The 2007 IRAs - the grand finale to the awards season -- took place Saturday night from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. It's the 32 year the IRAs have taken place and age took its toll: only eight members were present (the lowest total in memory), with another four providing absentee ballots. Teaching engagements, family crises, living in other parts of the country and more have all taken their toll. After more than a decade of membership, I tentatively brought in a new member, Aaron, aka richboy. His taste was mocked, his entries were belittled, his lack of cinematic knowledge was challenged. In short, he was accepted. Since Aaron has never known a world in which the IRAs didn't exist, hopefully he'll contribute to its continued existence for years to come. All absent members were missed, but the results were excellent nonetheless.
THE 2007 IRA WINNERS
Best Picture -- L'Enfant
Best Director -- Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, L'Enfant
Best Actor -- Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
Best Actress -- Maggie Cheung, Clean
Best Supporting Actor -- Anthony Mackie, Half Nelson and We Are Marshall
Best Supporting Actress -- Carmen Maura -- Volver, Free Zone and Queens
Best Screenplay -- (tie) Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, L'Enfant and Guillermo Del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth
Best Cinematography -- Emmanuel Lubezki, Children Of Men
Best Score -- Philip Glass, The Illusionist and Notes On A Scandal
Best Production Design -- Eugenio Caballero, Pan's Labyrinth
Best Costumes -- Sharen Davis, Dreamgirls, The Pursuit Of Happyness, Akeelah and the Bee
Dramamine Award (For A Movie That Makes You Sick) -- Babel
Sominex Award (For A Movie That Puts You To Sleep) -- The Da Vinci Code
Mechanical Actor -- Robert Downey Jr, A Scanner Darkly, A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints, Fur: An Imaginary Portrait Of Diane Arbus, and The Shaggy Dog
Mechanical Actress -- Julianne Moore, Children Of Men, Freedomland
THE 2007 IRA AWARDS -- THE COMPLETE RESULTS IN ORDER OF VOTING
Again, 8 members were present, with 4 more members providing absentee ballots. For each category, we go around the room, naming our top five point selection. Then we go around the room again, naming our five nominees in order (with descending votes of 5 pts, 4 pts. 3 pts. and so on.) A winner is tabulated, a vote to rescind is made (in which a majority of the people voting must reject the first place vote-getter) and a winner is crowned. This takes a remarkably long time.
Sharen Davis for Dreamgirls, The Pursuit Of Happyness, Akeelah and the Bee -- 35 points
John A. Dunn for The Notorious Bettie Page, Factory Girl, The Return -- 27 points
Chung Man Yee for Curse Of The Golden Flower -- 20 poiints
Ruth Myers for The Painted Veil, Infamous, Monster House -- 12 points
Sabine Daigeler for Volver -- 10 points
The dirty secret of the IRAs is that just like the Oscars it can focus on flashy period films and fantasy tales for the tech awards, rather than, say, exploring the subtle use of costumes to explore character in, of, Half Nelson or the like. So Dreamgirls -- written and directed by one-time IRA voter Bill Condon -- won the first award. It garnered what would be the highest point total of the night. Did this presage a Dreamgirls sweep?
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Eugenio Caballero for Pan's Labyrinth -- 32 points
(tie) John Myhre for Dreamgirls -- 22 points
Jim Clay and Geoffrey Kirkland for Children Of Men -- 22 points
Ann Chakraverty, Pierre Pell and Stephane Rosenbaum for The Science Of Sleep -- 13 points
Gideon Ponte for The Notorious Bettie Page and Nacho Libre -- 9 points
Dreamgirls has another strong showing but it's the flashy, Oscar-winning work of Pan's Labyrinth that triumphs handily. Some grumblings about highlighting a film that already won an Oscar can be heard. But what can you do? Pan's Labyrinth was hardly a typical Oscar winner and it was clearly seen and appreciated by the IRA community.
Philip Glass for The Illusionist, Notes On A Scandal, Roving Mars -- 20 points
Alberto Iglesias for Volver -- 18 points
Alexandre Desplat for The Painted Veil and The Queen -- 16 points
Neil Young for Neil Young: Heart Of Gold -- 14 points
Brian Eno, David Roback and Tricky for Clean -- 13 points
Philip Glass, one of my favorite composers and a touchstone throughout my entire journalism career, wins his first IRA award in a tight race. There was some back and forth: some voted for his atypical score for The Illusionist but NOT for his more Glass-ian work in Notes On A Scandal while others preferred their Glass straight up and voted for Scandal instead of The Illusionist but ultimately his body of work for the year was acknowledged. No one had seen Roving Mars, an IMAX film. I was thrilled for Glass, but my first choice was Neil Young's brilliant songs for the terrific concert film Neil Young: Heart Of Gold. And this was probably the first nomination for Brian Eno, another personal favorite.
