2011 BAM Award Winners- Film Categories

Best Picture

Hugo (Paramount)

The First Beautiful Thing
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
In a Better World
Super 8
The Tree of Life
War Horse
Winter in Wartime

After all the awards came out one was likely to know it’d come down to two films: Hugo and Super 8. And that’s how it’ll be in the list also. I’ll discuss each of them more in those lists. Here there’s not much to say save for the fact that I love the nominating process much more than this one. I just want to state that since it’s just me the nominations are really where it’s at and where it most matters. There’s invariably a favorite in every category but with other awards that kind of seems devalued by cliché and prognostication. I hope that through my verbosity I can pay tribute a second time to those films and artists I most enjoyed through the year.

Best Foreign Film

The First Beautiful Thing (Palisades Tartan)

The First Beautiful Thing

In a Better World

Olhos Azuis

In Their Sleep
A Screaming Man
The Skin I Live In
Tropa de Elite 2
Winter in Wartime

It was a better year than expected for foreign films. When I tallied them up I was surprised how many I had to choose from. Moreover, I was surprised by how many landed both in the Best Picture field and here. There are films I saw on this list by many means and the winner (pictured) was one of the most moving and engaging cinematic experiences I had all year.

There’s also two films I got in Brazil. Note to film buffs: if you’re willing to dedicate a computer to playing foreign-region DVDs you can get anything! I mentioned in the other post that fans of zombie and/or virus movies should see Rammbock.

It didn’t seem like it at the time but foreign films were pretty good this year, no 1987 but good.

Best Documentary

Senna (Producers Distribution Agency)

Bill Cunningham New York

Life in a Day
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never

This was another tough one. These are all great. Three are available on instant right now and they’re all pretty different. Ultimately, it’s hard to top something like Senna.

I don’t think I have cried that much since the first time I saw It’s a Wonderful Life and in this story I knew the exact outcome, moreover I think I may be as torn about revisiting this one as I am that one. Truly impressive.

Most Overrated Picture

Attack the Block (Screen Gems)

13 Assassins
Attack the Block
Certified Copy
Cold Fish
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
I Saw the Devil
Martha Marcy May Marlene


Since I am but one man then I can hand this award out. Were it a group it may seem a bit silly. We’re all human expectations play into it for few are the films we hear nothing about. Example: I knew there was some buzz about Hugo. However, beyond the New York Film Festival screening, I did not read any of the early reviews. I didn’t go in with things to look out for such aspects I knew that were disliked or divisive. With many of these films I consciously tried to avoid learning details to not start forming opinions what I did know were basic plot elements and what the general reaction was. Ask me about a film in particular I can tell you what I knew beforehand.

Now to be specific to Attack the Block. I had heard about it. I’d heard great things. I knew what the basic premise was. It never screened around me. So it was vague. I hadn’t seen a trailer. I knew what the cast was but not much more. Eventually, I used Redbox to get it, in fact, I opened an account for it. I had expectations but they were vague. Since people compare them anyway let’s compare it to Super 8, my expectations of Super 8 were vague too. I wanted to see it since the teaser came out more than a year before its release. The one with the container and the banging alien. Then the Super Bowl ad came and I had no more idea of what it was supposed to be except pretty cool looking. Here’s where people start filling in blanks and start over-emphasizing the alien but I digress.

I was even more of a blank slate for this film the worst sinking fear that I had was that it was going to be just OK and then I didn’t even like it. I kept telling my head to “shut up” and essentially was wiping the slate clean over and over giving it chance after chance and I just didn’t like it.

Yes, in essence something being overrated is a personal thing not a film thing but we’ve all said “I couldn’t get into it,” before. I “couldn’t get into it” is like “meh” or “take it or leave it” to me. The film in my estimation went from having some good ideas and promise in the beginning to get more and more annoying. Whether the hoods or the victim almost no one didn’t rub me the wrong way, the effects are cool-looking but a little underwhelming, the acting is inconsistent at best. A few have their flashes but the natural feel can render better results with a more engaging storyline. If the social commentary tried to hit me over the head again I’d have filed a restraining order. I get that the characters are simple and lack subtlety but that doesn’t mean the script has to.

Anyway, is it one of the worst of the year? Not by any means. Was I shocked I disliked it? Yes, and angry and disappointed too. I know I’m in a minority here and I don’t care. I get the appeal of all the other films but they just don’t work for me after certain point in this one I literally could not care less what happened. Sorry.

