2014 In Review: Best Screenplay, Cinematography, and Visual Effects

Best Cinematography
10) Divergent
Not really a film that you’d expect to see on “year end” awards, but there’s something about “post apocalyptic worlds” that gives a boost to the cinematographer. So do “grand sweeping epics”. Usually we don’t talk about small indie films in cinematography, films that spend a lot of time in homes, or films that stay in one location. With Cinematography, bigger is better, and Divergent was pretty big.

9) X-Men: Days Of Future Past
Basically, see above.

8) Guardians Of The Galaxy
Not really post-apocalyptic, but in space, and super stylized.

7) Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
Back to the “post-apocalyptic” card.

6) Into The Woods
The cinematographer here had to balance a lot. A lot of characters, a lot of visual effects, a lot of music, a lot of different locations, and did so masterfully. One of the things that makes into The Woods so good is that it looks like a masterpiece.

5) Whiplash
I know I said we don’t normally nominate small independent films, but the shots of the drum solos in this film are just so demanding, and brilliant, and completely unlike anything you’ve seen before. It demands to be recognized on this list.

4) Edge Of Tomorrow
Another film that is just stunning to look at.

3) The Grand Budapest Hotel
When I think of “great cinematography”, I often find myself thinking of Wes Anderson films, because of how expertly he really does use his camera. Each shot is made with 100% complete thought as to which direction to pan, the exact distance to zoom out or in, and every single detail possible. Wes Anderson’s films, no matter how small the subject, are always visual masterpieces to look at. He paints a picture on a canvas, and it is always stunning.

2) Birdman
Shot to look like it was done in one continuous shot, with often jarring directional shifts, and challenging camera movement, Birdman’s cinematographer deserves all the accolades he’s getting. Great work. Since my #1 pick wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, this would be my pick to win.

1) Snowpiercer
How this film wasn’t nominated for an Oscar is beyond me. Absolutely stunning. Every shot. Every frame. From the nighttime fight sequence, to the fleeting shots of an apocalyptic ice world outside. This film succeeds through brilliant cinematography.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
10) Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
9) Pompeii
8) The Amazing Spider-Man 2
7) Captain America: The Winter Soldier
6) Into The Woods
5) Snowpiercer
4) X-Men: Days Of Future Past
3) Edge Of Tomorrow
2) Guardians Of The Galaxy
1) Dawn Of the Planet Of The Apes
I’m not explaining the visuals of each individual effort, except to say that a film whose special effect really allows Andy Serkis to give a fully realized performance, is the film with the best visual effects of the year.

BEST SCREENPLAY
10) Rudderless
What I loved the most was how I didn’t see the big emotional twist coming. I love that the script was crafted so remarkably well that the moment wasn’t heavy handed or cheap.

9) Snowpiercer
Originality is why Snowpiercer is on this list. Someone came up with a mindfuck of a concept, and that alone should earn them some recognition.

8) St Vincent
Just a really well written script with some great dialogue. It felt fresh, and not overdone.

7) Selma
It did the impossible, and gave us a biopic of Martin Luther King Jr, something that hadn’t (inexplicably) happened yet. It’s a truly worthy film, and it started with a truly worthy script.

6) The Grand Budapest Hotel
Smart writing that bounces around a very large ensemble cast. It’s never boring, occasionally hilarious, and memorable enough to have been released in March and still be remembered as one of the best films of the year.

5) The Skeleton Twins
Really a heartbreaking look at dealing with depression and thoughts of suicide. Written for actors who normally work best off script, which can’t be an easy task.

4) Whiplash
Loosely based on a true story, Whiplash is one of the most original films of the year. It’s not a teen movie, it’s not a college film, it’s a film about doing what it takes to be the best, or a film about putting up with your nightmare boss. Whether you’re a drummer or an electrician, you can relate to Whiplash.

3) The Imitation Game
Just a really smart film with a really smart script. Bringing Alan Turing to the screen, and fleshing him out as a character in the way they did is what landed this script on my list.

2) Gone Girl
Didn’t read the book, but I loved how well crafted this story is.

1) Birdman
Yes, Birdman is the best screenplay of the year. The writing is excellent. Pointed, sharp, witty, fast paced, whip cracking and fucking excellent. Embrace the fact that people will still be talking about Birdman ten years from now, and thee realize that it all started with someone saying “I think this could make a good movie” and putting it down on paper.

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