Best Director

Best Director NomineesIn this year’s Best Director category, only one nominee is receiving his inaugural Oscar nomination (Morten Tyldum). The other four directors have combined for ten previous Academy Award nominations; however, only two of those ten nominations were in the Best Director category (Alejandro G. Iñárritu for Babel and Bennett Miller for Capote). The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Director:

WINNER: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Boyhood8Richard Linklater is an American filmmaker with credits that include Dazed and Confused (1993) and the Before Trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight). Linklater has already garnered 31 Best Director awards at various film festivals and award shows for his work in Boyhood. Linklater was previously nominated twice at the Oscars in the Best Adapted Screenplay category (Before Sunset and Before Midnight).

  1. Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman)

Birdman2Alejandro G. Iñárritu is a renowned Mexican filmmaker—he is the visionary behind the celebrated “Death Trilogy” (Amores perros, 21 Grams, Babel). Iñárritu has been previously nominated for four Oscars: twice for Best Foreign Language Film (Amores perros and Biutiful) once for Best Director (Babel), and once for Best Picture (Babel).

  1. Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)

Bennett MillerBennett Miller is an American film director—he previously directed Capote (2005) and Moneyball (2011). At the 67th Cannes Film Festival in May 2014, Miller won the Best Director award for his work on Foxcatcher. Miller was previously nominated in the Best Director category at the Oscars for 2005’s Capote.

  1. Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)

Morten TyldumMorten Tyldum is a Norwegian film director, renowned internationally for his critically acclaimed, BAFTA-nominated thriller Headhunters (2011). Tyldum has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

  1. Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Wes AndersonWes Anderson is an American filmmaker—he is the creative genius behind movies like Rushmore (1998), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), and Moonrise Kingdom (2012). Wes Anderson has been previously nominated for three Oscars: Best Original Screenplay for The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and Moonrise Kingdom (2012) and Best Animated Feature for Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009).


Best Original Screenplay

Best Original Screenplay Nominees

This year, similar to the Best Adapted Screenplay category, nearly every singe nominee will be attending the Academy Awards for the first time in a screenwriting capacity. Only two writers out of the nine nominated writers have received Oscar nominations previously: Richard Linklater and Wes Anderson. The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Original Screenplay:

Dan GilroyWINNER: Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler)

Dan Gilroy has never previously been nominated in any screenwriting categories at the Academy Awards.

  1. Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Richard Linklater 2Richard Linklater was previously nominated twice at the Oscars in the Best Adapted Screenplay category (Before Sunset and Before Midnight).


  1. Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., and Armando Bo (Birdman)

72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards - Press RoomAlejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., and Armando Bo have never previously been nominated for an Academy Award in a writing category.


  1. E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman (Foxcatcher)

Foxcatcher writersE. Max Frye has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award. However, Dan Futterman has been previously nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for Capote (2005).



  1. Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Wes AndersonWes Anderson has been previously nominated for Best Original Screenplay twice: The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and Moonrise Kingdom (2012).

Top 15 Films of 2014, No. 6 – Boyhood

Boyhood - BPBoyhood is a drama written and directed by Richard Linklater. Filmed over a 12-year period, Boyhood charts the physical and emotion growth of Mason (Ellar Coltrane), a young boy growing up with divorced parents.

Boyhood8Boyhood is a masterpiece. Hands down. The incredible feat that Richard Linklater achieved in creating this film is astounding, to say the least. After assembling his main cast (Ellar Coltrane as Mason, Jr., Lorelei Linklater as Samantha, Patricia Arquette as Olivia, and Ethan Hawke as Mason, Sr.), Linklater proceeded to film Boyhood on a consecutive basis for 12 years, filming each year for a three to four-day period. This technique is absolutely unheard of, but Linklater makes it work in the most intriguing ways possible. For starters, his script surprisingly flows seamlessly, notwithstanding the movie’s intermittent filming and 165-minute duration. And when I say, “flow,” I do not mean in the way that most great scripts flow because Linklater’s storytelling techniques are far from orthodox. Most Linklater films (especially his Before trilogy, starring Ethan Hawke) seemingly have no plot—he builds his story upon dialogue and commonplace circumstances. Therefore, even though Boyhood seems at times as if it meanders with no distinct end in sight, Linklater is constantly keeping the viewer engaged with events and conversations that everyone can relate to—this is his version of “flow.” Boyhood6Linklater embeds into his film scenes that the average American will understand and connect with—adolescent complexities, familial arguments and fights, and house parties. In these everyday, communicative depictions, Linklater crafts a 3-hour plus film that never has a dull moment—it is masterful filmmaking, and it will forever go down as Linklater’s magnum opus.

