Last year I welcomed you to the sixth annual Mouton d'Or Awards and announced that they would be the last time they would be brought to you by Black Sheep Reviews. The intent was to start a new site but life got awful busy, as it tends to do, and here we are. Still Black Sheep presenting and do you know what? I'm happy it worked out this way. It's not about the site; it's about the work. OK, it's a little bit about the site but it is primarily about the work and this last year led to a lot of work for me outside Black Sheep in the world of film criticism. And I get to bring all that work back here to Black Sheep week after week. I'm not sure where Black Sheep was supposed to end up at this point but wherever this is, is pretty great.
And with that Black Sheep Reviews welcomes you to the 2011 Mouton d'Or Awards! The little silent film that could, THE ARTIST, leads this year's nominations with a total of seven but will it take the top prize? Or will it go to the one where reclusive director, Terrence Malick, attempts to capture the meaning of life on film? Perhaps it will be the one where people barely speak and spend a lot of time in cars or the one about the hot sex addict in NYC or maybe even the one where George Clooney wears Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops. It could be any one of these films. I joke about them casually here but they are all incredible films and I have fond memories of discovering each one of them. They all find some way to be honoured here but only one can take the Mouton d'Or for Best Picture.
Without further a due, ladies and gentlemen, the 2011 Mouton d'Or Awards ...
(Scroll over any title to read the original Black Sheep review.)
Contrary to what some people think, film critics do like movies. They do enjoy being entertained. Sometimes, they even enjoy big Hollywood productions like these five nominees. I chose THE HELP in this category because I was completely swept up in it, like a great deal of people out there. I finished reading the book about 20 minutes before I saw the movie and watching it come to life, albeit flawed in a few spots, was great fun for me and furthermore, I am proud to see that this film has touched so many people around the world.
It seems strange to even to suggest that a movie about the end of the world is little on any level whatsoever but when you see how striking Lars von Trier's MELANCHOLIA is, you will marvel at how little it supposedly cost to make. It is one of the most concise and effective films I've seen all year and my personal favourite from this elusive artist.
I don't like to spend too much time on these nominees. They have already wasted enough of mine as it is. Just look at those photos! How ridiculous do they all look? You should avoid all five but that being said, you should avoid David Gordon Green's YOUR HIGHNESS more than any other. It is pure torture from start to finish and an embarrassment for all involved.
I have to say I am completely blown away by this choice. THE TREE OF LIFE is by far one of the most polarizing films I've ever seen. People who love it, LOVE it but people who hate it, well they're willing to throw down over it. Personally, I love it. So to see that my readers overwhelmingly chose to honour it over some of the more populist choices in this category is incredible to me. Great choice, guys, and thank you to all who participated and voted in for this prize.
It still saddens me to only see two nominees in this category. I admit to not having seen some of the bigger animated films this year but that is just because they did nothing to excite me. These two are both fantastic films but the scale tips towards RANGO for being just so darn different and delicately detailed.
No matter what you think of Malick's opus, THE TREE OF LIFE, you cannot deny its exquisite beauty. This can be credited to Malick himself of course but also to his brilliant cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, his whip smart editor, Mark Yoshikawa, and special effects genius, Douglas Trumbull, who came out of retirement to help recreate the creation of the universe.
Electronic music artists taking stabs at film scores is becoming increasingly more and more popular but the inventive and unexpectedly successful work of The Chemical Brothers on HANNA makes an already exciting film experience that much more memorable. It's also a lot of fun to listen to outside of the context of the film.
KENNETH BRANNAGH in MY WEEK WITH MARILYN
ALBERT BROOKS in DRIVE
ARMIE HAMMER in J. EDGAR
BRAD PITT in THE TREE OF LIFE
CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER in BEGINNERS
MAX VON SYDOW in EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE
This category came down to two choices for me and one had to be made. There is something so infectious about Christopher Plummer's interpretation of a 75-year-old man who has just come out of the closet and been diagnosed with cancer in BEGINNERS. He has waited his whole life for this time to be himself and there is no way he is going to let a little thing like death stop him from experiencing every aspect gay life has to offer. It is truly inspiring and his performance is moving.
JESSICA CHASTAIN in THE TREE OF LIFE
MELISSA MCCARTHY in BRIDESMAIDS
JANET MCTEER in ALBERT NOBBS
CAREY MULLIGAN in SHAME
OCTAVIA SPENCER in THE HELP
SHAILENE WOODLEY in THE DESCENDANTS
Much of the awards season attention for Jessica Chastain has been for THE HELP but I fell completely in love with her in THE TREE OF LIFE. She has done plenty since then but nothing will compare to the first time for me. She deserves this all the more though for being amazing in everything she's put out this year but her work in THE TREE OF LIFE is almost angelic. She is simply luminous.
