Dear Fellow Members,
Every year at this time, my heart starts to sink a little. Because I know full well that when we convene to vote for our year-end awards, almost everybody will arrive armed with candidates culled exclusively from various magazines' and blogs' "frontrunner" lists—lists, it must be said, that generally follow the major studios' lead. I joined the group in 2001, and over the past seven years we've collectively demonstrated a pretty sad paucity of imagination and insight. Not that there isn't sometimes a richly deserving "obvious" choice—I'll go to bat for Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain as the performance of the decade, for example. But it'd be nice, given the mountain of movies each of us sees every year, if we could occasionally look beyond what's deemed worthy of attention by Entertainment Weekly and the "Gurus o' Gold." (No offense Owen, Lisa, Lou.)
I'll admit that I was personally underwhelmed by this year's crop of award-bait flicks. Hated the sickly-sweet Benjamin Button and the ghetto-chic Slumdog Millionaire. Have little use for Milk, a conventional biopic in an arty suit, or Frost/Nixon, which turns a dubious cultural landmark into a cute underdog-sports flick. Doubt and Revolutionary Road have their moments, but both of these prestige-lit adaptations lack the spark of true creative energy; I can only work up mild enthusiasm. Likewise, most of the performances getting huzzahs strike me as, you know, fine. So I have a vested interest in persuading some of you to champion some of my lost causes.
It won't work. I know that. But here's what I'll be quixotically voting for next Wednesday.
BEST PICTURE: Silent Light
Yeah, I know, this wasn't even properly "released." It just ran for a week at MoMA. And it's getting a proper run at Film Forum next month, as it turns out. But that just gives me two chances, potentially, to support Reygadas' transporting vision.
Other votes: Paranoid Park (the year's real Van Sant joint); Rachel Getting Married
BEST DIRECTOR: Carlos Reygadas, Silent Light
Every six minutes, one crystalline idea.
Other votes: Gus Van Sant, Paranoid Park; José Luis Guerin, In the City of Sylvia (opening next week at Anthology Film Archives; hopefully you caught it at the 2007 New York Film Festival)
BEST SCREENPLAY: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, Burn After Reading
Letdown my ass. This film is far more profound and incisive than No Country—the most damning assessment of the Bush era we're likely to see for some time.
Other votes: Christopher Nolan & Jonathan Nolan, The Dark Knight; Jacques Rivette et al., The Duchess of Langeais
BEST ACTRESS: Annamaria Marinca, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
Don't forget that this excellent film wasn't eligible for our awards last year, not yet having opened locally.
Other votes: Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky; Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married (see, I'm not just being obscure for obscurity's sake)
BEST ACTOR: Fu'ad Aït Aattou, The Last Mistress
Argento has the name, the attitude, the bod and the title role, and she got all the press. But his disarming amalgam of arrogance and frailty is the reason the movie works.
Other votes: Karl Markovics, The Counterfeiters; Guillaume Depardieu, The Duchess of Langeais (R.I.P.)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Russell Brand, Forgetting Sarah Marshall
I have no idea whether he can do anything else, but in this role he was, as my friend Chris likes to say, never not funny. Must we always overlook comic genius?
Other votes: Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road; Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Hafsia Herzi, The Secret of the Grain
I know, you haven't even seen it. Your loss. She's tender, she's maddening, she's pure sex, she's glorious.
Other votes: Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married; Olivia Thirlby, Snow Angels
Best Foreign Film: Silent Light; The Duchess of Langeais; In the City of Sylvia
Best Animated Film: WALL•E; Chicago 10 (if that counts); Kung Fu Panda
Best First Film: um...Nicholas Stoller, Forgetting Sarah Marshall (I may abstain from this category)
Best Documentary: Chicago 10 (if that counts); My Winnipeg (if that counts); Secrecy
Best Cinematography: [nobody credited as far as I can tell but I don't care and yes I'm serious], WALL•E; Alexis Zabe, Silent Light; Mark Lee Ping-bin, Flight of the Red Balloon