Saturday, January 8, 2011

45th National Society of Film Critics Awards - winners

The National Society of Film Critics held its annual meeting at Sardi's restaurant in New York City and 46 of the society's 61 members voted for their 2010 awards. As with many other critics' groups, they threw their support behind The Social Network, awarding it Best Picture, Best Director (David Fincher), Best Actor (Jesse Eisenberg) and Best Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin).

The surprising choice for Best Actress was
Giovanna Mezzogiorno from the Italian film Vincere. The Supporting acting awards went to Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech) and Olivia Williams (The Ghost Writer).

Although ineligible for the Academy Awards because it aired on French television as a mini-series,
Carlos took the award for Best Foreign Language Film. The Best Nonfiction Film prize went to Inside Job.

The NSFC also issued two statements. One praised the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for overturning their dubious NC-17 rating of Blue Valentine, but urged it to re-evaluate and overhaul the system. The other statement declared support for directors Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof who were jailed in Iran and banned from filmmaking for "colluding in gatherings and making propaganda against the regime."

The NSFC also designated six film heritage awards as follows: The Film Foundation, now celebrating its 20th anniversary; Chaplin at Keystone, a DVD collection of 34 silent films; The Elia Kazan Collection, a DVD collection of 15 films; Upstream, a rediscovered silent film by John Ford; On the Bowery, a 1955 film by Lionel Rogosin; the restoration of the early gay documentary Word Is Out.

The society dedicated the meeting to the memory of the late film scholar and Hollywood Reporter critic Peter Brunette.

Complete list of winners for the 45th National Society of Film Critics Awards

Best Picture

The Social Network

Best Director
David Fincher, The Social Network

Best Actor
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network

Best Actress
Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Vincere

Best Supporting Actor
Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

Best Supporting Actress
Olivia Williams, The Ghost Writer

Best Screenplay
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network

Best Cinematography

Roger Deakins, True Grit

Best Nonfiction Film

Inside Job

Best Foreign Language Film


Film Most in Need of Distribution

Film Socialisme

The members of the National Society of Film Critics applaud the recent decision by the Classification & Ratings Administration of the Motion Picture Association of America to change the rating of “Blue Valentine” from NC-17 to R. But several other recent decisions by CARA have been allowed to stand, and these call into question the integrity and legitimacy of that office as it is presently constituted.

“The King’s Speech,” the drama about King George VI’s attempt to overcome his speech impediment, was rated R for “language,” specifically, several moments where the King is instructed by his speech therapist to swear to relieve the pressure of his stammer.

“The Tillman Story,” the documentary about the military cover-up of the death of Corporal Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, was similarly rated R for “language.” In the case of that film the offending content is the agitated language of soldiers in combat fearing for their lives.

“A Film Unfinished,” which contains footage taken by the Nazis inside the Warsaw Ghetto, was given an R for “disturbing images of Holocaust atrocities, including graphic nudity.”

In the case of the documentaries “The Tillman Story” and “A Film Unfinished,” this amounts to CARA assigning a rating to reality.

In an editorial on the MPAA’s web site, Joan Graves, the head of CARA, claims,  “These ratings are purely informational.”

This is simply untrue.

An R rating restricts who can get in to see a film and thus its potential earnings. An NC-17 rating, such as was originally assigned to “Blue Valentine,” will keep a film out of many theater chains and can deny its being advertised on most television networks and in many newspapers.

This can have an especially damaging effect on the earning potential of independently made films, such as those mentioned above, which do not have access to the large advertising budgets at the disposal of the major studios — studios, which, as CARA’s record indicates, have received much more lenient ratings for similar content.

Another damaging inconsistency is CARA’s record of judging sexual content more harshly than it does violence. We by no means advocate condemning violence in movies, and we do not believe we are doing so by pointing out that there is no equivalence between an R given to the most explicit horror images and the same rating given to a drama in which King George VI utters a four letter word. And certainly no equivalence to a historical document showing the emaciated bodies of dead Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Despite Ms. Graves’ contention that CARA decisions are “purely informational,” it’s clear that the board has become an agency of de facto censorship. There is a difference between giving parents the information they need to make a decision as to which films they want their children to see, and a system whose decisions make it harder for adults — and their children — to see films clearly meant for them.

The National Society of Film Critics believes that CARA has for too long demonstrated these inconsistencies and has refused to explain itself.  We would like to believe that the major studios who constitute the membership of the MPAA care enough about the availability of movies to recognize that the ratings system should be open and consistent, not arbitrary and unfair, and that films from independent distributors should be judged by the same criteria as their own releases. It has become a system that enforces the kind of moral policing that, when it was founded in 1968, it was intended to prevent.

On December 18, 2010, an Iranian court sentenced Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof to six years in prison and banned both from filmmaking for 20 years for “colluding in gatherings and making propaganda against the regime.”

The members of the National Society of Film Critics add their voices to those of the many other individuals and organizations who have protested this injustice. We strongly urge the Iranian government to release both artists, whose work can only further the advancement of such values as justice, compassion, tolerance, and human dignity. Jafar Panahi’s films in particular have won international awards, earned the accolades of critics all over the world, and delighted and inspired audiences everywhere they are shown.

Not only does the court’s decision impose an outrageous penalty on artists whose sole crime is telling the truth, but it deprives Iran and the world of future works by filmmakers of outstanding talent and vision.

We intend our protest to affirm the value of artistic expression and the power of cinema to transcend political differences and unite people in their common humanity. We hope that the Iranian government will recognize the wisdom of releasing Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof immediately in the name of these universal principles.

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