Best Films of 2014: 20-16

This is a continuation of my series on the Best Films of 2014. It began yesterday here and will continue with a post on 15-11.

20. Misunderstood

Misunderstood (2014, Orange Films)

Making its North American debut at the New York Film Festival Misunderstood is an independent seriocomic coming of age story that should hopefully land US distribution but so far as I know has yet to. Here were my closing thoughts on the film upon having first viewed it:

Misunderstood is refreshing inasmuch as its a coming-of-age tale that does not focus solely on one rite. It’s a slice of life for Aria’s character with many of the usual concerns: schools, friends, first crushes and the like, as well as some other concerns conveyed in somewhat more unorthodox circumstances such as her relationship with her siblings with the spiritual world and more. It’s a film that wants you to laugh along with it as it’s trying to strike that universal chord that rings true to all regardless of circumstances. Misunderstood is aptly named very ably portraying not only its protagonist’s being misunderstood but also understanding her at a deep, fundamental level and conveying her story clearly.

19. The Boxtrolls

Boxtrolls (2014, Laika)

For those who enjoy animation for all audiences and a bit of diversification in technique and producers for the animated medium there is not a better place to turn at current than Laika. Their latest stop-motion venture is idiosyncratic, and is a marvelous example of world-building as well as the ever-increasing virtuosity of their departmental prowess. As the BAM Awards exemplify The Boxtrolls is a film that excels in various facets of production and tells an entertaining and charming story. It’s proof that animation is not just for kids stories and that there are many great players in the animation game at the moment.

18. 20 Lies, 4 Parents and a Little Egg

20 Lies, 4 Parents and a Little Egg (2013, Waterland Film)

A film that handles some complicated ground with excellent acting, heart and humor it made an impression early in the year that stuck through the year as a whole:

20 Lies, 4 Parents and One Little Egg doesn’t tread easy ground. When you’re dealing with a family-based comedy-drama that concerns two sets of same-sex couples the dangers become either insensitivity or faux-edginess. What this film opts for instead is heart and humanity and a brief toe-dip into the complexity of human emotions, and that’s the right path and it’s well-navigated here.

17. The Jewish Cardinal

The Jewish Cardinal (2012, Film Movement)

As was touched upon in an earlier op-ed, and will be again with the BAM Award prizes, dealing with religious matters in film can be a complicated matter when the virtues of entertainment and faith aren’t always synchronized. The biggest hurdle to overcome is perhaps creating effective drama and not giving in to the lowest common denominator:

To preserve the surprise of it, I will avoid describing the detail the peace that Jean-Marie comes to and the conclusion he reaches regarding his identity at is really only discussed at the most pivotal points of the film. However, it is an intriguing way to look at it.
Clearly, as described above, this is a film that’s not afraid to discuss matter of faith, but also take those discussions into some difficult, challenging places. It’s a story wherein it could be tempting dumb it down and mollycoddle but it does not, quite the opposite it respectfully challenges those watching it to think – proving that faith-based films needn’t be neither propaganda or mindless.

16. Edge of Tomorrow

Edge of Tomorrow (2014, Warner Bros.)

Typically some semblance of intelligence is not necessary to make an effective action film. However, when a bit of thought is there and exhibits itself it can elevate simple action or sci-fi conceptions to bigger heights. This is a film that revels in the cleverness of its narrative constructs and edits, but has more to offer than just meta intrigue. While the ending does not serve it as well as it could it is still one of the most complete viewing experiences of the past year that is another testament to Tom Cruise’s stardom and testament to multi-talented Emily Blunt.

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2014 BAM Award Nominations

Here in a live blog format you will see this year’s nominees in the BAM Awards (Bernardo Villela’s personal selections) be posted.

The honorees will be announced on January 9th. When the list is complete it will be indicated. Please note that the parenthesis around the word in Original indicates that at times songs not written specifically for a film are considered.

