Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The 6th Annual Halfway Award Winners

Best Picture
Winner - The Grand Budapest Hotel
Runners Up  - Snowpiercer and How to Train Your Dragon 2
Commentary - Wes Anderson will probably end up being my all-time winner at the Halfway Awards, as this year he has released another one of this instant quirky classics, and happens to do so in the first half of the year. Snowpiercer was pure science fiction brilliance,and How to Train Your Dragon 2 was a lovely return to a film favorite. But The Grand Budapest Hotel was pure Wes Anderson brilliance. It's cast was large and grand, it was quirky, funny, visually stylish, and surprisingly emotional. It was the best so far this year.

Best Director
Winner - Joon-ho Bong "Snowpiercer"
Runners Up - Wes Anderson "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Commentary - Wes Anderson seems like the obvious choice, and it was my first thought. But he gets his due a little later, and has won here before. And honestly, I really wanted to honor Snowpiercer's vision. And what a better way to do that than the man behind the camera that made it all possible. Joon-ho Bong managed to overcome studio problems, Weinstein problems, and thanks to the fans who supported his efforts, he got Snowpiercer to the way he wanted it, and the results were fantastic. It takes a determined and visionary director to make it through all of that, and is worthy of recognition.

Best Actor
Winner - Ralph Fiennes "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Runners Up - Channing Tatum "22 Jump Street" and Tom Hardy "Locke"
Commentary - Tatum was hilarious in 22 Jump Street, but when looking at the contenders from the first half, none were more impressive, nor have as much potential to affect this year's Oscar race than Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes has been doing quality work for years now, but it has been a while since he had a real leading role to show off his talent. It was nice to see him back in the driver's seat, and he matched Anderson's quirk and heart perfectly.

Best Actress
Winner - Jenny Slate "Obvious Child"
Runners Up - Tilda Swinton "Only Lovers Left Alive" and Shailene Woodley "The Fault in Our Stars"
Commentary - I really didn't want to see this movie, because whenever I think of Jenny Slate, I think of that obnoxious character she played in Parks & Recreation, one of the few parts of that show that I didn't like. But I'm glad I did, because Obvious Child is a sweet, thoughtful comedy that tackles a real issue in a way that is objective and sensitive. And Slate completely proved me wrong, and knocked it out of the part with a wonderfully warm performance that I hope is remembered as the awards season rolls around.

Best Supporting Actor
Winner - John Hurt "Snowpiercer"
Runners Up - Tye Sheridan "Joe" and Tony Revolori "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Commentary - Tye Sheridan is certainly worthy, but he has won an Award Psychic Award, and another contender kept popping up in my mind. John Hurt has had a plethora of scene-stealing cameos and supporting performances over the last decade, and every single time, I remember that how good he was long after leaving the theater. Snowpiercer was no different. Most people focused on Swinton (see below), and others, but I was once again amazed at how much of a presence Hurt is. Yes, I admit that this honor is as much about his career as a whole, as it is about his performance in Snowpiercer, but I stand by his win here no matter what.

Best Supporting Actress
Winner - (TIE) Tilda Swinton "Snowpiercer and The Grand Budapest Hotel" and Rose Byrne "Neighbors"
Runners Up - Laura Dern "The Fault in Our Stars"
Commentary - Yes, a lot of folks are commenting on Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer (see above), but damn if she doesn't deserve the attention. Combine her brilliant performance in Snowpiercer, with her scene-stealing cameo in The Grand Budapest Hotel (as well as her stunning turn in Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive), and this may well end up being the year of Tilda Swinton. She has proven that she can tackle any character in any genre, big or small, and make it her own. It is the mark of a true talent. But I couldn't go away from this category without honoring Rose Byrne. Neighbors was a fun summer riot, but I didn't see anything from Seth Rogen or Zac Efron that I didn't already know. But Byrne surprised the hell out of me. I knew she a talent for comedy in Bridesmaids, but she blew me away in Neighbors at just how funny she can be, and hopefully we will continue to see more of lighter side.

Best Animated Feature
Winner - How to Train Your Dragon 2
Runner Up - The Lego Movie
Commentary - The Lego Movie was a riot, but How to Train Your Dragon 2 easily beat it for one big reason. Both were technically wonderful, and entertaining. But How to Train Your Dragon has a sequel to try to beat, and manages to do so with a huge helping of heart. It was a heartfelt film that reminded me of the depth that animated films are capable of in the right hands. A winning achievement.

Best Screenplay
Winner - Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Runner Up - Gillian Robespierre, Karen Maine, and Elisabeth Holm "Obvious Child"
Commentary - I told you that Anderson would be rewarded later, and it should come as no surprise that it is here. Anderson has a way with his words, his scripts are vivid and original and The Grand Budapest Hotel is just another one in his already stacked canon of wildly inventive stories.

Best Ensemble
Winner - X-Men: Days of Future Past
Runners Up - The Grand Budapest Hotel and Snowpiercer
Commentary - Okay, so one of my favorite blockbusters this year was the latest X-Men, Days of Future Past, like the first two and First Class, this X-Men managed to be entertaining, as well as complex. It also managed to successfully combine almost every major member of the X-Men (many as younger and older versions of themselves) and balance their story lines and their struggles. A lot of credit goes to the screenwriters, but it was this cast of old and new favorites that knocked it out of the park, and made the whole enterprise, which could have fallen into pieces, had it not been done correctly, hold its head up high.

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