The 2016 Biggie Awards (and My Top 10 & Bottom 5 of 2015)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  1. Roger Deakins, Sicario
  2. Alwin H. Küchler , Steve Jobs
  3. Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant
  4. Robert Richardson, The Hateful Eight
  5. John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  TBD

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Emmanuel Lubezki (Birdman)

Masters of photography Deakins and Lubezki have won 2 of the last 3 years in this category, for Skyfall and Birdman, respectively, and both are still at the top of their games this year. Robert Richardson gets extra points for the 70mm version of Hateful Eight (which is the version you should have seen). Of course, the exteriors in that film are incredible in the superwide format, but what may be even more interesting was the way they used the 70 to enhance the interiors, allowing much more of the action to be seen, and keeping lots of actors in the frame at once, giving us something to look at constantly in the foreground and background. So in a sense, the gigantic cinematic format actually helped those interior scenes feel more like a stage play. And Alwin Küchler gets huge props for making a very contained movie like Steve Jobs so visually striking. He and Danny Boyle found some really cool ways to shoot 2 people talking. Using cameras to keep pace artistically with Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue is no easy task, but this crew did it.

Revenant cinematogSicario cinematog
I love me some silhouettes.

Steve Jobs cinematog
Steve Jobs cinematog 2.gif

Mad Max green place 1.gif

“Chivo” Lubezki goes back-to-back after winning last year for Birdman. At the Oscars, he’s now won 3 in a row, the first cinematographer ever to do so. Lubezki shot two movies with Terrence Malick that will open in 2016, so there’s a decent chance he’ll be in the running again next year, since the photography is the only thing in Malick’s movies worth watching.

BEST FILM EDITING

  1. Hank Corwin, The Big Short
  2. Eddie Hamilton, Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation
  3. Pietro Scalia, The Martian
  4. Margaret Sixel, Mad Max: Fury Road
  5. Joe Walker, Sicario

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  TBD

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Gareth Evans (The Raid 2)

Hank Corwin’s hyperstylized editing was one of the most unexpected aspects of Big Short, and I f’ing loved it. If that movie had been edited in a more conventional style, I don’t think it would’ve been nearly as good. Most years, I find one spot in this category for some unconventional editing, and The Big Short certainly fits the bill. I also want to note that the opera scene in MI5 may be my favorite action scene of the year. And aside from the excellent photography and fight choreography, the primary reason it works so well is the editing. Sicario‘s Joe Walker won this category two years ago for 12 Years a Slave.

BEST ART DIRECTION

  1. Bridge of Spies
  2. Crimson Peak
  3. Mad Max: Fury Road
  4. The Martian
  5. Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  TBD

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Grand Budapest Hotel

Mad Max is probably the first movie ever to be nominated in this category primarily based on the design of its vehicles, but that’s how bloody awesome they are. Flip through these in high-res:

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  1. Jenny Beavan, Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Odile Dicks-Mireaux, Brooklyn
  3. Kate Hawley, Crimson Peak
  4. Michael Kaplan, Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens
  5. Sandy Powell, Cinderella

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  TBD

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Milena Canonero (Grand Budapest Hotel)

SW- bazine-netal.png
I’d pay to watch a movie about these two.

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

  1. Black Mass
  2. In the Heart of the Sea
  3. Mad Max: Fury Road
  4. The Revenant
  5. Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  TBD

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Guardians of the Galaxy

Revenant makeup.jpg

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  1. Tom Holkenborg, Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Jóhann Jóhannsson, Sicario
  3. Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight
  4. Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies
  5. Thomas Newman, Spectre

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  TBD

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Hans Zimmer (Interstellar)

If it feels like there’s a name missing from this list, it’s because for the first time in 10 years, Hans Zimmer is not nominated in this category. His was an unparalleled streak of greatness. He’d won 3 of the last 5 years and has the Biggies composer record with 6 wins overall, but he took a break from high-profile studio films in 2015. On the plus side, we’ve got some new blood this year. Or old blood when you talk about Maestro Ennio Morricone, who, at 87 years old, wrote an absolutely beautiful score for Tarantino’s bloody Hateful Eight. Since he hasn’t been very prolific in the past 20 years, this is first Biggie nomination, and I’m thrilled to be able to recognize a legend.