Emmanuel Lubezki for Children Of Men -- 24 points
Guillermo Navaroo for Pan's Labyrinth, Night At The Museum -- 18 points
(tie) Alain Marcoen for L'Enfant -- 12 points
Tobias Schliesser for Dreamgirls -- 12 points
Gokhan Tiryaki for Climates -- 10 points
Gyula Pados for Fateless, Basic Instinct 2 -- 9 points
Coming into the IRAs, I was most worried about Army Of Shadows, a 1969 film by Jean-Pierre Melville that had played at Film Forum. I liked but didn't love it (I'd take Le Samorai or Bob Le Flambeur any day) and philosophically rejected the film as clearly being a revival, whatever the technical ruling might be. (A film is eligible for an IRA when it is first screened in NYC during a commercial run and that was the case with Army Of Shadows.) But Dreamgirls and Children of Men were two more movies I liked but didn't love that were showing strong support. If Children Of Men deserved any award, it was cinematography for the exciting camerawork (and Dreamgirls getting costumes made perfect sense too). My pick was L'Enfant, another hand-held gem from the Dardennes that I found utterly gripping. And no one could imagine what life must have been like for Pados to go from the grim Holocaust film Fateless to Basic Instinct 2. The mind reels at the weirdness of it.
(tie) Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne for L'Enfant -- 17 points
Guillermo Del Toro for Pan's Labyrinth -- 17 points
Rian Johnson for Brick -- 12 points
(tie) Robin Campillo and Laurent Cantet for Heading South -- 10 points
Bill Condon for Dreamgirls -- 10 points
Another satisfying win for me. Some objected that the script Pan's Labyrinth made no sense and violated its own rules. (Hey, you can't trust a faun, so expecting it to follow its own rules is crazy, I say.) It made perfect dream-sense to me (ie. it felt right) and I'm a sucker for fairy tales. Tell me I've got three tasks to complete and I'm sold. And having L'Enfant tie for the win was very promising. It was one of my ten favorite films of the year, but I didn't think the film would be widely seen enough by the IRA voters (I didn't really recall them touting the Dardennes before) so I started scribbling in that film in the upper categories, hoping it might become a player. And Brick, with the cleverest fake slang since Clueless, was a welcome sight as well. The only surprise was the coming strength of Heading South, a film I'd never even heard about before the IRAs.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Carmen Maura for Volver, Free Zone and Queens -- 23 points
(tie) Simone Signoret for Army Of Shadows -- 14 points
Lily Tomlin for A Prairie Home Companion -- 14 points
Lubna Azabal for Changing Times -- 12 points
Meryl Streep for The Devil Wears Prada and A Prairie Home Companion -- 12 points
A happy for Maura after reuniting with Almodovar in one of my favorite films of the year. I was probably the only one to see the terrible, half-witted Queens so I couldn't get enough attention to have her award designated for the other two but NOT Queens. And everyone was astonished and disbelieving -- had Maura really had a small role in Amos Gitai's Free Zone? Apparently she had. Surely Signoret will never be nominated for another IRA, having been dead for many years. And much bickering over whether Streep was a lead or a supporting role in Prada. Since I strongly believed she was a supporting role (Anne Hathaway is clearly the sole lead), I was glad to see Streep mentioned here.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Anthony Mackie for Half Nelson, We Are Marshall -- 25 points
Nick Nolte for Clean, Over The Hedge, Off The Black, Peaceful Warrior -- 22 points
Mark Wahlberg for The Departed -- 21 points
Sergi Lopez for Pan's Labyrinth -- 12 points
Eddie Murphy for Dreamgirls -- 11 points
Now I'm really excited. Mackie wins best supporting actor in a really tight race? That bodes well for Ryan Gosling, I think, unless the film has just squandered all its good will. In any case, I'm thrilled Mackie beat Nolte out of winning for Clean. He was a fine presence in that film, but I just didn't like it. And though someone said Nolte is always good lately, they clearly hadn't seen the absurdly bad Peaceful Warrior, which is getting a new commercial launch this year after playing for a few weeks in 2006 at Sundance Cinemas.
Maggie Cheung for Clean -- 27 points
Penelope Cruz for Volver -- 22 points
Maggie Gyllenhaal for Sherrybaby, Stranger Than Fiction, World Trade Center and Monster House -- 14 points
Shareeka Epps for Half Nelson -- 13 points
Charlotte Rampling for Heading South -- 11 points
Well, I wasn't fond of Clean and Maggie Cheung's character was no Marianne Faithfull. (Really, I found the finale almost unbearable and silly.) But she's talented and of course beautiful. If only she hadn't been blocking Cruz, who gave the best performance of her career in the best Almodovar film in a long, long time. Seeing Epps on the list also pleased me; another good sign for Gosling, who I prayed the IRA voters weren't going to dismiss because he'd already received so much attention (including an Oscar nomination) or simply because of The Notebook.
