Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Away from Them

I can't believe I'm away from home and from e-mail when all the critics' awards are pouring in. Y'all do not need me to summarize who won what in New York, Los Angeles, and Boston, or what the National Board of Review had to say; Nathaniel and Gabriel have got that covered. So, taking a hint from my blog buddy Six Things, and acknowledging that I am currently poaching a wireless connection from a nearby business, I'll limit my reactions to the following:

1. Casey Affleck is a lead in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. I thought he was good in the movie, if not quite great, but I'm not giving him any love for his NBR or San Fran wins as Best Supporting Actor, because The S**t Is Bananas.

1a. People: any movie can have two leads. Or more: think Closer. Or none: think I'm Not There. Critics: don't think like Oscar publicists, think like actors: if you landed Clive Owen's part in Closer or Casey Affleck's part in Assassination, you'd call home to Ma and say, "I got one of the lead roles!" Not, "I'm in this movie where I support Brad Pitt by being in the movie even more than he is, and having the whole final act to myself!" So, that's just a little bit about where I'm coming from. Anyway.

2. Speaking of Casey Affleck, he's an even less ambiguous lead in Gone Baby Gone, in which Amy Ryan gives a sporadically striking but very loud performance, and often emblematizes the movie's coarse attempts to "get at" a sub-working-class, drug-laced, South Boston world that the filmmakers don't know enough about. (They know Boston, fine, but not this Boston.) How she is turning into the Helen Mirren of 2007 and winning every prize in sight is beyond me.

2a. People: TILDA. SWINTON. Which part of this is confusing? Help us, National Society of Film Critics. You're our only hope.

3. The Broadcast Film Critics Association. This organization and its awards are best handled in the same way you would handle a horsefly: just stand still and ignore it and hopefully, eventually, it goes away. Every awards nut knows that the BFCA has even less merit as a group than any of its members has individually, and that's saying a lot. Why would we even address it? You have never seen, and will never see, any other mention of the BFCA on this site.

4. No End in Sight. So glad to see this turning into 2007's documentary to beat for the Oscar. Later, when I'm back on home turf, we will address the disappointment I feel about Oscar's qualifying shortlist of docs, but No End in Sight is on it. Rent it: not only a solid, well-packaged film, but the handiest two-hour condensation of U.S. "policy" and its grievous, successive errors in Iraq that I have seen, partially because No End spends as much time articulating a sociological picture of Iraq post-2001 as it does making predictable (if fully deserved) wails against key U.S. officials. I admit that I'm glad to see the Boston scribes endorse the deliciously fun Crazy Love (reviewed here), but No End in Sight is a sturdier choice.

5. The Slavophilia of the LAFC. Last year, some smooth-talker in that group had the genius idea of coronating my own Best Actress choice, Luminita Gheorghiu of The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, as their Best Supporting Actress. Even though, yes, she is a lead: see 1a. But I was so wowed by their adventurousness and lack of parochialism, I let it slide. This year, the same silver-tongued Cicero of the City of Angels persuaded her or his peers to rally behind the phenomenal and as-yet-unreleased 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days: their Best Foreign-Language Film of the Year and also their choice for Best Supporting Actor, in the form of Vlad Ivanov's dismaying and thuggish abortionist. And Anamaria Marinca was the runner-up to the lovely and deserving Marion Cotillard for Best Actress. I've already been planning to throw release patterns to the wind and include 4 Months in my year-end festivities. I figure that what I see in '07 stays in '07. But it's nice to feel the LAFC has your back in a case like this. Which reminds me...

6. No Country for Old Men. Julie Christie. Javier Bardem. The script for The Savages. Ratatouille. Sidney Lumet and the rest of Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. They're all having great awards runs, and good on 'em. But don't expect to see any of them when the Nick's Flick Picks Honorees drop in early January. I'm not trying to make a point, y'all. I can be down with consensus: just ask Marion Cotillard. But the mix will be different when I'm cooking the batter. Who are your pets and dark horses that you're looking to laurel, even if no one else is going to?

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Blogger tim r said...

Two words: Paul Dano.

Has Julie fallen out of your favour? I remember her making that mid-year list. Or has she simply been gazumped?

Please don't say Gordon Pinsent will stay on there for such a stuffy, inhibited perf.

Disappointed to hear about Amy Ryan, I had high hopes for her in that part.

12:40 PM, December 11, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My "snowball's chance" nominees in the major categories.

- I'm Not There
- Knocked Up

- De Palma - Redacted
- Dominik - The Assassination of Jesse...
- Haynes - I'm Not There

- Jackson - Black Snake Moan
- Pitt - The Assassination of Jesse...

... I know, I know, but I liked him better than Affleck. Like Venice.

- Kidman - Margot at the Wedding
- Linney - Jindabyne
- Wei - Lust, Caution

Supp. Actor
- Franklin - I'm Not There
- Rudd - Knocked Up

Supp. Actress
- Gainsbourg - I'm Not There
- Mann - Knocked Up

- 2 Days in Paris
- I'm Not There
- Jindabyne
- Lady Chatterley

1:24 PM, December 11, 2007  
Blogger Sam Brooks said...

