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THE AWARDS SEASON BEGINS WITH A DOUBLE TRIUMPH FOR CLINT EASTWOOD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s always a lot of fuss about the annual National Board of Review awards. Maybe that’s because the group, peopled with self-acknowledged amateur critics, is first to announce their picks. Except for “Letters From Iwo Jima,” the board’s Number One choice, the Best Pictures are listed in alphabetical order. Notably missing: “The Queen,” “Little Children,” “Apocalypta,” “Dreamgirls,” “Happy Feet,” “Inland Empire” “Borat,” “Casino Royale” and “Pan’s Labyrinth.” It’s worth noting that Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers,” while managing to make the list, lost out to Eastwood’s own “Letters From Iwo Jima” in the battle for the Number One spot. It should also be noted that most, if not all, of the actors in “Letters From Iwo Jima” speak Japanese, and that much of “Babel” is not in English; yet Pedro Almodovar’s “Volver” was not among the top 10 films. Instead, it was named the Best Foreign-Language Film. Makes sense, right?

Eastwood's "Letters From Iwo Jima" fared well with the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, too. To read all of that group's picks, click here.


THE 10 BEST FILMS OF 2006

LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Shido Nakamura, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase, Yuki Matsuzaki, Hiroshi Watanabe, Takumi Bando, Nobumasa Sakagami, Takashi Yamaguchi, Nae Yuuki (Directed by Clint Eastwood; Written by Iris Yamashita; Paramount/DreamWorks) In “Flags of Our Fathers,” Clint Eastwood gave us his take on the battle of Iwo Jima, as well as the crippling psychological damage suffered by some of the heroic American participants in the bloody battle. Now, in the Japanese-language “Letters From Iwo Jima,” Eastwood returns to combat, this time telling the story from the Japanese point of view. As Variety puts it, “ A big awards question is whether the two films will compete for attention; whether there is room for both in major Oscar categories; or whether kudos voters will view Eastwood's twin pics as two sides of the same coin and honor both by voting for one. (Some theorized that the Oscar wins for the third ‘Lord of the Rings’ was in effect recognition of the entire trilogy.)” For Guy Flatley's 1976 New York Times interview with Clint Eastwood, click here. Opens 12/20

BABEL: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal, Elle Fanning, Nathan Gamble, Koji Yakusho, Fernandez Mattos Dulce, Lynsey Beauchamp, James Melody (Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu; Written by Guillermo Arriaga; Paramount Classics) A variety of troubled people in several countries (including Morocco, Tunisia, Mexico and Japan) somehow manage to forge a connection. And you can count on the results being violent, bloody, mystifying and perhaps a tiny bit uplifting. Why is that? Because “Babel” is another collaboration between director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, the awesomely disturbing team responsible for the violent, bloody, mystifying and perhaps a tiny bit uplifting “Amores Perros” and “21 Grams.” Now Playing

THE BLOOD DIAMOND: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou (Directed by Ed Zwick; Warner Bros.) Having excelled as a cop pretending to be a thug in Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed,” Leo the Indefatigable took on the role of a smuggler who, during the nineties civil war in Sierra Leone, was presented with a major moral challenge involving a farmer whose son was kidnapped and turned into a child warrior. To read about more upcoming DiCaprio movies, click here and browse the D page of STAR TURNS. Opens 12/15

THE DEPARTED: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, Ray Winstone, Gerard McSorley, Vera Farmiga, Todd Peterson (Directed by Martin Scorsese; Written by William Monahan; Warner Bros.) Leo as a Chinese undercover cop who’s infiltrated a sinister Hong Kong gang, and Matt as a ruthless member of that gang passing himself off as a gung-ho Hong Kong police recruit? Am I making this up? Only a little. These Hollywood baby-icons are in fact starring in an American rehash of “Wu Jian Dao” (“Infernal Affairs”), a big 2002 Hong Kong action hit. This time, the tricky thrills and spills are played out in the streets and back rooms of Boston, and the gang at the center of the mischief is Irish, not Chinese. To read Guy Flatley's 1973 interview with Scorsese, click here; for Guy's 1974 interview with Jack Nicholson, click here. Now Playing

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA: Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci, Adrien Grenier, Emily Blunt, Simon Baker, Traci Thoms, Giselle Bundchen (Directed by David Frankel; Written by Aline Brosh McKenna and Don Roos; Fox) The fact that Lauren Weisberger, the author of the book upon which this film is based, slaved as an assistant to Vogue super-editor Anna Wintour does not mean that what we have here is a biopic. But I don’t know anyone who believes that not to be the case. Nor do I know anyone who is not keenly anticipating the sight of Meryl Streep as she dons her shades and British accent, cracks her whip, and spews venom upon her cringing serfs. To see what else Streep is up to, click here and browse the S page of STAR TURNS. Now Playing

FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS: Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach, Jesse Bradford, Paul Walker, Neal McDonough, Jamie Bell, Joseph Cross, Robert Patrick, Barry Pepper, Kirk Woller, Brian Kimmet, Jason Gray-Stanford, Matt Huffman, Joe Michael Burke, Georgiana Jianu, Shon Blotzer (Directed by Clint Eastwood; Written by William Broyles Jr. and Paul Haggis; Paramount/DreamWorks) Americans, particularly those who have volunteered to serve in Iraq, know that war is hell. Now Clint Eastwood reminds us that war in the forties was also hell. Set during the climactic year of 1945, “Flags of Our Fathers,” which is based on the best seller by James Bradley and Ron Powers, depicts the bloody, ferocious battle for control of Pacific island Iwo Jima. In particular, the movie focuses on the five marines and one navy corpsman who raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi. These are the men shown in the photo that has since become a universal symbol of valor and victory. And this is the movie that--following “Mystic River” and “Million Dollar Baby”--could be the third Oscar contender in a row for director Clint Eastwood. (Or will it be short-circuited by Eastwood's "Letters From Iwo Jima"?) To read a Critics Roundup on "Flags of Our Fathers, click here; for Guy Flatley's 1976 New York Times interview with Eastwood, click here. Now Playing

