Wednesday, February 06, 2013


The New York Film Critics Circle? All fine, upstanding writers and citizens, no doubt. The Broadcast Film Critics Association? Well, not so fast. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association? Please! The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences? Well, they throw a good party. But ever since 2006 it's become increasingly clear that the only awards that really matter are those which are named after a certain beloved, plump and plush and possibly prognosticating guinea pig named Muriel. Yes, I am, of course, speaking of The Muriel Awards, originated some seven years ago by Steve Carlson and Paul Clark to gather some of the voices of an emerging Internet film writing community and let them have their say, both by votes and by writing, on the year's best and most notable releases.

The awards, named in memory of Paul's beloved fur-laden pal (who, sadly, passed away some years ago), are always fun to follow and, for those of us so honored, to participate in. Here's how it works: One or two categories will be released each day from February 6 (that's today) up through February 23, which is the Saturday before that other big show that the movie industry puts on every year around this time. Links to the official Web site of the Muriel Community and a detailed look at how the voting breaks down in each Muriel category will be made available as soon as they are released. There is always a bit more suspense than the usual awards ceremonies when the Muriels come up because, unlike even such independently-minded bodies such as the New York or Los Angeles Film Critics Circles, the Muriels voters, although they may know each other personally or through each others' work, are never together in one room arguing over points or alliances for or against one film or another. These votes truly are cast independently of one another, as the often splintered results will testify.

One of my favorite writing assignments of the year, should it come my way, is when Steve and Paul single out  one of the nominees that I voted for and ask me to spend a little time talking about what inspired my vote. In years past I've been lucky enough to write about Melissa McCarthy and Speed Racer, to name just two, and this year my best actress nominees were just quirky enough that I might be called to justify my enthusiasm for at least one of them. (At the time of the ballot deadline, I'd seen only one of the Oscar-nominated lead actress performances-- Quvenzhane Wallis-- so I definitely swung out of the strike zone in coming up with five performances I felt were worthy of Muriel's memory.) But even without my contributions, the essays published in the annual Muriels gathering are always top-notch and well worth reading, as an augmentation or a tonic for the heavily hyped Oscar season.

So let's get to it. Best Supporting Actor is up first. If you guessed Samuel L. Jackson or Christoph Waltz from Django Unchained, well, you might be right. Muriels voters will not be tamed. And then again, maybe they went for an entirely different master/slave relationship...

And the winner is...

(Here's how the voting for the Muriel Best Supporting Actor breaks down, including the list of every single performance that got a vote!)

Stay tuned! I'll be updating the Muriels up through February 23!


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