Best Picture

A Birder’s Guide to Everything
Calvary
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Finn
Into the Woods
The Judge
St. Vincent
Stations of the Cross
The Way He Looks

Best Director

Richard Linklater Boyhood
John Michael McDonagh Calvary
Rob Meyer A Birder’s Guide to Everything
Daniel Ribeiro The Way He Looks
Frans Weisz Finn

Best Foreign Film

20 Lies, 4 Parents and a Little Egg
The Custody
Finn
Ilo Ilo
It’s Not Me, I Swear
Misunderstood
The Mystery of Happiness
Stations of the Cross
The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears
The Way He Looks

Most Overlooked Picture

20 Lies, 4 Parents and a Little Egg
The Boxtrolls
The Famous Five 3
Finn
It’s Not Me, I Swear
Labyrinthus
Mission: Sputnik
Misunderstood
Stations of the Cross
The Way He Looks

Best Actress

Amrita Acharia I Am Yours
Juliette Binoche 1,000 Times Good Night
Essie Davis The Babadook
Charlotte Gainsbourg Nymphomaniac: Volume 2
Shailene Woodley The Fault in Our Stars

Best Actor

Nicolas Cage Joe
Brendan Gleeson Calvary
Tom Hardy The Drop
Tom Hardy Locke
Robert Downey, Jr. The Judge

Best Supporting Actress

Ximena Ayala The Amazing Catfish
Ellen Burstyn Flowers in the Attic
Jessica Lange In Secret
Melissa McCarthy St. Vincent
Meryl Streep Into the Woods

Best Supporting Actor

Jan Decleir Finn
Robert Duvall The Judge
Gabriel Garko Misunderstood
Logan Lerman Fury
Brendan Meyer The Guest
Mark Ram 20 Lies, 4 Parents and a Little Egg

Best Cast

Nils Verkooijen, Mark Ram, Marcel Musters, Anneke Blok and Marieke Heebink 20 Lies, 4 Parents and a Little Egg
James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Daniel Huttlestone, Emily Blunt, Christine Baranski, Tammy Blanchard, Lucy Punch, Tracey Ullman, Lilla Crawford, Joanna Riding, Meryl Streep, Mackenzie Mauzy, Chris Pine, Billy Rasmussen etc. Into the Woods
Dylan O’Brien, Will Poulter, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper, Dexter Darder, Kayla Scodelario, Patricia Clarkson, etc. The Maze Runner
Charlotte Gainsbourg, Gabriel Garko, Giulia Salerno, Anna Lou Castoldi, Asia Argento, Olimpia Carlisi, Alice Pea, Carolina Poccioni, etc. Misunderstood
Robert Downey, Jr., Robert Duvall, Vincent D’Onofrio, Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton, Dax Shepherd, Emma Tremblay, etc. The Judge

Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Leading Role

Annalise Basso Oculus
Lauren Canny 1,000 Times Good Night
Joey King Wish I Was Here
Giulia Salerno Misunderstood
Flora Thiemann Mission: Sputnik
Lea van Acken Stations of the Cross

Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Leading Role

Spencer Bogaert Labyrinthus
Antoine L’Écuyer The Custody
Antoine L’Écuyer It’s Not Me, I Swear
Kodi Smit-McPhee A Birder’s Guide to Everything
Garrett Ryan Oculus
Nils Verkooijen 20 Lies, 4 Parents and a Little Egg

Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Supporting Role

Anna Lou Castoldi Misunderstood
Adrianna Cramer Curtis 1,000 Times Good Night
Lilla Crawford Into the Woods
Catherine Faucher It’s Not Me, I Swear
Lorelei Linklater Boyhood
Emma Verlinden Labyrinthus

Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Supporting Role

Peter DaCunha Tormented
Reese Hartwig Earth to Echo
Daniel Huttlestone Into the Woods
Felix Maesschalck Labyrinthus
Art Parkinson Dracula Untold
Tye Sheridan Joe

Best Youth Ensemble

Kodi Smit-McPhee, Katie Chang, Alex Wolff and Michael Chen in A Birder’s Guide to Everything
Valeria Eisenbart, Quirin Oettl, Justus Schlingensliepen, Neele-Marie Nickel and Davina Weber The Famous Five 3
Spence Bogaert, Felix Maesschalck, Emma Verlinden, Nell Cattrysse and Pommelien Tijs Labyrinthus
Flora Thiemann, Finn Fienbig, Luca Johanssen, and Emil von SchönfelsMission: Sputnik
Giulia Salerno, Anna Lou Castoldi, Carolina Poccioni, Andrea Pittorino Misunderstood
Raúl Rivas, Daniel Cerezo, Claudia Vega, Fran García, Marcos Ruiz, Christian Mulas, Aníbal Tártalo, Alberto López, Javier Cifrián and Álex Angulo Zip and Zap and the Marble Gang

