And the nominees are…

[Note: winners are listed in bold and any commentary about the winners appears in green font underneath the category]


1.  Birdman (producers Alejandro González Iñárritu, John Lesher, Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole)

2.  The Grand Budapest Hotel (producers Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales, Jeremy Dawson)

3.  The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (producers Carolynne Cunningham, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Zane Weiner)

4.  The Raid 2 (producers Ario Sagantoro, Nate Bolotin, Aram Tertzakian)

5.  Whiplash (producers Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook, David Lancaster, Michel Litvak)

Best Picture Collage

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  Birdman

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  12 Years a Slave

Going into the year, the only one of these I would have hoped and expected to be here is The Hobbit. But instead of some of my preseason hopefuls making the cut, we’ve got Wes Anderson’s first Best Picture nominee, wild card jazz masterpiece Whiplash, an incredibly written and technically innovative actors’ movie about the execution of a Broadway play (Birdman), and a sequel to an Indonesian action movie that I didn’t think even warranted a sequel. Who knew?

And what can I say about The Raid 2? Other than WOW. Or HOLY SHIT. Or MIND EXPLOSION. Or HOW DID THEY DO THAT? Or SLOBBER SLOBBER DERP DERP. Put simply, writer/director/editor/co-action choreographer Gareth Evans has made the best action sequel since James Cameron’s Terminator 2. But it’s not just an action picture. It’s an equally compelling crime drama, and I think the successful blending of genres is what elevates it from awesome to classic. Apparently, a Raid 3 is in the works, and of course right now I’ll again say, “No! You can’t do any better!” But a couple years from now when this thing is done I’ll probably be saying, “How did they turn a martial arts movie into such a great musical?” Anyway, The Raid 2 becomes the first action movie to be nominated for Best Picture since The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007, and if it wins, it’ll be only the second action flick to take the top prize since the greatest action movie of all time, T2, won in 1991. Not bad company.

Raid 2 fight stanceCoolest moment of 2014 or nah?

Congratulations to Gareth Evans and his team on a well-deserved win. The Raid 2 does indeed become only our second-ever action movie to win Best Picture, and it’s the first-ever foreign film to take home the top prize. I said it was the best movie I’d seen all year when it came out in April, and it never relinquished its frontrunner status.


  1. Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  2. Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
  3. Gareth Evans, The Raid 2
  4. Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman
  5. Peter Jackson, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman)

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)

No surprises here. My directing nominees line up with Best Picture 99% of the time. I know that’s kinda boring, but I am a firm believer in the “film is a director’s medium” theory.  I can’t think of one great movie where I thought the directing was just okay. This year, Peter Jackson is the only previous nominee. It’s his 6th Best Director nomination, and he’s a two-time previous winner (in back-to-back years for The Two Towers and The Return of the King). All of these films are visionary directorial achievements that I feel could only have been made by these filmmakers. I’m sure it’s no coincidence I chose these options over more generically directed films like The Imitation Game (which is well-directed, make no mistake, but could’ve been made exactly the same way by a dozen other directors), or god forbid, Boyhood, which from a visual standpoint might’ve been directed by a Wal-Mart bathroom attendant.

Director - Anderson


Director - Evans

Director - Innaritu

Director - Jackson


  1. Birdman, written by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo
  2. Fury, written by David Ayer
  3. The Grand Budapest Hotel, written by Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness
  4. Nightcrawler, written by Dan Gilroy
  5. Whiplash, written by Damien Chazelle

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  Birdman

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Spike Jonze (Her)

I’m happy to find a spot in one of the top categories for Nightcrawler, a film that shows off a deliciously macabre side of L.A. that I never knew existed. I’m especially a fan of the fantastic dialogue Dan Gilroy gave to Jake Gyllenhaal’s unforgettable character, Lou Bloom, who is probably my favorite movie character of 2014. I’ve always wanted to see a “tank movie”, and David Ayer’s Fury finally fulfilled my wish. I love the characterization of each of Brad Pitt’s tank crew, and you really feel close to these guys as the film progresses while also getting a lot of insight as to what that job must have been like. Meanwhile, Birdman is just as much a writer’s tour de force as it is for its actors and cinematographer.

Grand Budapest cat 1 Grand Budapest cat 2 Grand Budapest cat 3 Grand Budapest cat 4

A very closely contested battle between Birdman and Grand Budapest here. In fact, this was one of the last two categories I decided.


  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeeley
  2. Edge of Tomorrow, screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth
  3. Gone Girl, screenplay by Gillian Flynn
  4. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro
  5. The Imitation Game, screenplay by Graham Moore

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  The Imitation Game

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)

This is the most commercial list of scripts I’ve nominated in years. Adapted Screenplay is often filled with stuffy period dramas adapted from novels. Here we have only one of those in Imitation Game, that film’s only nomination. I was especially pleased to be able to include Captain America, which is the first comic book movie to have its script nominated since The Dark Knight in 2008, and the very first of the modern Marvel flicks to be nominated this high up the ladder. The Winter Soldier elevated itself above your typical superhero summer entertainment with its clever political overtones and obvious awareness of current events. And it’s got some fantastic dialogue to boot.

The exclusion of The Raid 2 here makes it the only of our 5 Best Picture nominees not to have its script nominated. I do think the movie has a terrific script, but it doesn’t feature exceptional dialogue and its structure is fairly straightforward. That film got where it is on style, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. If it wins Best Picture, it’ll be the first film in Biggies history to win Best Picture without a screenplay nom. I guess stranger things have happened, but not much stranger.

