Monday, February 16, 2015

Best of 2014, Part 3: Directing, Screenplays

I'm going to tell you another secret: these posts aren't really about movies or lists. They're actually cruel psychological experiments to see how often I can get people to come back to this particularly traumatizing well, drinking deeply from rambling posts about movies they haven't seen. Are you reading this? If so, my master plan is working. You're in too deep. You're lost. (You can bring me the boy. You can bring me the boy. You can bring me the boy. You can bring me the boy.) (Ugh, The Babadook is creepy.)

Anyway, now that I've berated you for an appropriate length of time,  I suppose I ought to get back to writing movie lists and all that. Hopefully, today's entry will be short-ish, partly because I'm only going to do three categories, and also because it's Monday, which means I'm exhausted and I just want to stare blankly at the wall for the rest of my night. So I'll try and keep it brief so that we can all get back to staring at the wall of our choice. Today we'll be looking at the categories that (and tradition dictates that I say this) I plan to fail at later in life: directing and screenplays!

Best Director
5. Bong Joon-Ho-Snowpiercer
Snowpiercer is a glorious, lurid fever dream, but it would have been nothing but a brightly colored nightmare if it hadn't been handled with a sure hand. Bong Joon-Ho's got a vision--delirious and off-kilter as it may be--and his single-minded, manic conviction in seeing it through to the end impressive, bordering on horrifying. That it all actually works is something of a staggering achievement.

4. Ava DuVernay-Selma
Taking what can be (and normally is) a stale genre (the biopic), DuVernay injects life, purpose, and most importantly, energy into what could have been a tepid enterprise. Unwilling to lionize the man or the events, DuVernay's film pushes, scrapes, and finagles its way toward something resembling honesty, never forgetting to stare determinedly into the violence it conjures.

3. Dan Gilroy-Nightcrawler
It honestly just grosses me out that Nightcrawler is Gilroy's first film--what rookie has such effortless, confident control his first time up to bat? Nightcrawler flails forward like a bat out of hell, ensuring that the audience never once gets to stop for breath. Gilroy is absolutely merciless--every shooting, every car crash, every wild-eyed grin, and every bad haircut gets lovingly shoved into the audiences face, just as it ought to be. Gilroy aims for have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too satire, decrying the meat grinder that is contemporary news while giddily rolling around in the film's own bloodthirst impulses.

2. Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu-Birdman
It's become a bit passé to applaud Innaritu's achievements in this field, but how can I not? It's certainly not the easiest thing in the world to helm a film that is made to look like it was made in one shot--nor is it the easiest thing to foster some of the best performances of the year. And yet Innaritu doesn't just manage it--he brings the whole lumbering enterprise screaming across the finish line with wit, energy, and (dare I say) pizzazz. (Ugh, pizzazz. Someone break my fingers.)

1. Jonathan Glazer-Under the Skin
And yet no one was ever going to take the top spot but Jonathan Glazer. I mentioned in the list on Sunday that Under the Skin is a purely visual exercise in narrative; this means that the director had even more to do than necessary. Given only camera set-ups, colors, and blank, unreadable faces, Glazer crafted one of the most maddening, absorbing, and fantastically wacky stories in theaters this year. And how did he do it? By being honest. By not being afraid to keep his distance and let the audience put two and two together. At any time during the film, Glazer could have condescended to us and underlined some crucial detail, or taken time to explain, but he doesn't, and that's the genius of it all--rather than being a mildly intriguing puzzle that is solved for us, Under the Skin becomes an infuriating exercise in attempting to connect dots that don't actually exist.

Honorable mention: Richard Linklater's years-long, sensitive work on Boyhood

Best Original Screenplay
5. Richard Linklater-Boyhood
Lightly written, organically conceived, naturalistic enough that it all seems like improv. Not bad.

Mom: You know what I'm realising? My life is just going to go. Like that. This series of milestones. Getting married. Having kids. Getting divorced. The time that we thought you were dyslexic. When I taught you how to ride a bike. Getting divorced... again. Getting my masters degree. Finally getting the job I wanted. Sending Samantha off to college. Sending you off to college. You know what's next? Huh? It's my fucking funeral! Just go, and leave my picture!

4. Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo-Birdman
Breakneck pacing, wordplay to stymie Olympic fencers, and enough pyrotechnics to gloss over some of the script's admitted weak points.
Mike Shiner: I'm drunk? Yes, I'm drunk! I'm supposed to be drunk! Why aren't you drunk? This is Carver. He left a piece of his liver on the table every time he wrote a fucking page. If I need to be drinking gin, who the fuck are you to touch my gin, man? Listen, you fucked with the period, you fucked with the plot so you could have the best lines, you leave me the fucking tools that I need! Oh, come on people, don't be so pathetic. Stop looking at the world through your cellphone screens. Have a real experience! Does anybody give a shit about truth other than me? I meant the set is fake, the bananas are fake, there's fucking nothing in this milk carton, your performance is fake. The only thing that is real on this stage is this chicken. So, I'm gonna work with the chicken.

