The 2015 Biggie Awards (& My Top 10 and Bottom 5 of 2014)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  1. Nicolas Bolduc, Enemy
  2. Matt Flannery, Dimas Imam Subhono, The Raid 2
  3. Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman
  4. Roman Vasyanov, Fury
  5. Robert Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  Emmanuel Lubezki (Birdman) – pulling the rare back-to-back after winning the Oscar last year for Gravity

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Sean Bobbitt (12 Years a Slave)

What Lubezki and Iñárritu did with Birdman in trying to make it seem like the entire movie was a single take is astounding. The way they shot the film made everything else more difficult on set (the acting, directing, sound recording, crew movements, etc.), but because they were successful, Birdman is all the better for it. But this should come as no surprise from the cinematographer who shot the equally daring Children of Men and Gravity. As someone who adores Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, I love that they even had the balls to try this, and I still wanna know just how many edits there actually are in the film (many of them are disguised by CGI trickery).

Robert Yeoman and Wes Anderson also made some courageous choices on Grand Budapest in shooting the 3 different time periods within the story in 3 different aspect ratios. The old 1.37:1 square frame never looked so good. In a rare occurrence, Fox Searchlight actually sent instructions to movie theaters on how the film was supposed to be shown.

Grand Budapest cinematography

Raid 2 CinematographyIncredible location. Incredible photography.

Lubezki wins his first Biggie after previously being nominated for Sleepy Hollow, Children of Men and Gravity. He’s one of the top 3 people in his field right now, if not top 2 alongside Roger Deakins. With two high-profile projects in 2015 (Terrence Malick‘s Knight of Cups and an Iñárritu reunion on The Revenant), don’t be surprised to see him right back in the mix this time next year.

BEST FILM EDITING

  1. Tom Cross, Whiplash
  2. Gareth Evans, The Raid 2
  3. James Herbert, Laura Jennings, Edge of Tomorrow
  4. Jabez Olssen, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  5. Barney Pilling, The Grand Budapest Hotel

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  Tom Cross (Whiplash)

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Joe Walker (12 Years a Slave)

There’s some exceptional, difficult, clever work in all of these films. From the fight sequences of The Raid to keeping the Battle of Five Armies coherent to the time jumping and often humorous cuts of Edge of Tomorrow and the pure Wes Anderson-ness of Grand Budapest, this was a year in which it would be easy to demonstrate to somebody what constitutes great editing. Whiplash gets in for its fast-paced brilliance throughout, but most notably for the amazing work done during the finale.

Speaking of which, here is my favorite sequence of edits in 2014. If you’ve seen Whiplash, this requires no introduction:

Whiplash final look 1 Whiplash final look 2 Whiplash final look 3 Whiplash final look 4 Whiplash final look 5 Whiplash finale 1 Whiplash finale 2

BEST ART DIRECTION

  1. Exodus: Gods and Kings
  2. Fury
  3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  4. Guardians of the Galaxy
  5. Snowpiercer

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  The Grand Budapest Hotel

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  The Great Gatsby

I’m really glad I could recognize Snowpiercer in some way. It’s a very cool concept, and you really felt like you were a part of this insulated world onboard that train, due I thought primarily to the detail of the sets. And while Ridley Scott’s Exodus was a huge letdown given all the talent involved, it did look fantastic.

You get a nice glimpse of what it was like on the Exodus sets in this quick behind-the-scenes video:

Snowpiercer setThe front of the train in Snowpiercer.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  1. Colleen Atwood, Big Eyes
  2. Mark Bridges, Inherent Vice
  3. Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  4. Jacqueline Durran, Mr. Turner
  5. Janty Yates, Exodus: Gods and Kings

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  Milena Canonero (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Catherine Martin (The Great Gatsby)

A fun mix of time periods here, from ancient Egypt to old England to the distinct stylings of the 1950’s and 70’s. While I love looking at exquisitely designed period costumes, it would be nice to one day nominate a film in this category that takes place between 1980 and the present.

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

  1. Foxcatcher
  2. Fury
  3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  4. Guardians of the Galaxy
  5. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  The Grand Budapest Hotel

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Lone Survivor

Not the best year overall for makeup design, but we’ve still got 5 strong nominees. War makeup and battle scars are always overlooked at the Oscars, but not by me. The work they did on the Fury actors was excellent. Steve Carell’s physical transformation in Foxcatcher was incredible, and Guardians features amazing sci-fi makeup design, particularly on Lee Pace as Ronan, Michael Rooker as Yondu, Karen Gillian as Nebula, and Dave Bautista as Drax.

Foxcatcher du Pont comparison

Guardians Gillan makeupI adore Karen Gillan in any form.

Guardians Pace makeup

(Forgive any ads playing before the clips of the song samples in the next two categories. I had to use YouTube versions because I can no longer upload songs directly to the blog without signing up for a $100 premium membership. I ain’t doin that.)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  1. Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel

[“The Cold-Blooded Murder of Deputy Vilmos Kovacs” is fairly self-explanatory. The scene is as cleverly scored as it was shot and edited.]

