Friday, February 26, 2010

OSCAR ANTIDOTE: THE 2009 MURIEL AWARDS


UPDATED 3/1/10

And now the Muriel Award Best Picture Countdown. From a three-way tie for number #56 all the way to Number One:



#56 (tie) (Daniel Getahun)

#56 (tie) (Simon Abrams)

#56 (tie) (Michael Lieberman)

#19 (tie) (Adam Lemke)

#19 (tie) (Matt Noller)

#16 (Patrick Williamson)

#15 (Danny Baldwin)

#12 (Bryan Whitefield)

#10 (Andrew Dignan)

#9 (tie) (Andy Horbal)

#9 (tie)

#7

#6 (Sean Burns)

#5 (Craig D. Lindsey)

#4 (Jim Emerson)

#3 (Scott W. Black)

#2 (Phil Nugent)

#1 (Jason Alley)

**************************************************


In 2006 Paul Clark and Steve Carlson concocted The Muriel Awards, their version of a year-end critics group award ceremony. The rules and voting on the 20 categories they settle on were fairly simple and consistent and easy to follow—five answers were allowed for each category of individual achievement, and 10 for the categories involving achievement in film by year. Paul and Steve invited a group of Internet-based film writers to participate in that first year, including myself, Jim Emerson, Andy Horbal, Craig Lindsey, Lucas McNelly, Andrew Bemis and a ton of others. There have been new additions in each of the four years, and some of us, four years later, are still hanging around. The Muriels are one of the things I look forward to most about the year just starting, one last chance to chime in on personal favorites and to see what’s on the mind of some of my closest colleagues in the blogosphere. They also afford some of us a chance to write one last time to wax poetic about our favorites, as the winner in each category gets a new essay devoted to the reveling in exactly why this choice was the right one.

But the Muriels aren’t like the average contentious critics group, with levels of voting and jockeying to position one title as the least objectionable film to represent the group’s choice as the winner in any particular category. The winners are the winners, by simple majority, and the runners-up (four) are revealed and tabulated by amount of votes garnered. And beyond that, each film that gets a vote is mentioned in a full tabulation that can be clicked on to get the full picture of just how wide-ranging were the choices. (Still no tying of names of voters to actual votes cast, so there’ll be no snickering at the one guy holding a flickering candle in the wind for Jonah Hill as Best Supporting Actor in Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian.) The Muriels are also unique in that they aren’t named after some guy’s bald uncle, but after Paul’s beloved guinea pig compadre, the entrancing Muriel. (This year’s first category, Best Film of the Decade, carried with it some sadness as well, involving the fate of one of Muriel’s closest pals, Charlotte, seen here on the far right. Chuck Bowen has the news below.)

The deadline for votes cast was January 31, and ever since then Paul and Steve have been tabulating the results. If you’ve been clicking the button on the sidebar of this blog over the past three weeks, you’ve probably been following Steve as he posts a new category for each day, along with all the attendant statistics, on his blog Down Inside You’re Dirty (don’t try to argue the point—we all know it’s true). Well, the coming weekend will see the Muriels reach their long-anticipated and shattering climax. The Best Actor winner (winner by a wide margin, but not my choice) was revealed this morning. It was quickly followed by a bait-and-switch Best Actress announcement that actually got me excited... for a second. All that's left now is for the winner of the Muriel Award for Best Picture of 2009 to be unveiled, leaving all the good taste of our awards program to be washed away during the coming week by Oscar’s sins of excess and opprobrium. (Always nice to keep an optimistic ken to one’s view, eh?) So let’s start at the beginning. The following are links to each of the 19 Muriel categories that have so far been made public, the parenthetical name following each indicating the name of the esteemed writer who holds forth on the subject after the jump. (After the list of links, you’ll find my own Muriels ballot in its entirety, even the categories where I could only think of two entries worthy enough to mark down.) So let us salute Muriel (and remember once again Charlotte) and jump right in for one last happy remembrance of the movies that moved us in 2009.


