Ray’s 2014 Movie Awards


Ray’s 2014 Movie Awards

Best Films of the Year

  1. Birdman. I don’t even like this director.  And the drum solos were too loud and obnoxious.  And I’m no fan of Michael Keaton.  However, Birdman is filmmaking of the highest order.  An extremely smart and funny script, high-octane acting from a magnificent cast, and utterly epic cinematography make this the film of the year.
  2. Boyhood. Yeah, it’s a gimmick.  But maybe the greatest gimmick in the history of fiction film.  Writer/director Richard Linklater actually filmed for a week every year for twelve years to create this tapestry of a very normal Texas boy growing up.  There’s really no other movie like it.
  3. The Grand Budapest Hotel. Director Wes Anderson’s latest puppet-show-with-real-actors-movie is probably his best.  It’s a deliriously entertaining contraption, full of humor, humanity and sadness.  The craftsmanship is of the highest order, particularly in the acting, design, and score.  The fact that the production designers got to show us the hotel in three different time periods really pushes this one over the top.
  4. The Congress. It’s not just weird, it’s out of its mind.  And that’s why I loved it.  Robin Wright playing herself and selling her image to be used to make movies is the least weird thing that happens in this deliriously inventive fantasy.
  5. Selma. A smart and disturbing look at the Civil Rights Movement.
  6. Whiplash. An off-the-chain meditation on the artistic impulse.
  7. Nightcrawler. One of the better LA movies in a great while, anchored by a stunning lead performance by Jake Gyllenhaal.
  8. The Drop. Down and dirty crime drama, Brooklyn-style.
  9. Wild Tales.  A spectacular collection of hilarious and horrifying revenge stories from Argentina.
  10. Pride. The most fun you have at a movie about a wrenching coal miners’ strike.
  11. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The only blockbuster on the list. It gets extra credit for not being a comic book superhero movie.

Honorable Mention:  Snowpiercer, Calvary

Lead Actor

Michael Keaton, Birdman

*Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler

Tom Hardy, Locke

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Honorable Mention:  David Oyelowo in Selma; Timothy Spall in Mr. Turner; Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game; Irrfan Khan in The Lunchbox, Andy Serkis in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Brendan Gleeson in Calvary;  Miles Teller in Whiplash, Tom Hardy in The Drop

Lead Actress

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Jennifer Aniston, Cake

*Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Honorable Mention:  Robin Wright in The Congress

Supporting Actress

Emma Stone, Birdman

Amy Ryan, Birdman

*Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Lara Dern, Wild

Renee Russo, Nightcrawler

Honorable Mention:  Jillian Bell in 22 Jump Street

Supporting Actor

*J. K. Simmons, Whiplash

Matthais Schoenarts, The Drop

Ed Norton, Birdman


*Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Damian Chazelle, Whiplash

Ava DuVernier, Selma

Honorable Mention:  Michael R. Roskam for The Drop, Damián Szifron for Wild Tales

Original Screenplay

*Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giocobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo)

Boyhood (Richard Linklater)

Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)

Damián Szifron, Wild Tales

Adapted Screenplay

*Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)

Original Score

*Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Production Design

*Adam Stockhausen, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Kevin Thompson, Birdman

Kim Jennings and Elizabeth Keenan, Selma


Robert Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel

*Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman

Robert Elswit, Nightcrawler

Animated Feature

*Song of the Sea

Documentary Feature

Particle Fever

Elaine Stritch:  Shoot Me

*Finding Vivian Maier

Jodorovsky’s Dune

Citizen Four

The Galapogos Affair

Special Mention for Ensemble Acting Excellence


Best Guilty Pleasure

The Guest

Can We Please See More of…

India.  I love movies set, or even partially set, in India.  I may never visit there, but I really really enjoy the country from a distance.  Thank you, The Lunchbox and Million Dollar Arm.

Kim Dickens.  Gone Girl reminded me how much I always enjoy her fierce on-screen presence.  She needs to be in more movies.

Lake Bell.  I just really love her.  She needs more good parts.  She made Million Dollar Arm better.

Corey Stoll.  Just cast him in everything already.

