I’m a member of a voting something (I wanna say committee… yeah, committee is good).
My friend Juan Barquin of Dim the House Lights and the Miami New Times basically put together a little committee of voters for his first Miami Film Awards (I personally coined calling them the Barquin Buddies Ballots but I’m too adorable, I guess) from folks around Miami involved in film from running a cinema to being local critics or filmmakers. As a result, the ten of us created our own cumulative snapshot of how we saw the year 2015 in Film and it’s probably close enough to my tastes to make for a teaser into my 2015 Motors this month and my Best of 2015 video to come up.
The way it was arranged was that each of us turn in a list of our nominations for a certain category given to us and from there, the amount of nominations a film, person, or scene receives both decides whether or not it is considered a nominee (3 or more nominations gets you there) or, if it has the most nominations, it is the winner.
The full post and list of considerations is on the Miami Film Awards link I posted above, but just because I need to post something to keep myself up on Motorbreath while I work out a few more things (expect Kung Fu Panda 1 & 2 and, Odin Willing, the first episode of “Speaker for the Dead” this week). I’ll be refraining as much as possible from mentioning what I voted for just so that I can keep some sort of anticipation for the Motors, but I can’t hide everything.
Anyway, begin Statlering and Waldorfing. Here’s the list of nominees and winners (in bold) per category plus commentary.
- The Assassin (dir. Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Taiwan/Hong Kong/China)
- Carol (dir. Todd Haynes, UK/USA)
- Mad Max: Fury Road (dir. George Miller, Australia/USA)
- Mommy (dir. Xavier Dolan, Canada)
- Phoenix (dir. Christian Petzold, Germany)
- Spotlight (dir. Tom McCarthy, USA)
It’d be a miracle if some of you don’t know which ones I voted for out of this lot, but (having seen all six of these films) I’m immensely satisfied with both the winner (almost making right Carol‘s unfair Picture snub at the Oscars) and most of the nominees. Even the ones I don’t think belong in a Top 6 conversation – Mommy and Spotlight – are moving enough to still feel right at home here.
- Ryan Coogler – Creed (USA)
- Miguel Gomes – Arabian Nights (Portugal)
- Todd Haynes – Carol (UK/USA)
- Hou Hsiao-Hsien – The Assassin (Taiwan/Hong Kong/China)
- George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road (Australia/USA)
- Christian Petzold – Phoenix (Germany)
Even more pleasant to me than the Best Picture slate, this is so definitely an inspired as hell slate. I’m a bit hesitant to consider Petzold worth his nomination when it’s hardly his film so much as Nina Hoss’, but Phoenix is so good I can just let it go.
- Tom Courtenay – 45 Years (dir. Andrew Haigh)
- Paul Dano – Love & Mercy (dir. Bill Pohlad)
- Michael B. Jordan – Creed (dir. Ryan Coogler)
- Peter Sarsgaard – Experimenter (dir. Michael Almereyda)
- Jacob Tremblay – Room (dir. Lenny Abrahamson)
- Gaspard Ulliel – Saint Laurent (dir. Bertrand Bonello)
I have not seen Experimenter or Saint Laurent (I skipped the chance to see the latter at Cannes) so I can’t comment on those, but the other four are obviously just a place for us to express our real ire at what wasn’t nominated at the Oscars. Especially when you consider how devoid 2015 was of GREAT MALE PERFORMANCES, all four standout as superior to most of the nominees we got there, not least of all the winner – given how little traction Creed got at the Oscars except to say “Yo, Adrian!” Tremblay and Courtenay especially stand as bridesmaids to their co-leads Oscar locks…
- Cate Blanchett – Carol (dir. Todd Haynes)
- Greta Gerwig – Mistress America (dir. Noah Baumbach)
- Nina Hoss – Phoenix (dir. Christian Petzold)
- Brie Larson – Room (dir. Lenny Abrahamson)
- Rooney Mara – Carol (dir. Todd Haynes)
- Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years (dir. Andrew Haigh)
- Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn (dir. John Crowley)
… And look! There’s those two actresses Tremblay and Courtenay stand as bridesmaids to, with one winning the actual prize. It’s pretty clear we love our actresses among the ten of us, especially in regards to the scene-stealing bunch of the Carol duo (also disposing of category fraud) and film-carrying roles like Ronan and Hoss. I haven’t seen Mistress America and if my previous experiences with Baumbach are any consideration, I think I can do without another post-collegiate visit inside hipster heads. But if my previous experience with Greta Gerwig is also any consideration, she’s a born movie star. Oof, it’s tough to tell myself if I wanna see it or not.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
- Oscar Isaac – Ex Machina
- Michael Shannon – 99 Homes
- Ronald Zehrfeld – Phoenix
Well, this is terse in all the ways Best Actress was not. Isaac is obviously not even the strongest part of Ex Machina, though he’s as great as he’s always been, while Zehrfeld honestly feels like more of a liability to Phoenix than a boon to it. When Shannon didn’t get nominated for an Oscar, I’d assumed nobody saw 99 Homes and ducked it, but I stand corrected. In the watchlist it goes.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
- Rose Byrne – Spy
- Jada Pinkett Smith – Magic Mike XXL
- Kristen Stewart – Clouds of Sils Maria
- Mya Taylor – Tangerine
- Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina
I’m literally watching Tangerine right now as I type this, so I’m seeing how Taylor earns her spot here, but Jada Pinkett Smith really doesn’t necessarily strike me as memorable in Magic Mike XXL so seeing her gain a nomination on this slate is really surprising. Vikander, Byrne, and Stewart are all the very best thing about their movie, though, hands down. So seeing especially Stewart go away with the gold makes me smile, coming from a guy who didn’t really walk away from Clouds impressed.
