Sunday, December 11, 2005

'Brokeback' in Beantown

The Boston Society of Film Critics are probably my favorite of the major critics' groups. They don't have the prestige of the NYFC, they don't influence the Oscar race like the LAFC, and as they were only founded amidst the 1980 Oscar campaigns, they don't have the long history of brave choices that my other favorite, the National Society of Film Critics, can claim. My allegiance to the BSFC is predicated on two things. First, that I basically lost my movie virginity in Boston. I mean, I had kissed movies before, and I'll be married to my childhood sweetheart for my whole life, but as a young thing and a non-driver, I'd never been able to get myself to the movies until I went to college in Boston. My hottest and heaviest relationship in Boston was always with my beloved Kendall Square Cinema, of which there is still a framed picture in my current apartment, six years after my last viewing in that theater (My Son the Fanatic). Still, let's not short-shrift the heavenly Brattle and the marvelously convenient Sony Harvard Square and the delectable Coolidge Corner in Brookline and the cheap but art-friendly second-runs at the Somerville Theatre (in Davis Square, no less!) and the late, lamented, and enormous Sony Chéri, and the multiplex banquet at the Loews Fresh Pond (owned then by Sony) and the eggheaded mind-expansions at the Harvard Film Archive. All these places gave me the life I wanted, and still have, so I'm partial in every which way to the movie culture of that city.

More specifically to the BSFC, I first became aware of them in 1997 when they awarded Best Supporting Actress to Sarah Polley for The Sweet Hereafter, and even more adventurously, their runners-up for Best Actress were Katrin Cartlidge in Career Girls and Tilda Swinton in Female Perversions. That is what I call a critics' group. None of this snovelling around to publicists and trying to read Oscar's crystal ball. They've kept awarding their prizes over the years to unexpected and invigorating choices—Three Kings for Best Picture; Samantha Morton in Under the Skin, Tilda Swinton in The Deep End, and Maggie Gyllenhaal in Secretary for Best Actress; Jim Carrey for Man on the Moon and Colin Farrell for Tigerland for Best Actor; Toni Collette for About a Boy and The Hours as Best Supporting Actress (like, actual supporting performances!); Hands on a Hardbody for Best Documentary; The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys for Best First Film; Taste of Cherry for Best Foreign-Language Film. Those are some great calls.

Things have been getting a little more conventional with the BSFC the last few years—last year's Sideways blitz was a yawner, though the Laura Dern/Sharon Warren tie in Supporting Actress was fun. This year, the Brokeback Mountain juggernaut keeps rolling through for Best Picture and Director, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, and Dan Futterman all repeated their LAFC wins for Capote. I'm kind of miffed by the buzzed-about but totally unmagical Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line and Paul Giamatti in Cinderella Man as their Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor choices. Good as they both were, the very suggestion of "greatness" in their work is like a wet washcloth on my brain.

But, the Beantown crowd can still pick a good one: Pride & Prejudice's Joe Wright as the new filmmaker to watch. The fabulous and totally under-attended Murderball as Best Documentary. Kung Fu Hustle, a truly un-Decemberish choice as Best Foreign-Language Film, over the way more Cahiers-certified 2046. When the NYFCC and NBR announce tomorrow, things will either get more or less interesting, but even if I'm alone among all the awards watchers out there, I give it up to Jay Carr and Peter Keough and all those mandarins on the MTA!



Blogger Dr. S said...

I love the subliminal switch of "Win" for "When" in your last sentence. I imagine your brain pairing up Brokeback Mountain and all your other favorites with those next critics' circles...

9:07 PM, December 11, 2005  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

"Subliminal switch" should go in the Hall of Fame for Diplomatic Correctives. ;)

10:00 PM, December 11, 2005  
Blogger Dr. S said...

You love me!

10:09 PM, December 11, 2005  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

The thing is, I do!

10:23 PM, December 11, 2005  
Blogger Javier Aldabalde said...

Breathlessly awaiting the National Society of Film Critics Awards. The best of all critics groups in my opinion (though their last picks, "American Splendor" and "Million" were very blah).

8:54 AM, December 12, 2005  
Blogger Dr. S said...

Oh, thank you, sweetie!

9:09 AM, December 12, 2005  
Blogger lylee said...

Nick, you just revived my nostalgia for Beantown all over again... Like you, I have Boston/Cambridge to thank for fanning my first flickers of movie love into full-blown obsession. And I agree its film culture is way underrated.

The only thing I disagree with you on is Paul Giamatti - I thought he was by far the best thing about "Cinderella Man," and deserves any nom he gets.

10:42 PM, December 14, 2005  

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