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Last updated: February 19, 2011
Copyright 2006 Michael R. Colford.
All rights reserved

current nominations ceremonyarchives
special awardsballot

21st Annual Awards, March 22, 2015

Best Movie

BoyhoodWinner!Boyhood - On one hand, BOYHOOD is simply a coming-of-age tale notable for its gimmick of allowing us to watch its characters gradually age a dozen years in less than three hours. What renders it so much more than just a successful experiment is how the film’s manipulation of time (which always moves forward, never looking back) alters our perception of the story. Following a trajectory fully recognizable to any adult, details and experiences accumulate until they achieve an unprecedented collective effect. By the time its protagonist, Mason, turns eighteen, you sense the film has transcended its original premise of documenting one boy becoming a man. While BOYHOOD isn’t meant to be a stand-in for every life that’s lived, it effectively, emphatically begs us to examine and compare our own childhoods with Mason’s, considering who we ourselves are and how we came of age. --ck

BirdmanBirdman - BIRDMAN takes the audience inside the frenetic and neurotic world of Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), an actor desperately trying to make a comeback and forge a new reputation on the Broadway stage after being identified by his fans as the former comic superhero, Birdman. He immerses himself in directing a play version of an old Raymond Carver story while trying to reconcile past losses of affection with his ex-wife and daughter or dealing with cast members who have neuroses of their own. Trying to combat self-doubts and a lagging self-confidence, Riggan can’t escape his alter ego, Birdman, who forces him not to forget who he once was. Backstage tensions and drama take their toll on his psychological and physical endurance with consequent outbursts of temper, metaphysical detachments from reality, and exhaustion. There are many scenes when the camera follows Riggan’s back in fluid single takes that capture a sense of pre-performance jitters through the offstage sets and dressing rooms as he hectically paces his way from one dilemma to the next. Sanchez’s ongoing background jazz score enhances a Broadway theatrical ambience. This well crafted film is one the viewer should not take too literally but sit back and let it unfold with all its eccentricity and ambiguity.--ph

A Coffee in BerlinA Coffee in Berlin - Written and directed by Jan Ole Gerster, A COFFEE IN BERLIN is a formidable contender for Chlotrudis’ Best Picture award. The strength of this film goes well beyond its ability to compel the audience to watch for this kid to find a damn cup of coffee. In truth, it’s not so much about the coffee. Rather, the quest for coffee helps weave a strong thread of dark humor throughout the film, which makes it special in its ability to be both harsh and raw while at the same time, charming and sentimental. Unsure of whether to feel frustrated or sympathetic toward Tom Schilling’s character, Niko, the audience is taken along for a night of meandering through the streets of Berlin wherein a minor appearance by any of the initially superfluous characters may become a full crisis from one scene to the next. In fact, the performances of these characters are responsible for our ability to more clearly understand our protagonist’s inner struggles. Minimalist in its narrative style, A Coffee in Berlin succeeds in giving its audience a uniquely interesting experience, sharing Niko’s awkward adventures. --bca

IdaIda - IDA, a Polish film directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, has RIGHTFULLY earned multiple international awards and nominations since its first screening. The cinematography is beautiful and creative with a remarkable perspective. The characters are impeccably developed; the screenplay, script, and editing are near perfect. These accomplishments are clearly the result of the careful attention and artistic ability of director, Pawlikowski. IDA is an emotionally stirring film that draws the audience into the psyche of the characters by use of all creative means without melodrama or formulaic composition. Yet, the film also manages to stimulate our thinking about the importance of a few individuals against the reality of their tragic insignificance to Poland during the second world war. The ability of an independent film to bring audience members to this sort of deep understanding with a calm, patient directorial style is truly commendable, making Ida an ideal contender for Chlotrudis’ Best Movie Award. --bca

Like Father, Like SonLike Father, Like Son - What would you do if you found out that the boy you raised as your own biological son for 6 years had been switched at birth with someone else’s? What if you had the means to care for both boys and you knew that the other family could barely afford the one? LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON, written and directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, explores these issues and much more in this eloquent and thoughtful film. The acting of all characters is superb. The children were given no direction with exception of a couple of scenes, in order to elicit puzzlement versus sadness. The director’s instinct was spot on, leading to very convincing performances by the two boys. The cinematography in combination with lighting and slow motion scenes was extraordinary. The director’s choice of music, (piano by Glenn Gould) was brilliant in eliciting great emotional and atmospheric feeling throughout many key scenes. 's subtle direction and writing, the camerawork, editing, music and acting all add up to a highly emotional, visually and musically stunning, thoughtful, and ultimately fulfilling film experience. --jb

MommyMommy - Quebecois wunderkind Xavier Dolan’s fifth feature bespeaks a life experience that’s unexpected coming from a 25-year-old, but it’s the very thing providing a solid foundation for all the messy catharsis and outsized stylistic tropes on top. It explores the tumultuous relationship between a self-absorbed, generally inappropriate-but-still-loving mother, (Anne Dorval), her precocious but imbalanced and violent teenage son (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) and a shy, secretive neighbor (Suzanne Clément). Mostly shot in a distinctive 1:1 aspect ratio (rendering the canvas an intentionally claustrophobic square box), MOMMY is deliberately both physically and emotionally difficult to watch. However, Dolan’s seemingly limitless artistic vision is present in every frame, from how he makes a dull Montreal suburb seem otherworldly and approachable to the soundtrack, where he pieces together artists as disparate as Vivaldi and Lana Del Rey into a whole that’s passionate, uncompromising and often sublime. --ck

Buried Treasure

Rocks in My PocketsWinner!Rocks in My Pockets - Signe Baumane's highly personal "docu-fantasia" (to borrow a term from Canadian director Guy Maddin) is not always a pleasant trip, but it is a necessary one. Baumane's history of the women in her extended family and their battles against mental illness is vividly told through her watching eyes, and her choice to use animation to depict this life story is a brave one, and proves that not all animation is for kids. Some parts of the film are difficult to comprehend, but in the end, it left me with a moment that was filled with tears of hope for the future, and the knowledge one can gain about oneself from taking a chance. --tck

BorgmanBorgman - Sharply photographed in an upper-class surburban enclave, this cryptic black comedy-thriller concocted by director and writer Alex van Warmerdam puts a feral and fanciful twist on the home-invasion scenario. A family’s life is abruptly taken over by a vagrant, Borgman (Jan Bijvoet) who walks out of the forest and wanders down their driveway. In short order, he insinuates himself into their home and private lives, tramples their property with his band of grubby companions, and infects their dreams with poisonous thoughts. Meanwhile, a priest and his followers are hunting Borgman, claiming he is a demon. Murder and mayhem soon follow in this fable for modern times. --kp

Ilo IloIlo Ilo - A middle-class family, vulnerable to life’s uncertainties, strapped by obligation, and saddled with an unruly and difficult child takes a maid, a foreigner, to help with the chores. The arrangement is strained and troubled. Slowly, awkwardly, these people settle into a routine, which is the movie’s small, ordinary story told with grace and good humor. Each character is uniquely drawn with its own strengths and frailties. Though it is set in a specific place, the movie’s sentiments are universal. It is full of small, intimate moments which cement the details of these peoples’ lives, that make us feel we truly know them, and remind us that we aren’t much different from them. We, none of us, ever know what curveball life might throw us, but we soldier on in the face of that unknown. This movie, with kindness and respect towards its people, makes that literal. --jp

The Strange Little CatThe Strange Little Cat - First time writer/director Ramon Zürcher has taken the mundane activities involved in preparation for a family dinner to a marvelous surreal plateau. In the director’s words, “A STRANGE LITTLE CAT is a ballet of movement and stillness.” Zürcher is definitely a cerebral writer, not a visceral one. As we follow the social interactions of people and animals during the course of the day, we get insight into the psychological mechanisms at play through the layers of conversation, soliloquies and facial expressions that reveal emotions far below the surface. When seven-year-old Clara announces that she is going down to the street to “clean up the vomit and feed the rat,” we delight in knowing the cat is not the only strange one on the premises. --bk

The Way He LooksThe Way He Looks - What makes THE WAY HE LOOKS a cut above the many other coming-of-age movies that are out there, is in its specificity. Set in a high school in Sao Paolo, the film follows shy, blind Leonardo as the arrival of a new student, Gabriel, sets in motion many changes in Leonardo’s life that affect his relationships with his parents and his best friend (and self-appointed protector) Giovana, and his self-identity. The casting is spot-on, and the actors’ chemistry and emotional clarity make THE WAY HE LOOKS feel authentic and true to its world. Director Daniel Ribeiro bathes his teenage leads with a warm glow that gives Leonardo’s story an iconic yet nostalgic framework. --bcu

