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The Grand Budapest Hotel (Anderson, 2014)

Visionary director Wes Anderson throws the cynical filmgoing audience into his own pastel-painted world again in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Anderson is one of the most distinctive film directors working in the business today, with his over-the-top whimsy and nostalgia for “Old Hollywood” standing out among modern-day gritty reboots and mean-spirited comedies. With The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson brings the same visual panache featured in his other films, from The Royal Tenenbaums to Moonrise Kingdom, and features largely the same troupe of actors. On the surface, The Grand Budapest Hotel seems like just another warm-hearted ensemble comedy from Anderson, but the film takes some pleasantly surprising turns toward darkness, giving it an impressive level of stakes and gravitas.

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House of Cards – The Second Season

It’s funny how a readjustment of expectations can drastically alter your enjoyment of a TV viewing experience. When House of Cards debuted its entire first season on Netflix in February 2013, the political series was being hailed as TV’s next great drama and a brand-definer; Netflix’s version of The Sopranos. The cast featured two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey, movie star Robin Wright, American Horror Story’s Kate Mara and a whole host of underrated character actors. Not only that, the talent extended beyond the cast to the directors and producers, with people like David Fincher and James Foley. As such, there were huge expectations going into House of Cards in season 1 that it was bound to be hailed as a disappointment if it were anything less than perfect. While much of the response was positive, there was still a huge group of TV critics who considered it nothing special, a show that might not even succeed if it were on television proper. I considered myself among this group of critics sorely disappointed by the show’s many flaws. Regardless, the show garnered a number of Emmy nominations, a win for Fincher’s directing, and a key level of buzz to help build anticipation for season 2. Knowing that the show was nothing special, I watched the second season with an entirely different framework — that of a ridiculous, campy, plot twisty political soap opera — and I surprisingly found myself enjoying House of Cards a lot more.

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The Lego Movie (Lord and Miller, 2014)

The Lego Movie is the best film of 2014! Granted, it’s only February and the months before summer are mostly a barren wasteland of cheap horror movies and mind-numbing romantic comedies, but The Lego Movie is a rare gem among the crap. While its super-early release date suggests a lack of faith by the studio, the film manages to exceed beyond expectations and then some. That’s saying something, quite frankly, given how easy it would be for the film to coast on the Lego premise and the colorful animation just to help the company sell some more merchandise.

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2nd Annual Filmiest Awards – Winners (Part 2)

Welcome to part 2 of my winners announcement for the 2nd Annual Filmiest Awards! With eight trophies already handed out in part 1, we will now get to the biggest awards of them all. Click here to read or review part 1. On with the show! The first category to be announced tonight is Best Art Direction. The visual aesthetic of a film can be its most memorable part, whether it be through vibrant colors or muted tones. Last year’s winner, Life of Pi, represents the absolute beauty that filmmaking can produce, and this year’s winner is just as worthy.

The nominees for Best Art Direction are:
American Hustle
Design by Judy Becker and Heath Loeffler
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2nd Annual Filmiest Awards – Winners (Part 1)

Awards season is upon us, and the Filmiest Awards are just one of many to award the best in film. 2013 was one of the best film years in recent history, and many are set to become some of my favorites of all time. This is the second year for the Filmiest Awards, my own personal celebration of movie excellence. I will now present my awards in 16 categories over a two-day process.

Let’s get things started.

The award for Best Original Song celebrates the best use of a song written exclusively for a movie. Such a song must contribute to the overall benefit of the movie it’s intended for while also standing on its own as a genuinely outstanding song. Last year’s award for Best Original Song went to “Big Machine” from Safety Not Guaranteed. Let’s see which song is about to join this exclusive group.

The nominees for Best Original Song are:
“Becomes the Color” from Stoker
Music and lyrics by Emily Wells
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2nd Annual Filmiest Awards – Nominations

I hereby present the 2nd Annual Filmiest Awards, otherwise known as my own personal awards for the year 2013. This has been an absolutely incredible year for film, and each nomination I’ve made is earned. No fillers anywhere.  Here are my nominations in 16 categories:

“Becomes the Color” from Stoker
“The Moon Song” from Her
“Please Mr. Kennedy” from Inside Llewyn Davis
“Together” from The Great Gatsby
“Young and Beautiful” from The Great Gatsby

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Nebraska (Payne, 2013)

Nebraska isn’t a film that should have worked. Road trip movies featuring a pair of mismatched people have become of one the biggest cliches in cinema, a tired concept that’s been covered for generations. When you consider the fact that the lead character of the film is in his ‘80s and seemingly on the brink of death, director Alexander Payne had an uphill battle going into this film. And yet, what he has created is one of the most unique pieces of artistic cinema of the year. Nebraska stars Bruce Dern as Woody Grant, an 80-year-old ordinary man from Billings, Montana who receives a letter stating that he has won $1 million. He doesn’t trust the U.S. postal service and he can’t drive anymore, so he sets off on a walk to Nebraska to claim his grand prize. Everyone around him thinks he’s gone senile in his old age, knowing that the letter is just a scam to get gullible people to subscribe to magazines they don’t need. His wife Kate (June Squibb) has grown tired of his antics and his son David (Will Forte) is a mild-mannered electronics salesman who’s grown distant from his family. Both realize that the letter is an obvious scam, but only David wishes to let Woody indulge in his “fantasy.”