My Ballot: Chlotrudis 21

rocks in my pockets

Another year, another Chlotrudis Awards ballot. I always try to see as many nominated films as I can; this year, I got to all but five titles.* The 21th annual ceremony is this Sunday at 5:00 at the Brattle Theatre, with animator and Chlotrudis Short Film Festival alum Signe Baumane (director of Buried Treasure nominee Rocks In My Pockets, pictured above) attending.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ENSEMBLE CAST

Archipelago
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Like Father, Like Son
We Are the Best!
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

I’m not sure it has even a slight chance of winning (although you never know with this group), but Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow is the strongest ensemble here; with everyone utilized effectively, I came away from it caring about every last character.

Should have been nominated: Inherent Vice for across-the-board strong work from stars (Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson) and unknowns (Katherine Waterston, Hong Chau, squeaky-voiced singer/harpist Joanna Newsom).

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

David Crank – The Double
Adam Stockhausen – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Suzie Davies – Mr. Turner
Marco Bittner Rosser – Only Lovers Left Alive
Ondrej Nakvasil – Snowpiercer
Johanna Bourson – The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears

The Grand Budapest Hotel, obviously (and not only because Stockhausen went to my high school)—while not one of my favorite Wes Anderson films, if it deserves to win in any category, this is it (although I’d rate the futurist-retro The Double a close second).

Should have been nominated: Despite possibly not being as great as I may have once thought, you can’t deny that Mood Indigo was the most ambitious and original film of the year solely in terms of its batshit insane design.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Emmanuel Lubezki – Birdman
Philipp Kirsamer – A Coffee in Berlin
Lyle Vincent – A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Robert D. Yeoman – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ryszard Lenczewski – Ida
Daniel Landin – Under the Skin

On the sole basis of pure, bold visual splendor and high contrast, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night would get my vote, but it looks like a half-dozen other modern black-and-white films I’ve seen. Under The Skin, packed with how-did-they-get-those incognito shots of its cast and an excess of rich textural imagery looks like nothing else, ever.

Should have been nominated: The stationery tableaus in Force Majeure, whether inside the Overlook-worthy resort hotel, the gleaming white mountain vistas or that still incredible slow-burn (freeze?) of an avalanche shot.

BEST EDITING

Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrone – Birdman
Sandra Adair – Boyhood
Anja Siemens – A Coffee in Berlin
Bill Weber – The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden
Justine Wright – Locke
Steve M. Choe and Changju Kim – Snowpiercer

One of two new categories for Chlotrudis this year, I admired both the unobtrusive year-to-year transitions in Boyhood and the continual sense of movement in Snowpiercer. And then, there’s Locke, which follows one character in his car for 85 minutes and is still beautifully cinematic and convincingly suspenseful while combining multiple takes into a seamless whole.

Should have been nominated: The One I Love, precisely for reasons that would constitute major spoilers.

BEST USE OF MUSIC IN A FILM

A Coffee in Berlin
Frank
God Help the Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Only Lovers Left Alive
Under the Skin
We Are the Best!
Whiplash

The other new category. I’m particularly fond of Stuart Murdoch’s musical numbers in God Help The Girl, the evocative jazz/folk of A Coffee In Berlin, the dazzling, tricky big band arrangements of Whiplash and Mica Levi’s groundbreaking ambient work in Under The Skin. Still, none of them have the impact (or pure, exhilarating fun) of both the original and period punk songs in We Are The Best!

Should have been nominated: I can’t argue with eight good-to-great nominees, but I would’ve also found room for the heady mélange of Arabic pop (plus White Lies’ magnificent Joy Division-esque “Death”) in A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Cold in July, Nick Damici and Jim Mickie, based on the novel by Joe R. Lansdale
The Congress, Ari Folman, based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem
Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson, based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon
Joe, Gary Hawkins, based on the novel by Larry Brown
A Most Wanted Man, Andrew Bovell and Stephen Cornwell, based on the novel by John LeCarre
We Are the Best!, Lukas Moodysson, based on the comic book by Coco Moodysson

Although surprisingly faithful to Pynchon’s novel, Anderson’s take on Inherent Vice works because the filmmaker puts his own stamp on the material while totally fricking getting what Pynchon is all about. I too had trouble following the typically convoluted narrative, but as I watched part of the film again, I was beyond thrilled to see every single scene a second time.

Should have been nominated: Although the dialogue is kept at a minimum, screenplays are more than just spoken words, and, love it or hate it, you wouldn’t expect Under the Skin to be a literary adaptation if you had never heard of the book (like myself).

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando BoBirdman
Justin Simien – Dear White People
Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Pawel Pawilkowski and Rebecca Lenkiewicz – Ida
Steven Knight – Locke

It varies in performance and direction, but you can’t say the same about Dear White People’s screenplay—whether aiming for satire or reaching towards epiphany, it’s extremely sharp and relatable without seeming at all run-of-the-mill.

Should have been nominated: Love Is Strange for how eloquent and perceptive it is about such timeless concerns as fidelity, companionship, enduring love and what makes a home.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Edward Norton – Birdman
Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
Michael Fassbender – Frank
Tom Hiddleston – Unrelated
J.K. Simmons– Whiplash

Simmons fully deserved his Oscar, but he doesn’t need any more awards. I thought Norton was overrated, liked Hiddleston more in Archipelago, and admired Fassbender’s unconventional turn as Frank. And yet, Hawke’s recent roles (like last year’s Before Midnight) suggest he’s just hitting his peak as an actor; with Boyhood, you even get the added bonus of seeing how far he’s come over the dozen-year filming period.

