The JAM Awards
Jacob Miller’s top picks for the very best and very worst in Hollywood this year!
Image Source: http://bucksandcorn.com/bid-adieu-to-2014/
2014: another phenomenal year for cinema. This is the year where I saw the most perfect five-star movies (12) of any year since I started this tradition and there are still plenty of movies I still need to watch. Of course, there still were the bummers of the year, but this year also possessed a lot less one-star scores (5) than last year, which had a nasty nine. Each year just keeps getting better and better and I am all for it.
From Enemy to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, here are the fourth annual JAM Awards!
Christopher Nolan’s latest is a grand experience. Once again, he has been able to not only reach, but surpass my incredibly high expectations in order to craft a truly beautiful tale of space exploration, the fall of mankind, and the inescapable power of love. It’s set in the not too distant future where mankind has almost completely used up all resources on Earth, leaving our planet as a giant dust bowl about ready to crumble, and it is up to Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his team of astronauts to go on an exploration into the far reaches of space in order to save mankind by finding a new place for our species to call home. Interstellar may look fantastic while you’re racing between the stars, but it’s the relationships and events on Earth that really make this into a memorable experience. Nolan directs the film with a kind of careful precision and beauty, making sure everything fits and nothing (that wasn’t meant to be) is left open. He made the film into a sort of dance where each stage in the story was a reflection of a new routine. It’s an immensely ambitious effort, but its reach never exceeds its grasp and, most importantly, it never leaps too far as to leave the audience in its wake to be trapped in obscurity. This tale of love among the stars is poignant, enthralling, tragic, and utterly breathtaking, often all at the same time. It’s an experience like nothing you’ve experienced before and it’s one that I, surely, won’t soon forget; 5/5; 10/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 72%.
- The Babadook
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Age of Extinction
There was a part of me, back in 2013, when I learned that Michael Bay would be returning to the franchise where I thought that maybe, just maybe, he’d actually be able to pull this one off. I saw the whole new cast as a signal of hope, making me believe that this could possibly be Bay finally learning from his mistakes and starting fresh from his last bummer of the series and a second installment that haunts my nightmares—I did like the first one, though. Sadly, Bay does none of what I had come to hope. Age of Extinction is bottom-of-the-barrel entertainment at its very worst. The moment Wahlberg took a swig from that Budweiser bottle in one of the most shameless examples of product placement ever put on film, I knew this would be my least favorite movie of the year. As it went on, I just got less and less interesting by the second, praying that it would be ending soon, but, of course, it’s a Michael Bay movie, so it still had about an hour and a half. Well, at least it was better than Revenge of the Fallen; 0/5; 1/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 18%.
- Exodus: Gods and Kings
- Left Behind
Jake Gyllenhaal for Nightcrawler
I was fairly disappointed when the Academy announced their nominations for this year, and I know I wasn’t the only one. From The Lego Movie being completely dismissed from a Best Animated Feature nod to David Oyelowo getting the silent treatment for his work in Selma; it was not a very wise year for the Academy members. One of the greatest snubs of the Academy’s history occurred just this year, as a matter of fact, and that snub was for Jake Gyllenhaal’s absolutely entrancing performance in Nightcrawler as Lou Bloom, a young man desperate for work who decides to explore the seedy underbelly of Las Angeles as a crime journalist. Lou Bloom may sound like just another name, but the mind that possesses this name is much more sinister than you’d expect. Gyllenhaal commands the screen in what may be his finest performance to date and, by far, the best performance of the year. As I watched Nightcrawler, I honestly had trouble believing this was actually Gyllenhaal. He immerses himself in the role, creating a persona that is all its own. The character drips with menace. Just based on a single conversation with the fellow, you can tell he is not a normal human being. Lou Bloom is basically Lester Burnham, Travis Bickle, and Tyler Durden all rolled into one and Gyllenhaal makes you believe it and cringe with anxiety every second he is on the screen; 4/5; 8/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 95%.
