The awards chosen this afternoon by the 2011 San Francisco Film Critics Circle Awards are more independent-minded than those handed out by the Boston Film Critics Society and the New York Film Critics Online a few hours ago. The top SFFCC choices: Best Picture, The Tree of Life; Best Director, Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life; Best Original Screenplay, J.C. Chandor, Margin Call; Best Adapted Screenplay, Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Best Actor, Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; Best Actress, Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin; Best Supporting Actor, Albert Brooks, Drive; Best Supporting Actress, Vanessa Redgrave, Coriolanus; Best Animated Feature; Rango; Best Foreign Language Film, Certified Copy; Best Documentary, Tabloid; Best Cinematography, Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life; Special Citation for underappreciated independent cinema: The Mill and The Cross.
It’s been about 13 years since the last newly mastered DVD of John Frankenheimer‘s The Train was commercially released. It was re-issued two years ago but wasn’t even re-scanned for 16 x 9. MGM needs to issue a Bluray, and within the same 1.66 to 1 aspect ratio that it had on the old early ’90s laser disc and DVD.
This is one of the most brilliantly choreographed, all-natural, CG-free adventure thrillers ever made — an ace-level thing top to bottom, loaded with grease and grit and verisimilitude. And several Scorsese-level tracking shots. Shot in ’64, it was the last studio-funded outdoor thriller filmed in black-and-white. The DVD looks okay…pretty good, really — but a larger, needle-sharp Bluray would be breathtaking. Please.
Update: Thank God on bended knees that the Los Angeles Film Critics Association has resisted the domino effect and given its Best Picture Award to Alexander Payne’s‘s The Descendants. A critics group finally realized what was happening, stepped up to the plate and said “enough! We have to choose something else! And incidentally better!”
All I know is that I’ve never before felt such contempt for the BFCS and the NYFCO. Because despite the LAFCA Descendants win, their championing of The Artist today makes it almost certain that the Zelig impulse will manifest across the nation in critics group after critics group, and then, in all likelihood, in guild after guild and then among Academy members.
The Artist — a pleasingly thin and insubstantial entertainment, a French-made and produced That’s Entertainment! for the 21st Century — has become the soft consensus choice that will probably sweep across the land like Genghis Khan and take the Best Picture Oscar.
Unless, of course, fate intercedes and The Descendants or Extremely Loud or War Horse gains ground among SAG and Academy voters, etc. Which would be worse, War Horse or The Artist winning Best Picture? The former, I think.
I don’t hate The Artist. I rather like it. It’s a very engaging and pleasing little film (as long as you don’t see it twice, in which case it does a big fade). But I’m starting to hate all those soft-bellied, default-minded critics who’ve paved the way for its Best Picture coronation.
We’ve known all along that 2011 hasn’t been the strongest year. And so the hope, I wrote two weeks ago, was that critics would show a little bravery and spread the love around “with a little mixed award salad — a little love for Moneyball a sprinkling of Artist bits, a few Descendants olives, a little Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close vinaigrette, etc.” No such luck.
On 11.30 I wrote that “with The Artist having taken yesterday’s New York Film Critics Circle Best Picture prize, there will be a natural tendency for critics groups around the country to regard this Weinstein Co. release as a safe and likable default choice for Best Picture in their own balloting. Plus any critic voting for an entertaining black-and-white silent film is sending a message to colleagues, editors and especially readers that he/she is willing to embrace the novel or unusual, which indicates a certain integrity.
“I understand how celebrating a film that mimics how movies looked and felt in the 1920s is a way of saying that you respect classic cinema and Hollywood’s history, blah blah. And by doing so critics will get to lead at least some of their readers into the past, and seem wise and gracious in the bargain, and all the while supporting a film that’s mainly about glisten and glitter and decades-old cliches.”
The Los Angeles Film Critics Association has stopped the Artist sweep in its tracks (for the time being at least…thank Jehovah for small favors) by handing its Best Picture award to Alexander Payne‘s The Descendants. LAFCA’s Best Picture Runner-Up was Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life. Here are the group’s final picks:
Best Picture: The Descendants.
Best Director: Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life. (Runner-Up: Martin Scorsese, Hugo.)
Best Actor: Michael Fassbender, A Dangerous Method, Jane Eyre, Shame, X-Men: First Class. (Runner-Up: Michael Shannon, Take Shelter.)
Best Actress: Yun Jung-hee, Poetry. (Runner-Up: Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia.)
Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain, Coriolanus, The Debt, The Help, Take Shelter, Texas Killing Fields, Tree of Life. Runner-Up: Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs.
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners. Runner-Up: Patton Oswalt, Young Adult.
Best Music/Score: The Chemical Brothers, Hanna. Runner-Up: Cliff Martinez, Drive.
Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life.
Best Production Design: Dante Ferretti, Hugo. Runner-Up: Maria Djurkovic, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Following in the footsteps of the NYFCC, the Boston Film Critics Society has handed its Best Picture award to The Artist. Shame! Once again a reputable critics group has gone for a soft compromise-consensus choice — a light silvery bauble that contains nothing thematically, narratively or stylistically of its own, and a film that is entirely about backwards reflection and reconstitution and sparkly “entertainment.”
Best Picture: The Artist.
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, Hugo.
Best Screenplay: Steven Zallian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin, Moneyball.
Best Actress: Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn.
Best Actor: Brad Pitt for Moneyball. (Runners-up: George Clooney, The Descendants and Michael Fassbender, Shame.)
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids (Runner-up: Jeannie Berlin, Margaret)
Best Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks, Drive. Wells comment: Pretty much guaranteed a Best Supporting Oscar nom at this stage, I’d say.
Best Foreign Language Film: TBA
Best Documentary: Project Nim.
Best Animated Film: Rango.
