Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Pretentious Film Awards--Best Picture

And the Pretentious Film Award Nominees for Best Motion Picture of the Year are:

Let the Right One In (dir. Tomas Alfredson)
Beautiful, elegaic, haunting and often terrifying, this is the only vampire film of 2008 that's worth talking about. It paints vampires, not as romantic nor earth-shatteringly beautiful creatures. But sad, lonely ones who walk the earth in search of a place to be--and blood, of course. Oscar and Eli trump Edward and Bella (yawn...wake me when this stupid fad is over) in every way. And this film boasts one of the best ending (or near-ending) sequences captured on celluloid this year. It richly earns its spot here.

Milk (dir. Gus Van Sant)
"It announces itself early on, proudly and unapologetically gay and gay and gay. This is a gay movie about the beginnings of the fight for gay rights, pioneered by one very charismatic, very courageous and very openly gay leader--Harvey Milk. None of this "this is a film about people. This is a film about human rights." Wrong. I mean, yes, I suppose it is, but that's missing the point and only further goes to obscure the issue. Harvey Milk wouldn't have wanted the film classified that way. He would have said, loudly and proudly, "this is a gay film." Those who say yes, welcome. And those who in all of their bigotry and single-mindedness dare to say no can go home and watch the world pass you by. This film is gay and it isn't making any apologies, nor should it. This is the film Gus Van Sant set out to make. The result is his best work in many years (possibly since Drugstore Cowboy) and one of the best (if not the best) performance of Sean Penn's career." (Read my full review of Milk here)

Rachel Getting Married (dir. Jonathan Demme)
" It's very reminiscent of The Celebration, obut it stands on its own. In a lesser film, these [stylistic choices] could all serve to distract. But Demme and cinematographer Declan Quinn know exactly what they're doing here. This is a total departure for Demme and it is easily his best work in years....Freshman writer (and daughter of director Sidney Lumet) definitely has a handle on creating fully formed, flesh-and-blood characters that don't feel like caricatures. It's a very common trend in films about dysfunctional families to create cut-and-paste archetypes that feel overused and stale. In Rachel Getting Married, you believe every word that comes out of these characters's mouths. Nothing is gimmick. It all feels real and incredibly heartwrenching." (Read my full review of Rachel Getting Married here)

WALL-E (dir. Jonathan Demme)
Could it be? Two unconve
ntional love stories nominated here? WALL-E was an uphill battle for me. I have mostly been immune to the charms of Pixar, dating back as far as Finding Nemo. I've been reluctant, curmudgeonly. But after Ratatouille and now WALL-E, are we seeing the beginnings of an animation renaissance? A transformation of the medium from a channel for songwriters and Robin Williams to a form of high art? Watching WALL-E, I couldn't help but think that maybe we're in the thick of such a renaissance, and I've been too slow to realize. Beautifully composed shots, yes. Brilliantly written and animated, in a rare show of restraint and nuance on the part of Disney/Pixar. Gorgeously animated, of course. But ultimately, its story--a love story of two beings trying to find their way in a world gone mad is what snared me. Like EVE, I was won over the minute WALL-E looked at me with those big soulful eyes and I'm not the least bit ashamed to say it.

Wrestler (dir. Darren Aronofsky)
"Mickey Rourke is Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a popular wrestler from the 1980s, who is way past his prime, but still wrestles professionally simply because it's the only thing he's built for. It's the only thing he's ever done that makes sense to him. We often don't realize how elusive that meaning is for people (even ourselves) and what we will do to hold on to it...The Wrestler is a film that has been talked up so much this year, what with Mickey Rourke's comeback performance that's sure to garner an Academy Award nomination. But the film blindsides you. You're expecting it to be good. You're not expecting it to be this good and in this way. It stands with Rachel Getting Married as two of the only films I've seen this year that completely defied expectation. This is a fine addition to Darren Aronofsky's catalogue of films and certainly one of the best pictures of the year." (Read my full review of The Wrestler here)

Winners Will Be Announced Soon. Here's a comprehensive list of the 2008 Pretentious Film Award Nominees