Best Original Screenplay

Anna Brüggemann and Dietrich Brüggemann Stations of the Cross
Bruno Forzani, Hélène Cattet The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears
Steven Knight Locke
Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Dan Hageman, and Kevin Hageman The Lego Movie
Janneke van der Pal Finn

Best Adapted Screenplay

Jane Goldman, Simon Kinberg and Matthew Vaughn X-Men: Days of Future Past
Gary Hawkins and Larry Brown Joe
James Lapine Into the Woods
Dennis Lehane The Drop
Jordan Roberts, Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird, Duncan Rouleau, Steven T. Seagle and Paul Briggs and Joseph Mateo Big Hero 6

Best Cinematography

Eric Adkins and Pat Sweeney The Boxtrolls
Dion Beebe Into the Woods
Manuel Dacosse The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears
Florian Hoffmesiter In Secret
Nicola Pecorini Misunderstood

Best Editing

Sandra Adair Boyhood
Bernard Beets The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears
James Herbert and Laura Jennings Edge of Tomorrow
Wyatt Smith Into the Woods
Marie-Hélène Dozo Stop the Pounding Heart

Best Visual Effects

The Boxtrolls
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Edge of Tomorrow
Into the Woods
Interstellar

Best Sound Editing/Mixing

The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Edge of Tomorrow
The Lego Movie
Locke
The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears

Best Makeup

Gone Girl
Into the Woods
Maleficent
The Theory of Everything
Unbroken

Best Art Direction

Curt Enderle The Boxtrolls
Alan Spalding, Said El Kounti and Hauke Richter Son of God
Dennis Gassner, Andrew Bennett, Ben Collins, Chris Lowe, and Mary Mackenzie Into the Woods
Julia Irribarria The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears
Juan Pedro De Gaspar and Géza Kerti Zip and Zap and the Marble Gang

Best Costume Design

Colleen Atwood Into the Woods
Deborah Cook The Boxtrolls
Nicoletta Ercole Misunderstood
Louise Mingenbach X-Men: Days of Future Past
Pedro Moreno Cannibal

Best Score

Ramin Djawadi Dracula Untold
Pino Donaggio Patrick
Michael Giacchino Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Fons Merkies Finn
A.R. Rahman The Hundred-Foot Journey

Best (Original) Song

“Everything is Awesome” Jo Li The Lego Movie
“The Boxtrolls Song” Mark Orton, Loch Lomond and Sean Patrick Doyle The Boxtrolls
“Quattro Sabatino” Dario Marianello, Peter Harris, Alex Tsilogiannis, Thomas Kennedy and Edmund Saddington The Boxtrolls
“The Bald Guy” (“Skallamann”) from Baldguy Cast in Fun in Boys Shorts
“Prologue: Into the Woods” James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Daniel Huttlestone, Emily Blunt, Christine Baranski, Tammy Blanchard, Lucy Punch, Tracey Ullman, Lilla Crawford, Joanna Riding, Meryl Streep and Stephen Sondheim Into the Woods

Neutron Star Award

TBA 1/9

Ingmar Bergman Lifetime Achievement Award

TBA 1/9

Robert Downey, Jr. Award for Entertainer of the Year

TBA 1/9

Special Jury Prizes

TBA 1/9

Nominations

Into the Woods – 12
Misunderstood – 9
The Boxtrolls, Finn – 7
The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears – 6
Labyrinthus, Stations of the Cross – 5
A Birder’s Guide to Everything, 20 Lies, 4 Parents and a Little Egg – 4
Edge of Tomorrow, The Lego Movie, Locke; 1,000 Times Good Night, Finn; It’s Not Me, I Swear; Mission: Sputnik, Stations of the Cross, , The Way He Looks, Boyhood, Calvary, The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Judge – 3
Zip and Zap and the Marble Gang, Joe, Dracula Untold, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Labyrinthus, Oculus, In Secret, The Drop, The Famous Five 3, The Custody, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, St. Vincent -2
Fun in Boys Shorts, Dracula Untold, Patrick, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Cannibal, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Son of God, Unbroken, The Theory of Everything, Maleficent, Gone Girl, Interstellar, Stop the Pounding Heart, Big Hero 6, Earth to Echo, Tormented; 1,000 Times Good Night; It’s Not Me, I Swear, Wish I Was Here, The Maze Runner, The Amazing Catfish, Flowers in the Attic, I Am Yours, The Babadook, Nymphomaniac: Volume 2, The Fault in Our Stars,The Mystery of Happiness, Ilo Ilo, Fury, The Guest– 1

