A Century of Film

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The Studio

How good a job are you doing if the first film your studio releases is nominated for nine Oscars and wins three including Adapted Screenplay and Actress?  A pretty damn good one, one that started strong and has stayed strong over the years, although not to that same extent.

Sony Pictures Classics isn’t like Miramax.  It doesn’t have a sordid story to tell, it’s doesn’t have big personalities and an indie spirit that was then sold to one of the biggest companies on the planet.  Their story hasn’t been told in books (most of my information comes from an article written in 2006 for The Hollywood Reporter by Anne Thompson).  It’s just a story of great films.

Michael Barker and Tom Bernard had been ahead of the trend in creating a classics division of a studio, creating UA Classics and then doing the same when they followed their old UA bosses over to Orion.  They then teamed with publicist Marcie Bloom.  But when Orion headed into bankruptcy, they met with Peter Gruber at Sony who promised them complete autonomy.  They could stay in New York, distribute Foreign films and they didn’t have to release anything they didn’t want to release.

Howards End was a brilliant first release, grossing $25 million (almost unheard of at the time for an indie) and doing extremely well at the Oscars.  But it also wasn’t really the portent of things to come.  SPC wouldn’t have a film that big again until 2000 and $25 million is still high on the studio’s list of box office champs.  They’ve also never had another film match Howards End‘s Oscar points.

Their main success would be small-level art-house Foreign language films.  Indochine, their fourth release, would be more typical, grossing $5 million and winning the Oscar for Foreign Film, the first of three straight Oscars in the category and 11 in their first 20 years.

Not a ton has changed over the years.  Marcie Bloom would be felled by an aneurysm in 1996 which would force her into retirement (Talk to Her, one of the studio’s best films, would be dedicated to her) but Barker and Bernard are still there.  They still consistently earn Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Film (and win a lot) and the occasional Best Picture nomination.  Every now and then a film takes a big jump at the box office (Capote) or even bigger (Midnight in Paris, Crouching Tiger).

But most of all, they have simply had quality productions.  Their films average a whopping 69.6 and only 12 out of 275 films are actually bad (** or lower).  They are, through 2011, 11th all-time for Oscar nominated films with 58 and they tied Miramax for the second most films nominated in the 00’s with 31.

Notable SPC Films

  • Howards End (1992)  –  first SPC release; first Best Picture nominee
  • Indochine  (1992)  –  first Foreign Film winner
  • The Story of Qiu Ju  (1993)  –  first Zhang Yimou film released by SPC
  • The Flower of My Secret  (1995)  –  first Almodovar film released by SPC
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  (2000)  –  by far the highest grossing SPC film, second Best Picture nominee
  • Capote  (2005)  –  third Best Picture nominee
  • Midnight in Paris  (2011)  –  second biggest SPC release, by a significant margin the highest grossing English language release by SPC

The Directorspedro

Woody Allen

  • Films:  4
  • Years:  1999 – 2011
  • Average Film:  79.5
  • Best Film:  Midnight in Paris
  • Worst Film:  Whatever Works

Allen made one film with SPC (Sweet and Lowdown) and then came back after a decade to start making more (continuing through 2011) including Midnight in Paris, his first Picture nominee in 25 years and his highest grossing film ever.

Pedro Almodovar

  • Films:  7
  • Years:  1996 – 2011
  • Average Film:  88.1
  • Best Film:  Talk to Her
  • Worst Film:  The Flower of My Secret

Almodovar came to SPC in 1996 with The Flower of My Secret and has never left.  This includes an Oscar winner for Foreign Film (All About My Mother) and Original Screenplay (Talk to Her).  He continues to be the most important director continually associated with SPC.

Zhang Yimou

  • Films:  9
  • Years:  1993 – 2010
  • Average Film:  77.8
  • Best Film:  House of Flying Daggers
  • Worst Film:  Not One Less

Zhang Yimou has been releasing very good, bold, colorful films with SPC almost since the beginning.

