Sakeriver Movie Awards for 2006

Huzzah! More than a full day remains before the Oscars and the SMAs are ready and rarin' to go!

OK, enough of that silliness, on with the show (I know you are all just waiting with bated breath):

Best Drama: The Departed

I really wanted to give this one to The Great New Wonderful--not only was it a really, really good movie but picking such an unknown film would have been really satisfying to my inner snob. In the end, though, I had to go with Scorsese. A lot of people think that this could be the one that breaks Scorsese's long streak of losing at the Oscars and I can see why. Thrillers don't get much more intense than The Departed and, besides, the whole cast was fantastic.

Runners-Up: Babel, Children of Men, The Great New Wonderful, Pursuit of Happyness, The Queen

Best Comedy: Little Miss Sunshine

I'm not completely sure why I picked this one. Borat was funnier, and all of the runners-up were smarter. Still, Little Miss Sunshine had a certain charm to it. I can't quite put my finger on what about it I like so much; I just like it. Not exactly high praise, I know, but there you have it.

Runners-Up: Borat: Cultural Learnings of American for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Stranger than Fiction, Thank You for Smoking, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story

Best Actor: Will Smith (Pursuit of Happyness)

This was another close one for me--Hugh Jackman really did a fantastic job in The Fountain. Ultimately, I chose Will Smith because I think his role was a little more challenging. See, the "down-on-his-luck guy who struggles and eventually makes good" story has been told enough times now that the shine has worn off, and it's really easy to let that role slide into cheese. Smith, though, actually brought tears to my eyes. I'm a pretty jaded movie snob but even I found this movie heart-warming, and that was entirely due to Smith's performance.

Runners-Up: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Departed), Paul Giamatti (Lady in the Water), Hugh Jackman (The Fountain)

Best Actress: Helen Mirren (The Queen)

So, it does turn out that Helen Mirren wins my award this year because she's the only one who qualified, but don't let that fool you. She really did do a fantastic job with this performance, investing her character with both authority and vulnerability. Mirren's performance inspired me to learn more about the real Queen Elizabeth--I can't think of much higher praise I could offer.

Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine)

Funny and moving--what more could you ask for? That's Alan Arkin for you. On the one hand, his grouchy old man schtick made me laugh out loud. At the same time, the relationship with his on-screen granddaughter was really quite touching. He really made the movie, for me anyway.

Runners-Up: Billy Crudup (Trust the Man), Robert Downey, Jr. (A Scanner Darkly), Eddie Murphy (Dreamgirls), Mark Wahlberg (The Departed)

Best Supporting Actress: Emma Thompson (Stranger than Fiction)

What struck me about Emma Thompson in Stranger than Fiction was how old she looked. That's one of the things I find so interesting about her, the way she can look so different from movie to movie. In this one, she just nailed her character--a curmudgeonly hermit of a writer. I'm never surprised when Thompson does a good job, but I'm always impressed.

Runners-Up: Adriana Barraza (Babel), Jacinda Barrett (The Last Kiss)


Heavily theme-oriented movies tend to be problematic. Either they focus too much on the theme at the expense of plot and character or they develop the film well but fail to really delve into the theme. Babel, fortunately, manages to do both very nicely. The central idea of the film is human communication--or, more accurately, miscommunication--and what really impressed me about the movie was how when I thought back over it, nearly every single interaction between any of the characters involved miscommunication in some way. But rather than getting lost in mere ideas, the writer managed to construct a very compelling set of intertwining storylines, which were brought to life by some very skillful performances. My one complaint would be Brad Pitt. Not to say he did a bad job, it's just that I don't understand why they would pick such an iconically young and virile actor for a role and then age him with makeup. For one thing, there are plenty of older-looking actors out there who could have carried off the role as well or better, and, for another, there didn't seem to be any particular reason for his character to look old. It's a pretty minor criticism, though, and I'd definitely recommend this one.

Viewed: 2/8/2007 | Released: 10/26/2006 | Score: A

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The Queen

Let me preface this review with the statement that I have little to no interest in the British monarchy. Oh, I do find the institution to be somewhat intriguing from a historical standpoint, but I have no real interest in the actual individuals as celebrities. Despite that, I found this movie to be quite compelling. To begin with, the acting was simply flawless across the board--Helen Mirren definitely deserves all the attention she's been getting this year on the awards circuit. The film documents the reactions of the Royal Family in the aftermath of Princess Diana's death and I would imagine that people who are interested in the royals will find that aspect of it fascinating. For me, though, it wasn't so much the action of the film that drew me in as what it revealed about the characters. We're presented with a portrait of people who are so isolated by privilege, so wrapped in layers of protocol and ceremony, that they are almost completely unable to relate to the ordinary people they supposedly symbolize. It actually left me feeling kind of sorry for them--it seems like a lonely life. A film that takes a subject I don't care anything about and manages to draw me in like that, well, that's a film I can recommend.

Viewed: 2/2/2007 | Released: 10/5/2006 | Score: A

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