21 February 2009


First things first: This year's Swami Award goes to Mr. Charles Odell, who beat MuseMalade and a host of others in predicting the top five in each category before the countdown even kicked off. Not only did El Chuck name Best Picture #1-3 spot-on and correctly guess the winner in four other categories, but he utterly nailed the incredibly difficult Best Scene lineup. Here are his five predictions, with their actual finish in parentheses:

01. Sunrise, Silent Light (#1)
02. Dinner party, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (#4)
03. The pool, Let the Right One In (#2)
04. Rehearsal dinner (toasts), Rachel Getting Married (#6)
05. The pencil trick, The Dark Knight (#7)

All five wound up in the top seven. That is by god remarkable given the sheer number of possibilities. He did miss the diagram scene from Woman on the Beach, but then who among us did not. (A: Nobody.)

In second place for the second consecutive year, with 65 points to Odell's 71, was Matt Noller, who had a touching amount of faith in our hard-on for the criminally overlooked (why did I give it only five points?) The Duchess of Langeais. MuseMalade himself once again comes in third (64 points), in large part because he somehow thought Philip Seymour Hoffman would take Best Actor even though Rourke was pretty much a gimme, correctly guessed by literally everyone else.

As for those results. Much grumbling was heard about the less-than-stellar quality of Cinema 2008, so I guess it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that our collective favorite turned out to be an '07 leftover, eligible this year instead of last only because—to the annoyance of the survey's still-living namesake—I doggedly choose to stick to NYC commercial release as my sole criterion. I don't know whether we can really call 432's victory a vote of no confidence, but certainly there was no film this year that inspired the sort of passionate unanimity that e.g. the PTA and Coen movies did last year. (Though I still think that Silent Light, which received the highest average rating of any film this year and handily won Best Director, might well have prevailed had it only been seen by a few more people.) In any case, finding huge studio blockbusters like WALL•E and The Dark Knight mingling up at the top with semi-punishing art films about illegal Romanian abortions and adulterous German-Mexican Mennonites makes my heart sing. Elsewhere, we acknowledged popular favorites (Mickey Rourke, Heath Ledger) when warranted, but also honored the underappreciated (Anamaria Marinca, Rosemarie DeWitt) and the almost criminally misunderstood (Burn After Reading's deceptively stoopid screenplay). That degree of catholicism is precisely what I was hoping to achieve when I inaugurated this survey 13 amazingly long years ago.

As usual, I'm also quite proud of my crew for totally ignoring a bunch of mediocre films that were inexplicably met with raves elsewhere, including all of this year's lame Oscar nominees. Not for us the brutal-yet-fanciful exoticism of Slumdog Millionaire or the refried Gumpisms of Benjamin Button or the rote martrydom of Milk. Even certain highbrow faves—most notably Film Comment survey champ Wendy and Lucy and NSFC winner Waltz With Bashir—were met (correctly imo) with general indifference. Say what you will about our taste; we are beholden to no one.

Back when I started the survey, I remember looking forward to the time, a decade or so later (i.e. now), when there'd be tons of accumulated data to wade through. In particular, I was excited about the prospect of being able to compare how various films from major directors had been received over the years. Granted, that process isn't exactly definitive—the AVB has mutated over the years and even the diehards tend to be stingier with their star ratings than they were back in the mid-'90s. But perhaps my favorite task after receiving the averages is updating my Directors' Gallery, plugging this year's films into various post-'94 oeuvres. Here are the entries that saw additions this year—every filmmaker who's ever placed in the Director top 20. 2008 films are in bold. Numbers in parentheses indicate how the film placed in Best Picture that year, if applicable; if the film title is in parentheses that means it received fewer than 10 votes and hence the result is a bit less meaningful.