Best Film of the Decade (plus Sadness) (Chuck Bowen)

Best Performance of the Decade (Male) (Phil Nugent)

Best Performance of the Decade (Female) (Jeff McMahon)

Best Directorial Body of Work of the Decade (Ari Dassa)

50th Anniversary Award (Best Film of 1959) (Scott Von Doviak)

25th Anniversary Award (Best Film of 1984) (Craig D. Lindsey)

10th Anniversary Award (Best Film of 1999) (Michael Lieberman)

Best Web-based Film Criticism (Philip Tatler)

Best Body of Work (Craig Kennedy)

Best Cinematic Breakthrough (Mark Pfeiffer)

Best Music (Original, Adapted or Compiled) (Steve Carlson)

Best Cinematography (Paul Clark)

Best Ensemble (Dennis Cozzalio)

Best Screenplay (Andrew Bemis)

Best Supporting Actor (Daniel Getahun, Patrick Williamson)

Best Supporting Actress (Lucas McNelly)

Best Director< (Jeff McMahon)

Best Actor (Andy Horbal)

Best Actress (Simon Abrams, James Frazier)

Only the Best Picture award left to be handed out, sometime this weekend, at the whims of Mssrs. Carlson and Clark. Stay tuned! (This space will be updated with the final result whenever it becomes available.)

And now, not that anyone’s clamoring for it, my own Muriels ballot, as submitted to the committee. It is what it is.

Best Feature-Length Film [10]
(the best film- documentary, experimental, or fiction- over 70 minutes)
1. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
2. A SERIOUS MAN
3. FANTASTIC MR. FOX
4. SUMMER HOURS
5. TYSON
6. ANTICHRIST
7. GOODBYE, SOLO
8. FOOD, INC.
9. ORPHAN
10. A TOWN CALLED PANIC

Best Lead Performance, Male [5]
1. MICHAEL STUHLBARG A Serious Man
2. SHARLTO COPLY District 9
3. MICHAEL FASSBENDER Hunger
4. CHARLES BERLING Summer Hours
5. GEORGE CLOONEY Fantastic Mr. Fox

Best Lead Performance, Female [5] *
1. MERYL STREEP Julie & Julia
2. CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG Antichrist
3. VERA FARMIGA Orphan
4. ISABELLE FUHRMAN Orphan
5. EMILY BLUNT The Young Victoria

(* I somehow overlooked Sandra Bullock, who would have been my first choice. So there, you snarky Muriels tricksters. You’re mean!)

Best Supporting Performance, Male [5]
1. CHRISTOPH WALTZ Inglourious Basterds
2. PETER CAPALDI In The Loop
3. DARYL SABARA World’s Greatest Dad
4. JEMAINE CLEMENT Gentlemen Broncos
5. HANK AZARIA Year One/Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Best Supporting Performance, Female [5]
1. MELANIE LAURENT Inglourious Basterds
2. MIMI KENNEDY In The Loop
3. KRISTEN WIIG Extract
4. EDITH SCOB Summer Hours
5. NATALIE PORTMAN Brothers

Best Direction [5]
1. QUENTIN TARANTINO Inglourious Basterds
2. ETHAN AND JOEL COEN A Serious Man
3. WES ANDERSON Fantastic Mr. Fox
4. OLIVIER ASSAYAS Summer Hours
5. KATHRYN BIGELOW The Hurt Locker

Best Screenplay [5]
(original or adapted)
1. QUENTIN TARANTINO Inglourious Basterds
2. ETHAN AND JOEL COEN A Serious Man
3. WES ANDERSON AND NOAH BAUMBACH Fantastic Mr. Fox
4. OLIVIER ASSAYAS Summer Hours
5. DAVID JOHNSON (Screenplay) ALEX MACE (Story) Orphan

Best Cinematography [5]
(film or video)
1. ANTHONY DOD MANTLE Antichrist
2. ROBERT RICHARDSON Inglourious Basterds
3. ROGER DEAKINS A Serious Man
4. ERIC GAUTIER Summer Hours
5. MIHAI MALAIMARE JR. Tetro

Best Music [5]
(original, adapted, or compiled)
1. MICHAEL GIACCHINO Up
2. MICHAEL GIACCHINO Star Trek
3. BRUNO COULAIS Coraline
4. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
5. A SERIOUS MAN

Best Cinematic Moment [10]
(best scene or sequence- include YouTube link if available)
1. Revenge of the Giant Face INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
2. A Marriage in Four Minutes UP
3. Joel Salatin and Polyface Farms FOOD, INC.
4. Long-distance Shootout THE HURT LOCKER
5. Accept the Mystery A SERIOUS MAN
6. Drive to the Mountain GOODBYE, SOLO
7. “The Saarne Institute isn’t an orphanage…” ORPHAN
8. The Parking Garage DRAG ME TO HELL
9. Stoned in the Desert LAND OF THE LOST
10. “I always took you as more of an INXS fan…” BROTHERS