Mike Mills wrote BEGINNERS about his very own parents' relationship. By fearlessly sharing such a personal aspect of his life and weaving in such specific and vulnerable details, he created a piece that is surprisingly universal. It is quirky and insightful and just embodies for me everything than an original screenplay should. Perhaps most importantly, it is brave and honest.
THE DESCENDANTS tells a complex story and it does so sparingly and without playing to sentimentality when it so easily could considering its sensitive subject matter. Written by Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, this family drama is delightfully unique, oscillating between moments of light hearted humour, awkward bewilderment and real heart. It exudes a warmth that heals without even trying.
This is a new category this year. The reason it is here is because I am always blown away every year by what first time filmmakers can accomplish. All five of these films are bold, daring and stylistically fascinating works but Sean Durkin's MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE has haunted me ever since I first saw it. And despite its dark and disturbing nature, it is constantly drawing me back to it. I cannot wait to see what Durkin does next.
GEORGE CLOONEY in THE DESCENDANTS
JEAN DUJARDIN in THE ARTIST
MICHAEL FASSBENDER in SHAME
GARY OLDMAN in TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY
BRAD PITT in MONEYBALL
MICHAEL SHANNON in TAKE SHELTER
I would hate to be an Academy member right now. I'm not sure how I would choose between Clooney and Dujardin for the win in this category. Fortunately for me, I don't have to. I have Michael Fassbender to reward for his unforgettable turn as Brandon, a sex addict living in New York City, who is coming undone. It is too easy to say in this case but Fassbender does literally put it all out there for this character. His nakedness in SHAME, as impressive as it is, is still nothing in comparison to how naked his soul is.
GLENN CLOSE in ALBERT NOBBS
VIOLA DAVIS in THE HELP
ELIZABETH OLSEN in MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE
MERYL STREEP in THE IRON LADY
TILDA SWINTON in WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
MICHELLE WILLIAMS in MY WEEK WITH MARILYN
What an incredible year for women in film. In fact, it was this category specifically that forced me to expand the acting nominees to six in each category. There is no way I could not honour one of these fine ladies. That said, there can only be one winner and I found it too difficult to choose between Davis and Streep so I went with Tilda Swinton instead. Her work in WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN may not have gotten the notice it deserved but it is stellar. Her horror is unbearable and, fortunately for us or not, she is sure to share that horror with us at all times.
This is another new category this year. You cannot possibly single out every performance in every film you like. There are some times though that it is hard to overlook just how smoothly the entire cast works with each other. All five of these nominees boast impressive performances across the board and chemistry that is unmatched but the cast of 50/50 is a total dream. Joseph Gordon-Levitt leads, and strongly I might add, a sensitive Seth Rogen, a charming Anna Kendrick, a disturbing Bryce Dallas Howard and a heartbreaking Anjelica Huston. Together, they tow an incredibly difficult line between drama and comedy, making for a much more real look at dealing with cancer than any would have expected.
MICHEL HAZANAVICIUS for THE ARTIST
STEVE MCQUEEN for SHAME
ALEXANDER PAYNE for THE DESCENDANTS
NICOLAS WINDING REFN for DRIVE
LARS VON TRIER for MELANCHOLIA
All five of these directors knew what they wanted and got exactly that out of their pictures but one of them did so with an insane idea. Michel Hazanavicius has wanted to make a silent film for years now and he never gave up. He kept pushing until he finally found someone to back him and once he had the support, he didn't squander a single bit of it. His choices are all deliberate, all respect the rules of the era he is trying to capture and they subsequently allow for an enchanting film experience unlike any other I've had this year. I commend the man and his bravery for making a silent movie at a time when there is so much noise to distract us from the simpler things. Hazanavicius is THE ARTIST.
Out of the 130+ movies I saw last year, these five left the biggest mark on my soul. And while it was incredibly difficult to pick just one, I only had to think back to what it was like to experience these movies for the first time to make that choice. THE ARTIST was a delight. THE DESCENDANTS was cathartic. SHAME was gut wrenching. And THE TREE OF LIFE was monumental. But Nicolas Winding Refn's DRIVE was different. I hadn't seen anything quite like it before. It was quiet one moment and then uproarious the next. It was romantic and simple but then violent and disturbingly so. Everything about it exuded style, from the car chases to the soundtrack to mounting tension between leads, Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan. I remember feeling like DRIVE had practically driven right over me by the time it was done. And all I knew was I wanted to take that drive all over again the moment it finished. No other movie got my motor running like this one and that is why the 2011 Mouton d'Or Award for Best Picture goes to
Thank you kindly for reading.
Here's to another great year at the movies!