If I Had an Oscar Ballot…

OscarThis Thursday morning, J.J. Abrams, Alfonso Cuaron, and Chris Pine will announce the nominations for the 87th Annual Academy Awards. In an unprecedented broadcast, the trio will announce the nominees in all twenty-four categories. Voting for the categories themselves closed on Friday, and following Thursday’s nominations, many fates will start to be (literally) sealed for Hollywood’s favorite night, which be held in the Dolby Theater on February 22nd.

I, unfortunately, take no part in the voting process on either end of the nomination announcements, but it’s a fun time of year regardless. You hold out for dark horse favorties that you’ve had throughout the entire year, wishing that you could be so lucky enough to check off their names on a ballot and move them one inch closer to securing, at the very least, an Academy Award nomination. In an effort to indulge my own personal fantasy, I have borrowed an exercise from Kris Tapley at Hitfix.com and have constructed my very own Oscar ballot. Below you will see my picks in every category with a write-up justifying my choices. The write-ups, as can be expected with me, might be a bit lengthy, so feel free to skim and read as you see fit. And, of course, this functions as if I were playing God and had the ability to vote without restriction over every single category regardless of branch.

Foxcatcher SteveBest Picture

“Foxcatcher”

“Whiplash”

“Selma”

“Nightcrawler”

“Inherent Vice”

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”

“Gone Girl”

“Birdman”

“Boyhood”

When comparing this list to my Top 10 list posted a few weeks ago, you’ll definitely see some shifts, but the major players in my heart are still present here. “Foxcatcher,” for me, is a true masterpiece. It’s a cold, morose, and challenging work that you really have to force yourself to engage with moment by moment, but this kind of draining watch will make its astounding merits that much clearer. “Selma,” a film that narrowly missed my Top 10, is a monumental picture and “Birdman” is a hilarious, impressively outfitted observation of celebrity and ego; both films possess sterling casts doing top-notch work as well as exemplary technical feats. Poignancy and timeliness aside, both films are of the year’s best. Then there’s “Boyhood,” a film that I’ve struggled to love since I first saw it over the summer, but one that I nonetheless respect to no end. It’s completion is an achievement in and of itself; a definitive cinematic work of 2014.

 Best Director

Ava DuVernay, “Selma”

Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”

Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Jonathan Glazer, “Under the Skin”

Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash”

Bennett Miller’s work on “Foxcatcher” is tough to explain for it’s lack of individual stamp is part of what makes the film so strong (check out this fantastic article detailing Miller’s ‘invisible’ auteur status), but “Foxcatcher” is the masterwork Miller has been building toward. Right behind him: Wes Anderson outdid himself with “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” his most visually adroit and lovingly personal film since “The Royal Tenenbaums.” Jonathan Glazer, a true visionary adopting handily from Stanley Kubrick, is in complete control of the petrifying “Under the Skin,” and 29-year-old wunderkind, Damien Chazelle, never loses a beat with his nail-biting “Whiplash.” But Ava DuVernay, the starlet who dominated Sundance a couple of years ago, reaches career-making heights with “Selma,” a mature, brutal, unbiased portrait of a key moment in the Civil Rights Movement. In truth, she should follow Kathryn Bigelow and take home the Best Director trophy.

Jakey NightBest Actor

Jake Gyllenhaal, “Nightcrawler”

Channing Tatum, “Foxcatcher”

Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”

Michael Keaton, “Birdman”

Ralph Fiennes, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Lou Bloom, as embodied by Jake Gyllenhaal, is the year’s creepiest and most memorable creation. It’s a transformative performance, both in terms of Gyllenhaal’s abilities and his career, and one that will continue to reward viewers every time they work up the courage to give “Nightcrawler” another look. In “Foxcatcher,” the lead is split between Steve Carell and Channing Tatum, the latter of which has been getting close to no attention and it’s a damn shame. Carell might be startling and ‘showier’ (or as showy as you can get in a Bennett Miller film), but Tatum’s work is the most impressive. He’s better than anyone thought he could ever be. Michael Keaton, in “Birdman,” as everyone knows, is nothing short of extraordinary, but Ralph Fiennes, spearheading the terrific ensemble of “Grand Budapest,” shows off his rarely seen giddy, comedic side. 180 degrees from Lord Voldemort and roles like his in “Schindler’s List,” Fiennes’ M. Gustave is a one-of-a-kind character that could not have been played by anybody else.

