The Oscar’s “Best Popular Movie”: Picking the Would-Be Winners Across the Past Ten Years

The Academy of Motion Pictures Association recently announced a few changes to their format, the most notable announcement, drawing the ire of film critics everywhere, was the introduction of an “Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film” (or what we’ll refer to as”Best Popular Movie” from here on out) award. The move seems to be done with the hope of drawing larger ratings, a likely misguided strategy that will offer muddled takes on “popular” movies, the best of which were already being nominated anyway (InceptionLord of the Rings). The more cynical take comes with Variety’s reporting that ABC pushed the Academy to increase ratings, sparking these changes (the most cynical take of all comes when you note that ABC is owned by Disney, who owns Marvel, Lucas Arts, and Pixar, three studios likely to benefit from an award like this). This award will likely do little to increase interest in the ceremony, instead it will somehow hurt both small and large movies — taking attention away from the small ones, while making successful ones less likely to be voted into the Best Picture category.

Despite this being a ridiculous idea, it’s a fun exercise to think back to what would have won in the past. I recently redid the Best Picture winners of the last ten years, so why not go back and imagine what could have won Best Popular Movie in the past?

The Academy did not announce what the parameters of this award would be, so we’ll have to figure this out ourselves. The two ideas that instantly come to mind are:

  1. Based on total box office statistics of the year.
  2. Based on largest opening weekend statistics.

The first idea would make sense, but it instantly gets complicated by time constrictions. Your Star Wars movie, typically released in December, would have a huge opening, but likely wouldn’t qualify because movies released earlier in the year would have had a chance to accumulate across the entire year. You could get around this by finagling the award so that the movies that movies could qualify across a two year period, depending on which year they made a bulk of their money, but that would only cause further disinterest rendering the award as meaningless as the word “new” in the Grammy’s “Best New Artist” award.

I think the solution is the second option, which bases a movie’s popularity in its opening weekend, averaging the scores and allowing your late-in-the-year hits to qualify. The problem here is that it’s not a true representation of what was popular in the year, there are plenty of movies that opened huge, but quickly fell off after people actually saw it. In that same vein, there are movies that opened slow to become some of the biggest hits of the year (The Greatest Showman did this last year, American Sniper a couple of years ago, and classically My Big Fat Greek Wedding is did this). For this exercise we’ll have to neglect the surprise hits in favor of the movies that were successful from the start.

Here’s how it will work: The movies with the top 25 opening weekends of the year will qualify to be nominated by the Academy. The assumption is that they will pick the five nominees from those movies they think are the best. We don’t know exactly how the Academy will word the language of the award–should voters truly vote on what they think is the best of the qualified or should they focus more on the popular aspect? This affects movies like Gravity and Mad Max: Fury Road both of which were beloved critically and were nominated for Best Picture, but still qualify for this award. We can’t know for sure the way the Academy will swing, but we’ll do our best to select something representative of the best popular movie.

The other issue is whether a film nominated for Best Picture will be able to qualify for Best Popular Movie. We’re gonna go yes here, playing by the rules of Best Animated Feature and Best Foreign Film which allow a film to be nominated by both. These are prime examples of why a popular movie might actually get hurt by this award, as Best Animated Feature has only had two movies cross over into Best Picture since its inception (Up and Toy Story 3) and Best Foreign Language Film has only had eight (including Crouching Tiger, Hidden DragonAmourLife is Beautiful; Bergman’s Cries and Whispers; and Le Grande Illusion ). Voters perceive these movies as already receiving accolade and are less likely to vote them in even if they are one of the top five movies of the year, but there’s an off-chance something could sweep it entirely.

