must deal with her immaturity, her sense of entitlement, and take responsibility for her actions - the action being a one night stand where she winds up pregnant. Jenny Slate masterfully brings Donna Stern to life and manages to make you want to go on this journey with her and root for her. But the most poignant moment in the script is when Donna begins to ponder having an abortion. Without giving too much away, Slate and Robespierre handle such a contentious and divisive issue with such class, believability and raw emotion that it is an absolute shame this script, and film as well, have gone so unnoticed.
Robespierre should be a writer to watch for many years and I look forward to hearing more of her unique voice!
Well there you have it, folks! Feel free to comment and let me know what your thoughts are or if you would like to add some of your own favorites!