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 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.