- Michael Keaton for Birdman
- Nicolas Cage for Joe
- David Oyelowo for Selma
- Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything
Essie Davis for The Babadook
The Babadook is one of the most sophisticated horror films I have ever seen, and part of that is thanks to Essie Davis’ intense and tragic performance as the desperate, disturbed mother of a troubled son. The movie itself is a poetic masterpiece of horror cinema, but her performance may be the greatest aspect to its immense impact. She so accurately depicts this character with all of the mixed emotions that impact a mother raising a child who isn’t quite the little angel you’d hope for. The sorrow is in her eyes and it’s as if you’re being jabbed into the heart with a knife every time you look into them. She provokes the inevitable fear and unconditional love of parenthood with sledgehammer force, and that, well, love conquers all; 5/5; 10/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 97%.
- Amy Adams in Big Eyes
- Lisa Loven Kongsli in Force Majeure
- Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl
- Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin
Best Supporting Actor:
J.K. Simmons for Whiplash
I used to think of J.K. Simmons and imagine the understanding father with a heart of gold in Juno. Such a sweet guy, am I right? Now whenever I think of J.K. Simmons, I imagine the ferocity of his role in Whiplash, where he is literally the face of evil. J.K. Simmons takes the role to a whole new level, cementing intensity in every scene and shoving charisma down the throats of everyone he comes in contact with. You have to give some of the credit to director Damien Chazelle who is able to get the performance out of him. It’s a performance that is as captivating as it is terrifying, and it’s one that I surely won’t soon forget; 5/5; 10/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 95%.
- Edward Norton in Birdman
- Steve Carell in Foxcatcher
- Zac Efron in Neighbors
- Robert Pattinson in The Rover
Best Supporting Actress:
Patricia Arquette in Boyhood
Boyhood is filled with great performances from both its supporting and primary cast, but no performance was more intimate and spellbinding than Patricia Arquette’s who plays the mother of Mason, the boy we watch grow up. She not only brings us a deeper look into the struggles of parenthood, but both a heartbreaking and joyful examination of the art of growing up. While Ethan Hawke’s character plays as a more young-at-heart man child, Arquette gives us the other side of the coin showing us a woman who didn’t have much of a choice but to become an adult. Both characters play intricate parts in Mason’s maturity and road to adulthood, but it’s Arquette who truly gives a captivating performance; 4/5; 8/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 98%.
- Emma Stone in Birdman
- Rene Russo in Nightcrawler
- Uma Thurman in Nymphomaniac: Volume 1
- Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer
I have been aware of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s directing talents for some time now, but it wasn’t until now that I truly discovered his legendary abilities. From the movies of his I’ve seen (Babel, Biutiful, Amores Perros), I’ve noticed that he tends to create vast films with larger scopes and a large amount of characters all interacting amongst each other, and it’s this fact that makes his work on Birdman so impressive. Instead of a large, epic scope, Birdman is very intimate and small, following one man’s quest to become relevant once again. The direction of his actors and ability to control his set is impeccable, but it’s the camerawork and style that captivate the audience. Using only about seven cuts throughout the entire film, more or less, he basically filmed the movie with one continuous motion and the long takes only make the movie feel even more intimate, making it feel as if you are there on the screen following the actors down the streets of New York. I know it was an almost impossible task for the actors to make work (although they pull it off beautifully), but it must have been 10 times the headache for Iñárritu having to direct the madness, but, like the actors, he pulled it off beautifully; 5/5; 9/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 92%.
- Matt Reeves for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
- Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel
- Christopher Nolan for Interstellar
- Damien Chazelle for Whiplash
Best Animated Feature:
The Lego Movie
The Lego Movie was the most delightful film of 2014. Yes, even I had my doubts when I heard a movie based around the plot-less toy brand was coming out, but what we got was something I couldn’t have imagined. Comic masterminds Phil Lord and Chris Miller (21/22 Jump Street, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) craft a film that is not only absolutely gut-busting hilarious, but a film that so accurately depicts my childhood and, most likely, many, many other peoples who grew up playing with the colorful, little bricks. The writing is priceless with a story that is as meta as it is incredibly creative and a message that rings true no matter your age. It also possesses a final scene that will be sure to leave you weeping in your seat; 5/5; 10/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 96%.
