Award Season Calendar 2014.
That Year that Was: A Recap of Award Season 2014-2015.
All years come to an end, and memories of that year want to be pushed and etched in gold upon us by eager studios and filmmakers. The fare of 2014 did not shape up to be as outstanding as 2013’s but there was some real wheat there in the chaff. From the vast field of For Your Considerations and the great selection of Independents, it all came down to this: Award Season. For many commoners a distraction, for industry insiders a frequent-flyer-mile whirlwind.
The rise of new distribution and social media gave rise to interesting experiments, such as opting for tumbler or Facebook official website hosting (especially for low budget indies), the massification of crowdfunding, and early distribution before theatrical release, as in Snowpiercer, Horns, and The Babadook among others (which disqualified some for Academy consideration).
Despite efforts by CBS to showcase earlier with the newly minted for TV HFA Awards, the calendar of Award season is compressed by its own nature. You cannot have truly significant awards for the year’s achivements with four months to go. But some films go the other way and really push it, trying to keep that “fresh in mind” state by releasing very late, relying on some early season buzz and hoping to get eventual Academy love. That may have happened with A Most Violent Year, which released on December 31st.
The Award and Recognition Calendar
Hollywood Film Awards – Awards October 20th (CBS)
With little mystery for the winners and not much of a TV audience, the Hollywood Film Awards ceremony was held while many of the big films for 2014 were still in the cutting room. Still, buzz and connections gave top honors to the usual suspects (projects with Affleck, Jolie, and Whitherspoon) and a jump start to The Imitation Game, which collected four awards, including Best Director, Actor and Supporting Actress.
Gotham Independent Film Project Awards – Awards December 1st
The kick in the pants of the season is from Gotham IFP on this date. Propelling independents and some outside of the box thinking (last year Scarlett Johansson was nominated as Supporting Actress for her v.o. role in HER which sent many on a tizzy). The big push here was simultaneously for Birdman (Best Picture, Best Actor) and Boyhood (Audience Award). Julianne Moore also got some more cred for Still Alice. Patricia Arquette competed as Lead Actress for this award, but afterwards always competed as Supporting Actress.
New York Film Critics Circle – Winners announced December 1st
Boyhood was the big winner here, with three awards. Big boost for Marion Cotillard (winner for Two Days One Night and The Immigrant) and The Lego Movie.
National Board of Review – Winners announced December 2nd
Last year’s winner, Her, went on to bigger and greater things. This year, honoring once again a movie as yet to be theatrically released and with low buzz, NBR makes us take a look at A Most Violent Year, bestowing upon it three major awards: Best Film, Best Actor for Oscar Isaac and Best Supporting Actress for Jessica Chastain. Watch the clip. Isaac, indeed, is good.
From “A Most Violent Year”
Los Angeles Film Critics Association – December 7th
Last year it was a tie with Her and Gravity. This year the big critical favorite, Boyhood made it to the top of the LAFCA list. Birdman loses some oomph, and Tom Hardy is deservedly recognized for Locke.
American Film Institute – December 8th
The anticipated Ten Best Films of 2014 (they named eleven!) are a highlight of Award Season. And TV is recognized too. Big boost for indie faves Boyhood and Birdman. Momentum gathers for Nightcrawler, Selma, Whiplash and especially The Imitation Game. Foxcatcher gets stronger. Bigger movies get their first moment in the spotlight: Unbroken, American Sniper, Interstellar and Into the Woods.
People’s Choice Awards – Awards January 7th (CBS)
Nominees for Best Film:
22 Jump Street
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Golden Globe Awards – Awards January 11th (NBC)
The selected foreign few always have fun with this one. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler shared the fun with us all and with Margaret Cho in North Korean Army uniform. Great speeches by George Clooney, and Michael Keaton. The Imitation Game is the big loser of the night, empty handed, and Gina Rodriguez (TV Actress, Comedy) brought a little diversity and some Latina power into the mix. Transparent, (TV) was the big surprise of the night, with two awards, Best TV Comedy and Best TV Actor, Comedy.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Best Picture, Comedy – Wes Anderson’s speech was funny) checks in with very good standing into the Big Daddy of Award Season no doubt, but Boyhood (grand winner of the night with three awards, including Best Picture, Drama) was the winner over them all.
