Here are this years winners for the 5th Annual Halfway awards. So far it has actually been a pretty good year for film, at least on the independent circuit, and there are so many more to look forward to as the second half gets started. First, these winners will be updated in the Halfway Awards Archive page on the sidebar. Second, after Emmy nominations are announced Thursday morning, I will once again turn my attention to the Oscars as I make my annual July predictions before the August-October film festivals officially kick off this Oscar season. So stay tuned!
Winner - Before Midnight
Runner Up - Mud
Commentary - Both Before Sunrise and Before Sunset were wonderfully touching stories about Jesse and Celine. Before Midnight had a lot of hype to live up to, and that it definitely did. The film, like the couple, matured and showed incredible depth. The writing was sharp, funny, and Oscar-worthy, and Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have such a natural chemistry. This is clearly the best film from the first half of the year, and hopefully will be remembered on the Oscar ballot later this year.
Winner - Richard Linklater "Before Midnight"
Runner Up - Jeff Nichols "Mud"
Commentary - The heart and mind behind the entire "Before" trilogy, including the lastest entry was Richard Linklater. His signature style, which has served him well on many top-notch projects over the last several decades, is fully on display, and his delicate, yet sharp handling of the wonderful script that he and his two stars wrote was simply astonishing.
Winner - Ryan Gosling "The Place Beyond the Pines"
Runner Up - Ethan Hawke "Before Midnight"
Commentary - A close race, but Ryan Gosling was at his visceral best in The Place Beyond the Pines, a controversial film that has turned off many. The film as a whole lacked something (a good film but not quite as good as I was expecting), but luckily the cast knocked it out of the park, and Gosling was the leading player who gave the film not only an edgy flavor, but also a depth of heart and soul that showed the world his incredible talent.
Winner - Greta Gerwig "Frances Ha"
Runner Up - Julie Delpy "Before Midnight"
Commentary - I'll admit that in the past some of Greta Gerwig's quirky characters were simply too much. I personally had trouble getting through Damsels in Distress, despite her obvious talents. In this latest effort Frances Ha, I think that Gerwig struck the perfect balance of her inherent quirkiness and leading lady material. She showed us a natural talent that was charismatic and frustrating, clumsy, yet had a sense of sophistication all wrapped into one. Gerwig perfect captures the angst and struggles of her generation and carries this film on her talented shoulders.
Best Supporting Actor
Winner - Matthew McConaughey "Mud"
Runner Up - Bradley Cooper "The Place Beyond the Pines"
Commentary - Definitely my favorite performance of the year so far, Matthew McConaughey has finally found his way back to actual acting, and the results have been fantastic. Last year's roles in Killer Joe, Bernie, and Magic Mike, were just teasers of what is sure to be an incredible year. He will probably be remembered as year's end for his roles in Dallas Buyer's Club and The Wolf of Wall Street, but I also hope that he gets some notices for Mud. His role in Mud is haunting and incredibly effective as he helps create the heart and soul of this wonderful Americana film.
Best Supporting Actress
Winner - Vanessa Redgrave "Unfinished Song"
Runner Up - Nicole Kidman "Stoker"
Commentary - A really weak category so far, I was forced to choose between two decent performances in otherwise mediocre films. Unfinished Song is sweet, but if its performers were less capable it would not be worth your time to watch. But luckily it managed to be a fine showcase for some very talented actors including the legendary Vanessa Redgrave. Her performances was lovely, brave, and beautiful, and her chemistry with Terrence Stamps shows is undeniable. It is nice to see that even in their golden years, talented actors like Redgrave are allowed to get such satisfying roles.
Winner - Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy "Before Midnight"
Runner Up - Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig "Frances Ha"
Commentary - The biggest reasons that the Before series has been such a stunning success is because the screenwriting team of Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy. The depth and emotion of these characters, and the incredibly real and honest growth that these characters have experienced over three films, especially in the last chapter, showcase incredible writing talents.
Winner - This Is The End
Runner Up - The Bling Ring
Commentary - This winner may surprise some, but I think that the reason that This Is The End was so funny, and has been so popular was because of the awesome cast. Yes they were playing themselves, but they clearly upped their game, and the surprises and cameos kept coming, and we kept laughing.
Best Animated Feature
Winner - Monster's University
Runner Up - Epic
Commentary - So far it has been weak this year for animation, although there are some upcoming films that look promising. The best so far is easily Monster's University. I will admit that it is not as good as its predecessor nor does it live up to the high bar set for Pixar films, but it is still a great effort from the studio, and a really good film. More importantly, so far it is the best animated effort released, and will definitely be around come Oscar time for the Animated Feature category.