Friday, September 04, 2009

The Fifties: A 2009 Progress Report

You loved them in 2006, you loved them in 2007, you loved them in 2008, and suddenly, here we are again. Two films earlier than I thought we'd be, however. When I saw, and loved, Roy Andersson's mordantly hysterical and brilliantly staged You, the Living tonight with Goatdog, I figured that after this splendid experience, I would make a point of catching the inevitably discussion-worthy Inglourious Basterds, and the completely untitillating but compulsory Taking Woodstock, and then I'd be good 'n' ready to take this annual stroll through the best of what I've seen so far—which, if you're joining for the first time, is published every year after I've caught my 50th U.S. commercial release. But then, I noticed that two films I saw at last April's Nashville Film Festival, Giancarlo Esposito's disappointingly clunky directing debut Gospel Hill and Ondi Timoner's intriguingly "edgy" but finally off-putting documentary We Live in Public, had suddenly opened in New York City. So we've got our customary tally of 50, without a basterd or a hippie in sight.

I admit that I'm not that sad to be skipping forward: I will enjoy playing my exact responses to Basterds and Woodstock a little closer to the vest once I've actually seen them, so that my thoughts are fresher at year's end... and my reason for selecting and archiving "The Fifties" every year is to underscore some great filmmaking from the months of the year that are mercifully light on huge headline-grabbers and awards-PR campaigns, though this also means that many of my anointees are likely to be crowded out of the spotlight, even my own spotlight, once "Best Of" lists and ballots actually do start circulating in January December the morning after Veteran's Day.

Can we all repeat in unison? It is a lazy, Hollywood-centric, studio-driven myth that all the good movies open in the fall and at the holidays. If you're tempted to believe this—and you hold a job and inhabit a city that affords you wider options—you aren't making enough time for the foreign films, past festival winners, and documentaries that are distributed herky-jerky all over the calendar, and you might not be giving due credit to what you have seen and enjoyed in the winter, spring, and summer, while somehow locking into the presumption that everything good is still to come. When I personally look at the fall, I don't get the sense of a huge mountain of treats in the offing, so all the more reason to celebrate what we've got so far... and if you missed 'em, look for 'em! And if I pass on what you thought were some shoo-ins, I'm not trying to be a jerk. I just don't get the fuss.

(P.S. I love my commenters! Even more than usual, the ideas and suggestions in every part of this post have been tested for the better and made more interesting by the contributions of the commenters. Make sure to read them!)

(P.P.S. For a U.K. take on the best of the year up till now, taking a different slate of releases and dates into account, check out Tim's new list.)

BEST PICTURE
The Hurt Locker - The studio serves gourmet, and you chow down on Spam? Buy a ticket!
Julia - Erick Zonca takes huge risks in writing and direction, with stunning payoffs
The Limits of Control - An uneven auteur yields rich, weird, fascinating minimalism
Lorna's Silence - A taut, nuanced story rendered with typical Dardenne eloquence
You, the Living - Like an uproarious trompe-l'oeil exhibit in a Nordic purgatory
(Count the B+'s, and you can see that my Top 10 would so far be filled out with the sprawling but austere Gomorrah, the ingeniously acted and scripted In the Loop, the boldly heightened Sin Nombre, the ruefully elegant Summer Hours, and the vibrantly schizoid Thirst. Though if Prodigal Sons eventually scores a theatrical release, it will enter near the top. What's going on with this movie?)

BEST DIRECTOR
Roy Andersson, You, the Living
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Lorna's Silence
Jim Jarmusch, The Limits of Control
Erick Zonca, Julia
(No cutesy exceptions: the five best films derive from the five most singular, mature, and risk-taking exercises in direction. For more on "cutesy," see the Comments.)

BEST ACTRESS
Amy Adams, Sunshine Cleaning - Connects with multiple sides, peppy and grim, of her character
Arta Dobroshi, Lorna's Silence - An admirable feat of "being, not acting" acting
Mimi Kennedy, In the Loop - One of the deftest and smartest of multiple, delicious leads
Kim Ok-vin, Thirst - Works overtime to make Thirst hang together; does so with fire and cool
Tilda Swinton, Julia - If anyone touches her in '09, I'll be floored
(Fête Meryl all you want, and yep, she's fun; but I didn't really buy this as more than a broad, loving romp in a simple role. This category changed after the first comment; see below.)

