The most eagerly anticipated awards of TIFF 2011!
Sure, there’s the Cadillac People’s Choice Award or the FIPRESCI jury prize, but what really counts when it comes to honouring the films of this city’s largest festival is the Torontoist TIFF Awards. There may be no money and little glory associated with the prize, but when it comes to recognizing the under-appreciated categories in the world of the moving motion picture there is no higher honour. We like to think.
BEST FACE SMASH
Winner: Ben Wheatley’s Kill List
Some called TIFF 2011 the year of the face punch—immediately coming to mind are Goon, The Descendants, and The Raid. But one flick managed to supersede the punch and attain the level of smash: Ben Wheatley’s eminently messed up Kill List. Repeatedly banging—nay, cracking—the face of one of his victims against a concrete wall in a dingy storage facility, Jay (Neil Maskell) drops the mashed face to the floor to fire a round of ammo into the pulverized visage. Gruesomely awe inspiring.
Runner Up: The police officer in Headhunters
Winner: Adam Wingard’s You’re Next
This was a hard prize to settle on. Arguably the credit should be going to leading lady Sharni Vinson, but the title of “Best Murderer” sounded too grim. (Not to mention the SEO issues that would come along with this.) Though we are remiss to give away too much, it suffices to say it involves a blender and a not-so-subtle comment on the victim’s mashed mind.
Runner Up: Emile Hirsch in Killer Joe
BEST PENIS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Winner: Alexander Sokurov’s Faust
After an operatic opening of pendulums in heaven and a white handkerchief floating down over the German countryside, a shot of a flaccid, pockmarked penis opens Alexander Sokurov’s Faust. This shot can be read as both a nod to Thomas Mann’s syphilitic Doktor Faustus (one of the film’s inspirations) as well as marking Sokurov’s investment in corporeality and offal. Either way, this johnson sets the tone for Sokurov’s latest masterpiece—an enviable role for any penis.
Runner Up: Michael Fassbender in Shame
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A SUPPORTING POP SONG
Winner: College’s “Real Hero,” in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive
An ‘80s-inflected pop tune so dreamy it sounds like what Tangerine Dream might dream about, Refn puts the preposterously catchy tune to insistent use. As emotionally slight as Drive is, “A Real Hero” does all the thematic heavy-lifting, its eerie, recurring chorus describing someone who has proved to be “a real human being, and a real hero,” giving more life to Ryan Gosling’s practically chimerical Man With No Name than the film bothers to.
Runners Up: Paul Williams’ “Still Alive” in Stephen Kessler’s Paul Williams: Still Alive, Hot Butter’s “Popcorn” in Yorgos Lanthimos’ ALPS
BREAKOUT PET PERFORMANCE
Winner: Uggy in Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist
Well it was a tough contest this year, but the lovable, scrappy terrier turns in the film’s best performance in Hazanavicius’ charming ode to silent films. Winner of this year’s Palme Dog at Cannes (actually), Uggy gets extra points because he reminds us a lot of Moose, the dog who played Eddie on Frasier.
Runners Up: Igi the Iguana in Jafar Panahi’s and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb’s This is not a Film, Ricsi the Horse in Bela Tarr’s The Turin Horse
Winner: Jafar Panahi’s and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb’s This is not a Film
We’re being a bit glib, but really, film or not, this was one of TIFF 2011’s most remarkable showings. Panahi and Mirtahmasb’s radically politicized exercise in outside-the-box thinking (which was smuggled out of Iran and into Cannes earlier this year on a USB stick baked inside of a cake) radiates with genius, warmth, and, most of all, Jafar Panahi’s profound love for the country that doesn’t even want him.
Runners Up: Well, technically, all the rest of the films at TIFF this year were, categorically speaking at least, films. Except maybe Alex Gibney’s The Last Gladiators, which played like a DVD featurette for Goon, which is very much a real movie.
Winner: Nic Cage in Joel Schumacher’s Trespass
There are many, many things that suck about Joel Shcumacher’s uniformly sucky home invasion thriller. But the suckiest thing that sucks about has to be Nicolas Cage’s awful, awful glasses. But think about it: the key to home invasion films, apart from terror, is empathy. Empathy for the people whose homes are being invaded. Only with that is the terror at all terrifying. It’s not a slip-up that Cage (a pro diamond fence) is super-rich, because some of the best B&E dramas transpire in the mansion (or summer homes) of the very, very wealthy (Cul de Sac, Summer Games), with class serving just another barrier our emerging, unbounded empathy can barrel through en route to caring about these characters. Cage’s big, shiny, wire-frame spectacles, which gleam in the light like they’re made of citrine, are something else altogether. They were probably picked to make him look dorky. But they just make him look like a snivelling rich guy with terrible taste in eyewear. Sometimes it’s hard to even look at him.
Runner Up: Bono in From the Sky Down/real life, Wes in The Kid with a Bike
LEAST DAZZLING COMEBACK
Winner: Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress
For many, apparently, the return of the once and future king of matchbook-dry comedies of manners was as anticipated as Terrence Malick’s return to the American cinema, after like 20 years, with The Thin Red Line in 1998. After all, it’d be interesting to see how the filmmaker who so influences guys like Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach would assert himself after being overshadowed by his smirking bastard progeny. Right? And fans of Stillman’s stiff, sardonic dialogue and layers of irony that nest impenetrably like an infinite string of matryoshka dolls, probably ate up Damsels. But this is the worst sort of filmmaking: intended to flatter the viewer into feeling clever instead of actually challenging them to think or feel or do anything besides sit there like they’re sucking on the pit of some Vermouth-soaked martini olive. As ever, Stillman feels like he’s making movies for the characters in his movies. And if you don’t identify with the tongue-clicking minions of the so-called “urban haute bourgeoisie” that people his alleged comedies, this is exhausting stuff.
WORST MUSICAL NUMBER
Winner: Carey Mulligan in Shame
Jazz gets a hard rap. If it’s not being called the music for hoity-toity pseudo-intellectuals, then it’s assumed to be the one genre that anyone can perform with a wink, some sequins and frantic hand gesticulations. Well, does Carey Mulligan ever prove that wrong. Her extended rendition of New York, New York (shot in nearly one take in a close frame) is utterly unbearable, as she stretches out each note to its last possible resonance, breathlessly crooning to “start spreading news.” Oh, Carey, we will. You suck.
Runner Up: Maisa Abd Elhadi in Habibi
WORST PRE-FILM BUMPER
Winner: The Volunteers One
This is like picking the worst bad thing (though the Cadillac one where the guy gets in the elevator and then the other guys all slip smiley face masks on was actually pretty good), but the Volunteers one was truly terrible. TIFF didn’t even bother casting someone to play an actual volunteer, instead preferring to call in cameo favours from Deepa Mehta and a BlackBerrying Atom Egoyan. Although—credit where it’s due—the idea of Atom Egoyan being trapped eternally inside the Lightbox like a starved rat in a maze makes this bumper the most conceptually suggestive Atom Egoyan film since Family Viewing.