Worst Picture

The Darkest Hour (Summit)

Annelise: The Exorcist Tapes
Children of the Corn: Genesis
The Darkest Hour
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
Final Destination 5
The Thing

The Three Musketeers
The Wrong Ferrari

I will try to keep this brief. There is a title on this list which is the most commented review I’ve posted. Yet until New Year’s Eve I was prepared to incur even more wrath by giving it this dubious distinction. I have no problem with people disagreeing with me if they can phrase their view in an intelligent and coherent way. I will grant that I was incendiary with my review (again the dangers of writing to close to a viewing), however, the thrust of these comments inferred that because I didn’t like the film I was either deficient mentally or somehow lacking fluency in the English language. Anyway, the point of this aside is that I regret the tone of my review of The Wrong Ferrari but do not in any way recant my opinion that it’s a film I dislike greatly.

However, and I forget if I intimate as much in the replies, I do recognize that there is an attempt to do something there, therefore Happy New Year to the fans of this film: It’s not the worst of the year it’s merely on the list. Oh, and if you want to complain about this post or my inclusion of it here too feel free but one of my myriad New Year’s resolutions is to not discuss The Wrong Ferrari anymore.

The Darkest Hour is another film I didn’t expect to see, which is fine many of my favorites of the year were viewed that way and viewing them was memorable for it regardless of how good the movie was. I saw the trailer a few times and thought it looked silly and bad I’ll admit but I’ve also seen trailers of films I thought would be bad and liked and even loved the movies. Trailers are long-form commercials. There is an art to them but that does not make them art nor does it make them an accurate representation of what the film is for many reasons. So the trailer was silly. So what? Despite my reservations I never could’ve expected what unfolded.

I tweeted after seeing this that it was one of the most aggressively stupid movies I’d ever seen and that I stand by and what I mean by that is that there’s so much that makes you shake you head or roll your eyes and it just refuses to stop for 100 minutes or so. The blocking, yes the blocking, the actually positioning and movement of the actors is some of the worst I’ve ever seen. That’s something you can usually count on not being a concern. It’s hard to watch in and of itself. The dialogue when not trite is trying too hard to be funny and witty but it’s abysmal. The film also panders to racist stereotypes about the lawlessness of modern Russia to avoid the need to create any sort of plausibility in the real aspects of the plot. This scoffing, half-assed attempt at tongue-in-cheek social commentary is an affront to writing and people with any intelligence whatsoever. When the dialogue is not bad inherently it is superfluous, which is worse.

Due to the fact that the dark is dangerous the characters are frequently indoors or scenes are in the daytime so there is nowhere near enough dark in The Darkest Hour. The characters all at one point or another display typical idiotic, unrealistic actions that happen only in films and not in real crisis. Practically every performance is flat and without dimension and devoid or real emotion. Characterization is simplistic and insipid.

The effects are fine but the concept is so facile and with stakes theoretically so high it seems so unimportant. Tonality and pace have no presence here. Add to this that a man who has won Best Director and Best Picture in the past added his name to this film (granted in a “Presents” kind of way) it’s even more perplexing and infuriating.

This I can watch but the Night Watch Trilogy remains unfinished? Give me a break.

Ladies and Gentlemen the Worst Film of 2011: The Darkest Hour.

Most Underrated Picture

Toast (Emerging Pictures)

Battle: Los Angeles
Fireflies in the Garden
The Hole
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
Red State
The Sitter
The Ward
Winter in Wartime

I decided that all (with Documentary being the exception) film categories should have equal numbers of nominees. So if there are 10 Best Picture candidates other fields should strive for that. This was a hard choice. I literally physically changed the poster above once and another time in my head. I will in brief explain why these films I feel are underrated.

Battle: Los Angeles it seems got a lot of hate just for being what it is nothing more and nothing less which makes no sense to me.

Bereavement literally has not been seen by enough people. It’s release was severely limited and I’m guessing the DVD sales aren’t that high.

Fireflies in the Garden nearly wins this prize. Not only was it in the can for three years and then not released very widely but then it also got a pretty good thumping from critics as well. None of those things sit well with me in regards to this film.

The Hole being Joe Dante’s film never really got distributed here. It may have just been picked up but I got an import from Amazon. The only reason it wasn’t picked up is because no one wanted to chance it because it’s pretty darn good.

Red State I firmly believe that if someone just either watches this film not knowing anything about it or if someone entirely different made it, it would’ve gotten better reviews. Kevin Smith doesn’t bother me at all. Ever. Even if he did I think I’d really think Red State is pretty damn good. I always strive to separate artist and art at all costs.

