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Critics’ Choices: French Family Drama Tops + Hollywood Nightmare Is Decade’s Best Film

Summer Hours Juliette Binoche Charles Berling Jérémie Renier: Critics' choices Best Movie
Critics’ choices: Summer Hours with Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, and Jérémie Renier. Olivier Assayas’ French-made family drama was the Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s, the New York Film Critics Circle’s, and the Boston Society of Film Critics’ Best Foreign Language Film of 2009. Summer Hours was also the Best Film of the year according to indieWIRE’s latest “critics’ choices poll.” Coincidentally, the top movie of last year’s poll was also a French production starring Juliette Binoche: Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Flight of the Red Balloon.

Critics’ choices: French family drama ‘Summer Hours’ & Tilda Swinton top indieWIRE poll

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Critics’ choices: Olivier Assayas’ French family drama Summer Hours / L’heure d’été has been named the Best Film of 2009 in indieWIRE‘s annual poll featuring the choices of 114 movie reviewers and bloggers, Eugene Hernandez reports. Also, David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. was chosen the Best Film of the Decade.

Starring Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, and Jérémie Renier, Summer Hours tells the story of three siblings fighting for the possessions left behind by their deceased mother (Edith Scob) at the family’s summer house.

Earlier this month, Summer Hours was voted the Best Foreign Language Film of 2009 by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle, and the Boston Society of Film Critics.

Runners-up ‘A Serious Man’ & ‘The Hurt Locker’ + ‘Halloween 2’

Following in second place in the indieWIRE poll was Joel and Ethan Coen’s A Serious Man, about the travails of a suburban Jewish man (Michael Stuhlbarg), and Kathryn Bigelow’s widely acclaimed Iraq War drama The Hurt Locker, featuring a cast that includes Jeremy Renner, Ralph Fiennes, Brian Geraghty, Anthony Mackie, and Guy Pearce.

Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air, which has been winning lots of awards from U.S. critics groups, was no. 11 in the list. Michael Haneke’s European Film Award winner The White Ribbon was no. 14 (perhaps because not enough indieWIRE interviewees have seen it), Precious was no. 20, Avatar no. 26, Star Trek no. 46, and both Capitalism: A Love Story and The Lovely Bones no. 67.

Even Michael Jackson’s This Is It and Sacha Baron Cohen’s Bruno made the cut at, respectively, no. 57 and no. 63, while Jean-Marc Vallée’s C.R.A.Z.Y., a 2005 release, was no. 61.

And let’s not forget critics’ pick Halloween II at no. 59, along with Laurent Cantet’s 2008 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or winner The Class.

Christoph Waltz & rockumentary

Other top choices in the indieWIRE Critics’ Poll include the following:

  • Kathryn Bigelow as Best Director.
  • Joel and Ethan Coen’s A Serious Man as Best Screenplay.
  • Tilda Swinton as Best Performer in a Leading Role for Erick Zonca’s Julia.
  • Unsurprisingly, Christoph Waltz as Best Performer in a Supporting Role for his evil Nazi in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Mo’Nique was a distant second for her mean mom in Precious.

Sacha Gervasi’s rockumentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil, about a Canadian heavy metal band that doesn’t quite make it to the top, was voted the Best Documentary of 2009. Agnès Varda’s autobiographical The Beaches of Agnès was a close second.

Steve McQueen’s Hunger, which recently shared the Toronto Film Critics’ Best Picture award (with Inglourious Basterds), was the Best First Feature, while Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers was the Best Undistributed Film of the year.

Potential Oscar contenders + Michael Jackson & Anna Karina

In the Best Director category, Lucrecia Martel was a surprising no. 2 for the little-seen The Headless Woman. Olivier Assayas was no. 3 for Summer Hours, while tied in the no. 5 spot were Joel and Ethan Coen for A Serious Man and Michael Haneke for The White Ribbon.

In the Best Lead Performance category, the runners-up were Charlotte Gainsbourg for Antichrist and Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker.

Potential Oscar contenders were all over the place:

Both Mo’Nique and Christoph Waltz were also included on the Best Lead Performance list, and so were:

  • Agnès Varda for the documentary The Beaches of Agnès (no. 25).
  • Adam Sandler for Funny People (no. 26).
  • Sasha Grey for The Girlfriend Experience (no. 28).
  • Michael Jackson for This Is It (no. 29).
  • Paul Rudd for I Love You Man & Julia Roberts for Duplicity (no. 31).
  • And, also ahead of Oscar shoo-in Sandra Bullock, Anna Karina (no. 31) for Jean-Luc Godard’s 1966 effort Made in U.S.A., which has been recently released on DVD in the U.S.