- Mad Max: Fury Road
Girlhood‘s win puts it to the very top of my best-of list and these all come off as well-cast ensembles. Spotlight is the only one with a weak spot in – ironically – the Oscar-nominated Mark Ruffalo who gets caught acting so very much, but it’s especially the type of movie I personally think of when I consider what makes a great ensemble cast mix into a movie so invisibly.
- Olivier Assayas – Clouds of Sils Maria
- Noah Baumbach & Greta Gerwig – Mistress America
- Ryan Coogler & Aaron Covington – Creed
- Nick Hornby – Brooklyn
- Phyllis Nagy – Carol
- Christian Petzold & Harun Farocki – Phoenix
- Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
Juan, as you can see, opted to mix Original and Adapted together into one category and I think the result is more telling than separating them. But it also results in the first slate of this where I feel there are some real faults – Hornby’s script being exactly the sort of conflict-free unchallenging element of the film that keeps Brooklyn from being great (just keeping it good) in my opinion and Assayas’ script being full of great commentary on culture towards actresses but also having absolutely no trust in the audience to dig that out of the film itself, opting to instead spell most of it out. Still there is a majority of deft storytelling amongst these nominees, including two entries I’d call the out-and-out best screenplays of the year, but then I’d definitely be spoiling the Motors, wouldn’t I?
- Roger Deakins – Sicario
- Hans Fromm – Phoenix
- Edward Lachman – Carol
- Mark Lee Ping Bin – The Assassin
- Emmanuel Lubezki – The Revenant
My love for Phoenix aside, most of its framing is simply functional rather than communicative, don’t y’all think? That doesn’t make it bad, since cinematography doesn’t necessarily need to be showy, but it’s the weak spot to me in this slate. But if the weak spot of the cinematography slate is still cinematography that never particularly fails to work, then I don’t need to say a damn thing about how great all the other nominees are.
BEST FIRST FEATURE
- Deniz Gamze Erguven – Mustang
- Alex Garland – Ex Machina
- Marielle Heller – The Diary of a Teenage Girl
- John MacLean – Slow West
- Laszlo Nemes – Son of Saul
Maybe the one I’ve seen the least nominees in (only Mustang and Ex Machina so far – the former decent, the latter fantastic), I guess it really shows how much I still have to watch before considering 2015 ended. Especially with Slow West and Son of Saul already having been high on my watchlist.
BEST BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE
- Rebecca Ferguson – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
- Bel Powley – The Diary of a Teenage Girl
- Daisy Ridley – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
- Karidja Toure – Girlhood
- Jacob Tremblay – Room
Oh yes, Diary and Girlhood boosted on my watchlist as soon as Tangerine ends. Besides that I give my utmost approval of the three nominees I have seen, Ferguson stealing Rogue Nation right under maybe one of the most charismatic actors still living today, Ridley doing wonders with Rey’s strengths and weaknesses on paper to make her infinitely more interesting than even some of the Original Star Wars trilogy characters, and Tremblay being one of the things that holds the infinitely collapsing Room up to remain interesting during its runtime.
- 45 Years – The Ending
- Carol – The Ending
- Creed – Donnie vs. The Lion
- Girlhood – “Diamonds”
- Phoenix – The Ending
It’s pretty impressive that even in something as specific as a scene, a consensus can be made. That shows how akin we are in movie tastes, even if many of the people among the voters I don’t know half as well as I happen to know Juan. A lot of endings, but to be fair, they’re all really worthwhile. I feel like explaining why – even as vaguely as “THEY DROP SUM SHIT” – would be spoiling and 45 Years, Carol, and Phoenix are all phenomenal enough to warrant viewing anyway, so go watch them if you want to know why those endings are so good. As for Creed, WHO THE FUCK VOTED FOR THAT SCENE?! IT’S NOT EVEN THE BEST SCENE IN THE MOVIE, Y’ALL MOTHERF–
All in all, I’m really happy to have been a part of this, I’m sure Juan would be happy to see other critics and Miami-based moviefolk join by the time we start talking shit about 2016 film and I want to thank Juan for letting me in particular be a part of this. But most of all, I hope that this (alongside my concept for my “Best of 2015” video) actually helps to bring more film culture into Miami and make it grow, encouraging more releases like Phoenix and The Assassin to spread around and make rounds.
In the meantime, just to acknowledge all the other cool people involved in voting and where you can find their work…
- Lauren Cohen is a contributor for film and stage articles in SocialMiami.com and consistently works with the Miami International Film Festival.
- Trae DeLellis is the proud manager of the Bill Cosford Cinema at the University of Miami in Coral Gables.
- Dana Keith as well is the dedicated founder and director of the savvy Miami Beach Cinematheque in… well, Miami Beach, where Daniel Vasquez also works tirelessly.
- Hans Morganstern writes for too many Miami-based publictions to list from the Miami Herald to the New Times, but maintains his role as editor and creative director at Independent Ethos.
- Ruben Pereira runs the especially impressive Film Frontier blog.
- Ruben Rosario holds the fort regularly against Michael Bay on the Miami Art Zine while occasionally featuring on Stonewall Live!
- Kai Sacco gives his insights at Film with Kai Sacco.
Keep the reel rolling.