Critic’s Choice Awards – Awards January 15th (A&E)
Nominations were announced December 15th. Usually long and complicated, but they hone in on the prize. Last year Gravity took home seven awards. This year, Birdman leads with thirteen nominations, with Boyhood (11 noms) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (8) close behind. Jake Gyllenhall and Jennifer Aniston make another mark in the season. Unbroken gets its first Best Film nomination (it did get Top Film listing from AFI and NBR, but had no other nomination so far).
The Awards Show was a homey affair — a good effort. Costuming could have used some work. Birdman took seven awards, Boyhood four: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress and Best Young Actor for Ellar Coltrane. A Lifetime Achievement award for Kevin Costner a Genius one for Ron Howard and an MVP for Jessica Chastain were highlights of the evening as well as Michael Keaton’s two acceptance speeches (Best Actor, and Best Actor in a Comedy).
Producers Guild Awards – Awards January 24th
From the folks that get the movies made the nominations on January 5th brought a major snub (Selma) and lots of usual suspects — except for Nightcrawler — which was building momentum. The big winner of the Awards night: Birdman. The other winners (animated), The Lego Movie, and (documentary) Life Itself, have had their share of wins and losses (read as: no Oscar nominations 0n Jan 15th).
Screen Actors Guild SAG Awards – Awards January 25th (TNT/TBS)
Good choices this year were announced on December 10th, from solos to ensembles. While the greater pool of films was not totally outstanding, there was superb acting this year. Top honors (Outstanding Cast in a film) went to Birdman, but Eddie Redmayne’s win threw a wrench at Michael Keaton’s march towards Academy Awards inevitability and that whole Best Actor category thing at the Oscars.
Julianne Moore picked up some more gold (that made it six majors by now), and Patricia Arquette got another turn at supporting mom. JK Simmons made a great speech about how everyone supports each other to make outstanding film–not just a good job..
Loved the Debbie Reynolds Life Achievement Award as presented by her daughter, Carrie Fisher.
Directors Guild Awards – Awards February 7th
The folks that make the movies gave us an emerging picture Jan. 13th when they announced their nominees: American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and The Imitation Game. This was a late boost for Clint, who could expect then to show up at the Dolby Theater where all the chairs will be occupied at all times. Alas, Clint did not get an Academy nom for directing in the end, but as a producer of American Sniper his presence still looms.
Iñárritu’s win at the DGA makes Birdman a true contender and is well deserved. With the PGA already under his belt as well as the big one from SAG (Ensemble Cast) this film about the struggle to succeed looks like a winner now. In our scoring guide to this date it is in a virtual tie with the critic’s darling Boyhood, which has 46 points vs. Birdman’s 47.
British Academy of Film and Television Arts BAFTA – Awards February 8th (BBC)
On January 9th, when the nominations were announced, the Brits looked like they wanted to stay in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Big boost to that one with eleven nominations out of sixteen categories it qualified for. Birdman edged up a notch over Boyhood and Jake Gyllenhaal became a strong outside contender against Michael Keaton, with Nightcrawler getting four nods. The Best Actress category marked the fifth major nomination for Julianne Moore. Amy Adams got her last red carpet glory for the year as a nominee, as only two events remain: Independent Spirit and Academy Awards, and she is not nominated in either one.
The Awards, though, got a hold of Everything and then some. Stephen Fry was a great host, but the big highlight was the presence of Stephen Hawking, who presented the VFX category to Interstellar, definitely the most science based of the nominees. And his presence betrayed the loving bias towards the movie The Theory of Everything, which took home three awards, including Best British Film. Eddie Redmayne’s momentum keeps building up with this win for Best Actor on top of his SAG and Golden Globes wins.
