Muriel Awards: Postscript

So, yeah. The awards are now, essentially, done and over. Thanks to all who voted and blurbed; your contributions are greatly appreciated. Thanks to all who took the time to publicize the awards, whether via the button (another great Martin McClellan design), a post on your site, a post on Twitter or some combination of the three. Thanks - again - to Mr. McClellan and to Mr. Craig Kennedy, both for his dedication in following the announcements via his site Living in Cinema and for his terrific mash-up posters (yer Photoshop skillz rool dood). Thanks to Paul Clark for his tabulation work, for his dedication in following the announcements via his site Silly Hats Only, for inventing these damn awards in the first place and for generally being awesome. Thanks to all the filmmakers, actors, actresses, technicians, distributors and other people who gave us all this kickass cinema in the first place. Thanks to my wife, the beloved and gorgeous Colleen, for putting up with the fact that I’ve essentially been a ghost for the past two months. You are so fucking awesome. Thanks to anyone I forgot to thank because I am forgetful and I drink a lot. Thanks to The Blood Brothers for being an incredible band (R.I.P.); they have not a fucking thing to do with the Muriels but I love them anyway and Young Machetes will change your life anyway so don’t mind me, just listen to the damn thing.

Individual ballots and total results can be accessed from the main Muriels page, which is now live here. Minutia fans unite!

See you in ‘11, fuckers….

Golden Muriel for Best Picture of 2009

Inglourious Basterds [263 points/22 votes]

"Fuckin’ bliss. A sprawling, multi-character epic that is simply stunning in all departments. It’s suspenseful, hilarious, classy, trashy, terrifying, exciting, rousing, unpredictable, brilliantly photographed and written (it’s amazing how the dialogue still has Tarantino’s pitch-perfect zing even when largely in German and French with English subtitles), and enlivenened with a full gallery of stupendous performances (chiefly Melanie Laurent as the fiercely sympathetic and heroic Shoshanna and a marvelously scenery-chewing Brad Pitt, whose hillbilly twang ultimately sets up the single biggest laugh the film received in the theatre late in the film). This is a perfect film, a cinephile’s wet dream, and the best film of 2009." - Jason Alley

Muriel Award, Countdown to Best Picture: #2 

The Hurt Locker [240 points/24 votes]

“Most movies about the Iraq War have focused on what being over there does to our dewy, innocent young boys. Kathryn Bigelow, who has a classic action director’s fascination with process and professionalism, and her screenwriter, Mark Boal, are more interested in exploring what kind of grown man learns to function in the chaos, to the point that he comes to see it as his responsibility to be there for the ordinary mortals who will never fully adjust to it. She has the right star in Jeremy Renner, who looks like an almost schlubby regular guy until his character’s thought processes begin to unfold on his face, like an EKG chart or a fireworks display. He’s an inveterate problem solver who’s found a niche for himself where he’ll never run out of fresh problems to solve; if he ever does, it’ll probably be because one of them kills him. David Morse’s Colonel calls Renner’s bomb-defusing expert “a wild man,” but when he’s working, he’s the sanest, most creative hero in recent movies. The Hurt Locker restores brains to the military-action genre.” - Phil Nugent

Muriel Award, Countdown to Best Picture: #3

Fantastic Mr. Fox [215 points/22 votes]

“In many ways, Fantastic Mr. Fox is the ultimate Wes Anderson movie. It touches on a number of the themes he has explored in his past work and does so with such warmth and wit that, after a while, I forgot I was watching a bunch of stop-motion puppets.The voice acting is superb, with George Clooney front and center as the titular wily fox. Anderson mainstays Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson offer able support and, as do first-timers Jarvis Cocker, Michael Gambon and Meryl Streep. The set design is typically perfect as well; it’s obvious that a lot of time, effort and artistry went into creating Mr. Fox’s fantastic world.” - Scott W. Black

Muriel Award, Countdown to Best Picture: #4

A Serious Man [199 points/17 votes]

“Schrödinger’s (Cheshire) cat sits, grinning, atop the Coen Brothers’ oeuvre, simultaneously dead and alive, like… well, like a cat. Like a cat in a box. Maybe it’s the box Barton Fink carries to the beach. What’s in it? You know, but you don’t know. And the Coens aren’t going to open it for you because that would be too obvious and, really, where would that get you? No, in order to appreciate the Coens’ way of seeing you must be willing and able to hold two — at least two — contradictory realities in your head at the same time. Like an inevitable coin flip that’s both heads and tails until it’s called. Like a man chasing his hat. Like a failing grade that is also an unsatisfactory grade. Like mere sir my sir. Like… the parking lot. Or maybe not so much like the parking lot. Accept mystery.

