…And the 2018 BAM Award goes to…

Best Picture

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A Quiet Place

All These Small Moments

Alpha

Annihilation

Black Panther

Eighth Grade

Hereditary

Insect

Paddington 2

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

I don’t tally nominations until I finish each category and then release the nominees. Similarly, I try to pick each category individually regardless of what won prior categories. Sometimes this leads to diverse winners, sometimes not. My 2017 viewings were more than double my 2018 but last year’s Best Picture It won eight awards, yet this year’s choice will have won five.

Even trying to isolate categories if there is to be disparity between Best Editing, Best Director, and/or Best Picture it needs to be conscious and there was no separating it here.

Most Overlooked Picture

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All These Small Moments

Every Day

The House with a Clock in its Walls

Insect

Mowgli

In more recent years I had nearly all the films on the same level in terms of their being overlooked, either undistributed in the US or seeking one. The only film in that category until quite late in the year was All These Small Moments. Orion Classics picked it up and I believe it receives its limited release next weekend. Check it out.

Best Director

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Bo Burnham Eighth Grade

Ryan Coogler Black Panther

Melissa Miller Costanzo All These Small Moments

Alex Garland Annihilation

John Krasinski A Quiet Place

What I wrote about Bo’s screenplay (below) as opposed to other things he’s written applies exponentially here. Shepherding a film to completion is not the same as directing a comedy show,  especially when you’re not one of the performers. Feature film debut? Hard to believe.

Best Actress

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Emily Blunt Mary Poppins Returns

Emily Blunt A Quiet Place

Toni Collette Hereditary

Jemima Kirke All These Small Moments

Natalie Portman Annihilation

I don’t try and subscribe to conventional wisdom like nominees from the same film, or the same actor in a category twice, canceling out. I’m a committee of one. It came down in deliberations to two performances in the horror genre Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place and Toni Collette in Hereditary. In the end, I kept coming back to the fact that this was Toni Collette’s best work to date, which says so much, too much for anyone else to overcome.

Best Actor

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Jason Bateman Game Night

Chadwick Boseman Black Panther

John Krasinski A Quiet Place

Brendan Meyer All These Small Moments

Kodi Smit-McPhee Alpha

This category took me the longest to decide and was the last one I finalized. I will not hesitate to nominate a great comedic performance, so Jason Bateman, was in. Everyone in A Quiet Place was working with minimal dialogue, so in each category other actors had “come from behind” to get the pick, so John Krasinski was a serious contender. Chadwick Boseman had to carry himself with regality, do accent work, intense dialogue scenes and action. And despite the fact that I doubled the acting field and divided the awards by age, I will not bar an actor in their early-twenties from nomination, even if they’re playing a teenager as Meyer and Smit-McPhee are. Smit-McPhee also had many dialogue-free scenes, when he spoke he did so in a pastiche of indigenous North American tongues, did much of his scene work alone, against an animal or CG. In the end the only thing that might’ve precluded his winning was my not wanting to set precedent as he would be the first to “graduate” from winning Young Actor awards to later win adult ones, but I avoid “message” winners at all costs.

Best Supporting Actress

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Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween

Jennifer Jason Leigh Annihilation

Blake Lively A Simple Favor

Molly Ringwald All These Moments

Anya Taylor-Joy Thoroughbreds

Sometimes when you see a familiar face on screen that you don’t see as much as you used to it can bring a smile to your face, but it doesn’t surpass mere nostalgia. Here it does, Ringwald’s work here blew me away and as as I stated on my Letterboxd review she  “has some of the most beautifully acted moments of restrained pain and meaningful subtext in the film.”

Best Supporting Actor

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Thomas Brodie-Sangster Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Hugh Grant Paddington 2

Michael B. Jordan Black Panther

Dennis Quaid I Can Only Imagine

Alex Wolff Hereditary

Truisms abound on villainous characters, the best are relatable and multidimensional and at their best identifiable. Having a great villain doesn’t guarantee a great performance, but a great performance and a great villain is something rare and special. Michael B. Jordan has that here.