Best Director

Hirokazu KoreedaWinner!Hirokazu Kore-eda for Like Father, Like Son - With LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON, director Hirokazu Kore-eda has created one of the great films on the idea of family, as two sets of parents in contemporary Japan discover that a negligent nurse switched their sons at birth six years ago. The delicacy with which director Kore-eda guides his exquisite ensemble cast, from the opening few minutes in which the differences between father Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama) and son Keita (Keita Ninomiya) are subtly suggested, to the climax of Keita angrily fleeing in inchoate betrayal his father, who must give up his aloof rigidity and apologize to the son he has nurtured, is something very rare in films -- a sublime sense of humanity earned through triumph over difficult circumstances. Director Kore-eda gently contrasts the Ryota and Midori Ninomiya family's financial advantages but emotional troubles, with the Yudai and Yukari Saiki family's financial limitations but emotional openness, without ever appearing judgmental about parent-child dynamics. Particularly moving is Kore-eda's direction of the children, seemingly always caught on camera unaware. The different ways in which the two sets of parents cope with the complexities of their dilemma illuminate anew the continuing debate over "Nature vs. Nurture" -- always under the generously watchful eye of Hirokazu Kore-eda. --kr

Joanna HoggJoanna Hogg for Archipelago - Joanna Hogg has created a film that is, in itself, a glorious abstraction. It is amazing how efficiently Hogg goes about her storytelling. We get snippets of conversation; the essential facts are meted out sparingly. Similarly, she masters the art of distilling and simplifying important information about the physical environment. Hogg moves the camera only when truly necessary, which adds to the effect of the characters and landscape as subjects on a large canvas. --bk

Alejandro González IñárrituAlejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman - In BIRDMAN, Iñárritu (BIUTIFUL, BABEL, AMORES PERROS) changes his usual somber tone to that of an exhilarating black comedy. A franchise movie actor tries to make a comeback with a Broadway play, and helmer Iñárritu creates a movie that has the feel of theater. The rhythms of the film follow the movements of the actors as they keep one step ahead or behind the camera. Casting, visuals, acting, themes, cinematic and literary references, a complex vision—all combine into a directorial tour de force. --djy

Richard Linklater Richard Linklater for Boyhood - Director Richard Linklater wanted to make a film about childhood. While the coming-of-age theme is a common one in cinema, Linklater’s vision consisted of following the same group of actors over a 12-year period to tell the story of Mason, a young boy growing up in Texas from the age of 6 to 18. Putting aside the technical aspects of the film (which were all great), the achievement of Boyhood is the tenacity that Linklater displayed in his vision over this period of time. For while he was making great films like Before Sunset and Bernie, he maintained his passion for this commitment. In addition, the loyalty and respect that he earned with his crew over the years, the onscreen and offscreen talent, should not be overlooked for that was just as key in achieving his vision. For let’s remember, BOYHOOD was not made by a big studio with a limitless budget! And after twelve years, he produced a film that the audience did not just watch but rather experienced. --gc

Jan Ole GersterJan Ole Gerster for A Coffee in Berlin - All the components of great filmmaking are here: a magnetic performance from the lead; great character acting; fabulous black-and-white cinematography; superbly mixing original music with pre-recorded songs; great editing and a well-executed script. Whom can we hold responsible for pulling it all together? Jan Ole Gerster. --bk

Pawel PawilkowskiPawel Pawilkowski for Ida - IDA is a compelling character study of two women, a young Catholic nun Anna, and her aunt Wanda, whom Anna has never met and who reveals that Anna is really Jewish and has a tragic family story. The choice to shoot in black and white and use a 4:3 aspect ratio was unconventional yet effective in conveying a sense of the time period, as well as allowing for some gorgeous shot composition. Though the mood and pacing at first glance may seem slow and quiet, there is quite a bit of mental or emotional “activity” as the film touches upon themes of identity, purpose, sexuality, coming to terms with ones past, the personal vs. the political, and more. And at a brief 82 minutes runtime, the film does not linger. Pawel Pawilkowski has succeeded in creating a masterpiece of understated yet powerful storytelling.--pe & tp

Best Actress

Anne DorvalWinner!Anne Dorval for the role of Diane 'Die' Després in Mommy - Whatever else one can say about boy wonder/enfant terrible/child prodigy/wunderkind writer/director Xavier Dolan, his work with actors is astonishing. He has acted with, written for, and directed the volcanic Anne Dorval in numerous titles, most memorably MOMMY. Considering Dolan's statements in a January podcast for the Film Society of Lincoln Center, one can even regard Anne Dorval as his muse. Dorval plays Diane Després, and/or Die for short, a single parent attempting to have a life for herself, at the same time taking back into her home teenage son Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon), who is unable to avoid institutionalization due to ADHD and frequent violent rages. The notion that "all you need is love" is examined, dismantled, patched together temporarily, and finally proved to be an excruciating failure. Dorval is the soul of this unforgettable film, playing a woman attempting everything possible with her limited resources, financial, emotional, even sexual, to create normalcy. Her playfulness, maternal concern, barely controlled anger, joy in her son's company, and final heartbreaking decision about his future, are all exquisitely modulated by a great actress at the height of her artistic powers. Her final scene offers simultaneously Die's rage, remorse, helplessness, desperation, and disappointment -- every note of pity and terror for which great tragic performances are remembered. --kr

Patricia ArquettePatricia Arquette for the role of Mom in Boyhood - Arquette gave a week a year for 12 years to play Olivia, the resilient, brave, flawed mother of Mason and Samantha. Olivia struggles with work and bad husbands while raising her kids, moving house several times, and going to school. Shot as snippets of everyday life seen from Mason’s point of view, the film shines with Arquette’s natural maternal force and her own experience as a struggling single mother.--djy

Robin WrightRobin Wright for the role of Robin Wright in The Congress - Surely it must be challenging to play a fictional version of yourself, especially when the plot with which your fictional self is involved details the reduction of the human element in film to an artificial intelligence that can play anything the filmmaker wants, but isn't human. Wright is never one to shy away from provocative and unusual roles (see her Chlotrudis Award-winning turn in SORRY, HATERS). Wright embodies the fictional version of herself beautifully, before spinning off into an animated, dystopian fantasia where she morphs into a revolutionary in search of her son, and never misses a beat. --mrc

Paulina GarciaPaulina Garcia for the role of Gloria in Gloria - Gloria is a divorced woman in her late 50s who will not accept a lonely life. Actress Garcia, in oversized glasses, brings a confident sexiness to this very physical role. The camera never leaves her, as she negotiates a less-than-perfect relationship or dances with great passion just for her own enjoyment. Undefeated and uncompromising, Gloria is a very rich role, and Garcia plays it fearlessly. --djy

Agata TrzebuchowskaAgata Trzebuchowska for the role of Anna in Ida - Agata Trzebuchowska, nominated for her performance as Anna in the film Ida, is a stunning newcomer to independent cinema. Anna is the title character “Ida,” and Agata Trzebuchowska plays her with grace and a natural, easily convincing persona. Director Pawel Pawlikowski chose to present Anna to the audience as a quiet, internally seeking, searching woman who is somewhat conflicted about becoming a nun. Soon, the audience can see that her inner conflict over her vows is not nearly as jarring as the emotional journey Anna is forced to make when she learns about her family’s past. Trzebuchowska manages to portray the deep, inner self-exploration of Anna as well as the equally important bond that forms between Anna and her aunt. Trzebuchowska’s performance is very subtle and minimal in dramatic expanse, but the intense turmoil that festers below the surface is perfectly captured in this, her debut film. --bca

Tilda SwintonTilda Swinton for the role of Eve in Only Lovers Left Alive - Tilda Swinton’s portrayal of Eve is imbued with aristocratic elegance, tinged with the world-weary air of a traveler whose journey was begun many centuries before. Eve takes a red-eye flight from Tangiers to Detroit, out of concern for her lover and fellow vampire Adam (Tom Hiddleston). Adam is drowning in despair, sequestered in a crumbling mansion, building a collection of vintage guitars, composing and recording music, while growing contemptuous of his enthusiastic fan-base. The two wander the city at night, discussing the decline of civilization, blood contamination, and their dependence on the humans who act as their drug dealers (suppliers of safe blood for their sustenance.) Swinton is the epitome of the modern vampire: pale, slender and fair, gorgeous bone structure (those cheekbones!), possessing a voracious appetite for literature, an appreciative eye for art and beauty, and an unapologetic will to survive. --kp