The Starspenelopecruz-brokenembraces

Penelope Cruz

SPC isn’t a studio in the traditional sense so they don’t have stars like the old studios did.  But Cruz, as the consistent star of Almodovar’s films, has been one of the biggest thing about SPC films.
Essential Viewing:  Broken Embraces, Volver, All About My Mother

Zhang Ziyi

Ziyi hasn’t made a lot of films that got releases through SPC but her two biggest ones both did and she’s done other work for Zhang Yimou as well.
Essential Viewing:  Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, House of Flying Daggers, The Road Home


Over half of the SPC films have been Dramas and when you throw in Comedies that number goes up over 80%.  They’ve released a film in every genre except Adventure and Kids and, ironically enough, their two best films are actually genre films and so are 9 of their Top 26.

The Top 50 SPC Films

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  2. Lone Star
  3. Talk to Her
  4. All About My Mother
  5. House of Flying Daggers
  6. Midnight in Paris
  7. Broken Embraces
  8. Howards End
  9. An Education
  10. Cache
  11. A Separation
  12. Saraband
  13. In the Bleak Midwinter
  14. The White Ribbon
  15. The Princess and the Warrior
  16. Rachel Getting Married
  17. Volver
  18. The Lives of Others
  19. Incendies
  20. Sweet and Lowdown
  21. Persepolis
  22. The Triplets of Belleville
  23. The Devil’s Backbone
  24. Bad Education
  25. Run Lola Run
  26. Kung Fu Hustle
  27. Another Year
  28. Capote
  29. I’ve Loved You So Long
  30. Sunshine State
  31. Joyeux Noel
  32. The General
  33. Shanghai Triad
  34. Character
  35. Black Book
  36. The Man Without a Past
  37. Baadasssss
  38. Animal Kingdom
  39. The Secret in Their Eyes
  40. Last Orders
  41. Burnt by the Sun
  42. Ma Vie en Rose
  43. The Skin I Live In
  44. Waiting for Guffman
  45. Men with Guns
  46. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
  47. Breakfast on Pluto
  48. Take Shelter
  49. Belle Epoque
  50. Micmacs

note:  There is no middle list of films I have already reviewed, seen in the theater, thought were notable, etc.  See the bottom of the post.

The Bottom 10 Films (#266-275 which #10 being #275)

  1. Groove
  2. Don’t Come Knocking
  3. Levity
  4. SLC Punk!
  5. The Wackness
  6. November
  7. The Quiet
  8. Dream with the Fishes
  9. Head in the Clouds
  10. Masked and Anonymous

Notes on Films

note:  These are just tidbits on some of the films.  The films are listed in alphabetical order.  Unless I have something specific to say, I don’t mention films that have full reviews elsewhere or films that I saw in the theater from 1989 to 2005 (they are all mentioned in those Nighthawk Awards).

  • Black Book  –  A reminder that Paul Verhoeven can actually still make good films when he puts his mind to it (really good, in fact).
  • Driving Lessons  –  One of the first post-Harry Potter films for one of the young actors (Rupert Grint) is this little treasure in which he stars opposite his HP mom Julie Walters.  Also my introduction to the adorable Michelle Duncan and to Sufjan Stevens’ wonderful song “The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders”
  • Faraway So Close  –  The somewhat disappointing sequel to Wings of Desire does have at least a magnificent U2 song (and video to go with it – see below)
  • Ma vie en rose  –  An under-appreciated gem about sexual identity that I first saw in my Queer Theory class when I was in grad school.
  • Manny & Lo  –  I went with The Horse Whisperer for this list but I easily could have gone with this instead.
  • The Opposite of Sex  –  This was a real eye-opener when I first saw it.  “One of the Friends actors can actually act?” I thought to myself.  Later on, Aniston would prove she could act too but for a long time it was really just this.
  • The Tao of Steve  –  Technically this should be listed under soundtracks down below but it’s Veronica who bought it and it was really for just one song (“(I Just Wanna) Be Your Steve McQueen”).  Good film though and fun since it came out around the time its star, Donal Logue, starred in Grounded for Life, which we watched for the first year.  Also has the devastating line “If I had slept with you, I would remember it.”  “Apparently not.”

