Friday, February 3, 2012

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The 2011 Hollmann Awards: Part 2

Good evening, friends and relatives. Welcome to the Second Chapter of the 2011 Hollmann Awards in 2012. I am Dame Maggie Smith, co-creator of the universe and Queen of the Cinema. We have nine categories to go through tonight, or whenever you're reading this, so please: no fussing about. Let's get it over with as quick as we can, then you can get back to your hot toddies or whatever is you mortals do.

To begin with: the category of Best Original Screenplay. 

Max Winkler's Ceremony focuses on a creative soul occasionally playing at adulthood while stuck in an arrested development. The self-absorbed ensemble, from the protagonist pursuing an engaged woman through suits and a bad mustache to the bridegroom obsessively screening his films while referencing the many plaudits received, seem, at first, insufferable. But layer by layer is excised so that we see the wounds each is still healing from, and the ways in which they are able to cope with who they are.

Scott Z. Burns' screenplay for Contagion is an ensemble disasterpiece concerning the outbreak of a mysterious virus. But here, he doesn't just focus on physical terror or psychological horror, but also societal decay, journalistic integrity, government accountability, class unrest. Yet in a film where physical contact could be a death sentence, Burns again and again returns to the unselfish ways in which people touch each other. It's a father creating a prom for his daughter, a scientist infecting herself with the virus so that she may conclusively test a possible vaccine to treat the rest of mankind, a CDC head putting a janitor's son at the top of the treatment list. It's these surprising moments of humanity amid such chaos that earns Contagion its place here.

I don't quite know what to say about Mike Mills' Beginners, other than that I thought it was a very sweet, very human, somewhat melancholic, often humorous, surprisingly joyful experience. As good as Hugo is, Beginners is perhaps more successful at showing how broken people get about to fixing themselves. It's moving, is all.

What can be said about Woody Allen's triumphant comeback that hasn't already been said? Midnight in Paris is a joy, due in no small part to its fun premise (time-traveling nightly to meet the authors you adore!), fantastic character scenes (rhinoceros), and sage but not mean fantasy-crushing (guys...everyone wants to live in the past). It's a beautiful valentine to the City of Light, an appreciation of what has been, and a celebration of the possibilities.

Naturally, though, the win goes to the darker one. A truly dark comedy that stings more than it tickles, our winning screenplay gets points for avoiding any sugarcoating, lesson-learning, or redemption. Every character is nuanced and real -- and God, that's a shame. It's scary because it is life. It's funny because it is life. And in the end, I will embrace first that which I recognize to be true. The Hollmann Award Winner for Best Original Screenplay:


Diablo Cody
This is Cody's first win on her second nomination. She was previously nominated in this category for Juno.

How absolutely thrilling: a woman with awards from the Academy, BAFTA, National Board of Review, Writers Guild and Independent Spirits has a Hollmann. If there was trophy, she could add it to her collection. While we're on this high of talented ladies, let us greet the Supporting Actresses:

My Week with Marilyn is stuffed with famous and respected thespians playing legendary actors -- Branagh as Olivier, Dench as Thorndike, Williams as Marilyn. Yet it is the briefly featured Zoe Wanamaker who walks off with the film as Marilyn's acting coach, Paula Adler. Behind her large glasses and thin, set lips is a stubborn woman who coaches her starlet even during a reading. Yet more than an opportunistic exploiter of Marilyn, Wanamaker makes Adler into a defensive, sometimes frustrated, maternal figure. A pleasant surprise!

I did fall in love with Anne Heche in Cedar Rapids, yes. But let's not assume that I give out nominations based on that. Rather, give credit to Heche that I fell in love at all. Her Joan Ostrowski-Fox is a bright, funny, vivacious woman who makes a genuine connection with naive protagonist Tim Lippe. Heche doesn't judge Joan for carrying on during retreats while her husband and children are at home -- and I like that. I don't condone the act itself, but Joan's found something that works for her. Heche's characterization is honest, sexy, honestly sexy.