Best Actress

Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”

Essie Davis, “The Babadook”

Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”

Scarlett Johansson, “Under the Skin”

Anne Dorval, “Mommy”

Julianne Moore is not listed here on purpose, and that has nothing to do with my thoughts on “Still Alice” or her in it (I think highly of both), but it’s hard to fawn over her work in that film when she’s been overlooked constantly for far better performances of late. As a result, Reese Witherspoon, an actress I’ve never been incredibly fond of, is at a whole new level in “Wild.” She’s the fearless center of a film that really floored me and my amazement for her in that role has only deepened in the time since. If this was the mid 1970’s, Essie Davis would be a strong contender for Best Actress modeling her performance after the likes of Ellen Burstyn in “The Exorcist;” she’s spectacular in “The Babadook.” Scarlett Johansson has been on a role for over a year now, but “Under the Skin” sports, without question, her most complex work to date. Rosamund Pike, the eponymous gone girl, bases her performance off a tricky concept and ultimately makes the entire film work because of her success. And Anne Dorval in “Mommy” is simply a triumph – emotionally vulnerable, yet wondrously alive.

Whiplash-5547.cr2Best Supporting Actor

J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

Josh Brolin, “Inherent Vice”

Edward Norton, “Birdman”

Antoine Olivier-Pilon, “Mommy”

Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”

Not enough has been said about Miles Teller in “Whiplash,” but that’s just because Simmons is such a force opposite him. He rips through the screen as a music instructor who’s philosophy is undercut by a sadistic pedagogy. The usually stoic Josh Brolin lets his goofy side show to side-splitting effect in “Inherent Vice” – you will never again look at chocolate covered bananas without immediately thinking of Brolin’s “Bigfoot” Bjorensen. The first half of “Birdman” is basically stolen right out from underneath Michael Keaton by Edward Norton’s scorching work as a self-centered but insecure stage actor, and Antoine Olivier-Pilon, is the definition of lightning in a bottle in “Mommy,” an electrified youth who’s uncontainable anger is counterbalanced by overflowing love. Lastly, Ethan Hawke, a Richard Linklater regular, delivers career best work as a father who isn’t up to the challenge of parenting until his kids are already leaving their adolescence behind. Slipping out here is Mark Ruffalo, but only because his killer work in “Foxcatcher” is totally expectant of the actor by this point.

 Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”

Rene Russo, “Nightcrawler”

Tilda Swinton, “Snowpiercer”

Katherine Waterston, “Inherent Vice”

Carmen Ejogo, “Selma”

This was tough. Absent here are three roles from 2014 that I adore: Emma Stone in “Birdman,” Julianne Moore in “Maps to the Stars,” and Laura Dern in “Wild,” but the five I have here really run the gamut. For me, observing the decade plus growth of Patricia Arquette’s Mom in “Boyhood” was more engaging than watching Ellar Coltrane literally age before my eyes. Arquette is as natural as can be in the role, and with a prominent presence in the lengthy film, effortlessly embodies, even to a physical degree, the trying labors of raising two young kids alone through their adolescence. Her last scene is a showstopper. Right behind Patty is the carnivorous news producer, Nina Romina, played Rene Russo in “Nightcrawler.” Russo has been navigating the periphery for many years (playing the mother of Thor has been her most prominent screen role in the past decade-plus) but her morally fragmented, ratings hungry Nina is as animalistic as the coyote-like Lou Bloom, whom she comes to believe is “an inspiration to all of us.” Tilda Swinton’s character of Mason in “Snowpiercer” was originally written as a man, but the on-screen product, played by a nearly unidentifiable Swinton, is almost entirely independent of gender, not to mention humanity, and is a bona fide scene-stealer. Few actresses make memorable entrances into the public sphere like Katherine Waterston in “Inherent Vice.” Every choice she makes feels like that of a far more experienced actress, namely the scene of her character’s return, a fearless single shot that wholly expresses Paul Thomas Anderson’s faith in the newcomer. And then Carmen Ejogo, a stunner who scarily resembles Coretta Scott King, plays the Civil Rights icon with incredible naturalism using crushing silence to convey Coretta’s emotions. She counters David Oyelowo with poise, but like the British star opposite her, practically reincarnates MLK’s wife.