Let’s get to it:

2008:
The nominees:
The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Step Brothers
Quantum of Solace
Wall-E
Noteworthy snubs: Cloverfield, Hellboy II, Kung Fu Panda, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Twilight 
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The winner: The Dark Knight – This is literally why we’re doing this exercise right (other than Black Panther, which is the #1 reason)? The Dark Knight revolutionized the movie industry, even as Marvel was introducing their corporate strategy to us, Dark Knight grabbed everyone’s attention with the combination of populist entertainment and Christopher Nolan’s artistic flare. This is a strong year otherwise, Wall-E not getting nominated had some outcry as well (it is one of the best movies of all time, after all…), while Iron Man remains one of the strongest Marvel movies, and Step Brothers is considered one of the best Will Ferrell/Adam McKay features, the type of movie that stands to benefit from an award like this.
2009:
The nominees:
Avatar
The Blind Side
The Hangover
Star Trek
Up
Noteworthy snubs: Inglourious Basterds, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Fast & Furious, District 9, Sherlock Holmes, Twilight: New Moon, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
The winner: Avatar – One of the most successful movies of all time, it was already this close to taking Best Picture–Avatar is an obvious choice here. This was a year that increased the nominees to ten, so three of the nominees (AvatarThe Blind Side; Up) were already nominated for Best Picture. The biggest benefactor here is The Hangover, which was already making a push for Best Picture during that year. It seemed like a possibility at the time, but when’s the last time you heard anyone talk about that movie? Maybe an award like this would keep it in conversation for the years to come.
2010:
The nominees:
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow pt. I
Inception
Shutter Island
Toy Story 3
Noteworthy snubs: Despicable Me, How to Train Your Dragon, Iron Man 2
The winner: Inception – I can imagine the battle now, Toy Story 3 taking on Inception for Best Popular Film. Of course, Toy Story 3 would also be pushing for Best Picture and Best Animated Feature, which, again, makes this whole thing so weird. Inception is the perfect movie for this, a successful genre film with some smarts to it, that also developed the kind of following and zeitgeist that is worth pandering to–in fact, Christopher Nolan might actually benefit more from this award being added than Marvel/Disney/Lucas Films.
2011:
The nominees:
Fast Five
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow pt. II
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Super 8
X-Men: First Class
Noteworthy snubs: Captain America: First Avenger, The unholy trilogy of sequels in the Twilight, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean series of movies.
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The winner: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt. II – I stan for Rise and First Class and I think Fast Five would get votes with the spark it brought to that franchise, but Deathly Hallows II gets it in a Lord of the Rings style nod to the finale of films that were quite good and well respected. Nowadays First Avenger gets a lot of love, but back in the day it wasn’t as hot, so I think it would have missed out on a nomination in this strong field–then again Disney probably works their magic and forces its way in there, but we’re envisioning a more pure world…
2012:
The nominees:
The Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Hunger Games
Skyfall
Noteworthy snubs: 21 Jump Street, Brave, The Amazing Spiderman, Wreck-it-Ralph, Magic Mike
The winner: The Avengers – There’s no way anything beats Avengers here, it was a lauded cultural phenomenon. Personally, I think Skyfall is the deserving winner, it’s a beautifully shot and artistic Bond flick and what I’d hope would win in this new category, but, it’s Avengers so it has to win.
2013:
The nominees:
Fast & Furious 6
Gravity
The Great Gatsby
Pacific Rim
World War Z
Noteworthy snubs: Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, The Conjuring, Monsters University, Thor: The Dark World 
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The winner: Gravity – This is a really difficult year to predict, both nominations-wise and winner-wise. Gravity was successful at the box office (though I don’t remember anyone talking about it at all) and nearly won Best Picture anyway, so I imagine voters would give it this award, especially in a year where great, popular movies were so few and far between.
2014:
The nominees:
Captain America: Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 
Guardians of the Galaxy
Interstellar
The Lego Movie
Noteworthy snubs: X-Men: Days of Future Past, Big Hero 6, Neighbors, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I
The winner: Guardians of the Galaxy – 2013 was weak, but 2014 features five of the strongest contenders yet. Interstellar was a hit that provided the classic pop-psychology Christopher Nolan is famous for. The Lego Movie was considered one of the funniest movies of the year and truly delighted audiences and critics. Winter Soldier got everyone on board the Captain America train. Dawn was a true artistic achievement. But ultimately it goes to Guardians, which blew up, getting Star Wars comparisons, and launching characters nobody had ever heard of into the pop culture as mainstays (after all, they have their own ride at Disneyland now!).
2015:
The nominees:
Inside Out
Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Noteworthy snubs: The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Cinderella, Ant-Man, The Martian, 50 Shades of Grey, Spectre, Furious 7, Minions
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The winner: Mad Max: Fury Road – This is a really tough year, because if the academy loved Inside Out they likely would have nominated it for Best Picture (regrettably, they did not). People liked Rogue Nation a lot, but I don’t think it would be able to take it. The new The Force Awakens is number two here, but I think enough people were mixed on it that Fury Road would take it on the crossover votes it might have received from already being Best Picture nominated.
2016:
The nominees:
Captain America: Civil War
Deadpool
Finding Dory
The Jungle Book
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Noteworthy snubs: Moana, Zootopia, Dr. Strange, (DC Comic crossover movies)
The winner: Deadpool – I originally put The Jungle Book, which captivated audiences with its gorgeous graphic effects, but I think Deadpool might take it here, if only for the fact that they were already pushing so hard to win Best Picture anyway. It was a solid year for animation, but I think those things tend to cancel each other out, rather than help.
2017:
The nominees:
Coco
Dunkirk
Logan
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Wonder Woman 
Noteworthy snubs: It, War For the Planet of the Apes, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Beauty and the Beast, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2
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The winner: Wonder Woman – This might be the most solid year out of all them, with much liked sequels like Planet of the Apes, Spider-Man, and Thor all missing out on nominations. Dunkirk somehow made enough money to qualify and gets the crossover nomination. People loved Coco and there’s a weightiness to it that it qualifies too. Star Wars was beloved enough by film critics that it would survive its racist and misogynist backlash for a nomination. Logan was respected enough by the Academy to get a screenplay nom. But Wonder Woman was really well regarded and would have been the perfect choice during an Oscar’s where the Time’s Up and Me Too movements were at the forefront.