Best Actor

Tom HardyWinner!Tom Hardy for the role of Ivan Locke in Locke - Tom Hardy would appear to have the Endurance Award all sewed up since he is onscreen for the whole time save flash edits to the motorway in front of the car he is driving; but his acting skills are what makes LOCKE so riveting. Hardy plays Ivan Locke who is driving to fulfill a moral obligation. During his drive he is faced with unforeseen personal and business crises that threaten to destroy every aspect of his existence. The other actors are relegated to voices on Locke’s mobile phone. Every visible nuance in the film is registered on Tom Hardy’s face. --bk

Michael KeatonMichael Keaton for the role of Riggan in Birdman - In BIRDMAN, Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, a former superhero movie star who is attempting to resurrect his career on the Broadway stage. As opening night nears, Keaton struggles not only with his own demons, but also with the seemingly doomed production. Keaton brings a stroke of genius to the role. His delivery is animated, bordering at times on frenetic as when he is running through Times Square, clad only in tight white undies. Keaton captures the underlying desperation that fuels Riggan’s attempt to either reclaim his fame or lose it forever. --vo

Jesse EisenbergJesse Eisenberg for the roles of Simon/James in The Double - Jesse Eisenberg delivered three outstanding performances in 2014, one in NIGHT MOVES, and two in THE DOUBLE, the former as slow-speaking, mousy, melancholic, virtually anonymous corporate cog Simon James, and the latter as his corporate opposite James Simon, who is social, sexual, successful, witty, and conniving. Simon is ignored by boss Wallace Shawn, especially his brilliant idea to increase company efficiency through "regression analysis", and rejected even by his workplace, which growls menacingly when he walks through the halls and refuses to operate elevators and copy machines for him. The poise and dignity demonstrated by Eisenberg as Simon is all the more alarming because of his acceptance, standing in outrageous but unrecognized contrast with his James, who has all the success with women that eludes Simon, and foists off every idiotic idea that occurs to him upon the company, whose motto is "People: The Ultimate Resource." Eisenberg invests with fearful pathos the line "It's terrible to be alone too much" in conversation with the girl he cannot have (Mia Wasikowska), who falls easily for the other Eisenberg. Eisenberg brilliantly catches every nuance of both characters in this blistering cry against anonymity by writer Avi Korine and writer/director Richard Ayoade. --kr

Masaharu FukuyamaMasaharu Fukuyama for the role of Ryota Nonomiya in Like Father, Like Son - Masaharu Fukuyama gives a beautifully subtle performance as Ryota Nonomiya, a father who learns – 6 years after the fact – that his only child was switched at birth in the hospital. We first see Ryota with his wife and the child they have raised, at an interview/entrance exam for the boy’s enrollment in an exclusive private school. Ryota attempts to say all the right things, and paint the best possible portrait of his son to the officials, but his lack of confidence in his son’s expected performance casts a subtle shadow of doubt over the proceedings. Upon meeting the family who has raised his biological child, he is appalled by the chaotic (but happy) lifestyle they have provided for their children, while emotionally distancing himself from the child he has parented for 6 years. The Solomonic choice is painfully examined as Ryota slowly grasps the toll that will be exacted on all of the parties involved. --kp

Adam BakriAdam Bakri for the role of Omar in Omar - In OMAR, a political/romantic thriller set in Palestine, Adam Bakri delivers a strong performance as the title character. Bakri handles Omar’s twofold passion masterfully. Bakri displays the fiery zeal as a Freedom Fighter and the tender passion as the boyfriend of Nadja, the sister of his friend, Tarik. It is for Nadja that Omar scales the walls to return to his childhood home. Omar’s two worlds collide when an Israeli soldier is killed; Omar is arrested and coerced by the Israelis to become a double agent. From the moment that Omar is released, his life changes. His friends no longer trust him. Only Nadja stays true, leaving Omar in a no-win situation for which he struggles to find a solution. --vo

Miles TellerMiles Teller for the role of Andrew in Whiplash - In WHIPLASH, the versatile Miles Teller plays a mild-mannered young man, Andrew, with an amazing music talent and ambition to match, despite ambivalence about his choices from his family. His nemesis, Fletcher, is played by J.K. Simmons, who has been receiving well-deserved attention for his intense drill-sergeant like character. Playing off this, Teller has to portray a mix of resolve, fear, and anger, as Andrew struggles to contend with Fletcher’s endless mind games that might distract him from his ultimate goal. In certain scenes, Teller creates a sense of unease in the audience as he commits one hundred percent to the role – overcoming pain, fatigue, bloody hands, even a car accident – to stay on track towards his goal of becoming a professional jazz drummer. Most of this is done without words – his character is not particularly talkative. In fact, outside of his commitment to music, Andrew has difficulty relating to others in his life, whether his father or other family members, or his girlfriend. Teller effectively and subtly plays Andrew’s awkwardness in these situations, contrasting with the intensity of his character when he’s in his element in the musical world.--pe & tp

Best Supporting Actress

Agata KuleszaWinner!Agata Kulesza for the role of Wanda in Ida - Wanda’s been beaten down by life and left with an intense cynicism and internal anger she’s avoided resolving until her niece Anna ( Agata Trzebuchowska ), a novitiate nun, arrives at her door. Wanda resents her appearance because it stirs painful and raw memories from family losses. However, her sense of guilt causes her to relent, and she divulges to her niece whose real name is Ida about her family roots as a Jew and the disappearance of their relatives. Kulesza’s performance as an impenetrable and distant Aunt Wanda, dispirited and getting by as best she can is haunting. Both women set out to discover what really happened and vindicate family tragedy so the past can rest at some level of peace for both of them. Once Wanda has resolved matters in her own mind and way, she makes the decision to balance her own sense of karma. Kulesza absorbs the character’s pain and determination to finally deal with loss, leaving us with a poignancy of performance that lingers long after viewing this film. --PH

Lydia LeonardLydia Leonard for the role of Cynthia in Archipelago - I can't think of another film character that is brought to life in such an unpleasant way and still comes across as believable as Lydia Leonard's Cynthia in Joanna Hogg's ARCHIPELAGO. A famly gathers for a vacation on an isolated island off the coast of England... one last gathering before the youngest son goes off to do AIDS relief work in Africa. But the patriarch doesn't show up, the matriarch is a bit fragile, and older sister Cynthia is passive-aggressive, narcissistic, classist, and just plan obnoxious. Her rants are spectacular, her pouting is epic, and her self-absorption so complete that as a viewer, my jaw would just drop after each of her scenes. Lydia Leonard clearly pulled out all the stops to breathe life both familial and horrific in this family drama. --mrc

Suzanne Clément Suzanne Clément for the role of Kyla in Mommy - Suzanne Clément, a veteran of earlier Dolan films (J’AI TUÉ MA MÈRE and LAURENCE ANYWAYS), brings exuberance and pathos to her role of Kyla, the mysterious neighbor-across-the-street. The role requires multiple shifts in her character’s emotional state, which Clément handles with perfection. --bk

Imelda StauntonImelda Staunton for the role of Hefina in Pride - Based on true events, PRIDE tells the story of the improbable cooperation between striking Welsh miners and a group of London gay rights activists. At first the miners want nothing to do with the help being offered by the gay rights group. Luckily for the Londoners, they have one of the union organizers, Hefina, played by Imelda Staunton, on their side. Feisty to a tee, Staunton steals the show. She welcomes the group with open arms and refuses to hear any anti-gay remarks. She is not afraid to voice her opinions. Every comment she makes crackles with humor and/or sarcasm. She has a raunchy more playful side as well. The scene in which she laughs it up with a dildo is just hilarious. --vo

Tilda SwintonTilda Swinton for the role of Mason in Snowpiercer - Director Joon-ho Bong attempts to translate a specific film-making style to an English-speaking audience with SNOWPIERCER, and actress Tilda Swinton's supporting role stands out as one of the most fluid conduits of this challenging endeavor. Swinton's role as the volatile elitist Mason leaps off the pages of the script and transforms onscreen into a dab of anime, cartoon, and grindhouse combinations. Swinton's performance is equal parts subtle and overt in her displays of faux strength, vulnerability, outspokenness, and weakness. Swinton's portrayal stands out in that it is the rare creation of a character before our eyes and not merely a role accentuated by a talented performer. --br

