Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Fooor Yoor Conseeederayshun ...

It’s that time again … the air is getting warmer, the snow is melting and the red carpets are rolling out all over the world for this year’s cinematic success stories. For those of you looking for a welcome change from gay cowboys and King George (Clooney), this year’s César Awards promise the most enjoyable romp through Gaul since Astérix hit up those vikings. Jacques Audiard’s “The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” is at the center of the action this year, with 10 nominations including best film, director and actor for Romain Duris (many of you may know him from “L’Auberge Espagnole.”) World War One drama “Merry Christmas,” France's contender for a foreign-language Oscar nomination, and Patrice Chereau’s “Gabrielle,” each earned six nominations. I am very happy to announce that Radu Mihaileanu’s “Live and Become” has also been nominated (see previous post for my interview with him). Here are my picks for this year’s César awards.

Best Film

"Merry Christmas"
"The Beat That My Heart Skipped"
"L'Enfant" (The Child)
"Live and Become,"
"The Little Lieutenant"
Audiard’s “The Beat That My Heart Skipped” is clearly the favorite here and I’d have to agree with the crowd on this one. Audiard is one of my all-time favorite French directors, Duris one of my favorite French actors, and the film is a moving portrait of a man struggling against his past, his father’s indelible shadow and himself. I would also be pleased if “Live and Become” took the title – what an extraordinary film.

Best Actress

Isabelle Huppert (“Gabrielle”)
Nathalie Baye (“The Little Lieutenant”)
Isabelle Carré (“In His Hands”)
Anne Consigny (“Not Here To Be Loved”)
Valerie Lemercier, ("Palais Royal!")
I’ll have to go with my new best friend, Valérie Lemercier. (see my interview with her in November’s issue of STUDIO Magazine) Lemercier wrote, directed and starred in this witty parody of European royalty and her unique humor is contagious. Comedic roles don’t usually take home the major awards, but I hope that the French judges will crown Lemercier with this year’s Best Actress nod.

Best Actor

Michel Bouquet ("The Last Mitterand")
Romain Duris ("The Beat That My Heart Skipped")
Jose Garcia ("The Ax")
Benoit Poelvoorde ("In His Hands")
Patrick Chesnais ( "Not Here To Be Loved")
This one is a toss-up between José Garcia and Romain Duris. Duris’ subtle yet powerful performance in “The Beat that My Heart Skipped” really moved me, but I think I’ll have to go with José Garcia, who is, in my (not-at-all) humble opinion, one of France’s most talented actors today. In “The Ax” (French title: “Le Couperet”) Garcia eerily bounces from chilling murder scenes to “normal” moments of daily life, and in such a natural way.

Best Screenplay

"Little Lieutenant"
"Merry Christmas"
"Live and Become"
Radu: Go, Live and Become … a César award-winner for this brilliant bildungsroman!

Best Adaptation
"The Ax"
“In His Hands"
"The Last Mitterand"
"The Beat That My Heart Skipped".
Witty, ironic, chilling – “The Ax” was one of my favorite films of the year.

Best Supporting Actress

Charlotte Rampling ("Lemming")
Kelly Reilly ("The Russian Dolls")
Cecile de France ("The Russian Dolls")
Catherine Deneuve ("Palais Royal!")
Noemie Lvovsky ("Backstage").
This one is ostensibly a no-brainer – could anyone have been more perfect for a role than Catherine Deneuve as the pesky Queen in “Palais Royal!”? Lemercier even admitted she had Catherine in mind for the role from the beginning. However, Deneuve is, after all, only playing a more exaggerated version of herself, so I’ll have to go with Kelly Reilly on this one. Though “Les Poupées Russes” is a lighter film, Reilly really comes out of her “Auberge Espagnole” shell and delivers an award-worthy performance.

Best Supporting Actor

Niels Arestrup ("The Beat")
Maurice Benichou (“Hidden”)
Dany Boon ("Merry Christmas")
Georges Wilson ("Not Here to be Loved")
Roschdy Zem, for his role in "Little Lieutenant."
Maurice Benichou delivers a disturbing and stunning performance in Haneke’s thriller “Caché”; the scene where he takes his own life has stayed with me since I saw the film. If Danny Boon gets the César for his saccharine, superficial opera-singing in the overly cheesy “Merry Christmas,” I’ll eat my beret!

Best Foreign Film
David Cronenberg's "A History of Violence"
Alejandro Amenabar's “The Sea Inside”
"Woody Allen's "Match Point"
Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby"
Eytan Fox's "Walk on Water"
This is a tough one. While I did enjoy “A History of Violence” and “Match Point,” I think “The Sea Inside” has been underrated and really deserves to walk away with the César this year, giving credit, bien sur, to Javier Bardem’s gut-wrenching performance that left me sobbing for days.

Best Director

Jacques Audiard (“The Beat That My Heart Skipped”)
Xavier Beauvois (“The Little Lieutenant”)
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (“L’Enfant”)
Michael Haneke (“Hidden”)
Radu Mihaileanu (“Live and Become”)
Again, it’s all about Radu. When he makes a film, he puts all of his energy into it and with “Live and Become” he’s created not only a moving coming-of-age story, but also an in-depth portrayal of love, racism and learning to adapt to the world around us.

French actress Carole Bouquet will preside over the 31st Cesar Awards ceremony, to be held Feb. 25 at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, and broadcast live in France on Canal Plus. I, unfortunately will not be in attendance this year (my invitation must have gotten lost in the mail again), but I will certainly be celebrating this fine year in French cinema.

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