Best Cast

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Molly Ringwald, Jemima Kirke, Harley Quinn Smith, Brian d’Arcy James, Brendan Meyer, Roscoe Orman, Salena Qureshi, and Sam McCarthy All These Small Moments

Natalie Portman, Benedict Wong, Sonoya Mizuno, David Gyasi, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh,  Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Tessa Thompson, Sammy Hayman and Josh Danford Annihilation

Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cade Woodward, and Leon Rossum A Quiet Place

Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Leatitia Wright, Sterling K. Brown, Angela Basset, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, Florence Kasumba, John Kani, David S. Lee, Nabiyah Be, et al. Black Panther

Alex Wolff, Gabriel Byrne, Toni Collette, Milly Shapiro, et al. Hereditary

Large ensembles are some times at a disadvantage inasmuch as there isn’t always enough screen-time to go around and with more people there are mathematically more possible weakest links. Sometimes everyone in a large cast does rise to the occasion and the experience is richer than it otherwise would’ve been as it was in Black Panther.

Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Leading Role

Eighth Grade - Still 1

Pixie Davies Mary Poppins Returns

Elsie Fisher Eighth Grade

Isabela Moner Instant Family

Storm Reid A Wrinkle in Time

Millicent Simmonds A Quiet Place

Ultimately, this became a showdown of verisimilitude. Not only that but actresses representing realities we don’t often see on screen. Elsie Fisher edges slightly ahead because she conveys some of the most believable and searing adolescent awkwardness I’ve seen and also conveys a unique yet universal character, she too does great work without dialogue, which is the crux of film acting.

Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Leading Role

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Rohan Chand Mowgli

Joel Dawson Mary Poppins Returns

Noah Jupe A Quiet Place

Deric McCabe A Wrinkle in Time

Owen Vaccaro The House with a Clock in its Walls

Working with minimal dialogue does not by default lead to a brilliant performance, in this film everyone is, but after a breakout year Jupe brings his talent into another stratosphere.

Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Supporting Role

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Bronte Carmichael Christopher Robin

Julianna Gamiz Instant Family

Abby Ryder Fortson Ant-Man and the Wasp

McKenna Roberts Skyscraper

Isabella Sermon Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Not only was this a question of screen-time but also of the complexity of the role, with those considerations Isabella Sermon was the clear choice.

Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Supporting Role

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Ian Alexander Every Day

Sam McCarthy All These Small Moments

Orton O’Brien Christopher Robin

Gustavo Quiroz Instant Family

Nathanael Saleh Mary Poppins Returns

This was a particularly difficult one because the screen-time for all actors was varied. Every Day with a multitude of people playing A gave most actors working that role one very good scene. Ian Alexander was the best of the best. Orton O’Brien played small but poignant flashbacks. Gustavo Quiroz and Nathanael Saleh probably had the most screen-time but in terms of quantity and quality it had to be Sam McCarthy.

Best Youth Ensemble

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Storm Reid, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, and Rowan Blanchard A Wrinkle in Time

Elsie Fisher, Jake Ryan, Daniel Zolghardi, Fred Hechinger, Luke Prael, Shacha Temirov, Thomas John O’Reilly, Tiffany Grossfeld and William Alexander Wunsch Eighth Grade

Angourie Rice, Lucas Jade Zumann, Ian Alexander, Charles Vandervaart, et al.  Every Day

Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson, Billy Barratt, Felix Collar, and Kate Atwell  Mary Poppins Returns

Isabela Moner, Gustavo Quiroz, Julianna Gamiz and Carson Holmes Instant Family

Cast awards can either be seen as a numbers game or a depth game. With group efforts, no matter how large or small a group, you are only as strong as your weakest link. None of these nominated casts have a weak link, but all of the actors in this quartet are on part with one another.

Best Orignal Screenplay

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Brian Woods & Scott Beck and John Krasinski A Quiet Place

Melissa Miller Costanzo All These Small Moments

Daniele Sebastian Wiedenhaupt and Albert Hughes Alpha

Bo Burnham Eighth Grade

Ari Aster Hereditary

Bo Burnham has written and performed standup. He’s written and performed music and poetry. It is another thing entirely to write in another medium such as film for myriad characters. He has done so here expertly.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Alex Garland and Jeff VanderMeer Annihilation

Christopher Markus and Joe Russo, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Steve Englehart, Steve Gan, Bill Mantlo, Keith Giffen, Jim Starlin, Larry Lieber Avengers: Infinity War

Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole; Stan Lee and Jack Kirby Black Panther

Jan Švankmajer and Karel Čapek and Josef Čapek Insect

Paul King and Simon Farnaby, Michael Bond, and Jon Croker Paddington 2

A classic piece of absurdist satire theatre plus Švankmajer fully committed to simulacrum is a match made in heaven.