THE HISTORY BOYS: Richard Griffiths, Clive Merrison, Frances de la Tour, Stephen Campbell Moore, Sacha Dhawan, Samuel Anderson, Dominic Cooper, Andrew Knott, Samuel Barnett, Russell Tovey, Jamie Parker, James Corden, Penelope Wilton, Adrian Scarborough, Georgia Taylor (Directed by Nicholas Hytner; Written by Alan Bennett; Fox Searchlight) It’s not mere child’s play to get into the university of your choice, and it’s particularly tough breaking the admissions barriers at top British schools, such as Oxford and Cambridge. You've got to be drilled and then drilled some more in order to be in shape for those excruciating exams. But, you may well ask, is this the stuff from which entertaining movies are made? The answer is yes, since Alan Bennett’s wise, hilarious, crowd-pleasing play--the show that New York Times critic Ben Brantley called “madly enjoyable”--has remained gloriously true to the original. And it’s a safe bet that author Bennett, director Nicolas Hytner and actor Richard Griffiths, who repeats his turn as an outrageously opinionated English teacher, will be remembered when prizes are being handed out. Now Playing

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE: Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin (Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris; Written by Michael Arndt; Fox Searchlight) Mom (Toni Collette) is something of a ditz, but she does her best to serve the needs of her family and keep them on the more or less straight and narrow. But it may be a losing battle. Hubby Richard (Greg Kinnear) is a self-proclaimed motivational speaker whose motivation is running on empty; Richard’s pop (Alan Arkin) is a pleasure-seeking old coot who’s happy to be hooked on porn and coke; Mom’s brother (Steve Carell), the newest addition to their humble, conspicuously cramped Albuquerque abode, is a Proust scholar who recently made the scandalous mistake of trying to have a hot remembrance of things past with a male graduate student; sonny-boy Dwayne (Paul Dano), is an anti-social teenager on the verge of withdrawing totally into himself; and 7-year-old Olive (Abigail Breslin) wants only one thing out of life--to win the Little Miss Sunshine contest. So, naturally, the entire clan hops into a wobbly old minivan bus and heads for the big California competition. Now Playing

NOTES ON A SCANDAL: Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Andrew Simpson, Juno Temple, Emma Kennedy (Directed by Richard Eyre; Written by Patrick Marber; Fox Searchlight) Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) is having it all--a solid husband (Bill Nighy), a nifty new job teaching pottery, a sexy 15-year-old lad who is her student and bedmate (Andrew Simpson), and a brand new chum named Barbara Covett (Judi Dench), with whom she shares the details of her clandestine affair. The question is, can Sheba trust Barbara to keep her secret? Richard Eyre, who directed Judi Dench with stunning success in “Iris,” helmed "Notes on a Scandal," and Patrick Marber, author of the impressively nasty "Closer," is responsible for this adaptation of Zoe Heller's much acclaimed novel. Opens 12/22

THE PAINTED VEIL: Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, Diana Rigg, Toby Jones, Anthony Wong, Yu Xia, Lu Yin (Directed by John Curran; Written by Ron Nyswaner; Warner Independent Pictures) Can you ever forget Garbo as the long-suffering wife of Herbert Marshall in the film version of Somerset Maugham's “The Painted Veil”? Of course you can’t, because you surely didn’t see it. Not many moviegoers did catch this MGM tearjerker, which was perhaps the dreariest MGM film of 1934. But we’re living in a whole new century now, so Naomi Watts, an especially game actress, will tackle the role of the weary woman whose punishment for cheating on her doctor-hubby (Edward Norton) is the chore of tagging along with him to a remote region of China that has been hit hard by a plague. Naturally, she becomes so bored that she allows herself to fall in love with the good doctor all over again. Opens 12/29

 

 

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM

VOLVER


BEST DOCUMENTARY

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

CARS


BEST DIRECTOR

MARTIN SCORSESE (THE DEPARTED)


BEST DIRECTORIAL DEBUT

JASON REITMAN (THANK YOU FOR SMOKING)


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

ZACK HELM (STRANGER THAN FICTION)


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

RON NYSWANER (THE PAINTED VEIL)


BEST ACTORBEST ACTOR

FOREST WHITAKER (THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND)


BEST ACTRESS

HELEN MIRREN (THE QUEEN)


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

DJIMON HOUNSOU


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

CATHERINE O’HARA (FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION)


BEST ENSEMBLE CAST

THE DEPARTED


BREAKTHROUGH ACTOR

RYAN GOSLING (HALF NELSON)


BREAKTHROUGH ACTRESS

JENNIFER HUDSON (DREAMGIRLS) Tie


RINKO KIKUCHI (BABEL) Tie


CAREER AWARDS

JONATHAN DEMME

IRWIN WINKLER

DONALD KRIM

TO READ THE NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW'S LIST OF 2005 WINNERS, CLICK HERE; FOR 2004, CLICK HERE, AND FOR 2003, CLICK HERE.