My favorite time of the year has finally come. It’s the time when I can finally take a break from reporting on other individuals and groups choices for best of the year and actually focus on my own. If any of you missed last year’s, here’s a link to last year’s big list. Over the next week, leading up to the Oscars, I’ll be writing a series of posts that will encompass my feelings on the 2011 year in films. I’ll start things out with my Top Ten List, featured here, followed by two posts chronicling the nominations and winners of the 2nd Annual Edgy Awards. Hopefully, I can maintain concentration and get all of this done before the entire awards season comes to a head.
To be quite honest, this is probably my least favored year of films in terms of quality in at least a decade. I’m not sure what exactly went wrong or rubbed me the wrong way, but there was something lacking in the overall caliber of releases. Disappointing to say the least. Perhaps, it’s not even the overall batch of films, but rather some favorites of the film critic and connoisseur community just did not register in my book. Yet, even with the diminished standard, I still feel compelled to give a shout out of recognition to the films that were more than respectable. The following seven films, listed alphabetically, are some examples of damn fine filmmaking, but had just a few too many flaws that kept them out the final ten.
Here we go. The runners-up are as follows:
Written and Directed by
A delightful and sometimes intriguing romp into the throwback world of silent filmmaking, highlighted by some great design qualities and a stellar lead performance by Jean Dujardin. Yet, the film really suffers from having…well…nothing really important to say or leave us with.
Well, here we go. The NYFCC wanted to be first and now they definitely get their wish. They’re choices will either deify them for setting the tone of the next two months or make them look like fools. We shall see.
Keep checking back as I update this page with each award as they are announced and I’ll round it out with my insights when all is said and done.
BEST PICTURE: “The Artist”
BEST DIRECTOR: Michael Hazanavicius – “The Artist”
BEST ACTOR: Brad Pitt – “Moneyball” and “The Tree of Life”
BEST ACTRESS: Meryl Streep – “The Iron Lady”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Albert Brooks – “Drive”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Jessica Chastain – “The Help,” “Take Shelter” and “The Tree of Life”
BEST SCREENPLAY: “Moneyball” by Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zallian
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: “The Tree of Life” by Emmanuel Lubezki
BEST FIRST FEATURE: “Margin Call” dir. J.C. Chandor
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “A Separation” dir. Asghar Farhadi
BEST NON-FICTION FILM: “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” dir. Werner Herzog
There are four major film festivals that occur in the world which Oscar pundits eagerly anticipate. Sundance kicks things off in Utah during January. Springtime brings about the prestige and glory of the Cannes in southern France. The season is then capped off with bicoastal festivals in Venice, Italy and Toronto, Ontario, both occurring in the month of September.
Presently, we’re halfway through the year and September is fast approaching. While the TIFF announced its lineup last week, Venice has recently joined the club. Both showings are killer and contain more than a few likely contenders. Expect “The Ides of March,” “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and “A Dangerous Method” to develop as Oscar contenders (as well as a good horse to bet on for the Festival’s prize). However, don’t count out “Carnage” (featured below) directed by European favorite Roman Polanski or “Shame” the sophomore effort by Steve McQueen to take home the Venice gold.
Here is the lineup for the 2011 Venice Film Festival:
Venice 2011 Competition
The Ides Of March – George Clooney (US) [opening film]
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – Tomas Alfredson (UK, Germany)
Wuthering Heights – Andrea Arnold (UK)
Texas Killing Fields – Ami Canaan Maan (US)
Quando La Notte – Cristina Comencini (Italy)
Terraferma – Emanuele Crialese (Italy/France)
A Dangerous Method – David Cronenberg (Germany/Canada)
4:44 Last Day On Earth – Abel Ferrara (US)
Killer Joe – William Friedkin (US)
Un Ete Brulant – Philippe Garrel (France/Italy/Switzerland)
A Simple Life (Taojie) – Ann Hui (China/Hong Kong)
The Exchange (Hahithalfut) – Eran Kolirin (Israel)
Alps (Alpeis) -Yorgos Lanthimos (Greece)
Shame – Steve McQueen (UK)
L’ultimo Terrestre – Gian Alfonso Pacinotti (Italy)
Carnage – Roman Polanski (France/Germany/Spain/Poland)
Chicken With Plums – Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud (France/Belgium/Germany)
Faust – Aleksander Sokurov (Russia)
Dark Horse – Todd Solondz (US)
Himizu – Sion Sono (Japan)
Seediq Bale – Wei Te-Sheng (Taiwan)
Out of Competition
Vivan las Antipodas! – Victor Kossakovsky
(Germany/Argentina/Holland/Chile/Russia) [opening film]
Damsels In Distress – Whit Stillman (US) [closing film]
La Folie Almayer – Chantal Akerman (Belgium/France)
The Sorcerer And The White Snake (Baish Echuanshuo) – Tony Ching Siu-Tung (China/Hong Kong)
Giochi D’estate – Rolando Colla (Switzerland/Italy)
La Desintegration – Philippe Fauchon (Belgium)
The Moth Diaries – Mary Harron (Canada/Ireland)
Alois Nebel – Tomas Lunak (Czech Republic/Germany)
W.E. – Madonna (UK)
Eva – Kike Maillo (UK)
