The International Online Film Critics’ Poll has announced the winners its 2013/14 survey. I was honored to have been asked to participate for the fourth edition of this poll (see previous surveys here). I was worried when I saw Scorsese’s messy, unchecked ego-trip of a movie, The Wolf of Wall Street among the nominees in one too many categories. Everyone knows my disdain for the film, which reeks of missteps in film-making from someone I consider a master movie maker, and my review of the film in 2013 still continues to attract like-minded film-goers who have made the comment section a sort of sanctuary for their equal disdain for the film (Film review: ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ is one nasty, vulgar film about nasty, vulgar people– for 3 hours!). It made the top 10, but nothing else. No, the big winner was not a huge surprise. Over a hundred on-line film critics from around the globe were polled, and they gave the major awards to Boyhood (Film review: ‘Boyhood’ is Linklater’s masterpiece on youth, existence and humanity), which should speak to its chances at the Oscars, as it rose above last year’s major Oscar winner, 12 Years a Slave.

Other big winners were Gravity (Film Review: ‘Gravity’ harnesses the power of uncut images to thrilling heights) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (Film Review: ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ may be cartoonish, but it’s also one of Wes Anderson’s most human films). As the headline for my Gravity review indicates, the film won the deserved prize for editing and other technical prizes: cinematography and special effects. When I got my ballot, I almost went down the row voting for The Grand Budapest Hotel, but at least it also won three prizes (ensemble cast, production design and score).


I’ll never protest Michael Keaton’s win for Birdman. He’s terrific in this intelligently subversive film (Film review: ‘Birdman’ lampoons Hollywood with humorous, hyper-real, hero-hating satire). But my fave will always be Ralph Fiennes for his work in Grand Budapest Hotel, even if I am biased for having had a chance to interview him for the film (Ralph Fiennes on Working With Wes Anderson: “A True Auteur in the Best Sense”). His thoughtful answers to my questions spoke to how deeply he connected to this character.

I have no real complaints about the results of the poll. All are deserving winners and include some favorites. I am particularly happy that many critics did not forget such great foreign language films as Ida (‘Ida’ comes to South Florida in 35mm; My review appears in ‘Reverse Shot’), The Great Beauty (Film Review: ‘The Great Beauty’ earns it’s title by looking beyond the superficial) and Blue is the Warmest Color (Film Review: ‘Blue Is the Warmest Color’ and the pain of loving). But too bad Something in the Air (Film Review: ‘Something in the Air’ presents vibrant picture of youth in tumult) and Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ presents complex, enthralling portrait of the jaded vampire) were both missing.

OK, enough links to our old reviews glowing with praise for most of these films. Below is the official press release. Winners are in bold and my picks have an asterisk next to them:


The International Online Film Critics’ Poll is proud to announce its  winners for the 4th biannual awards for excellence in film. Founded in 2007, the IOFCP is the only biannual poll of film critics from all around the world (over one hundred critics from USA, UK, Italy, Spain, Canada, France, Mexico, Australia, India, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, South Africa, Serbia, Poland, Romania, Estonia, Pakistan, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden). The awards are biannual to allow the comparison of different film seasons.

The IOFCP voted the coming-of-age drama Boyhood as Best Film, according to the results of its biannual critics’ poll which was released on January 26. Director Richard Linklater was voted as Best Director and Patricia Arquette won Best Supporting Actress award.

Michael Keaton was voted Best Actor of the biennium for his performance in Birdman, and Cate Blanchett won Best Actress award for Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine.

Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel won Best Ensemble Cast, Best Production Design and Best Original Score. Another big winner was Gravity with three awards: Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Best Visual Effects.

For the screenplays, Spike Jonze’s romantic comedy-drama Her was chosen as Best Original Screenplay. Instead Best Adapted Screenplay went to Steve McQueen’s Academy Award winner 12 Years a Slave.

At last, for his performance in Whiplash, J.K. Simmons was awarded as Best Supporting Actor of the biennium.

Past IOFCP Awards winners include Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Inglourious Basterds and Slumdog Millionaire.

