What a year it's been for film! By that, I mean what a mediocre year. Will the winners of the 2016 Academy Awards stand the test of time? Who knows if we'll still be talking about "The Revenant" in twenty year's time. As I consider this year's winners, I think about how the they compare to previous years' nominees, as well as to overlooked and under-appreciated performers and filmmakers. So I compiled a list of my all-time, greatest, Best Ever Film Awards - the BEFAs.
How have I compiled this list? Well, it's based on the impact of these films on my life and my memory: these are highly subjective, almost entirely emotional choices, based on how just thinking about these films awakens my senses, conjures the joy and excitement of watching them. I mean heart-racing, foot-tapping, smile-in-the-dark, dance-up-the-stairs, pass-me-a-tissue, "I'm-enrolling-in-RADA"-inducing formative experiences.
1. BEST PICTURE
Winner: "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" dir. John Hughes, 1986. This film is to me what cinema is all about: joy. As Ferris bunks off school under hot pursuit from his headmaster, he plays out the American dream of a carefree life, of being a winner no matter what he does, of friendship and charm aided by wealth and (white, male) privilege. For better or worse, it's utterly seductive.
Runner up: "Dirty Dancing" dir. Emile Ardolino, 1987. This film just works, every single time. A sleeper hit which has had such a profound effect on so many people. It makes you want to move, to love, to discover hidden talents and to dance, dance, dance out of your chair and into bed with a forbidden lover. While it's raining. A transformative piece of cinema.
2. BEST DIRECTOR
Winner: Agnès Varda
I love Agnès Varda's films because, whether making documentary or fiction, Varda's sense of humour shines through. Varda's sensibility lifts my heart: her films are sensitive, somehow subtle and profound at the same time, beautifully observed and eye-opening. My top three of her films would be "The Gleaners and I" (2000), "Mur Murs" (1981) and "Vagabond" (1985).
Runner-ups: Spike Lee, Wes Andersen, Luchino Visconti, Alfred Hitchcock. All for their ability to create worlds so convincingly. Their films demonstrate consistency and continuity, suggesting the all-important ability as a director to command a production team and to envelop us in the realities of the films.
3. BEST ACTOR
Stephen Fry for "Wilde", dir. Brian Gilbert, 1997. An odd choice, perhaps, but Stephen Fry's performance is one that is etched in my memory as so utterly convincing. Fry was perfect as Oscar Wilde in this biopic, and as a young viewer I was confused by Fry's seemingly-total embodiment. It was a career-defining role for Fry and it shows us how strong an actor's identification with a character can be.
My runner up is Johnny Depp, obviously. As I explained previously here
4. BEST ACTRESS
Shirley MacLaine for "The Apartment" dir. Billy Wilder, 1960. MacLaine did win an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for this performance - she nailed it. Playing a quick-witted working girl, MacLaine commands the screen in her every scene in The Apartment. Yes, more American dream/Hollywood seduction going on here, but sometimes they just do it so well. She makes me laugh, so she's a winner.
Runners up: Frances McDormand, Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett, Diane Keaton...I could go on.
5. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
I don't like this category because its label just hammers home the fact that actresses are seen to "support" rather than overshadow often-male counterparts. However, Winona Ryder deserves one of my awards, so I'm giving her Best Supporting Actress for her performances in: "Beetlejuice" (1988), "Edward Scissorhands" (1990), and "Mermaids" (1990) - in which she plays Cher's daughter, so I'm pleased for the female support there.
6. BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Another tough category but I've got to give it to "In Her Shoes", dir. Curtis Hanson, 2005. Starring Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette and Shirley MacLaine, this film has me crying every time. It certainly passes the Bedchel Test. I don't even have a sister (the film has taught me that sisters steal shoes and boyfriends, so I don't feel I'm missing out), yet its empathy towards sisterhood is powerful. Adapted from the novel by Jennifer Weiner.
Runner Up: "Orlando" dir. Sally Potter, 1992. Virginia Woolf's novel is spun into a cinematic wonder by Sally Potter. Tilda Swinton commands the role/roles as Orlando with such skill and physical power. A marvel of a film. But not as much of a tearjerker as "In Her Shoes" for me, so it only gets as far as Runner up.
7. BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
"Rome, Open City" ("Roma città aperta", dir. Roberto Rossellini, Italy, 1945). "Rome, Open City" so powerfully draws us into life in Nazi occupied Rome in 1944. Anna Magnani's electric performance is unforgettable, and Rossellini's wonderous use of the city landscape is exemplary. The film is a triumph, especially considering the adverse environment in which it was made. Perhaps should win my Best Picture award, but it has fewer laughs and more Nazis than "Ferris Bueller".
8. BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
"Waltz With Bashir", dir. Ari Folman, 2008. This film is a game-changer for me: it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (2009), but for me it demonstrates how animation and documentary can be combined to represent the workings of memory. Again, not so many laughs in this one as it tells the story of the Israel-Lebanon war of 1982 through the recurrent memory of trauma of a former Israeli soldier. It's not without its faults, but "Waltz With Bashir" is visually stunning and emotionally compelling.
9. BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
"Labyrinth", dir. Jim Henson, 1986. Do I even need to explain this one? If you've seen David Bowie in "Labyrinth", you know what I mean. Totally freaked me out as a child, I can't look at images of this film without wanting to cower behind a pillow. Such a memorable look, it deserves my award. If you have the strength, see here.
10. LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
This has to go to Charlie Chaplin (who won an honorary Academy award in 1972 for his contribution to motion pictures). He achieved so much in his lifetime, made so many films, achieved such preposterous levels of fame and shaped the movie industry as we know it. Most importantly for me, he still makes me laugh. I've been lucky enough to see some of his silent films on the big screen with a live orchestra, and 100 years on his films continue to have audiences laughing and crying. He gets my vote.
Let me know what your BEFAs would be, and why, in the Comments.