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Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Fourth Annual Elwyn Awards!

        Hello, and welcome to the Fourth Annual Elwyns Awards, a ceremony (see: blog post) dedicated to celebrating the greatest accomplishments set to film during the past year. This is, of course, my personal chance to play god with the Oscars, righting what I perceive to be the Academy's wrongs, replacing them with my own glorious, irrefutable selections. Sounds cool, right? I knew you'd think so. Some of Oscar's favorite sections (Foreign Film, Documentary, all the Shorts) are missing here, but in their place are a few different categories dreamed up especially for this site's very own awards show. The winner of each category will receive a Collin, the highest honor that this website can offer, and a form of recognition that will be remembered for a lifetime. Let's get to it!

***Note: A special thanks to my sister, Brittany Elwyn, for creating all of the graphics featured in today's post***

Best Picture:
And the Nominees are...
12 Years a Slave
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Frances Ha
Prince Avalanche
The Spectacular Now
The Wolf of Wall Street

        For a more thorough (see: existent) analysis of these picks, click here.

And the Collin goes to...
12 Years a Slave
        The finest film of 2013, and it really wasn't that close.
Runner-Up: The Wolf of Wall Street
Just Missed the Cut: Inside Llewyn Davis and Mud

Best Director:
And the nominees are...
Alfonso Cuáron---Gravity
Paul Greengrass---Captain Phillips
Steve McQueen---12 Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese---The Wolf of Wall Street
Jean-Marc Vallée---Dallas Buyers Club

        Cuáron's accomplishment requires no explanation, the innovative production of his space odyssey likely earning him the real golden man come tomorrow. Greengrass again applies his particular brand of gritty, sweaty realism to the hugely stress-inducing Captain Phillips. As if the bravery of creating a movie like 12 Years a Slave weren't enough, McQueen displays a master's touch with his actors, and an impossibly steady grip on tone. Marty just goes bonkers, and its a marvel to experience. Despite all the love shown Dallas Buyers Club and its actors, Vallée was never a real part of the Oscar discussion, but I've got his back.

And the Collin goes to...
Steve McQueen---12 Years a Slave
        His direction has an almost hypnotic quality to it, a classic on arrival delivered with dizzying levels of grace and control.
Runner-Up: Martin Scorsese---The Wolf of Wall Street
Just Missed the Cut: J.C. Chandor---All is Lost and Paolo Sorrentino---The Great Beauty

Best Actor:
And the nominees are...
Leonardo DiCaprio---The Wolf of Wall Street
Tom Hanks---Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey---Dallas Buyers Club
Joaquin Phoenix---Her
Miles Teller---The Spectacular Now

        DiCaprio gives the performance of his career, stripped of his normative haggard scowl, delivering both comedy and physicality we'd yet to see out of him. Hanks is wonderfully subtle in Captain Phillips... until the last 15 minutes blow the damn doors off. Last year's Collin winner Joaquin Phoenix strikes again with a tender, emotional performance that carries his movie. And in Sutter Keely, Teller finally found a role that was worthy of his immense talent, intricate, flawed, and lovable to his core. Too bad they're all up against...
And the Collin goes to...
Matthew McConaughey---Dallas Buyers Club
        It's not just the weight loss, or the wholly new way he moves his body, or his believable decent into sickness, or his infectious, fiery will to live, or his emotional, acutely observed character arch... should I keep going? I still don't believe this is the dude from Fool's Gold
Runner-Up: Leonardo DiCaprio---The Wolf of Wall Street
Just Missed the Cut: Paul Rudd---Prince Avalanche and Toni Servillo---The Great Beauty

Best Actress:
And the nominees are...
Judi Dench---Philomena
Greta Gerwig---Frances Ha
Julia Louis-Dreyfus---Enough Said
Olivia Wilde---Drinking Buddies
Shailene Woodley---The Spectacular Now

        Dench's Philomena Lee would quickly become obnoxiously precious in less capable hands, but the dame imbues her with a grace and nobility that carry the movie. Gerwig isn't exactly a revelation, given that her character is safely within her wheelhouse, but the things she does with her first starring role are still jubilant and unnervingly natural. Speaking of natural, Louis-Dreyfus is so relatable in Enough Said that she almost feels like your neighbor by the time the credits roll, funny and charming in a way thought ought to buy her a few more starring vehicles. Wilde has no trouble ringing true either, delivering the type of lived-in performance that makes you forget you're watching a thespian. Woodley is the sweetest thing about the sweetest flick of an extremely sweet year at the movies, engendering true care from the audience with every subtle touch.