Woody Allen

Everyone Says I Love You: 3.09
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (19): 2.98
Match Point (13): 2.93
Sweet and Lowdown: 2.63
Deconstructing Harry: 2.61
Cassandra's Dream: 2.60
Small Time Crooks: 2.37
The Curse of the Jade Scorpion: 2.33
Scoop: 2.28
Anything Else: 2.13
Hollywood Ending: 2.13
Celebrity: 2.04
Melinda and Melinda: 2.00

Darren Aronofsky

The Wrestler (13): 3.02
Requiem for a Dream (15): 2.73
[Pi]: 2.65
The Fountain: 2.21

Olivier Assayas

Irma Vep (5): 3.48
Late August, Early September: 2.88
Les Destinées: 2.79
Clean: 2.78
demonlover: 2.45
Boarding Gate: 2.35

Danny Boyle

Trainspotting (11): 3.19
Millions: 2.93
28 Days Later: 2.90
Sunshine: 2.74
Slumdog Millionaire: 2.42
(A Life Less Ordinary): 2.22
The Beach: 2.08

Catherine Breillat

The Last Mistress: 2.88
Fat Girl: 2.85
Sex Is Comedy: 2.66
Romance: 2.00
Anatomy of Hell: 1.77

Laurent Cantet

Time Out (5): 3.30
The Class: 3.13
(Human Resources): 2.67
Heading South: 2.22

Stephen Chow

Kung Fu Hustle (11): 3.09
CJ7: 2.46

Joel [& Ethan] Coen

No Country for Old Men (2): 3.45
Fargo (6): 3.31
The Man Who Wasn’t There (5): 3.28
The Big Lebowski (12): 3.03
Burn After Reading (11): 3.01
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (4): 2.94
Intolerable Cruelty: 2.72
The Ladykillers: 2.24

Terence Davies

The House of Mirth (7): 3.29
(The Neon Bible): 2.83
Of Time and the City: 2.40

Jonathan Demme

Rachel Getting Married (4): 3.28
Neil Young: Heart of Gold: 2.94
(Storefront Hitchcock): 2.92
The Manchurian Candidate : 2.70
(Man From Plains): 2.67
Beloved: 2.64
The Truth About Charlie: 2.48
(The Agronomist): 2.39

Guillermo del Toro

Pan's Labyrinth (8): 2.95
The Devil's Backbone: 2.66
Blade II: 2.63
Hellboy II: The Golden Army: 2.53
Hellboy: 2.33
Mimic: 2.06

Arnaud Desplechin

Kings & Queen (15): 3.03
A Christmas Tale (10): 3.00
Esther Kahn: 2.98
(My Sex Life, or How I Got Into an Argument): 2.60

Clint Eastwood

Million Dollar Baby (9): 3.06
Letters From Iwo Jima: 2.82
Mystic River: 2.81
Changeling: 2.70
Space Cowboys: 2.63
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: 2.57
Flags of Our Fathers: 2.52
Gran Torino: 2.46
Blood Work: 2.35
Absolute Power: 2.32
True Crime: 2.31

David Fincher

Zodiac (3): 3.27
Fight Club (3): 3.19
The Game (9): 2.95
Panic Room: 2.79
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: 2.42

Michel Gondry

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2): 3.28
Dave Chappelle's Block Party (19): 3.02
Be Kind Rewind: 2.59
The Science of Sleep: 2.53
Human Nature: 2.40

David Gordon Green

George Washington: 3.05
All the Real Girls (15): 2.93
Pineapple Express: 2.71
Undertow: 2.56
Snow Angels: 2.56

Michael Haneke

Caché (Hidden) (5): 3.21
Code Unknown (16): 3.15
Funny Games [1997] (16): 2.96
The Piano Teacher: 2.83
Funny Games [2008] (20): 2.83
Time of the Wolf: 2.79

Werner Herzog

Grizzly Man (1): 3.40
(Little Dieter Needs to Fly): 3.10
Encounters at the End of the World: 3.09
My Best Fiend: 2.85
(The White Diamond): 2.83
Rescue Dawn : 2.73
(Wheel of Time): 2.57
(The Wild Blue Yonder): 2.25
Invincible: N/A (fewer than 5 votes)

Hong Sang-soo

Woman on the Beach (13): 3.10
Woman Is the Future of Man: 2.79

Hou Hsiao-hsien

Flight of the Red Balloon (15): 3.04
Three Times: 2.85
Millennium Mambo: 2.83
Café Lumière: 2.55

