Saturday, November 06, 2010

EFA Noms: Of Gods and Ghost Writers with Secrets in Their Eyes

The European Film Award nominations have been announced and what we have this year is an interesting mix of two separate years of Oscar's Foreign Film contest alongside one English language feature: Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer. Side note: I had thought that the film was simply called The Ghost in Europe (?) but perhaps I misremembered.

The Ghost sizes up his competition at the European Film Awards

As faithful readers know I reject the notion that any group should be judged in accordance with how they "influence" or "predict" the Oscars as I think the only true worth of any group is whether or not they have their own identity or any sanity when it comes to proclaiming what is "best."

But, that said, I do think all awards bodies offer us interesting nuggets of ideas about the way votes reveal collective consensus thoughts that might help us in thinking about each year's Oscar race, even though ballots outside of festival jurying are usually filled out individually in secret and eligibility lists and membership rosters are much different from prize to prize.

Take, for instance, the interesting case of Mike Leigh's Another Year...

We've only seen three awards bodies weigh in so far when it was eligible (Cannes' competition jury, BIFA and now the EFA) and the groups are much different and dealing with different rosters of all films. But in all three instances it came up short when it came to "Best Picture" equivalents and the response to Lesley Manville has been buzzy but confusing. Despite winning the most hype at Cannes she was passed over, BIFA proclaimed her supporting and now the EFA has named her as one of their European Actresses of the year.

What does it all mean for the Oscar hopes of the film?

Though the film is unquestionably well-liked, is support is too soft when it comes time to actually say "Yes, that one!" when voting? That's my gut instinct but things could easily change by the time Oscar nominations roll around in. Sony Pictures Classics has... hmmm, less than 79 days -- ooh I love my new countdown clock -- to beef up the enthusiasm that already exists.

Here is the complete nomination list with commentary.

European Film

  • Bal a.k.a. Honey (Turkey/Germany)
  • Of Gods and Men (France)
  • The Ghost Writer (France/Germany/UK)
  • Lebanon (Israel/Germany/France)
  • The Secret in Their Eyes (Spain/Argentina)
  • Soul Kitchen (Germany)
Both Bal (Honey) and Of Gods and Men are shaping up as real threats to the Oscar Foreign Language Film finalist list. They are definitely well liked. Here's the trailer for Honey so you don't start thinking that that old Jessica Alba picture is going to be in Oscar contention this year...  

The Oscar winner The Secret in Their Eyes, which has done very well for itself in multiple countries, is also represented in their lineup. Lebanon and Soul Kitchen weren't submitted for Foreign Language Film consideration but they did receive theatrical release in the States this year so theoretically they are eligible for other Oscar nominations. If you go by nomination counts, The Ghost Writer is the leader of the pack but I suspect it's not going to win. Just a hunch.

But will we be seeing a bigger Oscar campaign for that Polanski film than we'd originally expected?

European Director
  • Olivier Assayas for Carlos
  • Semih Kaplanolu for Bal (Honey)
  • Samuel Maoz for Lebanon
  • Roman Polanski for The Ghost Writer
  • Paolo Virzi for La Prima Cosa Bella
Out go the French monk drama, the Argentinian procedural and the Germany restaurant comedy to make room for the exceedingly acclaimed 5 hour french crime biopic Carlos. Assayas is one of my favorite filmmakers (Summer Hours + demonlover + Irma Vep = take me now) but I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around sitting through anything that's 5 hours long. Supposedly it's beyond worth it.

Sylvie Testud experiences a miracle in Lourdes
  • Zrinka Cvitešić  for Na Putu (On the Path)
  • Sibel Kekilli for When We Leave
  • Lesley Manville for Another Year
  • Sylvie Testud for Lourdes
  • Lotte Verbeek for Nothing Personal
Here we see the winner of Germany's Oscar Ms Kekilli -- we like her. We put a pic of Sylvie above just because she's such a damn fine actress. (I haven't had the opportunity to see that movie. Anyone?) Like most festival prizes, the EFA does not distinguish between supporting or leading acting so we don't know how they consider Lesley Manville other than that they love her for her work in the Mike Leigh film.

