Thursday, February 2, 2012

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The 2011 Hollmann Awards: Part One

Hello, and welcome to the First Chapter of the Hollmann Awards. I'm Dame Judi Dench, your guide through our Spaceship Earth, and your Mistress of Ceremonies for the first half. As a previous nominee for the Hollmann Awards, I know firsthand what an effect they have on one's career: it was the last film award I was ever nominated for. In 2006. So long ago. So long....

But let's get on with it? The 2011 Hollmann Awards in 2012!

Let us begin by honoring those great heroes without whom I and my peers would not have a job.The casting directors are the recipients of the Ensemble awards, for they have assembled a superior team of thespians that engage and delight, infuriate and inspire.

With an ensemble of actors stretching from China to Europe to the United States, Contagion boasts an international cast of heavy hitters. But when one has a cast of this size that all fit so perfectly into the structure of the film, one must salute the person credited for bringing them together. Carmen Cuba, we applaud you. And now, from The Fighter, Jack McGee.

In Midnight in Paris, we saw big, broad, colorful, real-life characters like Ernest Hemingway, Zelda Fitzgerald and Toulouse-Lautrec interacting with quieter, fictional characters like Gil and Adriana. Yet the performances of Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard and Rachel McAdams makes them just as real as the authors and artists we've all read -- and read about. For this, we applaud Juliet Taylor, Patricia Kerrigan DeCerto and Stephane Foenkinos.

And then there's the ensemble of the great political film The Ides of March. It's not just Gosling's young and earnest adviser, nor Philip Seymour Hoffman's toned-down campaign vet, nor Marisa Tomei's underhanded reporter. It's the people at the Q & A's, the interns, Jennifer Ehle's appearance as the candidate's wife, Max Minghella's brief turn as an intern pining for Gosling's job. For this, we applaud. Ellen Chenoweth.

I know something about comedy. My only Oscar comes from a romantic-comedy, after all. Trust me, I know the territory, and so I'm here to pay tribute to a great comedy ensemble, the cast of Carnage. An intimate setting allows them to play brilliantly off each other, raising the material and upping each other's game. Fiona Weir has assembled a masterful collection of pros.

But I'm afraid it doesn't win. However, we will award a thrilling group. Separately, they each contribute to the confusion and paranoia of the Cold War setting; watch them together, though, and you'll swear that these men and women have actually been in service together for thirty years. They really are the Inseparables. The Hollmann Award for Best Ensemble:

Jina Jay, casting director
This is Jay's first Hollmann Award, from her first nomination. She worked on Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express in international casting. Included in the cast were French actor Denis Menochet of Inglourious Basterds and Hollmann Award Nominee Jessica Chastain.

And we're off to a flying start. For those of you keeping score at home: We just started. Cut it out.

What a not-corny-at-all opportunity to transition to our next category, Editing!

In The Artist, editors Michel Hazanavicius and Anne-Sophie Bion tell a traditional linear story, but with some panache, some expert cutting, something that really sets the mood. Sometimes at a modern pace, sometimes with that same reverence for performances possessed by the silent films it pays homage to, The Artist never bores and always excites. That's the most important thing.


Especially so with an action or a thriller. Sure, the music, cinematography and sound work help a lot, but when you think of an action film, you think of the editing, whether you realize it or not. Whether not cutting away from the action, to get the full effect of the blows being thrown; or cutting rapidly to disorient you alongside the heroine, Alex Tothill kept us on our toes and at the edge of our seats with Hanna.


Those sudden cuts don't just work for action flicks. Joe Bini also uses this approach for a more stream-of-consciousness film, We Need to Talk About Kevin. The right cut at the right time, or especially at the wrong time, the jarring time, takes us into Eva's mind as she reconstructs the past to try to find any clues, any link to the present. Remarkable and scary.

Then there's invisible editing, knowing when not to cut, or making a cut that barely goes noticed. Zachary Stuart-Pontier excels at it, as anyone who's seen Martha Marcy May Marlene can attest to. The scenes transition so smoothly that you never realize the edits; much like Bini and Heim, this brings us further into the heroine's own mind. It's an underappreciated editing style, but here it's effective...and chilling.

The runner-ups can be proud of their work. But our winner can be proud of both his work and his trophy whichmayormaynotbeimaginary. It's a moody, trippy work, a delirious blend of Euro arthouse and 80s thriller. The Hollmann Award for Best Editing goes to:

Mat Newman, editor
This is Newman's first Hollmann Award, from his first nomination. He has also edited Marple: By the Pricking of My Thumbs and its follow-up, Marple: Nemesis, which was directed by Hollmann Award Nominee Nicolas Winding Refn.