The Sitter is included just because of how much I liked it. I can see how you wouldn’t like it but am bemused by all the “Worst of 2011” talk. My reaction to those is “Fine you didn’t like it but watch more movies. That stuff on Netflix you don’t want to see. A lot of times I watch it and it’s worse.”

The Ward Here’s the opposite of a bad reputation harming a director. It’s not Halloween, or The Fog or another of his classics but it’s a damn good John Carpenter movie I find.

Winter in Wartime points out the imperfections of the Foreign Language Oscar race. It was the Dutch submission in 2008 and never saw a US distribution deal until now and that too was on not nearly enough screens. While there are things that are markedly European about it, it’s the kind of story anyone can enjoy and it even has a British character so there’s even some English for the xenophobes.

Now, at a time I tinkered with the idea of making the nominating process a mathematical equation. An example: IMDb score x 10 + Rotten Tomatoes + Metacritic divided by 3 = Aggregate score. Then compare that to my score x 10 and the highest differentials would be nominated. I would then scrap the numbers and pick a winner. Obviously that’d be too annoying to do. The idea kind of struck me when I went on the IMDb and saw Never Say Never‘s score. It got respectable numbers from Metacritic but has a 1.5 at the IMDb. Clearly people who hadn’t seen it and voted just because they hate Justin Bieber. I’m sure there are other instances but it seems like this was the one time I noticed rampant abuse of the implicit honor system under which the IMDb operates: see the movie, then vote. A majority of those who saw it were inclined to like it so this had to be just blind voting.

As for the winner:

Had it not been for my local non-profit art house participating in something called From Britain with Love I never would’ve seen Toast. Due to the fact that they did participate I was lucky enough to see it twice. I saw it well ahead of the US limited release and again during its one week run or so in this country. It was just about as good each time and much like the way at times in sports one needs to re-examine MVP criteria here it seems underrated can be viewed a few ways. Some past winners did get wide releases but weren’t really appreciated. To make this decision I asked myself “Which film of these is the one most deserving of attention that didn’t get it?” and there you have your winner: Toast. The answer when asked that way was easy.

2011 BAM Award Winners- Crew Categories

First, while I think that this “trifurcated” method of presenting winners is the way to go the nomenclature is something that may change. I considered “Above the Line” and “Below the Line” but that’s far too industry a term and furthermore it skews the breakdown of awards presented per post. Having said all that not all the categories in this post are crew per se, maybe behind the scenes is better but I’ll think over in the year to come. In any case here are the awards for non-actors.

Best Director

Martin Scorsese in Hugo (Paramount)

J.J. Abrams Super 8
S.J. Clarkson Toast
Martin Koolhoven Winter in Wartime
Paolo Virzì The First Beautiful Thing
Martin Scorsese Hugo

I will grant you that I read more about Scorsese’s process for Hugo than the other directors thanks to the film companion book written by the author of the novel. However, I also knew the book and got a sense when reading it that it might be a stronger piece cinematically than it was in text. After all it is an illustrated novel. It’s a novel wherein Selznick omitted words when he felt illustrating portions would be better. It’s also a case of knowing and understanding a vision and seeing a vision are two different things. This film was on the radar earlier for me than for most. All I learned about it heightened my anticipation, yet I never expected box-office results (which it sadly hasn’t really seen) or critical acclaim (which its gotten in spades) and the last thing I expected was for my lofty expectations to be far exceeded. I could ramble about why I love Scorsese’s process for making this film but anyone who knows anything about him knows his passion and knowledge and how he tries, when applicable, to imbue that to those he works with. All these directors had a great vision for their films, all succeeded to ridiculous heights. Scorsese just does so in a whole other stratosphere and on many, many levels and in different ways than in films past.

Best Cinematography

Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz in Hugo (Paramount)

Larry Fong Super 8
Eduardo Serra Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Stephanie Anne Weber-Biron Heartbeats

Robert Richardson Hugo
Janusz Kaminski War Horse

This category is usually, and especially this year, just flat-out unfair. Minus the being undead part I feel like little Gage Creed in Pet Sematary shouting my protestations, “No fair! No fair!” Each one of these films is beautiful to look at and exemplifies flawless technique but also motifs that I am enamored of. Larry Fong takes Abrams’ penchant for lens flare and places it in as naturalistic a context as possible, Serra who works best when moving the camera frequently scarcely stops in this last chapter of an epic series, Weber-Biron’s work in Heartbeats is a staggering display of composition and luscious saturation, Kaminski, ever the chameleon like his frequent director Spielberg, brings landscapes not only to life but emblazons them with surreal beauty; and those are the runners up. Like Gage said “No fair!”

