My own personal choices for the year. They reflect not just necessarily what I think is the best or essential cinema, but perhaps resonate with me or inspire, both at the time, and still today. Subject to alter choices if new viewings are worthy enough. Other published Film Honors posts can be found at the menu at the top of the page.
Dario Marianelli (Atonement)
Given Paul Thomas Anderson’s shift into the deep, dark, more unfamiliar subject matter and story-telling it was perhaps essential that he acquired someone like Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood to score a moody, magnetic motion picture like There Will Be Blood. Even with it’s tag of ineligibility with AMPAS, the piercing, alarmingly emotive composition stamps it’s necessity on Anderson’s dynamic vision with its shrieking, multi-tempo strings.
Julie Christie (Away From Her)
*** Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) ***
Ashley Judd (Bug)
Anamaria Marinca (4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile)
Ellen Page (Juno)
Cate Blanchett (I’m Not There)
Ruby Dee (American Gangster)
*** Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) ***
Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone)
Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton)
There is some classic acting showcases right here. From someone who let’s face it, many did not see coming at the time – but Marion Cotillard’s Oscar and related praise for La Vie en Rose was no surprise. Portraying one of the most recognizable voices in the world, Edith Piaf, Cotillard immersed herself in the icon and the woman, playing the singer at a very young age and right through to her elderly years. Saoirse Ronan on the other hand, a child who would continue to prove herself a fine talent in adulthood, is ruthless in Atonement. Ronan brings the ice-cold liberation of someone so young amidst some adult scandal, a girl scorned and disgruntled.
Mathieu Amalric (Le scaphandre et le papillon)
George Clooney (Michael Clayton)
*** Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood) ***
Ryan Gosling (Lars and the Real Girl)
James McAvoy (Atonement)
*** Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) ***
Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood)
Robert Downey Jr. (Zodiac)
Vlad Ivanov (4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile)
Max von Sydow (Le scaphandre et le papillon)
Continuing to prove himself the most method actor since Robert DeNiro, Daniel Day Lewis walked off with his second Best Actor Oscar (quite comfortably it seems) as he simply disappeared into the character of Daniel Plainview. As a ruthless, prickly oilman in Paul Thomas Anderson’s distinctive adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s Oil, Day Lewis pulls you into the screen in pretty much every scene. As I go 3 for 4 in matching the Oscars acting categories (I promise it will never happen again), it is near-impossible to disagree with Javier Bardem’s performance in No Country for Old Men. A calm menace, a strangely addictive character he brings to life, Anton knows no bounds, and Bardem, who is nothing short of excellent most of the time, makes this new venture for him look easy.
*** Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) ***
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (No Country for Old Men)
Christopher Hampton (Atonement)
Ronald Harwood (Le scaphandre et le papillon)
Sarah Polley (Away from Her)
Nancy Oliver (Lars and the Real Girl)
*** John Carney, Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová (Once) ***
Diablo Cody (Juno)
Cristian Mungiu (4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile)
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (Das Leben der Anderen)
To select a screenplay based on it’s song lyrics as well as it’s narrative and dialogue is not cheating as much as you would have cheated yourself had you not seen this splendid little gem. Musicals rarely get credit for their writing of non-melodic content, and John Carney’s Irish indie fable is hardly a musical in the conventional sense, but it is a charming, affecting piece of story-telling – both through the film’s plot and the musical numbers. Thought-provoking songs, giving characters backstory and status, Once is a good-natured tale, a triumph of the human heart. The leads, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, as simply Guy and Girl respectively, wrote the songs between them, and perform them on-screen as part of their fleeting, naturalistic modern romance. Carney’s writing is also flourishing, real conversations, awkward exchanges, a rich chemistry, with little dialogue in all he still manages to salvage some true and poignant moments. Not long after the twosome have met, he a Dublin busker of sorts, and she a Czech street flower seller, they find refuge in a music store and sing the unforgettable (and Oscar-winning) “Falling Slowly” – which is kind of what they are doing right before our eyes – and ears.
4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile
Le scaphandre et le papillon
*** No Country for Old Men ***
There Will Be Blood
*** Harris Savides (Zodiac) ***
David Fincher’s intricate, intense, serial killer movie owes a lot to the elusive work of director of photography Harris Savides (working on his last Fincher film). Zodiac is a ridiculously meticulous work of art, the cinematography holds everything in place without a blemish or a hair out of place – carrying a seemingly flawless attention to details and moving images. Scenery, characters, visual clues and progressions, all framed with a mastermind precision. The camera shows us everything to be grand and vast, capturing the period and the depth of any particular scene, without coming across as a showy distraction. There are no missing pieces at all in this jigsaw puzzle.
Joe Wright (Atonement)
Transporting you through cinema to a place you could hardly imagine or want to comprehend, Julian Schnabel directs the film version of Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoirs Le scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) like a breathless splash of cold water to the senses. A suffocating, emotionally powerful film, depicting Bauby’s life when he has a stroke and is left paralyzed from the neck down – going on to form a communication through the blinking of his left eye. A laborious, but extraordinary feat. We witness the main character’s imagination, his aspirations, his memories, as well as the people around him, including his distraught father, his loyal former spouse, and the woman who helped develop Bauby’s method of communicating. And remarkable performances Schnabel pulls from his cast. A rare cinematic achievement, and a real heart-crusher this one. Schnabel was nominated for the Academy Award, César Awards, and DGA, winning at the Golden Globes and at the Cannes Film Festival.
*** 4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile (Cristian Mungiu) ***
Atonement (Joe Wright)
Le scaphandre et le papillon (Julian Schnabel)
Juno (Jason Reitman)
La Vie en Rose (Olivier Dahan)
Das Leben der Anderen (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)
No Country for Old Men (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)
Once (John Carney)
There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Zodiac (David Fincher)
A Screenplay prize winner for Beyond the Hills in Cannes in 2012, Cristian Mungiu had a few years prior taken the Palme d’Or for his brilliantly bleak but somehow enlightening 4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days). His screenwriting and directorial execution here is not afraid to be ruthless and authentically awkward as his characters (in particular Otilia played by the exceptional Anamaria Marinca) have to passively engage in extremely sensitive circumstances as well as blunt, discrete conversations. The plot focusing around an illegal abortion performed in a hotel room, and the rich, fine-tuned dialogue that carries it, is all handled with as much genuine recklessness as one would expect given the situations. Yet somehow there is a raw, down-to-earth nature to the whole affair, making it believable in it’s most nerve-cringing moments. Unsettling as it is magnetic, it’s an astonishing film achievement, worth every ounce of its weight in gold, and not a drop of cinema is wasted.