Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Fifties for 2011: Drivers and Vehicles

We'll finish with the lead actors and actresses. But first...

Best Director
Patricio Guzmán for Nostalgia for the Light, for only seeming to force awkward metaphors, then slowly cajoling us into the full, conflicted logic of the poem he has written to his country;

Abbas Kiarostami for Certified Copy, for folding his usual fondness for metafilmic puzzles within a romantic plot and emotional throughline that feel as immediate as a fond caress;

Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life, for the warmth and immodesty of his daring, for seeing in a man a child, and in a child grief, and in grief and grace the origins of the world;

Mike Mills for Beginners, for making a film about a cartoonist, a kooky actress, a dying gay man, and a chatty dog that is not a sitcom but a roomy, melancholy valentine; and

Aleksei Popogrebsky for How I Ended This Summer, for using image, sound, edits, actors, tempo, and locale so electrically that story bumps don't matter, and the experience brims with energy.

Honorable mentions, filling out an irritatingly male-only roster, are Michelangelo Frammartino for Le Quattro Volte, Cary Fukunaga for Jane Eyre, Benjamin Heisenberg for The Robber, Steve James for The Interrupters, Lee Chang-dong for Poetry, Radu Muntean for Tuesday, After Christmas, and Michael Rowe for Leap Year.

Best Picture
Beginners: Tactful, tender, and generous, rich in humor and characterization. Joins the Junebug Hall of Fame for exquisite modesty;

Certified Copy: Disarmingly lived-in, even warm for a study of romantic skepticism and ambivalence. Concepty, yes, but rings with truth;

The Interrupters: An achievement fully comparable to Hoop Dreams, with some of the year's most indelible moments and characters;

Nostalgia for the Light: Even when forcing analogies a bit, a humbling blend of awe, empiricism, history, reverie, and mourning; and

The Tree of Life: A brother's grief kiln-blasted and glazed into a grand, restless, ecstatic lament for a living and dying world.

Honorable mentions, in order, to How I Ended This Summer, Poetry, Tuesday, After Christmas, Le Quattro volte, and The Robber.

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Blogger Powerandcrinolines said...

I'm really enjoying this feature on the blog and, as always, I'm impressed and intimidated by how you write so insightfully and succinctly about film. Did I miss the lead actor/actress entry though? Or are you saving the act(ress)ing for last?

Love the Nostalgia for the Light mention in both these categories. My memories of the movie are unfortunately a bit fuzzy since I saw it over a year ago but I also remember starting off sceptical of the way Guzman abstracted science to parallel it with the history of the country, only to give in completely by the end. There's something inexorable about the way the movie gradually impress on the audience the weight of grief (and its consequences) in the aftermath of Pinochet's regime. Even sitting in the second row and straining to read the subtitles over (and to the side and around) the head of the giant sitting in front of me didn't diminish it. I haven't seen Tree of Life yet, but from the words that's been written about it, I feel like it would make a great double feature with Nostalgia.

12:39 AM, September 20, 2011  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

Thanks, "X," wo/man of mystery! I really appreciate the kind words. And yep, Best Actress and Actor will be last, since I think a lot of my readers tend to be even more eager for those announcements.

Sounds like we had exactly the same experience of Nostalgia for the Light, so it's reassuring to me to hear it echoed. It would be a great double-feature with The Tree of Life, for sure, though the great friend with whom I saw Nostalgia experienced it as a balming improvement upon what she took as nostalgic, transcendentalizing, and a little bit sexist in Tree.

12:03 PM, September 20, 2011  
Anonymous JStor said...

Normally my faves in a given year are substantially different from my favourite directors, as I tend to go for more 'wordy' films as opposed to image-focussed ones, but this (half-)year has them both matching up in a nice harmony. Maybe it's just been a good year for images and words. Anyhoo, I'll stop blabbering:


Arrietty: Because, like Jane Eyre below, it finds the cinematic in the literary, adds to it a plucky-yet-flawed heroine slightly unsure of the word, and manages to make that world delicious to look at yet effectively fraught with danger;
Beginners: For the reasons described by Nick, but also because it resists every temptation thrown at it to turn it into a Manic Pixie Dream Gay/Girl movie, and becomes its own thing entirely;
Cold Weather: Because I can't shut up about it, apparently, and that I'd have nominated it in every category so far (including the ones from yesterday, if I'd done a lost) and will be nominating it for at least one tomorrow. And that it probably has had the longest staying power with me for quite a while;
Jane Eyre: For the reasons described above for Arrietty but for a completely different context, darker in many ways but lighter when it needs to be;
Senna: Because it's an electrically edited, sumptuously scripted, deftly directed parable about politics, power and passion that invites a look at an insular sport, but doesn't dumb down for devotees. (Wow, that was alliterative!)

I'm looking forward especially to tomorrow; I have a few ideas of who you're going to pick for the categories, but it's always fun to encounter a surprise or two. I can always count on you for that!

5:35 PM, September 20, 2011  
Anonymous Paolo said...

Just as I thought that I had my to-watch list figured out and trimmed, I revisit your blog and get all mixed up. I know that I missed Nostalgia for the Light and I hope The Interrupters is still in one of many theatres we have in town.

The Beginners-Junebug double bill is also interesting. I always thought that Mike Mills film would what Woody Allen could have made if he slowed down and made a little thinking.

12:00 PM, October 27, 2011  

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