And the Collin goes to...
Greta Gerwig---Frances Ha
        Perhaps not the most challenging role, but she iiiiiissss kind of an avatar for/explanation of an entire sect of our current generation. Methinks that's worth something.
Runner-Up: Shailene Woodley---The Spectacular Now
Just Missed the Cut: Cate Blanchett---Blue Jasmine and Adèle Exarchopoulos---Blue is the Warmest Color

Best Supporting Actor:
And the nominees are...
Barkhad Abdi---Captain Phillips
Michael Fassbender---12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill---The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto---Dallas Buyers Club
Matthew McConaughey---Mud

        Abdi's raw style of acting perfectly befits CP, his character causing anxiety and coaxing sympathy in an impressive balancing act. Fassbender's Epps knows no such balance, a raging demon of a man who nearly burns a hole through the screen. Hill's comedy chops slot ideally into 'the Joe Pesci role,' his chemistry with DiCaprio, both hilarious and unexpectedly tender, carrying the film. Tomorrow's near-surefire winner deserves the praise he's gotten; Leto transforms without ever over-doing it, his character serving as DBC's very heart. The McConaissance just keeps coming, Matthew's Mud a wonderfully mysterious misfit to add to the actor's growing collection.

And the Collin goes to...
Michael Fassbender---12 Years a Slave
        One of the most sinister villains I've ever seen committed to screen, the second Fassbender steps on set, your blood starts to boil. You can't take your eyes off of him.
Runner-Up: Jared Leto---Dallas Buyers Club
Just Missed the Cut: James Franco---Spring Breakers, James Gandolfini---Enough Said, and Jake Johnson---Drinking Buddies

Best Supporting Actress:
And the nominees are...
Amy Adams---Her
Sally Hawkins---Blue Jasmine
Lupita Nyong'o---12 Years a Slave
Sarah Paulson---12 Years a Slave
Octavia Spencer---Fruitvale Station

        Can you imagine Her without Amy Adams? Her easy-going chemistry with Phoenix levels out the film's oddity, helping us understand his character, all while creating a real, relatable human of her own. Hawkins' film would be similarly lost without her, the lone dollop of sugar in what would otherwise be a far-to-bitter film. Nyong'o and Paulson operate on opposite sides of their amazing picture, the former a broken soul with a stoic veneer whom we love, the other of a tyrannical disposition that we despise. Finally there's Spencer, the stand-out from Fruitvale Station, hitting every note with a clarity and truth with which the movie couldn't quite mirror.

And the Collin goes to... 
Lupita Nyong'o---12 Years a Slave
        Tragedy doesn't get much more tragic than this, and Nyong'o makes sure that we feel every last bit of her pain and suffering.
Runner-Up: Octavia Spencer---Fruitvale Station
Just Missed the Cut: Scarlett Johansson---Don Jon and Mickey Sumner---Frances Ha

Best Original Screenplay:
And the nominees are...

Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack---Dallas Buyers Club
Nicole Holofcener---Enough Said
Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig---Frances Ha
Ethan Coen and Joel Coen---Inside Llewyn Davis
Bob Nelson---Nebraska

        Borten's 20+ year journey to get Dallas Buyers Club made is worth celebrating on its own, but the way the script develops characters and tugs at our heart strings would be enough to make it here anyway. Enough Said dives right into a particular age/crossroads in life that movies rarely show, exploring the lives, desires and insecurities of a certain brand of middle-aged person without a false step. Baumbach and Gerwig's script does nearly the very same thing, only for a younger, more rudderless set. Davis represents one of the Coen brothers' finest puzzles to date, an oddly-shapped odyssey with laughs and melancholy to spare. The same pairing is found liberally in Nebraska, a movie jam-packed with subtle touches and delicate emotional arches.

