"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

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2014 MICKEY™® AWARDS

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the First Annual Mickey™® Awards!! In the crowded field of awards, be it the Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, Tonys or even The Nobel Prizes, The Mickeys™ ® are the ultimate award, the pinnacle of artistic achievement, the highest honor known to mankind! 

A quick rundown of the rules and regulations of The Mickeys™®…The Mickeys are selected by me. I am judge, jury and executioner. The only films eligible are films I have actually seen, be it in the theatre, via screener or VOD. I do not see every film because as we all know, the overwhelming majority of films are not even remotely worth seeing, and I am a working man so I must be pretty selective. So that means that just getting me to watch your movie is an accomplishment in and of itself…never mind being nominated or even winning!

The Prizes!! The winners of The Mickey® award will receive one acting coaching session with me FOR FREE!!! Yes…you read that right…FOR FREE!! Non-acting category winners receive a free lunch* with me at Fatburger (*lunch is considered one 'sandwich' item, one order of small fries ,you aren't actors so I know you can eat carbs, and one beverage….yes, your beverage can be a shake). Actors who win and don't want an acting coaching session but would prefer the lunch…can go straight to hell…there are NO SUBSTITUTIONS with The Mickey™® Awards prizes. But if you want to go to lunch and we each pay our own way, or better yet, you pay for me... that is cool.

Ok…so sit back…relax….and enjoy the first annual Mickey™® Awards!!

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

The nominees are...

Robert Elswit - Inherent Vice + Nightcrawler : Elswit had a hell of a year with these two great films. He has done extraordinary work with P.T. Anderson in the past, most notably with Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood. I love Elswit's work, it is so beautiful and precise that it leaves me slack jawed time and again, and Inherent Vice and Nightcrawler are no exceptions. Just truly, truly phenomenal work.

Robert Yoeman - Grand Budapest Hotel : Grand Budapest Hotel is such an odd and quirky looking film and Yoeman is to thank for that. He creates such an original and unique visual look and feel to this film that it feels like some sort of dark and bizarre child's storybook come to life.

Bradford Young - Selma + A Most Violent Year : Bradford Young is not someone I had heard of before this year. After watching Selma and A Most Violent Year, I think we are going to be hearing a lot more about him in the years to come. He brings a particular look to his films that gives them a distinct visual texture.

Dick Pope - Mr. Turner : As I wrote in the review of Mr. Turner, if you stopped the projector and put a frame around any scene in the film, you could hang it in any museum in the world. Pope's work is just staggeringly incredible. Pope recreates the world as the genius painter Turner saw it, with vibrant colors and vivd textures. Even in the more basic scenes, set inside where the visuals could have been mundane, Popes framing and use of shadow is the work of a true master.

Larry Smith - Calvary : What I loved about Smith's work in Calvary is that he helped tell the story with his visuals. There are long shots of sweeping Irish vistas, or a lone mountain off in the distance, or the relentless surf crashing against the frail Irish seaside cliffs, and all of those beautiful shots helped to convey the internal life of the main character and the grander symbolic story the film tries to tell. 

And the winner isDICK POPE - MR. TURNER: Robert Elswit seemingly had this award wrapped up. His work in Inherent Vice and Nightcrawler was staggeringly good and put him out way ahead of anyone else. But then I went and saw Mr. Turner and was left stunned at the unbelievable intricacy and beauty of Dick Pope's work. Pope put on a masterful display with his cinematography in Mr. Turner, and gets a much deserved, and highly coveted Mickey award for his ingenious work.

BEST SCREENPLAY

The nominees are...

Birdman - Birdman is a really strong script, maybe even great, but it has one flaw…it bungles its ending and therefore disrupts the rhythm of the film. Everything leading up to the ending, and aborted endings, is fantastic though.

Inherent Vice - Inherent Vice is adapted from the Thomas Pynchon novel of the same name. The story is so complex as to be staggering, yet the script is able to pull everything together and keep things coherent enough on multiple layers to make the film a success. Inherent Vice is politically, mysteriously and psychologically captivating and at times hysterically funny.

Whiplash - Whiplash is a really tight film with no wasted effort or energy. The script is the same way, with no fat to cut, and that is a true rarity in film these days.