The Best SPC Films by Decade

  • 1990’s:  Lone Star
  • 2000’s:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • 2010’s:  Midnight in Paris

The Worst SPC Films by Decade

  • 1990’s:  Dream with the Fishes
  • 2000’s:  Masked and Anonymous
  • 2010’s:  Restless

The Best SPC Films by Genre

  • Action:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Adventure:  none
  • Comedy:  Midnight in Paris
  • Crime:  The General
  • Drama:  Talk to Her
  • Fantasy:  The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
  • Horror:  The Devil’s Backbone
  • Kids:  none
  • Musical:  Sweet and Lowdown
  • Mystery:  Lone Star
  • Sci-Fi:  Paprika
  • Suspense:  Run Lola Run
  • War:  Joyeux Noel
  • Western:  n/a

note:  Films listed with n/a mean that no SPC film in that genre met my threshold (***.5).  Films listed with none means that SPC has not released a film in that genre.

The Worst SPC Films by Genre

  • Action:  n/a
  • Adventure:  none
  • Comedy:  The Wackness
  • Crime:  Brother
  • Drama:  Head in the Clouds
  • Fantasy:  n/a
  • Horror:  Baghead
  • Kids:  none
  • Musical:  Masked and Anonymous
  • Mystery:  n/a
  • Sci-Fi:  n/a
  • Suspense:  The Quiet
  • War:  n/a
  • Western:  n/a

note:  Films listed with n/a mean that no DreamWorks film in that genre met my threshold (** or below).  Films listed with none means that DreamWorks has not made a film in that genre.  The large number of genres with n/a speaks to the overall quality of SPC films.

The Most Under-Rated SPC Film

  1. In the Bleak Midwinter
    I unabashedly love this film.  But I’ve never met another person who’s seen it that I didn’t show it to.  It’s the lowest grossing SPC film I saw in the theater by a factor of three and the sixth lowest grossing film I’ve ever seen in the theater, making less than a half million dollars in the States.  Fully reviewed here.

The Most Over-Rated SPC Films

  1. Pollock
    Harris and Hayden are good (though not as good as the awards groups would have you believe) but the story is a mess, the man is awful and it doesn’t help that I have no respect for the art.
  2. Indochine
    Denueve is quite good but the movie is rather boring and uninspired and very disappointing for an Oscar winner.
  3. Counterfeiters
    Not a bad film at all but disappointing for an Oscar winner, especially when you consider that 4 Months... and Persepolis weren’t even nominated.
  4. Synechdoche, New York
    Again, not bad at all.  But this is a film that critics adore (just look at its TSPDT placement) when it’s just okay.
  5. Orlando
    Not to harp on a theme but how does this solid *** land in the Top 10 all-time for SPC according to TSPDT?

The Statistics

Total Films 1912-2011: 275  (11th)

Total Films 1992-2011: 275  (9th)

Total Percentage of All Films 1912-2011:  1.35%

Total Percentage of All Films 1992-2011:  4.25%

  • 1992-1999:  75  (3.14%)  (11th)
  • 2000-2009:  168  (4.86%)  (6th)
  • 2010-2011:  32  (5.12%)  (9th)

Biggest Years:

  • 2005:  21
  • 2004:  20
  • 2009:  18

Best Year:

  • 2005, 2006:  3 Top 20 films

Average Film By Decade:

  • 1992-1999:  69.69
  • 2000-2009:  68.38
  • 2010-2011:  75.94
  • TOTAL:  69.62

Best Year for Average Film:

  • 2011:  77.33
  • 2010:  74.71
  • 1998:  73.08

Worst Year for Average Film:

  • 1997:  63.55
  • 2003:  63.69
  • 2000:  65.35

Star Rating:

note:  The percentage breakdown for all SPC films by star rating.