Eva GreenEva Green for the role of Eve Connors in White Bird in a Blizzard - “Why won’t anybody listen to me?” Had this film been made in the 40’s, Bette Davis would have chewed through this role, but Eva Green as Eve Collins comes close. Playing the suburban housewife for an adolescently obnoxious daughter named Kat and a milquetoast husband named Brock, she verges on a breakdown from marriage entrapment and boredom. Eve becomes jealous of her daughter’s sex life and starts wearing slinky nightgowns and overdoing the make-up for Kat’s teenage boyfriend, and, of course, the alcoholic histrionics soon follow. Eva Green helps make this film an enjoyable fest to watch. Why has Eve disappeared? Did she run away from it all? Eva’s performance could have devolved into camp but instead maintains a sense of delicious desperation. A particularly nuanced performance? No. One that deserves a midnight showing? Definitely! --ph

Best Supporting Actor

J, K. SimmonsWinner!J. K. Simmons for the role of Fletcher in Whiplash - In Damien Chazelle’s brilliant film Whiplash, talented young drummer Andrew (Miles Teller) is looking to achieve greatness. In order to reach greatness, he knows that he needs to overcome a great challenge, and in this film, that challenge is personified by instructor Terence Fletcher, played by J.K. Simmons. Fletcher is also seeking greatness and his belief is that any means is justified to reach that end. The character is complex. At times, Fletcher is menacing. At others, he is comforting. But overall, he is always manipulative. And when placed in his world, Andrew buys into his mantra like a disciple to a messiah. He succumbs to the idea that he must conform to meet Fletcher’s approval. Watching this performance, you have to appreciate that a masterful actor such as Simmons has found a role that enables him to display his greatness. --gc

Ed NortonEdward Norton for the role of Mike in Birdman - Edward Norton attacks the role of Mike Shiner in the film BIRDMAN with the same ferocity as a National Spelling Bee finalist at the top of his game. No matter the line or full-page-length rant, Norton devours every moment of wordsmith Alejandro G. Iñárritu's screenplay leaving viewers to marvel at the flood of talent emanating from every scene. The mark of the great performance resides in the fact that all of Norton's moments offer the audience the opportunity to get lost in the distinguished portrayal of the actions and words flying from the mouth, limbs, and other sources of body language the same way that every character Mike Shiner comes in contact with gets lost in his charisma, misguided philosophies, and self-designed (and sometimes contradictory) complexities. --br

Ethan HawkeEthan Hawke for the role of Dad in Boyhood - Hawke is no novice to performing a character who matures and evolves over time in separate films of time sequels. His experience from Linklater’s “Before” trilogy attests to his ability to portray progressive maturity and changes with age. He portrays Mason’s dad early on in BOYHOOD with a “fly by the seat of his pants” kind of unconventional lifestyle that his ex-wife considers irresponsible. Yet, he’s a loving dad to Mason and his sister, Samantha. More than Mom (Patricia Arquette) realizes, Dad provides that important male bonding with his son on their camping trips and father-son talks despite his own lack of stability and structure. However, in the later years Dad marries into a Texan conservative family that does stabilize him as much as the maturity he gains over a dozen years. Hawke has control of the character and wonderfully conveys how time clarifies priorities and purpose. Each stage of a life provides its own level of readiness for lasting relationships, and Hawke’s character learns this and we understand along with him.--ph

Michael FassbenderMichael Fassbender for the role of Frank in Frank - As the eponymous Frank, an avant-garde musician who performs, and lives, in a giant papier-mâché head, Michael Fassbender is forced to convey his character’s personality and emotions through body and voice only. It’s a mesmerizing performance. Fassbender fully fleshes out this eccentric genius, as Frank tries to find the balance between creative expression and popular success, musical inspiration and band cohesion, flights of fancy and mental stability. It's a tour-de-force portrayal that gets underneath identity and persona - is Frank wearing a mask when he is in the big head or out of it? --bcu

Tom HiddlestonTom Hiddleston for the role of Oakley in Unrelated - Tom Hiddleston gives a tremendous performance as an inappropriately young, sexual interest of the film’s middle-aged lead, Anna (Kathryn Worth). Hiddleston’s performance is noteworthy due to his seemingly effortless portrayal of an overly indulged 18 to 20-year-old, who appears at the outset to be a spoiled and arrogant kid, but is found to possess a mature sensitivity and a compassionate nature. This role cannot be easy to master, since the character’s overt personality as smug, selfish, and confident must be contained below the threshold of annoying if we are to believe a 40-something, ordinarily sane woman finds herself compelled to spend most of their week-long vacation at his side. Hiddleston’s character is designed to be childish in his upper-class selfishness, but he’s also childish in a more forgivable fashion when we are witness to the troubling relationship Oakley has with his father. As the film progresses, Oakley becomes a much more complicated character than is first revealed. Once the film allows his shell of pretense to be cracked, the audience is able to see a much more insecure man coming of age. Tom Hiddleston beautifully balances his character’s arrogance with a less obvious, but equally strong, kindness in this most superb supporting role. --bca

Best Original Screenplay

It's A Tie!
Wes Anderson & Hugo GuinnessWinner!The Grand Budapest Hotel, screenplay by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness - I have never been sucked into the somewhat bizarro world of writer/director Wes Anderson; I've never found the charm in his past works that others have. That changed with THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, which is easily his best and most accessible work to date. Filled with vibrant characters, colorful and often hilarious dialogue, fun (if a bit incredible) situations, and almost a sense of the feeling one gets when playing a rousing game of Clue. A movie is only as good as its screenplay, and this is a screenwriters' masterpiece, proving that with the right comic twist here and there, you can get lost in Zubrowka and never mind one bit. -- tck

Pawel Pawilkowski; Rebecca LenkiewiczWinner!Ida, screenplay by Pawel Pawilkowski & Rebecca Lenkiewicz - Set in the early 1960‘s, the story of a novitiate nun whose unsettling discovery that she’s not who she thought she was begins an engrossing nightmarish journey. Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) learns from her Aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza) that she’s actually a Jew named Ida whose family died under strange circumstances during WWII. Both women pursue the disturbing answers to restore integrity and honor to their dead relatives. Hidden secrets, self-doubts, and a horrific family past need to be confronted so both women can accept themselves and move on with their lives, whatever the future holds for each of them. Along the way, Ida’s path to becoming a nun is tested when she meets a handsome saxophonist, Lis (Dawid Ogrodnik). She explores the secular possibilities, forcing her to make the decision that will forever determine the rest of her life. Pawilkowski and Lenkiewicz have written a screenplay of two women who persevere with both courage and vulnerability, intimate and memorable. --ph

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando BoBirdman, screenplay by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo - The screenplay for Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is amazing on two levels. First, the film tells the story of Riggan Thomson, an actor famous for the role of superhero Birdman, who is looking to salvage his reputation as an actor by acting, directing and producing a production of a Raymond Carver short story on Broadway. In his struggle to get this production off the ground, he comes to question his reasons for why he is in this position in the first place. The film asks larger questions about the point of seeking satisfaction as an artist in a forum where the audience simply wants escapism in a never-ending supply of superhero movies. Now, when you consider that director Iñárritu wanted to capture this film in one long shot, that decision presented another challenge to the screenwriters. They then had to figure out how to tell the story while having the camera move from scene to scene so that all of the other members of the production (actors, camera crew, editors, etc.) could perform their duties. And in the end, it call ame together. --gc

Justin SimienDear White People, screenplay by Justin Simien - A predominantly white “liberal” Ivy League-type college campus serves as the setting forJustin Simiens. DEAR WHITE PEOPLE, a clever satire that at first seems to be focused on the black/white issues faced by the African-American students at the college. In fact, Simien goes way beyond this and targets other stereotypes – gender, class – amazingly without being too heavy-handed or preachy. He hits the nail on the head with a screenplay that is crisp, funny, hilarious and astute, and his direction, though not flawless, does the screenplay justice. He creates a movie with a message that makes one stop and think after leaving the theater. This is quite an achievement for a first-time filmmaker. --vo

Steven KnightLocke, screenplay by Steven Knight - Simply stated, this screenplay is a brilliant concept: a man driving his car at night on a busy highway, while having phone conversations on several work-related and personal crises. Ivan Locke, a successful construction manager and family man, is on his way to a situation he dreads but from which he cannot detour. And worse, he must convince his wife and children, his boss and crew, that he cannot be at home that night or at an important jobsite early the next morning. Locke (Tom Hardy) is literally a driven man, forced into this action by his sense of honor, fighting to maintain control over his family and reputation. --kp