One dark horse that I'm holding onto for my own personal awards but nobody else is is Joan Chen for both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. She's only gotten love from the Golden Roosters in China, I believe for the Home Song Stories; which is, paradoxically, Australia's entry into the Foreign Film competition and doesn't have a shot in hell at getting in.

And she's my vote for Best Supporting Actress for her quiet, intense performance as Mrs. Yee in Lust, Caution.

Two more dark horses I'm hanging onto are Jennifer Garner in Juno for Best Supporting Actress for her warm and funny performance as Vanessa. That, however, may have a chance of getting into the final ballot. But it's very unlikely.

And my so-dark-it's-in-space horse is Yeo Yann Yann for 881. Which I'm sure nobody in America has seen, which is sad because it's one of the best musical performances in years by one of Singapore's most talented young actors. She might not get into my personal shortlist, though.

Those are mine, though!

8:16 PM, December 11, 2007  
Blogger par3182 said...

not the lovely laura linney?

even after the meeting?

oh, nick....

8:59 PM, December 11, 2007  
Blogger John T said...

Imelda Staunton, Brad Pitt, and Mark Ruffalo in Zodiac can all prepare for their early morning announcements for my year-end honors. Marion Cotillard, Casey Affleck, and director Sean Penn (sorry Nick), y'all can hit the snooze button.

5:18 AM, December 12, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If "No Country for Old Men," "Lust, Caution," and "There Will Be Blood" shared all the major awards this year, I'd be a happy camper.

If "I'm Not There," "Knocked Up," "Away From Her" and "Into the Wild"share all the major awards this year, I'll boycott cinema for a year.

My picks for Great Work With Less of a Chance for an Oscar nomination than Todd Haynes has of becoming a great writer .... :


We Own the Night
Lust, Caution

Actor/Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall- We Own the Night
Paul Schneider- The Assassination of Jesse James by....

Actress/Supporting Actress

Jennifer Jason Leigh- Margot at the Wedding


James Gray- We Own the Night

9:49 AM, December 12, 2007  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Tim: Julie hasn't fallen out of my favor at all, but she's duking it out for a fifth spot in her category at the moment.

@Steve: As usual, we've got a few pets in common! More on those later.

@Brooke: It's weird that as much as I loved Lust, Caution, Chen didn't make much impression on me. I will be rooting for Garner when I finally see Juno.

@6Things: Oh, Laura's up there, don't you worry. I just wasn't tipping so much of my hand as to clarify that.

@John, to whom a package is on the way: I know we disagree about Marion, but I'm looking forward to a second screening of Zodiac, to see if I actually like it as much as you and everyone else do. That movie has really lingered.

@Anon: Skipping over the Haynes comments (though I wouldn't call I'm Not There a writing project, exactly), I'm glad to have a comrade in supporting We Own the Night. One of the year's most underrated gems.

10:36 AM, December 12, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, am Away from Them this awards season, but I'm not feeling all that bad about it. It's like there's this big explosion that's happening in the world, and when I get back home, I can pick my way through the aftermath, paying attention to the things that miraculously escaped damage, and ignoring the stuff that's broken (e.g., BFCA). (I endorse swatting horseflies whenever possible.)

But: Whether Casey Affleck is lead or supporting in Assassination... (clearly lead, to anyone who's judging the actual film), he's a much better lead in Gone, Baby, Gone, and if I were to support him for any awards, it would be for that. But I'm probably not going to.

And: Cate Blanchett felt like the lead in I'm Not There, even though I understand logically that she's not. Weird.

Also: I'm making room in my year-end festivities for 4 Months too.

Finally: Yeah, Tilda. What, exactly, is up with the whole "let's not give her a bunch of awards" business?

12:43 AM, December 13, 2007  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

i am so horrifed by the lack of Tilda love that i've been blaming it on sheer stupidity. Like maybe the performance is just too daringly calculated and offputtingly correct and weirdly inspired for just about anyone who isn't a genius him/herself.

that's the way i'm consoling Tilda and tje way I'm backpatting all Tilda lovers.

so glad to see words from you again. type away

3:18 PM, December 13, 2007  
Blogger lylee said...

Well, you know who MY pet dark horse is...I've been stumping for Frank Langella ever since his movie first snuck into theaters. The fact that he's gotten as much critical attention as he has (given that the distributor seems to be doing zilch to promote him or the film) I think really speaks for the quality of his performance. It's dispiriting, though, cause just a little more of a publicity push could get him in with the frontrunners...but I don't see that happening.

4:26 PM, December 13, 2007  
Blogger lylee said...

Oh by the way, Nick, who (if anyone) would you consider to be the lead in "No Country for Old Men"? I can't decide how I'd classify Josh Brolin, who I actually thought was just as good as Bardem, if not better.

4:27 PM, December 13, 2007  
Blogger lylee said...

Viggo, Tony Leung, and Tang Wei, also among my pets... Viggo has at least a decent shot at an Oscar nod, I think.

All these awards are mighty distracting!

4:30 PM, December 13, 2007  
Blogger CanadianKen said...