 

Let’s do some early 2018 predictions.

Nominees: A Quiet Place, Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Incredibles II, Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Noteworthy snubs: Ant-Man & the Wasp, Ready Player One

The winner: Black Panther – There’s actually a solid five here, but there’s no way Black Panther wouldn’t take it.

Did I miss anything? What do you think would have won? What do you think of the new award in general?

Redoing the Best Picture Winners

The Shape of Water took home best picture last weekend, a pick that I’m not sure anyone was satisfied with. The movie is good, but easily inspires hate, featuring all sorts of quirks and a woman who falls in love with a fish creature as its main story.

There’s obviously a lot of debate when it comes to what should win Best Picture and Academy voters tend to pick movies that have trendy marketing for the year over something that will age well over time.

There’s a type of movie that should win Best Picture year by year and I don’t think it’s necessarily your personal favorite, but what’s considered the movie of the year, like an MVP of sorts. It shouldn’t be something that’s slight, but something that truly does feel important. And not important like it fits a certain theme of the year—though I think that can be good in capturing our moment—it should be something that’s cinematic, cinematically excellent on the widest scale. It doesn’t need to be avant-garde like the picks from the British Film Institute’s Sight and Sound (though perhaps more along those lines), but something that people will agree upon for years as being good. In this way it should be a little populist, the kind of movie that regular movie goers will say oh that’s a good movie without causing critics to roll their eyes (think Saving Private Ryan or Pulp Fiction).

This being said I thought it would be fun to go back and look through the last eleven years of best picture winners, replacing them with a movie that fits this description. Older years will be easier because there is an ability to see what has aged well and what hasn’t, but we’ll do recent years as well.

Years will be listed as the movie year and not the ceremony year.

2007

Winner: No Country For Old Men

 

What should have won from nominees: No Country For Old Men (There Will Be Blood is the more critically acclaimed and might be my favorite movie of all time, but we’ll give No Country the title here because it fits into that perfect mold of something critics and the people will both agree as good.)