And the Collin goes to...
Bob Nelson---Nebraska
        The deliberate pace of Nelson's screenplay helps us feel the vibes and rhythms of the lifestyle depicted therein, nudging us gently along with perfectly rationed doses of humor and sadness.
Runner-Up: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen---Inside Llewyn Davis
Just Missed the Cut: 

Richard Linklater, 
Julie Delpy, and 
Ethan Hawke---Before Midnight, Jeff Nichols---Mud, and Spike Jonze---Her

Best Adapted Screenplay:

And the nominees are...
John Ridley---12 Years a Slave
Billy Ray---Captain Phillips
David Gordon Green---Prince Avalanche

Scott Neustadter and

Michael H. Weber---The Spectacular Now

Terence Winter---The Wolf of Wall Street

        This is by far the better of the two screenplay categories, even if its Just Missed the Cut section is noticeably weaker. 12 Years takes us on a harrowing journey through the darkest depths of slavery, a seamlessly constructed epic with more than a handful of scenes that will stay with you forever. Ray's flick ain't exactly easy viewing either, but the removed perspective with which he observes the proceedings is calculated and wise. Neither Prince Avalanche nor The Spectacular Now feel the need to twist stomachs into knots, both reveling in life's quiet beauties, and laughing at its inherent absurdities. Speaking of the absurd, Winter throws everything he's got into The Wolf of Wall Street, a hilarious, rip-roaring roller coaster that refuses to let up.

And the Collin goes to...
John Ridley---12 Years a Slave
        I know, I know; I'm becoming redundant, but 12 is just such an achievement, and its screenplay is a HUGE part of said accomplishment.

Terence Winter---The Wolf of Wall Street

Just Missed the Cut (but not really, because that's a pretty clear-cut five): Paolo Sorrentino and Umberto Contarello---The Great Beauty, Jennifer Lee---Frozen, Tobias Lindholm and Thomas Vinterberg---The Hunt, and Drew Pearce and Shane Black---Iron Man 3

Best Actor in a Small Role:
And the nominees are...
Michael Cera---This is the End
Kyle Chandler---The Spectacular Now
Kyle Chandler---The Wolf of Wall Street
Andrew Dice Clay---Blue Jasmine
Lance LeGault---Prince Avalanche

        I've always found the Academy's delineation of acting categories to be suspect, and offer this third slot as an alternative. Lead categories, as per Elwyn rules, are specifically for protagonists, Supporting categories for any part that's not a protagonist, no matter how large it is, and this new category to reward those whose smaller contributions really mattered to their films. Cera was the best part of This is the End, playing against type in a way that perfectly embodied the 'Hollywood changes people' message at the film's core. Chandler gets on the list twice, once as an absentee, alcoholic father with an ocean of buried hurt just beneath his eyes, then again as a feisty, under-appreciated DEA agent with... an ocean of buried hurt just beneath his eyes. Yes, I know that's Jean Dujardin and not Andrew Dice Clay on the graphic; sometimes I screw up, but Dice Clay certainly didn't, offering an impossibly organic performance as Sally Hawkins' spurred ex-lover. Finally, the late LaGault provides Prince Avalanche with a delicious dose of mania, served with a side of poignancy.

And the Collin goes to...
Michael Cera---This is the End
        I was essentially doubled over with a stitch in my side every moment Cera was on screen. The movie never fully recovers from his exit, but let's be grateful we have this performance at all.
Runner-Up: Andrew Dice Clay---Blue Jasmine
Just Missed the Cut: Max Casella---Inside Llewyn Davis, Jean Dujardin and Matthew McConaughey---The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Actress in a Small Role:
And the nominees are...
Jennifer Jason Leigh---The Spectacular Now
Rooney Mara---Her
Angela McEwan---Nebraska
Joyce Payne---Prince Avalanche
Alfre Woodard---12 Years a Slave

        Jason Leigh and Teller actually feel like mother and son, their relationship occasionally thorny or strained, but their love never in question. Mara essentially reprises her The Social Network role as the scolding voice of truth ringing loudly in the ear of a man who has lost his way. McEwan is just so damn sweet, an older woman smiling back on her life surrounded by folks who frown at theirs. Payne, represented here by the wildfire that forever changed the life of her character, steers a scene that's as simultaneously funny and tragic as it gets. And in her lone sequence, Woodard fleshes out a character with resolve, savvy, and bitterness to spare.