That said, this was not a particularly strong year for scores. A lot of movies this year had individual tracks that were amazing, but not amazing scores on the whole. That doesn’t mean this year’s nominees aren’t worthy, but if I’m being honest (and I am), a couple of these scores would not have made the cut in recent years. Thomas Newman pulls off the rare double nomination, and continues to show why he’s one of the most versatile composers in the industry. Newman is one of the few people who’s now been double nominated twice, after his incredible twin bill of American Beauty and The Green Mile in 1999. For reasons that still aren’t entirely clear, John Williams did not write the score for the latest Steven Spielberg film. Bridge of Spies breaks the unmatched 27-film, 40-year streak of collaborations for the two gods of cinema. As sad as that fact is, I’ve wondered for a long time what another composer would do working with Spielberg, and we finally got to find out. It’s cool to see that Newman was able to retain his own unique style while still creating a score that sounds a lot like what Williams might have done.

Congrats to electronic DJ-turned-composer Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL) on his first nomination. I always love when “regular” musicians successfully try their hand at film scoring. The best recent example being Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, who have been nominated for all 3 of their masterful scores on David Fincher’s recent films. Holkenborg is a Hans Zimmer disciple, and that’s very clear when you hear his work (perhaps a little too clear- I’d like to see him develop more of his own style). He did 3 fine scores in 2015 (Mad Max, the underrated Run All Night, and Black Mass), so this nomination could certainly be considered recognition for a body of work, although his Mad Max score is truly epic and deserving on its own merits. I’m very excited to see what he does teaming up with Zimmer on this year’s Batman v Superman (on which he’s apparently focusing on the Batman themes, since Zimmer has been-there, done-that with Nolan’s Batfilms). By the way, I went to a Junkie XL show in Boston back in the mid 2000’s, and he was phenomenal.

Finally, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score for Sicario is utterly perfect for that film. It’s moody, propulsive, non-traditional, and appropriately ominous. This is Jóhannsson’s second collabo with director Denis Villeneuve (after the similarly eerie Prisoners), and I hope they continue to work together going forward.

And the newbie takes the prize. I’m excited to see Holkenborg continue to develop his sound, and I fully expect he and Hans Zimmer to be nominated here next year for their upcoming work on Batman v Superman.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  1. “Grip”, written by Ludwig Göransson, Sam Dew, Tessa Thompson

performed by Tessa Thompson, Creed

  1. “Love Me Like You Do”, written by Max Martin, Savan Kotecha, Ali Payami, Tove Nilsson, Ilya Salmanzadeh

performed by Ellie Goulding, Fifty Shades of Grey

  1. “I Know You”, written by Stephan Moccio, Skylar Grey

performed by Skylar Grey, Fifty Shades of Grey

  1. “See You Again”, written by Wiz Khalifa, Charlie Puth, Justin Franks, Andrew Cedar

performed by Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth, Furious 7

  1. “Writing’s on the Wall”, written by Sam Smith, Jimmy Napes

performed by Sam Smith, Spectre

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  TBD

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  “The Last Goodbye” (from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies)

I always like when I can nominate a film in both musical categories, as Spectre is this year. The previous Bond film, Skyfall, pulled off the same feat. Fifty Shades of Grey was a godawful mess of a movie (for reasons I’ll go into later in the post), but you can’t deny it had an excellent soundtrack. It’s double-nominated here, and I also considered The Weeknd’s “Earned It”, which did make the cut at the Oscars. The exclusion of “See You Again” at the Oscars is borderline criminal, especially from a group of people who gave Oscars to Three Six Mafia a decade ago. And I was surprised to find that the music was one of the best aspects of Creed. The hip-hop infused remixing of the classic Rocky themes by Ludwig Göransson was brilliant, and they were used to excellent effect in the film’s original songs. But it was Tessa Thompson’s character’s original song “Grip” that makes the cut here. One of the hardest things to do in film is creating new, original music for musician characters, and Creed was able to successfully do just that. It’s even better when the actor playing the musician is able to perform that music. Again, checkmark to Creed.