Best Adapted Screenplay

Lukas & Coco MoodyssonWinner!We Are the Best!, screenplay by Lukas Moodysson, based on the comic book by Coco Moodysson - Lukas Moodysson started his feature film career with a sweetly optimistic love story with the unlikely title of FUCKING AMAL, before veering into anger and outrage with the one-two punches of LILYA 4-EVER and HOLE IN MY HEART. It is so rewarding to see him finding his joy again, with the exuberant and rebellious film about young teen girls grabbing guitars and going punk in WE ARE THE BEST! Perhaps this is due to the source material, a comic book written by his wife, Coco. Whatever the reason, the Moodyssons capture the innocence, the frustration, the joy and the energy of being young and pushing boundaries. --mrc

Jim Mickle and Nick DamiciCold in July, screenplay by Jim Mickle and Nick DaMici, based on the novel by Joe R. Lansdale - This thriller is launched into deadly action in the very first scene, when mild-mannered Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) kills an intruder who has broken into his home. After being deceived by the police, harassed and stalked by a man claiming to be the father of the dead intruder, Dane embarks on a wild and eventful chase, with new twists arriving in nearly every scene. The adaptation is very faithful to the novel; the terse and gritty dialogue sparks with unexpected humor and occasional shocks, while eliciting deft character portrayals from Hall, Sam Shepard, and Don Johnson. --kp

Ari FolmanThe Congress, screenplay by Ari Folman, based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem - This is one of those projects that can be said to be loosely adapted. In this case, VERY loosely adapted, from the book The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem. Writer/Director Ari Folman delivers an abstract allegory on today's digital world that is his own creation, with elements borrowed from the classic text. What emerges is an interesting blend of science fiction and inevitable fact, and a look at a dark, self-obsessed world of tomorrow which steals the very soul, and sucks you into its not-so-pleasant pseudo-realities. -- tck

Paul Thomas AndersonInherent Vice, screenplay by Paul Thomas Anderson, based on the book by Thomas Pynchon - Paul Thomas Anderson's screenplay adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's seemingly un-filmable 2009 novel INHERENT VICE has about as many enthusiasts as detractors. This divide is amusingly symbolized by an award from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists for "Movie You Wanted to Love, But Just Couldn't." Doc Sportello, a private eye who smokes so much pot you can't tell through the haze whether Joaquin Phoenix is an avatar of Neil Young or the late Joe Cocker, investigates the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston), which takes him to places no one in his right mind would ever visit, such as Chick Planet, Golden Fang, and Chryskylodon Institute. He tangles regularly with his nemesis who turns out to also be his ally, a characterful Bigfoot Bjornsen (Josh Brolin), who hates hippies but loves chocolate-covered bananas. Similar in numerous ways to Robert Altman's brilliant Raymond Chandler adaptation THE LONG GOODBYE, INHERENT VICE demands that the viewer listen with total, even obsessive, attention to every single bit of dialogue, much of which flies by with the rapid-fire speed of machine guns in gangster movies: The payoff rewards the effort. Anderson's superlative screenplay is the first Pynchon film adaptation, and may very well turn out to be the only one. Enjoy it while you can. --kr

Gary HawkinsJoe, screenplay by Gary Hawkins based on the novel by Larry Brown - Gary Hawkins is a filmmaker as well as screenwriter, and in fact he had made a documentary about Joe novelist Larry Brown before writing the screenplay, and had turned three of Brown’s stories into short films. Hawkins kept the personal touch of the book (originally written in 1991), mostly just trimming it for the screenplay and relocating it from Missouri to Texas. As director David Gordon Green was actually Hawkins’ student at one point at North Carolina School of the Arts, there seems to be a unity to the film that one might not otherwise find. The script deftly translates an ornate character study into a visual presentation marked both by broad strokes and subtle detail. The film effectively blends the presentation of intimate male relationships with more overt action-oriented scenes. It is both engaging and heartfelt. --pe & tp

Andrew BovellA Most Wanted Man, screenplay by Andrew Bovell with additional writing by Stephen Cornwell, based on the novel by John le Carré - Bovell’s screenplay adeptly changes the focus of Le Carre’s 2008 novel. While still spinning around a Chechen man who seeks refuge in Berlin, the film’s main character is the head of a German spy operation that pursues terrorist plots and money trails. Spymeister Gunther Bachmann labors under the guilt from a past disaster--and the necessary and tragic isolation of a spy’s life. This impressive adaptation keeps all the right threads of a complicated story and ends with a wallop. --djy

Best Use of Music in a Film

Mica LeviWinner!Under the Skin, Mica Levi, composer - This enigmatic film, with Scarlet Johansen as an alien who comes to earth and seduces a series of men before coming under attack herself is more impressionistic than plot- or character-driven, though there is a narrative arc. The soundtrack is a key element of creating this mood and subtly shifting it over the course of the film. Composed by Mica Levi, who has a background as a violinist and as a member of an experimental rock band, the score brilliantly treads the line between music and sound design. Incorporating simple percussive sounds, buzzing noises, and tormented violin sounds, the score evokes the mystery and dread of the inhuman visitor, whose motives remain a mystery. Ever so subtly and gradually, the music “softens” as the alien inevitably undergoes a sort of metamorphosis into something if not human, then at least possessing some humanity. A later piece in the film, “Love”, captures this transformation beautifully, as the dissonance early in the film is replaced by ethereal washes of synthesizer. It’s one of those soundtracks that you can listen to on YouTube (please do!) and instantly be reminded of the story, so well-integrated are the sounds and visuals on this film. --pe & tp

Cherilyn MacNeil and The Major MinorsA Coffee in Berlin, Cherilyn MacNeil and the Major Minors, composers - Jazz-infused contemporary music sets the tone for many of the vignettes that comprise Niko’s day-long odyssey to find a cup of coffee, a not so subtle metaphor for finding himself. Composer/performers the Major Minors and Cherilyn MacNeil provide original music interspersed with songs performed by Nad Surf, Get Well Soon, Renate Strogaly and Robert Mitchum. Yes, a calypso number by Robert Mitchum. --bk

Stephen RennicksFrank, Stephen Rennicks, composer - With each representing a specific kind of agony, the music in FRANK plays to each character’s own kind of misery. The callow boy, Jon, of all the characters the most convinced he has the passion for music, is capable, naturally, of only the most puerile rhymes and vapid tunes, similes to the beautiful but flavorless cakes his co-star Maggie Gyllenhaal baked in 2005’s GREAT NEW WONDERFUL. Meanwhile in FRANK, she wields her theremin with the determination of a man wielding a baseball bat, playing Clara, easily the angriest role on record, also one of the most maternal, a potentially lethal combination. And then there’s Frank, whom Clara protects and for whom music supplicates his demons. Composer Rennicks manages these discordant threads with music that seasons the characters. He uses a small ensemble for the conventional score, full of mellow horns and sprightly piano, mischievous and mournful, against Frank’s jangly minimalism, providing a jarring counterpoint to the sometimes nearly pastoral settings. It is music that is noticed when it’s meant to be and subtle when it’s not. --jp

Stuart MurdochGod Help the Girl, Stuart Murdoch, composer - Stuart Murdoch, leader of the venerable Scottish indie pop band Belle and Sebastian, once released a side project meant to be a soundtrack for an imaginary film in his head; five years later, GOD HELP THE GIRL is an actual feature-length film Murdoch has written and directed, following three young misfits whom form a band. Less a vanity project than outsider art filtered through an uncommon (but welcome) sensibility, the film naturally excels in its soundtrack. Like a younger, Glaswegian ONCE but with peppier, more ornately orchestrated songs, the narrative is primarily driven by Murdoch’s lyrics, which in turn are enhanced by his masterfully winsome melodies. Highlights like “I’ll Have To Dance With Cassie”, “A Down And Dusky Blonde” and “Come Monday Night” may feel a little ramshackle when compared to more polished movie musicals, but they’re always sincere, energetic and effusively charming. --ck