Complete list of winners (and nominations)

TOP TEN FILMS (alphabetical list)

12 Years a Slave
Blue is the Warmest Colour
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Great Beauty
The Imitation Game
The Wolf of Wall Street


12 Years a Slave
The Grand Budapest Hotel*

The Wolf of Wall Street


Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman
Richard Linklater – Boyhood
Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel*
Paolo Sorrentino – The Great Beauty
Roman Polanski – Venus in Fur


Michael Keaton – Birdman
Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel*
Mads Mikkelsen – The Hunt
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street


Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Adele Exarchopoulos – Blue is the Warmest Colour*
Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl
Julianne Moore – Still Alice
Marion Cotillard – The Immigrant


Edward Norton – Birdman*
Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons – Whiplash


Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave*
Emma Stone – Birdman
Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine
Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
June Squibb – Nebraska


12 Years a Slave
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game


The Grand Budapest Hotel*


12 Years a Slave*
Gone Girl
The Imitation Game
The Wolf of Wall Street


The Great Beauty


Mr. Turner
The Grand Budapest Hotel*
The Imitation Game


The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Wolf of Wall Street


The Grand Budapest Hotel*
The Imitation Game


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

* * *

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)


Yesterday you had a chance to see the bottom half of my 20 favorite films and film experiences of 2014 (The best movies of 2014, according to Hans Morgenstern — Part 1). As you might have noticed, this year felt tricky for me and cinema, as it was hard to find movies, especially more popular ones, that satisfied this writer’s need for that transcendent moment in film. So I have added shorts and multimedia in the mix and, dare I say, visual art. Ultimately, I seek out experiences in movies that offer more than stories. It’s a personal choice, but if I didn’t have this personal choice I wouldn’t have the drive to write about moving images the way I do.

Without further ado, here are my top 10 movies of 2014. Like yesterday’s post, where available, all titles link to the item description page on Amazon. If you purchase via the specific link, you will be financially supporting this blog. If we reviewed it here, there will be a link to the review under the poster art. Finally if we haven’t reviewed it, I’ll share a few words about the film’s significance. Let’s begin with another short:

10. “Crème Caramel” by Canada

Commissioned by the art and culture blog Nowness for its hit and miss series “Defining Beauty,” this short is the series’ crowning achievement. It’s by a group of filmmakers from Spain called Canada. It’s shot in 35mm and beautifully composed featuring a great tune by French band La Femme. It’s hilarious in its objectification of a woman, but it has a great build up to a sly payoff at film’s end. It’s also NSFW.

9. Norte, The End of History


Completely contrary to the short film above is this four-hour-and-ten-minute film by the brilliant Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz. The pay-off also has great impact but asks the viewer for patient attentiveness. Norte, The End of History explores a law student’s descent into madness after getting away with murder and a parallel story of a man falsely imprisoned for the killing, as he comes to terms with his injustice. The film’s ironic twist is earned through both long, thoughtful conversation and quiet, deliberate pacing.

8. The Summer of Flying Fish

The_Summer_of_Flying_Fish-613336225-largeRead my review in the “Miami New Times”

7. Under the Skin

UTS posterRead my review

6. Ida

ida_ver2Read my review in “Reverse Shot”

5. Love Song R. Buckminster Fuller


Here’s that multimedia experience alluded to in yesterday’s postThe Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller is so much more than a slide show with film clips because documentary filmmaker Sam Green is such a grand storyteller. He doesn’t simply present weird facts about a man sometimes called the 20th century’s Leonardo DaVinci. He offers a poetic tribute to thinking outside the box and the rewards to the self as well as society. And it helps that the legendary New Jersey indie band Yo La Tengo are live, off to the side of the screen providing a sublimely atmospheric musical accompaniment. Thanks to MDC Live Arts for bringing this multimedia documentary to Miami.

4. Boyhood

BOYHOOD_finalposterRead my review

3. Goodbye To Language 3D

goodbye-to-language-3d-posterRead my review

2. The Grand Budapest Hotel

GRAND-BUDAPEST-HOTEL-POSTER-570Read my review and an interview with Ralph Fiennes

1. Only Lovers Left Alive

only-lovers-left-alive-poster1Read my review

And that’s it! We’re very busy for next year. Surprisingly, early January is quite active: I loved Winter Sleep, Ana has glowing words for Selma, and we have preview appointments with the Dardennes’ Two Days, One Night and Liv Ullman’s Miss Julie with a favorite actress, Jessica Chastain. Plus, once again, IndieEthos is invited to introduce a couple of key films at the upcoming Miami Jewish Film Festival (Jan. 15 – 29). I will host Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem and Ana will host Zero Motivation. We also plan to participate in Q&As after the screenings. You might want to get tickets for Zero Motivation now because ticket sales are brisk. Both screenings of Gett are already sold out.


Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2014 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

GRAND-BUDAPEST-HOTEL-POSTER-570Featuring an undercurrent of death, the looming menace of fascism and wrapped in a century’s worth of nostalgia, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel stands as yet another brilliant masterstroke of colorful cinema hiding a profound affection for humanity by the American director. Despite what you might think, Anderson has not forgotten his sense of humor. Although, at some points in the film, you may feel confused about whether to laugh or cringe at the events that befall these poor characters at a break-neck, deadpan pace.

The key to the film lies in memory. It plays a central role in how the action unfolds. The Grand Budapest Hotel opens in the modern world with a young, “edgy” girl paying tribute to a monument devoted to an unnamed “author.” Then the film travels to the memory of that author alive in 1985 and his reflecting on his younger years in 1968 and a story he was once told about a 1933-era concierge. Anderson wryly uses various aspect ratios to denote the different times, or better put: layers of memory. The music of Alexandre Desplat has an appropriately ghostly quality throughout the film. On many occasions bells and chimes echo, drums hiss with brushes and vibrant zithers tremolo. And, no, there are no catchy ’60s Brit-pop songs thrown into the mix. Once again, Anderson has created a different kind of film, albeit one from his very particular world (See also: ‘Moonrise Kingdom’: a different kind of Wes Anderson film).


Then, of course, there is the mise-en-scène‎ and colors, a sort of hyper-reality featuring pinks, purples and reds. The titular hotel, situated in the made-up country of Zubrowka, during the key era of the 4:3 aspect ratio (the 1930s), gleams with opulence. Anderson’s restlessly panning camera lens has never felt more alive than in this beautifully designed environment that looks like a life-size doll house, and Robert D. Yeoman’s cinematography slurps it all to luscious effect.

Finally, the characters:  Our hero, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes acting as if he were a born Anderson player), displays an amazing, if sometimes questionable, work ethic at the distinguished hotel. Though war is looming, his main concern is to serve— and service— the many elderly women who seem to vacation at the hotel. Fiennes’ dry delivery of Anderson’s quippy dialogue both reflects Gustave’s incredible seriousness while concealing a singular sort of solitude. His gregariousness directed toward older women and his passion for his job is complimented with an effeteness that is never wholly confirmed, left unfulfilled. It highlights his lonely existence. On his own, he practically lives and sleeps in nothing but a broom closet.

Digital Fusion Image Library TIFF File

All around Gustave is a rich cast of characters who never take away too much presence from this wonderfully rich yet solitary character. Adrien Brody and Willem Dafoe play sinister fellows dressed in black. Meanwhile, Saoirse Ronan and Tony Revolori play young innocents in puppy love. In between all manner of people appear and sometimes die off, Jeff Goldblum’s attorney Kovacs is met one particularly gruesome end, preceded by a minor bit of dismemberment dealt by the often sneering and silent Jopling (Dafoe).

The film’s plot is loose but has a caper-like quality involving an inheritance, a priceless painting and murder. There are jail breaks and chases. Anderson’s new-found affection for action sequences played out by animation and puppets fits the times where much of the action unfolds. The archaic special effects, just like the square aspect ratio, speak to the era. That these thrilling sequences still feel compelling, though almost laughably phony, proves the realism of digital effects overrated. The Grand Budapest Hotel is so richly staged and its characters feel so compelling, you will become rapt in the suspense regardless, just as you would watching a classic film from that time.

02 Jeremy a6

Ultimately, though, it’s the character of Gustave who embodies the hotel in its heyday and seems to resonate with a vividness that gives the film an immutable luster. He holds the movie together in all its topsy-turvy madness to ultimately celebrate true, honest, steadfast character. Because he stands as a man alone, he builds respectful relationships and allegiances. It’s a romantic notion to think anyone, though, goes off into the sunset with anybody else, but there’s always the heart and memory. Like all good things, we know the Grand Budapest will fall into languor once his presence disappears, but those stories will forever live on and matter to these characters in this oddly sincere world where malice can never have the last say.

*  *  *

Note: I interviewed actor Ralph Fiennes ahead of the film’s release. You can read my full interview with him on the art and culture blog “Cultist” from the “Miami New Times.” Jump through the image below:

cultist banner

Hans Morgenstern

The Grand Budapest hotel runs 100 minutes and is rated R (there are a few shocks in sex and violence and some intense language). Fox Searchlight Pictures invited me to a preview screening last month for the purpose of the interview and this review. The film opens in wide release today.

(Copyright 2014 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)