Best Score

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John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies Halloween

Marco Beltrami A Quiet Place

Joseph S. DeBeasi and Michael Stearns Alpha

Dario Marianelli Paddington 2

Anna Meredith Eighth Grade

The score for this Halloween being composed by three men, only one of whom is John Carpenter, might lead one to believe there are too many cooks in the kitchen. Quite the opposite is true, it is brilliant. And while building on a legendary theme might seem an easy task, it also adds expectation. This score delivers in spades, especially with the end track “Halloween Triumphant.” It’s a marvel. There’s a Spotify link above. Enjoy!

Best Editing

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Christopher Tellefsen A Quiet Place

Russell Costanzo and Matt Garner All These Small Moments

Sandra Granovsky Alpha

Andrew Wehde Eighth Grade

Jan Danhel Insect

It came down to flow, decisions on cut-points and the expert use underutilized techniques such as superimpositions.

Sound Editing/Mixing

A Quiet Place

Alpha

Annihilation

Avengers: Infinity War

Black Panther

Director/Writer/Actor John Krasinski talks about many aspects of the film in this Notes on a Scene segment, but he discusses sound often, and his thoughts permeate the film and communicate to the audience, which is why it is the honored film in this category.

Best Cinematography

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Dion Beebe Mary Poppins Returns

Charlotte Bruus Christensen A Quiet Place

Martin Gslacht Alpha

Matthias Königsweiser Christopher Robin

Pawel Pogorzelski Hereditary

There are more motifs to this film than you’d imagine and they are all tremendously well-lit and composed. Brilliant work.

Best Costume Design

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Jenny Beavan Christopher Robin

Ruth E. Carter Black Panther

Veronika Hrubá Insect

Judianna Makovsky Avengers: Infinity War

Sandy Powell Mary Poppins Returns

Of all the departments in this film this was the most persistently excellent, and in the animated sequence Powell’s clothes actually stole the show from a modern take on a classical Disney approach.

Best Art Direction

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A Quiet Place

Insect

Mary Poppins Returns

Paddington 2

Hereditary

I’m trying to economize words this year, but while it should go without saying that all nominees did wonderful work and all decisions were fraught with difficulty. These films  were rather different in approach and goal, in the end it ended up being about how many sets were created and how great they all were.

Best Makeup

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A Wrinkle in Time

Alpha

Black Panther

Halloween

The Predator

Sometimes beauty makeups that highlight the fantastical can and should win as it does here.

Best Visual Effects

shimmie

A Quiet Place

Alpha

Annihilation

Avengers: Infinity War

Black Panther

There are visual effects that act as spectacle and those that serve story, the best work symbiotically accomplishes both.

Best Soundtrack

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A Simple Favor

Black Panther

Game Night

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Tag

Best Original Song

“Goodbye, Farewell” Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett, Toby Jones, Peter Capaldi, Sophie Okonedo, Nick Mohammed, and Sarah Sheen Christopher Robin

“The Place Where Lost Things Go” Emily Blunt Mary Poppins Returns

“A Conversation” Ben WhishawMary Poppins Returns

“Love Thy Neighbour” Tobago and d’LimePaddington 2

“Rub and Scrub” Tobago and d’ Lime Paddington 2

This is not only the song of the year, relevant to the plot, but it was also worthy of being a  Mary Poppins song.

Best Documentary

Not awarded.

Best Foreign Film

Not awarded.

Robert Downey, Jr. Entertainer of the Year Award

Emily Blunt

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Being nominated twice in the same year does not guarantee you the award as the transcendent performer of the year by default. Being as magnetic, wonderful, and bookending the year with A Quiet Place and Mary Poppins Returns made it a cinch.

Ingmar Bergman Lifetime Achievement Award

Jan Švankmajer

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Picking Švankmajer for this award was the first decision I made for these awards. I have featured his work on the site several times, including his cracking one of my film discoveries lists and a feature in one of my earliest posts, when I backed a crowdfunding campaign for his final film, in Bermanesque fashion, it did not disappoint and earned several nominations.