Yes, if a winner or nominee has worked on an episode of Poirot or Marple, we will mention it. We will sing it to the high heavens. We will demand you watch it. After all, for many of these people, it was the first introduction the Silver Screener had to their work.

Let's get on with it, shall we? Let's look at the nominees for Best Visual Effects.

Visual Effects can help emphasize the carnage in an action sequence, as in Super 8, a war between the military and an extraterrestrial in the middle of suburbia. The new mo-cap technology can also turn Bruce Greenwood into an arachnid alien.

Visual effects also allow the magic of a fantasy world into our normal one. Dragons, magic force fields, killing spells, demon wizard snakes; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 has conjured them all into reality.


Sucker Punch showed worlds from our dreams. Dragons with magic hearts, machines that fought, fantasies of a crazy girl.

A handful of palace scenes aside, Anonymous is another example of Uncharted Territory's limitless abilities, bringing back Elizabethean-era London in its smoky, muddy, glorily...glory.

Visually striking, indeed! Puns aside, the Hollmann Award for Best Visual Effects goes to mo-cap heavy work that could also boast the convincing destruction of helicopters and Golden Gate traffic, as well as the empathizing of shockingly lifelike primates. Of course, I'm talking about:

Joe Letteri, senior visual effects supervisor
Dan Lemmon and R. Christopher White, visual effects supervisors
Daniel Barrett, animation supervisor
Lemmon, White and Barrett are celebrating their first victories on their first nominations. Letteri is celebrating a second Hollmann Award after his win for Avatar's Visual Effects.

While we're all admiring the dazzling CGI, effective editing and great casting, we're neglecting the thing that started us on this journey: the screenplay. Indeed, we could even start further back than that: the work inspiring the screenplay. I'm talking about adaptations.

It can be difficult to adapt someone else's work into your own, honoring the spirit of the original while infusing it with your own voice. Lynne Ramsay and Rory Kinnear used Lionel Shriver's epistolary novel We Need to Talk About Kevin to tell the haunting story of a mother who may have birthed a monster. The characters are fully-dimensional, yet you see the bias of her memory at work. It's all so perfectly sprung from the mind of Eva, yet the writers never stoop to voice-over, remembering to include silence when it's most necessary.

But you can also be effective by putting some lighthearted whimsy alongside relatable characters. Richard Ayoade does this in adapting Joe Dunthorne's Submarine. He does work in voice-over, but instead of filling in narrative or expository gaps, it reinforces the somewhat self-obsessed nature of the protagonist. It's frank without being cynical, quirky without being twee. A difficult balance, believe me.

The difficult balance is between the Truth and the Lie. Get a load of the double-dealings and backstabbings of the world's most infamous gangsters: politicians. From Beau Willimon's play, Farragut North, Willimon himself has worked with George Clooney and Grant Heslov to recreate the unethical honey-coated razorblades of the Washington politerrati. A scheming reporter, a naive adviser, a horny intern -- it's all fucking dynamite on the campaign trail in The Ides of March.


Of course, Aaron Sorkin already has a Hollmann Award, but he and Steven Zaillian have once again crafted a moving, funny, exciting story out of something so dull-sounding. Numbers. Math. Baseball statistics. Sports. This is not a world the Silver Screener likes to occupy, but Moneyball has the passion, wit and momentum that merits subsequent viewings. Of course, Stan Chervin did the first draft, from the book by Michael Lewis, but it all came together so beautifully, didn't it?

But if that's beauty, then what about this: from a dense novel and 5-hour miniseries comes a two-and-a-half-hour movie.  It manages to follow multiple plot threads, characters and red herrings without becoming confusing. It maintains suspense, even when the audience is sure about whodunit. It squeezes in this complicated plot without sacrificing fully-realized people -- one can't call them mere characters. The Hollmann Award for Best Adapted Screenplay belongs to:

Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan, screenwriters
from the novel by John le Carre
This is the first nomination and win for the husband-and-wife team. O'Connor, unfortunately, succumbed to cancer in September 2010.

A deserved triumph, surely. Now, let's just kick off our shoes and relax. It's time for a music break, featuring our nominees for Best Original Song.