BEST ACTOR
Peter Capaldi, In the Loop - Showy lines, yes, but he grounds them in a sharp, shifting character
Russell Crowe, State of Play - That rarest of breeds, a plausible Hollywood journalist
Robert Downey, Jr., The Soloist - Blends his rascally tics into a lively, believable portrait of emotional aloofness
Mark Duplass, Humpday - Sells a moribund premise with his razor precision on each line and look
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker - A fully integrated, deep, arrogant, no-fat picture of a 21st-century antihero
(How surprising that there are twice as many strong candidates, including almost-as-good costars Anthony Mackie in Locker, Jamie Foxx in Soloist, and Tom Hollander and Chris Addison in Loop, plus spry Paul Rudd in I Love You, Man, beleaguered Sharlto Copley in District 9, and haunted Ciro Patrone in Gomorrah)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Hurt Locker - "Gets" every aesthetic and POV that every other Iraq movie tried for, and gets them all
Julia - A restless symphony of unease and frightening, blood-pumping, reckless catharsis
The Limits of Control - Intense seductions of color, geometry, and depth, with witty allusions
Sin Nombre - A rich chromatic experience that never abandons the characters or their worldview
Thirst - A plethora of tricks, color schemes, rapid movements, and ostentatious frames, in a good way

BEST FILM EDITING
Drag Me to Hell - With minor caveats, a flawless hold on pace and tone
The Hurt Locker - Exquisite action and suspense, with character notes and a refusal of clichéd cutaways
Julia - Careful balance of dreadful accumulation and right-off-the-bat lunacy; engrossing
The Limits of Control - It's all in the title: dilates scenes to just the right extreme, whether of dry absurdism, or real menace, or environmental immersion
Lorna's Silence - Balances an unusually plotty, talking-pointish script with needful intervals of social atmosphere and long, well-calibrated takes

BEST SCREENPLAY
Gomorrah - A wealth of details, with just enough connecting threads
In the Loop - Ingenious construction outshines even memorable invective
Lorna's Silence - Judicious pacing of revelations, plausible pile-up of conflicts
The Soloist - Refuses the tempting studio clean-up on several messy points
Summer Hours - Ideal, miniaturist moments with artfully ambiguous gaps

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Anna Chlumsky, In the Loop - An unlikely but certain bid for smart roles by a onetime child star; tastily comic yet totally true
Marion Cotillard, Public Enemies - Makes everything one could out of a stunted part and plotline
Alycia Delmore, Humpday - A tart, likable read on the girlfriend everyone over- and under-estimates
Gina McKee, In the Loop - Devoted but disdainful; enjoys the wreck everyone makes when they drop her
Naturi Naughton, Notorious - A fierce, fully committed take on L'il Kim, pulling a great "f*** you" diva moment hurling "Get Money" at B.I.G.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Jason Clarke, Public Enemies - Self-assured reticence and charisma, as Dillinger's most trusted pal
Steve Coogan, In the Loop - Works perfect, angry, funny, righteous magic at the sidelines
Fabrizio Rongione, Lorna's Silence - Implies an entrancing spin-off beyond this movie, and downplays the "villain" notes
Saul Rubinek, Julia - Hard to imagine a surer spin on the infatuated but exasperated enabler
Stanley Tucci, Julie & Julia - Warm and generous, but also knows how even the most loving, candid couples subtly maneuver with each other

BEST MOVIES I DIDN'T MENTION
Sugar and Revanche

SORRY, BUT I'M NOT A BELIEVER
The Brothers Bloom, Moon, Of Time and the City, Ponyo, Star Trek, and Up

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31 Comments:

Blogger Brooke Cloudbuster said...

I'm totally with you on most of these, but given your liking of Thirst, I'm curious as to if Kim Ok-bin came close to getting on your Best Actress list?

I'm a fan of the film, and for me, she keeps it together whenever it starts to go awry.

3:12 AM, September 04, 2009  
Blogger tim r said...

