2011 IN REVIEW: Film Misery Awards (Part 1)

If you have been paying attention to the Film Misery top tens over the past several days as well as our continuing Oscar coverage, you have probably noticed that our favorites do not match up with the Oscar frontrunners. The same is definitely the case for categories outside of Best Picture. Below are the 3rd Annual Film Misery Awards for the major categories. It should be noted that this was created by me (Alex) only, which means it considers only the 90 films I have seen this year and it does not reflect the opinion of the entire Film Misery staff.

Best Film

WINNER: Certified Copy

There is little to say about Certified Copy that has not already been said over the last several days after the film appeared on three Film Misery writers’ top ten lists. There are several movies that will live on well past their year of release and there are other films that will be definitive of 2011. Certified Copy is a bit of both with a timeless message and endless layers to peel back with successive viewings. It also nicely sums up our current cinematic environment as its examination on art and love could equally be attributed to the movies today. Despite the fact that the film is primarily about investigating the value of duplicates, Certified Copy is itself a true original.

Other Nominees:

  • Drive
  • Midnight in Paris
  • The Tree of Life
  • The Skin I Live In

Best Director

WINNER: Abbas Kiarostami – Certified Copy

Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami made a bold creative choice for his most recent film by not only abandoning his home country of Iran, but also working with an almost entirely new creative team. However, the risk paid off and Certified Copy has a fresh, reinvigorated feel, like Kiarostami found a new muse in Tuscany and Juliette Binoche. He is less interested in stylistic visual flairs like some of his counterparts on this list, but that is not to say there were not some fantastic choices made. For instance he often shows us his characters indirectly through glass or a reflection, further detaching us from the intimate lives of these two people and instead reflecting the choices back on ourselves. I think Kiarostami has found a new home in Italy and I hope he returns again soon.

Other Nominees:

  • Pedro Almodovar – The Skin I Live In
  • Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist
  • Terence Malick – The Tree of Life
  • Nicholas Winding Refn – Drive

Best Actor

WINNER: Tom Cullen – Weekend

This has been a year for career defining performances from many a great actor such as Michael Fassbender and Ryan Gosling. However, when I think about the one male performance that truly stands out to me, it is British newcomer Tom Cullen’s heartbreaking and raw portrayal of insecurity in the face of love in Andrew Haigh’s Weekend. Despite being on camera nearly the entirety of the films, Cullen’s Russell is not given the most lines of dialogue. Instead his is a performance of observations and reactions as he consistently watches the world around waiting for a chance to be honest, but fearing the repercussions of doing so. There is great contrast between his uncomfortable interactions with his lifeguard co-workers and his unfiltered conversations with temporary lover Glen. Cullen gives us the sense that this is the most candid he has ever been with another person making their final scene all the more heartbreaking.

Other Nominees:

  • Michael Fassbender – Shame
  • Ryan Gosling – Drive
  • Brad Pitt – Moneyball
  • Michael Shannon – Take Shelter

Best Actress

WINNER: Juliette Binoche – Certified Copy

No surprise that one of our greatest working actresses teams up with a brilliant auteur and turns in the best performance of the year. In an interview on the Blu-Ray, Abbas Kiarostami says that he wrote Certified Copy specifically for Juliette Binoche, but even he could not anticipate the layers she would bring. Here is a woman that is desperately clinging to a relationship that may not even exist in the conscious world. In the early scenes we see the stress of her job and relationship with her son, but that melts away when she is alone with author James Miller. Two scenes that really stick out to me are the first one in the cafe when she is first mistaken to be Miller’s wife and the later one in a restaurant where she tries a desperate plea for her husband’s (or a stranger’s) love. She is incredibly honest, even when re-enacting a fantasy and everything about her performance works.

Other Nominees:

  • Ellen Barkin – Another Happy Day
  • Catherine Deneuve – Potiche
  • Kristen Wiig – Bridesmaids
  • Michelle Williams – Meek’s Cutoff

Best Supporting Actor

WINNER: Christopher Plummer – Beginners

It is not often that my choice for a year’s best performance also happens to match up with the presumed Oscar frontrunner, but here I simply cannot deny it. Christopher Plummer’s performance as an elderly man who has just come out of the closet is absolutely charming. Others would call the performance “Oscar bait” because of factors like going outside of type and playing somebody who is dying, but Plummer never lets it feel too saccharine or artificial. Other performers might be tempted to make such a character flawless, but Plummer puts motivation behind the actions that aren’t always pure. This exactly the type of performance that should win an Oscar and I certainly hope that it does.