  • ****:  10.91%
  • ***.5:  15.27%
  • ***:  53.82%
  • **.5:  15.64%
  • **:  2.55%
  • *.5:  0.00%
  • *:  1.82%
  • .5:  0.00%
  • 0:  0.00%

Nighthawk Awards

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  54
  • Number of Films That Have Won Nighthawks:  14
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  27
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  6
  • Best Picture Nominations:  7
  • Total Number of Nominations:  142
  • Total Number of Wins:  33
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Foreign Film  (28)
  • Director with Most Nighthawk Nominated Films:  Pedro Almodovar  (6)
  • Best Film with No Nighthawks:  In the Bleak Midwinter
  • Best Film with No Nighthawk Nominations:  The General
  • Number of Films That Have Earned Drama Nominations:  27
  • Number of Films That Have Earned Comedy Nominations:  17
  • Number of Films That Have Won Drama Awards:  6
  • Number of Films That Have Won Comedy Awards:  5
  • Drama Picture Nominations:  10
  • Comedy Picture Nominations:  6
  • Total Number of Drama Nominations:  65
  • Total Number of Comedy Nominations:  44
  • Total Number of Drama Wins:  12
  • Total Number of Comedy Wins:  9
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Screenplay  (14 – Drama  /  7 – Comedy)
  • Best Drama Film With No Nominations:  Saraband
  • Best Comedy Film With No Nominations:  The Triplets of Belleville
  • Most 2nd Place Finishes:  House of Flying Daggers  (5)
  • Most 6th Place Finishes:  Rachel Getting Married  (3)
  • Most Top 10 Finishes:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  (17)
  • Most Top 20 Finishes:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  (18)
  • Films With at Least One Top 10 Finish:  92
  • Best Film Without a Top 10 Finish:  The Winslow Boy
  • Films With at Least One Top 20 Finish:  116
  • Best Film Without a Top 20 Finish:  The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

Most Nighthawk Nominations:

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  14
  2. House of Flying Daggers  –  11
  3. Howards End  –  9
  4. Lone Star  –  7
  5. Broken Embraces  /  Midnight in Paris  –  6

Most Nighthawks:

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  14
  2. Lone Star  –  3
  3. Howards End  –  2
  4. Talk to Her  –  2
  5. House of Flying Daggers  /  An Education  –  2

Most Nighthawk Points:

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  810
  2. Howards End  –  355
  3. Lone Star  –  355
  4. House of Flying Daggers  –  280
  5. Talk to Her  –  240
  6. Midnight in Paris  –  240
  7. Broken Embraces  –  235
  8. All About My Mother  –  210
  9. An Education  –  180
  10. Sweet and Lowdown  –  130

Most Drama Nominations:

  1. Howards End  –  6
  2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  6
  3. Lone Star  –  5
  4. Rachel Getting Married  –  5
  5. An Education  –  5

Most Comedy Nominations:

  1. Midnight in Paris  –  6
  2. Sweet and Lowdown  –  5
  3. Volver  –  4
  4. five films  –  3

Most Drama Wins:

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  4
  2. Howards End  –  2
  3. Lone Star  –  2
  4. An Education  –  2
  5. Talk to Her  /  A Separation  –  1

Most Comedy Wins:

  1. Volver  –  4
  2. Midnight in Paris  –  2
  3. Sweet and Lowdown  –  1
  4. Kung Fu Hustle  –  1
  5. Barney’s Version  –  1

Most Drama Points:

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  400
  2. Howards End  –  295
  3. Lone Star  –  290
  4. An Education  –  265
  5. Rachel Getting Married  –  185

Most Comedy Points:

  1. Volver  –  340
  2. Midnight in Paris  –  300
  3. Sweet and Lowdown  –  230
  4. Kung Fu Hustle  –  155
  5. Barney’s Version  –  140

All-Time Nighthawk Awards

  • Best Picture
  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  2. Lone Star
  3. Talk to Her
  4. All About My Mother
  5. House of Flying Daggers

Analysis:  The first two both win the Nighthawk while the next two earn nominations as do Howards End, Broken Embraces and Midnight in Paris.  In total, SPC has had 13 Top 10 films and 33 Top 20 films.  Volver adds a Comedy win.  There are also 10 total Drama noms and 6 Comedy noms.
SPC has yet to win the Oscar though it has earned 5 nominations in 20 years (Howards End, Crouching Tiger, Capote, An Education, Midnight in Paris).
With most of their big films being foreign, there have only been two Globe noms with Howards End in Drama and Midnight in Paris in Comedy.
Howards End won the BAFTA but it’s the only winner.  Crouching Tiger, Capote, Lives of Others and An Education earned noms.  Nil by Mouth did win Best British Film and five other films have earned noms.
The same five films that earned Oscar noms earned PGA noms first.  The same five (with the exception of Lone Star instead of Howards End) also earned BFCA noms.  Howards End, Crouching Tiger, Capote and Waltz with Bashir each won one critics award.