Jessica Chastain's having a good year. A Malick film, a respected indie, being young Mirren, taking the Vanessa Redgrave role in Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express before playing opposite her; her Celia Foote in The Help, though, was the icing on the cake -- my favorite part, too. Here is Chastain with all the vulnerability and uncertainty of her other roles, but with more energy, more laughter, more warmth. Guilt-ridden over what she sees as her failure as a wife, overjoyed to have made a friend like Minny, armed with a surprising strength of character and sense of humor, Celia is a fully-realized depiction of the one thing worse in Southern society than a Negro: white trash.

Carey Mulligan once again proves herself her generation's most formidable actress -- who knew she had this in her?! While her characters in Wall Street 2, Never Let Me Go, Marple: Sleeping Murder and Drive are somewhat passive, in Shame she gives us Cissy, an outspoken, broken young woman caught in her own cycle of self-abuse and misguided carnality. People either praise or dismiss her "New York, New York" number, but to dwell on that is to miss her off-screen phone call to her estranged boyfriend, heartbreaking and pathetic in its desperation. Or her uncomfortable comfort in being nude around her brother. Or that wonderful way she stomps her feet when he agrees to see her perform. A vivid portrait of depression and siblingry.

It's been a magnificent year for the supporting actresses, but ultimately, there was only one person who could take this. Her subtle, unfussy performance (accidentally?) stole the entire movie from her more famous co-stars. We are assured of the character's expertise, even as she quietly rebels against the system. Such revolt makes her the film's hero, but in her shying away from the credit, her love for her father, her professional practicality, we recognize just another human being doing what she believes is right. The award for Best Supporting Actress goes to:


playing Dr. Ally Hextall
This is her first nomination and win. I hope it's not her last. She's so great in this movie. 

Lovely. And not that we mean to remain on the actors, but there are four categories for them, and they're much easier to talk about. So let's return to the ladies of the cinema. Let's go to Best Actress:

Was there a more appropriate scene in Super 8 then the shoot at the train station? As the adolescent filmmakers commence production on their homemade zombie film, they are awestruck by the moving, sincere, surprisingly "adult" performance given by their ingenue, Alice Dainerd. Similarly, we the audience are awestruck by the strong, sensitive, confident performance given by Elle Fanning. We can sympathize with her home life without pitying her, marvel at her strength while hoping for her to open up, and root for the romance between her and the protagonist. A star is born.

With little familiarity with Margaret Thatcher, I can only judge The Iron Lady by its own merit. And I judge favorably. Meryl Streep gets the rare privilege of playing a character that you don't automatically root for, but still identify with. She's a ruthless and stubborn woman, whose acid tongue and bullying manner aid her when she is right (and she is, sometimes), but damage her when she is wrong. We also get Thatcher as an elderly woman, grasping at memories, lost among present company while exulting in past triumphs. Her final farewell to her deceased husband really is heartbreaking.

At the center of Poetry is Yun Jeong-hie's quiet treasure of a performance. As Mjie, an elderly woman in the early stages of Alzheimer's, Yun expresses much of her arc in silences. Certainly anyone who has attempted to write poetry can identify with her frustration at being unable to come up with classic verse at the first bite of an apple. What may be more difficult to identify with is her own unspoken struggle with collecting enough money to afford a defense for her grandson after a horrifying truth is uncovered. At times too kind, other times too judgmental, Mjie is a beautiful creation.

Joining Mjie in the support group is Tilda Swinton's Eva, the guilt-stricken mother in We Need to Talk About Kevin. Swinton plays Eva's early resentment and lack of affection for her child in sometimes humorous, sometimes terrible, surprisingly relatable ways. Like wheeling the crying babe closer to a construction crew to drown his whines out. Or aggravatedly pushing him after a moment of defiance...only to break his arm. We're with her as she gradually becomes a warmer maternal presence, but since much of that is in flashback, we have to steel ourselves for what turns her into the hopeless creature carrying the weight of her son's deeds on her shoulders.

And then there's the ghost writer of a best-selling series of novels, nearing forty but still emotionally stuck in high school. The television she watches: reality shows in which beautiful women suffer from the rest of the world not meeting their expectations. The food she eats: ha, don't be silly, this woman drinks, whether it be 2-Liter bottles of soda or a steady stream of booze. The dog she owns: another accessory, mostly forgotten. Not the easiest thing in the world, surely, to play someone this self-deluded, unlikable, and unrepentant, but she owns every frame. Your Best Actress:


playing Mavis Gary
This is Theron's first win on nomination #1. Perhaps it's time to visit her performance in Monster.