What should have won from non-nominated movies: I’d still go with No Country, but Zodiac maintains a really high reputation all these years later and would be satisfying.

2008

Winner: Slumdog Millionaire 

What should have won from nominees: I haven’t watched Slumdog  in a while, but I do think it’s a pretty fun movie though it definitely does not work as the “important” work of art the Academy bestowed upon it this year. It’s a kind of silly love story about fate, not a serious reflection on poverty. 2008 was one of the worst years for best picture nominees and none of the nominees really fit the criteria. That being said, I pick Milk, Gus Van Sant deserves an Oscar, so he gets it.

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What should have won from non-nominated movies: The Dark Knight and Wall-E are both cited as the reason the Oscars increased their nominations. Wall-E is one of my favorite movies and is not only an amazing cinematic experience, but it increasingly looks like the future we are making for ourselves.

2009

Winner: The Hurt Locker

What should have won from nominees: The Hurt Locker also nicely fits the mold here, thank God it beat out Avatar which only holds up as a kind of laughing stock, if I could pick a number two it’d probably be Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds which is arguably his best movie.

HungerWhat should have won from non-nominated movies: Hurt Locker deserves and to come up with a non-nominated movie we’ve got to go toward the avant grade here. There’s Assayas’ Summer Hours, Denis’ 35 Shots of Rum, You the Living, and the one we’ll go with, Hunger—future Oscar winner Steve McQueen’s film about the Irish hunger strike, featuring a tour-de-force rise to acting fame by none other than Michael Fassbender.

2010

Winner: The King’s Speech

What should have won from nominees: Almost any of the other nominees would have been good, but The Social Network will be talked about for years and years to come.

What should have won from non-nominated movies: The Social Network is the definitive pick here, but if we had to pick another it would be Dogtooth, Yorgos Lanthimos’ creepy and wacky tale of a familial cult.

2011

Winner: The Artist

What should have won from nominees: Roger Ebert had The Tree of Life in his top 10 films of all time shortly after it was released, what else needs to be said. tree-of-life1

What should have won from non-nominated movies: The Tree of Life will always be in the discussion of best movies ever, but 2011 also had a lot of films that will be considered for time to come: Drive was a great experimental genre flick, Melancholia has an avid fan base, Take Shelter will continue to rise in estimation, and there are other beloved more genre-centric picks like Fast Five, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Attack the Block, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Interrupters, and The Skin I Live In. A Separation is really the only one that competes with Malick though, so it gets the pick here.

2012

Winner: Argo

What should have won from nominees: It’s crazy that the Oscar’s got it so wrong three years in a row, picking movies that literally nobody talks about other than in Oscar mistake discussions. Lincoln could easily fit, but Zero Dark Thirty is excellent and captured America with a tight precision.

What should have won from non-nominated movies: The Avengers and Skyfall compete as populist picks, Looper and Moonrise Kingdom are two of my favorites, Holy Motors was beloved by critics, but it’s Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master that maintains all the buzz.

2013

Winner: 12 Years a Slave

What should have won from nominees: I haven’t rewatched 12 Years, but I thought it was an amazing movie the first time I saw it and I imagine it will continue to hold up. Her is the definitive number two here.

What should have won from non-nominated movies: Nothing stands out like 12 Years or Her, but you can’t go wrong with picking Linklater’s (final?) Before movie Before Midnight.

2014

Winner: Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

What should have won from nominees: Boyhood was such a fun experiment and it was executed so well. It details that time period perfectly, but should also hold up for years for the way it literally shows what growing up is like.

What should have won from non-nominated movies: It’s kind of strange looking back now that Interstellar was not nominated. Any time you have that thought it likely means that it should have been when looking back years later. People were mixed on it years back, but it does seem like it has only grown in estimation as the years have went on.

