Film Review: The Circle (dir by James Ponsoldt)


Earlier today, I got off work early and I finally saw The Circle!

The Circle is a film that I’ve been curious about for a while.  It’s based on a novel by Dave Eggers, a book that I absolutely loved when I first read it.  It stars Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Patton Oswalt, and John Boyega.  It’s directed by James Ponsoldt, who may not be a household name but who has previously directed such beloved films as The Spectacular Now and The End of The Tour.  It sounded like a film to which everyone should have been looking forward but instead, even with Watson appearing in the blockbuster Beauty and the Beast at the same time, The Circle opened with very little fanfare.

Then the reviews came out and, with a few notable exceptions, they were all negative.  I did a little research and I discovered that, though filming was initially completed in 2015, The Circle spent a year and a half sitting on the shelf.  In January of this year, 16 months after shooting wrapped, a few scenes were refilmed.  That’s never a good sign.  One gets the feeling that, if not for John Boyega’s role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the excitement over Emma Watson starring in Beauty and the Beast, The Circle probably would have ended up going straight to VOD.

But here’s the thing.  I loved the book.  The book managed to put a new spin on the otherwise tired topic of how social media has changed our way of looking at the world.  The book was an Orwellian masterpiece, an homage to 1984 by a writer who, as opposed to most people who are currently claiming to appreciate the novel’s dark vision, understood what George Orwell was actually saying.

In fact, the more I thought about it, the easier it was for me to assume that most critics probably missed the point of the movie.  It was entirely possible, I decided, that the negative reaction to The Circle had to do with audiences not knowing how to deal with a movie that truly challenged their assumptions.  Naively, I assumed that the story and the themes of the novel had been brought to the screen and the critics couldn’t handle it.

Well, as I said earlier, I finally saw The Circle for myself and it turns out that I was wrong.  The Circle is an absolute mess.  Despite being co-written by Dave Eggers, this film actually has very little in common with the novel that it’s based on.  The novel was a sharply satiric portrait of a world that has become brainwashed by technology and social media.  The movie is a nagging anti-internet screed that would have felt out-of-touch in 2002.  The book ends with a powerful “and he loved Big Brother” moment.  The movie ends on a note that feels so completely false that you just know it was studio mandated.

Emma Watson plays Mae Hubbard, a recent college grad whose degree in Art History is pretty much going to waste.  (Speaking as the proud recipient of an Art History degree, I can verify that the film gets this detail absolutely right.)  Through a college friend named Annie (Karen Gillian, for once not having to disguise her Scottish accent), Mae gets a job working for The Circle, an all-powerful internet company that is pretty obviously based on Google Plus.  Through a series of silly events, Mae becomes the public face of The Circle.  The Circle wants to use technology (cameras everywhere, social media addiction, everyone carries tablet, you must have a credit card to join The Circle, oh my!) to do away with the concept of privacy.  When everyone is a member of the Circle, no one will be a stranger.  No one will have any privacy.  Anyone can be found.  Anyone can be watched.  And, of course, it’ll be easier to tell everyone what to think and who to support…

…and all of this would be shocking if The Circle had been made in a time before Twitter and Facebook.

Anyway!  The Circle was founded by three men.  Two of them (Tom Hanks, Patton Oswalt) are totally sinister.  Oswalt glowers in the background.  Hanks appears to channeling Christoph Waltz.  Meanwhile, the third man (John Boyega) has become disillusioned with The Circle.  He shows up occasionally, standing in the background and watching as Mae does stuff.

Throughout the film, Tom Hanks gives lectures to his employees.  They all applaud as he introduced the latest technology from The Circle.  These scenes are fun because it looks like Tom Hanks is appearing in a commercial for The Criterion Collection.

Anyway, Mae loves the brave new world but a few people don’t.  Her parents (Bill Paxton and Glenne Headly) are skeptical.  Though his role is small, Bill Paxton gave a good performance in this, his latest released film.  I got a bit emotional watching him, especially as he was playing a character struggling with his own poor health.  Ellar Coltrane, of Boyhood fame, plays the other voice of skepticism, Mae’s childhood friend who wants to live off the grid.  Coltrane is supposed to be the voice of reason but he gives such a strange and awkward performance that the main thing that comes across is that Luddites are weird.