  • Best Director
  1. Ang Lee  (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
  2. John Sayles  (Lone Star)
  3. Pedro Almodovar  (Talk to Her)
  4. Zhang Yimou  (House of Flying Daggers)
  5. Pedro Almodovar  (All About My Mother)

Analysis:  Lee wins the Nighthawk.  The others earn noms as do Almodovar again (Broken Embraces) and Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris).  Almodovar wins a Comedy award (Volver).  In total, there are 7 Drama noms and 7 Comedy noms.
Lee, Almodovar (Talk to Her) and Allen earn Oscar noms as do James Ivory (Howards End) and Bennett Miller (Capote).
Lee wins the Globe with noms for Ivory and Allen.  Almodovar (Mother) and Lee win the BAFTA with noms for Ivory, Miller, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (Lives of Others) and Lone Scherfig (An Education).
Lee wins the DGA with noms for Ivory, Miller and Allen.  There have been, amazingly, no BFCA noms.  Yimou won two critics awards while Ivory, John Boorman (The General) and Almodovar (Talk to Her) won one each.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  2. Howards End
  3. An Education
  4. Saraband
  5. Capote

Analysis:  The first three win the Nighthawk while Last Orders earns a nom.  Being Julia, Breakfast on Pluto and Barney’s Version add Comedy noms.
Howards End won the Oscar (one of the first Oscars for SPC for its first ever film) while Crouching Tiger, Capote and An Education earned noms.
Howards End earned a Globe nom.  Howards End, Crouching Tiger, Capote and Education earn BAFTA noms.  Howards End, Crouching Tiger and Capote earn WGA noms.  Capote and Education earn BFCA noms.  Capote wins two critics awards.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Lone Star
  2. Talk to Her
  3. All About My Mother
  4. Midnight in Paris
  5. In the Bleak Midwinter

Analysis:  Lone Star, Talk to Her and Midnight win the Nighthawk but 12 other films earn noms.  A Separation (my #6) adds a Drama win and Volver adds a Comedy win.  In total there are 14 Drama noms and 7 Comedy noms.
Talk to Her and Midnight won the Oscar with noms for Lone Star, Frozen River, Another Year and A Separation.
Midnight won the Globe with a nom for Lone StarNil by Mouth and Talk to Her win the BAFTA with seven other noms.  Midnight wins the WGA with noms for Lone Star, Opposite of Sex and Please Give.  It’s worth noting that most foreign films aren’t WGA eligible.  Midnight win the BFCA with a nom for Another YearA Separation wins two critics awards while Rachel Getting Married wins one.

  • capoteBest Actor:
  1. Philip Seymour Hoffman  (Capote)
  2. Chris Cooper  (Lone Star)
  3. Chow Yun-Fat  (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
  4. Sean Penn  (Sweet and Lowdown)
  5. Brendan Gleeson  (The General)

Analysis:  The top four all earn Nighthawk nominations but that’s it, which makes this a surprisingly weaker category for SPC.  Gleason, Peter Sarsgaard (An Education) and Michael Sheen (Damned United) add Drama noms.  Paul Giamatti (Barney’s Version) wins the Comedy award with noms for Michael Maloney (In the Bleak Midwinter), Robert Duvall (Get Low), Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris) and Shlomo Bar Aba (Footnote).
Hoffman won the Oscar while Penn and Ed Harris (Pollock) earned noms.
Hoffman and Giamatti won Globes.  Stephen Fry (Wilde) is the only other Drama nominee while Penn, Cilian Murphy (Breakfast on Pluto), Wilson and Brendan Gleeson (The Guard) earned Comedy noms.
Hoffman won the BAFTA while Ray Winstone (Nil by Mouth) and Ulrich Mühe (The Lives of Others) earned noms.  Hoffman won SAG with a nom for Duvall and the same results followed with the BFCA.
Hoffman won five critics awards, one of the best results ever in the category.  Gleeson (General), Michael Shannon (Take Shelter) and Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method) won one award each.

