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National Society: The last best critics awards for 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

Far Flungers

The Arikan Agenda: Best films of 2010

An old friend and I reunited for the first time in 13 years in Washington, DC last month, and the talk eventually turned to Facebook, the primary way we've managed to keep in touch, at least recently. I have a particular trait, usually reserved for after a night out on the town, by which friends can easily identify the level of my joviality, when I post videos of classic rock songs. Despite my assertion that a certain amount of fastidiousness should be necessary when it comes to sharing links on Facebook, I tend to disregard my own advice and post widely popular songs by legendary bands, for which I apologized to my friend.

May contain spoilers


Is The Ghost Writer a Polanski masterpiece?

F.X. Feeney, writing in the L.A. Weekly, thinks so: "... relentless in its suspense; funny when you least expect it; above all, deeply conscious of political power and its corruptions." The film was in the final stages of post-production when Polanski was arrested in Switzerland (he finished it while under house arrest) and Feeney sees in it themes that lead, as all Polanski themes must, through the filmmaker's life and, inevitably, back to "Chinatown":

Noah Cross (owing to Robert Towne's superb screenplay) could proclaim a demonic philosophy when cornered, saying: "Most people never have to face the fact that at the right time and right place, they're capable of anything." [Tom] Wilkinson's smooth operator conceals what he's thinking at all times, usually behind an inscrutable grin and lighthearted (if poison-tipped) reproaches: "A less equable man might find your questions impertinent."


The Ghost Writer: Polanski was here

The prow of the ferry in the first couple shots of Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer" isn't like any I've seen before. It raises up, like the visor on the headpiece of a suit of armor (or the crusher arm on a garbage truck), to let the cars on and off. It's just a little bit... odd, the sort of detail you'd expect Polanski would include -- not necessarily unsettling on its own but somehow menacing when seen through the lens of Roman Polanski. Moments later, the vehicles begin to disembark, with the exception of a car in near the front of the center lane that blocks traffic, creates a nuisance, and imparts dread. There's nobody in it. So, where did the driver go?

A few scenes later, a private plane lands at a small airport and we're given a shot of the fuselage framed around the (closed) door on the left and the first two windows on the right. Cut to a reverse angle of people waiting on the tarmac, and then back to the same basic configuration. The door pops open and it's one of those kind with the hinge on the bottom that folds down into a little set of stairs. The motion of the mechanism visually echoes the prow of the ferry. But there's something else in this shot that will come back to haunt us: the company name Hatherton, meant to recall Halliburton. It's just there, and it pops up in other shots throughout the movie, but it doesn't quite click into place until a Google search that hyperlinks pieces of various characters' pasts late in the film.

Roger Ebert

The Wachowskis: From "2001" to "The Godfather" to "The Matrix"

It was a night out of your dreams. We'd been invited by James Bond, the famed projection wizard, to see the new Kinowerks post-production and screening facility he designed and built on Chicago's north side. You have James to thank if you've ever attended the Grant Park outdoor film festival or Ebertfest. He'd arranged with Robert Harris, the famed restoration wizard, to show us Paramount's new print of "The Godfather."

Festivals & Awards

Overlooked Film Festival, Take 8

Some films are born overlooked. Others have it thrust upon them. Among this year's festival entries, "Ripley's Game" has never had a theatrical release in the United States, and "Duane Hopwood" had a release so spotty it seemed designed to hide the film. Yet these are the kinds of films a movie critic views with joy: Films that are a meeting of craft and art. Being able to share them is an incalculable pleasure; everybody should have their own Overlooked Film Festival in the glorious Virginia Theater, all the year around. You have no idea how much fun it is.

Movie Answer Man

Movie Answer Man (07/14/2002)

Q. You cluelessly missed your own point by devoting a whole paragraph in your "Mr. Deeds" review to the Special K cereal cameo. Didn't you give Special K an extra product placement just by mentioning it in your review? (Patrick Keys, Houston TX)

Festivals & Awards

Mick moves into movies

PARK CITY, Utah -- Mick Jagger is taller than you'd think, thin as a rail, dressed in clothes that were never new and only briefly fashionable. There is a studious unconcern about appearance, as if, having been Mick Jagger all these many years, he can wear whatever he bloody well pleases.

Movie Answer Man

Movie Answer Man (02/27/2000)

Q. Several of the best-reviewed documentaries of 1999, including "American Movie" and "Mr. Death," were not nominated for Oscars. Given your outrage in the past over such omissions as "Hoop Dreams" and "Roger & Me," how do you feel? (Susan Lake, Urbana, IL)

Movie Answer Man

Movie Answer Man (01/25/1998)

Q. Does the character of Rose (as the old woman) die in her sleep at the end of "Titanic?" I've asked a few people who saw the movie, and none of them had that interpretation, but most agree once I've outlined it to them. She tells her story for the first time, and returns the necklace to the ocean and Titanic's resting place, completing the circle of her life. Then, we see her asleep in bed, after the camera slowly moves through her photos, illustrating the full life that she lived. Then, through subjective camera we're welcomed back to the ship, looking new, and greeted by passengers who died when the ship went down. Then she has a big reunion kiss with Jack. Was this just a dream? Or does this scene represent her being welcomed by her fellow shipmates, who have been dead for decades, and her finally joining them? Is this the obvious interpretation, or was it purposely left vague? (Scott Hoenig, Washington, DC)

Movie Answer Man

Movie Answer Man (03/23/1997)

Q. Re the problem of motion sickness in films that make use of hand-held cameras: Actually the easiest way to get over it is just close your eyes and the sensation passes quickly. (Doug Fletcher, RN, Journal of Nursing Jocularity, Mesa, AZ)


Kim Novak looks back at 'Vertigo'

Kim Novak returned Wednesday to her hometown of Chicago to preside over a screening of the film many people believe is the best that either she or Alfred Hitchcock ever made. A restored version of "Vertigo" (1958) was shown in a rare 70 mm print at the Chicago Film Festival, and afterward Novak came onstage for a question-and-answer session that spanned her career.


Kim Novak on Hitchcock, Hollywood

Kim Novak returned Wednesday to her hometown of Chicago to preside over a screening of the film many people believe is the best that either she or Alfred Hitchcock ever made. A restored version of "Vertigo" (1958) was shown in a rare 70 mm print at the Chicago Film Festival, and afterward Novak came onstage for a question-and-answer session that spanned her career.