The 8th Annual EMOs

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34 films. 17 different theaters, from New York to Bucksport, Maine, and Culpeper, Virginia. 3976 minutes (that’s over 67 hours). And way, way too much $$$$.

That, in a nutshell, was my year in film, 2014. But this is more than a nutshell. This is Ethan’s Makeshift Oscars. So let’s get into it. As always, to get nominated for an EMO, a film must have been released in 2014 and I had to see it in 2014. No limits on the number of nominations per category, though I try to keep it to 10; in the competitive categories, nominees are listed in ranked order from the cut-off line to the winner. And of course, be sure to stay tuned for the second half of the EMOs, where every film is a winner in its own way.

Check back in a while for a more detailed (and, once I’ve caught up with a few more late-year limited releases, accurate) top 10 of the year. Enjoy!

Best Action Film:

  • X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Godzilla

Funniest Film:

  • Chef
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Land Ho!
  • Obvious Child
  • Frank
  • Dear White People
  • Inherent Vice
  • Birdman
  • The LEGO Movie

Most Fucked-Up Protagonist:

  • Curtis, “Snowpiercer”
  • Andrew Neyman, “Whiplash”
  • Riggan Thomson, “Birdman”
  • Eric Lomax, “The Railway Man”
  • Mark Schultz, “Foxcatcher”
  • Amelia, “The Babadook”
  • Amy and Nick Dunne, “Gone Girl”
  • Lou Bloom, “Nightcrawler”

Most Deserving to Have Everyone Involved in Production Die a Horribly Painful Death Just For Making Me Watch the Trailer:

  • Tammy
  • A Long Way Down
  • Left Behind
  • The Other Woman
  • The Legend of Hercules
  • I, Frankenstein

Worst Science:

  • Interstellar
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Godzilla
  • Transcendence

Rising Above It Award (for acting performance significantly above the overall quality of the film it’s in):

  • Brendan Gleeson, “The Grand Seduction”
  • James McAvoy, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”
  • Jeremy Irvine, “The Railway Man”
  • Emily Blunt, “Edge of Tomorrow”

Scene-Stealer Award:

  • Emily Watson, “The Theory of Everything”
  • Ed Harris, “Snowpiercer”
  • Robert Downey, Jr., “Chef”
  • Domhnall Gleeson, “Calvary”
  • Toby Jones, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

Breakthrough Actor/Actress of the Year:

  • Evan Peters, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”
  • Chris Pratt, “The LEGO Movie” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”
  • Dave Bautista, “Guardians of the Galaxy”
  • Jenny Slate, “Obvious Child”
  • Carrie Coon, “Gone Girl”
  • the collective cast of “Dear White People”

Best Poster:

  • Under the Skin

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  • Whiplash

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  • Inherent Vice

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  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

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  • Foxcatcher

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  • Nightcrawler

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  • Rosewater

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  • Men, Women and Children

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  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

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  • Birdman

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Best Trailer:

  • Mommy
  • Godzilla
  • Boyhood
  • Knight of Cups
  • Gone Girl
  • Force Majeure
  • Selma
  • Nightcrawler
  • Birdman
  • Inherent Vice

Best Scene:

  • Eating a piece of cake, “Under the Skin”
  • Skydiving into San Francisco, “Godzilla”
  • Business over dinner, “Nightcrawler”
  • Brothers warming up, “Foxcatcher”
  • Docking, “Interstellar”
  • On the beach, “Calvary”
  • A syndicate of dentists, “Inherent Vice”
  • Despair, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya”
  • “Not quite my tempo”, “Whiplash”

Best Use of An Existing Song:

  • “The Obvious Child,” Paul Simon, “Obvious Child”
  • “In a Big Country,” Big Country, “Land Ho!”
  • “Come and Get Your Love,” Redbone, “Guardians of the Galaxy”
  • “Hero,” Family of the Year, “Boyhood”
  • “Vitamin C,” Can, “Inherent Vice”

Best Original Song:

  • “Where No One Goes,” by Jónsi, “How to Train Your Dragon 2”
  • “For the Dancing and the Dreaming,” by Jónsi and John Powell, “How to Train Your Dragon 2”
  • “Song of the Heavenly Maiden,” by Joe Hisaishi, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya”
  • “I Love You All,” by the Soronprfbs, “Frank”
  • “Everything is AWESOME!!!” by Tegan and Sara with The Lonely Island, “The LEGO Movie”