Scossa – Francesco Maselli, Carlo Lizzani, Ugo Gregoretti, Nino Russo (Italy)
La Cle Des Champs – Claude Nuridsany, Marie Perennou (France)
Il Villaggio Di Cartone – Ermanno Olmi (Italy)
Wilde Salome – Al Pacino (US)
Tormented – Takashi Shimizu (Japan)
Contagion – Steven Soderbergh (US)
La Meditazione Di Hayez – Mario Martone (Italy) (short)
Tahrir 2011 – Tamer Ezzat, Ahmad Abdalla, Ayten Amin, Amr Salama (Egypt)
The End – Collectif Abounaddara (Syria)
Vanguard – Colleftif Abounaddara (Syria)
Evolution (Megaplex)(3D – Marco Brambilla (US)
Out of Competition Events
Questa Storia Qua – Alessandro Paris, Sibylle Righetti (Italy)
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel – Lisa Immordino Vreeland (US)
Golden Career Lion – Nel Nome Del Padre – Marcho Bellocchio (Italy)
The Toronto Fest includes some of the same titles, but in addition will also feature some stellar contenders such as:
“The Descendants” by Alexander Payne,
“Albert Nobbs” by Rodrigo Garcia
“360” by Fernando Merielles
“Moneyball” by Bennett Miller
“Corolianus” by Ralph Fiennes
“Drive” by Nicolas Winding Refn
“Machine Gun Preacher” by Marc Forster
“Melancholia” by Lars von Trier
“Rampart” by Oren Moverman
“The Skin I Live In” by Pedro Almodovar
“Take Shelter” by Jeff Nichols
“Twixt” by Francis Ford Coppola
There are more than a few that I did not even bother to mention, so, just from looking at this list, I’m beginning to realize that this movie season has potentially quite a bit to offer. I look forward to covering it.
As everyone knows, each year for nearly four decades, the American Film Institute has awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award to a single individual. The honor is meant to reflect that person’s “lifetime contribution to enriching American culture through motion pictures and television.” When looking at the list of recipients over the years, it’s enough to fill the Kodak Theater several times over. Some of my personal favorites include Orson Welles in ’75, William Wyler in ’76, James Stewart in ’80, Steven Spielberg in ’95 and Al Pacino in ’07.
This year, the Institute has chosen to honor Morgan Freeman for his body of work as an actor. For sure, not an unusual choice for such an award. He received his first Oscar nomination in 1988 for “Street Smart” and has been captivating audiences, multiple times a year, ever since. For me, performances simply don’t get much better than his work in “The Shawshank Redemption.” The speech in his final parole hearing is the stuff that legends are made out of.
All in all, though, aside from a few great decisions, the AFI award seems kind of tainted and lazy, as of late. The whole picture seemed to change around the time that Tom Hanks won what many called his “mid-life” achievement award ten years ago. It seems that the award is being given more on account of how popular the recipient has been in recent years instead of, say thirty years ago. There are many, MANY performers, directors and producers who are much more deserving of the award than recent fare.
I’d much rather have seen men the likes of Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall, David Lynch, Francis Ford Coppola or, for crying out loud, Woody Allen receive distinction above the likes of George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Michael Douglas, Sean Connery or Morgan Freeman. The talent ratio is nearly incomparable. I mean, in terms of weight in Academy Award recognition is 49 nominations to 13 (Douglas, Ford and Connery only sharing 4 nominations between them).
What’s even more disturbing is the complete disregard to female contributions to cinema. In the last two decades, three women have received this award. Meryl Streep is completely understandable. Elizabeth Taylor cannot be argued with. Barbara Streisand…really? Meanwhile, the following women are still living and more than deserving of this award: Faye Dunaway, Vanessa Redgrave, Maggie Smith, Julie Christie, Sissy Spacek, Diane Keaton, Glenn Close, and Jessica Lange. Perhaps the most ridiculously passed over women are Ellen Burstyn and Jane Fonda who have delivered some of the most phenomenal performances Hollywood has ever seen and have been doing so for upwards of forty years.
The greats are passing away left and right. Paul Newman, Robert Altman, Marlon Brando and, of course, Sidney Lumet are the most recent to leave this world without receiving this prestigious honor. AFI needs to keep its eyes on the prize and award some of these more-deserving folk before it’s too late.
Okay, I know that this is a film site, and normally, I could give a flying crap about the Grammy Awards. Not exactly my cup of tea. However, I just had to post this in congratulations. I’d say that I have about a three-way tie for what I would call my favorite band, and tonight two of those bands took home big awards. Muse won Best Rock Album and The Arcade Fire somehow managed to take down BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR, beating out much more popular (and dare I say unimpressive) artists Lady Antebellum, Eminem, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. What a hell of a great night.
Muse fans aren’t that hard to come by anymore, but if you haven’t heard any of Arcade Fire’s three CDs, then you should do yourself a favor and listen to them, now. I’ve provided a couple of videos to make the job easier.
This is one of my personal favorites from their 2nd CD, “Neon Bible”:
And here is a song off of their now Grammy Award-winning album “The Suburbs”:
All right. Now back to movies.