  1. Henry Jackman, Captain America: The Winter Soldier

[“Taking a Stand” soars over the film’s very cool end titles]

  1. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Gone Girl

[“Technically Missing” is the masterful track playing over Amy’s ‘How I did it’ montage]

  1. Howard Shore, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

[The climactic battle against Smaug opens the film in “Fire And Water”. Pay attention at 3:00 if you want a single tear to come down your cheek.]

  1. Hans Zimmer, Interstellar

[here’s the brilliant theme first heard in the first trailer for the film more than a year ago, “First Step”]

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  Alexandre Desplat (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Hans Zimmer (Man of Steel)

Ho hum, Hans Zimmer’s back again, nominated for the 10th year in a row. If he wins, he’ll go back-to-back and pass John Williams for the all-time lead in this category with his sixth victory. Last year, I said “I’d love to see a battle between Zimmer for Interstellar and Howard Shore for There and Back Again this time in 2015”. Well, here we are. The only difference is the Hobbit movie got a title change since we last mentioned it.

Alexandre Desplat proved once again that he may be the most versatile composer working today (while also being one of the most prolific). In 2014, he did fine work on a quirky Wes Anderson movie, a British historical drama (The Imitation Game) and a Hollywood blockbuster (Godzilla). All 3 were good enough to be considered for the Biggies, but it was Grand Budapest where his score most perfectly fit the images and emotions being portrayed on the screen. I’ve been complaining of late that certain composers are doing too much work and it’s affecting the overall quality of each score they write (James Newton Howard is a good example of this), but Desplat seems to be able to produce greatness each time out no matter how many films he’s working on simultaneously. I truly don’t understand how he does it. Oh yeah, he also scored Monuments Men and Unbroken this year. I think he literally accepts any job he’s offered. Kinda like Nicolas Cage. He may have scored this blog for me if I could afford him. I wish Metallica would put out new music as frequently as this guy does. Just for one year.

Meanwhile, Reznor & Ross have scored 3 movies for David Fincher together, and been nominated all 3 times. Would it be too much to ask to have them retroactively score Se7en, The Game and Fight Club just to see what those would’ve sounded like? I think that would be a fun experiment. Finally, how long have I been complaining about the mediocre scores on recent superhero movies, in particular those of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Well, I am thrilled that Henry Jackman has finally broken that streak with his awesome Captain America score, the first of any of the Avengers characters’ movies to be nominated in this category. It’s got a badass theme for Cap, and it’s an excellent score from start to finish. I continue to assert that it’s no accident great movies have the best scores. Here’s hoping Marvel builds on this success, and that Brian Tyler appears in this category next year for Age of Ultron.

And Mr. Zimmer pulls off his 6th win while also going back-to-back. 2015 is looking like a relatively light year for him, so his decade-long streak of being nominated may finally come to an end next year before he gets to work on Batman v. Superman for 2016.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  1. “Ordinary Human”, written by Ryan Tedder

performed by OneRepublic, The Giver

  1. “The Last Goodbye”, written by Billy Boyd, Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh

performed by Billy Boyd, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

  1. “Yellow Flicker Beat”, written by Lorde, Joel Little

performed by Lorde, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1

  1. “Glory”, written by John Legend, Common, Che Smith

performed by John Legend & Common, Selma

  1. “Battle Cry”, written & performed by Imagine Dragons, Transformers: Age of Extinction

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  John Legend & Common (“Glory”, from Selma)

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Ed Sheeran (“I See Fire”, from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug)

Sorry, Lego Movie fans, but unlike the Oscars, I don’t nominate songs whose lyrics could’ve have been written by a 4-year old, like “Everything is Awesome” probably was. I’d be willing to wager that this is the one category the Oscars and I have disagreed on the most over the years, and 2014 is no exception. “Glory” is the only crossover I have with the Oscars’ nominees in this category, and at this point I take it as a point of pride.

(I’d post a video of John Legend & Common’s incredible performance of “Glory” from the Oscars, but the Academy is a bunch of anal pricks who don’t allow embedding of any videos. Cuz they hate good, free publicity I guess.)

“The Last Goodbye” makes it 3/3 for The Hobbit’s songs being nominated (it would be the second in a row to win) and 6/6 for Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth saga. They’ve done a beautiful job putting the talent together for these songs, and I think it was a wonderful touch to have one of the Lord of the Rings cast members work on the Hobbit finale. We all remember Billy Boyd’s singing “The Edge of Night” in Return of the King (it was also featured in the emotional first trailer for Five Armies), so it was nice to see him brought back into the fold here.

A beautiful video for a beautiful song:

It should be noted that I hate to nominate Transformers: Age of Extinction for anything, but I found that Imagine Dragons track catchy from the first time I heard it in the movie. And it’s still better than the fucking Lego song.

