2014 was a great year for film, literature, and music. Following several sparse and disappointing years of subpar, generic films (remember when Silver Linings Playbook was nominated for several Oscars?), we were thrilled to have some damn hard decisions to make for this year’s Urchies. In fact, the Film of the Year category was so highly disputed as to occasion our first ever tie. This year, we not only feel passionately about the winners, but advocate strongly for the nominees as well. There is not a single weak link or Silver Linings Playbook-esque nomination to pad out a category. 2014 bore some incredibly innovative and collaborative works, and we’re thrilled to present our nominees and winners for the 6th Annual Urchie Awards.
Book of the Year
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright
Going Clear, first published in January 2013, was released in paperback the following November, and continues to illicit buzz. Amazingly, there is nothing sensationalist about this book on Scientology; this is a remarkable feat considering its subject matter, a religion that boasts some of the most famous members in the world, yet whose inner workings remain shrouded in secrecy. Not only is it captivating, fascinating, and very solidly written, but it is courageous journalism. Author Lawrence Wright risked (and probably continues to risk) who knows how much in his attempts to cover previously unknown and altogether disputed facts about the mysterious religion. With a high-profile HBO documentary adaptation forthcoming, expect this Urchie-winning book to continue making waves.
33 ⅓ series
The Chain by Ted Genoways
Writer of the Year
The Urchin Movement, along with so many other people, have always known how great Jon Stewart is. When he announced last week that he would be leaving his post at The Daily Show after 14 years at the helm, we really began to reflect on how much his work, as well as the work of his writing staff, has impacted the way we understand news and media, all while remaining gut-bustingly funny.
This year Stewart also took the massive leap from political comedy writing for television to writing and directing Rosewater, a dramatic feature film. Stewart adapted his screenplay from formerly imprisoned Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari’s memoir Then They Came for Me. As we had hoped, Stewart’s writing and direction did not disappoint. Both elegantly, succinctly, and with emotion devoid of mawkish sentimentality told Bahari’s story, which is the story of so many journalists today. The screenplay was not only a coup for Stewart, but for journalists the world over who consistently risk their lives in order to disseminate truth.
Film of the Year
Boyhood is minimalist in its storytelling, yet sinks its emotional hooks directly into your heart and gut. Unlike the oftentimes heavy handed filmmaking of late, writer and director Richard Linklater doesn’t try to force the audience to any particular intellectual or emotional place, but rather trusts the narrative and characters he has created to tell their story.
More impressive, however, is Linklater’s ability to trust himself. Any artist will tell you how difficult it is to refrain from constant editing/rewriting/reworking. Boyhood was filmed over 12 years, meaning that Linklater had to trust himself enough to be satisfied with each year’s filming. As the actors aged, there could be no rewrites to the script or reshooting of scences. Linklater, his collaborators, and actors trusted the process, and the result is an astoundingly seamless artistic feat.
Birdman doesn’t seem to pass itself off as innovative, which is indeed part of its strength. Nothing really is new, which is another concept it does not hide, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t done well. In film alone there are many movies that comment on its own futility, on art’s futility, on the artist’s futility, and such results exist because the special ego we attribute to artists allows them to transcend such futility, or at least make everyone believe that they did. And each time this happens, and each time it is done well, the Goddess of Irony sits back and laughs, maybe. Or maybe she shrugs. She seems more like a shrugger.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Event of the Year (Art Exhibit/Theatrical Production/Concert/Performance)
The standout star of Sydney’s Bell Skakespeare production of Tartuffe was the new translation by Australian playwright Justin Fleming, who somehow managed to maintain both Moliere’s original style of humour and the rhyme scheme while updating the language to modern Australian English. Anna Cordingley’s design was stunning as well as flawlessly functional, and perfectly utilised by director Peter Evans and the stellar cast. It was a true ensemble performance, with not a single weak link and only one slightly sparklier star in Kate Mulvany as Dorine, but all shone in turn throughout.
Kanye West’s Yeezus tour
tUnE-yArDs Nikki Nack tour
Exemplary Human Being
Jimmy Fallon is a nice guy. It’s not an act, and it is damn infectious. In a world where cynicism and negativity reign, and nice guys get steamrolled, taken advantage of, and finish last, Jimmy dares to be happy. He has maintained a sincere and unaffected level of joy throughout his career, and has now brought it to The Tonight Show, in what we would argue is one of the most drastic and successful transformations of such a show in history. In addition to the unbridled enthusiasm he brings to every monologue, interview, and bit, Jimmy has completely reinvented the late night staple, when he could have easily relied on its name, time slot, and reputation for success. And he’s done it all with great humour, humility, and kindness, a great example for us all.
Album of the Year
Black Messiah by D’Angelo
The back story that accompanies this release would’ve been good enough, even if the album itself turned out subpar. If you thought you were having a hard time waiting those 14 years for D’Angelo to release his follow-up to 2000’s Voodoo, the musician himself had an even harder time making it. Eventually, after presumably overcoming a lot of personal hardships, D’Angelo and his band The Vanguard released an incredible album, one that sounds so continual and so organic, both in its approach and in its expertise, that it could’ve made its mark during any decade from the 1970s on.
Beyoncé by Beyoncé
LP1 by FKA Twigs
Briton of the Year
2014 will go down as the year the world became fully, and finally, acquainted with Benedict Cumberbatch’s genius. Though he has received praise for his earier roles in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (a former Urchie winner), Star Trek Into Darkness, 12 Years a Slave, The Fifth Estate, and August: Osage County, 2014 was the year he entered the public consciousness and BC appreciation reached fever pitch.
And there could be no actor more deserving. A classically trained actor in the English tradition (Cumberbatch has an MA in Classical Acting from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art), he may well be one of our greatest living talents. Plus, a romantic after our own hearts, this past weekend Cumberbatch wed playwright Sophie Hunter on Valentine’s Day. As Geo said, a wife and an Urchie in one week! Livin’ the dream! Congrats, Ben.
Travel Destination of the Year
Two out of three Urchins agree: New Zealand is their top travel destination. The long time golden darling of the travelling community, this remote Southern Hemisphere nation has something for every travel style. The uber hip capital of Wellington hosts art galleries, music venues, cafes, and museums, including the absolute must-see Te Papa Museum.
From there, get into the outdoors. Enjoy several days hiking on one of new Zealand’s Great Walks or experience tramping like a Kiwi on a Department of Conservation track. The Travers-Sabine Circuit on the South Island is a great opportunity to utilise new Zealand’s famous hut system and tackle some difficult yet oh-so-rewarding mountains.
While the restaurant scene is nothing to write home about, nearly every town has a backpackers or holiday park with a kitchen, so make your own dinner and save up for the $$$ beer.
This Urchie season marks Margaret’s grand 3,000km trek across New Zealand and Sarah’s first return to the Land of the Long White Cloud after living there three years ago. If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to pack your bags, we’re not sure what will.