Can't wait to submit my own, mainly because we disagree so much! I think Lorna's Silence is so-so Dardennes, I think Mimi Kennedy, though great, is clearly supporting, and I actively dislike Coogan in Loop. Still, my Actor and Cinematography lists won't be far off yours, and I'm glad to see Binoche and Crowe in there.

You've reminded me that I must get round to seeing You, the Living...

5:20 AM, September 04, 2009  
Blogger Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Surprised...but oddly happy...to see no up... However saw that both Coraline and Up earned Bs...which do you prefer...if either?

Spot on the Meryl Streep thing...as far as I'm concerned.

8:03 AM, September 04, 2009  
Blogger Catherine said...

I opened up the Word document where I list all the stuff I've seen in the cinema this year so far, but quickly realised that most of the really great films I've seen this year are 2008 releases that only made it over here in the first half of this year. So, leaving out all those films, here's what I'm left with:

FILM:
Looking for Eric
Coraline
Drag Me To Hell
Broken Embraces
(500) Days of Summer

BEST ACTOR:
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, (...Summer
Sam Rockwell, Moon
Steve Evets, Looking for Eric
Christophe Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Lluis Homar, Broken Embraces

BEST ACTRESS:
Mélanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds
Charlotte Gainsbourg, Antichrist
Amy Adams, Sunshine Cleaning
Michelle Pfeiffer, Cheri
Sandra Bullock, The Proposal

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Clifton Collins Jnr, Sunshine Cleaning
Alan Rickman, Harry Potter...
Jim Broadbent, Harry Potter...
Michael Fassbender, Inglourious Basterds
John Henshaw, Looking for Eric

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Julianne Moore, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
Maria Bello, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
Joan Cusack, My Sister's Keeper
Blanca Portillo, Broken Embraces
Lorna Raver Drag Me To Hell

(Apart from Portillo, this catergory was way too taxing to compile. Moore was excellent, as usual, but her part was way too small to actually count for anything, and everyone else I'm only lukewarm about).

I'll stop there before I drive myself nuts trying to come up with 5 directors or screenwriters or cinematographers etc, that I thought were worth a shout this year, save for Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer) in directing and Anthony Dodd Mantle (Antichrist), Eric Steelburg ((500) Days of Summer) and Rodrigo Prieto (Broken Embraces) for cinematography.

MY MOST HATED CAMEO:
Eli Roth in Basterds

MY MOST ENJOYED CAMEO(S):
Rossy de Palma, Chus Lampreve and Lola Duenas in Broken Embraces

8:40 AM, September 04, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Brooke: Totally dropped the ball on Kim; I've now subbed her in...

@Tim: ...which will only grate on you, since it means dropping Binoche. I'm not crazy about what happens to Lorna's by the end, but I liked that the movie seemed less strenuous, somehow, than some of their others. I think Loop is a whole bucket of leads: Capaldi, Hollander, Addison, Kennedy, probably Gandolfini, and I'll be eager to hear why you don't like Coogan. You will love the Andersson.

@Andrew: I liked the lollipop colors in Up and the compelling weirdness of that huge bird. I of course cried during the prologue but felt a little used by it, and I think the script is really patchy. The ending is one of those mad, senseless Pixar chases that has dulled many of their conclusions into silly fracas (see also: Monsters, Inc., WALL•E, even to a certain extent The Incredibles). I don't know whether I'll be a Coraline or an Up voter at year's end; I'm hoping it won't matter, because something better will come along.

@Catherine: Juicy lists! Intrigued to see so much love for (500) Days (Cinematography?), and Collins was a near-miss for Supporting Actor for me; I think he's spiffy in that part. I don't know why the film didn't recognize that the Amy-Clifton thing was its ace and play to it a little more. You're convincing me to give Looking for Eric more of a Go than I would have, when it eventually lands here. And I get you on Supporting: except for Rubinek, I wouldn't be surprised to see any of these names pushed off by year's end. Why has the acting been so humdrum this year?

@All: I wanted to do Sound, but I should have been taking better notes this year. I need to think more carefully to make sure I'm remembering it all clearly, since sound details are the first things that slip my mind if I don't write 'em down.