Here’s the best case for why 3D can work and why Hugo is enhanced by it. Aside from the technical aspect where every single shot of the film was shot in 3D, whereas even “real” 3D films have some post-conversion element. Shots were composed, framed, lit and even cut together with that effect in mind. And it’s not a shock and awe effect they seek but an invitation, an envelopment.

I frequently mention (whenever it’s the case) how I didn’t want a movie to end. I have never in my adult life felt like I was in the film. I had that feeling at times watching Hugo. It’s a 3D about creating a space and the feeling of room and a real view on an imagined world rather than explosions and chases. It’s about inviting the viewer closer to an intimate tale, involving the audience more than before and the main component to that is the photography.

Best Makeup

Tyler Labine & Alan Tudyk in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (Magnet Releasing)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Super 8

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Winter in Wartime

This one is always tough. Substandard makeup work is always easier to spot. Natural makeup work is easy to take for granted and effects makeup is easy to over-value. More axioms are possible but that’s the bottom line so typically what I seek is something unique in the mix with standard work, which is the case for most of these nominees. The most versatile though is the cross-section in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil you have college kids (standard) the backwoods characters unfairly looked-down-upon (a bit more unkempt) then your effects (blood & gore) all done brilliantly.

Best Original Screenplay

JJ Abrams on the set of Super 8 (LA Times)

J.J. Abrams Super 8

Michel Hazanvicius The Artist
Benjamin Hessler Rammbock
Stevan Mena Bereavement
Paolo Virzì and Francesco Bruni and Francesco Piccolo The First Beautiful Thing

“Bad things happen, but you can still live.”

That’s the line that sends Super 8 above and beyond the other worthy candidates. One sentence comprised of eight words gives two characters (one not of this world, one a boy forced to grow up too fast) the strength to move on. There are other examples in this film where sparse, terse statements say so much: “I am in him as he is in me…” and so on.

Not to go overlooked without additional praise are the other writers here: Michel Hanzavicius not only wrote a great script for a mostly silent film but also used sound and dialogue on a few occasions in such a brilliant way emphasizing how important they are by not wasting them on trivialities. Benjamin Hessler in an hour of screen time accomplishes so much it’s awe-inspiring. Watch Rammbock. The First Beautiful Thing builds character and manipulates time magnificently. Bereavement is the best horror film I’ve seen in a decade concept and script are the cornerstone to that.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Martin Scorsese shows and illustration from the book to Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz (Paramount)

Marti Noxon and Tom Holland Fright Night
Steve Kloves and JK Rowling Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

John Logan and Brian Selznick Hugo
Lee Hall and Nigel Slater 

Mieke de Jong, Martin Koolhoven, Paul Jan Nelissen and Jan Terlouw Winter in Wartime

Similar to the other screenwriting category a lot of praise to go around here: Fright Night had some of the smartest, funniest dialogue of the year. Lee Hall’s sensitivty and talents know no bounds. Winter in Wartime is a grossly overlooked and underrated film that will please fans of many genres. Lastly, I don’t think I’ve ever not nominated Steven Kloves for a Harry Potter film but that does not diminish his contribution to the series or these nominations. Changing directors was something the series could survive but not screenwriter. Had he not been a mainstay it would’ve been very different.

As for the winner as many have noted, and I picked up on a few of these as well, there are marked differences between Hugo as a book and a movie that go well beyond just the title. All of these changes enhance the film. They make the story work better on film. They were made with the medium in which they were telling the story in mind and they worked brilliantly.

Best Editing

The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight)

Job ter Berg Winter in Wartime
Mary Ann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey Super 8

Mark Day Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Thelma Schoonmaker Hugo

Hank Corwin, Jay Rabinowitz, Daniel Rezende, Billy Weber and Mark Yoshikawa The Tree of Life

It is often said that all films are made three times. The first is the script, the second is principal photography and the third is in the editing room. Never has a film being made in the edit been more clear than in The Tree of Life. I’d love to see the original script and the supposed 4-hour cut but everything you think of this film whether you love it as I do or you hate it comes down to the editing. Even the cinematography which would be brilliant regardless is better because of the way the images splice together. Perfect frame to perfect frame, disconnected thought to disconnected thought. It like every film is a puzzle. In this one you can place the pieces together how you please and tell people what you see. Not the other way around.

Best Score

Stevan Mena Bereavement
Alexandre Desplat Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Howard Shore Hugo
Michael Giacchino Super 8

Jónsi We Bought a Zoo

With these categories not much needs saying. These scores are all great. This clip and the way it plays with the ending are what clinches it for Super 8.