  • Jakob Cedergren for Submarino
  • Elio Germano for La Nostra Vita
  • Ewan McGregor for The Ghost Writer
  • George Pistereanu for If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle
  • Luis Tosar for Cell 211
Trivia note: All of these nominees, save teenage George, are in their 30s. If you saw last year's Danish Oscar submission Terribly Happy, you'll recognize Jakob Cedergren. Elia Germano, who just turned 30, had a small role in the musical Nine.

The inclusion of McGregor seems odd to me. I am a big fan but his role in the Polanski film was actually asking him not too deliver much by way of a performance. He's playing a rather identity free role. In fact, his character doesn't even get a name (one of the most brilliant and subtle things about the movie). So it seems a smidgeon odd to name as a Best Actor. Ewan faces off against men from Italy, Spain, Sweden and Pistereanu, the young lead of the Romanian Oscar submission.

Who will win this prize? Who knows. Luis Tosar won the Goya for this same role (it's a prison drama) and he's also been a nominee in this category before. Maybe him?

  • Jorge Guerricaechevarria & Daniel Monzon for Cell 211
  • Robert Harris & Roman Polanski for The Ghost Writer
  • Samuel Maoz for Lebanon
  • Radu Mihaileanu for The Concert
If the European Film Academy voters care about back stories and "angles" in the way American voters do, I could see this going to Samuel Maoz who based his screenplay on his own war experiences (the film takes place entirely inside a tank.)


Of Gods and Men
  • Giora Bejach for Lebanon
  • Caroline Champetier for Of Gods and Men
  • Pavel Kostomarov for How I Ended This Summer
  • Barış Özbiçer for Bal (Honey)
I've heard over and over again that the Turkish Oscar submission (Bal) is a beautiful film. Oscar likes pretty pictures. I now expect it to place in the shortlist as a Foreign Film nominee.

  • Luc Barnier & Marion Monnier for Carlos
  • Arik Lahav-Leibovich for Lebanon
  • Hervé de Luze for The Ghost Writer
I personally didn't love Lebanon as much as many critics (though it's worth seeing) but I'm not sure how I feel about either of these technical nominations. Perhaps my problem is more in the direction than in the lighting or the cuts. It's one of those films so enamored of tight close-ups that it's difficult to know where you are in the tank or where the person you're looking at is in relation to any of the other people crowding him. So the claustrophobia of the tight space isn't really reading though you can feel the claustophrobia on a one-on-one proxy basis since you can count all the pores and the beads of sweat.

Production Designer
  • Paola Bizzarri & Luis Ramirez for I, Don Giovanni
  • Albrecht Konrad for The Ghost Writer
  • Markku Paetilae & Jaagup Roomer for The Temptation of St. Tony
St. Tony, Estonia's Oscar submission, is high on the curiousity list at this point. Everything we hear about it suggests that Oscar won't touch it with a ten foot pole but that it's totally an interesting film. The production design of The Ghost Writer was definitely fun. The spaces are so stark, foreboding and slightly off (like the plot) but also weirdly anonymous (like the protagonist). So this is a smart nomination. 

The Ghost Writer won 7 nominations. How many wins are coming? 
  • Ales Brezina for Kawasaki's Rose
  • Pasquale Catalano for Loose Cannons
  • Alexandre Desplat for The Ghost Writer
  • Gary Yershon for Another Year
Truth: Score composition is the most difficult work (for me) to judge in a movie. It seems to me that people only notice it when it's super obvious but being super obvious in no way suggests quality. It can (Desplat isn't exactly a "shy" composer but his work is often brilliant) but a noticeable score can just as easily can be way too intrusive and heavy-handed (see, or rather, hear Rachel Portman's work on Never Let Me Go.) I'm having a moment and can't recall the score of Another Year at all. Maybe that's a good sign. I'm eager to see the film again anyway.

What do you make of all this?


Michael W. said...

I'm thrilled to see my guess that The Ghost Writer would score big here has come true. It's a damn fine, elegant and often mesmerizing (thank you Desplat) piece of work. First the Berlin award, then the Fipresci award for film of the year and now this. Wonder if more things are to come with the US awards?

And I quite like the McGregor nom. I'm usually not a big fan, but I really, really liked his performance in this.

The Another Year snubs are not looking good for it. But actually, Mike Leigh was also snubbed at the European Film Awards for both Vera Drake and Happy-Go-Lucky. So I really don't know what to make of its chances.

Mattie Lucas said...

LOURDES is far and away my #1 film of the year. Seek it out by any means necessary. Testud is an exceedingly deserving nominee.