Should have been nominated: Josh Brolin in Inherent Vice is the obvious answer (may his Lt. Bigfoot suck on chocolate-covered bananas forever); however, had more people seen Pride, Ben Schnetzer would be feted the world over for a charismatic performance many will seek out once he inevitably has a breakthrough role in another movie.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Lydia Leonard – Archipelago
Agata Kulesza – Ida
Suzanne Clement – Mommy
Imelda Staunton – Pride
Tilda Swinton – Snowpiercer
Eva Green – White Bird in a Blizzard

Swinton and Green were both fabulous, but also a little too campy for me to cast a guilt-free vote to either. So, I defer to Leonard for giving her all to one of the most unpleasant characters to ever grace a movie screen and still eliciting my sympathy anyway.

Should have been nominated: Uma Thurman, whose one delirious scene in Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 is the most exciting thing she’s done since Pulp Fiction.

BEST ACTOR

Michael Keaton – Birdman
Jesse Eisenberg – The Double
Masaharu Fukuyama – Like Father, Like Son
Tom Hardy – Locke
Adam Bakri – Omar
Miles Teller – Whiplash

Although I admired its technical prowess and novel concept, I found Birdman a little overrated (although I’d rather it be a Best Picture Oscar winner than, say, American Sniper). However, take away Iñárritu’s stylistic frippery and you’re left with Keaton (thankfully) giving the most multi-layered, resonant performance of his career.

Should have been nominated: certainly Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel; although Chlotrudis has honored Philip Seymour Hoffman repeatedly throughout his too-short career, his final leading turn in A Most Wanted Man was good enough to drive home what an immense loss his death was.

BEST ACTRESS

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Robin Wright – The Congress
Paulina Garcia – Gloria
Agata Trzebuchowska – Ida
Anne Dorval – Mommy
Tilda Swinton – Only Lovers Left Alive

I doubt she has any chance of winning, but Dorval’s work is as integral to Mommy as Dolan’s direction: her character Die is a hot-mess-of-a-maternal figure/protagonist up there with any ever essayed by Gena Rowlands, Joan Crawford or Shirley MacLaine.

Should have been nominated: Worthy nominees all of them, although I still think Arquette is more supporting than a lead, and I’d immediately replace her with Essie Davis, who, fantastic direction and concept aside, absolutely makes The Babadook a must-see.

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Finding Vivian Maier
Jodorowsky’s Dune
Life Itself
Particle Fever
Tim’s Vermeer
To Be Takei

The films on the stupendous mind behind El Topo and the film critic for The Chicago Sun Times are standouts here and both wonderful studies on how film enhances a life (albeit to two extremely disparate ends). I ultimately went with Life Itself because it celebrated Ebert without slipping into hagiography and ended up a well-rounded, actually profound portrait of possibly everything that gives life meaning.

Should have been nominated: In a particularly weak year for docs, I’m guessing the only reason The Overnighters didn’t make it on the ballot was because not enough people saw it. Go see it.

BEST DIRECTOR

Joanna Hogg – Archipelago
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu – Birdman
Richard Linklater – Boyhood
Jan Ole Gerster – A Coffee in Berlin
Pawel Pawlikowski – Ida
Hirokazu Kore-eda – Like Father, Like Son

Do I go with an innovative, monumental achievement by one of the best filmmakers of his generation (Linklater) or an impressive new talent more filmgoers should know (Gerster)? A tough choice and I’d just as well hope for a tie. Since I want to vote for A Coffee In Berlin in at least one category, I’m going with Gerster.

Should have been nominated: Although it’s not like he hasn’t been noticed elsewhere, I believe Damien Chazelle directed the hell out of Whiplash in the same way that Richard Kelly did with the similarly ridiculous and sublime Donnie Darko. Now, Chazelle just has to avoid making a Southland Tales-like debacle next.

BEST MOVIE

Birdman
Boyhood
A Coffee in Berlin
Ida
Like Father, Like Son
Mommy

This list contains my top three films of the year. I’m tempted to throw a bone to A Coffee In Berlin because it will likely win no awards in this category (outside Germany, of course). In the end, however, my heart says Boyhood, which incidentally deserved the Oscar so much more than Birdman.

Should have been nominated: I know it was probably too polarizing to make the cut here, but personally I’d so rather re-watch and try to decipher Under the Skin again than, say, the likable but problematic Birdman.

BURIED TREASURE

Borgman
Ilo Ilo
Rocks in My Pockets
The Strange Little Cat
The Way He Looks

Although I didn’t really get The Strange Little Cat, there’s not one especially weak entry in this bunch. After being put off by its first ten minutes, I even came to enjoy Ilo Ilo. Rocks In My Pockets is vastly better than last year’s animated nominee in this category, and Borgman remains a demented gem. However, none of these surpass The Way He Looks in wit, heart and overall execution.

Should have been nominated: The film I wanted most to make this category made it in; I wasn’t the only one stumping for it, so perhaps I should’ve pushed for The Overnighters instead.

(*The films I didn’t see: The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears, The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden, Joe, Cold In July and Omar.)

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