And the Collin goes to...
Joyce Payne---Prince Avalanche
        Her single real scene is one of my favorites of the whole year, pushing the pause button on the general levity of Prince Avalanche to say something sorrowful and true
Runner-Up: Rooney Mara---Her
Just Missed the Cut: Joanna Lumley---The Wolf of Wall Street and Emma Watson---This is the End

Best Ensemble:
And the nominees are...
12 Years a Slave
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
The Spectacular Now
The Wolf of Wall Street

        Wait... so remind me why Oscar doesn't have this category? This is a perfect way to celebrate a film's performances without requiring any individual thespian to win on their own. Seeing as I've just spent six sections dissecting the many wonderful performers in the five films listed above, I'll just cut to the chase.

And the Collin goes to...
The Wolf of Wall Street
        How many fantastic performances are there in this movie? About 20? As soon as you think they're done introducing recognizable stars in juicy roles, another one comes along. It's a veritable feast of acting.
Runner-Up: 12 Years a Slave
Just Missed the Cut: Blue Jasmine, Frances Ha, and Her

Best Cinematography:
And the nominees are...
Sean Bobbitt---12 Years a Slave
Frank G. DeMarco and Peter Zuccarini---All is Lost
Luca Bigazzi---The Great Beauty
Phedon Papamichael---Nebraska
Roger Deakins---Prisoners
And the Collin goes to...
Sean Bobbitt---12 Years a Slave
        And the love just keeps coming in for 12, its visuals too tactile and gorgeous to resist. Who runs the Elwyns, anyway?
Runner-Up: Roger Deakins---Prisoners
Just Missed the Cut: Tim Orr---Prince Avalanche, Benoît Debie---Spring Breakers, and Rodrigo Prieto---The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Editing:
And the nominees are...
Joe Walker---12 Years a Slave

Christopher Rouse---Captain Phillips
Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger---Gravity
Pete Beaudreau---All is Lost

Thelma Schoonmaker---The Wolf of Wall Street
And the Collin goes to...
Thelma Schoonmaker---The Wolf of Wall Street
        The Wolf of Wall Street is a minute shy of three hours long, and that's the condensed version. Credit Schoonmaker, who found a way to keep things coherent despite what must have been a hatchet job, as well as keeping us titillated for every frame of this wily beast.
Runner-Up: Joe Walker---12 Years a Slave
Just Missed the Cut: Jennifer Lame---Frances Ha and Kevin Tent---Nebraska

Best Production Design:
And the nominees are...
Adam Stockhausen and Alice Baker---12 Years a Slave
Stefania Cella---The Great Beauty

K.K. Barrett and Gene Serdena---Her
Philip Messina---The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Jess Gonchor---Inside Llewyn Davis
And the Collin goes to...
K.K. Barrett and Gene Serdena---Her
        Her's visual peak into the near-future is my single favorite aspect of the film, at once showy, fun, and completely believable.
Runner-Up: Adam Stockhausen and Alice Baker---12 Years a Slave
Just Missed the Cut: Julie Berghoff---The Conjuring and Andy Nicholson, Rosie Goodwin, and Joanne Woollard---Gravity

Best Score:
And the nominees are...
Hans Zimmer---12 Years a Slave
David Wingo---Mud
Mark Orton---Nebraska
Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo---Prince Avalanche
Jóhann Jóhannsson---Prisoners
And the Collin goes to...
Hans Zimmer---12 Years a Slave
        Hopping between bombast and delicacy with seamless grace, this might be the crowning work of Zimmer's legendary career.
Runner-Up: Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo---Prince Avalanche
Just Missed the Cut: Christophe Beck---Frozen, Lele Marchitelli---The Great Beauty, and Will Butler and Owen Pallet---Her