Actually, with the exception of Bill Paxton and Karen Gillan, it’s hard to think of anyone who actually gives a good performance in The Circle.  (This is especially shocking when you consider that, in the past, Ponsoldt has proven himself to be an excellent director when it comes to getting noteworthy work from his cast.)  Everyone comes across like they were wishing that they were somewhere else.  Emma Watson, in particular, is bad.  That said, in her defense, Watson is also totally miscast.  Mae is meant to be someone searching for an identity in an overly complicated world but Watson plays her as just being dourly earnest.  As played by Watson, Mae’s just the boring person that you dread having to take a class with.  Neither Watson nor the film, as a whole, seems to be sure who exactly Mae is.  (In the novel, the character works because Mae isn’t meant to be likable.  The film, however, tries to have it both ways, making her both a true believer in the Circle and a sympathetic character.  It doesn’t work.)

For that matter, the film also appears to be confused as to just why exactly Hanks and Oswalt are villains.  We know that we’re supposed to distrust them because Hanks is way too quick to smile and Oswalt is always standing in the background and looking like he’s just deliberately killed all of his Sims.  But how evil are they actually supposed to be?  What are the stakes?  The film doesn’t appear to be sure.

Now, I’m not totally trashing The Circle.  There were a few moments that I did like.  I enjoyed the scenes that were meant to illustrate the cult-like atmosphere at the Circle.  There’s a hilarious scene where two enthusiastic Circle employees interrogate Mae as to why she never told them that she enjoys kayaking.  (“I enjoy kayaking!  We could have kayaked together!”)  And there’s another scene where Hanks and Oswalt talk about how, if countries allow The Circle to run their elections, they could then require everyone to join The Circle and then make voting mandatory.  Mandatory Voting is a really terrible idea, the type that is always embraced by people who should know better.  I appreciated seeing the idea exposed for being the ticket to totalitarianism that it truly is.

But, for the most part, The Circle was just a mess.  Like a lot of cautionary tales (especially ones dealing with the internet), The Circle will probably eventually become a bit of a camp classic.  But for now, everyone involved with the film has done better work in the past and, hopefully, will continue to do so in the future.

Netflix Review: Mystery Science Theater 3000 11.1 “Reptilicus”


I grew up loving Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Since my favorite was always Tom Servo, it never mattered to me whether Joel or Mike was the host.  Even after the show went off the air, it was always nice to know that I could say, “How much Keeffe is in this movie?” and at least one person would know that the correct answer would always be “Miles O’Keeffe.”

When I first heard about the Kickstarter campaign to bring back Mystery Science Theater 3000, I was worried.  As someone who owns all of the Rhino DVDs, along with The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Colossal Episode Guide and several VHS copies of the original broadcasts on both Comedy Central and SyFy, I was happy to see that there was still life in the show.  At the same time, I was worried that a possibly inferior reboot might ruin some of my favorite childhood memories.

I just finished watching the first episode of the Netflix MST3K and there is no need for alarm or concern.  My childhood will survive.  While it wasn’t perfect, it was still more than good enough.  It may not have ranked up with the classic episodes of MST3K but it’s at least as good as the one where Pearl forced Mike and the Bots to watch the Russian version of Hamlet.

Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt were great as the new Mads.  I appreciated the return of the invention exchange and that the show still had the same deliberately cheap look that we all know and love from the original.  With Tom Servo, Crow, and Gypsy all being voiced by new actors, it’s going to take a while to get used to the new crew on the Satellite of Love but, by the end of the episode, both Hampton Yount and Baron Vaughn had settled into their roles of Tom and Crow.  Considering that it was his first episode and that it is still strange to see someone other than Joel or Mike hanging out with the bots, Jonah Ray did a commendable job as the new host, bringing a laid back vibe to the role that was very reminiscent of the Joel years.  (That’s not surprising, considering that the revival is largely Joel’s baby.)  Tom being able to fly and Gypsy now being suspended from the ceiling are things that sound like they should not have worked but they did.  My one real complaint is that, without the Netflix captioning, it is often difficult to tell the difference between Jonah’s voice and Tom’s.

The movie was Reptilicus.  As a badly dubbed Danish monster movie, it was the perfect “experiment” with which to start off the new MST3K.  Everyone, even Gypsy, got a few good jokes in at the film’s expense.  Among my favorites:

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark and it’s this movie.” — Crow

“Now, you’re Mr. Filing Cabinet.” — Gypsy, after one of the film’s scientists placed his hat on a filing cabinet.