Best Motion Picture of the Year

Let the Right One In
Rachel Getting Married
The Wrestler

Best Achievement in Direction

Let the Right One In - Tomas Alfredson
Milk - Gus Van Sant
Rachel Getting Married - Jonathan Demme
WALL-E - Andrew Stanton
The Wrestler - Darren Aronofsky

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Josh Brolin - W.
Richard Jenkins - The Visitor
David Kross - The Reader
Sean Penn - Milk
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Sally Hawkins - Happy-Go-Lucky
Melissa Leo - Frozen River
Michelle Williams - Wendy and Lucy
Kate Winslet - The Reader

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

James Franco - Milk
Bill Irwin - Rachel Getting Married
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Eddie Marsan - Happy-Go-Lucky
Michael Shannon - Revolutionary Road

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Hiam Abbas - The Visitor
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis - Doubt
Rosemarie Dewitt - Rachel Getting Married
Lena Olin - The Reader

Best Original Screenplay

Mike Leigh - Happy-Go-Lucky
Dustin Lance Black - Milk
Jenny Lumet - Rachel Getting Married
Charlie Kaufman - Synecdoche, New York
Andrew Stanton - WALL-E

Best Adapted Screenplay

Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan - The Dark Knight
John Patrick Shanley - Doubt
John Ajvide Lindqvist - Let the Right One In
David Hare - The Reader
Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond - Wendy and Lucy*

*I've stripped Slumdog Millionaire of its nomination here, having not realized that Wendy and Lucy is an adaptation. And Wendy and Lucy has the better screenplay. Duh.

Best Acting by an Ensemble Cast

Burn After Reading:
George Clooney, Richard Jenkins, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, JK Simmons, Tilda Swinton

Josh Brolin, Joseph Cross, Victor Garber, Lucas Grabeel, James Franco, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, Sean Penn, Allison Pill

Rachel Getting Married
Tunde Adebimpe, Anna Deveare Smith, Rosemarie Dewitt, Anisa George, Anne Hathaway, Bill Irwin, Debra Winger, Mather Zickel

Synecdoche, New York
Hope Davis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Dianne Wiest, Michelle Williams

The Visitor
Hiam Abbas, Danai Jekesai Gurira, Richard Jenkins, Haaz Sleiman

Technical Awards (I don't reward any sound categories, except Best Original Song/Score. I don't feel qualified to judge sound editing/mixing, etc.)

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Australia - Mandy Walker
The Dark Knight - Wally Pfister
Rachel Getting Married - Declan Quinn
Stop Loss - Chris Menges
The Wrestler - Maryse Alberti

Best Achievement in Editing

Burn After Reading - Emmanuel Lubezki
Let the Right One In - Tomas Alfredson and Dino Jons├Ąter
Rachel Getting Married - Tim Squyres
WALL-E - Stephen Schaffer
The Wrestler - Andrew Weisblum

Best Art Direction

Australia - Ian Gracie and Karen Murphy
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Kelly Curley and Tom Reta
Revolutionary Road - Kristi Zea and Debra Schutt
Synecdoche, New York - Adam Stockhausen
WALL-E - Zoe Boxer, Anthony B. Christov and Jason Deamer

Best Costume Design

Australia - Catherine Martin
Burn After Reading - Mary Zophres
Milk - Danny Glicker
Rachel Getting Married - Susan Lyall
Revolutionary Road - Albert Wolsky

Best Original Score

The Dark Knight - Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard
Milk - Danny Elfman
The Reader - Nico Muhly
Slumdog Millionaire
- A.R. Rahman
WALL-E - Thomas Newman

Best Original Song

Forgetting Sarah Marshall - "Dracula's Lament"
Slumdog Millionaire - "Jai Ho"
The Wrestler - "The Wreslter"

Nominations Tally

Rachel Getting Married - 10
Milk - 8
WALL-E - 6
The Wrestler - 6
The Reader - 5
The Dark Knight- 4
Let the Right One In - 4
Australia - 3
Burn After Reading - 3
Happy-Go-Lucky - 3
Revolutionary Road - 3
Synecdoche, New York - 3
The Visitor - 3
Doubt - 2
Slumdog Millionaire - 2
Wendy and Lucy - 2
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - 1
Forgetting Sarah Marshall - 1
Frozen River - 1
Stop Loss - 1
Vicky Cristina Barcelona - 1
W. - 1

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