"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.
"Birdman" has led with the most nominations from another critics group, this time the San Francisco Film Critics Circle. The film picked up nine nominations. A distant second was "Boyhood" with six. Most interesting tip of the hat? To Gene Jones, nominated for Best Supporting Actor in "The Sacrament."
I love the roving European Film Awards. They're held in a different city every other year, often touching base in Berlin in between. This time around, the Latvian capital of Riga was the scene, where "Ida" took top honors for European film of the year. No surprise, really, as the film led the way with nominations and won four other prizes besides, including Best Director. Timothy Spall ("Mr. Turner") and Marion Cotillard ("Two Days, One Night") took top acting honors.
"Foxcatcher" was a pretty arduous ordeal, according to screenwriters E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman. It was something that only existed in the head of director Bennett Miller, who saw potent drama in the story of John du Pont and the wrestling brothers Schultz, Dave and Mark, but couldn't quite intimate what that was. Frye started chiseling away first, and latter Futterman came on to do more work. The result is a film that resonates on every level, the hard work clearly having paid off.
In a very open Oscar race for Best Original Score, Marco Beltrami's compositions for Tommy Lee Jones' western "The Homesman" may well find themselves in the final five. He has earned two previous nominations somewhat unexpectedly ("3:10 to Yuma" and "The Hurt Locker") and his latest endeavor very much set the mood of Jones's progressive period piece.
The Broadcast Film Critics Association announces nominees Monday. It will be interesting to see which way they (well, we; I'm a member) go. Unlike the other critics groups that have announced so far, the BFCA — which, it should be pointed out, isn't completely made of critics, a line increasingly blurred — is a vast organization with something like 300 members. So within that, you can get a bead on consensus. Anyway, that's Monday. For now, the organization has announced a number of special awards for the Jan. 15 ceremony.
This year's Best Original Song Oscar race hasn't really achieved much lift-off. Of course, the contenders have been obvious. "Lost Stars" from "Begin Again" may well be the best of them, though "Everything is Awesome" from "The LEGO Movie" certainly has its punch-drunk fans.
If you thought the recent Golden Globes nominations slighted some of the better performances this year, allow the Santa Barbara International Film Festival to shine its spotlight on some of the underdogs (along with a few major contenders we can’t cynically roll our eyes at — they’re just too lovable).