Matching Hollmanns for Charlize and Diablo. Deserved, I'm sure. 

Shall we take a look now at the craft categories? It surrounds the actors, it's showcased by the cinematographers, it fleshes out the script. I'm talking about Art Direction.

Recreating 1920s Paris, right down to a surrealist dinner, while also capturing that sleek, less intimate modernity of now, we nominate production designer/art director Anne Seibel and set decorator Helene Dubreuil for Midnight in Paris.

Clearing a bare space for the Driver's quarters, filling in the homey residence of a mother and child, providing the cars that serve as this knight's steeds, we nominate production designer Beth Mickle, art director Christopher Tandon, and set decorator Lisa K. Sessions for Drive.

Recreating the Globe Theatre, cluttering the busy study of the genius Oxford, dirtying the basement pub frequented by writers, preserving the immaculate court of Elizabeth I, we nominate production designer Sebastian T. Krawinkel, supervising art director Stephan O. Gessler, and set decorator Simon-Julien Boucherie for Anonymous.

Camping up the kitschy, kooky designs of the 1970s to colorful effect in the home, in the office, at the disco, and in the rainbow wonderland of les parapluies, we nominate production designer Katia Wyszkop for Potiche.

You can't be too surprised at the way this turned out, though. Also a 1970s piece, this team pulled off a remarkable stylization that still meshes with the understated craft of the rest of the film. It's done so well so far, why not give them the award for Best Art Direction?:


Maria Djurkovic, production designer
Tom Brown, supervising art director
First nominations, first wins. A lucky night for the first-timers.

Lovely. Let's all take a seat -- or, if you're sitting, take a stand -- as we go into our music break. This time, let's let the Original Scores entertain our ears.

Steven Price and Basement Jaxx

Michael Giacchino

Cliff Martinez

Alberto Iglesias

And your winner for Best Original Score:

Howard Shore
His first win on his first nomination. The Hollmann Awards like new blood. New to them, anyway.

Howard Shore, Charlize Theron, Diablo Cody...the Hollmann Awards are only four to ten years behind the Oscars, which are only ten to twenty years behind everyone else. Bodes well.

Meanwhile, we all know that a film is nothing unless you can see what's going on, and even then everything hinges on how you see it. So let's give it up for Best Cinematography:

Alwin Kuchler

Seamus McGarvey

Hoyte von Hoytema

Newton Thomas Sigel

Look at those. Beautiful, evocative, haunting. We commend all of them, but most especially the winner of the Hollmann Award for Best Cinematography:

Emmanuel Lubezki
This is his first win and nomination. Sometimes, the truth cannot be denied. 

Breathtaking. Well, we've done the ladies, we've gotten the support out of the way, so there's nothing left to do but leave it to the men. Best Actor:

 We have Michael Fassbender in Shame, and boy is it a tough sit. He is absolutely dead in the eyes in between conquests, but rarely looks physically at ease until he's inside someone. Even then, his intense, spastic, hateful fucking seems to suck out his soul with every thrust. He seems to age ten years in a single shot during a threesome, and looks tragically confused by a date's attempts to make love. Brandon and Cissy: sad, sad, sad.

We have Rhys Ifans in Anonymous, absolutely maddening in both his certainty of his genius and his refusal to maintain a proper household -- but goddamn, he's right. Ifans' dialogue about his inability to stop "the voices" is an arresting moment, one of those times where you see the kind of madness that goes hand-in-glove with genius and appreciate the craft of writing all the more. It's the kind of possessed performance that should go down in the books, right alongside F. Murray Abraham's Salieri and Daniel Day-Lewis's Daniel Plainview.

We have Ryan Gosling in Drive, who carries his entire movie and rarely says a word. His physicality is precise, so that we see in that opening sequence behind the wheel that one wouldn't want to fuck with this person. And when someone does fuck with him, there is this strange mix of horror and detachment on his face, like no matter how absolutely grotesque his retaliation, he can't help it. Impaling someone with a shower curtain rod? It's a reflex he takes no pleasure in. Meanwhile, his entire romance with Carey Mulligan is expressed through boyish glances and warm-but-shut smiles.