- Big Hero 6
- The Wind Rises
Best Documentary Feature:
Roger Ebert was a huge inspiration of mine. He’s part of the reason I fell in love with cinema and spend countless hours and countless dollars on them practically every day. Ebert died April 4, 2013, and it’s a day that I still remember so well. Life Itself depicts his life with care and passion, showing all of the incredible highs of his unbelievable career as well as the devastating lows. Life Itself discusses his life and his road towards fame as the most prevalent and notable film critic of, well, all time, but it is also immensely intimate in its portrayal and never forgets to show that Roger Ebert, underneath it all, just loved film. If you’ve read any of his reviews (if you haven’t, I highly suggest you do; they are unbelievable) then you probably understand the amount of admiration he had for the art. It’s all in his words and Steve James (director) brings those words to life in a heartbreaking and unforgettable fashion; 4/5; 8/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 96%.
Best Foreign Language Feature:
The Wind Rises
The animation mastermind Hayao Miyazaki’s swan song is nothing to take lightly, but, then again, none of his films are. Miyazaki, the main brain of the legendary Studio Ghibli, has stated that this is his final film and that doesn’t make anyone more depressed than I, but, man, what a way to go out. The Wind Rises is his final masterpiece in a filmography of a lot of them and it manages to not only satisfy, but inspire and impassion. To say I was touched while watching The Wind Rises would be an understatement. It’s a story that is very close to Miyazaki’s heart because of the main character having so much in common with the ingenious director/screenwriter/animator. The Wind Rises centers on an airplane engineer and designer who can basically make anything he sets his mind to, much like how Miyazaki is with film. He has spent the better part of half a century crafting epic landscapes and incredible worlds that his characters can inhabit with nothing more than some pencils, a sheet of paper, and a few paints. This is his most personal film; 5/5; 9/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 89%.
- Force Majeure
- The Raid 2
Most Overrated Film:
Edge of Tomorrow
This is the movie that left me wondering, Why is this so special? I was pretty pumped for this movie. Being a strong Tom Cruise supporter and a fan of Groundhog Day, I was excited to see what this film would bring. It looked to be like a Groundhog Day with explosions and that alone sounds pretty great. After watching the actual movie, I must admit, Groundhog Day and Source Code did it much better. Edge of Tomorrow was not what I was expecting and what I ended up getting was actually quite silly. I will admit that the visuals are beautiful and very, very well done and the first time through the timeline is absolutely captivating, but after that, the whole concept just gets, well, repetitive. It also takes a silly plot direction that underwhelms the rest of the movie. By the way, why did they ever change the title to Edge of Tomorrow then to an even worse Live. Die. Repeat. In my opinion, they should have just stuck with the title of the original manga. All You Need is Kill is much more effective and sounds way cooler; 2/5; 3/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 90%.
- How to Train Your Dragon 2
- Peabody and Sherman
- The Theory of Everything
Most Underrated Film:
Comet was quite the surprising little film. I wasn’t expecting much when I saw this one, but I walked away from it with more than just a skip in my step. Comet is a perplexing look into modern relationships with a fresh style and a story that’ll break your heart and then mend it back together. It’s a movie that very effectively diverts from the usual trappings of this genre of cinema and one that provokes complex thought and emotion instead of relying on lazy clichés and overused plot devices. This is thanks to the film’s honest intimacy, low-key performances, and witty, insightful dialogue. Trust me; if you haven’t seen Comet, see it as soon as possible. It’s one that shouldn’t be missed; 5/5; 10/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 45%.
- Need for Speed
Best Original Screenplay:
Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness for The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson sure has a way with words. I don’t think I’ve seen one of his movies where I wasn’t blown away by his insight and The Grand Budapest Hotel is a very fitting addition to that resume. What I love about his screenplays is how they aren’t afraid of not being clean-cut. He writes dialogue in a way that real people talk. I mean, come on, no matter how great the screenplay for The Social Network was (just one example), nobody really talks like that and Anderson understands this. He perfected this with Moonrise Kingdom and resumes his observation of the human psyche with his next quirky delight. With plenty of quotable lines and brilliant, funny monologues throughout, The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of his finest screenplays to date; 4/5; 8/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 92%.
- Jennifer Kent for The Badadook
- Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo for Birdman
- Phil Lord, Chris Miller, Kevin Hageman and Dan Hageman for The Lego Movie
- Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler
Best Adapted Screenplay:
“There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘Good job.’” Even with the powerhouse performance from J.K. Simmons, Whiplash would never be the film that it is without its incredible screenplay. Chazelle adapting it from his own short film, Whiplash is pure adrenaline and it’s the uncompromising dialogue that really lifts it off into the atmosphere. Every word from Simmons’ mouth feels like a dagger stabbing into your skin and every word from Mile Teller sounds like a whimper from a dying puppy, being beaten into submission. Its impact is extravagant thanks to Chazelle’s brilliant understand of the material and the themes presented within the film. It’s electrifying, to say the least; 5/5; 10/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 95%.
- Richard Ayoade and Avi Korine for The Double
- Nicole Perlman and James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy
- Graham Moore for The Imitation Game
- Larry Brown and Gary Hawkins for Joe
Best Screen Ensemble:
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson has always enjoyed livening up his projects with a huge batch of familiar faces, but never quite like The Grand Budapest Hotel. Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, and Edward Norton are a few of the men involved, and that’s only naming the most primary characters. No actors are wasted, I do mind you, thanks to Anderson’s ability to bring the best out of his actors. I don’t know what it is. Maybe Wes Anderson is just an extremely nice guy or maybe it’s because of the known quality of all of his films. I wouldn’t be surprised either way; 4/5; 8/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 92%.
- The Lego Movie
Best Original Score:
Andrew Hewitt for The Double
The Double is a very peculiar film from its twin performance from Jesse Eisenberg to the menacing score that lumbers beneath. For a movie that’s listed as a comedy, the themes and execution is quite bleak and the score doesn’t help lighten it up one bit. Accented by long, drawn out piano notes and frantic, violent violin movements, the score plays along with the feel of the film perfectly, giving a sense of suspense and paranoia throughout. Moving from somber to thrilling to terrifying and back again with forceful ease, it’s leaves quite the impact; 4/5; 7/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 82%.
- Antonio Sanchez for Birdman
- Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for Gone Girl
- Alexandre Desplat for The Grand Budapest Hotel
- Hans Zimmer for Interstellar
Best Visual Effects:
Interstellar reminded me a lot of last year’s Gravity. Yes, part of it is that they both largely take place in outer space, but it’s not their stories that make the connection because they are both vastly different from one another. It’s the visuals that I found to be similar and how the filmmakers decided to use them. It’s easy to find beautiful visuals in big blockbusters like Transformers, but it’s more difficult to find a film that uses the visuals to its advantage, using them to create a vast world, creating possibilities and a sense of discovery instead of just using them to fill in the space on-screen. It also harkened back to the beauty of 2001 and other epic space operas. It also doesn’t hurt that the visuals are absolutely breathtaking; 5/5; 10/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 72%.