Pride - The script for Pride is a true gem, bringing together historical fact and personal fiction to create an intimate story with great heart. The pitfalls that Pride faced were numerous, from the trap of sentimentality to preachiness to the very tangible danger of losing its pace, but the well honed script keeps it all on the right track. Pride is political but not preachy, funny but not cloying, emotionally vibrant but not maudlin.

Nightcrawler - Nightcrawler is such great script because it gives us a peek into a world we never get to see, the specific world of the seedy L.A. night and the news hounds and misfits who cover it. Every character is an original, and every character's arc brings surprises and growth.

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And the winner is…PRIDE : Stephen Beresford's script is incredibly well done and was able to pull ahead of the tied for second place Whiplash and Inherent Vice to win this years Mickey. Whiplash's script was great, but it was really the execution that made that film shine, and Inherent Vice had one helluva well written script, but in the final analysis it just couldn't push past Pride for the win.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

The nominees are...

Imelda Staunton - Pride : As with Best Supporting Actor nominee Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton is an old school British actor of the highest order. Her work in Pride is so exacting, detailed and above all else, grounded, that she perfectly inhabits a role that is representative of not only a single individual but of the entire region of southern Wales. The scene where Nighy and Staunton quietly make sandwiches together should be mandatory viewing for actors and directors alike for it's subtlety, simplicity and storytelling effectiveness.

Tilda Swinton - Snowpiercer : Tilda Swinton's middle manager mini-Hitler in Snowpiercer is a piece of great acting because it embraces it's absurdity while never embellishing it. Swinton possesses a rare and particular talent that is impossible to duplicate which she uses to fill even the most outrageous characters with a wounded yet powerful humanity.

Emma Stone - Birdman : Emma Stone goes head to head with not only Michael Keaton but also Edward Norton in Birdman and she does more than just hold her own, she shines. Stone is so good in Birdman, her work so effortless yet effective, that she nearly steals the whole show. Her monologue with her father (Keaton) when he accuses her of using drugs, is so driven and honest that it is staggering. I have always liked Emma Stone, and found her to be an appealing persona, but after Birdman I more than like her…I deeply respect her.

Kelly Reilly - Calvary : Kelly Reilly, much like her Calvary counter part Brendan Gleason, has an energy about her that compels the viewer to look closer, and when they look closer a deeply ingrained, mysterious and profound sadness becomes evident. Reilly fills her character in Calvary with a vivid internal life that seeps out of her every pore and radiates it's darkness onto every scene she inhabits. Reilly is a serious and quality actress and her work in Calvary hints at even greater success in her future.

Jessica Chastain - A Most Violent Year : Chastain is in the midst of a pretty incredible run of performances over the last bunch of years. She has gone from being a nobody to establishing herself as arguably the best actress working today seemingly overnight. Of course, it wasn't overnight, she has spent her entire life honing her craft, so much so that her work is almost always seamless. In A Most Violent Year, Chastain once again lights up the screen with her intensity, luminous talent and skill, so much so that the film should have made her the center piece of the film. As is usually the case, this film needs more Jessica Chastain, not less.

Rene Russo - Nightcrawler : Rene Russo quietly gives a subtle and exacting performance as a TV news producer on the downside of her career in Nightcrawler. It could be argued that Russo herself is on the downside of her Hollywood career, having been absent many years from the scene of major films. But in Nightcrawler, she creates a smart and savvy character with specific intentions and purpose. The scene where Gyllenhaal's Lou Bloom extorts Russo for sex is absolutely fantastic because Russo is so internally alive while maintaining her exterior mask. It is a great scene and Russo is a terrific asset to one of the best films of the year.

And the winner is…EMMA STONE - BIRDMAN : Stone's work in Birdman really impressed the hell out of me the first time I saw it, and after watching it again it catapulted her to victory in The Mickey's over the British juggernaut Imelda Staunton. Both performances were really solid but I thought Stone really brought it all together in her monologue with Keaton (the drug use accusation scene). Congrats to Ms. Stone, I look forward to your collecting on your much deserved prize.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

The nominees are...

Edward Norton - Birdman : Norton, not unlike his co-star Keaton, portrays a character that is uncomfortably close to his actual professional persona. Norton is so good in Birdman in a role that so many other lesser actors would have turned into caricature that is is difficult to overstate. Norton is one of the great actors of his generation and yet is terribly undervalued and under appreciated. I hope that his work this year in both Birdman and Grand Budapest Hotel signals a return to working in  high quality films deserving of his talents and efforts.