Best Sound Editing/Mixing

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Super 8

Real Steel

X-Men: First Class

I rarely get actively excited about sound design though it does interest me. I took a sound class and did a lot of very hard work in it and learned a hell of a lot but the bottom line as this sequence and the film progresses the fades, levels, cuts and creation of these sounds, whether it be a compartment door slamming into the ground, an explosion or Cooper’s (the alien) roar it all fascinated and inspired me and made me pay attention, immediately on first viewing.

Best Visual Effects

The Adventures of Tintin
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Super 8

Real Steel

The real litmus test for special effects is not thinking “Oh, those effects are really good” but rather not thinking about them at all then realize what they were, now that’s impressive. Even more impressive when you learn about what was done to create them. The video above is a quick illustration of what went into Real Steel. The only film wherein I didn’t think about effects until after I’d seen it.

Best Art Direction

Asa Butterfield and Ben Kingsley in Hugo (Paramount)


Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Winter in Wartime

X-Men: First Class

Art Direction frequently goes hand in hand with cinematography in Hugo more so than most. In a situation where you’re bringing an audience into a world attention to detail is of paramount importance the sets and their dressings become like a character.

Best Costumes

Sacha Baron Cohen, Chloë Grace Moretz and Asa Butterfield in Hugo (Paramount)



Super 8


I don’t care for the period bias that exists in costuming therefore I make sure to pay extra attention in modern/present day films to see if something catches my eye and a few nominees reflect that. What works best in Hugo has nothing to do with the fact that there’s an attempt to capture a time or a place but rather to create looks emblematic of character as frequently the actor has but one look through a majority of the movie. For the Station Master there was created a uniform as idiosyncratic as he is, for Hugo an outfit that at one time might’ve been his best but is now tattered and ratty and his only one similarly for Isabelle she is better dressed but always recognizable and so on. Adding to the 3D element all the decisions made here and in Art Direction also take texture into consideration: tweeds, wool and other fabrics with character are chosen.

Best Song

Justin Bieber in Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (Paramount)

“Chatte Batte” Chillar Party
“Exploded Diaper” Löded Diper Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
“I Want Candy” Cody Simpson Hop
Born to be Somebody” Justin Bieber Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
“Pictures in My Head” The Muppets

“Let Me Take You to Rio (Blu’s Arrival)” Ester Dean & Carlinhos Brown Rio

If you look at past winners in this category you’ll see diversity. Here there is too: Chatte Batte is a sung in voice-over theme song from a Bollywood kids’ comedy. I have a weakness for Bollywood due to a college course so I really should see more. One of the BAM Awards past quirks was that a Bollywood film Lagaan was up for Best Picture and nothing else.

Second, is essentially a rock song but it’s also a jokey kind of song which is one of the highlights of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules. Jokey and Rock combos also have precedent amongst past winners.

Hop isn’t all that great but it features a pretty good cover of “I Want Candy” and that song lifts the film some when used. Covers also have precedent hence I usually remove the Original from the category name.

The Muppets could’ve easily had a few nominees and I didn’t expect that when the process started and now is as good a time as any to say “Yes, I do surprise myself sometimes and I’m not 100% sure of every single nominee before I start.” With The Muppets it was a case of the first impression not being as strong but the songs stuck after a while.

So why Justin Bieber‘s song? As a recent Twitter conversation made me realize songs in films in general are less thought about and less integral than they ever have been. Another issue is how does one judge the pedigree of the “Original” song or song in this case. Now whether or not the song was really written for the film is a dicey and difficult thing to prove, which is why I ceased to care about that so much. Therefore it’s really about a song debuting in the film or a well done cover.

If one looks at past Original Song Oscar winners you can see they used to be far more iconic and in the middle of the picture than recently; a past example being “Let the River Run” by Carly Simon in Working Girl. Aside from seeing more movies, which after a record-setting year would be hard to do, there’s little I can do to affect the field. Songs don’t play as much of a role so how good a song is a huge criteria. I like all these songs. That’s simple.

The bigger criteria is the influence they have on the overall film. That is clear to see in Muppets where it sets the nostalgic, quasi-melancholy tone before the reunion and in Rio where it’s a joyous celebration of locale. That puts those above songs from Hop and Diary of a Wimpy Kid because those songs merely accompany incidents and don’t shed light on any of the story.