Strangely missing in action

Considering some of those that managed to sneak in the indieWIRE Critics’ Poll, strangely missing from the list are:

Mulholland Dr. Naomi Watts. Critics' choices: 2000s Sunset Blvd Best Movie of Decade
Critics’ choices: Mulholland Dr. with Naomi Watts. A sort of early 21st century Sunset Blvd., David Lynch’s 2001 feel-not-so-good drama about failed dreams, psychosis, and murder, is the Best Movie of the Decade as per indieWIRE’s latest “critics’ choices poll.” Olivier Assayas’ Summer Hours, the year’s Best Film also as per the same critics’ choices poll, is no. 43 on the Best of the Decade list. Besides Naomi Watts as the wannabe version of Gloria Swanson’s has-been, Mulholland Dr. also features Laura Elena Harring (a.k.a. Laura Harring), Justin Theroux, Melissa George, and veteran Ann Miller (Easter Parade, On the Town).

Should we trust those ‘critics’ choices’? Just ask A.I.

Here’s why we shouldn’t believe in Best of lists all that much – even if they’re fun to read:

Among the top films of the decade according to indieWIRE’s polled critics, this year’s winner, Summer Hours, can be found way down at no. 43. Last year’s winner, Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Flight of the Red Balloon – which, coincidentally or not, also stars Juliette Binoche – is no. 32.

Perhaps that means 2008 and 2009 were really bad years, or perhaps critics merely change their minds when they go from one list to the other. Or perhaps indieWIRE polled a whole array of totally different critics.

Or perhaps not.

Oscar mismatch

Something else worth noting, only one of the Top Ten Films of the Decade received a Best Picture Academy Award nomination: Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood (2007). Anderson was also shortlisted for Best Director and so was David Lynch for Mulholland Dr. (2001).

There are no Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominees to be found on that particular Top Ten list.

And let’s not ignore the fact that the A Serious ManThe Hurt Locker Top Ten Films of 2009 runner-up tie came unraveled on the Best of the Decade list: The Hurt Locker is no. 46 and A Serious Man is no. 57.

Now, take this very, very seriously: Steven Spielberg’s A.I.: Artificial Intelligence is one of the Top Ten Movies of the Decade.

Critics’ choices: Top Ten Films of 2009

1 Summer Hours.
2 A Serious Man & The Hurt Locker.
3 Inglourious Basterds.
4 Fantastic Mr. Fox.
5 35 Shots of Rum.
6 The Headless Woman.
7 Two Lovers.
8 Up.
9 Police, Adjective.
10 In the Loop.

Critics’ choices: Top Ten Films of the Decade

1 Mulholland Dr. (2001).
2 In the Mood for Love (2000).
3 Yi Yi (2000).
4 There Will Be Blood (2007).
5 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).
6 The New World (2005).
7 Before Sunset (2004).
8 Zodiac (2007).
9 Platform (2000).
10 A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001).

And finally, needless to say, the somewhat offbeat critics’ choices found on the indieWIRE poll chart are not to be confused with the reliably mainstream nominees and winners of the Broadcast Film Critics Association’s Critics’ Choice Awards.

The Hurt Locker Best Film: Explosive Iraq War drama tops critics' choices
Critics’ choices: The Hurt Locker. The – literally – explosive Iraq War drama is this awards season’s top Best Film choice. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, and toplining Jeremy Renner, Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, Brian Geraghty, and Anthony Mackie, the war thriller was the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle’s top pick, along with director Bigelow.

Explosive Iraq War drama + Meryl Streep & George Clooney top Oklahoma

More awards season news: The Hurt Locker has won another critics’ award for Best Picture, this time from the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle. The explosive Iraq War drama’s director, Kathryn Bigelow, received top honors as well, though screenwriter Mark Boal was once again bypassed by somebody else(s): Scott Neustadtler and Michael H. Weber’s (500) Days of Summer was the Best Original Screenplay, while Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner won for their Up in the Air adaptation. (See full list of Oklahoma Film Critics winners further below.)

There were few surprises among the other winners, unless you count another win for Mo’Nique (for Precious), Christoph Waltz (for Inglourious Basterds), George Clooney (for Up in the Air), or (to a lesser extent) Meryl Streep (for Julie & Julia) as a surprise.

Chanel surprise

Now, one real surprise was the choice of Anne Fontaine’s Coco Before Chanel / Coco avant Chanel, starring Audrey Tautou, as the year’s Best Foreign Language Film. So far, the Coco Chanel biopic has been all but ignored by U.S.-based critics’ groups – at least when it comes to their awards lists. It earned a nomination from the St. Louis and Broadcast Film Critics, but that’s about it.

OFCC members are Oklahoma-based movie critics who write for print and online outlets that publish or post reviews of current film releases. Among the media outlets represented are The Oklahoman, The Tulsa World, The Oklahoma Gazette, Edmond Life & Leisure, and others.

Critics’ choices: Oklahoma winners

Best Film of 2009: The Hurt Locker.

Up in the Air.
Inglourious Basterds.
(500) Days of Summer.
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.
A Serious Man.
District 9.
Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Best Foreign Language Film: Coco Before Chanel.

Best Actress: Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia.

Best Actor: George Clooney, Up in the Air.

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds.

Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique, Precious.

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker.

Best Screenplay (Original): Scott Neustadtler & Michael H. Weber, (500) Days of Summer.