Ryan Gosling for Half Nelson -- 30 points
Jeremy Renier for L'Enfant -- 23 points
Sacha Baron Cohen for Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazahkstan -- 13 points
Joseph Gordon-Levitt for Brick -- 11 points
Melvil Poupaud for Time To Leave -- 10 points
Hurrah! Gosling wins with the biggest point total of any acting category. Well deserved, since it was a remarkable performance that established him as one of the most exciting actors around. And the runner-up was the lead from L'Enfant? Now I'm really thrilled at the possibility of these two films duking it out for Best Picture. More good news: Cohen getting deserved attention for Borat, last year's winner Gordon-Levitt getting a nod for Brick (my favorite film of the year) and Poupaud for Time To Leave, another film on my ten best list. This is shaping into a very good year for me, IRA-wise.
Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne for L'Enfant -- 33 points
Pedro Almodovar for Volver -- 25 points
Alfonso Cuaron for Children Of Men -- 18 points
Guillermo Del Toro for Pan's Labyrinth -- 13 points
Lajos Koltai for Fateless -- 8 points
Now L'Enfant is gaining momentum. Half Nelson is nowhere to be seen, but frankly the actors were far better than the script or the direction, so I'm not upset. And yes, Children Of Men is here, but its way behind Volver and L'Enfant in points total, so things are looking good.
L'Enfant -- 27 points
Half Nelson -- 18 points
Volver -- 17 points
Children Of Men -- 14 points
Pan's Labyrinth -- 12 points
Hurrah again! I'm just enthralled by everything the Dardenne brothers do, so I'm thrilled to see them acknowledged at the IRAs. And Half Nelson and Volver and Pan's Labyrinth as well? This might as well be my top ten list. Children Of Men is the only filmI wouldn't include myself, but Cuaron is a major talent and I found the film interesting if not wholly successful and it's only ranked fourth, so I couldn't be happier. The list of my five picks for Best Picture coming into the IRAs (meaning the films I would push for and thought had a chance) were Brick, Volver, Pan's Labyrinth, Borat and Half Nelson. I had L'Enfant way down in my picks for acting and directing, but immediately threw them towards the top once I saw a core group of people voting for it. That's the key to smart voting in a group like this: you've got to adjust your ballot on the fly and encourage people to keep voting for a movie you like, even if it's not your first or second pick. Also, you might even throw in a movie someone else is supporting that doesn't have a chance; just give it a point or two so they'll hear their film mentioned and keep voting for it. Why? To keep them from dumping their favorite and throwing their allegiance to another film that DOES have a chance and you don't want to win. Oh the machinations of the IRAs.
DRAMAMINE (A MOVIE THAT MAKES YOU SICK)
Babel -- 21 points
13 Tzameti -- 14 points
Little Miss Sunshine -- 10 points
Manderlay -- 7 points
Babel -- aka Crash with a passport, as some dubbed it -- was a well-deserved winner here. Despite some decent acting in certain sections, the links between the segments were forced to say the least and the overall structure is a silly, meaningless stunt. How many times will they remake the same film with diminishing returns.
SOMINEX AWARD (A MOVIE THAT PUTS YOU TO SLEEP)
The Da Vinci Code -- 12 points
The History Boys -- 8 points
The Good German Shepherd -- 7 points
Voting is always widely scattered in these negative categories. There are a lot more films that bore you than thrill you. I was happy to bring attention to The Da Vinci Code and get it honored here. I loved the play The History Boys but the film did somehow manage to completely bollocks the transfer from stage to screen. And The Good German Shepherd is a very funny mashup of The Good German and The Good Shepherd. Personally, I thought The Good German was a fun stunt (and Cate Blanchett was terrific) while The Good Shepherd was very interesting and is one I'm eager to see a second time.
Robert Downey Jr. for A Scanner Darkly, A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints, Fur: An Imaginary Portrait Of Diane Arbus, and The Shaggy Dog -- 21 points
Kevin Spacey for Superman Returns -- 11 points
Chazz Palminteri for A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints, Running Scared, Little Man, Arthur and the Invisibles -- 10 points
Julianne Moore for Children Of Men -- 19 points
Vera Farmiga for The Departed -- 16 points
(tie) Abigail Breslin for Little Miss Sunshine -- 13 points
Bryce Dallas Howard for Lady in The Water and Manderlay -- 13 points