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Top secret leakage from my 2010 Muriels ballot!

It's a wrap for the 2010 Muriel Awards, but although the winners have been announced, there's still plenty of great stuff to read about the many winners and runners-up. ('Cause, as we all know, there's so much more to life than "winning.") I was pleased to be asked to write the mini-essay about "The Social Network" because, no, I'm not done with it. (Coming soon: a piece about the Winkelvii at the Henley Gregatta section -- which came in 11th among Muriel voters for the year's Best Cinematic Moment.)

You might recall that last summer I compared the editorial, directorial and storytelling challenges of a modest character-based comedy ("The Kids Are All Right") to a large-scale science-fiction spectacular based on the concept of shifting between various levels of reality/unreality -- whether in actual time and space or in consciousness and imagination. (The latter came in at No. 13 in the Muriels balloting; the former in a tie for No. 22.) My point was that, as far as narrative filmmaking is concerned, there isn't much difference. To illustrate a similar comparison this time, I've used a one-minute segment out of "The Social Network" (Multiple levels of storytelling in The Social Network). You might like one picture better than the other for any number of reasons, but I find their similarities more illuminating than their differences:

Unlike that other 2010 movie that made such a big deal of explaining arbitrary rules for getting from one level of storytelling to another, "The Social Network" just does it. And you get it -- without the actors reading you instruction manuals encoded into dialog. It shifts backward, forward, sideways in time and space (with no "present tense" defined), through depositions, memories, e-mails, affidavits... and you may get temporarily/temporally thrown now and again, but it's not hard to follow. Again, unlike the science-fiction movie that preceded it into theaters in 2010, "The Social Network" is complex without trying to appear complicated. Indeed, its design and direction, the tools of its tale-spinning, are far more sophisticated, but less ostentatious. And more fun. And lead to a better life.

I had a load of fun with my Muriels ballot this year. As much fun as joining a Final Club? I don't know. I've never been much of a joiner. I was surprised to find myself considering a lot more best-of-the-year-worthy movies (most of which I caught up with in December and January) than I had expected to. So, here -- for whatever it's worth -- are a few excerpts from my Muriels ballot -- which has never been seen outside of the accounting firm of Carlson & Clark! (Clicking on the category title will take you to the corresponding Muriels tabulation page. 2010 Muriels essays begin here.)

Muriel_002_150.jpg

Bits of my ballot:

Best Feature-Length Film [10] 
1. "The Social Network" 2. "Sweetgrass" 3." Carlos" 4. "Mother" 5. "Let Me In" 6. "True Grit" 7. "The Ghost Writer" 8. "The Kids Are All Right" 9. "Winter's Bone" 10. "Fish Tank"

11. "The Killer Inside Me" 12. "The American" 13. "Dogtooth" 14. "Another Year" 15. "Everyone Else" 16. "A Prophet" 17. "October Country" 18. "Life During Wartime" 19. "Last Train Home" 20. "Please Give"

Best Lead Performance, Male [5] 
1. Tahar Rahim, "A Prophet" 2. Edgar Ramirez, "Carlos" 3. Jeff Bridges, "True Grit" 4. Jesse Eisenberg, "The Social Network 5. Casey Affleck, "The Killer Inside Me"

Best Lead Performance, Female [5] 1. Hye-ja Kim, "Mother" 
2. Annette Bening, "The Kids Are All Right" 3. Giovanna Mezzogiorno, "Vincere" 4. Hailee Steinfeld, "True Grit" (sorry, Academy -- it's a LEAD performance) 5. Julianne Moore, "The Kids Are All Right" (ditto)



Best Supporting Performance, Male [5] 
1. John Hawkes, "Winter's Bone" 2. Matt Damon, "True Grit" 3. Oliver Maltman, "Another Year" 4. Ben Mendelsohn, "Animal Kingdom" 5. Richard Jenkins, "Let Me In"



Best Supporting Performance, Female [5] 
1. Mia Wasikowska, "The Kids Are All Right" 2. Olivia Williams, "The Ghost Writer" 3. Ruth Sheen, "Another Year" 4. Rebecca Hall, "Please Give" 5. Jacki Weaver, "Animal Kingdom"

Best Direction [5] 
1. David Fincher, "The Social Network" 2. Olivier Assayas, "Carlos" 3. Joel and Ethan Coen, "True Grit" 4. Bong Joon-ho, "Mother" 5. Andrea Arnold, "Fish Tank"

Best Cinematography [5]
(film or video) 
1. Roger Deakins, "True Grit" 2. Daniele Ciprì, "Vincere" 3. Martin Ruhe, "The American" 4. Robbie Ryan, "Fish Tank" 5. Greig Fraser, "Let Me In"


