Southeastern Film Critics Association Picks THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL as Best Film of 2014; SELMA Misses the Top 10 List

     December 22, 2014


As a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association, I feel compelled to report on how our group voted every year even though I admit we’re not the biggest group or among the most influential.  In past years, the word “disappointed” has come up in my articles, but this year I’m excited for our top choice because it can change the awards conversation.  While many groups are voting for Boyhood or Birdman for Best Film, SEFCA went with Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel, and also awarded the movie Best Original Screenplay, Best Ensemble, and runner-up for Best Cinematography.  Although Budapest Hotel isn’t my favorite movie of the year, I liked it more than Boyhood and Birdman, and have no problem with it being the association’s choice for Best Film.

The Top 10 list was also fairly well-rounded with SEFCA choosing challenging films like Snowpiercer and Nightcrawler alongside crowd-pleasers like The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything.  However, one film that didn’t make the Top 10 was Selma, which is a glaring omission when you consider the film’s setting and the geography of our group.  Hit the jump for my explanation on why the film may have missed the cut, and for the full list of winners.

selma-posterHere’s a fact about critics organizations: some get more love than others.  That’s how influence works.  Studios go out of their way to get screeners and screenings to the Broadcast Film Critics Association because they have the Critics Choice Awards, a nationally televised television program, which is huge.  But SEFCA doesn’t vote early in the race and when we do vote, our choices rarely upend conventional wisdom.  This results in fewer screeners and screenings.

In Atlanta, there was only one SEFCA screening for Selma, and Paramount did not send out any screeners.  Consider that Atlanta is the biggest city in the Southeast and then extrapolate that to how the studio must have handled other regions in our territory.  As was noted in our press release by SEFCA President Philip Martin:

“Probably not more than 25 percent of the membership had the opportunity to see Selma before voting,” Martin said. “But those who had seen it voted for it in overwhelming numbers.”

I want to make this clear because even though Selma did win “The Gene Wyatt Award for the Film that Best Evokes the Spirit of the South”, there’s far less competition in that category, so it didn’t need as many votes.  My concern is that people might think that the critics in the South didn’t vote for Selma because of discrimination since that’s one of the things the South is known for (these people may not know we voted 12 Years a Slave Best Picture last year).  This wasn’t because of discrimination, but rather because Selma didn’t reach enough of our members.

I don’t know for certain if a wider availability would have gotten the movie into the top ten, but I know that the lack of screenings definitely hurt its chances, and honestly I think the movie could have been named our Best Picture if Paramount had made more of an effort to get the film to our members.

Here’s the press release, which contains the full list of winners:

The Grand Budapest Hotel takes top honors in Southeastern Critics poll

the-grand-budapest-hotel-posterTwo Texas directors fought it out for the No. 1 spot in the Southeastern Film Critics Association’s  (SEFCA) annual poll of the year’s best films, with Wes Anderson’s highly stylized comedy The Grand Budapest Hotel edging Richard Linklater’s 12-years-in the making meditation on male adolescence Boyhood, with Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman finishing a close third.

“This was one of the closest races I can remember,” SEFCA president Philip Martin, the chief film critic at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette said. “I believe Boyhood was actually mentioned on more ballots.”

In the Best Director race, Linklater edged out Anderson, while Budapest won for both “Best Ensemble” and “Best Original Screenplay.” (Birdman was the runner-up in the two latter categories.)

As far as the chief individual awards, Michael Keaton took Best Actor honors for his role as the troubled movie star trying to re-invigorate his career on Broadway in Birdman, while Julianne Moore won Best Actress for her turn as a linguists professor afflicted by early onset Alzheimer’s in Still Alice.

The group’s Wyatt Award, named in memory of SEFCA charter member Gene Wyatt and awarded annually to the film that best captures the spirit of the South, went to Selma.

“Probably not more than 25 percent of the membership had the opportunity to see Selma before voting,” Martin said. “But those who had seen it voted for it in overwhelming numbers.”

The SEFCA Awards are bestowed annually by the Southeastern Film Critics Association, which is made up of professional film critics in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. This year, 54 critics cast votes.


Top Ten

grand-budapest-hotel-poster1. The Grand Budapest Hotel

2. Boyhood

3. Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

4. Whiplash

5. The Imitation Game

6. Gone Girl

7. Snowpiercer

8. Nightcrawler

9. Foxcatcher

10. The Theory of Everything

Best Actor

1. Michael Keaton, Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

2. Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Best Actress

1. Julianne Moore, Still Alice

2. Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Best Supporting Actor

1. J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

2. Edward Norton, Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Best Supporting Actress

1. Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

2. Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer

Best Ensemble

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel

2. Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Best Director

boyhood-richard-linklater1. Richard Linklater, Boyhood

2. Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Original Screenplay

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel: Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness

2. Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo

Best Adapted Screenplay

1. Gone Girl: Gillian Flynn

2. Wild: Nick Hornby

Best Documentary

1. Life Itself

2. CitizenFour

Best Foreign Language Film

1. Force Majeure

2. Ida

Best Animated Film

1. The Lego Movie

2. Big Hero 6

Best Cinematography

1. Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): Emmanuel Lubezki

2. The Grand Budapest Hotel: Robert Yeoman

The Gene Wyatt Award for the Film that Best Evokes the Spirit of the South

1. Selma

2. Cold in July


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