18TH ANNUAL ONLINE FILM CRITICS SOCIETY AWARDS (WITH OUR VOTES AND COMMENTS)

The 2014 Online Film Critics Society awards awards are out. As usual, weird films were not well represented this awards season. The Society chose to pass on a total of four outstanding acting jobs by  and Jesse Eisenberg in Enemy and The Double. ‘s autobiography earned a total of zero nominations; even urinating on her husband’s chest while singing an opera aria could not get Pamela Flores a Best Supporting Actress nod.

In somewhat more positive news for our favored genre, Birdman, the odd tale of an ex-superhero movie star levitating and hallucinating while trying to direct, star in, and produce a Broadway play, did take three awards.  The apocalyptic train movie Snowpiercer garnered a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay and one for as Best Supporting Actress. The weirdish alien abduction feature Under the Skin was nominated for three awards including Best Picture, although was snubbed for a nomination as Weirdest—I mean, Best—Actress.

As always, despite the levity in my tone, I take my voting responsibility very seriously. Here is the list of this year’s winners, along with my choices and a touch of personal commentary.

BEST PICTURE

Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Also Nominated: Boyhood; Ida; The Lego Movie; Mommy; Nightcrawler; Selma; Two Days, One Night; Under the Skin; Whiplash

G. Smalley’s VoteWhiplash

Comments: I contend that 2014 has been a year of many very good, but no great, movies. I saw three movies I would consider masterpieces in 2013: The Act of Killing, Blancanieves, and The Wolf of Wall Street. In 2014 I have seen zero, although there are about a dozen films I would consider just a notch below that level. So, I have no problem with ‘s typically twee The Grand Budapest Hotel winning Best Picture, despite the fact that it comes in only at #11 on my personal top 10 list. Had it been nominated, I would have voted for Calvary, the Irish passion allegory in which one priest pays for the pedophilic sins of the Catholic Church. Of the nominees that made the ballot I favored Whiplash, which while conventional in form and content was the most intense cinematic experience of the year (yes, a movie about jazz drumming was intense).

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

WinnerThe Lego Movie

Also Nominated: Big Hero 6; The Boxtrolls; How to Train Your Dragon 2; The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

G. Smalley’s Vote: The Lego Movie

Comments: Lego charmed even Alfred Eaker‘s cold and cynical heart. Despite its product-placement premise, it was an inspired tribute to imagination, filled with humor, spectacle, shots at pop culture, and pathos. Its only serious competition came from the more artistic The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, an epic Studio Ghibli release based on a traditional Japanese folktale that contains some of the most beautiful hand-drawn cels you’ll see this year (much of the movie looks like it was drawn on a rice paper scroll in cherry blossom-ink).

BEST FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

WinnerTwo Days, One Night

Also Nominated: Ida; The Missing Picture; Mommy; The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

G. Smalley’s VoteThe Missing Picture

Comments: Somehow, The Dance of Reality did not even make it past the first ballot (let’s blame the distributor for not promoting it and give my fellow critics a pass). Of the remainder, I thought The Missing PictureRithy Panh‘s painful recreation of his days growing up as a boy in a Cambodian death camp, illustrated with clay figures of his own design—was the most powerful.

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Winner: Life Itself

Also Nominated: Citizenfour; The Missing Picture; National Gallery; The Overnighters

G. Smalley’s Vote: The Missing Picture

Comments: See above for comments on The Missing Picture. It’s uncomfortable for a bunch of film critics to select Life Itself, a reverential eulogy for celebrity film critic Roger Ebert, as the best documentary of the year, but it’s not a bad choice. Having seen the film with some casual movie fans I can say that it has broad popular appeal, and Ebert’s bravery and grace in facing the disfiguring thyroid cancer that slew him is inspiring.

