Sunday, February 26, 2012

And My Winners Are...

Perhaps you might think that my selections for the Best of 2011 were already set.  Well, perhaps, but I looked over my list and wanted to be fair about it.  Today, as the Academy presents their own choices (which I suspect may not correspond to mine), I give you from my own list my Selections for the Best of 2011.


In all the time I've endured 3-D I have never seen a film that actually used it effectively...until Hugo came along.  The fact that Hugo uses 3-D and it never becomes showy or gratuitous is a credit to the film's creativity. 


I see no irony in a silent film winning Best Sound Editing.  The reason is quite clear: The Artist edited what little sound it had so brilliantly.  Sound Editing should be about how sound is integrated into the movie, not about how loud a movie is.  If that is the criteria for this category, then The Artist does it so seamlessly. 


Again, The Artist mixes the sound elements so well that when the do appear, they don't interfere with the silence.  I am puzzled as to why people forget that The Artist is not an all-silent film...then again, no silent film was truly all-silent either. 


Ask any actor and he/she will tell you that to fully immerse one's self into character, make-up is so vitally important.  Here, the make-up not only made Meryl Streep look like Margaret Thatcher, but it also looked natural (as compared to J. Edgar's ridiculous work). 


I am still haunted and deeply moved by the life story of Ayrton Senna, Formula One racing legend, humble man, proud Brazilian, and gone far too soon.  Of all the documentaries I saw in 2011, Senna is the one that stayed with me long after I left the theater.  There are few films I can say I'm thankful to have seen: Senna is one of them. 


Culled from nothing but archival footage, Senna weaved a story so well one quickly forgot that everything in it was not made specifically for the film.  In short, all the footage, shot by different people in different times for different purposes (ranging from home movies to sports interviews and a children's variety show...we're looking at you, Xuxa) was put together so brilliantly in Senna that I still marvel at how good it all came together. 


Star Spangled Man (Captain America: The First Avenger)
Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by David Zippel

Despite my best efforts, I couldn't get Star-Spangled Man out of my head...but that's good.  I loved the fact that this song worked within the story and moreover, that the style it adopted fit into the spirit of a 1940s-style film (which is what it was going for).  It was unapologetically patriotic and chipper, and I think it will be remembered long after the official winner is announced.


Music by Harry Escott

All the scores were good.  However, when I consider which one will be the Best Original Score, my criterion is whether I remember it after I leave the theater.  On that front, I found only two that stayed with me: Cliff Martinez' Drive and Harry Escott's Shame.  I went back and forth between Martinez and Escott, but what sold me to select Shame as the Best Score is that it was sparingly used and that the music for Drive and Contagion (both scored by Martinez) were too similar in style to tell apart.  Shame, on the other hand, was mournful, fitting in perfectly to the dark subject matter. 


This is as close to 1920s Paris one is likely to get outside of a TARDIS.  The loving re-creation of Melies' studio and films and the glories of Paris in the inter-war period is lovingly rendered.


Adriano Goldman: Cinematography

All the films were beautifully shot, but Jane Eyre was so brilliant in capturing the eerie, moody, Gothic nature of the story that one was enveloped almost literally in the fog of the moors.  I was never overwhelmed with the visuals but the cinematography in Jane Eyre did what few films do: bring the story to life in an almost literal sense. 


I think Thor is highly overrated as a film: the actual script was pretty weak and minus Tom Hiddleton and Chris Hemsworth the performances weren't all that good.  However, the world of Thor, in particular the outrageous yet believeable costumes for Asgard, are so well-done I could not get past how well the actors worked within such grand garb. 


Screenplay by Moira Buffini
based on the novel by Charlotte Bronte

Taking an established literary classic and breathing life into it to where it becomes a sweeping romance is a difficult task.  Jane Eyre did so: breathing life into a story which is called a classic (shorthand for 'people know of it but don't read it').  In truth, Jane Eyre tempts me to pick up the Bronte book, and a film that keeps the language of the novel while sounding natural has achieved a great thing.  Any film with the line, "You transfix me quite" that doesn't end up sounding bizarre or antiquated deserves recognition. 