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
- Edge of Tomorrow
- Guardians of the Galaxy
Best Trailer for a Feature Film:
American Sniper Trailer #1
The first time I saw the American Sniper trailer I was bewildered. Never before had I seen a trailer like this. Taking a scene straight from the movie, it shows us the sequence where Kyle spots a mother give her young son an explosive and the son begins to run towards American tanks with the explosive. Kyle is then confronted with the decision of whether to eliminate the threat or not. His partner tells him, “They fry you if you’re wrong.” Through an immensely suspenseful and absolutely captivating sequence with cuts of Kyle’s family and other scenes of the movie edited in, it shows us everything we need to know about the movie that we are going to see and in an unforgettable fashion; 4/5; 7/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 73%.
- Birdman Teaser Trailer
- Godzilla Teaser Trailer
- Gone Girl Trailer #1
- Nightcrawler Trailer #1
Final Scene from Whiplash
Whiplash is beyond believable, but it’s the final scene that really cements it as a truly breathtaking piece of art. This final scene is actually quite simple when you explain it to someone. Basically, it takes place during a show where Andrew (Mile Teller) is playing drums for Terence Fletcher’s (J.K. Simmons) new jazz orchestra. I don’t want to go too deep into the facts of the scene, but I do want to say that Andrew ends up taking control and blows everyone on the stage, as well as the audience in both the movie and the audience in the theater watching the movie, away with one helluva drum solo. As I said before, sounds pretty simple, right? Wrong! It’s anything but. When I say this final scene is the exact definition of “pitch perfect” filmmaking, I am not lying; I may even be going a little easy. You cannot find anything better than this. It’s exhausting, exhilarating, and, above all, quite beautiful. There are so many emotions being tossed around and with so much force. The acting is impeccable and the direction is some of the finest I’ve seen in a very, very long time. It’ll leave you gasping for air, trust me; 5/5; 10/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 95%.
- End Credits from 22 Jump Street
- First Time Around from Edge of Tomorrow
- Kim Jong Un’s Death from The Interview
- Manipulated Crash from Nightcrawler
Best Short Film (Animated):
The Dam Keeper
The Dam Keeper is an intriguing little film. Running at a short 18 minutes (it is a short film), it’s a post-apocalyptic tale of a young pig who must protect one of the last pieces of civilization from a giant storm of “darkness” by turning on a windmill once a day to force the storm back out to wherever it came from. The pig is, unfortunately, tormented at school and constantly hassled by his classmates—I guess they aren’t aware of how important he really is to them—until a new kid (or should I say “fox”) joins the class and befriends the pig, making his work a little more worthwhile. The darkest of this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Animated Short, The Dam Keeper is a poetic little masterpiece that will keep you invested and creates honest, believable characters that you really get to know and understand, even with the film’s short running length; 5/5; Rotten Tomatoes: N/A.
- Bigger Picture
- Me and My Moulton
Best Short Film (Live-Action):
The Phone Call
Starring Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent, there wasn’t much doubt that this short would be anything less than quality filmmaking, and that hunch ended up being correct. The Phone Call is a thought-provoking effort and one with quite the somber, yet inspiring ending. Sally Hawkins plays a lonely, shy phone call receiver at a self-help line who receives a call from the equally lonely Stan (Jim Broadbent) who claims to be committing suicide due to the loss of his wife so many years ago. A well-crafted, insightful script and two great performances from its two leads, The Phone Call manages to bring the intensity without losing that intimacy that makes it so hard to forget; 4/5; Rotten Tomatoes: N/A.
- Boogaloo and Graham
- Butter Lamp
Film I Still Need to See:
I am a huge Paul Thomas Anderson fan, which just makes my missing out of Inherent Vice that much more unacceptable. I don’t even know how I missed it. I guess I just never got to the theater during its very short wide release. Either way, I was and still am very eager to get my hands on it due to my love for the director and the many, many familiar faces within the film. It also managed to gain a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination which is very promising. It looks like an intriguing effort and a funny one as well and maybe my missing of it during its theatrical run will give me the time to read the book first…maybe; Rotten Tomatoes: 72%.
- A Most Violent Year
- Into the Woods
- The Tale of Princess Kaguya
- Grand Piano for being a thrilling indie surprise.