Best Screenplay (Adaptation): Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air.

Best Documentary: Anvil! The Story of Anvil, dir.: Sacha Gervasi.

Best Animated Film: Fantastic Mr. Fox, dir.: Wes Anderson.

Best First Feature (tie): Neill Blomkamp, District 9 & Marc Webb, (500) Days of Summer.

Obviously Worst Film: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, dir.: Michael Bay.

Not-So-Obviously Worst Film: Amelia, dir.: Mira Nair.

Meryl Streep Julie and Julia: Critics' choices. Best Actress favorite
Critics’ choices: Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia. In Nora Ephron’s two-pronged comedy-drama, Meryl Streep plays chef Julia Child while Amy Adams is her modern-day would-be counterpart, cook/blogger/author Julie Powell. A solid domestic box office success, Julie & Julia has earned Streep several Best Actress awards; curiously, Adams has been totally bypassed. Also in the Julie & Julia cast: Streep’s The Devil Wears Prada fellow player Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Jane Lynch, Frances Sternhagen, and the voice of Mary Kay Place (both heard and seen in another 2009 Meryl Streep hit, Nancy Meyers’ It’s Complicated.)

Phoenix Film Critics’ choices: Meryl Streep & George Clooney

Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino’s violent World War II revenge fantasy, was the Phoenix Film Critics Society’s Best Picture of 2009. Tarantino was chosen Best Director, while the film’s cast, which includes Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Diane Kruger, and Eli Roth, was cited as the year’s Best Ensemble Cast. (See the full list of Phoenix Film Critics winners further below.)

Although Inglourious Basterds has previously been named the year’s Best Picture – e.g., in Toronto, tied with Steve McQueen’s Hunger – that particular category has been dominated by Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq War drama The Hurt Locker and Jason Reitman’s socially conscious dramatic comedy Up in the Air.

The Phoenix Film Critics’ choices that could be called downright predictable were those in the acting categories: George Clooney for Up in the Air, Meryl Streep for Julie & Julia, Mo’Nique for Precious, and Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds.

Michael Moore & Pedro Almodóvar: Minor & major upsets

Michael Moore’s Best Documentary win for Capitalism: A Love Story was a minor upset, as Moore’s film has also been mentioned elsewhere, but the Phoenix Film Critics’ Best Foreign Language Film came as a major surprise: Pedro Almodóvar’s film noir homage Broken Embraces, starring Penélope Cruz and Lluís Homar. All but ignored by U.S. critics this awards season, Broken Embraces / Los Abrazos rotos is up for a Golden Globe.

Duncan Jones’ Moon, winner of the 2009 British Independent Film Award, was chosen Overlooked Film of the year. Sam Rockwell stars as a man who discovers he may not be alone on the titular satellite.

Critics’ choices: Phoenix winners

Best Picture: Inglourious Basterds.

Runners-up (in alphabetical order):
District 9.
(500) Days of Summer.
The Hurt Locker.
Sherlock Holmes.
Star Trek.
Up in the Air.

Best Foreign Language Film: Broken Embraces.

Best Documentary: Capitalism: A Love Story.

Best Actress: Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia.

Best Actor: George Clooney, Up in the Air.

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds.

Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique, Precious.

Best Acting Ensemble: Inglourious Basterds.

Best Director: Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds.

Best Original Screenplay: Up.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Up in the Air.

Best Cinematography: Avatar.

Best Film Editing: Avatar.

Best Original Score: Up.

Best Original Song: “Weary Kind” from Crazy Heart.

Best Animated Film: Up.

Best Production Design: Avatar.

Best Costume Design: The Young Victoria.

Best Visual Effects: Avatar.

Best Stunts: Star Trek.

Overlooked Film: Moon.

Breakout on Camera: Gabourey Sidibe, Precious.

Breakout Behind the Camera: Neill Blomkamp, District 9.

Best Performance by a Youth – Male: Jae Head, The Blind Side.

Best Performance by a Youth – Female: Saoirse Ronan, The Lovely Bones.

Best Live Action Family Film: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Oklahoma Film Critics Circle website.

Jérémie Renier, Charles Berling, and Juliette Binoche Summer Hours image: Jeannick Gravelines / MK2 Productions.

Naomi Watts Mulholland Dr. image: Universal Pictures.

The Hurt Locker explosion image: Jonathan Olley / Summit Entertainment.

Meryl Streep Julie & Julia image: Columbia Pictures.

“Critics’ Choices: French Family Drama Tops + Hollywood Nightmare Is Best Film of the Decade” last updated in April 2018.

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1 comment

Chimar Lopez -

What a joke picking Anvil for top documentary…the so-called documentary was edited to show events out of order…the director has a scene at a radio studio which happened in 2006 followed by a meeting which happened in 2007 followed by the band receiving their CDs in August 2007 and culminating in a concert which happened in October 2006…events appeared to be shown in linear fashion…totally manipulative and a lie…if you didn’t know that then you were had…Anvil is nothing but a reality TV show like Survivor…but it certainly isn’t a documentary


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