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Saturday, March 04, 2006

11th Annual Fortnightly Film Awards:

Best Picture
Walk the Line

This was an amazing year for movies, and picking the top prize was difficult. About every film on this list (and a few others) at one time or the other could have won. There is one film, however, that seemed to get more relevant as I thought about it. That got better as time went by. Richard Roeper said that Syriana was probably the “Best film of the decade.” He may not be far off. The film is not left-leaning, or even subversive as many people have dismissed it as. If anything it clouded the issues it portrays, making a somewhat good case for the corruption it portrays. It gives us complicated people, trying to do the right things, which in some cases turn out to be the wrong things, in a world so complex that to understand it brings you to the threshold of death. While the film itself is as complex as its subject matter, it is gracefully put together, and beautifully shot. The acting is great, and the writing is impeccable. And even in a world so confusing there is hope-that we can make our own lives better and that somehow can make at least our world a better place. I think that when we look back at this year this will be looked on as the forgotten gem of the year, (I mean a film about the complexities of the Iran situation can only get more relevant as time goes on) and may indeed be what Mr. Roeper says it is.

Runner-Up: Crash

Best Director
Paul Haggis, Crash
Oliver Hirschbiegel, Downfall
Ingmar Bergman, Saraband
James Mangold, Walk the Line
Nick Park/Steve Box, Wallace and Gromit...
Stephen Gaghan, Syriana

The biggest misconception about filmmaking is the duties of the director. Most people think a great directing job is managing the details of a war epic. That’s the UPM and AD’s jobs. The director’s foremost task, and the only job he does alone, is work with the actors. The other important job is taking what is on the page and putting it on the screen using visual language. In the case of animation the director gives all the performances. And when there are no rules for visual language, you get to create your own world-which can lead to greatness, or disaster. Park and box created the best animated film since Spirited Away, and the best claymation feature I have seen. There was so much care put into this film that Park and Box’s fingerprints were literally in every frame of the film, taking over 4 years of slow stop motion takes and creating a delightful, bright, and smart film, in an original, sweet world, with relatively complex characters. Park and Box literally took bricks of clay and created a masterpiece.

Best Actor
Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck
Bruno Ganz, Downfall
Erlan Josephson, Saraband
Everyone wins here, I mean this could be the best 5 acting performances we’ve had in the 11 years we’ve done this.

Best Actress
Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
Juliane Köhler, Downfall
Keira Knightley, Pride and Prejudice
Luv Ullmann, Saraband
Julia Dufvenius, Saraband

Saraband will be studied by students of film for years to come, not only as Bergman’s final film, but a window into his life. It was a difficult film, with a lot going on in it. With a legendary cast around her, and perhaps the greatest director of all time at the helm, Julia Dufvenius gave a star making performance as a troubled daughter who is torn between playing the role of her deceased mother, and supporting her troubled father, or pursuing her own dreams. Her portrayal is both strong yet weak, confident, yet needy. After the film ended her performance stayed with me. She really became her character.

Best Sup Actor
Terrence Howard, Crash
Matt Dillon, Crash
Robert Patrick, Walk the Line
George Clooney, Syriana
Ray Wise, Good Night and Good Luck
Mathieu Kassovitz, Munich

The supporting actors we nominated all were by surprising actors who added a level of depth and humanity to their films. Terrence Howard was everywhere this year. But in Crash he gave the most realistic depiction of the complexities of being an African-American man in the 21st century, or any minority group for that matter, in recent American film. After I saw the film it when I talked to people it was usually “you have to see this,” followed by “...and this Howard guy is amazing.” To steal the show with such a terrific cast is a feat. It is not surprising that the Academy didn’t recognize his performance. It was a quiet one. And difficult. But he speaks more with his eyes in certain scenes than many actors do in entire films.

Best Sup Actress
Sandra Bullock, Crash
Thandie Newton, Crash
Catherine Keener, Capote, AND The 40-Year Old Virgin
Corinna Harfouch , Downfall
Lynn Cohen, Munich
Amy Adams, Junebug

We usually don’t do noms for 2 films. Especially as different as Capote and the 40 Year old Virgin. But Catherine Keener could have easily won for either. In both films she is an outsider. In capote she is somewhat of a rock to Capote. In Virign she is the antithesis of Steve Carrel, but winds up being his caring lover. In either film, she adds levels of subtext and backstory that adds much to both films.

Best Orig. Screenplay
The 40-Year Old Virgin
States of Grace
The Squid and the Whale
Paradise Now

Best Adapted Screenplay
Walk the Line
King Kong

Best Editing
King Kong

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