Best Original Score:

  • Alexandre Desplat, “Godzilla”
  • Herbert Grönemeyer, “A Most Wanted Man”
  • James Newton Howard, “Nightcrawler”
  • Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, “Gone Girl”
  • Jóhann Jóhannson, “The Theory of Everything”
  • Hans Zimmer, “Interstellar”
  • Alexandre Desplat, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
  • Antonio Sanchez, “Birdman”
  • Jonny Greenwood, “Inherent Vice”
  • Mica Levi, “Under the Skin”
  • Joe Hisaishi, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya”

Prettiest Pictures:

  • Benoît Delhomme, “A Most Wanted Man”
  • Hoyte van Hoytema, “Interstellar”
  • Benoît Delhomme, “The Theory of Everything”
  • Jeff Cronenweth, “Gone Girl”
  • Larry Smith, “Calvary”
  • Robert Elswit, “Inherent Vice”
  • Robert Elswit, “Nightcrawler”
  • Lukasz Zal, Ryszard Lenczewski, “Ida”
  • Emmanuel Lubezki, “Birdman”
  • Daniel Landin, “Under the Skin”

Best Adapted Screenplay:

  • Andrew Bovell, “A Most Wanted Man”
  • Gillian Flynn, “Gone Girl”
  • Jon Ronson, Peter Straughan, “Frank”
  • Gillian Robespierre, “Obvious Child”
  • Isao Takahata, Riko Sakaguchi, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya”
  • Paul Thomas Anderson, “Inherent Vice”

Best Original Screenplay:

  • Chris Miller, Phil Lord, “The LEGO Movie”
  • Jennifer Kent, “The Babadook”
  • Justin Simien, “Dear White People”
  • E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman, “Foxcatcher”
  • Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
  • Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash”
  • Pawel Pawlikowski, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, “Ida”
  • Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Armando Bo, Alexander Dinelaris, “Birdman”
  • John Michael McDonagh, “Calvary”

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Robin Wright, “A Most Wanted Man”
  • Andrea Riseborough, “Birdman”
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal, “Frank”
  • Carrie Coon, “Gone Girl”
  • Joanna Newsom, “Inherent Vice”
  • Rene Russo, “Nightcrawler”
  • Kelly Reilly, “Calvary”
  • Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
  • Emma Stone, “Birdman”
  • Tilda Swinton, “Snowpiercer”

Best Supporting Actor:

  • Will Arnett, “The LEGO Movie”
  • Tyler Perry, “Gone Girl”
  • Dave Bautista, “Guardians of the Galaxy”
  • Josh Brolin, “Inherent Vice”
  • Riz Ahmed, “Nightcrawler”
  • Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”
  • Chris O’Dowd, “Calvary”
  • Edward Norton, “Birdman”
  • J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”
  • Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”

Best Actress:

  • Aki Asakura, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya”
  • Tessa Thompson, “Dear White People”
  • Jenny Slate, “Obvious Child”
  • Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”
  • Agata Trzebuchowska, “Ida”
  • Agata Kulesza, “Ida”
  • Essie Davis, “The Babadook”
  • Scarlett Johannson, “Under the Skin”

Best Actor:

  • Domhnall Gleeson, “Frank”
  • Tyler James Williams, “Dear White People”
  • Earl Lynn Nelson, “Land Ho!”
  • Paul Eenhorn, “Land Ho!”
  • Michael Fassbender, “Frank”
  • Channing Tatum, “Foxcatcher”
  • Miles Teller, “Whiplash”
  • Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”
  • Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, “A Most Wanted Man”
  • Michael Keaton, “Birdman”
  • Jake Gyllenhaal, “Nightcrawler”
  • Joaquin Phoenix, “Inherent Vice”
  • Brendan Gleeson, “Calvary”

Best Acting Ensemble:

  • Frank
  • The LEGO Movie
  • Snowpiercer
  • Dear White People
  • Boyhood
  • Calvary
  • Inherent Vice
  • Birdman

Best Director:

  • Jennifer Kent, “The Babadook”
  • Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”
  • Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash”
  • Paul Thomas Anderson, “Inherent Vice”
  • John Michael McDonagh, “Calvary”
  • Pawel Pawlikowski, “Ida”
  • Jonathan Glazer, “Under the Skin”
  • Isao Takahata, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya”
  • Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “Birdman”
  • Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”

Best Film:

  • Frank
  • Nightcrawler
  • Dear White People
  • Foxcatcher
  • Whiplash
  • Boyhood
  • Inherent Vice
  • Ida
  • Under the Skin
  • The Tale of Princess Kaguya
  • Birdman
  • Calvary

Best “Drunk History” Impression: “The Legend of Hercules”

I mean I guess I might get Hercules, the Bible and “300” confused after ten shots of tequila too.