J.K. Simmons - Whiplash : Simmons is an old pro, having been around for along time as a blue collar, working actor. Whiplash was his chance to devour the type of role that he had been waiting his whole career to get offered. He doesn't disappoint. The thought of another, maybe more famous actor, playing Simmon's role in Whiplash, makes me shudder at the thought of a lesser skilled, bigger name just playing the bluster and not embodying the focused fury like Simmon's did. Due to the usual Hollywood name-game, J.K. Simmons may not get another shot to play a role as great as this, but boy did he absolutely slay this dragon.

Bill Nighy - Pride : I've been surprised and disappointed that Pride has not received more awards love this year. It is a really well made film filled with intricately detailed performances by a whole host of actors and actresses. Bill Nighy may not have the most showy of all the parts in Pride, but he does such pain staking, heart breaking and meticulous work in it that he stands out above an exceedingly excellent cast.

Josh Brolin - Inherent Vice : Josh Brolin goes toe to toe with Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice and not only survives but thrives. Brolin is so good in Inherent Vice that it is shocking. There is never a hint of self awareness or the whiff of performance in his committed portrayal of a conservative cop/ part-time actor named Bigfoot. Brolin chews the scenery like he chews a platter of weed and the film is substantially enhanced by his stand out performance.

Michael Fassbender - Frank : The biggest disappointment with the film Frank is that it wastes and often times ignores the truly stellar work that Michael Fassbender does in it. Fassbender's Frank wears a giant paper mache head throughout the majority of the film, yet Fassbender is able to create a vivd and specific character even under the that over-sized mask. Fassbender radiates a genuine humanity and tenderness that is really fascinating to watch. And when the paper mache head comes off, Fassbender is so captivating it is breath taking. It is just a shame that his performance wasn't more a focus of the film.

Toby Kebbell as Koba - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes : I know what you're thinking…how can a CGI monkey be nominated for the holiest of holies…a Mickey Award? Well…let me first say that Koba is not a monkey…he is a Bonobo, one of the great apes. I only point this out because apes get really touchy about being called monkeys…and rightfully so. Secondly…and this is the truth...Koba is the Marlon Brando of ape actors. This character is so spectacular, and so well done, that I kept wishing that he killed Ceasar and we could look forward to two or three more Koba films. Toby Kebbel 'plays' Koba, and is almost never mentioned, while Andy Serkis who plays Ceasar gets all the love. Not to take anything away from Serkis, who is a genius in his own right, but Kebbell's Koba is an absolute masterpiece, and I really mean that. The scene where he plays the fool for the humans in order to get their weapons and kill them, is as good as anything seen on film this year. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is an entertaining, though not great film, but Koba is such great character, and Kebbell does such extraordinary work in it, that he is more than deserving of this Mickey nomination.

And the winner isJ.K. SIMMONS - WHIPLASH : This was an excruciatingly close race. At one point every sinlge actor on this list had some time in the lead. As stated previously, I watched Birdman just a few weeks ago for the second time and Norton edged ever closer to Simmons, but Simmons held on for the much deserved win.

 

BEST ACTOR 

The nominees are...

Miles Teller - Whiplash : Miles Teller is absolutely phenomenal in Whiplash. He brings both physical and emotional precision to a role that a lesser actor would have filled with wandering ambiguity. I was fortunate enough to be able to read the script prior to filming, and the thing that stuck out to me was that this film could have been an absolute disaster depending on who was cast in the lead (and the skill of the director). I am thrilled that Teller was the perfect actor for the part, and his performance is the cornerstone upon which the film is built, without him it all crumbles.

Michael Keaton - Birdman : Michael Keaton, like the mythological Phoenix, has arisen from the ashes of his smoldering career. Keaton, with his Batman history, makes Birdman more than just an insider's look at life in the acting world, but artfully blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. For all of Keaton's prior success, one can't help but feel that his career never lived up to his proficient talent, but with Birdman, Keaton is able to spread his acting wings and hit the artistic heights that seems so imminent all those years ago.