"The Wolf"
music and lyrics by Karin Dreijer Andersson, Liliana Zavala, Christoffer Berg, Van Rivers and Peder Mannerfelt 
"Man or Muppet"
music and lyrics by Bret McKenzie

"Pictures in My Head"
music and lyrics by Jeannie Lurie, Aris Archontis and Chen Neeman

"Coeur Volant"
music and lyrics by Elizabeth Cotnoir, Isabelle Geffroy and Howard Shore

And, finally, our winner of the Hollmann Award for Best Original Song:

"Hello, Hello"
music by Elton John and Stefani Germanotta
lyrics by Bernie Taupin
This is the first nomination and win for John, Taupin and Lady Gaga.


Three out of five? Bodes well for our little island, doesn't it? The British are coming! And that's music to my ears. But we've had our song category, so let's give it up for those that create soundscapes sans music, in our Best Sound category!

There's Super 8, with its roaring beast, crashing train, exploding tank shells and clicking camera of the title.


There's also Drive, with its screeching tires, ticking watch, blasting shotgun, breaking skull, and tightening rubber glove.


There's Hanna, with its humming lights, thunking arrows, scraping toothbrushes, and scuffling tennis shoes.

There's no forgetting Sucker Punch's crying dragon, flashing lighter, echoing gunfire, falling shells, and whirring robots.

But when all's said and done, we must award the galloping hooves, rumbling mortar cannons, snapping barbed wire, and plowing...plow. Yes, we give the Hollmann Award for Best Sound to:


Richard Hymns, supervising sound editor
Tom Johnson and Andy Nelson, sound re-recording mixers
Gary Rydstrom, sound re-recording mixer and sound designer
Stuart Wilson, production sound mixer
Hooray for Andy Nelson! Also nominated this year for Super 8, as well as previous years for Cloverfield and Star Trek, he's finally won a Hollmann Award!

Sounds good to me! Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! But that's enough enjoyment for our ears. Let's let our eyes feast on the transformative powers of...MAKEUP.

Makeup can be about the spectacle, about transforming yourself to play your part. The difference between another faceless spinster with no rights and a butler with the respect of the guests and servants is the makeup. That's how Glenn Close goes from sad sack to ballsack in Albert Nobbs.


Makeup can also mean the difference between a human being and a new creature, like in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. We got the crazy-haired witches, nose-less demon-wizards, bloodied martyrs, and even Griphook doubling for Flitwick!

And what about makeup that doesn't just add to the character, but takes away -- like an eye...or their face? It's all their in Drive, alongside impalement, throat-stabbing, shot-up chests, and slashed wrists. That's makeup work that you won't forget.


Going back to more character-specific work: remember the stunning effects used to turn Meryl Streep into Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady? The yellow ringlets no one takes seriously, the bouffant of the PM, the spots and wrinkles of old age.

But we have to applaud the period-specific work that can recreate a garishly powdered queen, golden tresses, sinister mustaches, period stage makeup, and ink stains -- God, the eyeliner! The Hollmann Award for Best Makeup goes to:

Heike Merker and Bjorn Rehbein, makeup department heads
First nominations became first wins for these two lucky Krauts. God bless 'em!

But it's not just about the face. As anyone can tell you, it's the clothes that make the man, woman, child, hunch-backed conspirator, etc. So let's move on to Best Costume Design:

Anonymous's Lisy Christi gets that the flamboyance of the Elizabethan court was more than that of the theatre. Elizabeth is drowning in the fabric, which makes sense given the character's advanced age. Young Cecil, a villain, is more obviously dressed in black, but he also sports the traditional wardrobe for Richard III, another hunchbacked court conspirator. And the costumes create and emphasize the hump. Remark the great difference at the Globe: peasant garbs on the floor, wealthy furs and velvets in box seats, simpler garments in between. Very specific.

Drive's Erin Benach, yes. Yes to the instantly iconic scorpion jacket, both the shining, silver armor of our hero and the ominous symbol summarizing at his "nature". Yes to the simple Denny's uniform of our leading lady, the official symbol of the hard-luck single (or might as well be single) mom. Yes to the silk suits, silk shirts and silk pajamas of the baddie, ostentatious in its advertising of wealth and don't-fuck-with-me-ness. Yes to the dark blues of the grease-monkey, the better to hide the dirt. Very subtle.


Some movies require subtle; others require Costumes with a capital C. Hugo's Sandy Powell puts Cabret in that well-worn orphan uniform of dark shorts, tweedy jacket, and itchy-looking grey sweater. She puts the Station Inspector in an impossibly clean royal blue uniform. The florist wears earthy green, flighty Isabelle gets mismatched socks. The Melies costumes are colorful, surreal recreations -- you really believe that this is where dreams come from! Very effective.