Boyhood3The film is titled Boyhood. And boy (no pun intended), does it depict “boyhood” in the most amazing way. In most films, the physical progression of a particular character is usually portrayed via several actors or incredibly intricate makeup/visual effects. In Boyhood, Linklater’s 12-year production supplies a natural development for each of the characters—this is one of the more amazing features of his masterwork. It is incredible to see the film’s lead character Mason progress from an elementary boy with baby fat to a freshman in college with facial hair. Boyhood4During those 12 years, Mason endures all of the customary experiences of childhood, battling divorced parents and witnessing domestic abuse, all the while. This is portrayed with such realism, and the actual physical growth of Ellar Coltrane gives the touch of authenticity that makes the film achieve something picturesque. Speaking of the film’s pragmatism, a film-enthusiast friend of mine (known here only as “DPJ”) described its depiction of “boyhood” perfectly: “the thing Boyhood does exceptionally well is that it hits on all those key points of growing up that all men remember vividly. High points and low. The fact that it took 12 years to make is in my view actually the lesser achievement.” Boyhood2This is absolutely true. The childhood experience of a guy includes so many traditional experiences—playing with friends, talking to girls, going to parties, having your first drink, falling in love for the first time, leaving the nest—and the ways in which Linklater displays those on screen is as matter-of-fact as it gets. Some of my favorite parts of the movie were the cultural signposts throughout the years—Mason goes to a release party for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, plays Nintendo Wii, and goes to an Astros game to watch Roger Clemens pitch. These scenes breathe life into Linklater’s remarkable time capsule.

Boyhood7In terms of acting, the theme of physical and emotional progression is further manifested. Ellar Coltrane goes from being a six-year-old with limited acting skills to an 18-year-old with extraordinary abilities. The same can be said for Richard Linklater’s real-life daughter Lorelei (who portrays Mason’s older sister). The key performances, however, came from Mason and Samantha’s divorced parents, played by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke. Ethan Hawke, in my opinion, was only serviceable in his role, but he does execute it quite well (although I do not believe his Oscar nomination is justified). Patricia Arquette is the clear highlight of the film (as I wrote a few days ago), and it is more than evident that the veteran actress delivered a tour de force in her role as Olivia. Boyhood is rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use.

Boyhood trailer:

Academy Award nominations for Boyhood:

Best Picture (Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland, producers)

Best Supporting Actor (Ethan Hawke)

Best Supporting Actress (Patricia Arquette)

Best Director (Richard Linklater)

Best Film Editing (Sandra Adair)

Best Original Screenplay (Richard Linklater)

Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of 2014:

  1. Blue Ruin
  2. American Sniper
  3. Guardians of the Galaxy
  4. Birdman
  5. Fury
  6. Calvary
  7. Interstellar
  8. Gone Girl
  9. The Lego Movie

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Wolf of Wall Street

This year, nearly every single writer nominated in this category will be attending the Academy Awards for the very first time.  In fact, the only writers in this year’s group that have ever been nominated before are Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke, collectively nominated this year for Before Midnight.  Another noteworthy fact about this year’s group: four of the five scripts were adapted from real-life events.  Even though this category is filled with mostly newcomers to the Oscars, each writer has experienced a distinguished career.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Adapted Screenplay:

WINNER: Terence Winter (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Giorgio Armani and Paramount Pictures Present The US Premiere of "THE WOLF OF WALL STREET"Terence Winter adapted this screenplay from Jordan Belfort’s memoir of the same name.  Even though this is only Winter’s third feature-film screenplay, he is a well-established name in the entertainment business—he was a writer and executive producer for HBO’s The Sopranos and is a writer, executive producer, and creator of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.  Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street is similar to his very own Oscar-nominated film Goodfellas, and a lot of this has to do with Terence Winter’s mind-blowing script.  In fact, Winter, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, admitted that his inspiration for this script was Goodfellas.  Compared to Goodfellas, this script is filled with even more drugs, sex, crime, and F-bombs, and the film works so well because of Winter’s outrageous screenplay.  Terence Winter has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

2. John Ridley (12 Years A Slave)Ridley 12 Years

John Ridley adapted this screenplay from Solomon Northup’s 1853 memoir of the same name.  12 Years A Slave is clearly one of the most amazing films from 2013, and Ridley’s treatment of this classic story is truly inspiring.  The story spans a twelve-year period, but Ridley makes sure to highlight some of the most striking events from this time, including a combination of heart-warming moments and moments that make your heart break for Solomon Northup.  This script, coupled with some amazing acting, gives the story of Northup a deserved sense of justice.  John Ridley has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

3. Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope (Philomena)Coogan and Pope

Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope adapted this screenplay from journalist Martin Sixsmith’s 2009 book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, telling the true story of a woman searching for fifty years to find her son.  Jeff Pope, an award-winning writer and producer, and Steve Coogan, an award-winning writer, actor, impressionist, and producer, are both well known in their field in the United Kingdom, and it is refreshing to see their success receiving American praise, as well.  The story is inspirational, and the script has already won the BAFTA for this very same category.  Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope have never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

4. Billy Ray (Captain Phillips)

Billy Ray Captain PhillipsBilly Ray adapted this screenplay from the 2010 book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Captain Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty.  The film tells the real-life story of the 2009 hijacking of Captain Phillips’s Maersk Alabama container ship by Somali pirates.  The film is incredibly tense, and the screenplay makes the most of such a terrifying storyline.  Some of the dialogue between Phillips (Tom Hanks) and the Somali actors is entrenched in my memory, and the film benefits significantly from Ray’s Oscar-nominated script.  Billy Ray has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

5. Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight)

Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard LinklaterBefore Midnight is the third film in a trilogy of films, beginning with Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004), and Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke adapted it from the previous works in the trilogy.  I have never seen either of the first two films, but the movie is set up in a way that you do not necessarily have to have any prior knowledge of the series; however, I do admit, I now want to see the other two to better understand the impact of the story.  I found the film entertaining, and it is mostly due to the chemistry between Delpy and Hawke as actors and the chemistry between both of them and Linklater as collaborative writers.  Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke, were previously nominated for previously nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Before Sunset (2004).