Best Use of a Song:
And the nominees are...
David Bowie---Modern Love (Frances Ha)
Oscar Isaac and (depending on the version) Marcus Mumford---Fare the Well (Inside Llewyn Davis)
Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, and Stark Sands---Five Hundred Miles (Inside Llewyn Davis)
Destin Daniel Cretton and Keith Stanfield---Short Term 12
Brittany Spears---Everytime (Spring Breakers)
And the Collin goes to...
Oscar Isaac and (depending on the version) Marcus Mumford---Fare the Well (Inside Llewyn Davis)
        Another Academy category that I think works better with a tweak. Despite this year's uncommonly strong batch of tunes, limiting choices to original songs most often yields some pretty weak results, and doesn't even comment on the use of the track in the picture. If we're giving awards for movies, I'd prefer to award the song that's best deployed in its respective film, not the one that sounds better out of my car speakers. The song that comes to define Inside Llewyn Davis is heard in three different incarnations through out the movie, adding a depth of beauty and emotion to the scenes it scores, none more powerful than Llewyn's final performance at the Gaslight.
Runner-Up: Destin Daniel Cretton and Keith Stanfield---Short Term 12 
Just Missed the Cut: Idina Menzel---Let it Go (Frozen) and Absolutely Every Single Song---The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Costume Design:
And the nominees are...
Patricia Norris---12 Years a Slave
Mary Zophres---Inside Llewyn Davis
Casey Storm---Her
Trish Summerville---The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Gary Jones---Oz the Great and Powerful
And the Collin goes to...
Trish Summerville---The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
        Fun, elaborate, flamboyant; Summerville's work is the secret weapon of the Hunger Games series, visually defining it every step of the way.
Runner-Up: Mary Zophres---Inside Llewyn Davis
Just Missed the Cut: Kristin M. Burke---The Conjuring and Daniela Ciancio---The Great Beauty

Best Visual Effects:
And the nominees are...
Iron Man 3
Oz the Great and Powerful
Pacific Rim
Star Trek Into Darkness
And the Collin goes to...
        Really? You want me to explain this?
Runner-Up: Star Trek Into Darkness
Just Missed the Cut: If you're name's not Gravity, go home already!

Best Sound:
And the nominees are...
12 Years a Slave
Captain Phillips
Inside Llewyn Davis
All is Lost
And the Collin goes to...
All is Lost
         The way that All is Lost's sound design places you right in the thick of things is mesmerizing to experience.
Runner-Up: Gravity
Just Missed the Cut: Iron Man 3 and Frozen

Nominations per Film (Out of 19 Categories)
12 Years a Slave: 14
Captain Phillips: 8
The Wolf of Wall Street: 8
The Spectacular Now: 7
Dallas Buyers Club: 6
Inside Llewyn Davis: 6
Gravity: 5
Her: 5
Prince Avalanche: 5
Frances Ha: 4
Nebraska: 4
All is Lost: 3
Blue Jasmine: 2
Enough Said: 2
The Great Beauty: 2
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: 2
Oz the Great and Powerful: 2
Prisoners: 2
This is the End: 2
Drinking Buddies: 1
Fruitvale Station: 1
Iron Man 3: 1
Mud: 1
Pacific Rim: 1
Philomena: 1
Short Term 12: 1
Spring Breakers: 1
Star Trek Into Darkness: 1

Wins Per Film:
12 Years a Slave: 7
The Wolf of Wall Street: 2
All is Lost: 1
Dallas Buyers Club: 1
Frances Ha: 1
Gravity: 1
Her: 1
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: 1
Inside Llewyn Davis: 1
Nebraska: 1
Prince Avalanche: 1
This is the End: 1

Hype Starts Here's Top 40 Movies of 2013:

Other End-of-2013 Movie Articles:
The Fourth Annual Elwyns (If Hype Starts Here was in charge of the Oscars)

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