2015

Winner: Spotlight 

What should have won from nominees: Spotlight is actually a pretty good pick, but I have to go with the most exciting action movie in years, Mad Max: Fury Road, which will likely be considered amongst the best action films ever. mad max

What should have won from non-nominated movies: Inside Out was absolutely spectacular, Creed was way better than it had any right to be, Tangerine introduced us to characters rarely seen on screen, but it’s Carol’s lush winter romance that was most beloved and will likely grow with audiences.

2016

Winner: Moonlight

a24-A24_Moonlight-Full-Image_GalleryBackground-en-US-1501867156317._RI_SX940_What should have won from nominees: Moonlight definitely deserved it (even if I actually did like La La Land better on first watch, at least), but if we have to pick another I think Manchester By the Sea’s sad ruminations on loss will grow in affection more than La La Land will, though I do think Arrival will also be remembered fondly.

What should have won from non-nominated movies: There’s not an obvious pick here, of Zootopia, Paterson, The Handmaiden, Silence, Everybody Wants Some!!, and American Honey, I think I’m going to go with Silence, because the people who like it, really like it.

2017

Winner: The Shape of Water

What should have won from nominees: Get Out slightly over Lady Bird.

What should have won from non-nominated movies: The Florida Project will also be watched for years and years to come, there’s just so much life in that movie.

And now, the definitive list of movies that deserve to be named as the Best Picture of the year:

2007: No Country For Old Men

2008: Wall-E

2009: The Hurt Locker

2010: The Social Network

2011: The Tree of Life

2012: Zero Dark Thirty

2013: 12 Years a Slave

2014: Boyhood

2015: Mad Max: Fury Road

2016: Moonlight

2017: Get Out

What are your thoughts? Any movies you think deserve the title of Best Picture of the year?

Oscar Week: Best Scenes

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The Academy Awards are approaching at the end of this week, so I present to you Oscar Week! These are my own movie awards from 2014, celebrating my favorite performances and scenes of the year.

There are spoilers all over the place of this article, so make sure you skip things you don’t want to be spoiled on.

Top 10 Scenes of 2014:

10. Guardians of the Galaxy – Prison Break Scene/The Lego MovieGood Morning Manual

A tie to start it off because I couldn’t choose between either of the Chris Pratt-fronted scenes. The Guardians prison break scene is the height of that film’s comic tone, chaos ensues leading to joke after joke as each character does his or her role to escape prison, even if their role is not entirely needed.

The Lego Movie‘s introduction to Emmett through a manual of how to live each day is packed with jokes big and small and is absolutely delightful, culminating in one of the year’s best movie songs “Everything is Awesome”.

9. Blue Ruin – Waiting in the House

I don’t think there was a more tense moment I experienced all year than either of the scenes where Dwight is anticipating his enemies coming into the house that he is staked out in. He knows it could very well be his life on the line, and the film builds those stakes to a near unbearable level.

8. Gone Girl – A Murder Occurs

Truly one of the year’s most disturbing scenes, but it is shot so well by director David Fincher, with Amy seducing her latest captor only to kill him mid-coitus. Reznor’s score elevates it as her second plan begins to fall into place.

7. The Immigrant – Confession Scene

Ewa has had to do a lot to come to America. Her sister is sick and is not allowed into the country, her family has rejected her, and she has given up all of her ethical guides to make a living in the US. Here, she finally breaks down in a confession booth, admitting her sins and hoping that grace can still come her way.

6. Foxcatcher – Brothers Wrestling

We don’t know much about the characters at this point. Channing Tatum’s Mark seems one-note, he’s quiet and reserved; Mark Ruffalo’s David has all the charm, he’s more successful, and surrounded by a family who loves him. The two brothers spar here, slowly going after one another more aggressive until they are full on wrestling. The scene is completely silent except for the sounds of their movements. Director Bennett Miller shoots it in such a way that–though unspoken–tension, emotion, and brotherly love shine through.