"No Country"'s Javier Bardem was definitely focussed - no argument there - as a human version of the shark from "Jaws" but it didn't make me think awards. Not much love at this end for Tommy Lee Jones' studiously folksy sheriff or for Harrelson's aimless turn either. I WAS slightly impressed (retroactively) when I found out that Kelly Macdonald's southern fried Carla Jean was hiding a Scottish accent. But ,oh that actress that played her mother! Right out of a third-rate TV skit. Complete with that exaggerated "younger woman playing an old lady" vibe. Only Vicki Lawrence has figured out how to do this and make me like it. But hats off to Josh Brolin, magnificently delivering the film's one fantastic performance. I'd be happy to see him and Viggo both among Oscar's chosen five. Though at this point, it looks like only Mortensen has even a shot. And I guess I can't resist another wail in the desert over three performances I loved that are getting zero attention: Ed Harris ("Gone Baby Gone") Amy Madigan ("Gone Baby Gone" and - sorry, Nick - even though I only went to see this movie 'cause your scathing review was so damn funny and brilliant - Samantha Morton's kick-ass Mary Queen of Scots in "Elizabeth: the Golden Age". She rocked my world. Such as it is.

1:01 AM, December 14, 2007  
Blogger Calum Reed said...

Where have you been Nick?! I thought you'd died or something.

About Amy Ryan... I am so mad. They delayed the release of Gone Baby Gone here because of this girl who has been missing since May. Ridiculous. Maybe when Ryan is nominated it might get a release in February, but I'm not holding my breath. Anyway, I doubt she's better than Tilda Swinton (yes, I'm another Swinton lover).

Also... I'm disappointed Steve Zahn isn't getting more attention for Rescue Dawn. I think he expresses a lot given that Bale's character is the only one treated as an individual. He's one of my favourites in a very meh category this year.

8:37 AM, December 14, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, Nick. So I just caught up with JUNO and all I can say is ... you rated this reactionary, arch and altogether sick-making trash higher than NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN? Maybe it's your relative youth or dare I say it, your ... no, better not say it.

Shaking my head as fast I can with utmost respect,

Anonymous Again

8:15 PM, December 23, 2007  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

So much to respond to, so little time. So few actual new posts. But Anon, no need to hold your tongue: postulate as you will! I'll say more after I've seen No Country a second time, but I really thought the severe, almost fetishized technical prowess asphyxiated most of the philosophical or ethical aspirations of the script: a very solid piece of filmmaking, and in theory I like the shifts of theme and register toward the end, but (for my taste) the Coens hadn't provided enough context for the Brolin character's recklessness, the Macdonald character's surprising chattiness about moral quandaries, or the Bardem character's aspirations toward something larger than a stock figure for evil. Plus, the actors struck me as pitching their perfs at wildly different levels, whereas Juno, after some shaky opening sequences, was carried to semi-glory by its deft, surprising, terrifically syncopated actors. I see that it dodges the abortion possibility, and the resolution is brisk, but I relished the keen sense of character and of unexpected refocusing of thematic emphasis—Juno's pregnancy doesn't engender a total psychological switcheroo (as in the nauseating and truly reactionary Waitress) or an unsatisfying series of compromises (as in Knocked Up) but prompts her to rethink what she sees in the relationships around her, which are modulated enough to warrant the attention, given how beautifully they're played by Garner & Bateman, Simmons & Janney, and Cera & Page.

That's my line, and I'm sticking to it - I think. The direction tempered the archness in the script, and both direction and script struck me as knowing when to cut the embellishments and nail an emotional beat. Most of the time. The great majority of the time. Are you still horrified?

@Cal: I HEAR YOU about Zahn. More on him later, when my awards come up.

and @Ken: I'm fascinated to hear a case for Samantha Morton in Elizabeth Reloaded. I couldn't get a bead on that performance, and I was annoyed by the stock gesture of Falling To The Floor In Sudden Grief, Flailing Away at The Extra Standing Beside Her. We're in agreement about the No Country cast, though, despite the fact that you liked Brolin more than I did.

8:30 PM, December 23, 2007  
Blogger CanadianKen said...

I guess I'm destined to be alone on this - flailing away without even an extra beside me. But here are excerpts from a couple of rants I made on another blog recently:

"Having sampled some reviews, I wasn't expecting much from "Elizabeth: The Golden Age". But Morton's performance just kind of blind-sided me - in a good way. I saw her Mary as embodying a lot of different strands of fanaticism, entwined in a particularly volatile way - fanatical Catholicism, fanatical goodness, fanatical ambition,fanatical conception of duty, fanatical sense of entitlement. Not really reconciling them, but rather carrying on a relentless and highly charged balancing act. For me, Morton's combination of composure and hysteria was electric. And that death scene! It was like - "Well, they had their chance. Fuck 'em. But I'm going out in style - and I'm heading somewhere where they WILL get it!
Wearing red."

"Maybe hysteria wasn't quite the right word. Memories of her quivering intensity may have suggested it to me. But perhaps "barely contained frustration" or "righteous indignation amounting to fury" might have been closer to the mark. In any case it worked for me. And I LOVED the accent."

12:32 PM, December 24, 2007  

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