Note:  I have to mention 6th place runner-up 22 Jump Street, which I hated to leave out. It was my favorite comedy of 2014 and had some of the funniest dialogue in years. The reason I went with Edge of Tomorrow over it was because Tomorrow also had great dialogue to go along with its excellent structuring, whereas with Jump Street, it’s impossible to know how much of that hilarity was scripted and how much was improvised, as I imagine a lot of it was. But it was worth mentioning that that’s how highly I regarded 22 Jump Street.

22 Jump Street Jillian Bell 1 22 Jump Street Jillian Bell 2 22 Jump Street Jillian Bell 3 22 Jump Street Jillian Bell 4


  1. Birdman
  2. Fury
  3. Gone Girl
  4. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  5. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  N/A

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  12 Years a Slave

Is there any other director alive besides David Fincher who would put Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry in the same movie? And then have the results be this good? Hell no. Gone Girl may have the most random cast assembled all year, but there isn’t a false note in the entire film, from Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike’s brilliant work at the top all the way down to someone like Patrick Fugit (yes, he’s still alive!) and supermodel-turned-actress Emily Ratajkowski.

Birdman is a true actors’ movie filled with ridiculously good performances, and the massive cast of The Hobbit really brought it home in the finale. Among the supporting cast, I was especially moved by the heartbreaking work of Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel, a character who doesn’t even exist in the book.

Fury cast“This is my home.”


  1. Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  2. Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
  3. Michael Keaton, Birdman
  4. David Oyelowo, Selma
  5. Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Actor - Fiennes

Actor - Gyllenhaal

Actor - Keaton

Actor - Oyelowo

Actor - Redmayne 1

That’s right, sports fans, no Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game. He’s great, but this was a VERY competitive field this year. I also hated leaving out Tom Hardy for his mesmerizing one man show in Locke. Because I have different priorities than Oscar, only two of my nominees here line up with theirs; the incredible, daring life-imitates-art comeback of Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne’s triumphant portrayal of the life of Stephen Hawking. It’s funny how that works out. Redmayne has probably given the best performance of his career at age 33, while Michael Keaton just did his best work at age 63. Which would you prefer if you were an artist? I can’t answer that question for myself.

Also, I still wanna know how Jake Gyllenhaal was able to do those bug eyes through the entire Nightcrawler shoot.

Nightcrawler bug eyes

Keaton deserved to win at the Oscars, and he does win here.


  1. Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
  2. Julianne Moore, Still Alice
  3. Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
  4. Reese Witherspoon, Wild
  5. Shailene Woodley, The Fault In Our Stars

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Actress - Jones 1

Actress - Moore

Actress - Pike 1

Actress - Witherspoon 1

Actress - Woodley 2

My only deviation from the Oscars’ list is Ms. Woodley, who was just too good leave out. Marion Cotillard was fantastic in two movies this year (The Immigrant, Two Days, One Night), but didn’t quite make the cut. Again I’ll mention David Fincher’s skill with actors, as this is two movies in a row where he brought Best Actress nominees out of complex, dark female lead roles. And both times from women who were unaccustomed to being leading ladies. Will Rosamund Pike follow in Rooney Mara’s footsteps? She won in this category 3 years ago for Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It’s nice to see Reese Witherspoon relevant again in a fearless, vanity-free performance, Felicity Jones is the definition of strength and loyalty in Theory, and Julianne Moore probably did the best work of her career (which is saying something) in Still Alice, a film I really enjoyed.


  1. Richard Armitage, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  2. Robert Duvall, The Judge
  3. Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
  4. Edward Norton, Birdman
  5. J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Supp Actor - ArmitageHe will have WAR.

Supp Actor - Duvall 1

Supp Actor - Hawke

Supp Actor - Norton

Supp Actor - Simmons

Supp Actor - Simmons 2

Richard Armitage lands the first and only individual acting nomination of the Hobbit series in his final, transformational turn as Thorin Oakenshield, King Under the Mountain. Ed Norton was brilliant in Birdman as the cocky actor, and J.K. Simmons probably gave the performance of the year in Whiplash. There hasn’t been a “mean mentor” role like this since R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket.


  1. Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
  2. Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
  3. Carrie Coon, Gone Girl
  4. Rene Russo, Nightcrawler
  5. Emma Stone, Birdman

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

Supp Actress - ArquetteFunny. That’s precisely what I said about Boyhood.

Supp Actress - Chastain

Supp Actress - Coon 2

Supp Actress - Russo 2

Supp Actress - Stone

Patricia Arquette is the best thing about Boyhood. Watching her character evolve was much more interesting than watching Ellar Coltrane grow up from a dull little boy to become a philosophizing, emo twat. Jessica Chastain is Jessica Chastain doing awesome Jessica Chastain things again, Rene Russo does a great job in her many one-on-one battles with Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, and Carrie Coon is the heart and soul of a very cold movie as Nick Dunne’s twin sister, Margo.

Click ahead to page 3 for the rest of this year’s nominees, including all of the tech categories…


  1. Don’t read the book if you liked the Hobbit! It will be an eternal curse on your very soul. Especially when you realize just how much they butchered the original content to draw a smaller book than any of the Lord of the Rings series into three full movies.


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