Jia Zhang-ke

The World: 2.89
Still Life (18): 2.88
Unknown Pleasures: 2.45

Mathieu Kassovitz (making what for him amounts to a comeback this year)

Hate (18): 3.14
Babylon A.D.: 2.10
The Crimson Rivers: 2.06
(Gothika): 1.70

Neil LaBute

In the Company of Men (2): 3.57
Possession: 2.78
Your Friends & Neighbors: 2.62
Lakeview Terrace: 2.43
Nurse Betty: 2.31
The Shape of Things: 2.27
The Wicker Man: 1.79

Spike Lee

25th Hour (1): 3.42
Get on the Bus: 3.29
(4 Little Girls): 3.14
Inside Man (16): 2.99
The Original Kings of Comedy: 2.73
He Got Game: 2.59
Summer of Sam: 2.57
(Girl 6): 2.28
Bamboozled: 2.13
Miracle at St. Anna: 2.00
She Hate Me: 1.32
Jim Brown: All American: N/A (fewer than 5 votes)

Mike Leigh

Secrets & Lies (2): 3.56
Vera Drake (6): 3.26
Topsy-Turvy (9): 3.18
All or Nothing: 3.02
Happy-Go-Lucky (12): 2.97
Career Girls: 2.83

[See, this is why this stuff is fascinating to me. Happy-Go-Lucky placed 12th and yet actually got a slightly lower average rating than All or Nothing, which didn't make the top 20 at all. Clearly the former is far more divisive.]

Baz Luhrmann

William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet: 2.95
Moulin Rouge (9): 2.84
Australia: 2.17

Guy Maddin

My Winnipeg (8): 3.22
Cowards Bend the Knee: 3.11
The Saddest Music in the World: 3.01
Dracula: Pages From a Virgin’s Diary: 2.93
Brand Upon the Brain!: 2.90

David Mamet

The Winslow Boy (14): 3.07
The Spanish Prisoner: 3.02
State and Main (17): 2.95
Spartan: 2.82
Redbelt: 2.64
Heist: 2.47

Fernando Meirelles

City of God: 2.98
The Constant Gardener: 2.52
Blindness: 1.79

Sam Mendes

American Beauty (16): 2.97
Road to Perdition: 2.82
Revolutionary Road: 2.65
Jarhead: 2.44

Takashi Miike

Audition (6): 3.22
Dead or Alive: 2.79
Ichi the Killer : 2.74
The Happiness of the Katakuris : 2.73
Gozu: 2.61
The City of Lost Souls: 2.56
Three…Extremes: 2.47
Sukiyaki Western Django: 2.32
The Great Yokai War: 2.25
(One Missed Call): 2.20
(DOA: Final): 2.17

Frank Miller

Frank Miller's Sin City (10): 2.74
The Spirit: N/A (fewer than 5 votes)

Errol Morris

Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (4): 3.42
The Fog of War (11): 3.24
Mr. Death: 3.10
Standard Operating Procedure: 2.98

Christopher Nolan

The Prestige (2): 3.40
Memento (3): 3.31
The Dark Knight (5): 3.17
Insomnia: 2.92
Batman Begins (19): 2.81
(Following): 2.28

Kelly Reichardt

Old Joy (5): 3.17
Wendy and Lucy: 2.98

Carlos Reygadas

Silent Light (3): 3.41
Battle in Heaven: 2.47
Japón: 2.35

Jacques Rivette

The Duchess of Langeais: 3.20
Va savoir: 2.79
(Secret défense): 2.17

Paul Schrader

Affliction (17): 2.94
Auto Focus: 2.32
(The Walker): 2.19
(Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist): 1.86
Touch: N/A (fewer than 5 votes)
Adam Resurrected: N/A (fewer than 5 votes)

Martin Scorsese

The Departed (1): 3.42
Kundun (7): 3.22
Gangs of New York (9): 3.01
The Aviator: 2.96
Bringing Out the Dead: 2.52
Shine a Light: 2.50

