A foggy morning on the last day of the festival. One more week of movie-going, as Egypt totters and my native Midwest suffers another snowstorm, has caused both guilt and gratitude. But before I describe what I've been experiencing in balmy Santa Barbara, an upfront mea culpa, as earlier I mangled the name of a delightful film and want to correct it here. "Good for Nothing" comes from New Zealand, a spaghetti western with a bit of "Unforgiven" tossed in. Well acted and very scenic, the story centers on an Eastwood-like lone cowboy, who says little, thinks guns are meant for killing and women for --- When he kidnaps a young English traveler, rather than dominating her as he evidently intends, she gains control, ultimately humanizing the guy and helping him unfold his hidden heart. A man at the festival suggested that, "as a woman," I wouldn't like this film at all - but he was wrong.
The 2011 Oscar race seems to be shaping up among the King of England, two nerds, and Rooster Cogburn. "The King's Speech," about George VI's struggle to overcome a stammer, led all nominations with 12. The nerds won eight nominations each for "The Social Network," the story of the founder of Facebook, and "Inception," about a man who hacks into other people's dreams. "The Fighter" followed with seven.
Documentaries became a box office factor with the rise of such films as "Hoop Dreams" and "Roger & Me." Before then, there were hit music documentaries like "Woodstock" but most other nonfiction films could expect short runs in few theaters before dutiful audiences. What a small but growing minority of Friday night moviegoers is beginning to discover is that there's a good chance the movie they might enjoy most at the multiplex is a doc.
In alphabetical order, these were the best documentaries I saw in 2010:
Above: Best supporting actress winner Olivia Williams, "The Ghost Writer."
"The Social Network" has swept the major critics' groups honors (following NY and LA) with its best picture award from the National Society of Film Critics. From the NSFC website:
The Society, which is made up of 61 of the country's most prominent movie critics, held its 45th annual awards voting meeting at Sardi's Restaurant in New York City. 46 members voted. Scrolls will be sent to the winners.
BEST PICTURE *1. The Social Network 61 2. Carlos 28 3. Winter's Bone 18
BEST DIRECTOR *1. David Fincher 66 - The Social Network 2. Olivier Assayas 36 - Carlos 3. Roman Polanski 29 - The Ghost Writer
BEST ACTOR *1. Jesse Eisenberg 30 - The Social Network 2. Colin Firth 29 - The King's Speech 2. Edgar Ramirez 29 - Carlos
BEST ACTRESS *1. Giovanna Mezzogiorno 33 - Vincere 2. Annette Bening 28 - The Kids Are All Right 3. Lesley Manville 27 - Another Year
According to the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Circle, the two best films of 2010 are David Fincher's "The Social Network" and Olivier Assayas's "Carlos." I've no quarrel with that. In fact, those two movies are at the top of a list I made for a critics' poll that will be published any day now because they're both masterful, multi-layered works that I found as stimulating to think about as they are engrossing to watch. Both the LA and NY groups chose "The Social Network" as best picture and "Carlos" as best (and most) foreign-language film -- all five and a half hours and 11 languages: English, French, German, Spanish (with a Venezuelan accent), various dialects of Arabic, Russian, Hungarian, Italian... LAFCA left no doubt about its esteem for both movies, with "Carlos" coming in as first runner-up for best picture and Fincher and Assayas sharing the director's prize. (Both groups also gave "Black Swan" their best cinematography prizes.)
Complete lists of the winners are below, but I wanted to take this opportunity to make some comparisons between these two movies. No, I don't think either of them has much to do with "realism," but both build their disputed nonfictional narrative webs around rather opaque, fictionalized central characters who are seen as heroes by some, villains by others, and neither by the movies themselves. Both "Carlos" (the revolutionary alias of Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, played by Edgar Ramirez) and "Mark Zuckerberg" (the Facebook founder played by Jesse Eisenberg) are projections -- like profiles compiled by intelligence agencies or... Facebook pages. Either film could begin with a version of these words, which preface each of the three parts of "Carlos":
This film is the result of historical and journalistic research.
Because of controversial gray areas in Carlos' life, the film must be viewed as fiction, tracing two decades in the life of a notorious terrorist.
His relations with other characters have been fictionalized as well.
The three murders on Rue Toulier are the only events depicted in this film for which Ilich Ramirez Sanchez was tried and sentenced.
The Drugstore Publicis bombing is still under investigation.
From the Grand Poobah: Here in Michigan Oink's ice cream parlor exerts a magnetic pull on helpless citizens for miles around. I can no longer sample their countless flavors, but not log ago I took Kim Severson there. She is a New York Times writer doing a piece on The Pot. Oink's is run by my friend Roger Vink, who says, "May the Oink be with you."
(click photos to enlarge)
I am but a naive outsider. I don't fully understand the working of the "derivatives" and "credit swaps" that we have heard so much about in recent months. I'm not alone. But I'm learning. I gather that these are ingenious computer-driven trading schemes in which good money can be earned from bad debt, and Wall Street's Masters of the Universe pocket untold millions at the same time they bankrupt their investors and their own companies.
May16 -- The temperature finally felt like it had risen today. I broke a sweat as I made my way to the Olympia theater to see "The Bang Bang Club," directed by Steven Silver. The film is based on the novel titled "The Bang-Bang Club: Snapshots from a Hidden War," written by Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva. The book and film are about photojournalists and their intense struggles to capture the violence that was taking place within the various townships of South Africa during apartheid.
View image Paul Dano anoints Daniel Day Lewis in "There Will Be Blood."
IndieWIRE has announced the results of its annual critics' poll, and Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood" dominates (picture, director, screenplay, cinematography, lead performance), followed by David Fincher's "Zodiac" and Joel & Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men.
For most American viewers, this is going to be a Netflix list: Two of the top ten movies never barely opened theatrically outside of New York ("Syndromes and a Century," "Colossal Youth"); two never played in more than 20 theaters at once ("Offside," "Killer of Sheep" -- the restoration of Charles Burnett's 1977 film); two haven't opened yet, and won't in most places until 2008 ("There Will Be Blood," "4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days"); and, in these days when wide releases typically launch on 2,000 - 4,000 theaters, two never made it to more than 400 at any given time ("I'm Not There" , "The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford" ). Only two others ever spread beyond 1,000 screens: "No Country for Old Men" and "Zodiac." Three of the ten best selections -- "Killer of Sheep," "Offside" and "Zodiac" -- are currently available on DVD.
Poll administrator Dennis Lim noted that, compared to 2006 when "the relative dearth of truly exciting films" was lamented by many critics, this year's 106 participants were more enthusiastic about their choices. One eyebrow-raising development was cited in the indieWIRE introduction, though: If there is a strking hole to be found in this year's [poll results]... it is the utter lack of American indie films. While last year's survey celebrated outside-the-system films such as David Lynch's "Inland Empire," Kelly Reichart's "Old Joy," Ryan Fleck's "Half Nelson" and Andrew Bujalski's "Mutual Appreciation," the acclaimed new films from American filmmakers this year came from directly within the Hollywood and Indiewood system, starring name actors.Other poll-toppers: Best First Film (Sarah Polley, "Away from Her"), Best Documentary ("No End in Sight," Charles Ferguson), Supporting Performance (Cate Blanchett, "I'm Not There"), The complete results in all the categories can be scrutinized here. And the individual critics' ballots (including mine) are here.