Naturally, the costumes must serve both the character and the film. Those of The Iron Lady's Consolata Boyle are remarkable in this aspect. Her clothes chart her progress, from the pale blue of the MP that's not going anywhere to the more direct, dark blue of the PM in power; from the red of the war victor going after her peers to the black of the despised despot on the cusp of dethronement. From those stylish, put-together ensembles of a middle-aged leader to the shapeless, whatever-was-clean clothes of an aging, dementia-riddled retiree. Don't worry about the other costumes; these are Maggie's memories, so it's only natural that everyone else is more drably-suited. Very eye-catching.

But one just can't deny the detail in our champion. Ricky Tarr wears sensual camel-hair and leather jackets atop form-fitting blue jeans. Uptight Esterhasse is nearly suffocating himself with his close-to-the-throat bowties and tight vests. And Peter's flamboyant blue tie is rather eye-catching, isn't it? Yes, inevitably, the Hollmann Award Winner for Best Costume Design is:

Jacqueline Durran, costume designer
This is Durran's first Hollmann Award on her first nomination.

We now move on to our final category of the evening. And really, why not throw you lovely people for a loop while we're at it? We end tonight by acting award! Ladies and gentlemen, your Best Supporting Actors of 2011:

The first face we see on screen, Mark Strong is at the center of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, as the spy sent to flesh out a mole and pays for it by being shot down. Through flashbacks and other revelations, we learn that his Jim Prideaux refuses to believe that any of his close compatriots in the Circus could be working for the Russians. So devoted is he, though, that he even takes on a job that he doesn't believe in. He is a man who knows that this Cold War holds no place for him and his naive trust, but refuses to acknowledge it until it's too late. A tragic performance.


Edward Hogg's surprising turn in Anonymous starts off as another mustache-twirling court plotter, but catches us off-guard with a sudden sympathy for himself and his views. He reveals a man ruthless in his protection of the throne -- not just because it gives him power, but because he believes it to be in England's best interests. He is a man unloved and unappreciated by every one around him -- even his father will adopt another to raise as king than give his deformed son a chance. His final monologue stirs Cecil to tears -- but he's not the only one. A welcome new talent.


From our first introduction, John Hurt's searching eyes and hushed, secretive whisper -- in his own apartment, no less -- says more about this man's mental state than the dismissive testimony of characters like Prideaux and Alleline. He has those wild mood swings -- a wink and a grin become a sullen glare at the Christmas Party. If his bizarre outburst in the conference room seems uncontained, then we are at least rewarded with the silence with which he greets the news about Prideaux. A veteran at his best.


Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins and Mr. O'Brien in The Tree of Life are very similar: fathers who sincerely love their children, but have difficulty expressing their tenderness. Brad Pitt is masterful in the way he executes those affectionate glances, the proud setting of the jaw, the fraternal, masculine rubbing of the head. He wants them to make a better life for themselves, and goes about it in the wrong way. He berates them, works them, attempting to toughen them up. Yet when they stand up to him, he punishes them severely. There is no doubt that Mr. O'Brien is a good man -- or an extremely difficult one. It's astonishing.

We're celebrating a lot of career highs tonight, but this one is eighty years in the making. His tender portrait of an elderly, dying widower finally coming out of the closet avoids any condescension or pity. It's a humorous, relatable portrayal of a man finally able to be himself. His excitement at the discovery of House music, his affection for his new boyfriend, his genuine love for his son, his dog, his house, are fully, effortlessly realized by him, the Hollmann Award Winner for Best Supporting Actor:

playing Hal Fields
This is Plummer's first win and nomination. Although he has never guest-starred on an episode of Poirot or Marple, he was in the 1985 film Ordeal by Innocence, which was later adapted for an episode of Marple. So, you know, he was close.

And that completes the first round of the Hollmann Awards! Thank you for tuning in, and for your patience! I'm Hollmann Award Nominee Dame Judi Dench; good night, and good luck.

DISCLAIMER: Judi Dench neither endorses or is even aware of the Hollmann Awards, and her name and image are used for parodic purposes only.

1 comment:

Andrew K. said...

I love how your awards unfold like part of some bigger narrative.

PS. A random thought (but, then, what isn't) that picture of Judi in NINE cheered me up more than it should.