10:07 AM, September 04, 2009  
Blogger Catherine said...

Well, I only just saw (500) Days of Summer two nights ago, so its still fresh in my mind (doubly so because of my hilarious experience at the box office when the ticket women asked me was I old enough to see it. I'm young, but not THAT young!) and the dizzying effects may have worn off by the year's end, but right now I'm quite happy to cosy up to it. Obviously the facet I'm most invested in is Gordon-Levitt, but I'm still standing by that cinematography mention. Mostly for that one gorgeous scene of Tom waking up to beautiful, orange-y rain-splashed windows, but in general I loved how fresh and streamlined and airy it made LA look and how convincingly stuffy and dingy the lighting in the clubs and bar scenes was.

Looking For Eric is nothing revolutionary and a plot resolution in the last third of the film bothered me quite a bit, but its heart is squarely in the right place, all the acting roles are gems (even Cantona himself) and it's very, very funny.

As for your Picks, while I haven't seen most of them, they're a good reminder that I really need to get my ass in gear and rent Julia, The Hurt Locker opens this weekend so I might squeeze it in after work on Sunday and I'll concede that maybe its not Marion Cotillard's fault that I felt so blah about her in Public Enemies (I felt blah about pretty much every aspect of that film).

And totally agree about the Amy/Clifton storyline in Sunshine Cleaning. Same with the Emily/Mary Lynn thing. Both relationships kind of fizzled out, disappointingly.

10:34 AM, September 04, 2009  
Blogger tim r said...

I'm with you guys on Collins, though the part is a little too curtailed for him to be making it on my list. Liked Amy well enough, at least until that dreadful CB radio monologue.With Loop I can't justify making Kennedy a lead where Chlumsky and McKee aren't -- I'd swear they have just as much screen time -- though I certainly see your point about Capaldi and (just about) Hollander, who is best in show for me. I am loving Catherine's Lorna Raver mention, and strongly considering her -- that's got to be one of the most memorable characters of the year, however over-the-top.

Can't quite go there with Marion in Public Enemies, but she wasn't bad. As for Coogan, I basically felt he was too big a name to be playing Aggrieved of Tunbridge Wells, and his attempts to out-hector the rest of the cast consigned that subplot to shouty overkill -- I get the idea, just felt the stunt casting backfired.

11:52 AM, September 04, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Catherine: I couldn't get on with anything Blunt or Rajskub were doing, but then I'm in the camp that can't figure out why Rajskub gets work, much less so much of it (is that a camp?).

@Catherine and @Tim: Lorna Raver was my #6 for Supporting Actress, and in a great film that was badly served by its two leads, she deserves even more credit, as does David Paymer.

@Tim: I can see your point about Kennedy vs McKee vs Chlumsky. Plus, you've seen the movie twice, which I only aspire to do. I think she's in more, and somewhat more pivotally, than Chlumsky, and McKee kind of disappears, right, once they leave England? But I'm admittedly splitting hairs. As for Coogan, maybe it helped that I saw it with someone who had no idea it was Steve Coogan, but I thought he really sold the part, and that surprise phone call from him while they're at the UN was, for me, a great bit, as was his first scene.

12:33 PM, September 04, 2009  
Blogger Victor S said...

How can we start an oscar campaign for Tilda Swinton in Julia ? And I thought Karen Crowder was a tough bitch.

7:41 PM, September 04, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree with your Streep performance assessment. She nailed Julia Child with a joyous powerhouse performance. Hopefully, it will bring her a third Oscar. Why all the Streep negativity?

8:27 PM, September 04, 2009  
Blogger adelutza said...

I agree 100% with Julia and Tilda Swinton. And I disagree 100% on The Limits of Control. 2 hours I'll never get back.

I saw a trailer of Thirst tonight before Shrink and no way I can ever go see that. Too much blood for my taste.

8:43 PM, September 04, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Victor: I have been trying since last October. Now, if only I knew anybody who knew anybody....

@Anon: Oh, come on. "All the Streep negativity"? I don't love everything she ever does, and we disagree about J&J (or maybe we agree as far as "joyous" but certainly not about "powerhouse"). But I love her plenty and have said so publicly.