GB Hotel took five out of its trove of eleven nominations: Costume, Make-up, Music, Production Design and Original Screenplay (with a great acceptance speech by Ralph Fiennes on behalf of Wes Anderson). Big winner: Whiplash, with three major awards; big snub: The Imitation Game, with zero. Boyhood took top honors for the night, Best Film and Director, edging over Birdman that got only one for its outstanding cinematography. Julianne Moore picked up the seventh major win in her category.
Writers Guild Awards – Awards February 14th
From the folks that thought up the movies. Eligibility rules excluded Birdman, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Mr. Turner, Dear White People, and Wild Tales among others from the list of nominees announced on January 7th. Past inelegibles have included Oscar winners Django Unchained and 12 Years a Slave. Big nomination surprise: Guardians of the Galaxy. Big nomination push: Nightcrawler, Wild, and Whiplash. READ 2014 SCRIPTS HERE
The host of the award ceremony evening was Lisa Kudrow who made the LA and NYC rooms pay attention to eligibility and other things when she did the math and said that if Boyhood won it was technically for a 2002 movie. The best speech of the night apparently was Ben Affleck’s who got a humanitarian award for his economic empowerment work in the Congo. It was an eyebrow raising activist speech about how religions should all get along.
The winner for Best Adapted Feature was Graham Moore, well deserved for The Imitation Game, and besting Nick Hornby’s Wild from the bunch. Original Feature went to Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel which, given his Golden Globe and BAFTA wins, make him a front runner for the Oscar. That is, if Birdman (which the WGA statue resembles) were not in that race.
It’s a wrap for the Guilds and, along with sound from Cinema Audio Society and photography from ASC, Birdman swept up the Guild peerage circuit with its wins from SAG, PGA and DGA.
The Razzies – Awards February 21st
A refreshing reminder of the fare out there that some outstanding people push with outstanding impunity. These awards showcase the importance of good writing and good directing.
Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas got slammed with four raspberries: Worst Film, Worst Actor, Worst Ensemble and Worst Screenplay. Yet, it is odd that that this movie got nominated at all, given the “mission” of the Razzies in calling out on the Emperor’s clothes and yet pouring it on a movie that did not break $3M at the box office. Michael Bay, on the other hand, got Worst Director for Transformers: Age of Extinction, which grossed almost a quarter of a billion dollars. Now, that’s more like it. The other notable was Worst Remake: Annie.
The Razzies came up this year with a “Redeemer Award” to mend its own past in search of respectability, and gave it to Ben Affleck, past winner for Gigli. This seems like an ass-kiss award and, again, goes against the purported mission of the award. Highlighting lows such as Sex Tape, A Million Ways to Die in the West and many others is a wake up call and service to the industry’s filmmakers. When Sandra Bullock won a Razzie (All About Steve) and an Oscar (The Blind Side) in the same year, it showcased how bad movies are made by good actors. As Terence Fletcher would say: “There are no two words more harmful in the English language than good job.”
Independent Spirit Awards – Awards February 21st (IFC)
Early in the season, around Thanksgiving, the first BIG one for nominations shows up, only to be nearly the last of award shows. Insiders and film fans decide on the efforts of struggling filmmakers in this award. Institutional wins were announced with the noms, including for Inherent Vice (Robert Altman Award) and Foxcatcher (Special Distinction Award) and a good list of nominees, where Birdman took the lead with six noms and Boyhood was close behind with five.
The Award show began with a skit that showcased the “movieness” of Birdman and Whiplash, with a comedy act from hosts Fred Armisen and Kristen Bell. They segued into an odd long song about “I’m a little bit indie” and “I’m a little bit studio” but generally speaking it was an entertaining and fast moving show.
This year the Academy Awards and the Spirit Awards are very close in their choices, almost making the Oscars “a little bit too indie”. If that is the case, the race is between Birdman and Boyhood. Each of these got a major award from the IFC, Boyhood got Best Director for Richard Linklater and Birdman got best film. In total Birdman got three awards (Film, Actor and Cinematography), taking the night, but Boyhood (Director and Supporting Actress) is close behind. Whiplash (Best Supporting Male, Best Editing) and Nightcrawler (Best Screenplay, Best First Feature) got two well deserved awards each.