Joaquin Brolin IVBest Adapted Screenplay

“Inherent Vice,” Paul Thomas Anderson

“Gone Girl,” Gillian Flynn

“Whiplash,” Damien Chazelle

“Wild,” Nick Hornby

“Snowpiercer,” Bong Joon-ho & Kelly Masterson

“Inherent Vice,” at first sight, feels like an outlier in the Anderson catalogue, but on closer examination feels right at home as a lucid counterpart to “Punch-Drunk Love” that remains almost as enigmatic as “The Master.” This combination is an arthouse blend fitting of Anderson’s abilities, but it’s also a combination totally attributable to “Vice’s” author, Thomas Pynchon. Where Pynchon disappears and Anderson appears might be hard to define, but by blurring that line so miraculously, Anderson proves that his writing abilities truly have no limits. Gillian Flynn, on the other hand, proves that she can hopscotch her way about the writing field having thrived as a journalist, then a novelist, and now a screenwriter. Adapting “Gone Girl” was always going to be a challenge, but leave it the author herself to do her own work justice. Funnily enough, Flynn looks to be following in the footsteps of Nick Hornby, who has seen many of his novels adapted to the screen and has also been successful at adapting the work of others. “Wild’s” non-linear narrative is an inspired writing choice, one that is only amplified by the film’s execution. Many have griped about the genre clichés rampant in “Snowpiercer’s” screenplay, but it seems to respect its graphic novel roots quite honorably. “Whiplash” is actually an original work, but the Academy has deemed it as adapted. Either way, it’s a stellar piece of writing – the insults Simmons lashes at his students are fierce and wicked.

Best Original Screenplay

“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Wes Anderson

“Nightcrawler,” Dan Gilroy

“Birdman,” Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo

“Foxcatcher,” E. Max Frye & Dan Futterman

“Top Five,” Chris Rock

Anderson is a two-time nominee in this category already, but if there was ever a time to see him finally come out on top it would be this year. Dan Gilroy, a long time screenwriter, crafted a dynamite screenplay for his directorial debut “Nightcrawler” and after three viewings I’ve come to adore every line in this flick from start to finish. “Birdman,” despite its quartet of writers, is inarguably great as well, strikingly funny and golden in the mouths of the film’s amazing cast. The best thing about “Foxcatcher’s” screenplay is how spare and economic it is. Miller ultimately does more with silence in “Foxcatcher” (making it an outlier in this talky list), but every written line is thoughtfully crafted in an effort to do more with less. A personal final inclusion, Chris Rock newest film is his most mature and also his funniest; by making a conscious effort to include a beating heart within “Top Five,” the writing rings as maybe the truest work Rock has ever fashioned. A sixth pick would have to be “The LEGO Movie,” which is as giddy, creative, and self-referential as one could expect from a screenplay by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller.

IDABest Cinematography

“Ida,” Ryszard Lenczewski & Lukasz Zal

“Inherent Vice,” Robert Elswit

“Foxcatcher,” Greig Fraser

“Selma,” Bradford Young

“Birdman,” Emmanuel Lubezski

Lubezski is the reigning champion in this category and he could easily see himself holding onto the title for another year. “Birdman” leans heavily on its one-shot trickery, but Lubezski’s compositional abilities balance out the “Look at me!” obviousness of “Birdman’s” biggest conceit. The four (technically five) cinematographers listed above him all really exploded for me this year, some surprising me with their unforeseen brilliance and others doubling down on the expertise I already knew they possessed. That latter notion pertains to Fraser and Elswit, the former tackling the misty chill of “Foxcatcher” ebbing eerie discomfort into every wowing shot. Elswit, like Fraser, played primarily with 35mm this year, innovatively blending it with digital in “Nightcrawler” and glazing it with a sun-baked speckle for “Inherent Vice” in an effort to accurately revisit a time period long since passed. Newcomer Bradford Young is becoming a heavy favorite as of late due to “A Most Violent Year,” but it’s his painterly photography in “Selma,” which sees him reuniting with Ava DuVernay, that truly redefines the period piece aesthetic. But nothing comes close to the Polish import “Ida,” a black and white, antiquated character piece that is literally an 80 minute succession of perfectly lit and composed shots, each one resonating with purpose and emotion.