  • howards-end-screenshotBest Actress
  1. Emma Thompson  (Howards End)
  2. Celia Roth  (All About My Mother)
  3. Carey Mulligan  (An Education)
  4. Anne Hathaway  (Rachel Getting Married)
  5. Annette Bening  (Being Julia)

Analysis:  Thompson and Mulligan win the Nighthawk.  Eight other performances earn noms including Helena Bonham-Carter (also in Howards End) and all of the others in my Top 5.  In total there are 12 Drama noms including the two winners.  Penelope Cruz (Volver) wins a Comedy award while six other performances earn noms including two in Carnage.
Emma Thompson won the Oscar.  Actually, she won everything, so we’ll leave it at that.
There have been nine Oscar nominations aside from Thompson, one of the studio’s strongest categories.  Three different times (1992, 2008, 2009), the studio has earned two Oscar noms.
There are six Globe Drama noms (including Cruz, which is odd since it wasn’t a Drama).  Bening wins Comedy with three other noms (two of which are for Carnage).
Mulligan wins the BAFTA with six other nominees.  Since Thompson’s performance pre-dates the SAG Awards, there have just been six nominees, but all in just six years (2004-09).  Thompson also pre-dates the BFCA but Hathaway wins with four others earning noms.
Aside from Thompson’s clean sweep of all six critics groups, there were two wins apiece for Julie Christie (Afterglow), Fernanda Montenegro (Central Station), Hathaway and Mulligan with one win each for Julianne Moore (Vanya on 42nd Street), Bening and Lesley Manville (Another Year).

  • Best Supporting Actor:la-et-corey-stoll
  1. Corey Stoll  (Midnight in Paris)
  2. Anthony Hopkins  (Howards End)
  3. Alfred Molina  (An Education)
  4. Christopher Plummer  (The Last Station)
  5. Kris Kristofferson  (Lone Star)

Analysis:  The top four all earn Nighthawk noms but that’s it.  Stoll wins the Comedy award with three other performances earning Comedy noms.
Plummer is the only Oscar nominee. Plummer and Viggo (A Dangerous Method) earn Globe noms.  Hopkins and Molina earned BAFTA noms.  Plummer is the only SAG nom while Molina is the only BFCA nom.  Alan Arkin (13 Conversations About One Thing) and Niels Arestrup (A Prophet) each won one critics award.

  • crouchingtigerBest Supporting Actress:
  1. Zhang Ziyi  (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
  2. Samantha Morten  (Sweet and Lowdown)
  3. Debra Winger  (Rachel Getting Married)
  4. Amy Adams  (Junebug)
  5. Vanessa Redgrave  (Howards End)

Analysis:  Ziyi and Morten win the Nighthawk with the other three earning noms as well as Lisa Kudrow (Opposite of Sex) and Lesley Manville (Another Year).  Qiu Yuen adds a Comedy win for Kung Fu Hustle.  In total there are 4 Comedy noms and 8 Drama noms, including two for Rachel Getting Married.
Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock) won the Oscar with noms for Redgrave, Morten, Catherine Keener (Capote), Adams and Jackie Weaver (Animal Kingdom) but only Morten and Weaver even earned Globe noms oddly enough.  There have been 7 BAFTA nominees including two for Wilde.  Keener and Adams earned SAG noms.  Adams won the BFCA with noms for Keener and Weaver.  Jessica Chastain won three critics awards for Take Shelter (shared with numerous other films), Kudrow, Keener and Weaver each won two and Harden, Edie Falco (Sunshine State) and Adams each won one.

  • Best Ensemble
  1. An Education
  2. Howards End
  3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  4. Capote
  5. Saraband

Analysis:  A totaling up of all the acting points for a film.
Capote, An Education and Midnight in Paris each earned SAG Ensemble noms.