Most Ineffectual World-Conquering AI

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Least Sexy PG-13 Robot/Human Sexytimes

Biggest Waste of Morgan Freeman’s Talent…the Week of April 18

Most Tech-Savvy Neo-Luddite Terrorist Group

Least Invested Johnny Depp

and

Most Misguidedly Aspirational Title: “Transcendence”

I just couldn’t stop.

Most Plot Twists Telegraphed Through Casting: “Non-Stop”

Liam Neeson is stuck on a plane with a murderer who could be ANYONE…of the five name actors involved with this film. And gee, I wonder if Julianne Moore is going to be important maybe.

Most Fraught Ethical Issues Raised and Then Immediately Dismissed By a Feel-Good Comedy: “The Grand Seduction”

I mean I guess we’re all OK with blackmailing a doctor in order to bring an environmental-unfriendly petrochemical factory to a tiny picturesque island with a population that couldn’t possibly sustain responsible business models…because…Brendan Gleeson said so?

Most Inexplicable Absence of a Piece of Pop Culture Inside Another Piece of Pop Culture:  “Groundhog Day” and “Edge of Tomorrow”

Time-manipulating alien invaders, exoskeleton-equipped super-soldiers, Tom Cruise/Emily Blunt romance; I’ll buy it all, but fuck off if you ask me to believe the future forgets about Bill Murray.

The Closest Thing We’ll Ever Get to Colin Firth in “Taken”: “The Railway Man”

I’m just saying, Hollywood is leaving a considerable amount of money on the table here.

Most Depressing Captain America Movie: “Snowpiercer”

Maybe that whole time when he was trapped under the ice Steve Rogers was eating babies to survive.

Best Archival Villain: Nazi videotape, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

I don’t think my NYU graduate education in moving image preservation has properly prepared me for the eventuality of discovering Toby Jones’ consciousness downloaded onto 1000 quad machines. I want my money back.

Most Concerned I’ve Ever Been That an Actor’s Veins Might Literally Explode on Screen: Hugh Jackman, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Can someone please tell Mr. Jackman that he can stop being so polite and everyone will be OK if he stops taking steroids now please?

Biggest Genetic Gamble: the child of Sofia Vergara and Jon Favreau, “Chef”

May the odds be ever in your favor, kid.

Most Blatant and Ill-Conceived Attempt to Be Disney But Not Disney: “How To Train Your Dragon 2”

“Everyone knows that the mom always dies in Disney movies…so…what can we do differently….”

Most Actors Acting in Completely Different Movies: “Gone Girl”

I’m not even entirely convinced Tyler Perry knew he was in a movie at all, or if they just filmed him laughing at David Fincher.

Most Han Solos: “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Everyone loves s cocky space pirate. Or fifteen.

Most Anatomical Questions Raised: “The Theory of Everything”

Look, Stephen, I know you’re British and don’t discuss these things. But a throwaway joke is not enough detail here. Forget the black hole stuff. I need charts.

Dumbest Film-Related Complaint of the Year: not enough Godzilla in “Godzilla”

^ Honestly, I don’t know what fucking “more Godzilla” you need.

Cheekiest Punctuation: “Land Ho!”

This could’ve gone to “I, Frankenstein,” but the one thing I would like to reward about THAT film is that they got their grammar right.

Most Likely To Drive You Insane Trying to Figure Out Who’s Voicing That Robot: “Interstellar”

For the record, I love Bill Irwin – he’s freaking phenomenal in “Rachel Getting Married” and does a great job with TARS. But goddamn if he doesn’t sound like every single other famous male actor in Hollywood. Ever. Seriously, I considered that he was the recycled voice of Marlon Brando for a little while.