 Best Costume Design

“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Milena Canonero

“Mr. Turner,” Jacqueline Durran

“The Immigrant,” Patricia Norris

“Guardians of the Galaxy,” Alexandra Byrne

“A Most Violent Year,” Kasia Walicka-Maimone

Four out these five picks are period pieces, but “Guardians of the Galaxy” squeaks in with its mix of super cool and fantastic science fiction attire with Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord looking like a counterpart to Nathan Fillon’s Mal Reynolds on “Firefly.” “Mr. Turner” and “The Immigrant” stand back-to-back, nailing their respective time periods, and “A Most Violent Year” dresses Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain stylishly. But “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” with all of its eye-popping colors, features the liveliest wardrobe on display this year thus matching the vibrance of Anderson’s film absolutely.

 Best Film Editing

“Whiplash,” Tom Cross

“Nightcrawler,” John Gilroy

“Gone Girl,” Kirk Baxter

“Wild,” John MacMurphy & Martin Pensa

“The Raid 2: Berandal,” Gareth Evans

“Whiplash” will give you whiplash; so much of the film’s furious energy derives from Tom Cross’ extraordinary work, it’s the kind of rapid-fire assemblage that pins you to your seat and injects you heart with an unhealthy dose of adrenaline. “Nightcrawler,” somewhat similarly, is a tense experience. Married with the screenplay, Dan Gilroy’s brother, John, pieces “Nightcrawler” together to tell a complementary visual story; the writing on the page says one thing, but the way Gilroy places the images together sometimes tell an entirely different, or deeper, one. Plus, that climactic car chase is phenomenal. “Gone Girl” is a fun exercise is incremental widening of verbal space and exhalation of storytelling; the film begins bottled up, churning through the first act, before unveiling a collapsing twist and then inverting its conventions over and over again. Kirk Baxter kills it, per usual, cementing his partnership with David Fincher. So much of “Wild’s” narrative poignancy comes from the editing style, which all stems from the mental and emotional impact of memory. The editing complements Hornby’s script wonderfully. And as the maestro behind the year’s most criminally underseen action film, Gareth Evans is some kind of filmmaking wizard overseeing practically every technical department for his second “Raid” film. As nearly two and a half hours and working on a far bigger canvas, some of what happens in “The Raid 2: Berandal” doesn’t seem practically possible, but Evans manages it all with aplomb – I honestly don’t understand how.

 Best Makeup

“Foxcatcher,” Bill Corso & Kathrine Gordon

“Snowpiercer,” Gabriela Plakova & Linda Eisenhamerova

“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Mark Coulier & Julie Dartnell

Like the costumes, “Grand Budapest” is a stylish accomplishment at every turn, and like “Snowpiercer,” Anderson’s makeup artists morph Tilda Swinton into a singular character that seems to erase every indication that it’s actually Swinton underneath all of those layers. But it’s hard to compete with “Foxcatcher,” Steve Carell’s prosthetic nose is one of the film’s most impressive aspects. Even the film’s detractors can’t contest that.

Gone GirlBest Original Score

“Gone Girl,” Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

“Under the Skin,” Mica Levi

“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Alexandre Desplat

“Inherent Vice,” Jonny Greenwood

“Birdman,” Antonio Sanchez

David Fincher needn’t ever request the musical services of any team other than Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross. Their score for “The Social Network” is eternal at this point, but the “Gone Girl” soundtrack piggybacks on that previous success. Unobtrusive, totally in tune with the spiraling events on screen, the atmosphere of “Gone Girl” can almost be singlehandedly attributed to the score. “Under the Skin,” a far more cerebral and atmospheric film than “Gone Girl” possesses an equally challenging score, a dissonant haunting needle to the eardrums (a compliment!) courtesy of Mica Levi. Desplat has had a banner year, credited with five original scores in 2014, but “Grand Budapest” stands mightily as his best. The classically chimey score fits Anderson’s storybook tone immaculately. Jonny Greenwood, PTA’s now regular composer, lays down his best cinematic accompaniment to date; the swirling, building riffs match both the actions on screen and the paranoid stoner haze that is substitute to Doc Sportello’s brain. And even if the Academy can’t consider it for nominations, Antonio Sanchez’s spontaneous, improvisational percussion defines the “Birdman” experience aptly pounding away without any identifiable pattern or structure alongside the mental breakdown occurring inside Riggan Thomson’s head.