Creed - Tessa sings.gif

And here’s “Writing’s on the Wall”, complete with Spectre‘s awesome opening titles sequence:

I actually reconsidered this win after Sam Smith‘s atrocious performance of the song at the Oscars, but it’s by far my most frequently listened to song from this group. It was close, but count me among the very small vocal group of people who are willing to admit they love “Writing’s on the Wall”.

BEST STUNTWORK & CHOREOGRAPHY

  1. Creed
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation
  4. Spectre
  5. Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  TBD

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  The Raid 2

Creed may have the best-choreographed, most realistic boxing sequences I’ve ever seen, including that incredible single-take boxing scene about a third of the way through the film. Kudos to Michael B. Jordan for insisting on doing all of his own fight scenes. On The Force Awakens, the stunts and action scenes were one of the many beneficiaries of J.J. Abrams’ insistence on using practical effects whenever possible. When a Stormtrooper gets shot and blown across the screen in this movie, you know it’s a stuntman in a suit, not a physics-impaired CG effect.

Seriously, watch this:

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  1. Ant-Man
  2. Jurassic World
  3. Mad Max: Fury Road
  4. The Martian
  5. Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  TBD

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Interstellar

2015 was another solid year for on-set physical effects crews and artists sitting in front of computer screens. It was a tough call for the fifth slot, which came down to Ant-Man vs. The Revenant. Even though Revenant’s CG bear attack scene may be the single most impressive visual effects sequence of 2015, in the end I was hesitant to nominate a film basically for one scene. Also, I like nominating movies that give us something new and different, and Ant-Man certainly did that, using its tiny-person effects not only for cool action shots but also for many clever sight gags. That kind of ingenuity is how good visual effects should be employed. Ant-Man reminded me how much cooler Honey, I Shrunk the Kids would’ve been had it been made today instead of 25+ years ago.

Ant-Man train collision.gif
An instant classic moment.

Mad Max used most of its effects work to supplement and enhance that incredible vehicular mayhem. And to remove Charlize Theron‘s left arm. Jurassic World showed off some cool new tricks with new and familiar dinosaurs, most notably the hybrid killing machine Indominus Rex. For the record, I would show up in theaters and pay to watch a 10-minute effects reel showing a royal rumble with 3 raptors vs. a T-Rex vs. the Spinosaurus from JPIII vs. Indominus Rex, with 20 random humans there to serve as ragdolls during the carnage. Don’t act like you don’t want to see that, too.

The Martian’s effects crew gave us some breathtaking space vistas and helped turn the Jordanian desert into a very convincing Mars (I would know. I’ve been there.). Finally, The Force Awakens brilliantly combined practical effects with CGI to bring $2 billion worth of audiences around the globe back to a galaxy far, far away. You know, kinda like what George Lucas should have done with effects technology on the prequels.

Visual effects breakdowns for the win!

BEST SOUND

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Martian
  3. The Revenant
  4. Sicario
  5. Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  TBD

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

BEST SOUND EDITING

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Martian
  3. Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation
  4. The Revenant
  5. Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens

This Year’s Oscar Winner:  TBD

Last Year’s Biggie Winner:  Godzilla

As always, Best Sound is the quality of the mixing of dialogue, music, sound effects and ambiance, while Sound Editing is the creation and placement of specific sound effects.

So those are your winners, folks. The Oscars and I agreed in 10 of our 18 matching categories, which is probably a stat I’ll begin tracking going forward just for shiggles.

(Click ahead for fun statistics, the Studio of the Year award, my new Hall of Fame inductees, and this year’s honorary Biggie recipient)

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