Best Cinematic Breakthrough [5]
(vague explanation: a performer, filmmaker, or technician who made a notable debut in film, took his/her career to a higher level, or revealed unforeseen layers to his/her talent during the year 2009)
1. QUENTIN TARANTINO, for Inglorious Basterds, and for stepping in to save the New Beverly Cinema from certain closure, thereby preserving and renewing Los Angeles’ only surviving calendar-based, classically programmed repertory cinema for the foreseeable future.
2. The glorious return of STOP MOTION ANIMATION in Fantastic Mr. Fox, Coraline and A Town Called Panic
3. LARS VON TRIER
4. BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT
5. MIMI KENNEDY (In The Loop)

Best Body of Work [5]
(a performer, filmmaker, or technician who made superior contributions to multiple films released in calendar year 2008)
1. MICHAEL FASSBENDER (Hunger, Inglourious Basterds)
2. HANK AZARIA (Year One, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian)
3.
4.
5.

Best Ensemble Performance [5]
1. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
2. STAR TREK
3. FANTASTIC MR FOX
4. DUPLICITY
5.

Best Web-Based Criticism [5]
(Please include the site name and URL. Remember, sites run by Muriel Awards voters are ineligible to win, although sites that Muriel voters contribute to are eligible. Also, The House Next Door is ineligible this year, as it was last year's winner and we'd like a little variety.)
1. STEPHANIE ZACHAREK
2. GLENN KENNY
3. ED HOWARD
4. THAT LITTLE ROUND-HEADED BOY
5. PARALLAX VIEW

10th Anniversary Award, Best Feature Film 1999 [5]
1. SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER AND UNCUT
2. THE STRAIGHT STORY
3. ELECTION
4. THE IRON GIANT
5. THREE KINGS

25th Anniversary Award, Best Feature Film 1984 [5]
1. SECRET HONOR
2. ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA (Leone Cut)
3. STOP MAKING SENSE
4. COMFORT AND JOY
5. DUNE

50th Anniversary Award, Best Feature Film 1959 [5]
1. RIO BRAVO
2. NORTH BY NORTHWEST
3. FLOATING WEEDS
4. THE WORLD OF APU
5. SOME LIKE IT HOT

Best Film of the Decade [10] (In Quite Arbitrary Numerical Order)
1. SPEED RACER
2. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
3. ZODIAC
4. LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF
5. MULHOLLAND DRIVE
6. GERRY
7. GOSFORD PARK
8. THE INCREDIBLES
9. IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE
10. FEMME FATALE

Best Performance of the Decade, Male [5]
1. Clint Eastwood GRAN TORINO
2. Javier Bardem NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
3. Robert Downey Jr. ZODIAC
4. Kurt Russell DEATH PROOF
5. Brad Bird THE INCREDIBLES

Best Performance of the Decade, Female [5]
1. Naomi Watts MULHOLLAND DR.
2. Maggie Cheung IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE
3. Shu Qi THREE TIMES
4. (originally submitted ineligible performance from 1999, can’t remember what I replaced her with)
5. Nicole Kidman BIRTH

Best Directorial Body of Work of the Decade [5]
1. Ethan and Joel Coen
2. Brad Bird
3. Gus Van Sant
4. Robert Altman
5. Werner Herzog

**********************************************

15 comments:

Steve C. said...

Heh heh... considering Paul and I have spent the last month or so broadcasting that oh, it's a crime that Tilda never really had a chance, oh, if only more people had seen the film... well, I had to do something. No ill will towards Sandy - she just happens to be an easy target right about now. :-)

Dennis Cozzalio said...

I's just ribbin' ya. Anyway, it is pretty amazing that thanks to Netflix (I'm assuming) a performance from a movie that was barely released theatrically could hold court like that.

Besides, if I can't even remember to put Sandra Bullock on my own ballot, when I would have ranked her #1, then I have no room for real complaints! Fortunately I remembered by the time I doddered into my own year-end post.

le0pard13 said...

This was fantastic! Even though I'm sure you'll get a range of decisions for the winners in each of the categories, the scope of these awards are to be praised. This is great stuff, Dennis.

Chris Stangl said...