Most Fucking Instances of Fucking Ralph Fiennes Saying “Fuck” A Fucking Lot: “The Grand Budapest Hotel

Clearly this is so stunning that we must give Wes Anderson all the screenplay awards.

Best Evidence That Everything About the Abortion Sequence in “Juno” Can Go Fuck Itself: “Obvious Child”

To be clear, “Juno” is still a solid-to-good movie overall. But just everything about those scenes. Every. Thing.

Best Cinematic Birth Control Since “Eraserhead”: “The Babadook”

Nope nope nope no children nope nope never nope.

Greatest Disparity Between the Quality of a Movie and the Quality It Has Any Business Being: “The LEGO Movie”

I don’t remember the last time an hour-and-a-half long toy commercial made me cry. Don Draper would be so proud.

Saddest. : “A Most Wanted Man”

RIP, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The Chiara Mastroianni Award: “Nightcrawler”

So this one requires a bit of explanation. Maybe you know Chiara Mastroianni, European actress and model:

A perfectly attractive and striking woman; but, and with no insult meant here, just not the stunning ethereal being that you would expect from the union of Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve, two of the most beautiful humans ever to walk this planet:

                          

So how is this relevant to “Nightcrawler?” Well, imagine Marcello Mastroianni is “Taxi Driver” and Catherine Deneuve is “Network.” Now combine the two, if you get my drift. Stunning on paper, very good in practice – and yet…

God Damn It He Sings Too: Michael Fassbender, “Frank”

Life just isn’t fair.

Yo, Is This Racist? : “Dear White People”

Nope!

Most Fascinating Beard/Hair Combo Ever Known to Man: Dave Schultz/Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”

I just can’t….stop….staring at it….

Bloodiest Depiction of Music Since the Lost Director’s Cut of “Mr. Holland’s Opus”: “Whiplash”

I never even considered it before, but I feel really bad for the janitors at Juilliard now.

Best Candidates for the Next-Next Season of “True Detective”: Joaquin Phoenix and Josh Brolin, “Inherent Vice”

With Doc Sportello in the mix we could easily fill Matthew McConaughey’s stoned rants.

Best CGI: “Boyhood”

It’s really amazing what they can do with computers today, man.

Most Ridiculously Art-House Movie of the Year: “Ida”

I mean, it’s a Polish film about a nun discovering the emotionally devastating truth of her family’s death in the Holocaust, filmed in black-and-white Academy ratio. Are we sure this is an actual movie that exists or just a super dedicated Funny or Die sketch?

Highest Combined Total of Physical, Emotional and Social Distress: “Under the Skin”

Ugggggghhhhhhh I’m so uncomfortable but I kind of like it? It’s really weird to be a film snob sometimes.

Most Unexpected Anti-Buddhist Propaganda: “The Tale of Princess Kaguya”

FUCK YOU, MOON BUDDHA.

Most Likely to Confuse Insecure Film Critics: “Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

“But…but…they make fun of critics…….must…activate…humorless douchebag mode….”

Most Terrifying Evidence That Littlefinger from “Game of Thrones” Is Attempting to Cross Into Our World Through the Vessel of Aidan Gillen: “Calvary”

It would appeeeeeaaaaarrrr soooooooo…

Review: The Railway Man

Haunted WWII vet Eric Lomax (Firth) confronts his former captor in Jonathan Teplitzky’s intriguing but ultimately flat film.

The last time I saw Jeremy Irvine, it was in Steven Spielberg’s handsomely shot but overly stately and sterile panorama of the destruction and suffering of World War I, “War Horse.” He returns to my attention in Jonathan Teplitzky’s “The Railway Man,” a handsomely shot but overly stately and sterile panorama of the destruction and suffering of World War II. The boy needs a better agent.

Irvine’s acting chops have significantly strengthened since Spielberg’s film, and “The Railway Man” gives him much more of an opportunity to flex – there are only so many ways to stare, longingly and doe-eyed, at a horse, but as many a 1990’s BBC devotee will attest it’s no small thing to convincingly imitate a young Colin Firth. As the younger version of their shared self – British Signal Corps veteran and railway enthusiast Eric Lomax – Irvine takes on Firth’s precisely clipped elocution and darting expression, traits the older actor has always used to exude warmth with a stiff upper lip. But for Irvine these mannerisms are tested under dire circumstances: beaten and tortured in a Japanese POW camp in southeast Asia, Young Eric endures while Old Eric broods.