Ralph Fiennes - Grand Budapest Hotel : Ralph Fiennes has always been an exquisitely detailed and specific actor who creates characters with a certain external restraint yet a meticulous internal complexity. In Grand Budapest Hotel, he proves once again that he is a craftsmen of the highest order. Prior to Grand Budapest Hotel, no one would have ever thought of Fiennes as a comedic actor, but here he brings all his technique and talent to bear, and the results are as spectacular as anything he has done in his many much revered and praise worthy dramatic roles.

Jake Gyllenhaal - Nightcrawler : To me Jake Gyllenhaal has never really hit his stride as an artist. His performance in Brokeback Mountain was good, but was overshadowed by the vastly superior work of Heath Ledger. His earlier work in Donnie Darko was interesting, but more quirky than powerful. His forays into potential stardom were underwhelming at best. In Nightcrawler though, Gyllenhaal hits his full stride as an actor and absolutely crushes the role. He owns the screen in a way that he has never been able to before. His commitment to such a bizarre and intense character required not only charisma and skill, but copious amounts of focus and energy. His performance is magnetic and repulsive all at the same time, which is a testament to his talent and his artistry.

Brendan Gleason - Calvary : Gleason's performance in Calvary is so finely crafted that it is easy to overlook, as the other, lesser awards (I'm looking at you, Oscar!!) have all done. Gleason brings such a ponderance and history to his character that his performance is the center of gravity for the film, and keeps the story and other characters and from spinning off into oblivion. Gleason tells the entire complicated story of his character, the Irish people, and the Catholic church, with nothing more than a poignant look during a close up. Gleason is one of the truly great, and under appreciated actors of his time.

Joaquin Phoenix - Inherent Vice : Speaking of one of the great actors of their time…Joaquin Phoenix is as original and genius an actor as we have working in film today. He brings the same intense commitment as a Daniel Day-Lewis, but combines it with an unnervingly wild unpredictability. Phoenix is an otherworldly talent and a master craftsman. His work in Inherent Vice is just another in a long line of remarkable performances in the last few years.

And the winner is….MICHAEL KEATON - BIRDMAN : This was a tough one. Miles Teller was actually in the lead until I watched Birdman for a second time just last week. Keaton's performance is really fantastic, just a truly superb job by the crafty Hollywood veteran. Teller got beaten by a nose this year, but I have a funny feeling we are going to be hearing a lot more from him in the future.

BEST ACTRESS

The nominees are...

Reese Witherspoon - Wild : Reese Witherspoon is as good as she has ever been in Wild. She fully commits to her flawed character by rolling around in the muck and mire of her messy life, but maintains enough of her movie star charisma and magnetism to keep us watching and caring. It is a credit to Witherspoon that she took a part that might mussy up her good girl image. I hope she keeps going in this direction because she can be really interesting when she isn't held back by the expectations of others and the market place.

Julianne Moore - Still Alice : Julianne Moore is as consistently great an actress as we have in the film world. She may not always choose the greatest projects, but when her mastery of craft and voluminous talent are given the right material with which to soar, she is as good as it gets. Still Alice is, at it's best, a barely mediocre film, but Moore's work in it is a master class in the art of acting.

Charlotte Gainsbourg - Nymphomaniac : Charlotte Gainsbourg, unquestionably, had the most difficult role of any of the actresses nominated. In Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac, Gainsbourg plays a woman who is simultaneously degraded and empowered, desecrated and sanctified. The overwhelming complexity of her work is only overshadowed by her mammoth courage in agreeing to take it on. 

Felicity Jones - The Theory of Everything : While Eddie Redmayne's performance is the one getting all the attention, it is Jones work that is the straw that stirs the drink of The Theory of Everything. Jones brings a charisma and genuineness that drives the entirety of the film. While Redmayne's acting may be more externally impressive, Jones subtly crafted performance is the heart and soul of the film.

And the winner is…JULIANNE MOORE - STILL ALICE : Witherspoon and Jones both give solid performances, but it was actually Charlotte Gainsbourg who comes in second to Moore. Julianne Moore in Still Alice gives a master class in maintaining a vivid interior life and focus that every actor can learn from.

BEST ENSEMBLE

The nominees are...