Neutron Star Award

Ingmar Bergman

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While my viewings overall were down, the handful of new-to-me Bergman films I saw thanks to Criterion’s amazing new box set spurred yet another renaissance of my awe for his genius.

Special Jury Award(s)

Nominations

A Quiet Place – 13 (2 wins)

Black Panther – 11 (2 wins)

Mary Poppins Returns – 10 (3 wins)

All These Small Moments – 8 (3 wins)

Alpha– 8 (2 wins)

Annihilation – 8 (1 win)

Hereditary – 7 (1 win)

Paddington 2 – 7

Eighth Grade – 6 (5 wins)

Christopher Robin – 5

Insect – 5 (1 win)

Instant Family – 4 

A Wrinkle in Time – 4 (2 wins)

Avengers: Infinity War – 4

Every Day – 3

Halloween – 3 (1 win)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – 2

The House with a Clock in its Walls – 2

Mowgli – 2

Game Night – 2

A Simple Favor – 2 (1 Win)

Ant-Man and the Wasp – 1

Skyscraper – 1

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – 1

Maze Runner: The Death Cure – 1

I Can Only Imagine – 1

Tag – 1

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2018 BAM Nominations

Introduction

There were not monthly considerations posts or shortlists this year. However, I have been tracking eligible titles I’ve seen on Letterboxd. There you’d see that my viewings of eligible titles (and films in general) dipped. It went down to about the level it was when I started making these as a high school student. 

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That quote is true in many ways and sometimes life happens and the releases viewed slow down by choice, circumstance or both. This year was a lot of both. Many things I prioritized highly I didn’t get to see, but as I realized a few years ago when posting these awards on my blog these awards are kind of like a yearbook. They may include many films or few, all the awards contenders or none, some I wrote on extensively and many I did not; these awards are my attempt to encapsulate what impressed me and why. 

Whom I select and why will be announced on January 10th. So without further ado, here are this year’s nominees…

Best Picture

A Quiet Place

All These Small Moments

Alpha

Annihilation

Black Panther 

Eighth Grade

Hereditary

Insect

Paddington 2

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

 

Most Overlooked Picture

All These Small Moments

Every Day

The House with a Clock in its Walls

Insect

Mowgli

Best Director

Bo Burnham Eighth Grade

Ryan Coogler Black Panther

Melissa Miller Costanzo All These Small Moments

Alex Garland Annihilation

John Krasinski A Quiet Place

Best Actress 

Emily Blunt Mary Poppins Returns

Emily Blunt A Quiet Place

Toni Collette Hereditary 

Jemima Kirke All These Small Moments

Natalie Portman Annihilation

Best Actor

Jason Bateman Game Night

Chadwick Boseman Black Panther

John Krasinski A Quiet Place

Brendan Meyer All These Small Moments

Kodi Smit-McPhee Alpha

Best Supporting Actress 

Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween

Jennifer Jason Leigh Annihilation

Blake Lively A Simple Favor

Molly Ringwald All These Moments

Anya Taylor-Joy Thoroughbreds

Best Supporting Actor

Thomas Brodie-Sangster Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Hugh Grant Paddington 2

Michael B. Jordan Black Panther

Dennis Quaid I Can Only Imagine

Alex Wolff Hereditary

Best Cast

Molly Ringwald, Jemima Kirke, Harley Quinn Smith, Brian d’Arcy James, Brendan Meyer, Roscoe Orman, Salena Qureshi, and Sam McCarthy All These Small Moments

Natalie Portman, Benedict Wong, Sonoya Mizuno, David Gyasi, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh,  Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Tessa Thompson, Sammy Hayman and Josh Danford Annihilation

Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cade Woodward, and Leon Rossum A Quiet Place

Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Leatitia Wright, Sterling K. Brown, Angela Basset, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, Florence Kasumba, John Kani, David S. Lee, Nabiyah Be, et al. Black Panther

