Monday, December 5, 2011

NBR Names 'Hugo' Best Film of 2011

Martin Scorsese's Hugo, the acclaimed 3D adaptation of Brian Selznick's novel, was voted Best Film of 2011 by the National Board of Review last Thursday. The New York City voting group also named Scorsese as Best Director of the Year for his achievement. Oscar winners George Clooney and Tilda Swinton took home lead acting honors for The Descendants and We Need to Talk About Kevin, respectively. Supporting role wins went to Christopher Plummer for Beginners and Shailene Woodley for The Descendants.

Here is a complete list of NBR Award winners for 2011:

Best Film: Hugo
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Best Actor: George Clooney, The Descendants
Best Actress: Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Best Supporting Actress: Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
Best Original Screenplay: Will Reiser, 50/50
Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, The Descendants
Best Animated Feature: Rango
Breakthrough Performance: Felicity Jones, Like Crazy
Breakthrough Performance: Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Debut Director: J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
Best Ensemble: The Help
Spotlight Award: Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method, Jane Eyre, Shame, X-Men: First Class)
NBR Freedom of Expression: Crime After Crime
NBR Freedom of Expression: Pariah
Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation - (Iran)
Best Documentary: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Special Achievement in Filmmaking: The Harry Potter Franchise - A Distinguished Translation from Book
to Film

Top Films
(in alphabetical order)

The Artist
The Descendants
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Ides of March
J. Edgar
Tree of Life
War Horse

Top 5 Foreign Language Films
(In Alphabetical Order)

13 Assassins
Elite Squad: The Enemy Within
Le Havre
Point Blank

Top 5 Documentaries
(In Alphabetical Order)

Born to be Wild
George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Project Nim

Top 10 Independent Films
(In Alphabetical Order)

Another Earth
A Better Life
Cedar Rapids
Margin Call
Take Shelter
We Need To Talk About Kevin
Win Win

It is too soon to predict Hugo's chances at the Best Picture Oscar. In the 80 years that the NBR has chosen their annual best film, the Academy has subsequently agreed with their choice a mere twenty times. The next major awards season announcement is scheduled for Sunday, December 11th, when the Los Angeles Film Critics Circle names its year-end picks.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New York Film Critics Honor 'The Artist'

On the heels of last night's Gotham Independent Film Awards, the New York Film Critics Circle has announced their annual end-of-year selections for the best achievements in motion pictures. The guild made their announcement via Twitter this morning. Along with the fresh crop of nominations for the 27th Independent Spirit Awards, it's a big day for movie news. Read the full NYFCC list of winners here.

Notable omissions include The Descendants, Alexander Payne's well-received adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemmings' novel, Hugo, Martin Scorsese's first family film, and War Horse, Steven Spielberg's highly anticipated World War I drama.

The next awards season event is scheduled for this Thursday, December 1st, when the National Board of Review casts their annual votes.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Great Sacrament of Cinema

Since Charlie Chaplin performed his winning roll dance in The Gold Rush, film directors have used meal scenes to capture a host of emotions; celebration, romance, resentment, and reconciliation, to name but a few. These golden moments not only whet our appetite, but involve us with the story as closely as any character on screen. With Thanksgiving upon us, the time is ripe for a glimpse at that welcoming movie setting, the family dinner table. Pull up a chair, dear reader, and enjoy this blessed feast of treasures from years past that remind us why the dinner table scene is the great sacrament of cinema.

Avalon - Barry Levinson's heartfelt masterpiece follows three generations of an immigrant family in Baltimore. (Has the Jewish experience in America ever been captured on celluloid more movingly?) The first family gathering scene depicts the perfect Thanksgiving dinner to a tee.

Stagecoach - In this hallmark western, a group of discordant stagecoach passengers embarks on a fast-paced jaunt through hostile territory. Along the way, the riders pause to enjoy a quick meal. John Ford uses the humble setting to establish the personalities of the characters and to ignite a liking between a pair regarded as outcasts by the others. The scene in question begins at 27:47.

It's a Wonderful Life - Every scene in America's perennial Christmas favorite simply sings. Here, our kindly protagonist sits down with dear old dad to discuss his future before leaving to attend his younger brother's graduation party. This brief but warm exchange between father and so is made all the more poignant, we soon learn, because it is their last.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind - Just as it is in real life, dinner time in the movies is not always a happy occasion. In this memorable moment from Steven Spielberg's classic sci-fi adventure, a father becomes a man obsessed before his worried family's eyes.

The Godfather, Part II - The haunting finale from the second installment of the Godfather trilogy scores a triumph. At first, the flashback appears to be a remembrance of happier times. Soon, however, the true reason for the recollection is unveiled. Francis Ford Coppola brilliantly juxtaposes the young Michael Corleone at the dinner table and the elder Michael Corleone in his darkened Lake Tahoe living room to reveal his essence: a tragic figure doomed to a life of loneliness by his own doing.

The Deer Hunter - This controversial but galvanizing saga stands as one of the most powerful war films ever made. In this moving conclusion, a close-knit circle of friends comforts one another after a funeral. Like many veteran communities, the horror of war has torn them apart, but love of country has brought them together.

Young Frankenstein - Mel Brooks and company send up Mary Shelley's famous horror novel in this wildly amusing romp. Here, an attempt at hospitality ends in disaster. With precision comic timing, Gene Hackman sews the perfect button on the scene with his hilarious final line.

American Beauty - This Best Picture winner from 1999 has stood the test of time as a near-perfect suburban family drama. Upon its release, Kevin Spacey's rebellious anti-hero Lester Burnham inspired scores of miserable men to change their lives. In this scene, a fed-up Lester takes an overdue stand.

Babette's Feast - The joy of cooking is brought vividly to life in this winning gem from Denmark. In the climactic dinner scene, a respected general expresses his gratitude for the world class feast -- and unconsciously resolves the regrets of a misspent youth -- with an eloquent speech modeled on Psalm 85.

Moonstruck - A colorful assortment of Italian-Americans in N.Y.C. weave a tangled romantic web in one of the best comedies of the 1980s. In this exchange from the flawless finale, a devoted but beleaguered wife forces her philandering husband to change his ways.

What are your favorite dinner table scenes? Share your thoughts with a comment below. Until next time, may your Thanksgiving be filled with delicious food, precious people, and warm memories to last a lifetime.