Meryl Streep & Michelle Williams: Honorary Golden Bear & More Critics Awards

Michelle Williams, Luke Kirby, Take This Waltz
Michelle Williams, Luke Kirby, Take This Waltz

With four nominations, Michel Hazanavicius' silent comedy-drama The Artist is the top nominee in the international categories of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle's 2011 Awards. (See further below the full list of Vancouver Film Critics nominations.) Starring Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, The Artist is set at the dawn of the talkie era, as screen icon George Valentin (Dujardin) sees his star fade while newcomer Peppy Miller (Bejo) becomes a hit in early talkies.

Hazanavicius says The Artist was inspired by the life of silent era superstar John Gilbert, but the film – officially an original screenplay – clearly owes quite a bit to What Price Hollywood? and the first two A Star Is Born movies. (Gilbert was, to a certain extent, an inspiration for those movies as well. His career stalled, while wife Ina Claire fared well in a couple of early talkies, most notably The Royal Family of Broadway. Gilbert's one-time girlfriend Greta Garbo, I should add, was a major silent film star before she became an even bigger star in talkies.)

In addition to Best Film, The Artist is up for Best Actor (Dujardin), Best Director, and Best Screenplay (also Hazanavicius). Its Best Film competitors are Alexander Payne's The Descendants, which also earned a Best Supporting Actress nod for Shailene Woodley (but not a Best Actor nod for George Clooney) and a mention for its screenplay; and Terrence Malick's Palme d'Or winner The Tree of Life, which is also up for Best Director and Best Supporting Actress (Jessica Chastain, also for Tate Taylor's The Help and Jeff Nichols' Take Shelter). Competing with Hazanavicius and Malick for Best Director is Martin Scorsese for Hugo.

Vying with Jean Dujardin in the Best Actor category are Michael Fassbender for his ever-horny but sexually frustrated New Yorker in Steve McQueen's Shame and Michael Shannon for his paranoid family man in Take Shelter. Up for Best Actress are Elizabeth Olsen for Sean Durkin's thriller Martha Marcy May Marlene, Meryl Streep for her portrayal of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in Phyllida Lloyd's The Iron Lady, and Michelle Williams for her portrayal of another real-life individual – a much better-looking, more charming, and more intelligent one: Marilyn Monroe – in My Week with Marilyn.

The nominees for Best Documentary are Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Patricio Guzmán's Nostalgia for the Light, James Marsh's Project Nim, Steve James' The Interrupters, and Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks' Surviving Progress. Up for Best Foreign Language Film are Asghar Farhadi's Berlin Film Festival winner A Separation, Lee Chang-dong's Poetry, and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's The Kid with a Bike.

Michelle Williams was also shortlisted in the Vancouver Critics' Canadian categories. She's a Best Actress contender for her married woman infatuated with Luke Kirby in Sarah Polley's Take This Waltz, which also features Vancouver-born Best Supporting Actor in a Canadian Feature nominee Seth Rogen as Williams' husband. Distributed by Magnolia Pictures, Take This Waltz should open in the United States some time in 2012.

Other Best Actress contenders in Canadian films are two Englishwomen, Keira Knightley for A Dangerous Method and Rachel Weisz for The Whistleblower, French superstar and Johnny Depp wife Vanessa Paradis for Jean-Marc Vallée's Café de flore, and Slovakian-born actress/director/screenwriter Ingrid Veninger for her mother/indie filmmaker in i am a good person/i am a bad person.

Café de flore is also up for Best Canadian Film, along with Ed Gass-Donnelly's Small Town Murder Songs and Ken Scott's Starbuck. Gass-Donnelly, Scott, and Vallée are vying with A Dangerous Method's David Cronenberg for the Best Director award. Cronenberg's period Jung/Freud drama also earned Best Supporting Actor in a Canadian Film nominations for Vincent Cassel and Viggo Mortensen.

Curiously, Canada's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar entry, Monsieur Lazhar, was shortlisted in only one category: Mohamed Fellag is in the running for Best Actor in a Canadian Film.

And finally, animator Marv Newland (Bambi Meets Godzilla) will be handed the 2012 Achievement Award for Contribution to the British Columbia Film and Television industry at the Vancouver Critics' awards ceremony, to be held at the Railway Club on January 9.

Take This Waltz photo: Magnolia Pictures.

Jean Dujardin, Missi Pyle, The Artist
Jean Dujardin, Missi Pyle, The Artist

The Artist
The Descendants
The Tree of Life

A Separation
The Kid with a Bike

Michael Fassbender, Shame
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Michael Shannon, Take Shelter

Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn
Albert Brooks, Drive
Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Jessica Chastain, The Help, Take Shelter, The Tree of Life
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants

Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
Martin Scorsese, Hugo

Cave of Forgotten Dreams
The Interrupters
Nostalgia for the Light
Project Nim
Surviving Progress

Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, The Descendants
Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, Moneyball

Café de flore
Small Town Murder Songs

Mohamed Fellag, Monsieur Lazhar
Patrick Huard, Starbuck
Peter Stormare, Small Town Murder Songs

Keira Knightley, A Dangerous Method
Vanessa Paradis, Café de flore
Ingrid Veninger, i am a good person/i am a bad person
Rachel Weisz, The Whistleblower
Michelle Williams, Take This Waltz

Vincent Cassel, A Dangerous Method
Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method
Seth Rogen, Take This Waltz

Hélène Florent, Café de flore
Jill Hennessy, Small Town Murder Songs
Hallie Switzer, i am a good person/i am a bad person

David Cronenberg, A Dangerous Method
Ed Gass-Donnelly, Small Town Murder Songs
Ken Scott, Starbuck
Jean-Marc Vallée, Café de flore

Daydream Nation
People of a Feather
Sisters & Brothers

Jean Dujardin/Missi Pyle/The Artist photo: The Weinstein Company

Meryl Streep: Berlin Film Festival Honorary Golden Bear Recipient

Meryl StreepMeryl Streep, a likely Best Actress Academy Award contender for Phyllida Lloyd's Margaret Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady, will receive an Honorary Golden Bear at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival next February 14. As part of the ceremony, The Iron Lady will be screened at the Berlinale Palast.