Best Editing [5] 1. Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter, "The Social Network" 2. Luc Barnier and Marion Monnier, "Carlos" 3. Roderick Jaynes, "True Grit" 4. Nicolas Chaudeurge, "Fish Tank" 5. Moon Sae-kyoung, "Mother"

Best Music [5]
(original, adapted, or compiled)
 1. Carter Burwell, "True Grit" 2. Tindersticks, "White Material" 3. Olivier Assayas (and The Feelies, Wire, etc.), "Carlos" 4. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, "The Social Network" 5. Lee Byeong-woo, "Mother"

Best Cinematic Moment [10] 
1. The sheep notices the camera and stares -- "Sweetgrass" 2. The slow, "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" super-zoom on the face of a mountain, and the tiny trail of white ants -- er, sheep -- descending it -- "Sweetgrass" 3. A cowboy's miserable phone call to mom, from the top of a mountain -- "Sweetgrass" (yes, I think my three favorite moments of the year were all from "Sweetgrass") 4. Mother stumbles through a field, then begins to sway -- the opening shot of "Mother" 5. Mark Zuckerberg's long analog walk from the pub to his dorm after being dumped by his girlfriend in the opening scene of "The Social Network." 6. "I love you. Good bye." -- the brutal tenderness of the love/murder scene in "The Killer Inside Me" 7. Mom's boyfriend (Michael Fassbender) gives Mia (Katie Jarvis) a lift on his back that becomes a slo-mo horseback ride into the shadows of the deep, dark woods -- "Fish Tank" 8. Climbing the bars to scatter letters in the snow at night -- "Vincere" 9. Blackie's nocturnal ride through the valley of the shadow -- "True Grit" 10. One car left on the ferry -- the opening sequence of "The Ghost Writer"

10th Anniversary Award, Best Feature Film 2000 [5]
 1. "Code Unknown," Michael Haneke 2. "Wonder Boys," Curtis Hanson 3. "Best In Show," Christopher Guest 4. "Almost Famous," Cameron Crowe 5. "American Psycho," Mary Harron



25th Anniversary Award, Best Feature Film 1985 [5] 1. "A Year of the Quiet Sun," Krzysztof Zanussi (won Venice Film Fest in fall, 1984, but theatrical release was 1985, even in Poland) 
2. "Ran," Akira Kurosawa 3. "After Hours," Martin Scorsese 4. "28 Up," Michael Apted 5. "Alpine Fire," Fredi M. Murer



50th Anniversary Award, Best Feature Film 1960 [5]
 1. "La Dolce Vita," Federico Fellini 2. "L'Avventura," Michelangelo Antonioni 3. "Psycho," Alfred Hitchcock 4. "Peeping Tom," Michael Powell 5. "Breathless," Jean-Luc Godard

Special Award: Best Film of the 1950s [10]
 1. "Sansho Dayu," Kenji Mizoguchi 2. "Vertigo," Alfred Hitchcock 3. "The Night of the Hunter," Charles Laughton 4. "The Searchers," John Ford 5. "The Earrings of Madame de...," Max Ophuls 6. "Early Spring," Yasujiro Ozu 7. "North By Northwest," Alfred Hitchcock 8. "Rio Bravo," Howard Hawks 9. "Nazarin," Luis Bunuel 10. "In a Lonely Place," Nicholas Ray

OK, I'm now convinced the 1950s were the best decade ever for movies. Even though I limited this list to one title per director (except I couldn't do without "Vertigo" OR "NxNW"), I had to leave off so many indispensable it's just embarrassing. The greatest year in cinema history? Was it 1959? 1953? 1950? Hard to say...

Alternate best films of the 1950s by the same directors in the same order (except for Laughton who never directed anything else):

1. "The Life of Oharu" (or "Ugetsu"), Kenji Mizoguchi 2. "Rear Window," Alfred Hitchcock 3. "Pickpocket" (or "Diary of a Country Priest"), Robert Bresson 4. "Wagonmaster," John Ford 5. "La Ronde" (or "Lola Montes"), Max Ophuls 6. "Early Summer" (or "Tokyo Story"), Yasujiro Ozu 7. "Strangers on a Train" (or "The Wrong Man"), Alfred Hitchcock 8. "Monkey Business," Howard Hawks 9. "The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz" (or "El"), Luis Bunuel 10. "Bigger Than Life" (or "Rebel Without a Cause"), Nicholas Ray

_ _ _ _

More Muriels goodness: I confess I still haven't had a chance to read everything that was published during the epic "ceremony" (February 16-March 6), but I know you'll want to check out Dennis Cozzalio's appreciations of Nicole Holofcener's "Please Give" and Emma Stone, Kent M. Beeson on watching "Toy Story 3" with his three-year-old daughter; Kenji Fujishima on "Vertigo"; Ali Arikan on "The Ghost Writer"; Alison Willmore on David Fincher; Adam Lemke on "Everyone Else; Marya Murphy on "True Grit"; and much, much more...

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