“The Danish Army, cheaper than extras and less busy.” — Tom

“Reptilicus Returns in Reptilicus 2: 2 Fast 2 Danish.” — Jonah

The show’s best joke came during a host segment, when Crow and Tom asked Jonah to explain how every country has a monster “preferably in rap.”  The chorus of “Every country has a monster/They’re afraid of in their nation/Every monster has a country/Yeah, a station they call home” stayed with me long after the song ended.

Finally, I was happy to see the return of viewer mail segment.  It is nice to know that, in 2017, eight year-olds are still drawing pictures of Tom and Crow on the Satellite of Love.

If you are like me and you were worried that a new Mystery Science 3000 would destroy your childhood, don’t worry.  MST3K is back and, so far, it’s pretty good.

 

If Lisa Marie Determined The Oscar Nominees….


The Oscar nominations are due to be announced on Tuesday morning so I figured now would be a good time to play a little game that I like to call: “What if Lisa had all the power?”  Below, you will find my personal Oscar nominations.  These are the films and the performers that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for selecting the nominees and the winners. 

For those who are interested, you can check out my picks for last year by clicking on this sentence.

Please understand, as you look over this lengthy list of deserving films and performers, that these are not necessarily the films I expect to see nominated on Tuesday morning.  In fact, I would be hard pressed to think of a year in which I have disagreed more with the critical establishment than I have this year.  For whatever reason, the films that truly touched and moved me in 2011 appear to be the films that are totally and completely off the Academy’s radar.  These are not my predictions.  Instead, they are my personal choices and they should not be interpreted as representing the opinion on anyone else affiliated with this site.  So, if you’re angry that David Fincher’s Girl With The Dragon Tattoo didn’t receive a single imaginary nomination, direct your anger at me and me alone. 

Best Picture

The Artist

Bridesmaids

The Guard

Hanna

Higher Ground

Hugo

Shame

Sucker Punch

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Young Adult

Best Actor

Michael Fassbender for Shame

Brendan Gleeson for The Guard

Gary Oldman for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Michael Shannon for Take Shelter

Rainn Wilson for Super

Best Actress

Kirsten Dunst for Melancholia

Vera Farmiga for Higher Ground

Elizabeth Olsen for Martha Marcy May Marlene

Saoirse Ronan for Hanna

Charlize Theron for Young Adult

Best Supporting Actor

Albert Brooks for Drive

Bobby Cannivale for Win Win

Jonah Hill for Moneyball

Patton Oswalt for Young Adult

Andy Serkis for Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Best Supporting Actress

Anna Kendrick for 50/50

Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids

Carey Mulligan for Shame

Ellen Page for Super

Amy Ryan for Win Win

Best Director

Vera Farminga for Higher Ground

Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist

Steve McQueen for Shame

Martin Scorsese for Hugo

Joe Wright for Hanna

Best Original Sreenplay

Bridesmaids

The Guard

Hanna

Shame

Young Adult

Best Adapted Screenplay

Higher Ground

Hugo

Incendies

One Day

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Best Animated Feature

Kung Fu Panda 2

Puss in Boots

Rango

Rio

Winnie the Pooh

Best Foreign Language Film

(Please note that I do this category a bit differently than the Academy.  Whereas the Academy asks nations across the world to submit a nominee, I’m simply nominating the best foreign language films that I saw in a theater last year.  Those who follow the Oscars will note that I’ve both nominated and awarded the brilliant Canadian films Incendies, which actually was nominated for a real Oscar in this same category last year.)

