The Fifties 2014: Actor, Actress, Director, Picture
Macon Blair, Blue Ruin: Communicates the everyman quality of the character without condescending to him. Never turns into a killing machine.
Jim Broadbent, Le Week-end: Just as he was nearing Maggie Smith levels of typecasting, he plays someone angrier, sadder, hornier, more fun.
Pierre Deladonchamps, Stranger by the Lake: Not a wallflower or an idiot but shows us the character's nerves and his unreliable conscience.
Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel: Distinctive enough he isn't just doing "a Wes Anderson character," and he's dapper, funny, and sad.
Sergio Hernández, Gloria: We sense his desire for Gloria and the certainty that he will disappoint her. You resent him but still sympathize.
Runners Up: Tom Cruise, Edge of Tomorrow; Jake Gyllenhaal, Enemy; Archie Alemania, Norte, the End of History
On the Radar: Tom Hiddleston, Only Lovers Left Alive
Macon Blair, Blue Ruin: For placing a lot of variation on his silent looks of panic, all while holding onto that haunted past that never goes away.
Pierre Deladonchamps, Stranger by the Lake: For never making his character's self-destructive tendencies seem craven or inexplicably masochistic.
Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel: For carrying a movie with a whole lot of moving parts on his shoulders, and for selling a character who I'm not sure isn't unworkable on the page.
Tom Hardy, Locke: For being the whole show, and for letting us in on his character at his own pace.
Tom Hiddleston, Only Lovers Left Alive: For a kind of fascinating melancholy and for keeping a gorgeous, skinny mope of a man interesting.
Honorable Mention: Mark Ruffalo, The Normal Heart (made for cable)
Runners Up: Jim Broadbent, Le Week-end; Jesse Eisenberg, Night Moves
NICK: Hope we've urged more people to see Blue Ruin at this point. I'm interested in what makes Fiennes's character seem "unworkable" on the page. And though we've avoid picking winners, I'm curious who your hypothetical one is from this bracket, since I'm guessing Fiennes is mine. That said, as much as I love my quintet, I'm eager for even tougher competition as the year unfolds.
JOE: I think in general I find Grand Budapest too nasty a film to ever really warm to, and for no good reason. Fiennes's character as written would have turned me off to the point of disconnecting entirely without a performance as funny and committed to the man's humanity. Right now he's my winner, too, but I'm waiting for someone else to unseat him soon.
Marion Cotillard, The Immigrant: Amazing technical execution. Convincing spiritual anguish. Simultaneously an open book and very secretive.
Lindsay Duncan, Le Week-end: Keeps us guessing if Meg is knowingly destructive or just makes reckless choices. Is she still in love or not?
Paulina García, Gloria: Anchors every shot in the film, seizing chances for fun, but never acts as if she's consciously seizing a spotlight.
Keira Knightley, Begin Again: A Binochean feat of relaxed directness in manner, voice, and body. Leaves no space between herself and Gretta.
Kathryn Worth, Unrelated: Spends a lot of time watching and even craving other characters without encouraging pity or sentimentalizing Anna.
Runners Up: Jenny Slate, Obvious Child; Angeli Bayani, Norte, the End of History; Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Belle; Marina Vacth, Young & Beautiful
On the Radar: Luminiţa Gheorghiu, Child's Pose; Jasmine Trinca, Honey (Miele); Tilda Swinton, Only Lovers Left Alive; Gina Piersanti, It Felt Like Love
Lindsay Duncan, Le Week-end: Prickly in a way that's both hilarious and melancholy. The real engine driving the film.
Paulina García, Gloria: Surprisingly in charge despite a character who's sometimes teetering on the edge of being too pathetic.
Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin: Simultaneously fascinating and fascinated; her probing questions and open-faced responses are riveting.
Jenny Slate, Obvious Child: Unforced in her hilarity, which was to be expected. Nimble with a rom-com storyline, which was not.
Robin Wright, The Congress: Doesn't get hung up on playing "herself." Gets the most out of her live-action segments and imbues her voice work with affecting sadness.
Runners Up: Tilda Swinton, Only Lovers Left Alive; Rose Byrne, Neighbors
NICK: Everyone except Cotillard had to really fight for their spot here. Slate was the single hardest exclusion for me in any category. Heck, I'd be happy to have even my four outside shots (Gheorghiu, Trinca, Swinton, and Piersanti) on a list of midyear peaks, to say nothing of gals like Emily Blunt or Melanie Lynskey whom we put in supporting but arguably belong here. And that's still not including two of your tip-top picks or either of your runners-up, all of whom I love. Nonetheless, cue the annual December refrain of "Why aren't there more leading-actress performances to choose from?" when, in fact, THERE ARE.
JOE: Yeah, I'm not sure I can see any of the women we're trumpeting surviving to any kind of Oscar consideration, though I'll stick a pin in Johansson simply due to the critical mass of her year so far. At what point does everybody snap to and realize Lindsay Duncan is on just an incredible hot streak lately?
Lav Diaz, Norte, the End of History: Calibrates a film with extended longueurs, decisive and bloody actions, realistic and abstract patches.
Jonathan Glazer, Under the Skin: Even when he pushes a conceit too far or leaves us puzzled, I was so grateful for his commitment to risk.
James Gray, The Immigrant: Makes defiantly old-fashioned film with some contemporary resonances. Exquisite care with sound, edits, light.
Jim Jarmusch, Only Lovers Left Alive: His film could tilt at any time into stale affectation. Amazing how balanced and inviting he keeps it.