5. Whiplash – The Ending

Miles Teller’s Andrew has opened up again to the teacher who made him have a nervous breakdown, joining him for a concert performance where he could have a chance to get recruited to something bigger–his lifelong dream. Yet JK Simmons Terrence Fletcher does not exactly have his best intentions in mind–or does he? This scene is a back and forth, what the whole movie has been building toward. Andrew seems to get his revenge on Fletcher, but has this been Fletcher’s plan all along? It’s intensely packed, filled with drum solos, exasperation, and at last some smiles.

4. We Are the Best! – The Big Performance

The movie has been building to the three lead girls being able to perform one of their songs live for the first time. However, when they finally get to play, it doesn’t turn out exactly as they expect it to. Lukas Moodysson takes the typical big final performance so common in music movies and turns it upside down, having the girls incite a riot where the lyrics of the song are changed and they are fighting with the crowd. It’s hilarious in the most punk way possible.

3. Snowpiercer – Fish Fight

Room after room aboard the train has brought unexpected, but mostly safe discoveries. As they approach the next room, Bong Joon-Ho slows everything into slow motion, the doors slowly open and a group of sword carrying men dressed entirely in black appear, lined up and ready to stop the coming rebellion. Intensifying the film further, the man in front proceeds to grab a fish, slowly slice it in half–letting the blood drip down as if to warn them of what is to come. It’s a visceral experience.

2. Under the Skin – Black Room

Scarlett’s character serves as a predator, taking men home as if to sleep with them, but instead they enter into a completely dark room and as they begin to undress they slowly sink into a murky black substance, slowly evaporating into a state of nothingness. These are scenes where you can never be sure what is exactly happening, but all of its aesthetic wraps you up like the dark ocean the men fall into. The musical score in these scenes is not only the best of the year, but might be up there with my favorite of all time.

1. Interstellar – Videos from Home

Returning from a planet that has cost him decades off the lives of everyone but himself (he spends only a few minutes there), McConaguhey’s Cooper watches the backlog of videos left by his family over the years. He sees them grow before his very eyes, sees his grandchildren, the choices they have made, and all their doubts and fears as to why they haven’t heard from him in so long. Here the cost of the mission he is on is fully realized and sorrow and regret creep into his soul as he is reduced to tears. It’s an absolutely heartbreaking scene and shows what height Interstellar was capable of soaring to despite its various flaws.

Oscar Week: Best Actor

The Academy Awards are approaching at the end of this week, so I present to you Oscar Week! These are my own movie awards from 2014, celebrating my favorite performances and scenes of the year.

Looking through this now completed list, I think I may have underrated Michael Keaton a bit–I haven’t seen Birdman in a while, so my memory of him is only in being out-acted by Edward Norton when in actuality he’s probably pretty good. He deserves a mention here, but I really do like my list and think it a finer crop of performances than the Academy pulled together.

Top 10 Actors of 2014:

10. John Lithgow, Love is Strange

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Playing an aging man who must move out of his house due to his husband losing his job, Lithgow is sweet, semi-aware of the pain he is causing his loved ones and knowing he can do nothing about it.

9. Chris Pratt, The Lego Movie

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Without Pratt voicing lead character Emmett there is no way The Lego Movie is half as good as it was.

8. Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

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It’s a very flashy role and Redmayne does a good job with it, maybe the fact that the film was lackluster or that they probably thought about Redmayne winning the Oscar every day on set prevents me from rating it higher.

7. Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler

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I wrote in my short review on Letterboxd that I don’t think this character is very well written–he’s creepy, conniving, and sociopathic–and for some reason felt one-note and uninteresting, but I do think Gyllenhaal plays him really well.

6. Dan Stevens, The Guest

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Stevens brings an insurmountable amount of charm in his role as yes a guest in the household of one of his military comrades (well, maybe). As things begin to unfold and his actions escalate in troubling ways, his charisma remains so abundant I would probably invited him into my home regardless.