Other Nominees:

  • Hunter McCracken – The Tree of Life
  • Chris New – Weekend
  • Kevin Spacey – Margin Call
  • Christoph Waltz – Carnage

Best Supporting Actress

WINNER: Carey Mulligan – Shame

It was a toss-up for me whether to give this award to Mulligan or Jessica Chastain, but since I already gave her the Best Year for an Actor award, I decided to go with Mulligan. After breaking out to an Oscar nomination for her smart performance in Lone Scherfig’s An Education, Carey Mulligan has been a hot item over the last several years. However, Steve McQueen has culled her best performance to date as the intrusive sister of a struggling sex addict. The sibling dynamic between Mulligan’s Sissy and Fassbender’s Brendan is fascinating as we don’t exactly know their past, but are able to infer it from the fantastic subtext that Mulligan provides. In one of the first scenes we hear her tearfully apologizing to an ex-boyfriend for something that does not appear to be her fault. Similar to her brother’s obsession with sex, Sissy is obsessed with being loved as we see in her readiness to hop into bed with any man who will give her value. However, the one person who she truly desires to please will always be at a distance because of his own psychological instability and their shared past that makes it difficult to cope.

Other Nominees:

  • Berenice Bejo – The Artist
  • Jessica Chastain – The Help
  • Piper Laurie – Hesher
  • Amy Ryan – Win Win

Best Adapted Screenplay

WINNER: The Skin I Live In

Pedro Almodovar’s re-teaming with Antonio Banderas was a brilliant move as the pair works together flawlessly. Almodovar provided the words and story for Banderas and Banderas brought interesting subtext and cranked up the creepy factor. The best part about The Skin I Live In is the twisting narrative that keeps the audience guessing all the way until it reaches an immensely satisfying payoff. It reveals just enough about the past of Antonio Banderas’ mad scientist and his mysterious patient without forcefully guiding the audience. Almodovar wraps us up in his unique and bizarre world with one of his better scripts from the last decade.

Other Nominees:

  • Carnage
  • Drive
  • Moneyball
  • Potiche

Best Original Screenplay

WINNER: Certified Copy

Regular readers of Film Misery should not be surprised that it was a sweep for this beloved film. It would not have been near the masterpiece that it was without the unique story devised by Abbas Kiarostami, loosely based on one of his own experiences in Italy. The script delivers a goldmine of emotional highs and lows for Juliette Binoche to navigate like the excellent pilot she is. Since it is so dialogue heavy, Kiarostami allows the conversations to inform the characters, rather than the other way around as we learn about them through their talks about art, family, love, and truth. Much like The Skin I Live In, the dialogue in Certified Copy presents a puzzle for the audience that every person gets to take and do with what he or she will.

Other Nominees:

  • 50/50
  • Midnight in Paris
  • Shame
  • The Tree of Life

Do you agree or disagree with these picks? Be sure to leave a comment and share your own selections. Stay tuned for Part 2 – the Technical Awards coming soon.

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  • Luiz Angel

    I think if everyone would’ve watched A Separation, these awards would be different.

  • Genadijus

    People, if You haven’t seen “A Separation” yet, you haven’t seen one of the best films of 2011, for sure. I agree, “Certified Cpy” is fine movie, but doesn’t deserve to be in 1st place….

  • i think good winners and nominees but i wish A Separation was released a bit sooner in your cities so hat you guys should have made your lists keeping that Masterpiece in your mind. Anyways i think Certified Copy was a masterpiece too and deserves Best Film Award !!!

  • Raphael

    I have to say, I agree completely. 100%. Certified Copy was a movie I didn’t think was a must-see. I thought it was a good movie but not…you know, I didn’t expect it to be great. But people who were enthralled at the puzzle Inception was, they should watch this. I never felt so thrilled, cheated, sorry, sympathetic, and giddy while watching a film. It’s the smartest film in many years. Though, Midnight in Paris gives it a good run for its money in terms of Best Original Screenplay.

  • No director nomination for Steve McQueen?!

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