The Best Performances of 2006

Of all the things that won, I have about the least trouble swallowing The Departed as Best Picture, as it was my second choice behind United 93.


Earlier today I attended the meeting of the St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association to vote for who and what we would be giving our awards to for 2006. Since the things I vote for never win (indeed, in all of the categories in which I voted [I refrained from voting in a few due to not having seen all of the nominated films], not a single thing that I voted for won), I thought I'd take the opportunity of writing this column to indulge myself with what I voted for, who/what I would have voted for had it been nominated, and why.

Of all the things that won, I have about the least trouble swallowing The Departed as Best Picture, as it was my second choice behind United 93. While I do not necessarily think that United 93 is either the best film of 2006 nor my favorite film, I do think that there is an assumed, unspoken criteria for the films that win Best Film in any capacity, and of the films I enjoyed this year, I think United 93 best fits the strange mold of this sort of film.

There were only a few categories where I felt very strongly about any of the nominees (much like my wasted votes, most of my nominations failed to be seconded and thus didn't even get to the voting stage), but Best Actor was one of them. My choice for the best performance by a male in any film of 2006, without any restrictions of who actually got nominated or any other funny rule like that, was Ryan Gosling for Half Nelson, who did indeed reach the final six nominees. And while I was not the only person who voted for him when the time came, he was smashed by Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. I like Whitaker a lot and think he is indeed great as Amin, but still, Gosling's grizzled, charismatic, deeply flawed but incredibly lovable Dan Dunne is a far better performance.

Best Actress was one of the categories in which I didn't vote, as I failed to see Running With Scissors, for which Annette Bening was nominated. It didn't really matter, anyway, because I wasn't too thrilled with any of the nominees (if I had been, I'd've made much more of a point to run out and see Scissors so I could vote). My nomination, which failed to be seconded, was Gretchen Mol in The Notorious Bettie Page. Of the performances that were actually nominated, and assuming Bening's performance would not have stolen away with it, my vote would have gone to Kate Winslet for Little Children. Helen Mirren won for The Queen by a landslide, surprise surprise.

Like the Best Actress category, my pick for Best Supporting Actor, Jim Broadbent for Art School Confidential (did everyone forget about this performance but me? Is this because everyone hated the film?), failed to make it in amongst the nominees. My second choice, Mark Wahlberg for The Departed, had a little better shot, but he didn't make it, either (nearly everyone in the world is passing him over for his castmate Jack Nicholson, which is totally bogus). I didn't vote in this category, either, as I failed to see Hollywoodland (Ben Affleck got a nomination for it), and Djimon Hounsou won for Blood Diamond. Out of the nominees, I would have voted for Steve Carell in Little Miss Sunshine.

I didn't vote in Best Supporting Actress, either, because Jill Clayburgh was nominated for Running With Scissors. I didn't even nominate anyone; no supporting actress really bowled me over this year. Jennifer Hudson won for Dreamgirls, but if I'd voted, it would have been for Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine.

Finally, a category that I actually voted in. Like Best Film, my vote went to Paul Greengrass for United 93, but Martin Scorsese won for The Departed. I can handle that, even if it isn't what I picked.

My nomination for Best Screenplay, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, was overlooked in favor of a bunch of crap (Bobby got a nomination? Really?). I voted for Thank You for Smoking, which tied with The Queen in the initial round of voting to win, but on the tiebreaker, from which everyone had to vote for one or the other, The Queen won. That was the closest I came to one of my picks winning.

The other category that I felt very strongly about one of the proper nominees was Best Foreign Language Film, in which my pick, Three Times (which was my official favorite film of 2006), was amazingly seconded by some unknown smart person (either that, or there were so few nominees in the first place that it managed to sneak in). In the end, I was the only person who voted for it, but it lost to Pan's Labyrinth, which is fine (at least it wasn't fucking Apocalypto, which was also nominated), because Labyrinth is indeed as good as you've heard. Another nominee, Pedro Almodovar's Volver, would have been a fine choice, too. At least the nominees and winner in this category weren't too embarrassing, by and large.

Of the five nominees for Best Documentary I had only seen one, An Inconvenient Truth, so I didn't vote. It wound up winning. My nomination was for This Film Is Not Yet Rated.

I didn't vote in Best Cinematography, either, on account of not seeing Hollywoodland or The Painted Veil. The Painted Veil won, which I can't weigh in on, for obvious reasons. I did not care for the cinematography in any of the nominated films (or those that I saw, anyway), and generally found it utilitarian at best. The uninspired choices look like the crap the Academy always trudges up for the Oscars-Flags of Our Fathers, The Departed, Babel? Who cares? My nomination went to Mark Lee Ping-bin's gorgeous work on Three Times. (Ping-bin is the non-Christopher Doyle cinematographer who works with Wong Kar-wai on a regular basis, and has been Three Times' director Hou Hsiao-hsien's cinematographer for years.)

In the Best Comedy or Musical category (way to ghettoize those genres, StLGFCA), Little Miss Sunshine stole the prize from Dreamgirls thanks to some absentee ballots. It was a close race. I voted for Jackass: Number Two-I'm pretty sure I'm the only film critic in America who thinks that Jackass is a better film than Borat (which was also nominated).

The Best Animated Film Category was much like the Best Documentary category, inasmuch as I have only seen one of the nominees, in this case Cars. It won.

Best Special Effects wound up being one of the true travesties of the day. It's a category that I don't much give a shit about, but the winner wound up being Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. While I liked Pirates just fine, why would it win this award? There was nothing particularly memorable in its special effects. I'm also suspicious that a lot of the people who voted were lying about having seen all of the nominees (especially the relatively obscure District B-13), which would account for the not-so-great special effects in the most-seen film of the year beating all of the obviously better special effects in all of the lesser-seen films. I voted for The Fountain, but I would have been perfectly happy if Pan's Labyrinth had won. Hell, even nominee Superman Returns would have been a better choice.

The Best Overlooked Film category was another where I doubted that everyone that voted had seen all of the films, especially due to the nature of the category. I didn't vote because I hadn't seen a couple of the nominees, and, unsurprisingly, the most-seen nominated film was the one that won, Running With Scissors. Of the nominees, I would have voted for Brick, and I nominated Andrew Bujalski's gem Mutual Appreciation.

Finally, for the Most Original, Innovative or Creative Film award, a film I voted for in multiple other categories, United 93, won, but it by no means deserved to win in this category. My vote went to Brick, but to be honest, I don't feel like there was a particularly strong contender in this category this year (although Pan's Labyrinth, which was not an official nominee but was nominated from the floor, is as good a choice as Brick).

Now just wait until the Oscars if you want to hear me really complain. | Pete Timmermann

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