@Adelutza: Yep, I remembered you hated Limits, and I can totally get that. Sort of exemplifies the movie that either hits you in a good way or an infuriating way pretty early, and it's hard to imagine switching temperatures. I wonder how I'd respond to a second look, or how you would. It's such a mood piece.

11:08 PM, September 04, 2009  
Blogger Glenn said...

I haven't seen anywhere near enough of the big titles coming out of America (some haven't been released, some just passed me by). Because of that I am going to include festival titles I saw this year.

Picture:
Fish Tank
Inglourious Basterds
Prodigal Sons
Samson and Delilah
Three Blind Mice*

Director:
Andrea Arnold, Fish Tank
Katheryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Matthew Newton, Three Blind Mice
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Warwick Thornton, Samson & Delilah*
Lars von Trier, Antichrist

Actor:
Willem Dafoe, Antichrist
Matt Day, My Year Without Sex
John Malkovich, Digrace*
Ewen Leslie, Three Blind Mice
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Actress:
Charlotte Gainsbourg, Antichrist
Marisa Gibson, Samson & Delilah
Katie Jarvis, Fish Tank
Kelly O'Neill, Kisses
Gracie Otto, Three Blind Mice

I can't pick a winner here. They are all exceptional. Should I give the edge to Otto since I've met her and I have a girl crush on her?

Supporting Actor:
Michael Fassbender, Inglourious Basterds & Fish Tank (and recall I was NOT a fan of Hunger so this is a good sign)
Benoît Poelvoorde, Coco avant Chanel
Geoffrey Rush, Bran Nue Dae
Liev Schreiber, Taking Woodstock
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds*

Supporting Actress:
Maud Davey, My Year Without Sex
Jessica Haines, Disgrace (although I should probably put her in best actress now that I think of it)
Melanie Laurant, Inglourious Basterds
Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds
Hanna Mangan-Lawrence, Lucky Country*

I consider everyone in Basterds as supporting, just fwiw.

Best Editing:
Fish Tank
The Hurt Locker
Lake Mungo
Samson & Delilah*
Three Blind Mice

Best Cinematography:
Anthony Dod Mantle, Antichrist
Andrew Lesnie, Bran Nue Dae
Robert Richardson, Inglourious Basterds
Jules O'Loughlin, Lucky Country
Christian Berger, The White Ribbon*

Art Direction:
Coco Avant Chanel
Inglourious Basterds
Mary & Max
Watchmen*
The White Ribbon

Costume Design:
Bruno
Coco Avant Chanel*
Inglourious Basterds
Watchmen
The Young Victoria

11:22 PM, September 04, 2009  
Blogger Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

In addition, glad to see you were impressed with Marion. Really underused in that film...

I don't know why but CORALINE completely sucked me in...

12:52 AM, September 05, 2009  
Blogger Colin said...

1. If Meryl does clinch her third Oscar this year, then, would you deem her to be "winning another one just to win another one"?

2. (No) thanks to horribly delayed release schedules for non-blockbusters here in Singapore, I have seen almost none of these movies except Public Enemies. I am glad that you keep tooting the horn for Cotillard, though; I found most of her Edith Piaf unconvincing but was bowled over in her hallucinatory breakdown long-take, and her post-Oscar Hollywood career choice seem to augur promising results.

3. Moon had a promising sci-fi premise but ploddingly predictable development; Up was Pixar's most infantile film yet. I'm glad you're not a believer in either, even if it seems boorish to admit it.

11:13 AM, September 05, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Streep has received some of the best reviews of her career for J&J, she is certainly an obvious threat to win the Oscar for biopic role she nailed and well deserved in my opinion. You are obviously entitled to your negative thoughts on the performance.

1:19 PM, September 05, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Glenn: As always, an interesting list... and I hope that lots and lots of those Antipodean titles make their way over here!

@Colin: 1) That is indeed exactly how I will feel. I absolutely did not feel she was bad, as I think she is in important moments in Doubt, but what's good and special about the performance just doesn't feel Oscar-worthy to me. I still like her better in the It's Complicated trailer.

