If I Ruled the World: My Picks of the Year

I think you meant Carey Mulligan…

Yes, it’s the week of Oscar nominees and Oscar gripes. Nobody got what they deserved (besides Moneyball and Rooney Mara) and, yes, it’s all political and self-congratulatory. What did we expect? This is the 84th time we’ve gotten nominations. After 84 times of being burned, who should we even be mad at? If film awards were really for the most artistically daring and skillfully presented works, what would this year really look like?

        Well, have no fear. I’m taking this awards season into my own hands. These are the real winners, here (In my opinion, obviously.) I ain’t got the politics.
       Also, before we start, I should note that I have not yet seen The Artist, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, A Separation, Shame, and Albert Nobbs.
Let’s get this show on the road.
Best Female Supporting Performance
          Jessica Chastain has had an incredible year in film. She was the embodiment of grace in Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, a woman trying her best to be the embodiment of grace in The Help, and the best supporting performance of the year in Take Shelter. While Chastain’s many performances could have all ended up on this list, I choose Take Shelter for its high demands. Chastain had to act against the mighty tower of superhuman skill that is Michael Shannon. And she completely stole the show. Her performance is powerful and honest, and by far the best supporting performance of the year.
Other Nominees:
Charlotte Gainsbourg in Melancholia
Carey Mulligan in Drive
Shailene Woodley in The Descendants
Chloe Moretz in Hugo
Best Male Supporting Performance


          John Hawkes terrified audiences everywhere in last year’s Winter’s Bone, and I was eager to see what came next. And boy, did he deliver. Hawkes is mesmerizing in Martha Marcy May Marlene. I believe everything he says as if I’m one of his devotees in the film’s cult. Hawkes is one of those rare performers that can say everything he needs to say with a look. Here’s hoping he continues down this line of terrific script choices.
Other Nominees:
Patton Oswalt in Young Adult
Jonah Hill in Moneyball
Albert Brooks in Drive
Ryan Gosling in Crazy Stupid Love

Best Screenplay
          Say what you will about Diablo Cody’s other endeavors, Juno and Jennifer’s Body. Talk about her sentimentality, or her reluctance to break free of a certain style over substance, or her “quirky” dialogue. But when you see Young Adult, I promise that you will be blown away. This is some of the most mature and confident writing I’ve seen in a very long time. Cody’s film, inexplicably marketed as a comedy, is one of the saddest movies I have ever seen in my life. Stripped from the screenplay is any of the charm, the quirk, the smugness of her previous work. All we are left with is a lonely, depressed alcoholic trying to come to terms with her meaninglessness. The work is dark, haunting, melancholy, and excellent. One of the best screenplays in a long time. And absolutely what Sofia Coppola wishes she could do, but clearly can’t.
Other Nominees:
Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian, Moneyball
Sean Durkin, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Lars Von Trier, Melancholia
Jeff Nichols, Take Shelter
Dan Fogelman, Crazy Stupid Love

Best Cinematography
          Call it boring, pretentious, endless, rambling, or silly. On some days I’d agree with you. But take one look at any frame of this fantastic film, and you’ll see that Emmanuel Lubezki’s work in The Tree of Life is nothing short of miraculous. This is the most beautiful movie I have ever seen. Any screenshot of this movie could be framed on my wall as a perfect piece of art. Seeing this movie in the theater was one of the greatest movie experiences of my life, if only for those amazing creation shots.
Other Nominees:
Manuel Alberto Caro, Melancholia
Jody Lee Lipes, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Janusz Kaminski, The Adventures of TinTin
Newton Thomas Sigel, Drive
Wally Pfister, Moneyball
Bob Richardson, Hugo
Alwin H. Kuchler, Hanna

Best Leading Female Performance
          Kirsten Dunst blew me away in Lars Von Trier’s elegant, devastating Melancholia. Every second with her on screen is electric, dynamic, fascinating. Dunst, who I’ve never really thought much of as an actor before this film, has officially solidified herself as one of my favorites. With just one movie. She’s that good, here. Dunst takes great material and makes it excellent. I love her performance in this movie.
Other Nominees:
Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene
Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Charlize Theron in Young Adult
Viola Davis in The Help

Best Leading Male Performance 
           Michael Shannon’s performance in Take Shelter is not only my favorite performance, of any kind, all year, but it is one of my favorite performances of all time. He is so convincing, so scary, so effortlessly terrifying in this role that I will have a hard time seeing him as anything else. Shannon works with his eyes, his body language, and silence to craft an intense and emotional performance that is unlike anything I have ever seen. Go see this movie. Now. Michael Shannon is unbelievable.
Other Nominees:
Ryan Gosling in Drive
Brad Pitt in Moneyball
George Clooney in The Descendants
Asa Butterfield in Hugo
Best Director
          Nicolas Winding Refn had already made a name for himself with Bronson, the Pusher trilogy, and Valhalla Rising before his outstanding Drive, but nothing could have prepared me for what he did with the film. The material itself is quite barebones and minimalistic — the screenplay based on a novella of the same name that consists mostly of interior monologue. But Reft, after meeting with Ryan Gosling and listing to REO Speedwagon, found a way to make the film something more. With impressionistic cinematography, long takes of silence punctuated by unspeakable violence, and performances from some of the best actors working today, Refn turned Drive into the must see movie of the year. The style, the performances, the soundtrack, the story. Everything works, here. And it’s because of Refn’s skill as a filmmaker that it all came together so well.
Other Nominees:
Lars Von Trier, Melancholia
Sean Durkin, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Steven Spielberg, The Adventures of TinTin
Kelly Reichardt, Meek’s Cutoff
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Bennett Miller, Moneyball
Joe Wright, Hanna

Best Film of the Year
          Despite his insistence that he’s a Naze. Despite his inability to have a charming persona in public, Lars Von Trier really is one of the great living directors. Dancer in the Dark, Breaking the Waves, Antichrist, Dogville, and Europa are all masterpieces. And then, even further up the spectrum, there is Melancholia. This is the movie Trier has been trying to make for over twenty years, and he has finally done it. It has his dark humor, his knack for pulling incredible performances from his female stars, his gorgeous cinematography, his ever-present need for some kind of gimmick (another planet in the sky!), and signs of his devastating depression. Melancholia is a near-perfect movie. The best film of the year.
Other Nominees:
Drive
Young Adult 
Moneyball
The Tree of Life
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Take Shelter
The Adventures of TinTin
Hugo
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Descendants
Crazy Stupid Love
Insidious 
Hanna

Who are some of your picks for the year? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook!

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