We have Joel Courtney in Super 8, who in his film debut shows most of the adults this year how it's done. Some child actors have a tendency to ham it up; others are simply boring. Courtney is expressive without being OTT, understated without being DOA. Joe Lamb is quite strong after the death of his mom, but his scenes with his dad and other adults show just how shallow this facade is. He's hurt and confused, channeling all of that energy into a film and a romance with Fanning's Alice; Courtney's hints are subtle, but they are there. And that scene with his father in the living room just about killed me. One to watch.

And we have our champion, an actor known for his chameleonic abilities and sometimes over-the-top performances. This time, he barely moves a muscle as he roots out a double agent, yet still conveys depths of confusion, worry, epiphany, and caution with a sideways glance, a slight lowering of the brow, or even a well-timed swallow. He only opens up three or four times, and each one hits hard. It's surprising, but it's perfectly in step with his creation. You know who I'm talking about. The Hollmann Award for Best Actor goes to:


playing George Smiley
This is Oldman's first win on his second nomination. He was previously cited in Best Supporting Actor for his work in The Dark Knight.

We're almost to the Zero Hour. But before we let the whole evening culminate in our crowning of Best Picture...let's pay some reverence to the men at the helm. For while you can't make a film without any of the elements we've awarded tonight, it's much, much more difficult without the Director:

Like Steven Soderbergh, who handles a marriage between clinical detachment and human connection seamlessly in a disasterpiece with hope, Contagion.

Or Woody Allen, who gives the world of Midnight in Paris a timeless magic, and teaches us without preaching to us.

Don't forget Michel Hazanavicius, who gives The Artist the infectious, genuine joy that keeps it afloat, and tugs at our hearts with embarrassing ease.

Take Tomas Alfredson, who assures us that it's quite exciting to live in the grey, smoky, whispery world of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

But above all, there's the man who marries a retro vibe with an arthouse aesthetic to make a gritty thriller that still possesses an almost dreamlike beauty. The Hollmann Award for Best Director goes to:


This is the first nomination and win for Winding Refn, and Hollmann never thought that he would one day hand a top prize like this to the man who directed Marple: Nemesis.

So. It has all led to this. In order, from fifth to first, these are the Films designated out of the ninety-two screened this year as the Best of 2011:

Diablo Cody / Lianne Halfon / Mason Novick / Jason Reitman / Russell Smith
Because sometimes, being the best means having one of the best performances and best writing of the year.

Letty Aronson / Jaume Roures / Stephen Tenenbaum
Because it's okay to let yourself be carried off like Goldie Hawn in Everyone Says I Love You...or like Owen Wilson in that yellow car.


J.J. Abrams / Bryan Burk / Steven Spielberg
Because it's very rare to recognize oneself in escapist fare.


Michael Litvak / John Palermo / Marc Platt / Gigi Pritzker / Adam Siegel
Because great beauty can be very bloody.

And the Hollmann Award for Best Picture goes to:


Tim Bevan / Eric Fellner / Robyn Slovo
Because after three viewings, I still want to live in that slow, musty, monochomatic space. It keeps you thinking, it keeps you excited -- it keeps you.

And so we once again close the books on a cinematic year. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy reigns victorious, with six wins out of eleven nominations, but let us also remember the films nominated against it. These were films of imagination, beauty, real feeling. They are to be watched and re-watched. Whether excelling in Art Direction, Costumes, Editing, or Music, they were the Best of 2011.

Disclaimer: Maggie Smith neither endorses or is aware of the Hollmann Awards. I wish she did and was. Use of her name and image is for strictly parodic purposes only.

[UPDATED: Producers nominated for Best Picture, as of 1/13/2017]

1 comment:

Andrew K. said...

Gah, the score for HUGO. THAT SCORE!!!!

And, love the bit on Jessica Chastain. Look, racism is bad people but I love that you mention that for those uppity women her white trash is worse than being black. That scene where she realises that they're snubbing her is just a bit of sweet pefection.