Pride : Pride boasts a myriad of really outstanding performances, including but not limited to, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine, Dominic West and Jessica Gunning. Nighy and Staunton have already received Mickey nominations, but three other actors deserve particular recognition for their stand out work, Ben Schnetzer, Andrew Scott and George MacKay. Pride is filled with consistently outstanding acting across the board.

Inherent Vice : Inherent Vice showcases magnificent work from Joaquin Phoenix and Josh Brolin, both Mickey nominees, but also boasts sterling supporting acting from the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro, Owen Wilson, Jena Malone and Katherine Waterson. The acting in Inherent Vice is top notch from top to bottom.

 Selma : Selma highlights a cornucopia of solid and sometimes spectacular acting, the most notable of which is David Oyolowo (as MLK), Carmen Ejogo ( as Coretta King), Tim Roth, Tom Wilkinson, Stephen James and Wendell Pierce. While there are some casting mis-steps (Oprah!!), the overall excellence of the cast more than overcomes them.

Mr. Turner : Mike Leigh, the director of Mr. Turner, is an actor's director. In Mr. Turner Leigh inspires distinguished performances from a wide array of talent, the most notable of which is Timothy Spall in the lead. Mr. Turner also sports a plethora of solid supporting performances which include Dorothy Atkinson, Marion Bailey, Paul Jesson, Lesley Manville and Martin Savage. The acting is so good in Mr. Turner that even the background actors give noticeably impressive performances which is a credit to their commitment, professionalism and most likely, their respect for their esteemed director.

 Birdman : The cast of Birdman is filled with well known actors and actresses and all of them give impressive performances and none of them strike a single off-note. Michael Keaton, Edward Norton and Emma Stone have their precious Mickey nominations in hand, but Zach Galifinakis, Andrea Riseborough, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan and Lindsay Duncan are all magnificent as well.

 Grand Budapest Hotel : The cast of Grand Budapest Hotel is a vaunted and preeminent bunch. Ralph Fiennes, Edward Norton, F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Saoirse Ronan, Tilda Swinton, Willem Dafoe and Matthew Amalric to name but a few. The acting in Grand Budapest Hotel is absolutely superb on all fronts.

And the winner is…PRIDE : This was a very tough one, but Pride just ekes out the victory over Birdman, with Grand Budapest Hotel, Inherent Vice and Mr. Turner all tied percentage points behind the winner. All of the nominees boasted absolutely stellar casts and performances. I couldn't go wrong with any choice I made, but I just thought Pride was the all-around best cast this year.

BREAK THROUGH PERFORMER OF THE YEAR

Rocco the Pitbull - The Drop : I liked The Drop. I thought it was a well made film. Tom Hardy does a very good job in it as does the late James Gandolfini. But the actor who steals the show is Rocco the Pitbull. Rocco grows from the most adorable puppy ever to the most adorable full grown pit bull ever in the course of the film. I love pit bulls, they are some of the greatest dogs I have ever known. It has been my experience that the worst pit bull I have ever met is still considerably better than the best person I have ever known. Rocco the Pitbull is easily the actor I'd want to spend my free time with. I hereby declare that Rocco is eligible for a free lifetime supply of acting coaching...or games of tug-of-war…his choice.

BEST DIRECTOR

The nominees are...

Damien Chazelle - Whiplash : In the hands of a lesser director, Whiplash would have been an absolute disaster. Chazelle, his first time directing a feature, creates a compelling and energetic film that pulsates with life. The difficulties of making a film about music cannot be overstated, but Chazelle proves himself to not only be a great talent, but a craftsman with a deft touch.

Wes Anderson - Grand Budapest Hotel : Grand Budapest Hotel is a sprawling film that is able to focus on very intricate details. Only a director of immense talent and skill could have pulled this film off. Wes Anderson has not always been so precise in his films in the recent past, but with Grand Budapest Hotel he shows once again that he is a grand artist with a truly original vision.

P.T. Anderson - Inherent Vice : PT Anderson is the greatest filmmaker working today. His artistry is not encumbered by the market or the box office. He is a visionary filmmaker and storyteller, but his greatest asset is his ability to conjure the absolute best from his actors. The combination of visual virtuosity, storytelling complexity and mastery, and artistic/dramatic collaboration is so very rare as to be nearly unheard of in one individual director. PT Anderson is at the height of his artistic powers, an unrivaled master, and we should all enjoy the ride while we can.