BEST DIRECTOR

Winner: , Boyhood

Also Nominated: , The Grand Budapest Hotel; Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne, Two Days, One Night; Ava DuVernay, Selma; , Under the Skin

G. Smalley’s Vote: Richard Linklater

Comments: Boyhood, shot with the same core group of actors over a period of eleven years, is a unique technical achievement. Even if it’s not the best film of the year (and it did make my personal top ten), Linklater’s vision and perseverance deserve recognition here.

BEST ACTOR

Winner: Birdman

Also Nominated: Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel; Brendan Gleeson, Calvary; , Nightcrawler; Timothy Spall, Mr. Turner

G. Smalley’s Vote: Jake Gyllenhaal

Comments: It was a shock that Birdman was not even nominated for Best Picture. While Keaton wearily carried his superhero requiem on his aging shoulders, I preferred Gyllenhaal’s sleazy take as an amoral, autistic entrepreneur fond of quoting platitudes he memorized from an online business course. Between Nightcrawler and Enemy, Gyllenhaal gave a trio of great performances this year.

BEST ACTRESS

Winner: Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Also Nominated, Two Days, One Night; Essie Davis, The Babadook; Anne Dorval, Mommy; Julianne Moore, Still Alice

G. Smalley’s Vote: Marion Cotillard

Comments: Social realism is so not my favorite genre, but I still thought Cotillard’s turn as a woman sent to beg to keep her job from her co-workers while recovering from a bout of major depression was the year’s best. I have no real complaints with Pike’s nomination, however; she’s archetypal.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Winner: Edward Norton, Birdman

Also Nominated: Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice; Ethan Hawke, Boyhood; Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher; J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

G. Smalley’s Vote: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Comments: This vote was a shock to me. Norton was good, but J.K. Simmons made R. Lee Ermey look like a pussy.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Winner: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Also Nominated: Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year; Suzanne Clément, Mommy; Agata Kulesza, Ida; , Snowpiercer

G. Smalley’s Vote: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Comments: This was a tough category. I saw no truly great performances among the nominees here (I would have voted for Emma Stone in Birdman, had she made it to the final ballot). Swinton’s cartoonish role as a train tyrant mixed Margaret Thatcher with Adolph Hitler, but as fun as it was, that part seems a little lightweight and insubstantial for a major award. That makes this a perfect place to shoehorn in another win for Boyhood (and after putting in more than a decade in the role, Arquette is deserving).

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Also Nominated: Boyhood; Selma; Two Days, One Night; Whiplash

G. Smalley’s Vote: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Comments: Given its elaborate plotting, I thought this was the one place Grand Budapest truly deserved an award. It’s an original creation that’s so detailed it seems like it should have been adapted from a novel.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Winner: Gone Girl

Also Nominated: Inherent Vice; Snowpiercer; Under the Skin; We Are the Best!

G. Smalley’s Vote: Gone Girl

Comments: Adapting a best-selling thriller/mystery novel that depends on a twist is a tough task. Author Gillian Flynn got the enviable task of controlling her own work’s second life and delivered one of the most gripping genre pictures of the year. Still, had The Double made the final ballot, I would have voted for it for making a successful absurdist comedy out of one of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s few literary bombs. Disclaimer here: I was not able to see Inherent Vice before the voting deadline. Next time, if you want awards send out screeners, New Line.

BEST EDITING

Winner: Birdman

Also Nominated: Boyhood; Gone Girl; The Grand Budapest Hotel; Whiplash

G. Smalley’s Vote: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Comments: This is a strange choice. Just how many cuts are in Birdman? (The editors refuse to say). The film is presented as a one-take experience, although there are necessarily a few invisible edits (such as when a day passes in story time in a second of screen time). Although the few cuts here are skillfully hidden, it doesn’t seem like there is enough of them to justify an editing award. I voted for Grand Budapest, after strongly considering Whiplash.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Also Nominated: Birdman; Ida; Mr. Turner; Under the Skin

G. Smalley’s Vote: Birdman

Comments: This is another odd one; in my mind, as much as Birdman should not have been considered at all for Best Editing, with its long, elaborate tracking shots, it should have been a shoo-in for Cinematography.

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