Top 15 Films of 2014, No. 15 – The Lego Movie


The Lego Movie is a film written and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. The film follows an ordinary Lego minifigure named Emmet (Chris Pratt). Emmet is an average Lego—he always follows the rules and gives into the mindless lifestyle that is demanded of him. However, when he is mistaken for an extraordinarily special person that has been prophesied to save the world, he is thrust into a thrilling quest with a band of Lego strangers to take down the evil despot, Lord Business (Will Ferrell).

Lego5Traditionally, I am not a huge fan of animated features. My feeling is that most of the modern animated films, with only a few exceptions (e.g., most Pixar films), are senseless, poorly written stories that are meant to simply target children and achieve immense box office success through that exploitation. I have no issues with this business tactic by the animation studios, but my point is only that it does not make for good film. However, The Lego Movie breaks the mold for modern animation storytelling. It does an incredible job of appealing to young kids who play with Legos with its music, humor, and positive story, but I was most impressed, as a twentysomething, with the film’s ability to appeal to adults. The jokes, plot, and character arcs are obviously appropriate for children of all ages, but they seem hilariously crafted with those of my age group in mind. Additionally, the story ever so gradually tugs at the heartstrings of anyone that has ever played with the world-famous toys in their life. It not only allows children to see their favorite toys on the big screen, but it also brings back a wealth of memories from days gone by from adults’ (and specifically, my) creative adventures with Legos. The film has won a number of awards already for being the Best Animated Feature of 2014, which is why I am appalled that it was snubbed by the Oscars in that category. In recent memory, this is the worst snub the Academy has made.

Lego 4Everything discussed in the previous paragraph is directly attributable to the well-crafted script and the exceptional direction from the film’s creators, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. This duo has a unique filmography, writing and directing Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and directing both 21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street. Their experiences with animated films (they also wrote the script for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2) is starkly different to that of their R-rated Jump Street comedies, but the Lord-Miller team gets the best out of both worlds for The Lego Movie. It is a remarkable achievement that has already garnered its creators a series of spin-off films that are in the works, not to mention a sequel to The Lego Movie. These guys are becoming a staple in the world of animated film, and we are all luckier for that.

Warner Bros. Pictures Los Angeles Premiere  'The Lego Movie'The script is as solid as it gets, but naturally, it still needs a group of talented actors to breathe life into its characters. Voice acting is always a unique challenge, but Lord and Miller put together an all-star cast for the task. The film has a wide range of standout performances from its actors, including Chris Pratt as Emmet, Will Ferrell as Lord Business, Elizabeth Banks as Wyldstyle, Will Arnett as Batman, Nick Offerman as Metal Beard, Alison Brie as Princess Unikitty, Charlie Day as Benny, Liam Neeson as Bad Cop, Good Cop, and Morgan Freeman as Vitruvius. Make sure to check this one out if you are looking to see a perfect comedy—it is by far the year’s best. At the very least, you will be left with one of the greatest songs in film history stuck in your head…”Everything is awesome!!!” The Lego Movie is rated PG for mild action and rude humor.

The Lego Movie trailer:

Academy Award nominations for The Lego Movie:

Best Original Song: “Everything Is Awesome” (Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson)


Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Like the Best Supporting Actress nominees, each of the Best Supporting Actor nominees has previously been nominated for at least one Academy Award.  One of the characteristics that sticks out among these nominees, though—these men have already accumulated a combined six Oscar wins and sixteen nominations prior to this year’s ceremony; moreover, each of these nominees has at least one Academy Award victory!  This is definitely an assemblage of actors with well-established careers in the film industry, and even though the lead actors usually get all of the hype, it is the supporting roles that steal the show this year.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