And while Firth-faced Old Eric may be, he can not liven up Australian Teplitzky’s clinically composed depiction of war trauma. More convincing depictions of PTSD have explored the notion of the past bleeding into the present – “Jacob’s Ladder,” perhaps most memorably, put Tim Robbins’ flashbacks in the realm of life-threatening horror. But beyond a few awkward and highly telegraphed hallucinations, Teplitzky puts too great a delineation between what is happening and what has happened: Lomax the Elder’s struggle for peace and mental quiet lacks the immediacy and urgency of the wartime flashbacks. Outside of Irvine’s sterling mimicry, the POW camp scenes seem to regard a completely different set of characters than the fumbling, repressed adults of “The Railway Man’s” ‘contemporary’ setting.

The story, nominally inspired by true events, is alternately plodding and disquieting. Years after the war has ended, Lomax remains haunted by the horrors he witnessed and the pain he suffered, sabotaging his attempts to move on and build a new life with the blankly pretty British waif Patti (Nicole Kidman) he happens to meet cute. When he is informed by a curiously omniscient friend and fellow vet Finlay (Stellan Skarsgard) that one of his Japanese captors and primary antagonist is still alive and profiting off the war by providing guided tours of former prison camps in Thailand, Lomax is faced with what should be a gut-wrenching conundrum between revenge and forgiveness.

Instead, what we are given is the barest bones of a domestic drama occasionally padded out and enlivened by the flashbacks to Lomax the Younger. For three-quarters of the film, Patti repetitively demands – first to her husband, then to Finlay, then back to her husband again – that Eric open up to her about his wartime experiences. Considering we learn nothing about Patti herself beyond her fuzzy assertions that she used to be a nurse (whether with Briony at St. Bartholomew’s or Lady Edith at Downton Abbey, who can say), the Firth/Kidman scenes become a frustrating exercise in stultified non-communication. By exclusively revealing Lomax’s war experience through the Irvine scenes, “The Railway Man” robs the contemporary scenes of most of their resolution – we never see what must be a cathartic moment when Lomax finally opens up to his wife, nor much of any debate regarding his decision to hunt down Takeshi Nagase.

Even this climactic confrontation, which is so inherently fraught it briefly threatens to redeem the entire film, plays out so broadly it becomes hard to believe these two men have actually met before. Desperate to have Lomax and Nagase stand in for the larger suffering of warring nations, Teplitzky and his screenwriters lose the opportunity for a truly piercing, nail-biting character piece. This should be an actor’s paradise – Firth, sleepwalking through the majority of the film, temporarily flickers to life here – and you can see how, reinvented entirely as a bottled, two-man one-act, “The Railway Man” would spark. Tired platitudes and yet more flashbacks simply bog it down.

Still, given the weight of his subject and his undeniably impeccable craft, Teplitzky stumbles into moments of great power. The most striking, to me, takes place in an early scene, wherein some Thai villagers attempt to relieve the plight of the British POWs, trapped inside railway cars on their way to their labor camp. These nameless Samaritans offer water to the Brits’ cupped hands until the Japanese officers take notice and beat the villagers back – at which point Teplitzky lingers on a shot of the prisoners’ outstretched arms slowly, dejectedly slithering back into their cage. It’s an unexpected, uneasy image, part “Shoah” and part Jean Cocteau’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Another, very brief scene, in which Lomax stalks Nagase through a Buddhist temple, is likewise all the more subtle in its wordlessness.

Too often, however, Teplitzky’s influences are more transparent: “Apocalypse Now” and, of course, “The Bridge on the River Kwai” get their obvious visual nods. You might think, considering how close this film’s narrative hews to the latter, that the writers would steadfastly avoid using the “m”-word, but no such luck.

For the most part, in other words, “The Railway Man” opts for the easy choices. It knows it can score emotional points both with sudden brutality and the promise of redemption, and it sticks to that script. This is a story that raises many of the dark complexities of war, addressed in classic, immaculately framed style. The risk of such tasteful filmmaking is that it can turn out so awfully bland.

It was playing for a weekend in the tiny theater in Bucksport, Maine. That’s basically going to be the story of this summer for me, guys.

Verdict: 2 out of 4 stars