BEST STUNTWORK & CHOREOGRAPHY

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy
  3. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  4. John Wick
  5. The Raid 2

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  N/A

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Fast & Furious 6

I’ll spare you the suspense. The Raid 2 is going to win. I knew that as soon as I got out of my seat in the theater (just before I went home and changed my pants from the stains caused by multiple cinematic orgasms). These are the best hand-to-hand fight sequences I’ve ever seen, somehow managing to top the first film, which I gave the same compliment to. Then you throw in a ridiculous knife fight, a car chase for the ages, a girl wielding two hammers, and a dude with a baseball bat and you have absolute action nirvana. However, all of these films obviously had excellent action sequences. Keanu Reeves’ gunplay in John Wick is the best and coolest I’ve seen since the “gunkata” of Equilibrium back in 2002, and I really loved the practical stunts and fight sequences in Winter Soldier.

Keanu Reeves killed lots of dudes in John Wick:

Notice I’ve changed the name of this category from just Stuntwork to Stuntwork & Choreography. If there’s ever a really great musical in the future with amazing dance numbers, they’ll qualify to be included in this category. Next year, Furious 7 will attempt to make it a 3-peat for the Fast franchise, although from the trailers we’ve seen so far, those movies may finally have nuked the fridge with regards to the absurdity of their car stunts. We’ll see.

Raid 2 fighting 2 Raid 2 fighting 1

Cap 2 vs French guy

Cap 2 car flip

Guardians Gamora v Star Lord

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  2. Godzilla
  3. Guardians of the Galaxy
  4. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  5. Interstellar

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  Interstellar

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Gravity

It was an exceptional year for Hollywood’s effects wizards. This category could’ve easily been 11 deep by also including Captain America, Edge of Tomorrow, Exodus, Grand Budapest, Transformers and X-Men. These nominees really brought the awe factor this year. The black hole stuff in Interstellar made my jaw drop, as did the sequence on that water planet. I only wish I’d been able to see it properly in 70mm IMAX. The monsters of Godzilla gave me a childlike “wow” tingle I haven’t felt since the original Jurassic Park. And our other 3 nominees featured fully realistic CG primary characters (all the apes in Dawn, Rocket & Groot in Guardians, and Azog & Bolg in Five Armies).

BEHOLD: GUJIRA!

Godzilla blast 1 Godzilla blast 2 Godzilla blast 3#HOLYSHIT

I can’t even imagine how difficult it was to shoot Dawn of the Planet of the Apes given all the accommodations they had to make for the VFX crew on set. But the results speak for themselves.

Apes FX 5

Apes FX 4

Apes FX 2

That said, perhaps the most impressive effects sequence of the year were Quicksilver’s antics in that kitchen during the rescue of Magneto in X-Men: Days of Future Past. And while the rest of the movie had fantastic effects, I couldn’t nominate it based on one A+ scene alone.

A really close call, but I gave Interstellar the edge because it was the only film here to bring something new to the table with its jaw-dropping renderings of the phenomena of deep space. Along with Hans Zimmer’s win for the score, Interstellar goes 2-for-2 in its categories.

BEST SOUND MIXING

  1. Birdman
  2. Godzilla
  3. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  4. The Raid 2
  5. Whiplash

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  Whiplash

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Gravity

A nice collection here of the loud and the subtle. As always I’ll explain the difference in the sound categories:  Sound Mixing is the combination of every element: sound effects, music, dialogue, ambiance, etc., how those elements are combined and what stylistic choices are made within the mix (i.e. placement of effects within the surround sound environment, the volume of each element). Sound Editing is the creation and insertion of the many sound effects in every film.

BEST SOUND EDITING

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  2. Fury
  3. Godzilla
  4. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  5. The Raid 2

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  American Sniper

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

I’ll just leave this here for the legit movie nuts among you. A truly awesome behind-the-scenes look at how they created the sound for Godzilla. If you go on Vimeo and look up the SoundWorks Collection, you can spend hours looking through similar features on dozens of other films.

And that’s all of this year’s nominees. The big winners are The Raid 2 and Birdman, each of which won 4 awards, while The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Hobbit and Interstellar each took home two prizes. Gareth Evans is the individual grand champion, winning all 3 awards for which he was a nominee (Best Director, Film Editing and Stuntwork). We don’t yet officially know what Evans is doing next, but he’s already got at least one ticket sold no matter what the project is.

For the record, the Oscars and I agreed on 9 of this year’s winners, which is pretty good compared to recent years. However, it should also be noted that 6 of my winners weren’t even nominated by the Academy, so they can still lick my sweaty grundle.

On the next page, some fun statistics and this year’s career achievement awards…

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4 Responses to “The 2015 Biggie Awards (& My Top 10 and Bottom 5 of 2014)”


  1. 1 Michael March 13, 2015 at 5:54 PM

    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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