The Double Hour

Incendies

Of Gods and Men

The Skin I Live In

13 Assassins

Best Documentary Feature

Bill Cunningham New York

Buck

The Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Jig

Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles

Best Original Score

The Artist

A Better Life

The Guard

Hanna

The Tree Of Life

Best Original Song

“The Star-Spangled Man” from Captain America: The First Avenger

“Mujhe Chod Ke” from DAM999

“The Keeper” from Machine Gun Preacher

“Man or Muppet” from The Muppets

“Pop” from White Irish Drinkers

Best Sound Editing

Drive

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Hugo

Sucker Punch

The Tree of Life

Best Sound Mixing

Drive

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Hugo

Sucker Punch

The Tree of Life

Best Art Direction

Bunraku

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Hugo

Sucker Punch

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Best Cinematography

The Artist

Hugo

Melancholia

Shame

The Tree of Life

Best Makeup

Beastly

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Insidious

Sucker Punch

X-Men: First Class

Best Costume Design

Bunraku

The Help

Hugo

Sucker Punch

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Best Editing

The Artist

The Guard

Hanna

Hugo

Shame

Best Visual Effects

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Hugo

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Sucker Punch

The Tree of Life

List of Films By Number of Nominations:

10 Nominations – Hugo

7 Nominations – Shame, Sucker Punch

6 Nominations – Hanna

5 Nominations – The Artist; The Guard; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2; Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy; The Tree of Life

4 Nominations – Higher Ground, Young Adult

3 Nominations – Bridesmaids, Drive

2 Nominations – Bunraku, Incendies, Melancholia, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Super, Win Win

1 Nomination – Beastly, A Better Life, Bill Cunningham New York, Buck, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, DAM999, The Double Hour, 50/50, The Help, Insidious, Jig, Kung Fu Panda 2, Machine Gun Preacher, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Moneyball, The Muppets, Of Gods and Men, One Day, Puss in Boots, Rango, Ressurect Dead, Rio, The Skin I Live In, Take Shelter, 13 Assassins, X-Men: First Class, White Irish Drinkers, Winnie the Pooh

List of Films By Number of Oscars Won:

3 Oscars – Hanna

2 Oscars – Bunraku, Shame, Sucker Punch

1 Oscar – Beastly, Bridesmaids, The Cave of Forgotten Deams, Dam999, Higher Ground, Hugo Incendies, Melancholia, Puss in Boots, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Super, Young Adult

So, will the Academy agree with my picks?  Well, probably not.  Indeed, it’s probable that they won’t agree at all.  And to that, I say, “Oh well.” 

The Academy Award nominations will be announced Tuesday morning.

A Quickie With Lisa Marie: Young Adult (dir. by Jason Reitman)


David Fincher’s rehash of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo isn’t the only “feel bad movie of the holidays.”  There’s also Young Adult, a rather dark comedy that reunites the director and screenwriter behind Juno, Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody.

Young Adult is the story of Mavis (played winningly by Charlize Theron), a former high school mean girl who has grown up to be a lonely, alcoholic ghost writer of young adult literature.  Mavis is struggling to write her latest book when she gets an e-mail announcing that her former high school boyfriend Buddy (Patrick Wilson, who defines dreamy) is not only married but his wife has just given birth to their first child.  Mavis does what we would all do if we found ourselves in similar circumstances: she promptly returns to her old hometown and plots to break up Buddy’s happy marriage*.  (Or as Mavis puts it: “We can beat this thing.”) 

Once she returns to her hometown, Mavis not only struggles to reconnect with Buddy but also runs into another former high school classmate, Matt (Patton Oswalt, who deserves every sort of award nomination that there is for his performance here).  As opposed to Mavis, Matt was an outcast in high school who, during his senior year, was beaten and permanently crippled by a bunch of bullies who had decided that he was gay.  Much as Mavis has won fame as a writer, Matt has won his own sort of fame as “the hate crime guy.”  Despite themselves, Mavis and Matt start to bond over their own inability to move on with their lives past high school.

As you might guess from the plot synopsis above, Young Adult is a not a laugh-out-loud comedy.  Instead, it’s a comedy of awkward moments and “Oh no, she didn’t!” moments.  It’s not always an easy movie to recommend because Mavis is an apologetically unlikable character.  However, as the film goes on, you can’t help but respect the fearless way that the film tackles a character that doesn’t really offer up much chance for a crowd-pleasing redemption.  Obviously, for this to work, Charlize Theron has to give a brilliant performance in the lead role and she does.  However, the film truly belongs to Patton Oswalt, who plays his role with a perfect combination of anger, self-pity, and sarcasm.  He provides this film with its own fractured heart and we’re all better off for it.

—–

* Okay, technically, maybe not everybody would do that.  But I would.