Alexandre DesplatThe Grand Budapest Hotel, Alexandre Desplat, composer - Prodigiously talented and able to compose, orchestrate, and record with great speed and efficiency, composer Alexandre Desplat has become the musician of choice for numerous directors, among them Wes Anderson, currently enjoying his greatest success with THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. Desplat also composed the colorful scores for Anderson's MOONRISE KINGDOM and FANTASTIC MR. FOX. Their collaboration is one of the joys of contemporary cinema. The brief choral lament, which introduces an Eastern European intimation to the score, gives way to a decidedly exotic musical flavor based in a variety of plucked instruments, including zither (popularized by Anton Karas in THE THIRD MAN), cimbalom (frequently used by John Barry in James Bond movies), and balalaika (made famous by Maurice Jarre in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO), plus harp, celeste, organ, percussion, various woodwinds, and voices. When F. Murray Abraham as elderly Zero and narrator says, "And so my life began", a Vivaldi mandolin concerto connects the plucked instruments with a long vanished past. The end titles are a deliciously witty cacophony of two balalaika ensembles, and not to be missed. Despite the vast array of musical instruments and styles, Alexandre Desplat's score is a model of appropriate and tasteful simplicity, indispensable to the considerable comic achievement of THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. --kr

SQÜRLOnly Lovers Left Alive, music by Jozef van Wissem, additional music by SQÜRL (Jim Jarmusch, Carter Logan, Shane Stoneback, and Jozef van Wissem) - Jim Jarmusch's ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE is more a witty genre deconstruction than another entry into the popular vampire movie chronology. Adam and Eve (Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton) live in Detroit and Tangiers respectively, occasionally flying first-class at night to get together, imbibing only special-order blood procured from handsomely paid medical professionals, since human blood is much too polluted for modern vampires. Music figures prominently in the film, Adam having known many composers and musicians since the 17th century (He claims to have given a string quintet movement to Franz Schubert, who passed it off as his own.), and having collected many musical instruments, such as lute, violin, and numerous vintage guitars. Adam is both musician and composer, writing and mixing his own works that will never be shared with others. Dutch composer and lutenist Jozef van Wissem is a musical collaborator with Jarmusch both on and off stage and screen, as a member of the group SQÜRL. Van Wissem's goal was not to recreate the past, but to emulate it, by composing idiomatically for the lute. He says his music is not atonal, but he makes sure we cannot tell if something is an existing classical piece or a new lute piece. His emphasis is on the experience of listening, particularly on what repetition of a few chords over an extended period of time does to the listener. He regards both the lute and the film as rather political, and definitely anti-contemporary society. Van Wissem's score, and his work with SQÜRL, consists of a dazzling mixture of sound and technique, details of which reflect the passage of vast periods of time, and create the perfect counterpoint for the world of 21st century vampires. --kr

Rasmus ThordWe Are the Best!, Rasmus Thord, music supervisor - Sometimes billed as the Swedish LINDA LINDA LINDA (itself nominated for four Chlotrudis awards), this coming-of-age tale also involving punk music features three tweenish girls who sort of randomly form a rock band, which is the way you form a punk rock band. The punk DIY ethos informs the movie’s spirit and so does its music. It’s played, it’s discussed, it frames a conduct of life, it leads to new opportunities. The climactic performance is apotheothetic punk and shows how liberating standing up for your principles, in the spirit of punk, can be. Fun, too. --jp

Justin HurwitzWhiplash, Justin Hurwitz, composer - Justin Hurwitz's musical charge was twofold: to provide aural context for the viewer, and to portray the music performed by the characters in the film among which were big band jazz classics like Hank Levy's 'Whiplash' and Duke Ellington's 'Caravan'. Despite working with a small budget, Hurwitz succeeds in a big way. The set pieces are vivid and convulsive, while the background pieces excerpt sections of these big band sounds, teasing and pulling until distorted or pared down to the bone. The musical structure and vocabulary of WHIPLASH are as precise, layered and intense as are the filmic ones. --bcu

Best Editing

Sandra AdairWinner!Sandra Adair for Boyhood - How much footage was actually shot for BOYHOOD would make a good guessing game. Long-time collaborators Sandra Adair and director Linklater shared in designing the editing concept of making the transitions over a twelve-year span “seamless and washed away like a memory would.” Adair then had to meticulously pare down every scene to capture its essence. The result is an achievement of epic proportion. --bk

Douglas Crise and Stephen MirrioneDouglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione for Birdman - What goes unsaid in all the acclaim for BIRDMAN is the effort required in both creatively selecting the takes for use in the final film, and the blending of the takes with the more traditionally paced elements of the film. All this is masterfully done by editors Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione. The duo have collaborated on a dozen films, including several from Steven Soderbergh as well as director Iñárritu’s previous films BABEL and 21 GRAMS. Clearly, they have found a system that works. Several sequences in the film play with shifting time as well as switching between happenings in reality and on the stage. This proves to be an effective way of conveying to the audience the inner mental state of the character – his paranoia and disorientation. Another unique and often unheralded aspect of the film is the use of a soundtrack consisting primarily of drum set performance. The editors’ arrangement and rearrangement of these polyrhythmic clips propels the action of the film in both the real and fantasy worlds of BIRDMAN. --pe & tp

Anja SiemensAnja Siemens for A Coffee in Berlin - Originally titled OH BOY, A COFFEE IN BERLIN is as perfectly re-titled as it was edited by Anja Siemen with the help of Jan Ole Gerster (who wrote and directed this first-time feature film). We follow the main character Niko Fischer (Tom Schilling), slacker law school dropout, through the city of Berlin for a day, looking for that elusive cup of coffee whilst meeting up with various present and past friends and acquaintances, distraught neighbors, his wealthy father, and interesting strangers along the way. We get to experience Niko’s philosophical identity crisis in a lightly dark but humorous way with precise detail moving briskly along from one episode to the next. This is accomplished thanks to Anja ‘s keen sense of timing and aesthetics mixing music, superbly lit black-and-white film including many iconic images of the city, and the perfect cutaways that really give that punch and humor to so many scenes. Note the ATM cutaway as one such hilarious case, which is brilliantly later reused in a similar but different incarnation. Another small but brilliant editing touch, at one point in the film, when so many characters are talking at once that no one can understand what the other is saying, the subtitles stop. Anja ties it all together in a seamless light and jaunty way resulting in a gem of a film. --jb

Bill WeberBill Weber for The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden - To edit a film can be difficult enough – to edit one based on letters left behind by people from a past event can be even harder. If you’re editing a documentary you have to balance all sides to create an even-handed piece. Bill Weber handles this difficult task with aplomb in THE GALAPAGOS AFFAIR: SATAN CAME TO EDEN. His work shows a great depth and sensitivity to all persons involved, painting an amazing picture of events that lead to mystery and tragedy in a setting that seemed too beautiful to be touched by evil – until it was. --kb

Justine WrightJustine Wright for Locke - With her extraordinary editing on LOCKE, Justine Wright has helped to create an 85-minute wonder of movie minimalism. In exemplary artistic collaboration with writer/director Steven Knight and cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos, she has used footage from three different digital cameras, shooting actor Tom Hardy in a car affixed to the back of a trailer over a few nights' time. The camera lens was changed each and every time the memory card was changed (approximately every 37 minutes), and a different camera angle was used for each night of shooting. The result is a dazzling array of color textures, lighting variants, film rhythms, and emotional details. This sophisticated technology is placed at the service of the story about a construction engineer who must employ contemporary tools, such as a state-of-the-art automobile and its telecommunication capability, to resolve a life crisis in the limited amount of time it takes him to reach his destination. A brilliant piece of work on all levels. --kr

Steve M. Choe and Changju KimSteve M. Choe and Changju Kim for Snowpiercer - The few thousand humans remaining are stuck on a train eternally hurtling around the globe in this allegorical apocalyptic film. When some of the passengers in the last car decide to rebel against the strict social hierarchy, controlled chaos ensues. Editors Choe and Kim keep the action moving, concentrating on the flow of the story, its forward momentum, and its pacing. Choe credits the actors and directors for providing him with plenty of choices between great takes, but his attention to small gestures in the midst of mayhem makes not just the story, but the characters, indelible. --djy