2) Well, I did love Cotillard in La Vie en rose and a few years earlier in A Very Long Engagement, but I'm as pleased as you are that her post-Oscar future has been working as well as it has. Smart gal, but also, I'm glad that Hollywood people are actually calling her.

3) Thank you.

Also: I've been feeling bad about that "say it in unison" moment since yesterday. I've lived in enough underserved American markets and also abroad, and remember the feelings of not being able to see the stuff that I'm fortunate to have opportunities to see now, in Chicago. I was reacting to something I'd read that day from a paid writer in a metro area that has every opportunity to see everything possible, and still keeps slinging the "Fall Is Best" mantra and casting the narrowest possible net around the "best" of what's been available for the past eight months. So, that made me crabby, but I didn't mean to duplicate his own small-mindedness when I meant to be indicting it and steering people away from that kind of thinking, especially when you're in situations where you can really afford to take more risks and sample more options. I was going to post this mea culpa anyway, but your missive from Singapore gives me the chance. (Though it isn't lost on me that you probably get to see a lot in your market, as Glenn does, that's hard to track down over here!)

@Anon: I concede all of those points. And again, I don't mean to characterize my thoughts about the performance as "negative"; I think she's good. I just think it's more enjoyable and party-trickish than it is demanding or layered, and given the direction, she's pushed into some really obvious stuff (for example, every time a whisper about children passes through the movie) that's well beneath her as a performer, or what I'd expect from an Oscar turn. But certainly, much lesser perfs have copped the trophy. I won't lose my mind if she wins. I just really feel that we've already seen five or six more interesting performances from leading actresses this year and are bound to see more. (At least, one hopes!) But I didn't mean to sound like a shrike.

1:42 PM, September 05, 2009  
Blogger Brooke Cloudbuster said...

Another comment!

I think for me, at least so far with these staggered NZ release dates, the best supporting actress of the year is Edith Scob in Summer Hours as Helene. So delicate and graceful, but without ever underplaying or understating the complexity and strength of this woman.

6:32 PM, September 05, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Brooke: Another great call, and the other near-miss, along with the above-mentioned Lorna Raver, from my Best Supporting Actress roster. Scob is wonderful in just the ways you describe, and though I don't understand why the C&#233sars didn't cozy to this movie at least a little more, her nod was well-earned.

@All: If you must know (or if, apparently, I feel compelled to tell you), having now seen Basterds and Woodstock, the lists barely change. Waltz is a shoo-in for a Best Actor slot, but I'm not sure whom he bumps, since I like four of the performances about equally. (Please, can we agree that he is a lead in this movie? If Hopkins was a lead in Lambs, with much less proportional screen time, Waltz has got to be a lead in this, and in much the same way.)

As for Woodstock, I actually felt a fondness toward the hard-driving Imelda Staunton, who's certainly as exhausting as everyone says, but in a movie that needed some pushing, I appreciated her gusto, and she showed me something, in however heightened away, about how and why certain older folks I have encountered cleave so ferociously to their savings, their scowls, and their secrets, at the expense of much else, sometimes to the point of self-sabotage. Again, I'm hoping that a whole wave of second-tier women are prepping to overhaul this list, but for now, Imelda's in, probably over Cotillard.

But otherwise, that's it. Didn't care for Kruger or Laurent or Fassbender quite enough, think the "buzz" around Schreiber is pretty silly (he's fine, but surely it's just the part people are noticing, or the overdue-ness of the actor...), don't think a technical nod is really in the offing for either pic despite their strenuous bids. The best stuff in IB vastly eclipses the peaks in TW, but as so often in QT, the inconsistencies are too much to ignore.

8:46 PM, September 05, 2009  
Blogger Colin said...

Hee! Despite your justified complaints about the downgrading of chief male villains into the supporting category, can I just note my pleasure that I nevertheless like this nascent Academy trend (starting with Bardem in '07)? It's not like they'd otherwise pick a worthier candidate anyhow, and it frees up another Oscar in the far more exciting Best Actor field. (In my judgement, Heath Ledger's Joker became the greatest performance to ever be crowned Best Supporting Actor when he won earlier this year, and it was bad enough that only one of two classic performances got to receive the Best Actor trophy without throwing him into the mix.)