Here Are The 2012 Critics’ Choice Movie Award Nominees


Earlier today, the Broadcast Film Critics Association announced their nominations for the 17th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards.  The BFCA is the largest of the so-called “major” critics’ groups (and, interestingly enough, it’s also the newest and the least prestigious) and it has a fairly good track record of predicting the actual Oscar nominations.  The awards themselves will be handed out on January 12th, 2012 in a self-important, kinda seedy ceremony that will be broadcast on VH-1.   

BEST PICTURE
The Artist
The Descendants
Drive
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
The Tree of Life
War Horse

BEST ACTOR
George Clooney – The Descendants
Leonardo DiCaprio – J. Edgar
Jean Dujardin – The Artist
Michael Fassbender – Shame
Ryan Gosling – Drive
Brad Pitt – Moneyball

BEST ACTRESS
Viola Davis – The Help
Elizabeth Olsen – Martha Marcy May Marlene
Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton – We Need to Talk About Kevin
Charlize Theron – Young Adult
Michelle Williams – My Week With Marilyn

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Kenneth Branagh – My Week With Marilyn
Albert Brooks – Drive
Nick Nolte – Warrior
Patton Oswalt – Young Adult
Christopher Plummer – Beginners
Sir Andrew Serkis – Rise of the Planet of the Apes

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Berenice Bejo – The Artist
Jessica Chastain – The Help
Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids
Carey Mulligan – Shame
Octavia Spencer – The Help
Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS
Asa Butterfield – Hugo
Elle Fanning – Super 8
Thomas Horn – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Ezra Miller – We Need to Talk About Kevin
Saoirse Ronan – Hanna
Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE
The Artist
Bridesmaids
The Descendants
The Help
The Ides of March

BEST DIRECTOR
Stephen Daldry – Extreme Loud & Incredibly Close
Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist
Alexander Payne – The Descendants
Nicolas Winding Refn – Drive
Martin Scorsese – Hugo
Steven Spielberg – War Horse

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius
50/50 – Will Reiser
Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen
Win Win – Screenplay by Tom McCarthy, Story by Tom McCarthy & Joe Tiboni
Young Adult – Diablo Cody

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Descendants – Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – Eric Roth
The Help – Tate Taylor
Hugo – John Logan
Moneyball – Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, Story by Stan Chervin

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Artist – Guillaume Schiffman
Drive – Newton Thomas Sigel
Hugo – Robert Richardson
Tree of Life – Emmanuel Lubezki
War Horse – Janusz Kaminski

BEST ART DIRECTION
The Artist – Production Designer: Laurence Bennett, Art Director: Gregory S. Hooper
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – Production Designer: Stuart Craig, Set Decorator: Stephenie McMillan
Hugo – Production Designer: Dante Ferretti, Set Decorator: Francesca Lo Schiavo
The Tree of Life – Production Designer: Jack Fisk, Art Director: David Crank
War Horse – Production Designer: Rick Carter, Set Decorator: Lee Sandales

BEST EDITING
The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius and Anne-Sophie Bion
Drive – Matthew Newman
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
Hugo – Thelma Schoonmaker
War Horse – Michael Kahn

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The Artist – Mark Bridges
The Help – Sharen Davis
Hugo – Sandy Powell
Jane Eyre – Michael O’Connor
My Week With Marilyn – Jill Taylor

BEST MAKEUP
Albert Nobbs
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Iron Lady
J. Edgar
My Week With Marilyn

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Super 8
The Tree of Life

BEST SOUND
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Super 8
The Tree of Life
War Horse

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
The Adventures of Tintin
Arthur Christmas
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots
Rango

BEST ACTION MOVIE
Drive
Fast Five
Hanna
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Super 8

BEST COMEDY
Bridesmaids
Crazy, Stupid, Love
Horrible Bosses
Midnight in Paris
The Muppets

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
In Darkness
Le Havre
A Separation
The Skin I Live In
Where Do We Go Now

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Buck
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Page One: Inside the New York Times
Project Nim
Undefeated

BEST SONG
“Hello Hello” – performed by Elton John and Lady Gaga/written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin – Gnomeo & Juliet
“Life’s a Happy Song” – performed by Jason Segel, Amy Adams and Walter/written by Bret McKenzie – The Muppets
“The Living Proof” – performed by Mary J. Blige/written by Mary J. Blige, Thomas Newman and Harvey Mason, Jr. – The Help
“Man or Muppet” – performed by Jason Segel and Walter/written by Bret McKenzie – The Muppets
“Pictures in My Head” – performed by Kermit and the Muppets/written by Jeannie Lurie, Aris Archontis and Chen Neeman – The Muppets