Doug Liman, Edge of Tomorrow: He's choreographed action before but nothing implied he could negotiate so many moving parts, so many thrills.
Runners Up: Amat Escalante, Heli; Rithy Panh, The Missing Picture; Joanna Hogg, Unrelated; Anthony Chen, Ilo Ilo; Alex van Warmerdam, Borgman
On the Radar: Claude Lanzmann, The Last of the Unjust; Gillian Robespierre, Obvious Child; Jeremy Saulnier, Blue Ruin
Bong Joon-ho, Snowpiercer: For audacity and risking crassness in the service of delivering an action spectacle with some guts.
Jonathan Glazer, Under the Skin: For becoming the master of a kind of stillness-as-otherworldly-profundity drama.
Alain Guiraudie, Stranger by the Lake: For not being afraid of the challenge of blending unpretentious sexuality with a brain and an eye for dangerous beauty.
Doug Liman, Edge of Tomorrow: For keeping a lot of balls in the air at the same time and delivering crack action, clever comedy, and re-establishing himself as an undervalued action director.
Richard Linklater, Boyhood: For being a man with a plan, and also a man with an unapologetic heart.
NICK: I'm curious about the "lone director" phenomenon. That is, can we assume that your five Director picks are also your top five in Best Picture? That's not true for me. Glazer would certainly give up his spot; the sheer chutzpah of Under the Skin and the jaw-dropping construction of scenes like the one on the beach made him a cinch here, even with the movie bubbling around the bottom of my current Top 10 for the year. Gray's on the bubble a bit, too. Liman's comeback feels to me like a big story of the year so far. Fingers crossed he keeps it up!
JOE: My "lone director" would be Bong, bumping out Jarmusch. Though it should be noted (in this and many other categories) that if Love Is Strange had already opened properly, it would be a huge presence all across my ballot, in which case Liman would become my lone director (again bumping Jarmusch).
Edge of Tomorrow: For its gusto and its agility, its remarkable moment-to-moment focus despite a sprawling canvas and a very tricky gimmick.
Heli: Unintimidated by how many films have told related tales. Attains maximum impact with images and story turns that might've felt simple.
Ida: I cleaved to it but also wanted to treat it with care. Its ideas and feelings are so delicate you feel the film is confiding in you.
The Immigrant: Credible as a historically detailed drama, but plays at the same time as an operatically heightened take on very real events.
The Last of the Unjust: Tale of Theresienstadt harrows on its own terms but the film also works as a broader challenge to ethics and action.
The Missing Picture: From the soil that soaked up so much blood Panh recovers the tools to pay a doting tribute and teach a daunting lesson.
Norte, the End of History: The length and the title imply a heavy or highfalutin film but it shakes and startles you like an electric storm.
Only Lovers Left Alive: Moony, music-loving vampires emerge as ideal figurations and lucid observers of how it feels to be alive right now.
Under the Skin: Barely tries to stitch its virtuoso episodes together and yet they do have a cumulative logic that's both strange and sad.
Unrelated: Formidable proof that an ensemble of characters talking and sometimes not talking can feel as cinematic as any film on this list.
Runners Up: Obvious Child, Borgman, Blue Ruin
Blue Ruin: For taking a hoary genre and making it thrilling and also sadly human.
Boyhood: For attaining universality through specificity and vice versa. For getting at all the right moments in a boy's life.
The Congress: For gorgeous creativity and a worldview that both honors filmmaking and savages its more destructive tendencies.
Edge of Tomorrow: For being the best time at the movies this year.
Obvious Child: For being the funniest time at the movies this year.
Only Lovers Left Alive: For being the coolest time at the movies this year.
Stranger by the Lake: For being the sexiest time at the movies this year, when I wasn't preoccupied with all those gentlemen needing to get checked for ticks.
Under the Skin: For juggling an alien's curiosity over human life, attraction, desire, and weakness and an auteur's confident ability to provoke all those reactions and more in his audience.
NICK: I capped myself at ten, taking full advantage of the AMPAS sliding scale. Even so, once again, Obvious Child makes me wish it were eleven. Let it be said, too, that the long opening sequence of Borgman is still one of my two or three favorites from any movie released this year. Anyway: you stopped at eight. What were your runners-up, and how did you know eight was your number?
JOE: Yes, I took my cue from the Academy and stopped when I felt like it. Were I to have kept going to ten, Le Week-end and Hide Your Smiling Faces would duke it out with Snowpiercer for those final slots. I basically just put together the five movies I'd had originally slotted when I thought we were going with only five, then added the runners up. I'm sure this order of things is subject to jostling when we get to the year's end, but in particular, I'd be shocked if Boyhood, Stranger, Under the Skin, and Only Lovers Left Alive aren't huge contenders for my lists come January.
And that's a wrap for this annual feature, which last year didn't even wrap! I've updated our eligibility lists of 50 films apiece so you can see the tallies of how many mentions each movie got from each of us. Thanks to everyone who followed along, and especially to those who commented and posted your own lists. I hope you'll keep doing that, including those of you who've been quiet so far.
As ever, huge and final thanks to Joe, whose columns at The Wire always manage to be uproarious but also fully on point, and whose Twitter account makes we want to be – a tweeter! And I'm gonna keep on tweeting, and thank you so! much! (If you don't get it, trust that he does.)
Previously in the 2014 Fifties: Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Ensemble Cast, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Foreign Film, Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound Mixing & Editing, Original Score, Art Direction, Costume Design, Visual Effects, Eligibility Lists