Best Music (Original Song)

“Everything is Awesome” from “The LEGO Movie”

“Glory” from “Selma”

“Lost Stars” from “Begin Again”

“The Last Goodbye” “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”

“Yellow Flicker Beat” from “The Hunger Games Saga: Mockingjay Part 1”

The original song from “The LEGO Movie” is nothing short of awesome, and its implementation into the plot is savvy and continuously funny. I’m excited to see this one performed in the Dolby Theater next month. “Selma’s” original track by cast member Common and John Legend is an affecting cap to an affecting film. “Lost Stars” should have actually been a bigger hit than it was and I remember claiming that when I saw “Begin Again” over the summer. I haven’t seen either the newest “Hobbit” or “Hunger Games” films but Billy Boyd’s moving song from the former is a heartfelt summation of Jackson’s final Middle Earth blockbuster and I’ll always back a new Lorde track, even if it’s written for a franchise I’ve never been very attached to.

Best Production Design

“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Adam Stockhausen & Anna Pinnock

“Snowpiercer,” Ondrej Nekvasil & Beata Brendtnerová

“Guardians of the Galaxy,” Charles Wood & Richard Roberts

“Noah,” Mark Friedberg, Nicholas DiBlasio & Debra Schutt

“Birdman,” Kevin Thompson & George DeTitta Jr.

If you’ve seen “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” there isn’t much explanation needed for its merits in this department. “Snowpiercer” is similar, in the action-packed sci-fi flick where every single car on the eponymous globetrotting train is another masterly envisioned spectacle. “Guardians of the Galaxy” took the Marvel Cinematic Universe into deep space and drew on tons of sci-fi classics for each of its set pieces. Darren Aronofsky’s overlooked “Noah” was a studio-backed gamble, but Aronofsky, a newcomer to big budgets, didn’t waste a penny and had a full-scale ark built for his biblical blockbuster. “Birdman” utilized the St. James Theater on Broadway to its full potential and dressed every inch of the film’s “stage” to create the tense, ego-clotted world of Inarritu’s kinetic film.

GodzillaBest Sound Editing

“Godzilla,” Erik Aadahl & Ethan Van der Ryn

“Fury,” Paul N.J. Ottosson

“The Babadook,” Frank Lipson

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” Will Files & Douglas Murray

“Interstellar,” Richard King

Godzilla’s roar. Period. Gareth Edwards’ booming film is a marvel in the editorial, even if it’s not as entirely memorable as many were hoping for. “Fury” also proved to be underwhelming, but it’s got a soundscape to be reckoned with. My favorite audio device of the year might be BA-BA-DOOK, which ingrained itself inside my brain like the cerebral demon the film is named after. The “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’” audio team is aces, as is “Interstellar’s,” which catapulted us into outer space with an audio bed to match it.

Best Sound Mixing

“Whiplash,” Thomas Curley

“Godzilla” Michael McGee, Rick Kline, Gregg Landaker & Tim LeBlanc

“Birdman,” Thomas Varga

“Fury,” Lisa Pinero

“Transformers: Age of Extinction,” Peter J. Devlin, Clayton Perry & Greg P. Russell

There is so much going on in “Whiplash,” but the layering of every element is part of what makes it such a rattling viewing experience. Like the film editing, the sound mix is just a whirlwind. “Godzilla,” again, has a brilliant sound mix; seeing the film in IMAX was worth it alone for the way the film sounds. “Birdman,” within its one-shot motif, has a great deal going on as well, from the continuous drumming of Antonio Sanchez to the crackling banter of its cast, to the internal monologue of Riggan Thomson and the assortment of New York City sounds panging around on the periphery. For such a contained film, there is a lot happening audibly. “Fury” and “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” meanwhile, just have so much happening at all times that successfully layering everything together in each film (especially Bay’s film) is just an insane task.

DAwnBest Visual Effects

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

“Interstellar”

“Godzilla”

“Edge of Tomorrow”

“Under the Skin”

Andy Serkis, ‘nuff said. Chris Nolan, however, had his ambitions fulfilled by the “Interstellar” VFX team and in 70mm IMAX it was a truly wowing experience. The creature Godzilla has never been more terrifically rendered, and “Edge of Tomorrow” proved to have some really amazingly conceived creatures on display to antagonize a never-dying Tom Cruise. In the arthouse department, “Under the Skin” is a film that I literally cannot even begin to guess how it was made. Glazer’s visions are brought to harrowing reality on celluloid; what you see in “Under the Skin” is arguably more impressive than even the biggest budged summer films.

