Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Film Journal's 2004 International Cinema Poll

In addition to voting in the Central Ohio Film Critics Association yearly awards, I participated in The Film Journal's 2004 International Cinema poll. Depending on the day of the week, I might make a change here or there, but my ballot accurately reflects what I felt was the best in cinema last year. Since the nominees aren't ranked, they are listed alphabetically.

-The Aviator
-Before Sunset
-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
-The Five Obstructions
-Kill Bill Vol. 2
-The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
-Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
-Million Dollar Baby
-The Village

No surprises here since it matches my Top 10.

-Wes Anderson, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
-Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby
-Michel Gondry, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
-Richard Linklater, Before Sunset
-Martin Scorsese, The Aviator
-M. Night Shyamalan, The Village
-Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill Vol. 2
-Lars von Trier, Dogville
-Lars von Trier and Jørgen Leth, The Five Obstructions
-Zhang Yimou, Hero and House of Flying Daggers

These match my picks in Film, except for tossing aside METALLICA doc directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky in favor of Zhang Yimou.

Lead Performance
-Julie Delpy, Before Sunset
-Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby
-Jamie Foxx, Collateral
-Bryce Dallas Howard, The Village
-Nicole Kidman, Dogville
-Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace
-Clive Owen, Closer
-Natalie Portman, Closer
-Kurt Russell, Miracle
-Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby

It seems like an annual ritual for the entertainment media to bemoan the lack of worthy Lead Actress nominees, but the six I listed in the gender-neutral Lead Performance category are all aces in my book. Plus, I left out VERA DRAKE'S Imelda Staunton, who was no slouch either. I suppose the problem is that what the Hollywood scribes seek are lead actress performances in big, "important" movies, of which Swank is probably the only one to qualify. Let's face facts. Outside of romantic comedies or woman-in-peril thrillers, Hollywood doesn't structure many major films around female characters. As for the guys, no one remembered Kurt Russell in MIRACLE, but his tightly coiled performance as the Team USA Olympic hockey coach was one of his best. There's also a case to be made for another sports coach performance--Billy Bob Thornton in FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS--but I had just ten spots.

Supporting Performance
-Alan Alda, The Aviator
-Cate Blanchett, The Aviator
-Steve Coogan, Coffee and Cigarettes
-Willem Dafoe, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
-Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby
-Virginia Madsen, Sideways
-Alfred Molina, Coffee and Cigarettes
-Maia Morgenstern, The Passion of the Christ
-Natalie Portman, Garden State
-Sharon Warren, Ray

While I had mixed feelings about many aspects of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, Morgenstern's performance as Mary was not one of them. Switching gears, the Academy Awards ignore comedy most of the time, but the funny people I picked were as, if not more, memorable than those playing serious roles. Even if you can't abide Jarmusch, the Coogan/Molina scene in COFFEE AND CIGARETTES is worth a look.

-The Aviator
-Before Sunset
-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
-I Heart Huckabees
-The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
-Maria Full of Grace
-Million Dollar Baby
-Spider-Man 2
-The Village

I'd try to explain why I picked some of these over DOGVILLE, but it's such an ineffable thing that I can't. I suppose it has something to do with dialogue--see SPARTAN--and structure--see MARIA FULL OF GRACE--but ultimately it's just a gut feeling.

Formal Design
-The Aviator
-Before Sunset
-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
-House of Flying Daggers
-The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
-Million Dollar Baby

Nothing to add here as the films speak for themselves.

Actor of the Year
-Cate Blanchett (The Aviator, Coffee and Cigarettes, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou)
-Jamie Foxx (Collateral, Ray)
-Isabelle Huppert (I Heart Huckabees, Time of the Wolf)
-Nicole Kidman (Birth, Dogville)
-Jude Law (Alfie, The Aviator, Closer, I Heart Huckabees, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow)
-Bill Murray (Coffee and Cigarettes, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou)
-Natalie Portman (Closer, Garden State)
-Mark Ruffalo (13 Going on 30, Collateral, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, We Don't Live Here Anymore)
-Peter Sarsgaard (Garden State, Kinsey)
-Billy Bob Thornton (The Alamo, Friday Night Lights)

With this being a "body of work" category, some of these are more deserving than others--Kidman's two exceptional lead performances trump Huppert's supporting HUCKABEES turn and lead, but minor, role in the Haneke film, for example--but we're not selecting anything of vital importance here, are we?

Non-Fiction Film
-Control Room
-The Corporation
-Fahrenheit 9/11
-The Five Obstructions
-Los Angeles Plays Itself
-Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
-Riding Giants
-Super Size Me
-Touching the Void

Since rights clearances will probably make it impossible to release on home video, LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF is the must-see if it plays your town.

The Film Journal poll didn't ask for Sound Design, Ensemble, or Breakthrough Film Artist nominees, so, as a bonus, here were my picks in the COFCA vote:

Sound Design
-The Aviator
-Before Sunset
-House of Flying Daggers
-The Incredibles
-Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

I had THE VILLAGE here and took it off for some reason. It should probably be there.

-Coffee and Cigarettes
-I Heart Huckabees
-The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
-Million Dollar Baby

If you've looked at my other acting nominations, these choices ought to be self-explanatory.

Breakthrough Film Artist
-Zach Braff, Garden State (for acting, writing, and directing)
-Bryce Dallas Howard, The Village (for acting)
-Joshua Marston, Maria Full of Grace (for writing and directing)
-Rachel McAdams, The Notebook (for acting)
-Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace (for acting)

Howard is my top choice in this category. If THE VILLAGE hadn't been so maligned, she might have even been in the running for an Academy Award nomination. McAdams' movie star turn in THE NOTEBOOK--and the film's surprising box office success--ought to keep her in casting directors' minds as America's next sweetheart.

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