CFCA Announce 2014's Top Films and Filmmakers

"Boyhood," Richard Linklater's intimate epic charting the growth and maturation of a boy from the age of 7 to 18 that was filmed over a period of 12 years was the winner of the Chicago Film Critics Association award for the Best Picture of 2014 in a ceremony held Monday, December 15th. In addition to the top prize, the film won two other key awards with Linklater being named Best Director and Patricia Arquette voted Best Supporting Actress for her performance as the boy's mother, who undergoes her own set of changes over that time.

Two other films tied "Boyhood" for the number of awards received. "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Wes Anderson's whimsical comedy-drama about a concierge in a posh European hotel who becomes involved in intrigue while the world teeters on the brink of war earned Anderson the Original Screenplay prize and also won for Art Direction and tied for Best Cinematography. "Whiplash," the acclaimed indie drama charting the battle of wills between a highly ambitious musical prodigy and his teacher, both obsessed with perfection at all costs, saw its writer-director, Damien Chazelle, named Most Promising Filmmaker, co-star J.K. Simmons named Best Supporting Actor for his terrifying turn as the teacher and Tom Cross cited for Editing. The other title with multiple wins, the hallucinatory black comedy "Birdman," earned Michael Keaton the Best Actor award and also shared in the tie for the Cinematography prize.

Among the other winners from the group, now in its 25th year, Julianne Moore was named Best Actress for her heartbreaking performance as a woman stricken with early-onset Alzheimer's in "Still Alice," author Gillian Flynn won the Adapted Screenplay award for the adaptation of her best-seller "Gone Girl," rising star Jack O'Connell was named Most Promising Performer for his performances in the dramas "Starred Up" and "Unbroken" and Mica Levi won Best Original Score for the trippy soundscapes of "Under the Skin." The Foreign-Language Film award went to the dark comedy "Force Majeure" and "The Lego Movie" took the prize for Animated Feature. Finally, "Life Itself," Steve James's celebration of the life and work of the late Roger Ebert, was named Best Documentary.

All winners are listed below, and all films nominated in 2014 can be found here.

Follow @ChicagoCritics on Twitter for organization and member news, as well as updates on the 2015 Chicago Critics Film Festival.

The third annual Chicago Critics Film Festival will run May 1-7, 2015, at the Music Box Theatre. Screening information and special guest appearances will be announced as they are confirmed on both Twitter and

For further information on the awards or the Chicago Film Critics Association in general, please contact either CFCA president Dann Gire or board member Erik Childress at the following:

Dann Gire
Phone #: (847) 650-4229

Erik Childress
Phone #: (847) 439-5750


(For all films nominated for 2014 awards consideration, click here.)


BEST DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater -- Boyhood

BEST ACTOR: Michael Keaton -- Birdman

BEST ACTRESS: Julianne Moore -- Still Alice

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: J.K. Simmons -- Whiplash

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Patricia Arquette -- Boyhood

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Wes Anderson -- The Grand Budapest Hotel

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Gillian Flynn -- Gone Girl

BEST ART DIRECTION: The Grand Budapest Hotel

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY (TIE): Birdman -- Emmanuel Lubezki and The Grand Budapest Hotel -- Robert Yeoman

BEST EDITING: Whiplash -- Tom Cross

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Under the Skin -- Mica Levi




MOST PROMISING PERFORMER: Jack O'Connell -- Starred Up/Unbroken

MOST PROMISING FILMMAKER: Damien Chazelle -- Whiplash


CFCA Announce 2014 Award Nominees

From The Chicago Film Critics Association:

Although an especially nasty and vituperative critic was one of the many characters on display in the film "Birdman," the Chicago Film Critics Association apparently held no grudges, if the nominations for the group's 2014 film awards are any indication. The hallucinatory black comedy about a washed-up movie star desperately trying to restart his flagging career with a turn on Broadway led all comers with nine nominations, including Best Picture, nods for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, Michael Keaton for Best Actor, Edward Norton for Best Supporting Actor, Emma Stone for Best Supporting Actress and additional nominations for Cinematography, Editing and Original Score.