Lars von Trier - Nymphomaniac : Nymphomaniac is as ambitious and courageous an artistic undertaking as any film made this year. Only Lars von Trier could have made Nymphomaniac and only he could have made it not just interesting but meaningful. von Trier's work has always been somewhat controversial, but he is in my mind, the greatest writer and director when it comes to woman-centered stories and the exploration of the female perspective. Nymphomaniac is not for everyone, but for those with an inquisitive artistic mind and taste, it is a tour-de-force by a truly original filmmaker.

Dan Gilroy - Nightcrawler : Dan Gilroy has been a working writer in Hollywood for years, and Nightcrawler is his directorial debut. The film is a so visually striking and is such an interesting and well crafted film that it is astounding that this is Gilroy's first time behind the camera. 

Matthew Warchus - Pride : Pride very easily could have become a rather cloying, sentimental film that tries to manipulate rather than the film it was, exquisitely acted, beautifully told and wonderfully entertaining. Warchus is the reason the film never veered into the dreaded world of sentimentality. He also keeps a large and talented cast all moving in the same direction and at the same pace, no small task. 

Alejandro Gonzalez Innaratu - Birdman : Another ambitious film, with superb performances and a subtly impressive visual style. Innaratu can be hit or miss with his films, and he definitely hits with Birdman. The most important part of the film is the thing he got the most correct, the casting. Keaton, Norton and Stone are all perfect fits for roles that could easily have been bungled.

And the winner is…DAMIEN CHAZELLE - WHIPLASH : This was another loaded category, but Whiplash is such an impressively well made film, so tight and solid, without a wasted scene, moment or beat, that Chazelle earned The Mickey™®. The rest of the nominees did stupendous work as well, but Chazelle was the one who stood out from the rest of this remarkably talented crowd. 

BEST PICTURE

1. Whiplash THE WINNER!!! Whiplash had it all…great performances, a compelling story and tight direction. It is a universal and mythological story of a young man's quest for greatness. Please see my full review here.  Whiplash .

2. Birdman : Birdman came so close to being a transcendently great film, but it bungles it's ending, which in many ways neutered the film. It still has truly fantastic performances across the board. See my full review here. Birdman .

3. Pride : Pride is a really enjoyable and entertaining film filled with superb performances. As my dear friend Lady Pumpernickle-Dusseldorf said after seeing it for the second time, "Pride may not be the best film of the year, but it is my favorite film of the year!"  Well said m'Lady, well said. See my full review here. Pride .

4. Inherent Vice : Inherent Vice is the most complex and layered film I've seen this year. It was both a joy to watch and to try figure out. P.T. Anderson weaves together a crazy story with a whole bunch of mesmerizing psychological and political themes that kept me thinking about it for weeks after seeing it. See my full review here. Inherent Vice .

5. Nightcrawler : I had zero expectations before seeing Nightcrawler. I hand't heard anything about it, and I admit that the commercials didn't entice me at all. But I was just blown away by how great a film it was. The story is captivating, the acting fantastic, the characters original and the visuals outstanding. I really loved Nightcrawler, I hope a lot more people get a chance to see it. Check out my full review here. Nightcrawler .

6. Grand Budapest Hotel : When Wes Anderson broke on the scene about twenty years ago with Bottle Rocket, one of my favorite films, I was all aboard the Wes Anderson train. He didn't disappoint me with his follow up films Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. But then I thought he started to lose his fastball. In the films over the last few years I have been bored with his approach. 2012's Moonrise Kingdom was well received by others but not be me. I had grown tired of Anderson's film formula, which I boiled down to this, 'have children act like adults, and adults act like children'. So when I reluctantly went and saw Grand Budapest Hotel I had low expectations. But, boy, was I blown away. What an incredibly well made and interesting film. I was captivated the entire time I watched. The thing that stood out to me was this film had a much darker edge to it than Anderson had allowed in his more recent films. Yes, it is still a Wes Anderson film, and is chronically quirky, but this is like Schindler's List compared to Moonrise Kingdom. In the final analysis, I loved Grand Budapest Hotel and am really hoping that Wes Anderson has gotten his fastball back. 