- Need for Speed for being fun and much better than expected.
- Enemy for allowing Gyllenhaal to show off his incredible talents a second time in 2014 and giving me another reason to look out for Denis Villeneuve’s next projects.
- Bad Words for showing that Jason Bateman has some impressive talent on the other side of the camera as well.
- Nymphomaniac: Volume 2 for being a satisfying sequel.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier for being the best superhero movie of 2014.
- Under the Skin for being an intriguing effort with a phenomenal performance from Scarlett Johansson.
- Only Lovers Left Alive for being a great vampire film.
- Locke for the captivating performance from Tom Hardy.
- Godzilla for doing what I think all blockbusters should aim to do.
- The Fault in Our Stars for making me cry like a little baby.
- 22 Jump Street for being a hilarious sequel and having one of the greatest and funniest end credits sequences I’ve ever seen.
- The Rover for sporting two mesmerizing lead performances.
- Snowpiercer for overcoming all of my doubts.
- The Purge: Anarchy for being better than the first installment.
- Hercules for being just so damn fun! And I mean the one starring The Rock!
- Frank for being a hilarious satire and, once again, displaying Fassbender’s remarkable talents.
- The Drop for being a captivating crime film and having a very, very cute puppy.
- Skeleton Twins for giving Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader a proper project to showcase their dramatic talents.
- The Guest for being another promising effort from director David Wingard.
- A Walk among the Tombstones for being a smart, worthwhile action effort from Liam Neeson (Non-Stop was pretty good too).
- Gone Girl for showing Rosamund Pike is a truly talented actress and Affleck isn’t bad either.
- Fury for being a solid, emotionally gripping, and suitably grim war film.
- John Wick for giving Keanu Reeves a well-earned comeback performance and getting another very cute puppy in a film.
- Top Five for being a surprisingly insightful and honest comedy, showing Chris Rock’s remarkable talents on both sides of the camera.
- Big Eyes for finally finding Tim Burton directing “good” movies again.
- The Interview for actually making quite the political statement, more so off the screen than on.
- Boyhood for being an undeniably impressive film that accurately depicts the wonders of childhood.
- Selma for giving a mesmerizing lead performance and an uncommonly honest portrayal of the immense historical figure.
- American Sniper for Bradley Cooper’s committed performance and giving a devastating look into this man’s life.
10 Worst Movies of 2014:
10. Edge of Tomorrow
9. Sin City: A Dame to Kill for
8. A Million Ways to Die in the West
7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
6. The Monuments Men
2. Left Behind
1. Transformers: Age of Extinction
20 Best Movies of 2014:
19. Nymphomaniac: Volume 1
15. The Guest
14. John Wick
11. Top Five
9. The Wind Rises
7. The Lego Movie
5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
3. The Babadook
Most Anticipated Film for 2015:
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
I am going to say that I was not a fan of the first installment. I actually nominated it for Worst Picture in the second JAM Awards. It was not my favorite superhero movie; I know crazy, right? I just never found it to be very amusing and didn’t think any of the singular character’s stories meshed very well. I also found it to be overly lighthearted when it really shouldn’t have been. People always criticize Man of Steel for the immense amount of destruction and Superman’s willingness to just slap it aside, but what about The Avengers? Anyway, I have a feeling this won’t be a problem in Age of Ultron. Based on the trailers I’ve seen, it looks like a much darker take on the comics and when it comes to superhero films, or just films in general, I always say, “The darker the better.” Also, based on what I’ve heard, Ultron will be a much more menacing and destructive villain, which is something Marvel films have really been missing; truly great villains. I personally can’t wait.
- Fantastic Four
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II
- Mad Max: Fury Road
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Thank you for reading the fourth annual JAM Awards 2014! Make sure to see my other two end of the year lists “20 Best Movies of 2014” and “10 Worst Movies of 2014,” as well as the second and third annual JAM Awards also found on Tylerdscreation.