In second place with eight nominations was "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Wes Anderson's whimsical comedy-drama about a concierge in a posh European hotel who becomes involved in intrigue while the world teeters on the brink of war. In addition to Best Picture and nominations for Anderson for Director and Original Screenplay, it was also cited for Art Direction/Set Production Design, Cinematography, Editing, Original Score and newcomer Tony Revolori landed in the Most Promising Performer category. Following up with seven nominations was "Boyhood," Richard Linklater's intimate epic charting the growth and maturation of a boy over the course of a 12-year shooting period. In addition to Best Picture and Director/Original Screenplay slots for Linklater, there were nominations for Ethan Hawke for Supporting Actor, Patricia Arquette for Supporting Actress, Ellar Coltrane, the boy at the center of it all, for Most Promising Performer and a nod for Best Editing.

The acclaimed indie drama "Whiplash," charting the battle of wills between a highly ambitious musical prodigy and his teacher, both obsessed with perfection at all costs, came up with five nominations, including Best Picture, Original Screenplay for writer-director Damien Chazelle, Supporting Actor for J.K. Simmons's terrifying turn as the teacher and Best Editing. In a surprise, the fifth Best Picture slot was filled by "Under the Skin," Jonathan Glazer's alternately creepy and erotic sci-fi drama about an alien in human form wandering through the streets of Scotland looking for. . . something--the film also earned Scarlett Johannson a Best Actress nod for her performance as the alien as well as slots in the Adapted Screenplay and Original Score categories. The year's other mind-bending sci-fi film, "Interstellar," earned Christopher Nolan a Best Director nomination and additional citations for Art Direction/Production Design, Cinematography and Original Score.

Among the other notable standouts in this year's crop of nominees, British actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne find themselves going head-to-head in the Best Actor category for playing troubled geniuses in, respectively, "The Imitation Game" and "The Theory of Everything," the controversial "Gone Girl" received nominations for David Fincher for Director, Rosamund Pike for Actress, author Gillian Flynn for Adapted Screenplay and Editing and the adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's screw-loose detective novel "Inherent Vice" earned nominations for celebrated filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson for Adapted Screenplay, Josh Brolin for Supporting Actor and Cinematography. Foreign titles were also represented in several key categories as well--beside being cited in the Foreign-Language Film category, "Ida" earned nods for Supporting Actress (Agata Kulesza), Promising Performer (Agata Trzebuchowska) and Cinematography while the wrenching Belgian drama "Two Days, One Night" earned Marion Cotillard a Best Actress nomination. "Life Itself," Steve James's celebration of the life and work of the late Roger Ebert, was nominated for Best Documentary alongside such equally acclaimed titles as "Citizenfour," "Jodorowsky's Dune," "Last Days in Vietnam" and "The Overnighters."

Now in its 25th year, the CFCA will announce its winners during our year-end awards dinner to be held on the evening of December 15, 2014. Follow @ChicagoCritics on Twitter for the real-time announcement. 