However, as I wrote in my initial review of Never Say Never the story of the documentary is not only Bieber’s but also that of his fanbase who more so than with any other artist propelled him from anonymity to viral sensation to global superstar faster than had ever before been seen. The lyrics of the song by Diane Warren are ostensibly about him but could apply to anyone. Also, while this song plays over the credits it’s accompanied by footage which brings the story full circle and thus music matches the imagery and enhances the end of the film, which depending on execution can be its most important moment. So whether it was “slapped on” in actuality or not it doesn’t feel like it is and is a coda to the film that matches the emotion of the piece so well. You can dismiss it as excuse to get another single for him on iTunes and to tie into the movie but it works aesthetically in my estimation so that’s what matters since marketing is a fact of life. Aesthetics and marketing are more closely tied in film than in any other artform.

Also, the fact that “Never Say Never” spawned a movie and in that movie would be another worthy original song is pretty surreal if you think about it. In a way that fact reflects the film and the story in general.

2011 BAM Award Winners- Acting Categories

Best Cast

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Super 8


War Horse

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (Warner Bros.)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (Warner Bros.)

First, in last year’s awards I had a split between Best Cast and Youth Ensemble. This year I do as well. This year I came up with a much simpler explanation to answer the inevitable question: “How can that be?” The simplest way to explain it would be sports and from there if you need to I think you can find similar comparisons. Best Cast is the best team overall which takes into account depth and how skilled your star players are and whatnot. Youth Ensemble is a section of the cast judged individually on its own merits. Therefore one team can be considered the best while another has the best defense or bullpen any specialized section you prefer fits.

So the Best Cast from top to bottom is that of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 not to get anal retentive about documenting rounds and cut downs but this cast literally inundated the last few rounds of the Supporting Actor and Actress race. However, as you will see, just as the last film was a showcase for Radcliffe, Watson and Grint this one was essentially about one man more than any other.

However, that didn’t preclude this film from having the highest incidence of one-scene wonders in the series. Nearly countless are the tense, brilliant and all too fleeting appearances in this film. Some appear in the series for the first time but all appear in the series for the last time and that and many more are the reason Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 earns this trophy ahead of the other very worthy assemblages of talent.

Best Actress

Elizabeth Olsen and Sarah Paulson in Martha Marcy May Marlene (Fox Searchlight)

Bérénice Bejo The Artist

Elizabeth Olsen Martha Marcy May Marlene

Carey Mulligan Drive

Micaela Ramazzotti The First Beautiful Thing

Jeong-hin Yin Poetry

Quite simply you had storytellers this year. These ladies all helped make their films but one did so more than any other and that is Elizabeth Olsen. She tells the story of this film with her face and her expressions perhaps even more so than with what she says or does. I’m not waxing poetic with that statement it’s quite simply true. In a narrative that’s intricately structured and is not told chronologically for it to even have a chance to work she had to be this brilliant and what’s more amazing is that she is.

Best Actor

Michael Shannon in Take Shelter (Sony Pictures Classics)

Matt Damon We Bought a Zoo

Jean Dujardin The Artist

Wagner Moura Tropa de Elite 2
Brad Pitt The Tree of Life

David Rasch Olhos Azuis

Michael Shannon Take Shelter

One need not look much further than the write-up of Take Shelter in my Best Films of 2011 list to see why Shannon won. Allow me to further state that when terms like mesmerizing, magnetic and electric come to mind then it’s a no-brainer. A man teetering on the edge of sanity who is unsure of reality is a role that many could take over-the-top or make mawkish. The more Shannon doubts himself and fears for himself the more we do and that is quite a feat.

Best Supporting Actress

Anjelica Huston in 50/50 (Summit)

Anjelica Huston 50/50

Claudia Pandolfi The First Beautiful Thing

Sarah Paulson Martha Marcy May Marlene

Stefania Sandrelli The First Beautiful Thing

Octavia Spencer The Help

There were two performances this year wherein impact truly far outweighed screen-time. The first was Bill Milner’s appearance in X- Men: First Class as Young Erik which earned him a nomination also but the other is the honoree here. Anjelica Huston appears in 50/50 sporadically but each time she arrives she in her tension and emotion that she’s trying to contain adds to the gravitas of a film that is trying to be as light as it can which is delicate when cancer is involved. It would be easy to turn an over-protective and overly-worried mother into a cliché but she finds a depth to this person that helps ground the film. It was a pleasant surprise to see her on the screen for the first time in I don’t know how long but it was more pleasing to see her in such great form.

Best Supporting Actor

Alan Rickman in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (Warner Bros.)