5. Joaquin Phoenix, Inherent Vice

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Phoenix plays a stoner hippy detective, which might not usually account for a performance worthy of writing about on these types of lists, but without all the effort Phoenix puts in here I think Vice falls flat. His comic reactions to the things happening (or are they?) around him are truly inspired.

4. Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Other than the lobby boy and his girl (which were both mentioned on previous lists) Fiennes was the other best part of Budapest. He is a suave oddball, very particular about his lifestyle, and strangely reverent about hotel processes. He is a lot of fun to watch.

3. Tom Hardy, Locke

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Without Hardy’s performance Locke would have been an awful movie, literally as he is the only person to ever appear on-screen throughout the movie. He contributes with the way he handles the dialogue and is able to express every stressful moment he is going through while essentially driving his car away from everything he’s ever made for himself.

2. Brendan Gleeson, Calvary

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Gleeson plays a priest who must be faithful (to his duties and to his God) despite everything in his life being moments away from coming undone. He is a pious character, able to comfort, to question, and to laugh with his parishioners. Gleason displays all of these qualities in a way that is darkly comic and sincere.

1. David Oyelowo, Selma

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Oyelowo had a lot of pressure on him to get this character right–Dr. King is among the greatest people in American history and no movie has ever really been made about him. In Selma Oyelowo contributes to a fully flushed out character, one filled with the great heroic leadership that he portrayed in his booming speeches, but also conveys his doubts, insecurities, his reactions to petty arguments. For my money it was the best performance I saw all year.

Oscar Week: Best Actress

The Academy Awards are approaching at the end of this week, so I present to you Oscar Week! These are my own movie awards from 2014, celebrating my favorite performances and scenes of the year.

Another category of acting performances that I am fairly out of touch on as far as seeing some of the nominees. Julianne Moore is the apparent favorite in Still Alice, a film that sounds interesting for her performance, but other than that is not too intriguing. Reese Witherspoon is supposed to be good in Wild, but again that movie seems to be too much like Oscar bait. I did see Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything but (as you will see) I can name eight other performances I liked better than hers–it’s funny that she gets on a nomination for what is a fairly straight forward performance while most others who do the same get ignored; I think her nomination only comes at the hands of that pretty Theory of Everything/Stephen Hawking package.

10. Emily Foxler, Coherence

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A relatively unknown actress in a small budget sci-fi movie, Foxler’s performance–especially near the end–is what really won me over.

9. Tilda Swinton, Only Lovers Left Alive

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Swinton is great in everything and her turn as immortal vampire Eve is no exception.

8. Agata Trzebuchowska, Ida

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A less flashy role than that of her aunt, Trzebuchowska’s quiet holiness that eventually turns to curiosity helps to hold the film steady.

7. Essie Davis, The Babadook

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The Babadook features Davis’ character transitioning from being viewed one way to a complete other by the end of the film, let’s just say that Davis can play exasperated mother in quite a few ways.

6. Marion Cotillard, The Immigrant

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Playing a Polish immigrant, Cotillard has to go through hell to get into the United States and to make a life for her and her sister. Cotillard captures all the pain and the regret and the doubt that comes with every decision she makes (that confession scene is beautiful).

5. Emily Blunt, The Edge of Tomorrow

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Blunt’s character is not your typical female action archetype, she’s tough–tougher than Cruise’s character–experienced, and smart. The whole movie depends on her and Blunt deserves equal credit with Cruise for helping to make such a wonderful film.

4. Lisa Loven Kongsli, Force Majeure

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She brings a strong presence to this family drama/masculinity in crisis film about an incident that changes the way an entire family sees itself. Loven Kongsli has a tough role to play, somewhere between playing the martyr and being a martyr; her experiences are legit, but is her reaction correct? Loven Kongsli plays with this tension in a way that is necessary.

3. Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin

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Playing some sort of alien life form, Johansson switches off between being charming and emotionless, seductive and dead-eyed. She uses the former traits–ones she is probably most known for–minimally, showing that she is truly alien to the human experience.

2. Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night

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A lot of big performances feature one or two scenes where an actor or actress must rise up, giving an emotional scene–one they will hopefully play when the Oscar nominees are announced during the show. Here Cotillard is forced to carry this emotional heft with her in pretty much every scene, making us feel the weight of what she is going through without causing us to feel drained emotionally; she nails it.

1. Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

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SOME SPOILERS AHEAD: For the first half of the movie or so I didn’t know if I really liked Pike’s portrayal of Amy Dunne (I had read the book prior to seeing the movie), it was dreamy and unrealistic. Well turns out, that is exactly how it should have been and the second half she comes alive as information is spilled and the sociopathic Amy is revealed. Pike is incredible as the cold hearted and manipulative Dunne and really helped to create a cinematic character that will live on as one of our greatest villains.

Oscar Week: Best Supporting Actresses

The Academy Awards are approaching at the end of this week, so I present to you Oscar Week! These are my own movie awards from 2014, celebrating my favorite performances and scenes of the year.

This was a weak year for Supporting Actresses and of the Academy’s picks I have not seen Laura Dern in Wild, Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game, or Meryl Streep in Into the Woods but I doubt any of these I would really think are top contenders. Because of this, I think I came up with a more creative (and perhaps ridiculous) list of my favorite performances of the year.

Here are my top 10 supporting actresses of 2014:

10. Lorelai Linklater, Boyhood

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The kid’s have gotten a lot of grief for their acting, but I found both to be charming over their 12 year performance. Linklater isn’t given a lot, but I always liked what she was adding on screen.

9. Marisa Tomei, Love is Strange

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Another small performance that stuck with me, Tomei plays the niece-in-law to John Lithgow and really serves to highlight both the attachment to the central characters and the growing frustrations that come with being surrounded by people you love.

8. Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

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A bit overrated in my book, but still a performance worth talking about. Arquette does get the unemotional film’s most emotional scene and really does nail it.

7. Carrie Coon, Gone Girl

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Coon’s character brings a lot to Gone Girl, bringing in humor and emotion in a film that is cold and calculated both in production and in content.

6. Saoirse Ronan, Grand Budapest Hotel

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Grand Budapest Hotel is a film I was disappointed by, but I think the part that was the most moving to me was the relationship between lobby boy Zero and Ronan’s Agatha whose young love really did feel beautiful.

5. Mackenzie Foy, Interstellar

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Mackenzie Foy pretty much out-acts Jessica Chastain as the younger version of Murph, Matthew McConaughey’s daughter in the movie. There is so much emotion in those early scenes and Foy is a delight.

4. Emma Stone, Birdman

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Perhaps the toughest performance Emma Stone has had to give–one where she doesn’t have to rely on all that natural charm–Stone is aggressive here and really keeps up with Norton who is at his peak.

3. Katherine Waterson, Inherent Vice

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Waterson is excellent as the mysterious and somewhat-sultry “vice” of Phoenix’s Doc Sportello. She is presented as a near-apparition, being the core of the mystery that Doc attempts to uncover–Waterson is charming enough to make us believe that she really is worth chasing after, despite her lack of clear devotion.

2. Agata Kulesza, Ida

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I was expecting Ida to be a serious film, perhaps overly serious, it is in fact a black and white shot Polish film about religion and the holocaust, but instead it features jokes, charm, and fun jazz songs–most of which is thanks to Kulesza. Kulesza plays Wanda Cruz, the irreverent judge polar opposite to her niece, Agata Trzebuchowska’s righteous Ida. She is bitter and hedonistic, but, as we discover, has faced great pain, some of which is too great to bear.

1. Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer

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Watching Snowpiercer I convinced and unconvinced myself four different times that Mason was and was not played by Tilda Swinton. Turns out she was in an absolute riot of a performance as Wilford’s assistant and the face of villainy to those living amongst the poor on the Snowpiercer train. She is an evil character, but also self-serving enough to connive her way through any scenario. Swinton really disappears here in a way that is absolutely magical.

Coming Tomorrow: Best Supporting Actors of 2014