9:15 PM, September 05, 2009  
Blogger Colin said...

Speaking of It's Complicated, doesn't it look like Meryl's trying to rehabilitate her Mamma Mia character into an actual human being? Not to jinx it, of course (grin), but as a young fan who discovered Meryl in '06, I'm still not used to her newfound attempts at playing a self-confessed slut. (Sex-minded, yes — as she was in Silkwood, Bridges of Madison County and A Prairie Home Companion — but even those characters were rather monogamous; her star persona's always seemed too wholesome for outright "slutty".)

9:30 PM, September 05, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Colin: A well-reasoned way to countenance these dubious downgrades to Supporting races. And though George Sanders's Addison DeWitt is going to take an even mightier titan than Ledger's Joker to topple from the Best Supporting Actor summit, I get where you're coming from. Still, I'd love to see four more famous names in four larger parts all lose it to Waltz at Oscar time... which also, now that we think of it, was comparable to the kick of watching Hopkins, then unknown or mostly forgotten to most Americans, defeat four huge stars and get a standing ovation for what some naysayers still wanted to call a supporting performance.

As for Meryl: that sounds like a great read on what we've seen of the IC character so far, but I'm reserving judgment till we've got the movie in front of us.

1:28 AM, September 06, 2009  
Blogger Glenn Dunks said...

I'm no big fan of Schreiber, but I thought he (along, somewhat, with Eugene Levy and Henry Goodman) the one who to get the balance right. He wasn't overly crazy like Staunton, but he had a bit of a nudge-wink edge to him that was missing from the likes of Martin and Groff).

He was also a #5 placer so he'll be gone, hopefully, in a week or two.

7:54 AM, September 06, 2009  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

this list is only serving to smack me down by reminding me how much i've failed seeing strong small stuff this year. Boo me! :(

10:25 AM, September 06, 2009  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

but also I must take exception to your phrase in "Best Director"

"No cutesy exceptions: the five best films derive from the five most singular, mature, and risk-taking exercises in direction"

i thought we've always agreed that it's rather thickheaded on the part of most writers/ journalists/ fans to complaint that the awards should always lineup. Why would an exception be "cutesy"

10:50 AM, September 06, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

That's a totally good point. Here's the thing: I've gotten a little hung up on just this issue, such that I actually caught myself at the moment of making me lists, trying to self-consciously make sure that they wouldn't line up. And the assuredness of Assayas's direction of Summer Hours is such that he almost got in. So, "cutesy" in this case was a rebuke to my own over-compensating urge (what if they think I'm being lazy!) rather than to the principle itself. I'm all for non-alignment. Thanks for inviting me to clarify.

11:54 AM, September 06, 2009  
Blogger Guy said...

It's totally lazy/rude to link without even contributing, so here, belatedly, are my Best Picture nominees. (I'll try to stick to US release patterns, thereby leaving off the likes of "Fish Tank" and "35 Rhums," while filching a 2008 UK release or two.)

"The Hurt Locker"
"Il Divo"
"Public Enemies"
"Sugar"
"Summer Hours"

No time for other categories, though I agree with a lot of your performance citations -- but will vex you by throwing in a nod for Michelle Pfeiffer.

At this early (desperate) stage, Ginnifer Goodwin and Jennifer Aniston could well make my five (in lead and supporting respectively) for "He's Just Not That Into You." God, I'm awful.

5:03 AM, September 08, 2009  
Blogger Glenn Dunks said...

Guy, Aniston would have made my five if I took Haines out. How strange. And yet true.

5:08 AM, September 09, 2009  
Blogger Fantastic Forrest said...

I was blown away by Meryl as Julia Child. If she doesn't at least get a nomination, it will be a travesty. That was a truly memorable performance!

I'm enjoying your blog very much.

1:55 AM, September 10, 2009  
Blogger JKlorfein said...

Absolutely agree with you on "Julia" and "The Hurt Locker". Just when I was about to commit to high school posturing and tell folks that I never have and had no desire to see a Dardennes film (too many mediocre student shorts have mentioned them as an influence), you've made me want to see "Lorna's Silence".

2:14 PM, September 15, 2009  
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