Best Cinematography

Ryszard Lenczewski | Lukasz ZalWinner!Ryszard Lenczewski & Lukasz Zal for Ida - The exquisite black-and-white cinematography for Pawel Pawlikowski's IDA by Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski suggests labels like "luscious" and "creamy." But this is not haute cuisine; it is a bleak if luminous miniature on the shared devastation of Communism and Catholicism in post-World War II Poland, as mysteries of the greatest crime in recorded history, the Holocaust, continue to disrupt and devastate. In early 1960s Poland, a teenage novice is ordered by Mother Superior to visit her only living relative, an aunt named Wanda, who reveals not only that Anna is a Jewish orphan named Ida, but also that Wanda is a bitter alcoholic judge known as "Red Wanda" for sending people to their deaths. The hauntingly crystalline cinematography, framed at 1.37:1, emphasizes horizontal and vertical lines inside and outside rooms and buildings, in towns and on roads, but also exhibits astonishing depth of field, wherein snowflakes can be clearly perceived both near and far, as novices install a newly refurbished statue of Jesus, and forests are as clear in closeup as they are at distance. Textures of cobblestone streets, of plaster walls, of pavement, stairwells, wood, metal, glass and wallpaper are all available for amazement, and repeated setups, such as sunlight streaming into a barn through door and window lighting Wanda, Ida and a cow differently, are almost literally breath-taking. This great cinematography is placed at the service of a sad and moving story without a happy ending or even a clear sense of resolution. --kr

Emmanuel LubezkiEmmanuel Lubezki for Birdman - A film that sometimes seems as if the shots and angles were meticulously planned and rigs built before dialogue was ever set to a page, what BIRDMAN displays with the camera is enough to engage an audience without so much as a script. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki goes for the trifecta of having three of the most spectacular showcases of camerawork in the motion picture industry over the last ten years along with the tour-de-forces that were CHILDREN OF MEN and GRAVITY, as well as this, his fourth Chlotrudis nomination for Cinematography following SLEEPY HOLLOW, Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN, and THE TREE OF LIFE. Lubezki runs the gamut of intricate sweeping crane shots, maze-riddled tracking shots, engaging closeups, artistic framing, and metaphorical establishing shots in a film that leaves even the most casual moviegoer questioning, "How did they get the camera to do that?" --br

Philipp KirsamerPhilipp Kirsamer for A Coffee in Berlin - A young man wanders at loose ends through a day in his life. Confused and noncommittal, he makes a mess of every situation in which he finds himself. His world is drained of color, consumed by pettiness and minutiae. Even as we accompany his convoluted wanderings, though, we see he faces a stark choice: commit or be consumed by his own anomie. The choice to film the movie in black-and-white, then, is inevitable. The absence of color both defines and frames the young man’s existence. Particular shots mark the contrast between his life and those around him. He crosses a vast field alone, while the streets bustle with crowds and traffic. The movie opens with a shot of his neighborhood. An airliner flies glinting through the sky. The movie closes with the same shot. The airliner has moved on a bit, but little else has changed. --jp

Lyle VincentLyle Vincent for A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night - The look of this Iranian feminist vampire movie was partly inspired by Frank Miller’s graphic novel Sin City. Lenser Vincent shot in high contrast monochrome—crisp black-and-white with no natural grays. The imaginary Bad City is glistening yet bleak, perfect for a wasteland haunted by the undead. --djy

Robert D. YeomanRobert D. Yeoman for The Grand Budapest Hotel - A high and steep cliffed hotel stares down from white peaked mountains. Its elevators defy their elevation in the Alpines of this surreal and zany film. Whites and reds burst out between hotel scenes with opulent rooms of decor to the snow-covered countrysides, horizontally sliced by the black-smoked snake of a locomotive. Sledding slopes of cold blowing white fill the screen and encase the viewer in the chase and escape of the protagonists tracking down stolen art and a possible killer. Yeoman uses a variety of screen aspect ratios to represent the look of the times, whether the 1930’s or the 1960’s. This all manifests in a rich and interconnected album of color, memory, and decades past that takes these eccentric characters through the prism of a Grimm’s fairy tale. --ph

Daniel LandinDaniel Landin for Under the Skin - An alien creature, nominally, and given its mission, necessarily a woman, wanders the streets of Glasgow luring men into her van and then into an all-consuming strange and viscid fluid where they hang suspended until suddenly and brutally voided of their life force. The movie traverses a number of environments from seamy city street to shopping mall to primordial forest to the otherworldly setting of the creature’s victims’ undoing, and each is photographed according to its attributes. We feel the city’s grit and despair, the mall’s superficial but alluring glamor, nature’s awesome and brutal strength, and we are disturbed by the alien landscape in which the victims find themselves submerged. Ghosts of Kubrick haunt each scene. The film’s opening shot echoes that of 2001. Later on, we are reminded of HAL’s lurid red eyeball. UNDER THE SKIN is a strange, unsettling movie, its strangeness heightened at every point by its cinematography. --jp

Best Production Design

Only Lovers Left AliveWinner!Marco Bittner Rosser for Only Lovers Left Alive - The main characters in ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE are vampires who have been alive for millennia. They have lived well, and over the course of their lives, they have collected furnishings, clothing, musical instruments, and other creature comforts that are beautifully represented by the production crew led by Marco Bittner Rosser. The set pieces look effortless and natural - homes well-lived in and lived-in. And the nighttime streets of Detroit, where much of the film is set, are beautifully captured through an eerie, romantic lens perfect for the story of these two longtime lovers dripping with cool. --mrc

The DoubleDavid Crank for The Double - Right from the start, you sense THE DOUBLE is set in a world slightly familiar to but generally not like our own. The distinct, heightened visual palette blatantly recalls the past (specifically mid-20th century lighting and contours) but also seems perpetually, slightly off, as if we’re at some undisclosed future dystopia where technology no longer advances, relying entirely on any available antique remnants. Although adapted from a Dostoevsky novella, it often feels and appears Kafka-esque, especially in all of its cubicles and dimly lit corridors. Such a setting richly complements a story that’s also always slightly askew, playing with themes of assumed identities in an Orwellian society distorted by rules and regulations meant to serve the greater good, but often carrying grave consequences for the individual. --ck

The Grand Budapest HotelAdam Stockhausen for The Grand Budapest Hotel - The nation of Zubrowka in THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL may have only been a riddle from the mind of Wes Anderson had it not been for the artistic direction of Adam Stockhausen. Combined with the excellent framing shots from Cinematographer Robert Yeoman, the intricacies of props, eye-popping color combinations, and oddly appropriate sets all invent a dimension of storytelling that simply could not have been contained within the words of a script. Not only is the display of design talent evident in the set of each scene, the mark of Stockhausen's excellence here is how the fictional world is translated seamlessly from the portrayals and characters that Anderson seems to be seeking all along with his own abstract concoctions via dialogue and mere words. --br

Mr. TurnerSuzie Davies for Mr. Turner - Two grubbily garbed peasant women sit on their stoop and chat while holding a pet chicken as the artist treads past them on pedestrian worn cobblestones in a scene of the early to mid 19th century. The untidy artist spits on his canvas and smudges the paint to desired effect in a workshop with the myriad items of his craft behind him, messily laid out for the viewer’s visual curiosity in minute and nuanced detail. The markets of Margate selling their varieties of fish and the seamen who caught them puffing on their pipes with their vessels moored and barnacled at the wharf engage us in a holistic setting that only a production designer after intense research could have incorporated with such a rich array. The period dress and properties are as much a deserved focus of this historical film as the main character himself. --ph

SnowpiercerOndrej Nekvasil for Snowpiercer - Nearly all of SNOWPIERCER transpires on a train continuously circling the Earth in a near future where a new ice age has left the planet uninhabitable. The super-long vehicle is divided into classes, with the wealthy ticket-holders basking in an insulated multi-car utopia up front, and the poor have-nots huddled in the back. After spending the first half-hour restricted to that ravaged, dank, overcrowded, prison-like caboose, the poor rebel and make their way up the train: worlds upon worlds inventively open up within each new car, from an elaborate greenhouse to a luxurious spa to a deceptively cheery schoolclassroom. Although we only see glimpses of daylight through occasional windows, we feel less and less confined as the film progresses, for the action continually moves throughout the train, always towards the right. As that journey builds, the thrill of discovery rarely ceases. --ck

The Strange Color of Your Body's TearsJohanna Bourson for The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears - Calling for a building that exists within a building, reflecting the mental state of its main character, this contemporary homage to the giallo genre necessarily depends upon the evocation of those films' aspect for its effect upon the viewer. The saturated colors, the erotically-charged violence, the chiaro-obscured, lush and baroque Art Nouveau setting, the leather, the retro-archaic machinery, the elaborate maze that is the building-within-a-building, the psychedelic interludes, and the ice cubes rattling endlessly in a restless glass of scotch, make this movie (ignoring for a moment its mindbending plot) a trip that will wander along with you long after its final credits roll. --jp