Any good movie creates its own world. The Coens go beyond that. A Serious Man embodies an entire worldview — a way of perceiving and appreciating (if not necessarily understanding) a moral and existential universe in Coen-esque terms (and Kafka-esque, too). It’s a suburban Minneapolis Jewish world in the late 1960s, but it is a fully realized universe with ancient traditions and new freedoms, where to do nothing is to take action and there’s nothing more certain than the uncertain. Every shot is in its place — every pause, every gesture, every inflection, every frame is what it needs to be. Great movies don’t have to be perfect movies (someone once said), but like No Country for Old Men and Miller’s Crossing, A Serious Man is both.” - Jim Emerson

Muriel Award, Countdown to Best Picture: #5

Summer Hours [153 points/14 votes]

“Let’s start with a true story.

Several years ago, my mother died. On the day she died, I sat in the den, virtually flowing in and out of consciousness. A mere 20 minutes after she expired, a family member who shall remain nameless walked into the den and began telling me who I should contact for funeral services. Even though I was barely listening to this relative, there was one thing this person said that did get my attention, eventually disgusting me to my very core:

“Your mother left me the big-screen TV, but we don’t have to get into that right now.”

First-hand experiences like that may make a movie like Summer Hours feel like an escapist fantasy for some viewers. The French siblings (sensibly played by Charles Berling, Jeremie Renier and a blond Juliette Binoche) at the center of Olivier Assayas’s quietly controlled drama hardly get into any volatile entanglements as they divvy up the belongings of their late mother (Edith Scob). They don’t turn into rabid scavengers the minute rigor mortis sets in. Since they all have lives of their own (two are even planning to make permanent residence outside France), they amicably decide to take whatever Mom left them and the rest goes to the Musee d’Orsay.

However, as the fam dismantles their mom’s estate, including her rustic, countryside home, Assayas is showing how the past, no matter how valuable, can be easily chipped away, discarded and forgotten. The old lady’s home is practically a museum in itself, filled with Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot paintings, Felix Bracquemond vases and Odilon Redon panels, all priceless heirlooms that speak volumes about this family’s precious history. But even before Mom passes on, she wearily sits alone, almost certain that the legacy she built will no longer be of any relevance, even to her own family. It will be nothing more than remnants from another time that’ll be roped off and locked up for contemporary onlookers to gawk at and take pictures. Just like in most cultures (especially ours), the past is something the future merely glances at.

It isn’t until an unlikely relative weeps over the loss of that legacy in the movie’s final minutes that we realize what Assayas has deceptively, remarkably crafted: an unsentimental movie about the importance of sentimental value.” - Craig D. Lindsey

Muriel Award, Countdown to Best Picture: #6

Up [136 points/13 votes]

“Not a lot of movies leave you sobbing in the opening reel, but Pixar’s masterpiece Up begins with such a breathtaking montage (winner of our Best Cinematic Moment award this year) that just hearing snippets of Michael Giacchino’s score is enough to make me misty. The exquisite simplicity of the sequence, chronicling forty years of marriage in a handful of minutes, grounds Up with such a fully adult, lived-in sense of loss that the rest of the film is free to soar into the wildest, most fanciful directions while still maintaining this very real emotional connection.

With a giant goonie bird, an army of chatty canines, and a house that flies to South America on helium balloons, Up is the most outlandish of Pixar’s adventures. Yet director Pete Docter never lets the whimsy overwhelm the tale’s core of sadness. The growing bond between a gruff widower and a lonely little boy becomes so precious because it’s born out of real heartbreak. Even in the action-oriented finish there’s some symbolic heavy lifting going on — after all, our protagonist ends up having to kill his childhood hero, then watch as his old life and precious memories float away into the horizon. In the end UP is about letting go, saying goodbye, and starting over.

Pretty heady stuff for a movie with talking dogs.” - Sean Burns

Muriel Award, Countdown to Best Picture: #9 (tie)

35 Shots of Rum [71 points/8 votes]

“Claire Denis’s 35 Shots of Rum begins simply, with a man and a woman. He is driving a train; she is shopping for a rice cooker. The man and the woman are connected, yes. The train IS symbolic, and the rice cooker WILL figure prominently in the film. All of this is obvious enough. But no matter how perceptive or familiar with Denis you are, no matter how right you are about what each of these things means, by the time the film ends (with a shot that ranks among my favorite cinematic moments of the year) you will have discovered that you weren’t all the way right. There’s nothing in this film that I would call a “plot twist,” but no other movie released last year is as full of surprises. 35 Shots of Rum is, I think, as much about how the movies have conditioned us to jump to conclusions about things as it is family, movement, or the passage of time (to name three of its other themes). For that reason I’m loath to tell you much about it, but I want to convince you to see it, so I’ll just say this: 35 Shots of Rum is the work of a master director fully in control of every aspect her craft. Each of its sounds and images – all of which are individually beautiful – works together to create a magical, sophisticated film that is much greater than the sum of its parts. It is, for that reason, the one film from Movie Year 2009 that I believe is destined to become a classic: this is the kind of film you watch again and again, discovering something new each time. It’s the kind of film you can grow old with.” - Andy Horbal