WINNER: Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

In Django Unchained, Christoph Waltz portrays Dr. King Schultz, a German-born bounty hunter that purchases a slave, Django (Jamie Foxx), to assist him as he hunts down white slave-owners all across the South.  Ultimately, Dr. Schultz and Django go off seeking Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a slave-owner that took Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).  Just as he did in 2009, Christoph Waltz turns in an absolutely spectacular performance in his second Tarantino-directed production.  I have seen Waltz in a couple other American movies, and he truly does a great job; however, it seems Quentin Tarantino always gets the absolute best out of him for his movies.  I believe it has to do with the dialogue Tarantino creates for Waltz’s characters.  Just as in Inglourious Basterds, the character Waltz plays is exemplified by his specific diction and unwavering wit, along with a calm determination to always get what he seeks.  The opening scene of Django Unchained, just as in the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds, is enough to rationalize awarding Christoph Waltz with this great honor of Best Supporting Actor.  Waltz was previously nominated and won Best Supporting Actor for his role in Inglourious Basterds (2009).

2. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)

In The Master, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, the leader of a religious cult known as “The Cause.”  Even though director Paul Thomas Anderson has not come right out and said it, it is highly inferred that Hoffman’s character is based off of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology; moreover, as the film plays out, “The Cause” begins to greatly resemble Scientology.  In the movie, Dodd and his wife Peggy (Amy Adams) take in Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), and Lancaster attempts to make Freddie a believer and promoter of the philosophical movement.  Hoffman’s character seems to be calm and inquisitive in an almost calculated manner, and this behavior lends to the dark mystique surrounding Lancaster Dodd.  This film includes critically acclaimed showings from each of the three main characters, but Hoffman still finds a way to stand out in his own way.  Philip Seymour Hoffman was previously nominated for three Academy Awards, winning Best Actor for his role in Capote (2005).

3. Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)

In Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones acts as Thaddeus Stevens, the real-life Republican Congressional leader and fanatical abolitionist.  Historically, Representative Stevens was one of the most influential figures in the Reconstruction Era.  He fought for the rights of all people in the United States, but his significant efforts towards abolishing slavery engulfed much of his political focus.  From the moment Jones appears on the screen, you are mesmerized by the passion and vivacity in his voice as he pushes President Lincoln to free the slaves, end the war, and unite the nation as one.  In a film that features Daniel Day-Lewis giving a superb performance as Abraham Lincoln, Jones holds his own and rightfully deserves this nomination.  Tommy Lee Jones was previously nominated for three Academy Awards, winning Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Fugitive (1993).

4. Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)

In Silver Linings Playbook, Robert De Niro plays Pat Solitano, Sr., the father of the lead character, Pat, Jr. (Bradley Cooper).  When Pat Jr. returns home, he learns that his father has lost his job and is bookmaking in a desperate attempt to make some money with aspirations of starting a restaurant.  Pat Sr. suffers from OCD, and De Niro plays this disorder flawlessly, illustrating his character’s wild and crazy superstitions based around the Philadelphia Eagles football team.  In one of the year’s biggest films featuring bright performances from young stars like Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, the veteran De Niro shows it does not take a serious, dramatic role for him to bring out the best in himself on the screen.  De Niro was previously nominated for six Academy Awards, winning Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Godfather Part II (1974) and Best Actor for his role in Raging Bull (1980).

5. Alan Arkin (Argo)

In Argo, Alan Arkin portrays Lester Siegel, a film producer during the late 1970s.  Siegel, along with John Chambers (John Goodman) and CIA Operative Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), sets up a fake movie studio, creates full storyboards for the film and publicizes those plans, and makes the fictional film “Argo” seem like a full-fledged feature to help establish a credible story so that the covert operation to rescue six Americans stranded in Iran can be achieved successfully.  Even though Arkin gives a grand, witty performance in the film, I was surprised he received an Oscar nod because the character in my opinion lacked substance.  Alan Arkin was previously nominated for three Academy Awards, winning Best Supporting Actor for his role in Little Miss Sunshine (2006).

Actors snubbed in this category: Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained) and Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained)