February 8, 2009
nominations • ceremony
2008, 14th Annual Awards, March 30, 2008
|Once - This year we were treated to a haunting yet understated film about the bonds people form around a common passion, regardless of the circumstances that would otherwise keep them apart. ONCE is a modern Irish folktale about a struggling street musician (an unnamed character, played by Glen Hansard) and a Czech immigrant (also unnamed, played by Markéta Irglová) and the magical week they share writing, performing, and recording the music of their lives. A sibling of two-stranger love stories like LAST NIGHT, LOST IN TRANSLATION and QUIET CITY, this film manages to tug at the heartstrings without taking any of the obvious shortcuts we're used to in conventional romances. But most remarkably, ONCE refutes the previously wide held conviction that the genre of musical film has evolved as far as it will. More realistic than a classic musical and with a more narratively-integrated score than previous films about music, ONCE will undoubtedly be the standard to which a new breed of film aspires. --sc|
|Linda Linda Linda - oversleep and nearly miss their chance to play at their high school's year end talent show. That's the worst that happens. In the meantime these four girls shop together, share meals, and forge a bond tempered in the crucible of rock-and-roll. LINDA LINDA LINDA will set you free.--jp|
|The Lives of Others - From the opening scene of Stasi agent Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) giving a lecture on interrogation methods in early-1980s East Berlin to the ill-fated climax and the bittersweet, present-day epilogue, “The Lives of Others” (Das Leben der Anderen) is a gripping drama. As it examines the conflicting loyalties of the characters and their beliefs, it chronicles Wiesler’s change of heart as he becomes more and more drawn in to the lives of the couple he is assigned to observe. --ad|
No Country for Old Men
is a return to form for the Coen Brothers. Set and shot
on location in West Texas it lovingly tells the story of what happens
to some small town folk who find themselves in one heck of a mess. The
main characters are a regular guy, a sheriff, and psychopath with a
very strange haircut. Both mysterious and fun, scary and poignant the
film is an adaptation of a book by Cormac McCarthy. The marriage of
Cormac and the Coens is heavenly. It’s like those old Reeses' PB Cup
ads – 'You got your Cormac in my Coen Brothers!' Well, you get the
picture. Nothing could be better. --im
|Protagonist - is a brilliant film in which four men – a bank robber, a terrorist, an ex-gay evangelist and a martial arts expert - tell their life stories in chapters arranged according to themes in the plays of Euripides. The film is a shining example of how good writing and creative visual design, combined with great personal stories, can produce dazzling entertainment. Filmmaker Jessica Yu has scripted the film to a great degree and her interviews were certainly carefully planned. The result is a film that flows magically yet seems less contrived than many other films in which serendipity plays an obvious role. Few documentaries put me on the edge of my seat; PROTAGONIST is one of them. --bk|
|There Will Be Blood - THERE WILL BE BLOOD tells the story of Daniel Plainview, an oilman seeking his fortune in California in the late 1800s/early 1900s. As Plainview’s wealth grows, so do his ambition and greed, his contempt for his competitors, and his hatred for Eli Sunday, the small-town preacher whose own hunger for power in many ways mirrors that of Daniel Plainview. On one level it is a film about a man corrupted by greed, on another a commentary on American values with respect to family, religion, and capitalism. The film is extremely ambitious and broad in scope, and succeeds on all fronts, with top-notch performances, expert direction, and spectacular cinematography. --ad|
|12:08 East of Bucharest - This film is an ideal representation of what the Chlotrudis Buried Treasure Award is meant to exemplify. 12:08 EAST OF BUCHAREST is small-budget and high-art, a film which depicts real people with real flaws. The film centers on the local townspeople discussing an important topic (Romanian independence) in a farcical way. Tiberiu Manescu (Ion Sapdaru), is a history teacher and town drunk, and, despite the chaos he causes in other people’s lives, he manages to maintain some remarkably loyal relationships. Virgil Jderescu (Teodor Corban), a 2-bit talk show host, marks the 16-year anniversary of Romanian independence by asking his guests and phone-in viewers, “Was there - or was there not - a revolution in our town?” Indeed, it seems all too depressing when we realize that if one guy was there, and he wasn’t drunk, then and only then, this saves the whole town from feeling like they didn’t participate in the most important political event of their lives. And yet, the audience can’t help but laugh out loud. Mircea Andreescu, who has earned a nomination for his role as Emanoil Piscoci, delivers a delightful performance during this all-important scene. 12:08 EAST OF BUCHAREST is a charming dark comedy, that uses a creative and humorous approach to urge viewers to enjoy the imperfect humanity of some rather flawed people living in the depressing little town of Bucharest. -- bca|
|Live-in Maid - Written and directed by Jorge Gaggero, LIVE-IN MAID (CAMA ADENTRO) tells the story of two women, Beba Pujol (veteran actress Norma Aleandro) and Dora (newcomer Norma Argentina), her live-in maid of more than 30 years. When the film opens, Beba’s financial situation has been in decline for some time and she has not been able to pay Dora for several months. Haughty and selfish, but also lonely and vulnerable, Beba has always depended on Dora to take care of her. When Beba can no longer pay her, Dora must decide whether to stay with Beba or risk trying to find another job in the uncertain economy. As Beba and Dora struggle with their changing circumstances, the balance of power in their relationship shifts. Set against the backdrop of the recent economic crisis in Argentina, the film explores the complex relationship between employer and domestic servant and the bonds of mutual dependency that form after many years together. --ad|
|Romántico - Unlike other documentaries that address the immigration issue, Mark Becker’s film is unique in that he films his subject, musician Carmelo Muniz Sanchez, in his adopted home of San Francisco and his native home of Salvatierra, Mexico. By showing his subject in these two settings, we understand the frustration that Sanchez experiences. When in the United States, he misses out on the love and support of his mother, wife and two daughters. Yet when in Mexico, he finds that he’s only able to make a fraction of what he could earn in the United States and thereby cannot provide for his family. Throughout the film, the filmmaker captures gorgeous shots of Mexico and masterfully scatters Sanchez’s music. In doing so, Becker displays a soulful depiction of a man who has the best of intentions despite the challenges that have been laid before him. --gc|
|Tears of the Black Tiger - It’s a Thai film. It’s a musical. It’s a melodrama. It’s a western. It’s a romance. It’s modern and classic. And it’s all in Technicolor. TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER is all of these things. It is also the epitome of a Buried Treasure: produced in 2000, TEARS premiered at Cannes to widespread acclaim and was immediately picked up by a distributor... Who changed the ending and then shelved it indefinitely. Luckily, another company obtained the rights in 2006 and released the original cut this year! This was the first film by director Wasit Sasanatieng, showing him to be a new talent that should be watched closely. Now that the film is finally available to audience, make sure that you take advantage of the opportunity and SEE IT! You won’t be sorry. --im|
|Wristcutters: A Love Story - The first scene of WRISTCUTTERS: A LOVE STORY features Tom Waits on vinyl, and later on he shows up on screen. And it’s a love story about suicide, with pets and magicians that will make you smile. There’s also some Russian punk rock, but I’ll apologize if it was Estonian or some other ilk. I’m not that cosmopolitan, but I enjoyed it anyway. The turkey was a nice touch. --tb|
|Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood - In his fifth feature film, Anderson grandly delivers on the promise that he showed in his earlier films. In THERE WILL BE BLOOD, Anderson adapts the Upton Sinclair novel, Oil, the story of Daniel Plainview, an oil businessman, who seeks to build his fortune by attaining the right to drill oil in small communities in turn-of-the-century California. In bringing this story to the screen, Anderson captures this period through breathtaking cinematography that evokes a slower, more hopeful time. As the film progresses, Anderson confidently utilizes his tremendous cast along with a fabulous score to show how the once-righteous oil driller has slowly compromised his values to attain his next big score. By the chilling, suspenseful climax, Anderson has left us pondering about the emotional sacrifices that come with great achievement. --gc|
|Joel & Ethan Coen for No Country
for Old Men - Two brothers/one brain? The feedback from cast and
crew members who have worked with brothers Joel and Ethan Coen is that
they think so much alike it's almost uncanny -- if asked questions
separately on any aspect of the film, the two would
produce virtually identical answers. Cormac McCarthy's novel, No Country for Old Men, is beautifully translated to film -- with all kudos due to their symbiotic (empathic ?) relationship as co-directors, producers, writers and editors. Llewelyn Moss stumbles on the scene of a drug-sale gone bad, lifts the cash, and lives to rue the day. He is followed by the relentless and remorseless killer-for-hire, Anton Chigurh, one of the coolest and scariest characterizations ever created on film. The Coen's camera lens is unflinching, the bloodbath that ensues from the first scene to the very last is presented in clear and quiet
images that render the story all the more horrifying, each moment caught like a deer in the headlights just before being crushed by a car. --kp
Julia Loktev for Day Night Day Night - In the first half of Loktev's uncommonly assured debut feature, we follow an unnamed 19-year-old woman as she rigorously trains to do something—what it is only gradually comes into focus. By the film's second half, we're on the edge of our seats as she attempts to pull it off. However, what actually happens comes as a surprise, leaving both the woman and the audience to deal with unforeseen consequences. Employing a methodically paced, bare bones style, Loktev exhibits the influence of challenging cinematic masters like Robert Bresson and Carl Dreyer, but also the ambiguities and realism of modern Iranian cinema. She deftly uses the film's mounting intensity not just to entertain or shock, but to invite discourse about an array of global and personal issues, compellingly projected onto her lead character's not-so-blank slate. --ck
|Sarah Polley for Away from Her - Sarah Polley, long admired by Chlotrudis for her acting ability, has now become the latest hyphenate to wow us. With Away from Her Sarah has adroitly adapted a short story by beloved Canadian author Alice Munro, and directed it for the screen with an assurance found in seasoned directors who have been working for decades. What's even more impressive is Polley's graceful, eloquent handling of such sensitive material as aging and alzheimer's disease. First-time feature director Polley handles powerful performances by her leads (and fellow Chlotrudis nominees) Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent, as well as from supporting players Olympia Dukakis, Kristen Thomson and Alberta Watson. Polley is a talent to watch on both sides of the camera. --mrc|
|Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY is a faithful adaptation of the original memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a victim of a locked-in syndrome who is reduced to communicating with the outside world by blinking his left eyelid. Cinematically, Schnabel presents the story from Bauby’s point of view. We are inside his head. We see and feel the world from his perspective - lopsided, distorted and fuzzy. Schnabel has taken many risks and every single one pays off. Rarely has the written word fallen into such gifted hands. Make no mistake; in spite of all the assembled talents involved in this project, it is clearly Schnabel’s film.--bk|
|Tsai Ming-Liang for I Don't Want to Sleep Alone - In the slums of Kuala Lumpur, thugs beat a homeless man almost to death. A Malaysian laborer rescues him and restores him to health. A teahouse waitress helps her overbearing boss care for the boss's bedridden son. In long, static shots and with hardly a scrap of formal dialog, Tsai Ming-Liang builds his story around the minutiae of his characters' lives, revealing their desires, their loneliness, their ache for connection, and their essential humanity. The most benevolent film of the year. --jp|
|Kate Dickie for the role of Jackie in Red Road - There is a mystery in Jackie’s past in Red Road, one that involved a crime. Kate Dickie, and director XXX reveal Jackie’s secrets slowly and naturally keeping the audience riveted to the story, and repeated stunned with each revelation. By film’s end Jackie’s moral standing will have shifted back and forth and back again with each new revelation. Dickie holds her secrets close to the vest during the first half of the film, and as they are slowly revealed, she also reveals a fearless performance, exposing herself both physically and emotionally in unexpected ways. It's an uncompromising, breakthrough performance in an uncompromising debut film. --mrc|
|Julie Christie for the role of Fiona Anderson in Away from Her - Sarah Polley adapted Alice Munro's elegiac short story with Julie Christie in mind for the role of Fiona, a woman in her early sixties facing the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Allegedly, it took Polley months to get the veteran actress to commit; it's a godsend that Christie eventually agreed, for one can hardly imagine anyone else in the role. Keeping in line with Munro's prose, her Fiona is not a histrionically drawn TV-movie-of-the-week victim, but a real person quietly, gracefully dealing with the disease's symptoms and implications until she can no longer recognize what effect they have on her. Christie is simply brilliant in how completely she disappears into character. While it's hard not to notice the actress' legendary beauty, such glamour is irrelevant as Fiona's memory begins to fade and her personality drastically changes. It's an undeniably heartbreaking transformation both for her husband and the viewer, but Christie's gift is in how naturally it all comes across. --ck|
|Mirjana Karanovic for the role of Esma in Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams - In a sister story to Isabel Croixet’s The Secret Life of Words, Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams looks at the survivors of the horrors endured by thousands during the Bosnian war. Yet while Mirjana Karanovic’s Esma shares some of the scars both emotional and physical as Sarah Polley’s Hanna, she carries her victimization and pain differently. Karanovic carries Esma’s determined capability like a badge as she negotiates the two jobs she must work just to raise enough money to send her only daughter on a class trip. Then, at a memory, or an innocent topic brought up by a co-worker, a haunted look will skitter into her eyes, revealing something buried deep within. When it all finally explodes, Karanovic maintains an element of structure to her lack of control layering Esma with an incredible depth and empathy. --mrc|
|Ellen Page for the role of Juno McGuff in Juno - When Chlotrudis picked Ellen Page for our Breakthrough Award in 2005 we couldn't have been more prescient in our honor. With the role of Juno McGuff, Page has captured the hearts and attentions of the American movie-going public; and she has done so with honest to goodness acting talent. There is a lot that's sitcommy about Diablo Cody's script for Juno, and it's Page whose grounded and honest acting makes Juno the character work for us all. She nails the clever, sassy dialogue, she hits the right comedic notes, and she also gives Juno a believable depth and compassion that in the hands of a less skilled actor would come across as hokey or cloying. Page shows us how great she is in nearly every scene of JUNO, but if I had to pick just one, watch her reaction when her onscreen dad Mac says to her, "I thought you were the kind of girl who knew when to say when." For several beats Juno doesn't respond... she doesn't even really react other than an almost imperceptible crumbling, as if she's just been hit in the stomach. It gives me chills. --mrc|
Sarah Polley for the role of Hanna in The Secret Life of Words - Isabel Coixet's THE SECRET LIFE OF WORDS is constructed very strangely. The first three-quarters of the film is mostly set-up for the blistering denoument: an 8-minute monologue delivered by the film's star Sarah Polley. It's a true testament to her talent that Polley's Hanna, despite being a bit of a cypher for most of the film, remains compelling and empathetic. Then, when called upon to reveal Hana's secrets and unleash the raw, tightly coiled emotion , Polley does so with a powerful combination of grace and ferocity. Nominated in three different categories this year, the other two being Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for AWAY FROM HER, I'm so glad she was once again recognized in the Best Actress category, where she first made her mark. And don't forget, Sarah last won the Chlotrudis Awards for Best Actress in Isabel Coixet's debut film, MY LIFE WITHOUT ME. --mrc
Posey for the role of Fay Grim in Fay Grim -
Parker Posey proves again that she can take any role and give it a
delightful spin. Reprising her character Fay Grim, she give us a study
of neurosis under fire, edgy but delicately ditzy -- her performance
blends deadpan dark-humor with squint-eyed disbelief at being thrown
once more into the screwball world of HENRY FOOL. Looking for the key
to a code to transcribe her late (?) ex- husband's journals, which may
or may not prove him to be a terrorist, Fay is a woman in pursuit of a
past that she really wishes would just drop dead. --kp
|Daniel Day-Lewis for the role of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood - Rarely does an actor have the opportunity to portray such a complex character, one who is both so dark and compelling. Daniel Day-Lewis is on screen in almost every frame, from the silent but expressive opening 10 minutes to the bloody, manic, much-discussed final 10 minutes. Day-Lewis is Daniel Planview and Plainview is THERE WILL BE BLOOD. --hn|
|Casey Affleck for the role of Robert Ford in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - Casey Affleck has grown up in the shadow of his older brother Ben. And in that time he has built up an exciting filmography of varied supporting roles. With his portrayal of the Coward Robert Ford he steps out of the shadows with force. Affleck begins the film an insecure, admiring member of James’ gang and we cringe at his adoration. He transitions this into obsession and resentment flawlessly. Affleck portrays Ford with complexity, capturing the mercurial aspect of human nature. --im|
|Ryan Gosling for the role of Lars Lindstrom in Lars and the Real Girl - In the hands of a lesser lead actor, Nancy Oliver's film and its seemingly outlandish central conceit—a small Wisconsin town supports and encourages a young man whose girlfriend is a blow-up sex doll—would simply not work. But Gosling understands that the best way to embody such an eccentric, potentially unlikable character is to underplay the role. His carefully chosen facial tics, wardrobe and vocal inflections let Lars' more affable qualities shine through while not obscuring the subtleties and contradictions inherent within. Soft spoken and innocent (but not a saint or a simpleton like Forrest Gump), Gosling's gentle, slightly paunchy Lars is a hero straight out of a (slightly warped) Frank Capra film. But Gosling also poignantly conveys Lars' pain and his struggle to fully connect with another real person and be at peace with himself. --ck|
|Gordon Pinsent for the role of Grant Anderson in Away from Her - Gordon Pinsent gives a powerful performance as Grant Anderson, a retired professor struggling to cope with his wife’s Alzheimer’s disease and institutionalization. Grant and Fiona have been married for over 40 years and, despite some rough patches early in their marriage, have settled into a quiet, comfortable retirement when Fiona’s illness becomes apparent. As Grant watches Fiona’s steady decline and reflects on their life together, Pinsent convincingly conveys Grant’s inner turmoil and devotion to Fiona as he begins to accept his new reality. --ad|
|Sam Riley for the role of Ian Curtis in Control - Relative newcomer Sam Riley stars as the ill fated Ian Curtis, the adulterous, epileptic lead singer and lyricist for the influential band, Joy Division. Riley captures the complicated nature of a man who, by day, was an unemployment job counselor, husband and father and who, by night, stood on stage performing in a unique style that is best described as a cross between a seizure and an orgasm. Tortured by guilt over a failed marriage and fears about his health and the potent epilepsy medicine prescribed for it, Riley helps us understand the stress and pain Curtis experienced before committing suicide at the age of 23 in 1980. --bk|
|Philip Seymour Hoffman in the role of Andrew "Andy" Hanson in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - Distasteful characters and dastardly deeds have always been the centerpiece of great art. Seymour Hoffman is nothing short of magnificent as he plays Andy Hanson, a man who destroys his family not out of malevolence but out of weakness. Concocting a bizarre plot to rob his parents’ jewelry store he is reduced to living with the dire consequences of his decision. Hoffman allows his audience to simultaneously empathize and disapprove. That is an awesome achievement.--bk|
|Cate Blanchett for the role of Jude Quinn in I'm Not There - First, you just have to admire the audacity of director Todd Haynes to cast Cate Blanchett as one of the six Bob Dylan-inspired figures in his kaleidoscopic study of an era. To many, her Jude represents one of the more easily identifiable of Dylan's personas: the suave, rebellious rock star gone electric, attempting to out-Beatle The Beatles at the height of the swinging Sixties, the entire world seemingly at his command. The mere idea of Blanchett as Bobby brings front and center the man's sexual ambiguities, but her performance goes beyond mere mimicry or gender-bending. Having portrayed everyone from Queen Elizabeth to THE LORD OF THE RING'S Galadriel to even a version of herself (in COFFEE AND CIGARETTES), she has a blast here, stepping into this role with uncommon ease and achieving the near impossible: she's so convincing that it's like she's turning tables on Dylan, making him her own persona. --ck|
Bae for the role of Son in Linda Linda Linda
- Playing Son, a foreign exchange student from Korea, Du-na Bae finds
herself, through no fault of her own, the lead singer in a high school,
all-girl Japanese rock band. Du-na informs Son with a deadpan grace
that expresses first bewilderment and then joy over her good fortune
and newfound friends.
The scene where she artlessly breaks an ardent boy's heart, choosing friendship over puppy love, is the very soul of the movie. --jp
|Allison Janney for the role of Bren McGuff in Juno - As the dog-loving and pragmatic Bren MacGuff, Allison Janney delivered a nuanced performance that evades caricature. Her role as stepmother to Juno is both funny and heartfelt, providing a new type of parent in a film about teenagers. Janney imbues her character with a wry sensibility and loving resolve. She seems to really *get* the dynamic that exists between a stepmother and daughter and portrays Bren accordingly, whether challenging Juno in order to keep her off the wrong path, or by standing up for her by confronting a nurse who passively insults Juno and her situation. Janney avoids the stereotypical mother or step-mother role by bringing sense and honest humor to her character. Plus, she just nails that Minnesota accent! --sd|
|Margo Martindale for the role of Carol in Paris je T'aime - In the brief minutes Margo Martindale spends on screen during the omnibus film Paris Je T’aime, so manages to make such an indelible impression on the viewer all the while embodying the very soul and spirit of the entire movie. While part of the credit belongs with Alexander Payne, who wrote and directed the segment, well-known character actress Martindale embraces the role so fully and completely that she becomes Carol and any other actress playing the role becomes inconceivable. Her matter-of-fact delivery, her bad French accent, her small-town American optimism, and her resigned acceptance of her loneliness captivate the viewer so seductively that there couldn’t possibly have been another way to end this film. With each role, Martindale displays the essential quality of the character actor importance of an actor’s skill in every role. --mrc|
|Aurora Quattrocchi for the role of Fortunata Mancuso in The Golden Door - THE GOLDEN DOOR is a film about the experience of Italian emigrants who leave Sicily to find a better life in the United States. Those who board the ship span several generations. The grandmother is played by Aurora Quattorchi and it is through her eyes that the viewer comes closest to understanding the conflicting issues at hand. Her controlled performance is pivotal; a lesser actress may have easily been tempted to overplay the role.--bk|
|Adrienne Shelly for the role of Dawn in Waitress - While WAITRESS certainly proved that Shelly was an accopmlished screenwriter and director, she was first and foremost an actor, and in her last film, she gave herself an endearing supporting role as Dawn, a young waitress who finds love in an unexpected place: an experiment with 5-minute dating. The new man in her life, Ogie, is a short, average-looking-Joe with a gift for extemporaneous poetry. Shelley's Dawn is artlessly charming as she falls for Ogie's lyrical qualities, as her co-workers look on with disbelief. --kp|
|Paul Dano for the roles of Paul Sunday/Eli Sunday in There Will Be Blood - He was part of last year's Best Performance by an Ensemble Cast winner, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE in a part where he was mute for most of the film. That won't cut it when you go head-to-head with an over-the-top Daniel Day Lewis. Yet this young actor goes the distance as a bible-thumping preacher who channels the Holy Spirit. His performance is flat-out weird, but oh-so appropriate in Paul Thomas Anderson's slightly bizarre film. Whether he is casting desmons out of his congregation, cowering in the mud from Daniel Plainviews bitter attack, caustically belittling his father for being ignorant, or groveling for assistance after hypocritically losing his path, Dano throws every fiber of his being into his performance, and the result is incindiary. --mrc|
|Mircea Andreescu for the role of Emanoil Piscoci in 12:08 East of Bucharest - In the role of Emanoil Piscoci, Mircea Andreescu plays the fondly remembered, now retired, local Santa Claus, a characterization one suspects may have been challenging for him, even in his prime. The film builds to a crescendo during which three men, one of which is Piscoci, are guests on a local TV show called the “Issue of the Day.” Referring to the overthrow of the Ceausescu regime, the talk show host asks each guest, “Was there a revolution or not in our town?” The proceedings are best described as goofy, not the bizarre type of goofy but the laugh- aloud variety. Andreescu’s retired Santa responds with a level of deadpan humor rarely seen on screen.--bk|
|Javier Bardem for the role of Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men - In NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, Javier Bardem portrays Anton Chigurh, the killer who seeks to retrieve the two million dollars from the protagonist who accidentally stumbles upon the money. In this performance, Bardem’s intensity appropriately serves the point of the character - that Chigurh is a different type of killer with different motives than other criminals. Through Bardem’s performance of the relentless psychopath Chigurh, not only do we witness one of the most chilling villains in cinema history but, more importantly, we grasp that the gunfights that now take place are much different than the ones that took place in the Old West. --gc|
|Kene Holliday for the role of Clarence in Great World of Sound -|
|J. K. Simmons for the role of Mac McGuff in Juno - Perhaps best known as scene-stealing news editor J. Jonah Jameson in the SPIDER-MAN movies, veteran character actor J.K. Simmons is nearly unrecognizable here. His Mac MacGuff is a sensible, down-to-earth Midwestern HVAC repairman whose flannel-clad wardrobe and folksy expressions ("Darn skippy!") are both comforting and hilariously at odds with the yuppie couple hoping to adopt his pregnant daughter Juno's child. But in key scenes, Simmons nearly walks away with this film, too. His priceless reaction upon hearing of his daughter's predicament is brutal but honest, and that carries over to one of the film's most touching moments, when he tenderly explains to her the qualities that make someone worth falling in love with. --ck|
|Steve Zahn for the role of Duance Martin in Rescue Dawn - I first noticed Zahn in 1994's REALITY BITES; since then I have consistently been amused by his performances—usually in comedic supporting roles. His performance in Rescue Dawn is a stark departure from what viewer's might expect from Zahn. His portrayal of Duane Martin, a POW in Vietnam, is desperate, intense and vulnerable, yet light. Zahn's portrayal works as a perfect companion to Bale's optimistic Dieter. Actors are often applauded (and rewarded) for taking roles against their "type;" in this performance, Zahn has shown us the depth of character that he can successfully embody. --sd|
|The Lives of Others, screenplay by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck - With fully drawn characters and great attention to detail, writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck crafts a compelling story of an East German Secret Police agent in early-1980s East Berlin, Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe), who becomes increasingly drawn to his subjects while conducting surveillance on them. What starts as a routine assignment for Wiesler quickly becomes much more, as he, playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), and Dreyman’s actress girlfriend, Christa-Maria (Martina Gedeck), struggle with conflicting loyalties and the ramifications of their actions. --ad|
|Fay Grim, screenplay by Hal Hartley - Hal Hartley does something amazing in FAY GRIM. He writes a sequel to a small film about a strange, abrasive man who disrupts a small, Long Island community that is suddenly a story of international espionage and government cover-ups going back decades. What's more, he does it in a plausible, powerful, and entertaining way! One of Hartley's many strengths as a screenwriter is his ability to blend deadpan humor with surprisingly moving emotion. He also creates yet another heroine who is in way over her head, but through sheer force of will, outwits governemnts and secret cabals. It's a surprising triumph for Hartley; one deserving of every accolade. --mrc|
|The Golden Door, screenplay by Emanuele Crialese - New York, America is never seen by the viewers of this film, but it is the goal of the characters. An amazing story of passage from the Olde Worlde to America, mixing realism and fantasy when necessary. If you were told stories by your great grandparents of their trip to America, this story will rekindle some memories. --tg|
|Juno, screenplay by Diablo Cody - Upon first hearing the premise of the film – a pregnant teenage girl finds a yuppie couple to adopt her baby, it would be easy for a moviegoer to dismiss JUNO as another run-of-the-mill silly teen comedy that fails to grasp the complexity of the situation. Fortunately, screenwriter Diablo Cody surpasses expectations of what we normally see in this genre by writing well-developed characters with witty dialogue that connects with the audience. Especially noteworthy, the screenwriter Cody has written a young female protagonist who is likable, smart, and funny, yet appropriately vulnerable. --gc|
|Linda Linda Linda, screenplay by Kôsuke Mukai, Wakako Miyashita, and Nobuhiro Yamashita (pictured left) -|
|Away from Her, screenplay by Sarah Polley, based on the short story by Alice Munro- As a writer primarily focusing on the short story, Alice Munro documents the human condition with tender affection and bitter irony. Her characters are grounded in reality but are far from the norm, which is what makes them interesting. Her short story "The Bear Came over the Mountain" is beautifully adapted for the screen by Sarah Polley. The original literary quality of Munro’s writing shines through into Polley’s screenplay but in no way interferes with the cinematic experience. Polley remains true to her source yet expands the story to fill up the screen, the affection and irony of the original remaining remarkably intact.--bk|
|The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, screenplay by Ronald Harwood, based on the novel by Jean-Dominique Bauby - French magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby wrote his memoir under the most extraordinary of circumstances: at 43, he suffered a massive stroke that result in a rare condition called Locked-in Syndrome, where his entire body was paralyzed except for his left eyelid. Julian Schnabel's adaptation daringly places us in Bauby's point-of-view for the film's first twenty minutes, forging a whole universe from the latter's limited visual perspective (although we hear his often acidic thoughts via voiceover). Then, as Bauby begins to painstakingly dictate his memoir to his nurse (by blinking his eyelid as she recites the letters of the alphabet, one by one), Schnabel gradually pulls back to reveal the man's past and present from our own perspective. Like its source material, Schnabel's film shows how one can create great, transcendent art out the most tragic circumstances and suffuse a life with it. --ck|
|No Country for Old Men, screenplay by Joel & Ethan Coen , based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy- The Coen brothers correctly realized that Cormac McCarthy's novel could transform almost seamlessly into a screenplay, and so they saved themselves probably a lot of work by doing very little adaptation. They lifted blocks of dialog verbatim and filmed their set pieces as McCarthy laid them out. Therein lies the screenplay's brilliance, giving cinematic life to a master's story, precisely as he told it.--jp|
|Persepolis, screenplay by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi, based on novel by Marjane Satrapi - One never knows whether to applaud a screenwriter’s attempts to be faithful to the source material or curse the fact that the screenwriter did not take risks and make changes that better translate the story to a different medium. For PERSEPOLIS applause is appropriate. The graphic novel of Marjane Satrapi is beautifully adapted to the screen almost frame by frame. Her black and white characters are animated, yet the wonderful mood and style of the comic novel remains beautifully intact. --bk|
|There Will Be Blood, screenplay by Paul Thomas Anderson, based on the novel by Upton Sinclair - To quote oil baron Daniel Plainview: “Drainage! Drainage, Eli! Drained dry, you boy! If you have a milkshake and I have a milkshake and I have a straw and my straw reaches across the room and starts to drink your milkshake. I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!” Anderson’s brave, eccentric adaptation of Sinclair’s novel “Oil!” propels Daniel Day Lewis’ gigantic, world-devouring performance. The brilliance of Anderson’s quote-worthy screenplay is that it always knows when to speechify and when to let the images tell the tale. Smooth. Tasty. Drink up. --kj|
|Pan's Labyrinth - Anyone touched by the moment in THE WIZARD OF OZ when the film shifts from black and white into glorious color knows how effectively movies can express the startling contrast between reality and fantasy. Guillermo del Toro's film almost takes this concept to an extreme, for the fantasy becomes essential in aiding the lead character, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) to deal with a ruthlessly bleak reality. The scenes in which Ofelia meets Pan the Faun and the Pale Man (both played by Doug Jones) are rich with unearthly locales (like the latter's sinister, overstuffed dining room), beautifully dark colors and creatively bizarre costumes. However, in other scenes involving her malevolent stepfather and the home where she is held captive, the visual tableau is nearly as striking—as for Ofelia, it becomes increasingly difficult for us to distinguish what's real and what's imagined by sight alone. --ck|
|Paprika - Kon Satoshi has created a niche of surreal animation all his own. Working for the first time with Paprika's cinematographer Katou Michiya, a dream world gone mad and made real is brought out into Toyko. The two even manage to animate a discussion and examples of film making into the storyline. Colorful, fluid and whimsical character design only add to the Fantastic Realism of Paprika. --tg|
|Brand Upon the Brain - An island, complete with roving lighthouse, hides secrets, deep, dark secrets. Guy Maddin's latest spectacle creaks along posing and solving riddles, uncovering those secrets. The movie merges state of the art digital processes with the hoary traditions of the silents. "Scratched" footage, plot cards, jump cuts, iris dissolves, otherworldly lighting effects, odd camera angles, everything we've come to expect in a Guy Maddin movie, shot through with a weirdly skewed nostalgia, like some twisted Hardy Boys adventure. The design both holds up and sends the movie barreling on its way.--jp|
|The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - With the visual acuity that Schnabel has shown in his last two features, THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY dunks the audience into a world as seen through the eye of Jean-Dominique Bauby, trapped in his barely functioning body with a fully functioning mind. The iridescent colors of the butterfly and the watery world seen from a diving bell are combined to create the visual language of the film. The visuals support the personal nature of the film by being shot at the level of a wheelchair, slightly out of focus as if the lens is moistened with tears. The visual design for THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY effectively places the audience into Bauby’s view of the world. --im|
|Tears of the Black Tiger - First, you notice the colors. A woman, dressed in luminous red, walks through an emerald rainstorm. A magenta schoolbuilding. A grand, sunflower-yellow house done up for a wedding in garlands of sea-green and pink. Then, the comicbook battlescenes, choreographed like ballets. The costumes, cowboy suits fit for princes. And the telling details, raindrops sizzling on a hot gunbarrel while a pearl of smoke drifts out its end. TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER is a grand visual spectacle! --jp|
|Waitress - The three remarkable actresses, Keri Russell, Cheryl Hines, and Adrienne Shelly who play co-workers and friends in WAITRESS are thoroughly believable as women who see each other every day and help each other through the drudgery and heartache of their lives, both at work and at home. Add to that some terrific supporting work by Andy Griffith (of all people), Nathan Fillion, Jeremy Sisto, and Eddie Jemison and you've got the makings of a great ensemble cast. It's so refreshing to see a group of Southerners played not exclusively through their eccentricities, but through the way they bond, a testament to both the terrific acting and the outstanding screenplay by Adrienne Shelly. --mrc|
|Exiled - While Hong Kong
cinema has slowed to a crawl in previous years, the remaining talent is
still top-notch. Johnny To, reminiscent of Serge Leone with Eastwood,
Bronson, Fonda, et al, brings out the best in this all-star cast of
Anthony Wong, Simon Yam, Josie Ho, Francis Ng and friends. --tg
|The Host - In THE HOST, a family faces a terrifying threat. This is no extraordinary movie family, full of cool heads and daring deeds. It's just an ordinary, everyday family. It's members grieve, doubt, bumble, hesitate, and, as a consequence, suffer monumental tragedy, but they never give up, not on themselves nor on each other. We never cease to believe this is how it really would be for most of us in such a circumstance. That we do believe testifies to this ensemble's powerful, heartfelt performance.--Jp|
|Lars and the Real Girl - LARS AND THE REAL GIRL is a tour de force for Ryan Gosling, however the supporting cast’s brilliant interaction with Lars is what makes the film believable. As Lars parades his fantasy girlfriend before family, friends, fellow churchgoers and co-workers, their beautifully timed reactions - and particularly their profound compassion – are what help the film transition from a somewhat silly story to a lovely fable. --bk|
|Linda Linda Linda - A small Japanese town. The last week of school. An all-girl band has a dilemma – their guitarist has a falling out and quits. Is this band over before it’s even started? Determined to go on, they pick a singer at random – a Korean exchange student whose grasp of Japanese is shaky at best. The four girls literally form an ensemble – a punk rock band. It’s hard to imagine this film being made in America. Stripped of the queen bee histrionics that exemplify American girl movie relationships, the girls slowly fall into an easy rapport with each other, intersecting in a series of joyous, delicate moments that embody the power of music to transcend all – school, bad weather, squabbles with friends – even boys. --bt|
|No Country for Old Men -
The Coen Brothers put together a superb cast in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.
Tommy Lee Jones,
Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin shared top billing but there are many memorable moments involving smaller roles: Tess Harper is wry and dry as wife of Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), Stephen Root is a cold and casual businessman attempting to put out a fire from as discreet a distance as possible. Woody Harrelson exudes Texas-toughness as the bounty hunter who thinks he can contain Chigurh (Javier Berdem), Garrett Dillahunt
provides comic relief as the inexperienced Deputy Wendell, and Javier Bardem credited/blamed the haircut for inspiring his performance (which triggered a memory of
Lee Marvin saying half the credit for his Oscar winning performance in Cat Ballou should
go to his horse). --kp
|Protagonist - When approached by producers to make a documentary about Euripides, Jessica Yu didn't go the expected route. With originality and creativity overflowing, Yu interviewed scores of people to find four men whose stories shared common themes that were also present in the plays of Euripides. Basically a talking head film, PROTAGONIST fairly leaps from the screen with its deft editing, imaginative titling, the inventive use of puppets, and the charisma of her four chosen subjects. This finely constructed documentary is a spellbinding testament to this filmmaker's talent. --mrc|
Typefaces, and by extension, type design, are part of our everyday
lives, yet most of us go through our daily routines without giving them
much thought. As the typeface that represents everything from American
Airlines to American Apparel, Helvetica is emblematic of this paradox.
A good portion of Gary Hustwit’s film is spent with his camera
wandering through the streets of world capitals, where it can’t go more
than a few blocks without finding Helvetica on signs, in logos, on
trucks. So does Helvetica impose meaning, or does it absorb meaning?
Depends on whom you ask. So Hustwit asks everyone who’s anyone in type
design, gauging the pendulum swing from love to hate to appreciation as
each generation of designers rebels against the sensibilities of the
Part survey course of post-WW2 design, part mash note to the pure joy of design done well, Helvetica simply wont let you spend another day without seeing type try to speak to you. --bt
|The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters - For many viewers, a good documentary should be every bit as absorbing, compelling and entertaining as a good narrative feature. Anyone who subscribes to those adjectives as a measure of quality will surely find The King of Kong to be a very good documentary indeed. Superficially, director Seth Gordon explores the subculture of videogames, and that subset of players who compete to become champions. Following the lives of Mark Alpiger, reigning champion of the videogame Donkey Kong, and Steve Wiebe, his challenger, The King of Kong is a startling examination of the struggle of good vs. evil. Looking deeper, this riotously funny film also explores the complex relationship between leaders and followers in a way that could be related to the modern political arena. And while there is very little subtlety about playing championship videogame tournaments, XXX avoids the easy gag on several occasions, slipping thigns in for the observant. --mrc|
|Kurt Cobain About a Son - At one moment in “Kurt Cobain: About a Son,” the ’90s rock icon excoriates those parents we’ve all seen – you know who I mean – who hurl words at their own children that the rest of us wouldn’t even utter on the freeway or a blog. They “can’t even pretend, or at least have enough courtesy for their children, to talk to one another civilly,” Cobain says. He spoke these words not long before he himself would, deliberately, leave his own two-year-old daughter fatherless; and that is exactly the kind of poignant and utterly human paradox that makes this film so moving. Refreshingly light on the pontificating that is usually endemic to rock films in general, and all things Nirvana especially, “About a Son” reminds us that great songwriters succeed because their music and lyrics capture our shared humanity and reflect it back to us with eloquence and without pretension. For Cobain, filmmaker A.J. Schnack has done just that. --kc|
|Lake of Fire - This film is long overdue. Not only does it effectively depict the heated opinions behind the pro-life movement as well as following the process of what making the choice of getting an abortion is actually like. Some of the perspectives are extreme and so is some of the footage in the film. Focusing on the battle over abortion in America, LAKE OF FIRE clearly explains why it is such a heated topic in this country, and one that doesn’t look like it is cooling down any time soon. --im|
|No End in Sight - In his film NO END IN SIGHT, director Charles Ferguson chronicles the events that took place after the fall of Baghdad in 2003. Rather than appealing the audience’s emotions, Ferguson instead relies on news footage and powerful interviews with administration insiders to show how the United States failed to plan and execute an effective exit strategy in Iraq. In short, Ferguson has constructed a film that should be required viewing for every American. --gc|
Chlotrudis Award Winner!
Girls Room by Maria Gigante (USA - 10 minutes) - GIRLS ROOM is a dark comedy that tells the tale of a young girl who must confront the much-feared school bathroom, where she is sure to encounter terror, humiliation, and isolation. But, when she finally takes matters into her own hands, she discovers that maybe she isn't so alone in this big, bad world.
Maria Gigante is a writer/director who is interested in telling stories about adult-like children and childish adults. She was the runner up for the 2007 MTV Movie Award "Best Filmmaker on Campus," and her award-winning short film Girls Room has played at film festival around the world, including Berlin International, Montreal World and Tribeca. She is currently in development for a feature script adaptation.
Fish, but No Cigar by Tara White
and Lyn Eliot (USA - 4 minutes) – An animated movie about a
woman who has bigger fish to fry. Literally.
27,000 Days by Naveen Singh (USA - 10 minutes) – Alone and on the verge of death, an ailing man writes a final letter to his estranged son – a burning confessional. As he puts words to paper, the man’s advancing illness forces his mind to confront intense and harrowing moments from his fleeting life.
Naveen Singh was born in Canada, but his filmmaking roots began at a young age in Michigan, where he made several short videos. He studied English literature and microbiology as an undergraduate at Michigan State University. His culminating thesis project, Orphans, a short film about refugees caught in a dystopian society, has screened at festivals nationwide.Finding his calling in film, he relocated to Los Angeles and enrolled at the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television as an MFA candidate in Film Production. While at USC, he was awarded the prestigious Broccoli Scholarship for academic achievement. In addition to his work as a writer/director, he has edited several projects that have screened at venues as diverse as the DGA, the Television Academy, Country Music Television, and Yahoo Music online. He is also an Honoree of Film Independent's Project: Involve, a workshop for emerging filmmakers. 27,000 Days has won several awards including the Best Experimental Short at the SXSW Film Festival.
Assault by Kazik Radwanski (Canada - 11 min.) – Nineteen-year old Ilya da Costa lives life without much responsibility. He works in construction, lives with his mother in an urban Toronto apartment, and spends his weekends drinking with his friends in downtown bars. Ilya breaks this pattern of simplicity when he is arrested for assaulting a female police officer while intoxicated. His life becomes exponentially more complicated in the ensuing weeks, as he faces life changing criminal consequences. The delinquent desperately searches the Yellow Pages for a lawyer, and gradually begins to realize the implications of his actions. While struggling to come to terms with his troubles, Ilya's youthful anxiety shines through his tough exterior.