Best New Filmmaker: Sean Durkin, Martha Marcy May Marlene. (Runner-up: J.C. Chandor, Margin Call)
Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezski, The Tree of Life (Runner-up: Hugo)
Best Editing: The Clock (Runner-up: Hugo). Wells comment: The what? A lotta Hugo pallies in this bunch.
Best Use of Music: (tie) The Artist and Drive (Runner-up: The Descendants)
Team Obama couldn’t have dreamt for a more advantageous scenario with Newt Gingrich, who if nominated can’t and won’t win due to his checkered ethical past and his too-bulky physique, beating down Mitt Romney in the debates and out-pointing him in both Iowa and national polls.
With no regard whatsover to awards handicapping (and thank God for that), here are my rankings and classifications for over 210 films released in 2011. My top ten met the usual pick-of-the-litter characteristics — quality, audacity, originality, personal satisfaction, stylistic excitement, something strong and central that said “whoa, that’s new or bold or extra-cool.” Aesthetic judgment, personal delight, etc.
If you include the “decent, not half bad” category the bottom line is that 2011 delivered around 65 films that ranged from excellent to very good to respectably passable.
I’m sure I’ve pasted a title or two twice or left deserving titles out of this or that category and forgotten some films altogether. All suggestions and corrections are welcome. And HERE WE GO….
HE’s 10 Best of 2011 (in this order): Moneyball, A Separation, The Descendants, Miss Bala, Drive, Contagion, Win Win, Tyrannosaur, The Tree of Life, In The Land of Blood and Honey. (10)
Still Not Allowed to Say Anything: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2)
Special “I Don’t Know Where They Precisely Belong But I Like ‘Em More Than Some Of The Others” Distinction (i.e., Close With Unlit Cigar): Attack The Block, Beginners, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, X-Men First Class, Captain America, Hugo, 50/50, Young Adult, The Artist, Hanna, The Guard, Bridesmaids, Buck, Page One: Inside The NY Times, Rampart. (14)
Still Haven’t Seen ‘Em Yet: Margaret, Weekend, Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (3)
Good & Generally Approved With Issues (in this order): Take Shelter, A Better Life, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Ides of March, Midnight in Paris, A Dangerous Method, Albert Nobbs, J. Edgar, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Applause, Melancholia, The Lincoln Lawyer, Another Happy Day, Source Code, Point Blank, Cedar Rapids, The Iron Lady, Happy Happy, Super, The Housemaid, Carnage, Another Earth, Le Havre. (23)
Decent, Not Half Bad: Coriolanus, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, Insidious, The Last Lions, Myth of the American Sleepover, Tabloid, Super 8, The Trip, Making The Boys (doc about Mart Crowley and The Boys in the Band), Jane Eyre, Paranormal Activity 3, Restless, Submarine, Take This Waltz, Thor, Meet Monica Valour, Rango. (18)
Approved But Lesser Almodovar: The Skin I Live In. (1)
Lesser Dardennes: The Kid With A Bike. (1)
Lesser Kiarostami: Certified Copy (1)
Respectable Intentions, Didn’t Get There: Meek’s Cutoff, London Boulevard, Texas Killing Fields, Warrior, Straw Dogs, The Way Back, Like Crazy, The Rum Diary, Sleeping Beauty, The Adjustment Bureau, The Company Men, White Irish Drinkers, The Devil’s Double, The Dilemma, Warrior, We Bought A Zoo, Wuthering Heights, Anonymous. (19)
Meh, Underbaked, Less is Less, Insufficient: Rubber, Ceremony, Hall Pass, Bullhead, Fright Night, The Help, Magic Trip, Our Idiot Brother. (8)
Most Dislikable Sundance 2011 Film: Bellflower. (1)
Regretful Shortfallers: 30 Minutes Or Less, The Beaver, Higher Ground, Knuckle, Larry Crowne, Limitless. (6)
Haven’t Seen ‘Em (Guilt Factor): Black Power Mixtape, Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within, Jeff Who Lives At Home, The Last Circus, The Oranges, Paul Williams Still Alive, Project Nim, Red State, Pina, Pariah, The Deep Blue Sea, This Must Be The Place, The Turin Horse. (13)
Haven’t Seen ‘Em & Don’t Care That Much: Apollo 18, The Lady, Arthur Christmas, Soul Surfer, Henry’s Crime, Blank City, Cold Weather, Blackthorn, Bonsai, A Boy And His Samurai, Burke & Hare, Cars 2, The Catechism Cataclysm, Conan The Barbarian, The Double, Gnomeo & Juliet, Happy Feet 2, The Human Centipede II, I Am Number Four, Jack and Jill, Just Go With It, Kung-Fu Panda 2, The Muppets, Mars Needs Moms, My Sucky Teen Romance, No Strings Attached, Paul Williams Still Alive, Phillip The Fossil, Priest, The Sitter, The Smurfs, Snow Flower & The Secret Fan, Sound Of My Voice, The Thing, The Woman, The Three Musketeers, Alvin And The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. (38)
Acute Dislike, Blah, Nothing, Stinko: The Big Year, Arthur, Bad Teacher, Battle: Los Angeles, Butter, The Caller, Cat Run, The Change-Up, Cowboy & Aliens, Colombiana, Crazy, Stupid, Love, Dream House, Fast Five, Final Destination 5, Five Days of War, Footloose, Friends With Benefits, The Green Hornet, Green Lantern, Hall Pass, The Hangover Part II, Hobo With A Shotgun, Horrible Bosses, Kaboom, Machine Gun Preacher, New Year’s Eve, One Day, Paul, Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Red Riding Hood, Sucker Punch, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1, Tower Heist, Twixt, Water For Elephants, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Your Highness, The Zookeeper, Your Highness, Miral. (41)