BEST SCORE
The Artist – Ludovic Bource
Drive – Cliff Martinez
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Hugo – Howard Shore
War Horse – John Williams

The BFCA has obviously made a lot of nominations and some of them are interesting but I have to be honest: the BFCA as an organization annoys me with how they’re always bragging about how big they are and how they’re so good at celebrating the conventional establishment wisdom.  So, I’ll just say that its nice to see Hanna getting at least some sort of recognition (even if that recognition is kinda minor.)

The LAFCA Honors Terrence Malick, Michael Fassbender, and …. The Descendants?


For those of you who love to follow the Oscar race, today is a big day.  Several groups announced their picks for the best of 2011 today.  The most important of these groups would be the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.  Though the LAFCA has a pretty iffy record when it comes to predicting the actual Oscar winners, their picks still tend to influence the nominations. 

Here are the LAFCA winners, along with a little commentary from yours truly.

Best Musical Score: Hanna (runner-up: Drive)

There was a lot I liked about the LAFCA awards but this is the one that truly made me go: “Yay!”  Hanna was a great film that deserves a lot more attention than its been given.

Best Cinematography: The Tree of Life (Runner-up: The City of Life and Death)

Best Production Design: Hugo (runner-up: Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy)

Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain for Coriolanus, The Debt, The Help, Take Shelter, Texas Killing Fields, and The Tree of Life (runner-up: Janet McTeer for Albert Nobbs)

Considering that she has next to no range as an actress, Jessica Chastain is having a pretty good year.  I have a feeling she’ll win an Oscar in February and then eventually end up joining the cast of Law & Order: SVU.

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer in Beginners (runner-up: Patton Oswalt in Young Adult)

As good as Plummer was in Beginners, think about how much more exciting it would have been if Oswalt had won.

Best Screenplay: A Seperation. (runner-up: The Descendants)

Best Documentary: The Cave of Forgotten Dreams (runner-up: The Arbor)

Again, let us consider that Werner Herzog’s masterpiece wasn’t even a semi-finalist as far as the Academy is concerned.

Best Independent/Experimental Film: Spark of Being

Best Actress: Yun Jung-hee in Poetry (runner-up: Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia)

Yay!  I am so bored with Meryl Streep.

Best Actor: Michael Fassbender for Shame, A Dangerous Method, X-Men: First Class, and Jane Eyre. (runner-up: Michael Shannon in Take Shelter)

Yay!  For both the winner and the runner-up. 

Best Director: Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life (runner-up: Martin Scorsese for Hugo)

I was on twitter when this result was announced and Oh. My. God.  My timeline like totally exploded with people getting all excited and hopeful.  And then, quite a few minutes later, all that excitement turned to rage as the next award was announced–

Best Picture: The Descendants (runner-up: The Tree of Life)

That’s right.  After going out on a limb with best actress and (debatably) best director and going out of their way to honor the unfairly neglected, the LAFCA gave best picture to one of the most overrated films of 2011 — The Descendants.  This despite the fact that The Descendants hadn’t won a single other award and was a runner-up in only one category.  That must have really loved that 2nd place screenplay.  This choice reeks of compromise, as if a group of critics decided to all unite and vote for their 2nd or 3rd choice in order to keep a more controversial films like The Tree of Life from winning.

That said, my pick for the best of 2011 remains Hanna.

Best Foreign Language Film: The City of Life and Death (runner-up: A Separation)

So, A Separation has a better screenplay than the best film of 2011, yet it’s not as good a film as The City of Life and Death.

New Generation award: Martha Marcy May Marlene

To recap, the three major critics groups have now spoken and each one has named a different film for best picture.  The National Board of Review went for Hugo, the New Yorkers went for The Artist, and the LAFCA went for The Descendants.

In fact, the Artist was totally ignored by Los Angeles and I’ve noticed that there seems to be a backlash developing against this film.  The Artist won’t be opening here until Dec. 21st so I can’t judge it but I would say that if you’re upset about about a French film like The Artist getting so much attention, don’t worry.  Maybe David Fincher will remake it with American actors next year.