Alex Wolff, Gabriel Byrne, Toni Collette, Milly Shapiro, et al. Hereditary

Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Leading Role

Pixie Davies Mary Poppins Returns

Elsie Fisher Eighth Grade

Isabela Moner Instant Family

Storm Reid A Wrinkle in Time

Millicent Simmonds A Quiet Place

Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Leading Role

Rohan Chand Mowgli

Joel Dawson Mary Poppins Returns

Noah Jupe A Quiet Place

Deric McCabe A Wrinkle in Time

Owen Vaccaro The House with a Clock in its Walls

Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Supporting Role

Bronte Carmichael Christopher Robin

Julianna Gamiz Instant Family

Abby Ryder Fortson Ant-Man and the Wasp

McKenna Roberts Skyscraper

Isabella Sermon Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Supporting Role 

Ian Alexander Every Day

Sam McCarthy All These Small Moments

Orton O’Brien Christopher Robin 

Gustavo Quiroz Instant Family

Nathanael Saleh Mary Poppins Returns 

Best Youth Ensemble

Storm Reid, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, and Rowan Blanchard A Wrinkle in Time

Elsie Fisher, Jake Ryan, Daniel Zolghardi, Fred Hechinger, Luke Prael, Shacha Temirov, Thomas John O’Reilly, Tiffany Grossfeld and William Alexander Wunsch Eighth Grade

Angourie Rice, Lucas Jade Zumann, Ian Alexander, Charles Vandervaart, et al.  Every Day

Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson, Billy Barratt, Felix Collar, and Kate Atwell  Mary Poppins Returns

Isabela Moner, Gustavo Quiroz, Julianna Gamiz and Carson Holmes Instant Family

Best Original Screenplay

Brian Woods & Scott Beck and John Krasinski A Quiet Place

Melissa Miller Costanzo All These Small Moments

Daniele Sebastian Wiedenhaupt and Albert Hughes Alpha

Bo Burnham Eighth Grade

Ari Aster Hereditary

Best Adapted Screenplay

Alex Garland and Jeff VanderMeer Annihilation

Christopher Markus and Joe Russo, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Steve Englehart, Steve Gan, Bill Mantlo, Keith Giffen, Jim Starlin, Larry Lieber Avengers: Infinity War

Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole; Stan Lee and Jack Kirby Black Panther

Jan Svankmajer and Karel Capek and Josef Capek Insect

Paul King and Simon Farnaby, Michael Bond, and Jon Croker Paddington 2

Best Score

John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies Halloween

Marco Beltrami A Quiet Place

Joseph S. DeBeasi and Michael Stearns Alpha

Dario Marianelli Paddington 2

Anna Meredith Eighth Grade

Best Editing

Christopher Tellefsen A Quiet Place

Russell Costanzo and Matt Garner All These Small Moments

Sandra Granovsky Alpha

Andrew Wehde Eighth Grade

Jan Danhel Insect

Best Sound Editing/Mixing

A Quiet Place

Alpha

Annihilation

Avengers: Infinity War

Black Panther

Best Cinematography

Dion Beebe Mary Poppins Returns

Charlotte Bruus Christensen A Quiet Place

Martin Gslacht Alpha

Matthias Königsweiser Christopher Robin

Pawel Pogorzelski Hereditary

Best Costume Design

Jenny Beavan Christopher Robin

Ruth E. Carter Black Panther

Veronika Hrubá Insect

Judianna Makovsky Avengers: Infinity War

Sandy Powell Mary Poppins Returns

Best Art Direction

A Quiet Place

Insect 

Mary Poppins Returns

Paddington 2

Hereditary 

Best Makeup

A Wrinkle in Time

Alpha

Black Panther

Halloween

The Predator

Best Visual Effects

A Quiet Place

Alpha

Annihilation

Avengers: Infinity War

Black Panther

Best Soundtrack

A Simple Favor 

Black Panther

Game Night

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Tag

Best Original Song

“Goodbye, Farewell” Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett, Toby Jones, Peter Capaldi, Sophie Okonedo, Nick Mohammed, and Sarah Sheen Christopher Robin

“The Place Where Lost Things Go” Emily Blunt Mary Poppins Returns

“A Conversation” Ben Whishaw Mary Poppins Returns

“Love Thy Neighbour” Tobago and d’Lime Paddington 2

“Rub and Scrub” Tobago and d’ Lime Paddington 2

Robert Downey, Jr. Entertainer(s) of the Year Award(s)

To be announced January 10th.