Ridley Scott

Gladiator (20): 3.04
Black Hawk Down (20): 2.78
Matchstick Men: 2.78
American Gangster: 2.50
Body of Lies: 2.50
G.I. Jane: 2.42
Kingdom of Heaven: 2.33
(White Squall): 2.22
Hannibal: 1.94
(A Good Year): 1.93

Steven Soderbergh

Out of Sight (1): 3.37
Traffic (5): 3.24
Erin Brockovich: 3.14
The Limey: 2.99
(Gray’s Anatomy): 2.94
Ocean’s Eleven: 2.93
Solaris: 2.86
Schizopolis: 2.70
Bubble: 2.66
The Good German: 2.66
Full Frontal: 2.63
Ocean’s Twelve: 2.52
Ocean's Thirteen: 2.52
Che: 2.35
Eros: 2.15 [for entire film]

Steven Spielberg

Saving Private Ryan (8): 3.27
Minority Report: 2.92
AI (7): 2.91
Munich (14): 2.88
Amistad: 2.83
War of the Worlds: 2.82
Catch Me if You Can: 2.79
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: 2.39
The Lost World: Jurassic Park: 2.33
The Terminal : 2.10

Andrew Stanton

WALL•E (2): 3.26
Finding Nemo (13): 3.06

Johnnie To

Exiled (18): 2.97
Mad Detective: 2.95
Election: 2.79
Fulltime Killer: 2.74
Election 2: 2.73
(Breaking News): 2.50
(Throwdown): 2.33

Gus Van Sant

Paranoid Park (6): 3.15
Gerry (4): 2.93
Good Will Hunting: 2.84
Milk: 2.83
Last Days: 2.79
Elephant: 2.40
Psycho: 2.11
Finding Forrester: 2.10

The Wachowski Brothers

Bound (16): 3.29
The Matrix: 2.96
Speed Racer: 2.57
The Matrix Reloaded: 2.29
The Matrix Revolutions: 2.21

Wong Kar-wai

In the Mood for Love (1): 3.45
Chung King Express (5): 3.33
2046 (8): 3.17
Happy Together: 2.81
(Ashes of Time): 2.70
My Blueberry Nights: 2.45
Eros 2.15 [for entire film]

Until next year...


Anonymous said...

Thanks. Anyway, my success is, to some extent, simply because my own tastes were largely in line with the Skandie consensus this year. I'm slightly embarrassed by how unidiosyncratic my ballot is, actually.

Anyway, here's the full submittal I sent to Mike for "Beat Muse Malade":


1 Mickey Rourke, THE WRESTLER
2 Matthieu Almaric, A CHRISTMAS TALE
3 Robert Downey, Jr., IRON MAN
4 Sean Penn, MILK
5 Phillip Seymour Hoffman, SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK

2 Anamaria Marinca, 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, & 2 DAYS
3 Sally Hawkins, HAPPY-GO-LUCKY
5 Michelle Williams, WENDY & LUCY

Supporting Actor
1 Heath Ledger, THE DARK KNIGHT
2 Eddie Marsan, HAPPY-GO-LUCKY
4 Robert Downey, Jr., TROPIC THUNDER

Supporting Actress
3 Laura Vasiliu, 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, & 2 DAYS
4 Viola Davis, DOUBT
5 Alexis Zegerman, HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

1 Carlos Reygadas, SILENT LIGHT
2 Andrew Staunton, WALL-E
3 Christian Mungiu, 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, & 2 DAYS
4 Christopher Nolan, THE DARK KNIGHT


2 The dinner party, 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, & 2 DAYS
5 A pencil disappears, THE DARK KNIGHT

Anonymous said...

Sorry, about the "Anonymous". The above post is mine.

Adam Villani said...

Kind of surprised Ocean's 12 and Ocean's 13 got exactly the same score. My impression had been that people liked 13 better than 12.

Anonymous said...

Where's Alexander Payne's stats?

md'a said...

This list only includes directors who released a film in 2008, which Payne did not. I'm working now (in spurts) on updating my master list of every director who's released even one film since 1996 (so long as it got at least five votes), which I'll make available on my main site when it's complete.