Screenplay by Dee Rees

The final poem Alike (pronounced Ah-Lee-Kay) recites is a beautiful and haunting piece of work.  However, the whole story of Pariah is brilliant: this isn't a story of a lesbian coming out, or even of an African-American lesbian.  Rather, it is the story of a young woman coming into her own, of finding who she is not just as a lesbian, but as a woman, a woman of color, and an individual, as her own woman. 


Alan Rickman
Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part II

This isn't some de facto 'lifetime achievement' award, or even an award for brilliantly playing Severus Snape through all eight Harry Potter stories.  His last scene is a haunting one, filled with both regret and pain.  Moreover, we at last are allowed a backstory to Snape and his relationship with the Potter family.  Rickman, as far as I know, has yet to receive an Oscar we have to ask, "WHY NOT?" 


Kim Wayans

It is so difficult to play what is suppose to be 'the heavy' and feel for him/her.  It is harder when you have the handicap of being seen as a purely comic performer.  Kim Wayans manages to give her character a full personality.  She isn't evil but she isn't all good either.  Instead, she's a fully-rounded person, one with virtues and flaws: who loves her family but hates the homosexuality and masculinity she sees in her daughter.  We may not like her, but we understand her.


Mia Wasikowska
Jane Eyre
There was simply no way I could let Mia Wasikowska's brilliant turn as the totured and tormented Jane Eyre go without recognition.  Wasikowska WILL WIN an Oscar because she is a star on the rise, one who has the talent to back it up.  What she needs is a breakout role.  For now, Jane Eyre makes a perfect calling card, for few actresses at such a young age can go the full range of emotions from love to horror to acceptance and make it look as if they are merely living life, not giving a performance. 


Dominic Cooper
The Devil's Double
Evil can be so easy to play, but keeping it to where it doesn't become camp isn't.  It's even harder when you are playing two characters: one thoroughly irredeemably Satanic, the other almost thoroughly with a soul.  Cooper manages to so embody both the good Latif and the Satanic Uday that audiences completely forget they are being played by the same person.  THAT, I think, is the hallmark of a simply great performance. 


Martin Scorsese
Scorsese, I suspect, won Best Director for The Departed as a way to finally reward someone who truly is among the best directors of all time.  However, Scorsese did something with Hugo that was almost impossible up till now: he made 3-D work FOR the film.  Moreover, he not only made a great children's film (with the flaw of Sasha Baron Cohen being the only thing that brought it down) but he also made a message film: how important it is to preserve and remember those who came before us to capture their dreams on celluloid. 


Jane Eyre, how I love thee.  In the words of Mr. Rochester, "You transfix me quite".   I have never been so passionate about a movie after seeing it than I was after seeing Jane Eyre.  I was simply overwhelmed with it, and it remains not only my favorite film of 2011, but I think the Best Film of 2011. 

Out of 11 nominations, Jane Eyre picked up only four awards.  Hugo picked up 3 out of six (which is not bad), and Pariah two of 5.  Oddly, The Artist at 7 nominations only earned two, and both in the SOUND categories...highly strange given it's a silent film.  Thor won one out of three, Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows: Part II one out of two as did both The Devil's Double and The Iron Lady. Captain America did the worst of the ones that won: only one out of five.   Shame and Senna were the clear winners: Shame winning on its only nomination and Senna sweeping both of its nominations.

Of course, that meant some bad news: The Help and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy were 0-8, with Battle: Los Angeles, Contagion, Drive, and Win Win losing all three of their nominations.  As Senna won both of its categories, Midnight in Paris lost on both of its nominations.

Well, it wasn't easy.  I was spoiled for choice, as the saying goes.  I think it is an honor just to be nominated.  As you can see, my picks don't correspond with the Academy, but I stand by them all.

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