Kazik Radwanski was born in Toronto, Ontario and is in his 4th year of Film Studies at Ryerson University. In the summer of 2007, Kazik travelled to Nakuru, Kenya to film a short, university-funded documentary. More recently, Kazik was awarded the Norman Jewison Filmmaker Award by Ryerson for his film short, Assault. Kazik is currently working on his 4th year film project, Princess Margaret Blvd., a short narrative about an elderly woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Paint by Rita Blitt (USA - 6 min.) – Caught in
Paint is a 6 minute video capturing painter/sculptor Rita Blitt
painting on four by eight foot transparent surfaces while choreographer
David Parsons and members of the Parsons Dance Company are seen in
mid-air, through the painting, imitating the dancing lines of Blitt's
paint strokes. Lois Greenfield, who collaborated in this union of
paint, dance and photography, made dynamic photographs as she, too, was
being filmed. The creative sparks and positive energy of all the
artists challenged the group to stretch their limits and perform magic.
International, award winning painter/sculptor/film maker Rita Blitt has created art all of her life. Blitt’s work celebrates her love of nature, music, dance and the spontaneous flow of movement captured in the drawn gesture. Her drawings and paintings, which sometime become sculpture, are often created with two hands at once. She says, “when those lines come from my hands…I feel like I am dancing.” Blitt’s paintings, sculpture, films, book and website (www.ritablitt.com) have won many awards. Recently, five foot stainless steel sculpture Sensuously, Stacked Steel won a 5th prize in Italy’s 2005 Florence Biennale, while Caught in Paint, 2003, a six minute collaboration with choreographer David Parsons and photographer Lois Greenfield, invited to over sixty film festivals, won the award for Documentary Short in Golden Star’s 2006 Film Festival in Hollywood.
Diva by Josephine Mackerras (France - 7 minutes) – Escaping his home-town that has completely rejected him, alone, Vincent goes to Paris to be entiely Herself, but life is never that simple.
Josephine Mackerras is a director, writer, and actress who has lived in Australia, France, and England. She has extensive international theatre, television and film credits having appeared on stage and screen in Paris, Sydney and London. Diva is her third short film
Gnist (Spark) by Inger Lene Stordrange & Endre Kvia (Norway - 15 minutes) - Caroline is living the seemingly perfect life.She works in the top posh clothes store, lives with the prettiest boy in town, in a beautiful house.It's exactly what her mother had planned for her. Caroline is an only child, with a father long disapeared into history.Her mother worked very very hard for them both.She now has to fulfill her mothers wishes...But Caroline also has wishes of her own.. She would like to move..to study..to be with Maria..the girl she secretly really loves. But her life is so perfect as it is.Her surroundings are pushing her for an answer..A film about the powers of external influences,and inner longing...Who`s dream do you choose?
This is Inger Lene´s first movie. She also produced Gnist (Spark). Endre Kvia has a Bachelor degree in film and writing at Southern Cross University in Australia, and experience in different small film projects.
El Otro Lado by Anne Wallace (Mexico - 13 min.) – In the experimental documentary, El Otro Lado, voices of the US/Mexico borderlands and the sounds of wildlife track the international boundary from the Rio Grande in the East to the western deserts of Arizona and California, revealing the controversial border wall as a projection of our fears, desires and politics.
Anne Wallace’s audiovisual projects and public commissions incorporate multiple perspectives on culture and history through the use of personal narrative. An important subtext is the relationship between cultural diversity and biodiversity. Many of her works engage the US/Mexico border and the American West. She is the recipient of several awards and honors including one of the first Artist Foundation of San Antonio grants, the International-Artists-in-Residence Program of Artpace and a residency at the Orchard Gallery in Derry, N. Ireland. Wallace lives in San Antonio, where she has recently begun production on her first experimental narrative film.
Bringebær (Raspberries) by Morgan Davidsen (Norway - 7min.) – A story of a small town. A big brother with dreams, an old lady with prejudice, a young man travelling and a visitor making it all come together. Two small boys have a dream of everything being better then they are right now. They start to sell raspberries in a rather empty smalltown. The one person left points fingers to imperfection, but someone, somewhere is reminded of the boys and their ways meet in the desertet town. A film about childish hopes and disapointment, the good that comes when you don`t expect it to. A poetic look at goodness and the old friend faith. Raspberries has an undertone of children who desperately needs help but don`t get it before fortune comes to visit.
Morgan Davidsen is an Actor / Director, with a Theatre/Film degree from Augsburg College, Mineaolis where he also played at The Guthrie Theatre. Morgan is currently working on a short film thrilogy where different people meet destiny while trying to break free from it. Bringebær is number 1, the next film is about a hooker who settles down in a Norwegian fishing community. The last film is a moderniced version of The Hunger. The main character is a dancer working night and day to break into the New York arena.
Shop & Save by Erik Gernand (USA - 6 min.) – When a woman thinks she sees a celebrity out shopping, she has lots of questions!
Erik Gernand lives in Chicago and is currently working toward an MFA in Writing for the Screen and Stage at Northwestern University. He’s written and directed five short films that have screened at festivals around the country and received multiple “best of” and audience awards in competition. His comedy writing has appeared on stage at Donny’s Skybox Theatre at Second City Chicago in sketch comedy revues including “Mantabulous!” which TimeOut Chicago named a “#1 Don’t Miss.” He works as a video producer and director creating documentary projects for non-profit organizations through his company, The Media Bunch, Inc.
The Truth About Faces by Lindsey Shockley (USA - 16 min.) - Overprotective super-mom Patricia Whitfield appears to be keeping it all together despite the fact that the center of her universe, her only daughter Jules, is moving away to Africa. But beneath her upbeat exterior lurks a painful secret. When a long lost loved one re-enters their lives, he exposes the truth about the family’s tragic past. With nowhere left to hide, Patricia is forced to do the one thing she tried so hard to avoid – let down her façade and come to terms with her true feelings.
Lindsey Shockley studied film at the University of Pennsylvania before earning her Directing M.F.A. from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. While at USC, she was selected among eighty applicants to direct one of the four school-sponsored films in 2005. Her film Lucky (2005) premiered at Cannes in 2006. The Truth About Faces (2007) is one of the longest unedited takes in history, running over thirteen minutes long. It marks her second venture with producer Julie Sifuentes and cinematographer Steven Edell. Shockley’s other short films include Loose Change (2003), Letting Go (2004), and Shooting the Pilot (2006).