The Grand Budapest Hotel

Under the Skin



Wes Anderson--The Grand Budapest Hotel

David Fincher--Gone Girl

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu--Birdman

Richard Linklater--Boyhood

Christopher Nolan--Interstellar


Benedict Cumberbatch--The Imitation Game

Jake Gyllenhaal--Nightcrawler

Michael Keaton--Birdman

David Oyelowo--Selma

Eddie Redmayne--The Theory of Everything


Marion Cotillard--Two Days, One Night

Scarlett Johannson--Under the Skin

Julianne Moore--Still Alice

Rosamund Pike--Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon--Wild


Josh Brolin--Inherent Vice

Ethan Hawke--Boyhood

Edward Norton--Birdman

Mark Ruffalo--Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons--Whiplash


Patricia Arquette--Boyhood

Jessica Chastain--A Most Violent Year

Laura Dern--Wild

Agata Kulesza--Ida

Emma Stone--Birdman 


Birdman--Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo

Boyhood--Richard Linklater

Calvary--John Michael McDonagh

The Grand Budapest Hotel--Wes Anderson

Whiplash--Damien Chazelle


Gone Girl--Gillian Flynn

The Imitation Game--Graham Moore

Inherent Vice--Paul Thomas Anderson

Under the Skin--Walter Campbell

Wild--Nick Hornby


Force Majeure



The Raid 2

Two Days, One Night



Jodorowsky's Dune

Last Days in Vietnam

Life Itself

The Overnighters


Big Hero 6

The Boxtrolls

How to Train Your Dragon 2

The Lego Movie

Tales of the Princess Kaguya


The Grand Budapest Hotel


Into The Woods

Only Lovers Left Alive



Birdman--Emmanuel Lubezki

The Grand Budapest Hotel--Robert Yeoman

Ida--Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal

Inherent Vice--Robert Elswit

Interstellar--Hoyte Van Hoytema 


Birdman--Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrion

Boyhood--Sandra Adair

Gone Girl--Kirk Baxter

The Grand Budapest Hotel--Barney Pilling

Whiplash--Tom Cross


Birdman--Antonio Sanchez

The Grand Budapest Hotel--Alexandre Desplat

The Imitation Game--Alexandre Desplat

Interstellar--Hans Zimmer

Under the Skin--Mica Levi


Ellar Coltrane--Boyhood

Gugu Mbatha-Raw--Belle/Beyond the Lights

Jack O'Connell--Starred Up/Unbroken

Tony Revolori--The Grand Budapest Hotel

Jenny Slate--Obvious Child

Agata Trzebuchowska--Ida


Damien Chazelle--Whiplash

Dan Gilroy--Nightcrawler

Jennifer Kent--The Babadook

Jeremy Saulnier--Blue Ruin

Justin Simien--Dear White People

Nominations By The Numbers


8--The Grand Budapest Hotel



4--Gone Girl, Ida, Interstellar, Under the Skin

3--The Imitation Game, Inherent Vice, Wild

2--Nightcrawler, Two Days, One Night

1--The Babadook, Belle, Beyond the Lights, Big Hero 6, Blue Ruin, The Boxtrolls, Calvary, Citizenfour, Dear White People, Force Majeure, Foxcatcher, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Into the Woods, Jodorowsky's Dune, Last Days in Vietnam, The Lego Movie, Life Itself, Mommy, A Most Violent Year, Obvious Child, Only Lovers Left Alive, The Overnighters, The Raid 2, Selma, Snowpiercer, Starred Up, Still Alice, Tale of the Princess Kaguya, The Theory of Everything, Unbroken


A Night with THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING's Eddie Redmayne

Sometimes, harsh weather is awesome. Case in point: I attended a private reception for the upcoming Stephen Hawking biopic, The Theory of Everything last night--which coincided with some nasty Chicago rain. After ten minutes of waiting in the Showplace ICON theatre's empty VIP lounge, I wondered if I'd made a horrible scheduling mistake.

Fortunately, I was soon joined by fellow critics/new friends Erika Olson from Redblog, and Jeanne and David Kaplan of Kaplan vs. Kaplan. We snacked, sipped, and collectively wondered where the hell everyone was. Twenty minutes into the event, star Eddie Redmayne (My Week with Marilyn, Les Miserables) strolled up to our group and plopped down in a black wooden chair (refusing to let anyone surrender one of our comfy white leather seats).

In total, Redmayne held court with six people for forty minutes--and not in a "ninetieth-stop-on-the-press-junket" way. He was casual, humble, open, and inquisitive, asking the group as much about our craft as film critics as we asked him about his amazing acting career. We also talked about the weather, and he marveled at The Windy City's eerie, rolling storm clouds (which, he remarked, are different than the ones back home in London).

I was recorder-free at the time, and can't offer up any quotes--but a few anecdotes stand out:

  • Both Hawking and Redmayne attended the University of Cambridge. The actor once saw Hawking in person, from afar, but never imagined playing him in a movie.
  •  Redmayne's interest in science peaked at age thirteen. He was drawn to The Theory of Everything both by Hawking's genius and by an extraordinary life story he felt deserved wider appreciation.
  • In preparation for filming, Redmayne spent over four months studying with doctors and patients at ALS treatment centers in the UK. The degenerative disease, he said, affects each person uniquely. He worked with a specialist to map out the particulars of Hawkings' movements, based solely on photographs taken at different phases of his life.
  • Due to scheduling conflicts, Redmayne and Hawking couldn't meet in person until five days before shooting began.
  • While on a break during filming of The Other Boleyn Girl, co-star Scarlett Johansson made a reference to The Big Lebowski--which Redmayne didn't understand. The theatre geek had spent his formative years not engrossed in classic cinema (he'd hadn't seen The Godfather, either). Johannson made a project out of asking everyone on set for their top five favorite films. She compiled a list that remains part of Redmayne's ongoing movie homework.*

A little after 7pm, Redmayne headed downstairs to introduce an advance screening of The Theory of Everything, and to participate in a Q&A hosted by The Chicago Sun-Times' Bill Zwecker. He posed for some quick pictures beforehand and warmly wished us a great evening. I didn't get to tell him what I thought of his performance afterwards (you'll have to wait 'til November 14th to read my review of the film).