Ben Kingsley Hugo

Christopher Plummer Beginners

John C. Reilly Terri

Alan Rickman Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Irandhir Santos Tropa de Elite 2

I am not one for bestowing an annual honor upon someone in lieu of an honorary achievement. Much like the first part of the conclusion was a showcase for the ability of the heroic triad’s acting chops here it is Alan Rickman who muscles through and makes his presence felt more than any other. While it’s true that in my estimation the achievement of Rickman to play scenes wherein many interpretations could be drawn and things were vaguely foreshadowed for eight films is without precedent. The only viable comparison is that Olivia Williams in The Sixth Sense had to play all her scenes with Bruce Willis such that they worked two different ways, once when the audience was fooled and again when all was known. Now imagine doing that eight times. That’s what Rickman did but he did so more brilliantly and evoking more emotion in this one than in any other film prior. Therefore while it is the last of the Potter films this is most certainly an earned achievement.

Best Youth Ensemble

Zach Mills, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Joel Courtney and Gabriel Basso in Super 8 (Paramount)

Chinmai Chandrashuh, Vedant Desai, Devji Handa, Rohan Grover, Naman Jain, Ifran Khan, Aarav Khanna, Shriya Sharma and Sanath Menon Chillar Party

Ellie Darcey-Alden, Ariella Paradise, Benedict Clarke, Alfie McIlwain, Rohan Gotobed, Arthur Bowen, Daphne de Beisetgui, Will Dunn, Jade Gordon, Bertie Gilbert, Helena Barlow and Ryan Turner Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Gulliver Mcgrath, Shaun Aylward and Ed Sanders Hugo

Laramie Eppler, Tye Sheridan and Hunter McCracken The Tree of Life

Joel Courtney, Ryan Lee, Riley Griffiths, Gabriel Basso, Zach Mills, Elle Fanning Super 8

Writing a review close to the viewing of a film can be a blessing or a curse. Some films take digesting. For example, I needed to see Artificial Intelligence: A. I. three times in a weekend before I knew what my read was and I could start to vocalize my opinion properly. The inverse would be that you can instantly come out with a proclamation that you need to verify upon revisiting the film or that you eventually do not feel as strongly about as you did initially.

Such is not the case with Super 8 and its core players. I believe in the initial review I wrote something to the effect of that this is the best, most talented and most naturally amicable core of young actors I’d seen since Stand by Me and each subsequent viewing of the film has not shaken that belief instead it has solidified it. For those keeping track Stand by Me and Super 8 are separated by 25 years so when a new film earns that kind of comparison it’s well on its way to becoming a classic in due course whether it is hailed with the confusing “instant classic” label or not.

The brilliant and naturalistic nature of this ensemble’s work is sealed in the clandestine diner conversation wherein in several topics are discussed at once, put-downs are exchanged and conversation flows so naturally it feels almost as if it’s real life and not a film.

Certainly all these actors all have big futures but what they create here together is something truly special which they are blessed to have experienced and to recreate anything like in another project would be near miraculous.

As a footnote, when assembling the youth categories this year I was again thankful for The White Ribbon because had it not been for that film and its incredible nucleus, and cast as a whole, the epiphany of parity in the acting awards for youths and of age performers would not have occurred to me for some time.

Best Performance by a Child Actress in a Leading Role

Elle Fanning in Super 8 (Paramount)

Elle Fanning Super 8
Bailee Madison Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Chloë Grace Moretz Hugo

AnnaSophia Robb Soul Surfer

Saoirse Ronan Hanna

When I decided to work towards parity in these categories last year it was on the fly. I realized one or two really deserving performers and performances would be left out of the process merely based on the fact that their role was too small. Due to the fact that it was unexpected the best I was able to do at the time was to split the categories into male/female regardless of the size of the role. As I started collecting data for 2011 I started to stratify information. Thus, I gauged whether I could deem a youth participation as a lead or co-lead or purely supporting. Even giving myself this leeway I was concerned that there would be insufficient candidates in the female categories.

If you check the BAM Considerations you’ll see that not unlike adult parts there is more demand for young men than young ladies in film. It’s an age old issue wherein the supply and demand is disproportionate. I was aware of this fact, however, I held my breath and hoped this disparity would not affect the field. It surely didn’t.

While the number of eligible leads was low the quality was high. Furthermore, when dividing the cast into youth and adult the equation of lead and supporting can change. It also made me realize it’s not only screen-time that makes a lead.

Elle Fanning’s impact in Super 8 is massive. She is the girl in the boys’ club, she is the love interest not only that she is sought after by more than one of the guys so her disappearance has less negative impact on her lead status than most. She’s wise beyond her years, jaded, she plays older, she plays a great zombie and a brilliant “unfilmed” scene wherein you see how and why the boys fall in love with her. A lot of the film hinges on her and she more than holds up her own she helps carry it.