Jillian Bell.  She KILLED in 22 Jump Street, and I’m trying to not hold Inherent Vice against her.

The charismatic Matthias Schoenarts!

The dependable John Ortiz, one of those inspired character actors who make everything they are in better.

Great Lines

“They never see you coming, do you Bob?”  A chilling moment of revelation delivered by John Ortiz’s Detective Torres near the end of The Drop

Things get real in Birdman:  Lesley: “I wish I had more self-respect.” Laura: “You’re an actress.”

Pretty much everything Jillian Bell said in 22 Jump Street.

Funniest Movie of 2014

22 Jump Street

Reasonably Entertaining… Won’t Kill You To See

Dear White People

Guardians of the Galaxy

The Lego Movie

Edge of Tomorrow

Muppets Most Wanted

Million Dollar Arm



A Most Wanted Man


The Imitation Game

The Theory of Everything



Night Moves

Life Itself

The Trip to Italy

The Skeleton Twins

The Two Faces of January

Into the Woods

The Homesman

Exemplary Practitioners of the “Ray and Tayler Rule” (getting in shape when you get cast)

Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy

Zac Efron in Neighbors

Most Interesting Presence in Movies

Tilda Swinton, for the umpteenth year in a row.

All Movies Are Fiction.  Right?

I normally don’t get that upset when “based on a true story” movies blur the facts for dramatic purposes.  But in the case of American Sniper, Clint Eastwood showed us a puzzlingly whitewashed portrait of a very complicated real life dude.  There’s an interesting film to be made about Chris Kyle, to be sure, but American Sniper ain’t it.

Further Proof that Tom Cruise Should Make a Science Fiction Movie Every Couple of Years

Edge of Tomorrow

Most Fun Bad Movie of the Year

Into the Storm.  Yeah tornado porn!!

Excellent Super-Weird Movies

The One I Love

The Congress

Dumbest Casting

Tim Roth as George Wallace in Selma

Overrated Oscar Bait

The Imitation Game

American Sniper

The Theory of Everything

Worst Title of the Year

The Imitation Game.  Alan Turing is famous for three accomplishments:  1) Helping to crack the Enigma Code, 2) helping to invent the computer, and 3) developing the Turing Test for artificial intelligence.  The film is about the first thing, but is named for the third thing.  That’s just dumb and obtuse.

Pretty Boring

In Secret

Ernest and Celestine


Jodie Foster Award for Worst Lead Performance

Steve Carrell in Foxcatcher.  A prosthetic nose and a flat, inflectionless voice is not how the acting thing is done.  Extra credit for Carrell because of all the bewildering praise his performance has garnered.  So he was not only Jodie-Foster-Bad, but he fooled millions into thinking he was actually good.

The Worst Films of 2014

Love is Strange.  No, love is boring.  Really, really boring.  And badly edited and written.  This is the second film I’ve seen from director Ira Sachs.  I think it’s time to really consider a Federal Constitutional Amendment to keep him from making any further films.

Stranger By The Lake:  If being gay was a choice, this movie would inspire me make a different choice.

Godzilla:  Giant monster porn is so, so, so uninvolving.  It it weren’t for man-candy Aaron Taylor-Johnson and his shoulders, I would have very likely swallowed my tongue long before the end credits.

Cold in July:  A really flimsy thriller.

Inherent Vice:  Further proof, as if any was needed, that director Paul Thomas Anderson loathes the audience.

Zero Thereom:  Further proof, as if any were needed, that it’s time for Terry Gilliam to find a new line of work.

*Foxcatcher:  A stunningly boring, pointless movie full of long, tedious scenes that go nowhere.

The Farewells of 2014

Robin Williams

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Mike Nichols

Lauren Bacall

Richard Attenborough

Jan Hooks

Harold Ramis

Sid Caesar

Shirley Temple

Mickey Rooney

Bob Hoskins

Joan Rivers

Ann B. Davis

Ruby Dee

Eli Wallach

Elaine Stritch

James Garner

Richard Kiel

Polly Bergen

Marian Seldes

Edward Hermann

Elizabeth Pena

Luise Rainer

James Rebhorn

Phyllis Frelich

Juanita Moore

Carmen Zapata



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