LOU'S VIEWS: Indiana critics pick flicks for 2011

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Lou Harry

A&E IFJA bests listRecently, the Indiana Film Journalists Association monopolized a big table at Sahm’s Tavern on a Saturday afternoon to argue about the best movies of the year.

Over mushroom caps and sliders, we weighed the relative merits of George Clooney and his “Descendants” vs. the silence of “The Artist.” We opined on whether Viola Davis gave a leading or supporting performance in “The Help.” We briefly discussed whether Andy Serkis qualified for Best Actor for his motion-capture-enhanced work on “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” And we positioned ourselves on either side of the pretentious/brilliant line when it came to “The Tree of Life.”

While such best-ing might not be science, it sure is fun. We as a species love compiling lists, ranking the items on them, and lobbing insults at other people who create lists that don’t match ours.

Such discussions are, of course, silly. Movies—like plays, music and visual artwork—aren’t quantitative things. In his new book “Look I Made a Hat,” composer Stephen Sondheim, in discussing such awards, cuts to

A&E After picking up attention from the Indiana Film Journalists Association and other critics’ groups, “The Artist” is now an Oscar front-runner. The IFJA picked it for Best Film of the Year. (Photo/The Weinstein Co.)

the quick: “Which is more satisfying,” he asks, “an orange or a potato?”

It’s tough to argue that question. (Although, if you want to, I’ll take the side of the potato.)

There are other reasons to debate the merits of movies. The Indiana Film Journalists Association (of which I am a relatively inactive member) hopes to generate some pre-Oscar buzz for movies and their creators we deem outstanding. Encouraging excellence, after all, is a prime role of the critic. And there’s been some traction on that: Google “Indiana Film Critics” or “Indiana Film Journalists Association” and you’ll see dozens of blogs quoting and commenting on our choices.

A&E Paul Giamatti, left, gave a fine performance in “Win Win.” (Photo/Kimberly Wright. 2010 Twentieth Century Fox)

And I personally hoped that some of the films screened at the Heartland Film Festival and the Indianapolis International Film Festival would merit praise by the group and garner wider attention. (In 2010, I lobbied hard for recognition for Hal Holbrook in “The Evening Sun.”) Alas, while there were plenty of good films and performances in both fests this year, none that I saw transcended.

Each year before the mid-December conclave, I see as many films as possible so I can try to make convincing cases regarding my favorites. This time, I went in prepared to champion the movies that moved me most, specifically “The Tree of Life,” “Win Win,” “Coriolanus” (which has yet to play locally) and “The Artist.”

On the acting front, I was most impressed with Paul Giamatti in “Win Win,” Viola Davis in “The Help,” Elizabeth Olsen in “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” Ralph Fiennes and Vanessa Redgrave in “Coriolanus,” Brad Pitt in “The Tree of Life,” and Tilda Swinton in “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”

I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have a negative agenda as well. I was happy to see that nobody in IFJA was pushing for “Crazy Stupid Love” (for me, the most infuriating movie of the year). More formidable was the force pushing for George Clooney and company in “The Descendants,” a film that I thought had good moments but far too much forced quirkiness and over-explaining. It’s practically captioned for the sensitivity-impaired.

The result, as in any good democracy, was a compromise. “The Descendants” did find its way to Best Adapted Screenplay and was runner-up for Best Film (In that category, we pick a winner, and runner-up, and eight more to round out a top 10). “The Tree of Life” got enough love, even from its detractors, to land the “Original Vision Award” and a Top 10 film spot.

Three of my acting choices placed (Giamatti, Davis and surprise winner Olsen), and I’ve got no complaints about the fourth (Christopher Plummer in “Beginners”).

And Best Picture?

IFJA says it’s the near-silent black-and-white charmer, “The Artist.”•


This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com.


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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.