Best Animated Feature

“The LEGO Movie,” Phil Lord & Christopher Miller

“How to Train Your Dragon 2,” Dean DeBlois

Everything in “The LEGO Movie” is awesome. But the “Dragon” sequel was maybe the most epic animated film I’ve ever laid eyes on.

Best Documentary Feature

“Life Itself,” Steve James

“Jodorowsky’s Dune,” Frank Pavich

This is majorly embarrassing as the above two documentaries are the only ones I’ve seen as of this time. “The Overnighters,” “Manakamana,” “Timbuktu,” “Last Days in Vietnam,” “Red Army,” “The Case Against 8,” “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me,” “Virunga,” and “CitizenFour” are all on my list to see. However, “Life Itself” is a wonderfully raw tribute to cinema’s most well-regarded customer and “Jodorowsky’s Dune” is a fantastically visualized and constructed documentary about the failed process behind the greatest film that never came to be; both are docs for film lovers. I did manage to see “20,000 Days on Earth,” a positively regarded piece about Bad Seeds legend/film composer/writer Nick Cave, but I found it to be an “8 ½” wannabe that, despite innovatively tinkering with the boundaries of documentary filmmaking, ultimately felt a little to self-important and drab.

the TribeBest Foreign Language Feature

“The Tribe,” Miroslav Slaboshpitsky

“Mommy,” Xavier Dolan

“Ida,” Pawel Pawlikowski

“Two Days, One Night,” Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne

“Force Majeure,” Ruben Ostlund

This is a cheat – “The Tribe” does not yet have a release date in the United States. I saw it at AFI Fest, but when it is released, do yourself a favor and SEEK IT OUT. It’s challenging, and brutal, and will definitely not be everybody’s cup of tea, but its an extraordinary, essential film (it ranked as #3 on my Top 10 of 2014). Xavier Dolan’s “Mommy” is one of the most electrifying films I’ve ever seen, innovatively screened and excellently acted, and “Ida” is the most beautiful post-war film that you could honestly convince someone was made in the early 50’s. Marion Cotillard is stripped bare in the Dardennes’ crippling “Two Days, One Night,” a film that thrives off simplicity in execution and concept but embeds its emotional core with topical complexity. And “Force Majeure,” a wickedly astute satire, might sacrifice its well-rounded characters in favor of personified ideas, but as stimulatingly told by Ruben Ostlund, those ideas sting kind of humorously, but also quite painfully.

Best Ensemble

“Inherent Vice”

“Birdman”

“Selma”

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”

“Foxcatcher”

Take a hint from the SAG awards; the Best Ensemble Oscar should be implemented as the Academy’s 25th category. Even though it does not exist, I will include it anyway because there were such glorious ensembles on display this year. “Inherent Vice” takes the cake with a sprawling cast that seems to grow exponentially throughout its duration. Every actor, no matter how much or how little screen time they possess, meets P.T. Anderson’s wishes without fault. Numbering at just a fraction of “Vice’s” ensemble, “Birdman” sees each of its key members firing on all cylinders, from Michael Keaton at the top of his game all the way to Lindsay Duncan as an incorrigible theater critic. “Selma” sees David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo reincarnating icons of the Civil Rights movement right before our eyes, but there isn’t a blip or a crack in the cast that supports them, which includes legends, character actors, television stars, and newcomers alike. Wes Anderson is no stranger to ensembles either, having made a career out of heavy-hitting casts, but “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” like “Inherent Vice,” launches forward actor after actor, some with more to do than others, but none that feel at all out of place. Anderson also loves to collaborate with many of the same performers, but in “Budapest” many of those potentially distracting presences (i.e. Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, etc.) are given generous and gratifying cameos in an effort to give first time Andersonites, like Ralph Fiennes, spotlight priority. And now many may argue “Foxcatcher’s” abilities to rank as an ensemble, but my reason would be the inability to call any one of the film’s three leads the epicenter. Carell, Tatum, and Ruffalo operate as they do singularly because of how the other two operate, which in turn comes from how any one actor chooses the operate, etc. It’s a cyclical, symbiotic bind that defines the three actors’ choices and it’s captivating to watch. That, to me, defines the science of ensemble acting; “Foxcatcher” is as tight-knit as ensembles can get.

Inherent Vice Last Supper

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article by Mike Murphy

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s