Dave said...

Europian film Award is too much of politics and will probably never become a real worthy prize ( who remembers any winner from last year, not to mention years before)
Too often very good films stay aside because local chefs of industry push their own films... so EFA... who cares...

sijmen said...

@Dave: last year winner was The White Ribbon!
Other EFA best picture winners included Gommorrah, 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days, The Lives of Others, Cache (aka Hidden), Head On, Talk to Her, Goodbye Lenin, Amelie, Dancer in the Dark, All About My Mother, Life is Beautiful, The Full Monty, Breaking the Waves.

And that's without any googling! (hope I didn't make any mistakes)

I love the EFA! Their mlist of winners are better than most other organisations.

@Nathaniel: The Ghost Writer kept its title in Europe, but it's based on a book called The Ghost. (also without any googling :-)

Aaron said...

Nathaniel, you MUST see Carlos. I saw it at NYFF and honestly I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to sit through its 5 1/2 hours no matter how brilliant or entertaining it was...but it's absolutely mesmerizing! Definitely the best film I've seen all year!

Notas Sobre Creación Cultural e Imaginarios Sociales said...

None of those really scream Best Picture to me but you gotta love the Europeans for their complete disregard of what we think of as awards in our continent.
I say Polanski wins Best Director easy and Lebanon picks up Best Picture. Out of the 4 nominees I've seen those are by far the best.

Also I'm with Aaron on "Carlos" it's mind blowing.

OtherRobert said...

While I love complaining about the score nominations, I, too, struggle to figure out just what anyone else is looking for. I celebrate when beautifully used and orchestrated work like James Newton Howard for The Village gets nominated (the film would not work nearly as well as it does without this score) but go insane when films with the same damn song repeated over and over and over with no variation or evolution win the big prize (Gustavo Santaolalla's back to back wins trouble me, not because the music is bad, but because there's so little of it used so sparingly). Don't even get me started on the new annual "disqualify the score after voting" tradition that eliminates my clear winner.

NicksFlickPicks said...

Totally into the McGregor nomination - I think it's actually very hard to play a part that "anonymous" and still assemble such a detailed, believable person. And his reactions are so crucial to our taking his predicament as both comically absurd and horrifyingly intense.

Also second Matthew Lucas on Lourdes. I'm glad they nom'd Testud, but the movie ought to have gleaned more recognition than that.

Ibad said...

Mike Leigh has always made a point of airing his grievances with the fact that his films tend to be better received by American awards bodies than those on his home turf (for instance getting a screenplay mention for Happy-Go-Lucky while it was shutout at the BAFTA). So I think this is just a fairly typical trend of the European awards we've seen already (Cannes was a bit different...Leigh's already won before, and Manville was more buzzed but Binoche is a darling of all film festivals who had yet to receive a Cannes prize).

Unknown said...

It's beyong me how they could nominate "Soul Kitchen" as best film but not "Another Year". Also, "Cell 211", "Carlos", and "On the Path" would have deserved more nominations. And where's the love for Juliette Binoche? "I Am Love"? But I am happy for Cedergren, as I was one of the few how seemed to like the film at this year's Berlin film festival...

Jin said...

Bal (Honey) was a beautiful film. Its cinematography was breathtaking. Not sure about the oscar nod though. They may find it boring, since it's really SLOW.

Mirko said...

LOURDES is a very intelligent and subtle film about a very difficult subject. Testud is really good in the role of a (maybe) miracled girl but I'm afraid her perf is too "quiet", so I think vulcanic ladies such as Manville or Kekilli could be the winners

I hope THE GHOST WRITER will strike hard and, most of all, that they reintroduce the supporting acting categories just like during the first editions (when the Efa was called Felix Awards)

SVG said...

It was definitely released as The Ghost in the UK and Ireland. I remember because I thought The Ghost Writer was a much better name. I have no idea why they changed it.

Brian Darr said...

Lourdes is definitely the best film I've seen from this year. Only a few films I saw in Toronto, which I'm not sure are supposed to be classed with 2010 or 2011 releases, are at its level of perception, understanding, and skillfulness at engaging the audience.

Paulo Peralta said...

I think tonight the awards will go to:

Film: Lebanon
Actor: Luis Tosar
Actress: Sylvie Testud
Director: Roman Polanski