Suffice it to say, the Oscar drum beat isn't just awards-season noise. Eddie Redmayne is the real deal, a bona fide force of nature.

Special thanks to Focus Features and Allied Integrated Marketing for this intimate and entertaining evening.

* Turns out this is not a new story, but Redmayne's delivery was as fresh as if it had happened last week.


BREAKING AWAY at Studio Movie Grill Wheaton!

On Wednesday, September 24th at 7:30pm, Patrick McDonald of and the Chicago Film Tour will host a screening of Breaking Away at Studio Movie Grill in Wheaton, IL! Afterwards, join Patrick for a fun, fact-packed Q&A about this Academy Award-winner, which was filmed on location at Indiana University and Bloomington, IN!

This event is co-sponsored by the Indiana University Alumni Association, Chicago Chapter.

You can order your $2 tickets here,* or purchase them at the box office. Special thanks to Studio Movie Grill and the Chicago Film Critics Association for sponsoring the last entry in SMG's "Film with a View" series!


CIFF 50 Gets Off to a Sweet Start

It's gonna be a long October. For this movie lover, pouring over the 50th Chicago International Film Festival's press kit is like getting a peek at Santa's checklist--and wondering if there's enough space for all the amazing things coming down the chimney.

To use another childhood analogy, last Monday's press breakfast was like the roll-out of a summer reading list: opening night isn't for another few weeks, but those covering screenings, red carpet events, and special guest appearances already have a mountain of homework to scale before a single marquee gets switched on.

(Considering the picture I chose to accompany this piece, I should probably have a cute food analogy at the ready. How's about, "I can't wait to bite into the Chicago International..." On second thought, let's move on.)

Let's be frank: CIFF isn't sexy like Toronto, Cannes, or even New York. But it is a sprawling, multi-week event that draws attention to films from around the world. Some will struggle to find distribution long after planning has begun for round fifty-one, while others are destined to be the subject of retrospectives at the seventy-fifth and one-hundredth-anniversary celebrations. Venues across the Windy City will come alive as cast and crew from dozens of productions show up to make their mark, and legends return home to greet the fans that put them on the map.

As a film critic with a non-film-critic day-job, CIFF is doubly daunting. It's tricky enough slotting in weekly reviews of mainstream and independent releases; deciding between screenings and screeners of films I'm unfamiliar with is a gauntlet of moviegoing multiverses. Will I regret seeing the German drama about a 14-year-old Catholic girl's obsession with religious purification (Stations of the Cross) over an Argentinian look at open gay relationships (The Third One)? Do I eat up half a Sunday by venturing downtown to see Oliver Stone present a double-bill of Natural Born Killers and his three-and-a-half-hour Alexander: Ultimate Edition--or do I stay home with Algren, Tir, and Evolution of a Criminal?

Should I take a morning off to attend one of the many screenings CIFF hosts for Chicago Public Schools, in which students and teachers watch films from the festival that tie thematically with their curriculum (and occasionally include discussions with the filmmakers afterwards)? Or is it better to sneak out at night for the "After Dark" program's eleven-movie descent into madness?

Is it logistically possible to squeeze in family time, a ten-hour work day, and a 35mm print of an Isabelle Huppert film at the Music Box? And don't get me started on the Highlander-like challenge of choosing only one mega-event to try and cover: Liv Ullman's opening-night film, Miss Julie (starring Jessica Chastain); the closing-night Reese Witherspoon odyssey, Wild; or one of the two Centerpiece Films, Richard LaGravenese's The Last 5 Years (starring Anna Kendrick) and St. Vincent, starring Chicagoans Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy.

Of course, I'll also need to set aside some mental "wild card" room for all the documentaries, shorts, exhibits, and panels.* At least I don't have to go through this alone. Tickets are now on sale, and you can view the packed lineup for the 50th Chicago International Film Festival (which runs October 9-23, by the way) at the festival's official Web site! Be sure to check back here in the coming weeks for news, reviews, rants, and raves.

See you at CIFF!

*All things considered, these are awesome problems to have.