Best Performance by a Child Actor in a Leading Role

Joel Courtney in Super 8 (Paramount)

Cayden Boyd Fireflies in the Garden

Asa Butterfield Hugo

Joel Courtney Super 8

Dakota Goyo Real Steel

William Jøhnk Nielsen In a Better World

Hunter McCracken The Tree of Life

There was no category I dreaded deciding, whether for nominations or for a winner, more than this one. As I was whittling down the field I looked at the last 10 that I had and literally could’ve nominated them all. Again it seems like serendipity that in the first year I expand the acting categories all the fields are very strong. This is likely the strongest I’ve seen. Had I not split by gender and type of role it would’ve been incredibly unfair.

To give all these lead their due allow me to quickly comment on them: Hunter McCracken and Cayden Boyd are in similar situations in that their performances are long removed from the releases of their respective films. Boyd’s film was in the can, McCracken’s was in the edit. Hopefully Boyd transitions to older roles well as he has the talent and has reached that age and hopefully McCracken gets new opportunities should he want them after the long edit process in The Tree of Life. William Jøhnk Nielsen has perhaps the most impressive “simmer” of these actors. He has a lot of anger and frustration to play and he has to work up to a boil frequently. It’s a different kind of emotion than most of these actors had to work which is why this is one of the few categories I decided to expand this category to six nominees, which was unprecedented until this year in three instances.

Dakota Goyo was a great surprise in Real Steel not so much in the fact that he was able to steal scenes but in as much as he did it in almost every way possible. He had slightly less screen-time than Hugh Jackman I think but both in significance and performance made himself of equal importance. He added comedy, drama and heart, ultimately humanizing a film which wanted you to look past it facade.

Asa Butterfield had the unenviable task of playing a character I had expectations for in a story I knew. Even based on his previous two lead performances in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Nanny McPhee Returns I was amazed by him here despite the fact that I expected greatness. With his being cast in Ender’s Game on the heels of Hugo there’s a chance he’ll put together and unapproachable record as a young actor and proceed from there.

As I stated prior though this isn’t a cumulative award. The ensemble work in Super 8 is brilliant as stated above but they also split off and the common factor in the smaller groups is Joe Lamb plus one or a few of his friends, or his dad and Joe Lamb is Joel Courtney and vice versa. Joel not only worked with various scene partner permutations but with various notes and emotions. If you think of a kind of conversation a kid can hold in a film he likely had one and it was apt to be one of the best examples of the year: the diner speculation, the late night talk with Alice, the fight with his father, the fake movie dialogue, etc. Not only is he natural in all these situations but effective and makes the movie work.

This is a film about kids, Joe specifically, that is told through the guise of a sci-fi tale and for it to work the performance has to be strong. The performance is brilliant therefore the film achieves greatness.

Best Performance by a Child Actress in a Supporting Role

Elle Fanning in We Bought a Zoo (20th Century Fox)

Landry Bender The Sitter

Celine Buckens War Horse

Olivia Crocicchia Terri
Elle Fanning We Bought a Zoo

Joey King Battle: Los Angeles

Giving someone two nominations let alone two wins is not a decision that should be taken lightly. However, it is also not a reason to begrudge someone an awards they clearly deserve. It’s also not something you should do simply because a performer does the opposite of what you expect. Yet when the performer not only earns it and plays that opposite character just as well if not better than it has been earned no matter how that may be interpreted. She is funny, genuine, sweet and garners your sympathy in very little screen time here. A well-deserved double.

Best Performance by a Child Actor in a Supporting Role

Ryan Lee in Super 8 (Paramount)

Chase Ellison Fireflies in the Garden

Colin Ford We Bought a Zoo

Ryan Lee Super 8
Bill Milner X-Men: First Class

Bridger Zadina Terri

“Excuse me, could we have another order of fries, my friend here is fat?”

As strange as it may sound this was likely the pivotal line in making up my mind of a few things: first, that my associating Super 8 and Stand by Me was not, is not and will never be insane so far as the interaction of the cast and second that Ryan Lee flat out knows what’s funny, understands comedic timing and how to deliver a line such that he achieves the most impact. It may be an innate knowledge but it’s knowledge nonetheless. Just think of some the best punchlines of the film:

“I made those M-80s myself…Yeah, that’s right!”


“There’s no talking in the silent reading area, it’s for silent reading.”

“I hope my electronic football is in there.”

However funny these are or are not to you may vary but if you’ve seen the film you know they are much funnier in context and due to the delivery than they are just on the page. So that plus the fact that out of everyone of Joe’s friends Lee hangs in there longest are why he wins. Comedy is hard at any age but when it’s easy for someone that’s special.