Ingmar Bergman Lifetime Achievement Award(s)

To be announced January 10th.

Neutron Star Award(s)

To be announced January 10th.

Special Jury Award(s)

To be announced January 10th. 

 

Still here, and Year-End Posts are Coming!

As I’ve had occasion to mention when I have happened to post this year: I am still here. Until late Spring (early Summer in the moviegoing calendar), I at least stopped by to say “Yes, I am still here, but here’s why I’ve not been as active…” that slowed to a halt after a guest post on Rupert Pupkin Speaks.

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“Life finds a way,” can mean a lot of things and one is that it can get in the way a bit. 

Teenage-Death-Songs-Kindle

Much of what was occupying my time earlier in the year still was and is: much more fiction writing, some in preparation for the next volume of this series of short stories I’m working on and some for other pursuits.

BAM-Awards-Laurels

Despite that 2018 BAM Award nominations are still happening.

I hope to be able to post more next year. One thing that spoiled me in 2017 and into early 2018 was that I had many reviews ready to post for older titles that kept the site active without my adding to the backlog of content. Maybe knowing I have to create the BAM posts will bring forth more posts afterward.  

Regardless, year-end posts are coming.

Shameless Self-Promotion: #finalpoem published!

At the Enclave section over at Entropy ever since this call for submissions came out…

If the world were to end next week, what is the final poem you write, the final poem you give away generously, treacherously, genuinely, fearfully, necessarily, beautifully?

I’ve been pondering my submission. After many attempts, in many different forms, I finally came up with my own take, in a non-traditional format. You can find it here.

O Canada Blogathon 2018 – Atanarjuat: Continuing Oral Traditions

Introduction

When I watched the documentary Reel Injun – which is a fascinating attempt at an all-inclusive retrospective of the history of Native American characters and narratives on North American, mainly Hollywood, screens – I was somewhat surprised to see the inclusion of Atarnarjuat: The Fast Runner in it. However, it made sense for two reasons: it’s a tale of  the First Nations (Canadian vernacular for indigenous tribes) and because of its universal appeal. This appeal is perhaps most brilliantly demonstrated by the reactions of Native Americans to this film. It was a consensus: the movie is something special and “an inside job.” This term is left vague but you can tell what it means it’s a story born in a tribe, that’s lived with it, and now found a home on film shaped my Inuit filmmakers. However, this thought echoed through my mind even more when I thought to write about Atanarjuat. I had seen it the third film a loose trilogy (The Fast Runner Trilogy concluding in Before Tomorrow) and knew it was a thematic rather than chronological, but when I discovered there was an illustrated screenplay and started reading it, and its additional materials, I knew that the term “inside job” was not only fitting (which I assumed), not only a great compliment (which I knew), but also a testament to the level of work taken on by all involved, in this film and in Isuma Productions’ ongoing mission.

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The Wonders the Pages Contain

On the equivalent of a blurb page the significance of the Atanarjuat in film history is made apparent: “the first film written, directed, and acted by Inuit in the ancient oral language of Inukitut…” then the accolades like the Camera d’Or at Cannes, Genie Awards and the like. But the review by A.O. Scott really gets you going if you don’t know what you’re in for:

The Fast Runner is not merely an interesting document from a far-off place; it is a masterpiece. It is, by any standard, an extraordinary film a work of narrative sweep and visual beauty that honors the history of the art form even as it extends its perspective.”

Then came the first awe-inspiring, chill-inducing moment that came only in this book, which is a timeline of the Igloolik area, where the story is set and shot, starting at 7,500 years ago with the emergence of the island to the period between 1995 to 2002 when writing the film began and after the festival runs and worldwide release.

atanarjuatposter

With education being one of Isuma’s goals aside from preserving oral traditions (Isuma is the Inuit word for ‘to think’), there are quite a few enthnographic supplements to the screenplay the first being a letter from Claude Lévi-Strauss of the Académie Française to Bernard Saladin D’Anglure, professor at Laval University and Head of the Institute for Traditional Inuit Life, reacting to the film but also hoping for added information, and intimating that a deep link between the cinematic construct and cultural traditions, which do seem to permeate the film.