Best Performance by an Ensemble Cast

The Grand Budapest HotelWinner!The Grand Budapest Hotel - When you have a large cast in a film, it can be both a joy and a problem. A joy since there’s a multitude of talent to watch; a problem because sometimes it can make the film feel bloated, with actors almost shoving each other out of the way for their brief moment of screen time. That, thankfully, is not the case with the wonderful ensemble cast in Wes Anderson’s glittering opus THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. From the alternately charming and foul-mouthed Ralph Fiennes to the sometime clueless but never lost Tony Revolori, from the ethereal Saoirse Ronan to the ghastly Willem Dafoe, every character is a thread in a tapestry that envelopes the viewer in its world. --kb

ArchipelagoArchipelago - Joanna Hogg’s second feature centers on a reunited family, but it emphasizes that old adage about how you can’t choose your relatives. The impetus for the trip is son Edward (Tom Hiddleston), about to depart for a year-long sojourn to Africa to work with AIDS patients. His sister, Cynthia (Lydia Leonard) is as self-centered and angry as her brother is altruistic and deceptively tranquil; both of them are miserable, as is their mother, Patricia (Kate Fahy), whose bitterness emerges as she waits and waits for the family patriarch to join them. Two outliers also figure in: Rose (Amy Lloyd), whom they’ve hired to cook and clean for them, and Christopher (Christopher Baker), a local painter. Their interactions (and mere presence) reveal multitudes about Edward, Cynthia and Patricia’s behavior and general outlook on life. Together, the five-member cast is as solid as any of Mike Leigh’s famed ensembles. --ck

Like Father Like SonLike Father, Like Son - In LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON, two Japanese families, one upper-class and one blue-collar, learn that their six-year-old sons were switched at birth in the hospital and must now be “exchanged.” A familiar story line like this could easily become a soap opera, but instead the film is a masterful and moving portrait of the meaning of family and fatherhood. This achievement is due to the powerful ensemble cast performance. Take for example the two fathers: Masahara Fukuyama’s brilliant and nuanced portrayal of the upper class father, Rioka, a hard-nosed, rigid architect, whose initial toughness melts to a much more empathetic character as the film progresses; Riri Furanki who shines as the blue collar father, Yudai whose approach to the uncomfortable situation is softer and more mellow. The rest of the cast deliver equally notable performances.--vo

We Are the Best!We Are the Best! - Moodyson’s coming of age film features lead actress, Mira Barkhammar, as Bobo, whose character serves as an anchor for the story of a group of girls who start their own punk rock band. Although the lead character is notable, her story is greatly supported by this fantastic cast of characters. Each character is thoroughly developed in this film. The two girls cast as fellow punkers are Mira Grosin (Klara) and Liv LeMoyne (Hedvig), and all three characters share a well-deserved nomination for Best Ensemble Cast. Additionally, the other members of the cast have succeeded in providing support for the three protagonists, such that the story would not be the same without them. Indeed, the introduction into each girl’s persona is made possible by the excellent performances of their respective family members, including some fantastic scenes with Klara’s mamma and papa, played by Lena Carlsson and David Dencik, respectively. Altogether, this colorful group of characters comprises a splendid ensemble cast. --bca

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? - Weichung, married for 9 years to Feng and father to their only child, encounters an old friend from his past -- Stephen, who hopes to entice Weichung back to the gay lifestyle they shared as young men. Weichung is afraid of destroying his marriage and losing his family, but shortly after running into Stephen, he meets a young male flight attendant and cautiously enters into a secret liaison. Meanwhile Feng (unaware of her husband’s sexual orientation) is hoping to have another child, and Weichung’s impetuous sister dumps her long-term and utterly devoted boyfriend San-San only days after announcing their engagement, and spends her time indulging in fantasies about sex with a soap opera star. This comedy of errors is played out beautifully by the ensemble cast, each actor creating a believable, lovable character struggling to make their secret dreams mesh with reality, and balancing the humor of their situation with a tender poignancy as they navigate the trials and tribulations of love. --kp

Best Documentary

Finding Vivian MaierWinner!Finding Vivian Maier - Who doesn’t love an artistic film about art? The beautiful documentary film, FINDING VIVIAN MAIER, exposes viewers to but a tiny sample of Vivian Maier’s more than 100,000 black and white photographic images. Thanks to John Maloof, who acquired her work at a thrift auction house on Chicago’s Northwest Side, Vivian Maier, gifted photographer, was discovered. The irony of this film is that it is our great fortune to be able to view Maier’s work at the expense of what her wishes must have been. She is described as a recluse and a troubled soul, who likely suffered a great deal from mental disturbances throughout her life. Her photography was not a passing hobby, but more an obsessive compulsion. Filmmakers John Maloof and Charlie Siskel do an excellent job revealing both the artist and her work through their wonderfully creative documentary. --bca

Jodorowsky's DuneJodorowsky's Dune - Frank Pavich's mesmerizing documentary about Alejandro Jodorowsky's passionate but doomed effort to film Frank Herbert's 1965 novel DUNE is labeled by one interviewee "the greatest movie never made." In delightfully fractured and heavily accented English, fortunately subtitled, Jodorowsky tells us how he embarked on a quest for "spiritual warriors" who would work with him to make his vision reality. The documentary traces key encounters, as Jodorowsky goes "searching for the light of genius in every person", starting with science fiction/fantasy artist and writer Jean Giraud, a/k/a Moebius, and sci-fi/horror film writer Dan O'Bannon, continuing on with H.R. Giger and Mick Jagger. Jaws will drop at the thrilling implausibility of stories about attempts to cast an intellectually unavailable Salvador Dali as Emperor of the Known Universe, and a morbidly obese Orson Welles as Baron Harkonnen. The documentary is far more potent for its cuckoo ideas processed through our imagination than for any cinematic actuality. But the influence of Jodorowsky's unmade movie can clearly be seen -- and felt -- in STAR WARS, ALIEN and ALIENS, BLADE RUNNER, THE MATRIX, PROMETHEUS and many others. --kr

Life ItselfLife Itself - Total disclosure: I became the film critic I now am because of Roger Ebert. He was a part of my life from my high school days onward, and even though I rarely agreed with his opinions, I always found them entertaining, often hilarious, and highly knowledgeable. And I found the man fascinating. This journey through his life, his triumphs, his low points, and his long and ultimately terminal illness is amazing for many reasons, but in the end, it proves one thing over all others - Love triumphs over all. And for Roger and his loving devoted wife Chaz, they knew they were each other's high point in life. Go into this film looking for more about Ebert the film critic, you'll still come out a fan of Ebert the man. He deserves to be that legend that he became even in life, and even more so since his passing. He knew that it was a combination of everything he did that truly gave him Life, Itself. --tck

Particle FeverParticle Fever - It is nearly inconceivable that a film about finding the elusive Higgs bosun could play out like a thriller. Not only has Mark Levison accomplished this feat, but also he has added stories of of human interest from the group of CERN scientists in Geneva that managed against all odds to identify the Higgs particle in 2012. The result is a compelling documentary. --bk

Tim's VermeerTim's Vermeer - Tim Jenison made millions in the computer graphics industry and now spends his time pursuing his own quirky agenda. He is fascinated by the Dutch master, Johannes Vermeer, whose paintings are suffused with light unlike that of any of his contemporaries. Indeed, to Jenison, Vermeer’s paintings anticipate the development of electronic visual arts. The movie documents Jenison’s development and exploration of a hypothesis which could explain Vermeer’s forward looking techniques. Jenison is a fascinating subject, an expansive personality fiercely nerdy and consumed by his quest, who, by never taking himself too seriously, is also laugh-out-loud hilarious to watch. The camera loves him. And film, one of those electronic visual arts, proves to be the ideal medium to explore the origins of another. This documentary is technological, obsessive, funny, and may be the truest movie about geeks ever made. --JP

To Be TakeiTo Be Takei - It would be really simple to say TO BE TAKEI is the logical choice to win Best Documentary, or say that this film has all its phasers set to “Stunning”, but that’s going for the obvious lines, and I’m better than that. (Which is a total lie). What this movie is at its heart is a wonderful look at the life of George Takei – actor and inspiration. George’s story as both a Japanese American and a gay man is touching, funny, moving and triumphant. His life and works are shown in this film with warmth and honesty; his relationship with spouse Brad is a true joy to see. As George often says, "Oh, My!" --kb