Review: Misunderstood (Incompresa)

I was fortunate enough such that the stars aligned and I was able to attend a New York Film Festival screening of Asia Argento’s latest feature-length directorial effort: Misunderstood (the original Italian title being Incompresa). Asia as a director came to my attention with the release of The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, a film that was among my favorites of 2006 and of the past decade. It’s hard to remember which came first but there was a rather fortuitous symbiosis of my discovering both her work on/off the screen and that of her father internationally renowned Italian horror and giallo director Dario Argento.

In certain ways there are parallels between her latest effort and The Heart is Deceitful… in terms of visual motifs and story tropes. However, the main difference is one of intended tonality. With the prior film it’s a much starker, more harrowing journey for a mother, but mainly her child. Whereas here while there are some serious, heavy growing-pains dealt with there is also a lot of humor, warmth, sensitivity and joie de vivre. The reason for this is that there is each of these past two films and honest understanding of intention of how emotion and mood could be evoked. Whereas before Argento’s eye was the lens through which she refracted J.T. Leroy’s then-purported-to-be-true memoir, here she turns her sensibilities towards a story of her own making.

There has and can be much discussion of how much of this film is autobiographical with protagonist, Aria (Asia’s birth name), being the daughter of a famous father and other things. However, regardless of that she is the auteur of this oeuvre directing and co-writing the script and the music. It’s her vision and the truth she finds in this story is a universal one. For nine-year old Aria (Giulia Salerno) there are many rites of passage, both large and small, that occur in this film. As idiosyncratic as her family is, as caricatured as her parents are, there is still a kernel of truth at the core of the film that allows it to speak to you whether you’re Italian, American or Chinese; man or woman; straight, gay or otherwise; fairly young or old.

The characters’ foibles is also where her directorial sleight of hand comes into play. The film is told from Aria’s perspective and when it does slip into flights of fancy it doesn’t blare it from the mountaintops but allows it to wash over you fluidly and then for you to realize what had occurred. The key to this film keeping its feet on the ground while reaching up is that at her core Aria doesn’t seek changes or make ultimatums she merely wants to be loved and essentially accepts everyone as they are warts and all.

Misunderstood (2014, Orange Films)

Due to the fact that this was a festival screening we were treated to a Q & A after the fact and one of the many insightful answers Miss Argento gave were about the young star of the film, Giulia Salerno. Asia having been a young actor herself, having children, and also teaching acting to children has a keen eye not only for talent but for kids who she says “are pushed into and kids who want it [acting].” Salerno is type who wants to act and it shows in her performance as she effortlessly communicates emotion, is engaging and charismatic.

A testament to the way this film moves and structures itself in small, somewhat isolated sequences that form a coherent whole allow characters whom are typically over-the-top-types; Mom, a party girl who refuses to settle down in an adult relationship (Very convincingly portrayed in a bilingual performance by Charlotte Gainsbourg), and Dad, a short-tempered, superstitious, vain actor (Engagingly brought to life by Gabriel Garko), to have moments and to let down their façade and be more human. Argento also did well in crafting the script and picking actors who could emote beyond merely the text and convey their characters through action.

The thread that really holds this film together is the music, which seamlessly blends obscure source music from the period (1984), scoring and new songs fashioned to emulate the mid-‘80s sound. It gives the proper emotional tenor as well as transitioning the story between scenes and sequences. It’s one of the rare cases of the music being used in all possible ways to enhance the whole of the film.

