March 1, 2006

The Donnies

L’Enfant won at Cannes, Brokeback Mountain at the Golden Globes and Independent Spirit Awards, and Crash at the Oscars. So now it’s time for me to have a say. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you…the Donnies.

Best Film Based on a Comic Book. So many critics raved about Sin City, but I have to give the award here to Batman Begins. This is by far the best Batman movie, mostly due to the writing and directing of Christopher Nolan (Memento, Insomnia). I love the trends in super-hero movies that we see continued in this film: less kooky characters and outrageous plot twists, and more darkness and psychological realism.

Most Misunderstood Film. Todd Solondz’s Palindromes. Many critics lambasted this film as being blatantly offensive and misanthropic. And it certainly is offensive, but misanthropic? I don’t think so. This is a satire that, while poking fun at both sides in the abortion debate, also manages to understand and find good in each of them. When you get down to it, this film is truly profound, reminding us that most moral issues are more complex than we often realize, that there are at least two sides to every issue and that both sides usually have at least some validity.

Best Film with a Prolonged Discussion of Feces. Gotta give this one to…You and Me and Everyone We Know. Yes, Miranda July’s film can be kind of gross, but overall it’s a very responsible and compassionate movie. This is a movie about lonely people, misunderstood people, people who are trying to sort things out, trying to make connections—basically people like you and me and, well, everyone we know.

Great Movie Quote. The Squid and the Whale. Walt Berkman: “It’s Welles’ masterpiece, really. Many people think it’s Citizen Kane, but Magnificent Ambersons, if it hadn’t been ruined by the studio, would’ve been his crowning achievement. As it is, it’s still brilliant. It’s the old story, genius not being recognized by the industry.” Lance: “It sounds great. Who’s in it?” Walt Berkman: “Orson Welles? I don’t know, I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve seen stills.”

Best Movie Done in Iambic Pentameter. Sally Potter’s Yes. A great film about prejudice and love and the meaning of life—and all of the dialogue is in poetic form.

Most Philosophically Profound Film. Woody Allen’s Match Point. The movie’s opening lines beautifully set the pace for this film that powerfully argues against the view that the cosmos is guided by some sort of master plan or design. “The man who said ‘I’d rather be lucky than good’ saw deeply into life. People are often afraid to realize how much of an impact luck plays. There are moments in a tennis match where the ball hits the top of the net, and for a split second, remains in mid-air. With a little luck, the ball goes over, and you win. Or maybe it doesn’t, and you lose.”

Most Overrated Film. A tie between George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck and Peter Jackson’s King Kong. Yes, the black-and-white of Good Night creates a really cool feel, but let’s be honest, folks, the film is kind of a boring. Regarding King Kong, it’s definitely a good, fun movie, but it just doesn’t live up to all the hype. First of all, it’s about an hour too long. Come on, Pete, not every film you make has to be three hours. Also, cheesy special effects during the brontosaurus chase seen.

Most Psychologically Insightful Film. There’s a tie in this category, the winners being Pawel Pawlikowski’s My Summer of Love and Angus MacLachlan and Phil Morrison’s Junebug. The former reminds us that, despite the claims of pop culture, teenagers can be incredibly selfish jerks. The latter perfectly captures the life of a typical American family, showing us what’s so wonderful about our families and, at the same time, why we so desperately try to keep our distance from them.

Most Inspiring Film. By this, I mean the film that best reaches into our own lives and challenges us to be better people. The award goes to The Constant Gardener, a movie that reminds us Westerners the extent of suffering in the Third World and also how our votes and spending decisions are contributing to the problem.

Great Movie Quote. Crash. “It's the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.”

Best Film with a Gay Character, Besides Brokeback Mountain and The Constant Gardener and Capote (geez, Hollywood really is out of touch with mainstream America). Don Roos’ Happy Endings. This is a humorous and in the end incredibly touching film. It would take me entire page just to outline the plot, so I won’t even try.

Best Single Scene in a Movie. Without a doubt, this goes to the Robin Wright Penn segment of Rodrigo Garcia’s Nine Lives. As a whole, the Nine Lives didn’t jell together well enough for me. But Robin’s segment is one of the finest pieces of movie realism I’ve ever seen. She plays an expecting mother who runs into an old lover in the grocery store. Almost exclusively through non-verbals, we learn how painful the reunion is for both characters, painful because of past memories and the realization that they were probably meat to be together.

Most Faith-Affirming Film that Isn’t Kitsch. Sadly, just about every film I saw this year was incredibly secular. (And this includes my favorites.) Now, needless to say, I don’t mind watching a film that advocates a worldview different than my own, but it’d be nice for a change to see something that wasn’t so thoroughly areligious. I guess I’d have to give the award here to Walk the Line. Reese Witherspoon’s June Carter is a good-hearted and sincere Christian who isn’t afraid to talk about God; in one of the movie’s best scenes, she takes Johnny to church.

Film That Best Resisted the Temptation of Becoming Yet Another Biopic and Instead Became a Brutally Honest Illustration that, as Truman Capote put it, “More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones." Bennett Miller’s Capote.

Great Movie Quote. Melinda and Melinda. Susan: “I wish we could afford a place in the Hamptons. Everybody who’s anybody has one.” Hobie: “Yeah, but if you’re somebody who’s nobody, it’s no fun to be around anybody who’s everybody.”

The Film That Touched Me the Most Deeply. Brokeback Mountain. Unlike many believe, this is far from a “gay cowboy movie.” This is a beautiful, touching film that transcends itself and speaks to our own lives. This a film about human connections, reminding us both how incomparably wonderful they are and how tough they can be to maintain.

Benefit of the Doubt Awards. I haven’t yet seen Munich or Syriana, but from everything I’ve heard I’m sure they’re great.

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