3. Dan Gilroy-Nightcrawler
Creepy, soulless catchphrases shoe-horned into tiny little lonely lives, writ large in front of a TV camera.
Lou Bloom: What if my problem wasn't that I don't understand people but that I don't like them? What if I was the kind of person who was obliged to hurt you for this? I mean physically. I think you'd have to believe afterward, if you could, that agreeing to participate and then backing out at the critical moment was a mistake. Because that's what I'm telling you, as clearly as I can.

2. Stephen Beresford-Pride
The best-written ensemble of the year--every character is well-developed and gets a chance to shine. Helps that the dialogue sings, too.
Dai: I've had a lot of new experiences during this strike. Speaking in public, standing on a picket line, And now I'm in a gay bar.
Jonathan: Well, if you don't like it, you can go home.
Dai: As a matter of fact, I do like it. Beer's a bit expensive, mind. But, really, there's only one difference between this and a bar in South Wales. The women. They're a lot more feminine in here.What I'd really like to say to you tonight is thank you. If you're one of the people that's put money in these buckets, if you've supported LGSM, then thank you, because what you've given us is more than money. It's friendship. When you're in a battle against an enemy so much bigger, so much stronger than you, well, to find out you had a friend you never knew existed, well, that's the best feeling in the world. So, thank you.

1. Wes Anderson-The Grand Budapest Hotel
Effortlessly vacillates between hilarious, heartwarming, and bittersweet. Like a wacky little pastry that you didn't know you wanted until after you'd eaten it.
M. Gustave: What happened, my dear Zero, is I beat the living shit out of a sniveling little runt called Pinky Bandinski, who had the gall to question my virility. Because, if there's one thing we've learned from penny dreadfuls, it's that when you find yourself in a place like this, you must never be a candy ass; you've got to prove yourself from day one. You've got to win their respect. You should take a long look at HIS ugly mug this morning.
[Takes a sip of water and laughs]
M. Gustave: He's actually become a dear friend.

Honorable mention: sparse, elegant storytelling in Ida

Best Adapted Screenplay
5. Gillian Robespierre-Obvious Child
Funny, sweet, insightful, and featuring the cutest awkward hook-up since...ever, probably.
(IMDB has basically no quotes for this one. Oh well. Rent this. It's funny.)

4. Nick Hornby-Wild
Frank with its events but generous with its emotions. Hard to make a long inner monologue pay off, but Wild pulls it off easily.
Cheryl: What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I'd done something I shouldn't have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I'd done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn't do anything differently than I had done? What if I'd actually wanted to fuck every one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn't have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?

3. Walter Campbell and Jonathan Glazer-Under the Skin
An adaptation that rips the book to shreds, burns it, and congeals and oozing little nightmare from the ashes.
(There's just no point whatsoever trying to put a quote from this movie here. Like I've said a couple times before, the words are totally secondary to what's happening on the screen.)

2. Gillian Flynn-Gone Girl
It takes guts to adapt your own book for the screen. It takes even more guts to rip the thing apart and turn it into something new--a snarky, (very) black comedy that's far lighter on its feet than it has any right to be.
Nick Dunne: You fucking cunt!
Amy Dunne: I'm the cunt you married. The only time you liked yourself was when you were trying to be someone this cunt might like. I'm not a quitter, I'm that cunt. I killed for you; who else can say that? You think you'd be happy with a nice Midwestern girl? No way, baby! I'm it.

1. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely-Captain America: The Winter Soldier
For proving that Marvel movies don't have to be artistically starved cash-grabs: they can be complicated, intelligent, and multi-faceted, and still be a hell of a lot of fun. For showing us what comic-book adaptations should look like, without compromising either the comic book or the film's integrity.
Dr. Zola: People will fight for their freedom if people try to take it from them. But if you cause enough trouble, people will willingly give up their freedom for a more secure world.

Honorable mention: the (mostly) successful gags and silliness of 22 Jump Street

Well that's another post done. Tomorrow (or Wednesday, if we're being practical) will see the last big list day, in which I tackle all of the craft categories. Who will win best Sound Editing? Only time will tell! The suspense is killer.  What do we think? Did I really just give a Marvel movie a screenwriting award? I'm honestly a little shocked myself. We'll see if I come to regret that before too long. 

No comments:

Post a Comment