7. Calvary : I loved Brendan Gleason's and Kelly Reilly's work in Calvary, and was really impressed by Larry Smith's cinematography. The film does struggle due to some uneven performances by it's supporting cast, but beside that I really enjoyed the film. I was particularly interested in the deeper themes with which the film attempted to wrestle. See my full review here. Calvary .

8. Mr. Turner : As I said in my review, Dick Pope's cinematography is worth the price of admission to go see this film. Timothy Spall's acting, along with the rest of the cast, is very good as well. The storytelling lacks a certain focus and the drama can be meandering at times, but regardless of that complaint, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. See my full review here. Mr. Turner .

9. Nymphomaniac : I realize that this film is not for everyone. I was admittedly pretty apprehensive about seeing Volume One. But as I watched it I was just blown away by it and then watched Volume Two. Lars von Trier creates a really unique and fascinating film. The scenes between Gainesbourg and Skarsgard are like something you'd see in a really great black box theatre production. The sex is pretty graphic, but is used to great effect, not to tittilate, but to explore the character and propel the story. I found the film to be really well made and with a few notable exceptions, well acted. 

10. Snowpiercer : Snowpiercer is just such an original story and film that you can't help but like it. It is more than just some sci-fi action movie. It is actually a really interesting social, political, philosophical and spiritual exploration that is enhanced by it's action and science fiction background. It is well worth your time.

MOST IMPORTANT FILM OF THE YEAR

Kill the Messenger : I had high hopes for Kill the Messenger prior to seeing it. I knew a decent amount about the film's protagonist, journalist Gary Webb, and his work uncovering CIA involvement in drug trafficking from Latin America into major U.S. cities. I had also read a bit about how the media establishment, at the behest of the CIA, went about diabolically and systematically destroying Gary Webb's career and in turn his life.

I enjoyed the film but only because I knew so much of the material already. I think the film was a failure though because it tried to do to many things and ended up not really accomplishing any of them. The film never explained to the uninitiated what exactly Webb uncovered, how massive the scheme was, and how incredibly important that information is, not only to people then, but to citizens today. I thought the film needed to use the same techniques that Oliver Stone used so effectively in JFK, namely the use of archival footage, real and imagined news footage and stories to show the broader, very vast picture in a more clear and concise way. 

That said, I thought Jeremy Renner did a really great job as Webb and the entire cast did excellent work. But none of those are the reasons why I think Kill the Messenger is the most important film of the year. Kill the Messenger is the most important film because it shows us what our government and its minions are capable of. If you stop to consider what the CIA was up to with its drug trafficking operation, and how the media was more than happy to be complicit in its cover up, and then you project forward to today and wonder what exactly is going on now and in the intervening years that we don't know about since we don't have a Gary Webb to uncover it. Kill the Messenger is important because it may open at least a few people's eyes as to the actual world we lived in then, and make them consider more closely the world we live in now.

At the end of Kill the Messenger, a short written message appears on the screen alerting the viewer that Gary Webb committed suicide a few years after the events described in the film. This is followed by another short written message telling viewers that Webb died of two gunshot wounds to the head. After the film ended, an older woman sitting alone in my aisle got up to leave and walked past me. I got up to give her room to walk out and she said to me unprovoked, "How DO you shoot yourself twice in the head?" Without really thinking about it I responded, "with a little help." Kill the Messenger may not have been a great, or even very good movie, but that hasn't stopped me from thinking a great deal about Gary Webb, his life, his work and his death, ever since I left that theatre. Gary Webb deserved better than he got from his colleagues in the media, his opponents in the government and from us, the people. 

"How DO you shoot yourself in twice in the head?" Most people don't know, don't want to know, or don't care about what Gary Webb uncovered. In addition, most people don't know, don't want to know, or don't care about what happened to Gary Webb. Maybe, just maybe, Kill the Messenger will open the eyes of some people, or maybe even just one person. As Gary Webb himself proved, even just one person can be enough to find and spread the truth. "With a little help", Gary Webb's work will not vanish into the memory hole, no matter how hard the government, media and establishment, which his work indicts, try to make it disappear. 

How DO you shoot yourself twice in the head? With a little help. With a little help...indeed.

Thus concludes the first annual Mickey™® awards!! Congratulations to the winners and all the nominees!! And to my gentle readers I say...thank you for indulging meand see you next year at The Mickeys™®Now onto the after party at Fatburger!!!

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