The first paparazzi photos from Terrence Malick’s "Knight of Cups" surfaced in October 2012. Featuring Christian Bale and Natalie Portman playing in the ocean, it looked as poetic and narrative-less as anyone could hope from the "Badlands" and "Tree of Life" director. Since the shoot, Malick shot a second film (set around the Austin music scene... we think) and fought a few legal battles over his "Tree of Life" IMAX companion film "Voyage of Time." So we’ll forgive him that it’s taken this long for "Knight of Cups" to actually make its way on to the theater circuit and towards an actual release date.
Monday morning, the Dallas-Fort Worth film critics declared themselves major "Birdman" fans. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s backstage spectacle took the top spot on the DFW critics association’s 2014 best pictures list, as well as collecting awards for Best Actor (Michael Keaton), Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Director. In a nice surprise, DFWCA honored Reese Witherspoon with Best Actress, a prize she’s been continuously in the mix for with other group awards, but has rarely picked up.
The Broadcast Film Critics Association's (BFCA*) annual announcement of nominees is particularly informative for one key reason: it's a broad assessment of the year from a vast voting body. The only two such events prior to the end of the year tend to be this and the Screen Actors Guild's nominations announcement, each setting the early stage in terms of what seems to be appealing across a wide spectrum. Other guilds then add to that equation in January.
So where did the BFCA's chips end up this season?
I've sort of just sat back in muted horror all week as a lot of entertainment journalists have finally gotten their moment in the sun, to act like the Fourth Estate in the wake of the Sony hack, to act as if bitchy emails and spreadsheets documenting famous people's salaries somehow equate to The Pentagon Papers. I've read my computer screen, mouth agape, as writers have tried to explain it away as an unprecedented gray area, when all I see is fundamental black and white. The ethical ickiness has been shrill and it's been shrieking.
HOLLYWOOD — Unknowns making a big splash can be exciting in this industry. Just last year, Barkhad Abdi stood toe-to-toe with Tom Hanks and landed an Oscar nomination for his troubles, when just a year prior, he was driving a limo in Minneapolis trying to find his way. Rocker-turned-actor Miyavi is a different story, though. He never planned on acting. He had carved a place on the stage for himself long before Angelina Jolie came calling, but after "Unbroken," he might be getting a few more calls.
Also announcing awards Sunday was the San Francisco Film Critics Circle. Staples of the season were awarded: Richard Linklater, Michael Keaton, Julianne Moore, Edward Norton, Patricia Arquette, etc. And "Boyhood" was crowned the year's best film.
The nation's second-oldest critics organization, the Kansas City Film Critics Circle, joined in on the year-end kudos Sunday with a list of 2014's superlatives. And it was "Birdman" walking away with the group's best picture prize. Rosamund Pike won Best Actress for "Gone Girl" while "Obvious Child" won Best Adapted Screenplay, if you're looking for some real divergence.
"Birdman" is coming out really strong with the critics awards nominations lately, heading up another list this weekend with the Chicago Film Critics Association. The film picked up nine tips of the hat, with fellow critical darlings "Boyhood" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" not far behind. And a lovely note: naturally, "Life Itself," about the life of Chicago staple Roger Ebert, was nominated for Best Documentary as it continues to be one of the top contenders of that field. I picture him giving a hearty thumbs up to that.
Ever since she went head-to-head with Kirsten Dunst in "Bring It On," we've been waiting for Gabrielle Union to have her moment. She's shown glimpses of what a great actress she is, but she hasn't really found the role that could take her to the next level. Union's impressive play on a TV reality queen in Chris Rock's "Top Five" is just another welcome tease on how talented she really is.
The Women Film Critics Circle has announced nominees for the year, and it was Tommy Lee Jones' "The Homesman" that led the way with six total nominations. The Hilary Swank vehicle picked up nods for Best Movie About Women, Best Actor, Best Male Images in Movies and Best Ensemble, among others. Even though Hilary Swank was recognized for two specific acting categories, though, she was not nominated for Best Actress. Curious.