Yet this is only dipping your toes in the water. Then you get Zacharias Kunuk, one of the writers and director of the film, telling the story of how he first heard the legend of Atanarjuat as a child. And reading that brief missive just made me appreciate the weight not just of the story decisions he had to make within the given narrative but also the project selection. This was to be the first project of its kind and this was the story and he was the one not only trying to keep this legend alive for future generations but also dealing with modern filmmaking headaches like raising capital.

The-Fast-Runner-Trilogy

This hurdle, and the added difficulties of it are underscored in the interview with Paul Apak Angilirq, a co-screenwriter, not only did they confer with a group of elders on behavioral differences, and cultural differences in pre-colonial times, and the old oral version of Inukitut, and pick between the minor variations that exist in any legend passed down by oral tradition, but also they had to translate the script into English as it was being written in hopes to try to secure grants and other funding.

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These two versions of the script are put to full use in the illustrated screenplay, aside from behind the scenes photos, production stills, inset boxes with more pertinent cultural information as appropriate; and most notably and poetically parallel text syllabic Old Inukitut on the left, English on the right.

Since two screenplays are crammed in the pages the spacing is condensed to accommodate the photos. Despite this the movement of the story is evident, and even some details in the script that aren’t strictly speaking visual details, are conveyed in the film.

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After the screenplay there is an extended ethnographic commentary from the aforementioned Bernard Saladin d’Anglure that covers the Legend of Atanarjuat, the Inuit people in general, and shamanism. In discussing the Inuit he goes from pre-colonial times, and mentions Knud Rasmussen whose Thule expeditions and journals form the basis of the hard-to-find second film in the series up to and including the end of the last holdouts against radio, television, and formalized permanent settlements, creation of the syllabic alphabet and contextualization of the formation of Nunavut. It’s a testament to the non-fiction writing and insights offered that I gladly read the front and back matter without much hesitation.

Nunavut

This was not the first book indigenous legends with parallel text I read but it much more readable in part because while the goals are similar (imparting knowledge and preserving traditions) the audience for all parts of this book is fairly wide, and there isn’t a section that reads like it’s mostly for specialists (e.g. linguists or anthropologists).

Even if you never heard of the term ethnography before, if you know and like the film I’d recommend you seek out the illustrated screenplay. If you want to look this screenplay up, I’d say find the film first and all of the book will have that much more impact on you.

31 Days of Oscar: Boomerang! (1947)

Boomerang! (1947)

It’s funny how similar in conclusion and resolution this is to the other Kazan film I saw (Panic in the Streets above). Another thing that struck me is that it handles a lot of similar elements much better than the later The Town That Dreaded Sundown.

Oscar Nominations/Wins: 1/0
Score: 7/10

31 Days of Oscar: Victor Victoria (1982)

Victor Victoria (1982)

There are givens in this film: Julie Andrews is great, the intelligence of the dialogue that ensues regarding gender and sexuality is sparkling, the music is toe-tapping. The film is highly entertaining. I’m not sure if its part of the slapstick that the illusion of Victoria being Victor isn’t sold more say with more fitted clothes, shooting in black & white or any number of methods, but that does allow for some distraction in frequent buffering of your suspension of disbelief, wherein you have to convince yourself that most of the unseen masses in this fictional land buy the illusion. It’s a small thing that snowballs into a bigger one, but it’s still a good film that should be seen and discussed more than it is.

Score: 7/10
Oscar Nominations/Wins: 7/1

31 Days of Oscar: Scrooge (1970)

Scrooge (1970)

I, like many, have seen many a version of Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol it’s one of the Great Stories that we all become accustomed to and can analyze individual adaptations based on interpretation and choices more so than for the narrative itself. This version is a musical that is penned by the renowned Leslie Bricusse and for as closely as it sticks to the structure of the story for the most part offers as change of pace with songs, many of which were new. The songs are well-spaced allowing the drama to unfold adequately between numbers and also many are half-sung which lessens the theatricality of it. When watching 31 Days of Oscar I like to try and guess the nominations, if I don’t know them already and I guessed right on Art Direction and Song and was not surprised by the costuming being included. This is a very enjoyable rendition of the tale that ought not be overlooked.

Oscar Nominations/Wins: 4/0
Score: 8/10