Misunderstood
is refreshing inasmuch as its a coming-of-age tale that does not focus solely on one rite. It’s a slice of life for Aria’s character with many of the usual concerns: schools, friends, first crushes and the like, as well as some other concerns conveyed in somewhat more unorthodox circumstances such as her relationship with her siblings with the spiritual world and more. It’s a film that wants you to laugh along with it as it’s trying to strike that universal chord that rings true to all regardless of circumstances. Misunderstood is aptly named very ably portraying not only its protagonist’s being misunderstood but also understanding her at a deep, fundamental level and conveying her story clearly.

8/10

2014 BAM Award Considerations – September

I decided that with the plethora of BAM Awards-related post towards the end of 2013 and the start of this year it was best to wait to the end of this month before officially recommencing the process.

I will post these lists towards the end of the month to allow for minimal updates. By creating a new post monthly, and creating massive combo files offline, it should make the process easier for me and more user-friendly for you, the esteemed reader. Enjoy.

Eligible Titles

Rosemary’s Baby
Antboy
Dolphin Tale 2
The Drop
Refuge
If I Stay
The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story
When the Game Stands Tall
Paris-Manhattan
No Good Deed
The Maze Runner
Petals on the Wind
Tusk
The Boxtrolls
Misunderstood

Best Picture

The Drop
The Boxtrolls
Misunderstood

Best Foreign Film

Misunderstood

Best Documentary

Most Overlooked Film

As intimated in my Most Underrated announcement this year, I’ve decided to make a change here. Rather than get caught up in me vs. the world nonsense and what a film’s rating is on an aggregate site, the IMDb or anywhere else, I want to champion smaller, lesser-known films. In 2011 with the selection of Toast this move was really in the offing. The nominees from this past year echo that fact. So here, regardless of how well-received something is by those who’ve seen it, I’ll be championing indies and foreign films, and the occasional financial flop from a bigger entity.

Antboy
The Drop
Refuge
Misunderstood
Tusk

Best Director

The Drop
The Boxtrolls
Misunderstood

Best Actress

Krysten Ritter Refuge

Best Actor

Tom Hardy The Drop
Brian Geraghty Refuge
Dylan O’Brien The Maze Runner
Micahel Parks Tusk

Best Supporting Actress

Noomi Rapace The Drop
Genesis Rodriguez Tusk
Charlotte Gainsbourg Misunderstood

Best Supporting Actor

James Gandolfini The Drop
Stacy Keach If I Stay
Logan Huffman Refuge
Will Poulter The Maze Runner
Thomas Brodie-Sangster The Maze Runner
Haley Joel Osment Tusk
Gabriel Garko Misunderstood

Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Leading Role

Cozi Zuelhsdorff Dolphin Tale 2
Chloë Grace Moretz If I Stay
Julia Salerno Misunderstood

Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Leading Role

Oscar Dietz Antboy
Nathan Gamble Dolphin Tale 2
Dylan Everett The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story

Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Supporting Role

Amelie Kruse Jensen Antboy
Anna Lou Castoldi Misunderstood

Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Supporting Role

Samuel Ting Graf Antboy
Jakob Davies If I Stay
Gavin Casalegno When the Game Stands Tall
Blake Cooper The Maze Runner
Andrea Pittorino Misunderstood

Best Cast

Antboy
Dolphin Tale 2
The Drop
The Maze Runner
Misunderstood

Best Youth Ensemble

Antboy
Dolphin Tale 2
The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story
The Maze Runner
Misunderstood

Best Original Screenplay

Tusk
The Boxtrolls
Misunderstood

Best Adapted Screenplay

Antboy
The Drop
Refuge
Petals on the Wind

Best Score

Antboy
The Drop
If the Game Stands Tall

Best Editing

Antboy
The Drop
The Boxtrolls
Misunderstood

Best Sound Editing/Mixing

The Maze Runner
The Boxtrolls
Misunderstood

Best Cinematography

The Drop
The Maze Runner
The Boxtrolls
Misunderstood

Best Art Direction

Antboy
The Drop
No Good Deed
The Maze Runner
The Boxtrolls
Misunderstood

Best Costume Design

Antboy
If I Stay
The Maze Runner
The Boxtrolls
Misunderstood

Best Makeup

Antboy
Dolphin Tale 2
The Drop

Best Visual Effects

The Maze Runner
The Boxtrolls

Best (Original) Song


Antboy
Refuge
The Boxtrolls
Misunderstood