I'm always interested in the mathematics and rationale employed by voters in these situations. So two quick ones:

-Personally I have no quarrel with your selection, but I am curious as to whether you weighted your vote for SPEED RACER as Decade's Best. Two little votes allowed the Wachowskis to crack the Top 35 (with nary a MATRIX sequel in view)... and I'm also wondering who the other vote was.

-Related, I'm curious about the LORD OF THE RINGS films. They are sort of notoriously not popping up in a lot of decade round-ups (lists, awards or otherwise). The trilogy once ranked in the SLIFR 100 with solitary decade fellow GOODBYE, DRAGON INN, but none of those films cracked the Muriel ballot. Just wondering if being required to vote for one RINGS movie was unacceptable, or if the films have slipped in your estimation, or if maybe you simply became interested in those other ten very good films in the meantime...

Dennis Cozzalio said...

I'd like to know who that other vote was too. But no extra weight from me. I slotted Speed Racer purely in terms of its unexpected impression on me as well as its staying power in my imagination and my estimation of it as a genuine brilliant film. (Have you noticed how the Olympics have often used the same sort of Rex ghosting to compare lugers and other racers in much the same way as they were so "confusingly" employed in the movie's opening sequence, when Speed is racing against his "dead" brother's time and legacy?)

As for The Lord of the Rings, those movies haven't slipped in my estimation. I simply didn't want to use up three slots of my allotted 10 here. I don't remember if I mentioned them on my year-end piece in reference to the decade, but if I didn't I should have. But no doubt the other ten movies were probably foremost on my mind-- I filled out this ballot long before I wrote the year-end piece, and these were quite literally chosen with no resource other than the top of my surely enfeebled mind.

But I do appreciate you mentioning them, because however out of vogue Peter Jackson seems to be at the moment, it shouldn't change the fact that these were and still are superbly imagined and executed films that should already be considered classics. Have you ever contemplated sitting through all of them in one fell swoop? My wife and I considered it when they played the Aero last month, but we just couldn't mark off that much time.

Paul C. said...

Thanks for the plug, and for your thoughts on Charlotte. One thing though- the Muriels were started up in 2006, not 1996. Steve would've been but a whippersnapper back in 1996. Me- well, I'm not going to go there.

Otherwise, aces post as always. Go Tilda!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Paul! Ha! To paraphrase Lesley Gore, it's my blog and I can age you if I want to! God, I must have corrected that 40 times, and I still got it wrong! My math skills have slid in recent years, but I still ought to be able to subtract 4 from 2010 and get the right answer! Thanks for pointing it out. (Too late for anyone to draw anything but the conclusion that I'm a hopeless moron, unfortunately!) :) I'll fix it now!

Chris Stangl said...

I have watched the extended edition LORD OF THE RINGS in one day, albeit on DVD, at home, with Chinese food delivery and a pause button readily available. And it is fun, but I'm not sure the films gain enough from marathon viewing to suggest that it is the proper way to watch them, in the manner of KILL BILL or CHILDREN OF PARADISE. Instead it seems that the RINGS movies are smartly/realistically structured to facilitate viewing over, say, three evenings. TOWERS opens with a great flashback/narrative path-splitting that serves to refresh the memory, widen the scope of fantasy imagery and literally plunge into the action in a way bigger than the first chapter. RETURN OF THE KING opens as small as possible, with a pastoral vignette that turns into the ugliest, smallest-scale horror in the sweep of the epic; it is the unexpected wounded heart of the trilogy. Anyway, I think these openings — and the endings — are constructed to gain power if we've spent a day or year away from Middle-earth. They play well "separately," but I don't think I'd want to separate them for voting purposes either; what's a beginning with no end, or an middle with no beginning?

Ari Dassa said...

I was the other vote for "Speed Racer". I put it at #7 on my best of the decade list.

Just Another Film Buff said...

What a comprehensive list! And what refreshing set of winners, for once. Thanks Dennis, for this wonderful compilation. Never dreamt of seeing Speed Racer on a decade list. Great news.

This is the best set of awards that I've seen so far. And such enthusiasm surrounding it. Antidote for next week indeed.

Thanks a million, Dennis!

brett said...

This is fascinating.
I’d been taught that left-aligned labels are preferred, to support the prototypical F-shaped eye-tracking heatmap of web browsing. The idea is that it supports easy vertical scanning.

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