If Streep does get – the inevitable – Oscar nod for The Iron Lady, that'll be her seventeenth nomination and fourteenth in the Best Actress category. She has so far won two Oscars: Best Supporting Actress for Robert Benton's father-love drama Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Best Actress for Alan J. Pakula's Holocaust drama Sophie's Choice (1982).

In 2003, Streep shared with fellow The Hours co-stars Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore the Berlin Film Festival's Silver Bear for Best Actress. Six years later, Streep was the recipient of the Berlinale Camera.

Among Streep's other films are Fred Zinnemann's Julia (1977), starring Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave, and in which Streep has a small supporting role; Woody Allen's Manhattan (1979), as Allen's lesbian ex-wife; Karel Reisz's The French Lieutenant's Woman, as an actress romancing Jeremy Irons; and Mike Nichols' Silkwood (1983), playing nuclear plant whistleblower Karen Silkwood.

Also: Sydney Pollack's Best Picture Oscar winner Out of Africa (1985), with Robert Redford; Hector Babenco's expensive box office flop Ironweed (1987), a Depression era drama co-starring Jack Nicholson; Susan Seidelman's comedy She-Devil (1989), with Ed Begley Jr and Roseanne Barr; Mike Nichols' Postcards from the Edge (1990), as a Carrie Fisher-like Hollywood daughter battling Shirley MacLaine's Debbie Reynolds-like mother; and in Robert Zemeckis' visual-effects-laden comedy Death Becomes Her, co-starring Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis.

Plus Clint Eastwood's romantic drama The Bridges of Madison County (1995); Spike Jonze's Adaptation (2002), with Nicolas Cage and Chris Cooper; David Frankel's The Devil Wears Prada (2006), with Anne Hathaway; Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion (2006), with Lily Tomlin and Lindsay Lohan; and Robert Redford's political drama Lions for Lambs (2007), with Redford and Tom Cruise.

A few recent ones: Phyllida Lloyd's musical comedy Mamma Mia! (2008), a surprising blockbuster also featuring Amanda Seyfried, Colin Firth, and Pierce Brosnan; John Patrick Shanley's Doubt (2008), as a stern nun after Philip Seymour Hoffman's friendly priest; and Nora Ephron's Julie & Julia (2009), as cook Julia Child in the hit comedy featuring her other Doubt co-star, Amy Adams.

As part of the Berlinale's Meryl Streep homage, the festival will screen the following Streep movies:

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
By Robert Benton
With Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, Justin Henry

Sophie's Choice (1982)
By Alan J. Pakula
With Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Peter MacNicol, Günther Maria Halmer

Out of Africa (1985)
By Sidney Pollack
With Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Klaus Maria Brandauer

The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
By Clint Eastwood
With Meryl Streep, Clint Eastwood, Victor Slezak

A Prairie Home Companion (2006)
By Robert Altman
With Meryl Streep, Woody Harrelson, Kevin Kline, John C. Reilly

The Iron Lady (Great Britain 2011)
By Phyllida Lloyd
With Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Olivia Colman, Roger Allam

My Week with Marilyn, Michelle Williams, Simon Curtis
My Week with Marilyn: actress Michelle Williams, director Simon Curtis

'Love Crime': Surprising Top Ten Movies List

The Artist topped the Top Ten Movies of 2011 list compiled by the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle. Michel Hazanavicius' French-made comedy-drama set in Hollywood at the dawn of the sound era has been a critical favorite. The Artist, which stars Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, is also a front-runner for the 2012 Academy Awards.

Among the surprises in LaSalles' list – as in, movies that haven't received very much praise elsewhere – are: Simon Curtis' My Week with Marilyn, set during the time Marilyn Monroe was working with Laurence Olivier on Olivier's The Prince and the Showgirl in the late '50s; Alain Corneau's last film (Corneau died in August 2010), Crime d'amour / Love Crime, a psychological crime drama starring Kristin Scott Thomas as a ruthless executive and Ludivine Sagnier as her naive assistant; and the Anne Hathaway-Jim Sturgess romantic drama One Day, a critical and box office flop.

I should add that My Week with Marilyn has been winning tons of awards and mentions, but almost invariably for star Michelle Williams' portrayal of Monroe, and, sometimes, for Kenneth Branagh's performance as Olivier.

Below is LaSalles' top ten list, which also includes several titles frequently found on other lists, e.g., Woody Allen/Owen Wilson's Midnight in Paris, Bennett Miller/Brad Pitt's Moneyball, Paul Feig/Kristen Wiig's sleeper comedy hit Bridesmaids, and David Weissman and Bill Weber's documentary about the early years of the AIDS pandemic, We Were Here.

The Artist
My Week with Marilyn
One Day
Like Crazy
We Were Here
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Midnight in Paris
Love Crime

Michelle Williams/Simon Curtis/My Week with Marilyn photo: Laurence Cendrowicz / The Weinstein Company

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