The National Society of Film Critics Takes a Turn Toward Melancholia

7 Jan

Kirsten Dunst, seen here in a teaser 1-sheet for the movie Melancholia, was passed over by voters in the Hollywood Foreign Press as well as the Screen Actors Guild; nonetheless, she won last year's Best Actress prize at Cannes in addition to her recent award from the National Society of Film Critics.

Most of the major critics groups have now weighed in with their picks for the best of 2011. The National Society of Film Critics, dating back to 1966, announced its winners on Saturday (01/07/2012)

  • Best Picture – Melancholia
  • Best Actress Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia)
  • Best Actor – Brad Pitt (Moneyball, and The Tree of Life)
  • Best Director – Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
  • Best Supporting Actress – Jessica Chastain (The Help, The Tree of Life, and Take Shelter)
  • Best Supporting Actor – Albert Brooks (Drive)
  • Best Screenplay – Asghar Farhadi (A Separation)
  • Best Cinematography – Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life)
  • Best Non-Fiction – Cave of Forgotten Dreams
  • Best Foreign Language Film – A Separation (Iran)

So…Kirsten Dunst and Lars von Trier’s Melancholia win big with the National Society of Film Critics even though the Danish director is not named the year’s best by the same group. On the other hand, it looks like The Tree of Life’s Terrence Malick has another mark in the win column. Here’s something else that’s kind of interesting: Malick’s film takes viewers on a trip through time all the way back to the beginning of planet Earth while Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia purports to show the end of said planet. What a crazy idea for a double feature. Melancholia also has a thesis: the best person to have on your side during a natural disaster is someone who is already clinically depressed. Yay.  I’m not a huge fan of Lars Von Trier. I tend to take his movies on a case by case basis though I loved Dancer in the Dark, the big winner at Cannes in 2000, including an award for Icelandic singer turned one-shot actress Bjork. Melancholia is full of interesting ideas, and it is beautifully lensed, by Manuel Alberto Claro, yet it’s so preposterous that it’s hard to take seriously–but that’s just me.

Even though writer-director Albert Brooks (r) has won acclaim for such films as Lost in America (1985), Defending Your Life (1991), Mother (1996), and The Muse (1999), his only Oscar nomination so for far is for his supporting role in James L. Brooks's Broadcast News (1987--no relation). Brooks is likely to score his second Academy acting nod for playing a shady businessman in Drive. He'll face stiff competition from Christopher Plummer in Beginners.

Even so, Dunst gives her all to the role of a bride whose elaborate wedding dominates the first half of the movie; she’s still around for the second half though the emphasis switches to her sister, played by Charlotte Gainsborough. Even so, as good as Dunst is, I’m not sure she’s in the right vehicle in a season dominated by such heavyweights as Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Viola Davis (The Help), Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady), and Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin). On the other hand, even though Swinton was widely rumored to be the Best Actress front-runner at the most recent Cannes Film Festival, it was Dunst who walked away with the prize, so stay tuned. This will become clearer once some of these films finally open in Dallas.

The Broadcast Film Critics Association has its awards presentation this Thursday (01/12/2012), and I should have something posted about that by Friday. The Writers Guild nominees were announced earlier this week, but I have declined to write about them just yet, pending the naming of the USC Scripter bunch this coming week. That will make for an interesting exercise in comparison and contrast. The Directors Guild of America unveils its slate of contenders on Monday, and the American Society of Cinematographers gets into the game on Tuesday. The Golden Globes are next Sunday (01/15’2012), but I will not be watching them. I thought Ricky Gervais was a scream when he first hosted the GGs two years ago, but I thought he was just too mean-spirited at last year’s event, and even though he caught a lot of flak for it, I think he correctly predicted that the bad reviews would all blow over, if the numbers were good, and he would likely be invited back this year. Well, I guess the Hollywood Foreign Press and/or NBC can invite him back all they want; that doesn’t mean I have to invite him back into my home, so that’s that. I can cover the Globes another way.

Thanks for your consideration…

Check out the website for the National Society of Film Critics:

http://www.nationalsocietyoffilmcritics.com/

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