Academy Awards (Oscars) – Awards February 22nd (ABC)
Big Daddy. On January 15th, when the nominations were announced, many believed that only two nominations for Selma represented a disgrace to the industry. In reality this outstanding film had a poor Award Season strategy. It came out late, in rough cuts, the screeners went out haphazardly, and generally speaking there seemed to have been disorganization in the campaign. Other films that fell under that same rut may have been A Most Violent Year and, perhaps, Inherent Vice. American Sniper, even with its late release date clearly was well handled by seasoned industry veterans and took six nominations. It makes a difference. Award season has its strategy that can make it, in the end, a bit more predictable.
The news in the nominations on 1/15: building momentum for Birdman (nine nominations), The Grand Budapest Hotel (9 nominations). American Sniper (6 nominations) and Whiplash (5 nominations). Biting dust: Gone Girl, Nightcrawler, Foxcatcher, and Unbroken . Holding steady: Boyhood, The Imitation Game, and The Theory of Everything.
When Award time rolled into town craft had done its part also. Out of 24 categories five were locks: lead actress, supporting actors, cinematography and documentary. The greatest suspense was left for lead actor, director and film with Boyhood and Birdman in a dead heat.
The host of the show, Neil Patrick Harris, and the producers made a grand spectacle, in the old style that befits the biggest award of the industry. While pundits criticize left and right, in reality NPH did a great job, flubbing very few lines (and, perhaps, names) and keeping it light, even when some acceptance speeches went dark. He also wanted to add a little suspense with his prediction briefcase magic trick, in an attempt to play against viewers’ home ballots and make it a bit more interactive. This could be a sign of things to come for next year as technology does its own trick.
As usual, the show had its share of memorables, some scripted and some not. Among the scripted, Lady Gaga’s performance was a standout, followed very closely behind by John Legend and Common’s rendition of the Oscar winning song, Glory. NPH’s spoof on the skivvies walk from Birdman was good comic relief.
The most memorable unscripted moment has to go to John Travolta, again, with his strange apology to Idina Menzel. He should be a permanent guest, because he brings the potential entertainment value that only Drunk Uncle can give to a pompous occasion such as this one. The other unscripted moment that comes to mind is the TMI revelation about Best Director González Iñárritu’s underwear: he claimed to be wearing Michael Keaton’s from that scene.
The soap box speech derby was not totally out of hand this year. Women’s equal pay got the biggest standing O, suicide and gay bullying had their moments, as did privacy vs. government, and illegal immigrants’ rights.
The Awards tally itself was negative towards the critics’ darling Boyhood. The 12 year gimmick was not enough in the end. Boyhood’s lonely award went to the single mom, a great performance by Patricia Arquette that was strategized as supporting actress throughout the season, sweeping the awards circuit, while leaving Julianne Moore to collect all Best Actress awards of the season.
Whiplash, the least grossing movie of the bunch, took three awards (Supporting Actor, Film Editing, and Sound Mixing — no dragging or rushing there) contrasting with American Sniper, the highest grossing, which took only one for Sound Editing. Grand Budapest Hotel was rewarded for its unique visual style: Production Design, Costume, Hair and Makeup, as well as its perfectly matched score music. The outstanding screenplay for The Imitation Game got its reward, and Eddie Redmayne, given the way things were going, was as surprised as many to get his big O for Theory of Everything. Michael Keaton popped another piece of gum after that award was announced.
The Big Winner was, of course, Birdman, with four awards yet, in a quirk, none for acting. Seventeen movies have won four Academy Awards including Best Picture. These include Rainman, Unforgiven, A Beautiful Mind, No Country for Old Men, and Annie Hall, among others. Good company. Chariots of Fire, The Departed, Platoon, and Tom Jones share the distinction of four Oscars, none for acting.