I enjoy the back-patting ceremony of the Academy Awards as much as any other discerning cinephile, but I feel that there were some particularly outstanding performances and creations that were completely and unacceptably ignored this year at the Oscars. Below are my alternatives, the first annual round of Reiffschalgers.
Best Pictures: Children of Men and The Prestige
Alfonso Cuaron's dystopian masterpiece squeaked into 2006 in late December, but crowned the year like no other film could; the visual punch, brilliant direction, and outstanding script made this an artistic masterpiece in every respect. Markedly different but equally laudable was Christopher Nolan's film The Prestige, a film about dueling stage magicians bursting with cinematic energy. The film's shockingly dark tone was buoyed by incredible performances by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, and while the film itself wasn't as expertly honed as Children of Men, the sum of its parts awards The Prestige the shared title of best picture of the year.
Best Actor: Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
Gosling provides a staggeringly powerful performance as an urban school-teacher battling an addiction to crack cocaine. It's incredible to think that just a few years after thickly making his way through The Notebook he would put in a performance so brilliantly balanced and alarmingly clear.
Best Actress: Ellen Page, Hard Candy
While she may have been interchangeable and forgettable in the over-wraught X-Men: The Last Stand, she proved to be the fiercest actress of the year, turning in an unwaveringly strong performance as a girl physically and mentally torturing a man who she believes to be a murderous pedophile, all the while maintaining an immaculately icy composure. Abigail Breslin may have stolen hearts in Little Miss Sunshine, but the young Page stole breath in this intensely wound and little-seen thriller.
Best Directors: Alfonso Cuaron, Children of Men, Christopher Nolan, The Prestige. Honorable mention: Paul Greengrass, United 93
For reasons already mentioned Cuaron and Nolan deserve the highest honors for perfecting their differing visions with brazen confidence. Greengrass, having already proven himself as a maestro of the action film with The Bourne Supremacy, created United 93 with urgency, meticulous care, and most importantly of all, humbleness. What could have been a melodramatic and exploitative film, United 93 is a testament to heroism, survival, and allegiance to something more important than the flag: the nation it waves over.
Best Foreign Films: Lady Vengeance and The Proposition
Korean wunderkind Chan-Wook Park finished his uneven Revenge trilogy with the half-gorgeous, half-gruesome art-house thriller about a woman who leaves jail to confront the ones who put her there. The direction is ingenious, and after a rocky start, Park's trilogy ends with a refreshingly poignant and graceful finish. The Proposition, an Australian film from rock-auteurs Nick Cave and John Hillcoat, is as blisteringly violent as The Departed, and is shot with a visual brogue befitting the outlaws it entails. It's also filled with the finest ensemble performance, including Guy Pearce, Danny Huston and Ray Winstone, to be found this year.
Brick, for best script.
Thank You For Smoking, for the other best script.
Inside Man, for best supporting actor: Clive Owen.
The Fountain, for best supporting actress: Rachel Weisz, and best Musical Score.
Mission Impossible III, for best summer movie.
American Gun, for best Forest Whitaker (I'm serious here.)
Casino Royale, for best Bond.