  • Best Editing:
  1. Lone Star
  2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  3. Talk to Her
  4. All About My Mother
  5. Run Lola Run

Analysis:  Lone Star and Crouching win the Nighthawk.  The other three earn noms as do In the Bleak Midwinter, House of Flying Daggers and Broken Embraces.
Crouching is the only Oscar nominee.
Howards End, Crouching and House earns BAFTA noms.  Run, Crouching, Made in Dagenham and Midnight in Paris earn ACE noms.

  • Best Cinematography:
  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  2. House of Flying Daggers
  3. Lone Star
  4. The White Ribbon
  5. Shanghai Triad

Analysis:  Crouching wins the Nighthawk.  The other four are the only Nighthawk nominees.
Crouching wins the Oscar with noms for Howards End, Shanghai Triad, House and White Ribbon.
Howards End, Crouching and House earns BAFTA noms.  White Ribbon wins the ASC with noms for Howards End and Crouching.
SPC films do well with the critics: Crouching wins four, White Ribbon wins three, Shanghai, House and 2046 win two each and Safe and Winged Migration each win one.

  • Best Original Score:
  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  2. House of Flying Daggers
  3. The Road Home
  4. Olivier Olivier
  5. Howards End

Analysis:  Crouching and House win the Nighthawk.  Howards End earns a nom.
Crouching wins the Oscar with a nom for Howards End.
Crouching earns a Globe nom, wins the BAFTA and two critics awards.  Olivier and Triplets each win one critics award.

  • Best Sound:
  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  2. House of Flying Daggers
  3. Sweet and Lowdown
  4. The Lives of Others
  5. Lone Star

Analysis:  Crouching wins the Nighthawk while House, Sweet and Lone Star earn Nighthawk noms.
There has never been an Oscar nom in this category.
Crouching and House earn BAFTA noms.

  • Best Art Direction:
  1. House of Flying Daggers
  2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  3. Howards End
  4. Midnight in Paris
  5. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

Analysis:  Crouching and Imaginarium win the Nighthawk with noms for the other three as well as Shanghai Triad and City of Lost Children.
Howards End and Crouching win the Oscar.  Orlando, Imaginarium and Midnight earn noms.
Howards End, Crouching, House and Imaginarium earn BAFTA noms.  Curse of the Golden Flower wins the ADG while Crouching and Get Low earn noms.  Crouching, House, 2046 and Synechdoche win the LAFC.

  • Best Costume Design:
  1. House of Flying Daggers
  2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  3. Howards End
  4. Orlando
  5. Curse of the Golden Flower

Analysis:  Crouching Tiger is the only Nighthawk winner (House of Flying Daggers was up against Aviator and Howards End was up against Dracula).  The other four earn noms as do five other films aside from those.
Not only has no SPC film won the Oscar but House wasn’t even nominated.  Six films have earned Oscar noms (the rest of my Top 5, Imaginarium and Coco Before Chanel).
Crouching Tiger won the BAFTA while seven other films have earned noms.  Curse and Imaginarium won the CDG with Capote and Coco earning noms.

  • Best Visual Effects
  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  2. House of Flying Daggers
  3. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
  4. Kung Fu Hustle
  5. Curse of the Golden Flower

Analysis:  Tiger wins the Nighthawk while House and Imaginarium earn noms.
There have been no Oscar noms which is ridiculous that Tiger wasn’t nominated.  Tiger and House earn BAFTA noms.  Synecdoche earns a VES nom.

  • Best Sound Editing
  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  2. House of Flying Daggers
  3. Kung Fu Hustle
  4. Curse of the Golden Flower
  5. Micmacs

Analysis:  Tiger wins the Nighthawk while House earns a nom.
Thanks to the MPSE’s Foreign category, six SPC films have won an award and a total of 23 films have earned noms, 16 of them Foreign (and two of them Documentaries).

  • Best Makeup
  1. House of Flying Daggers
  2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  3. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
  4. Bad Education
  5. Synecdoche, New York

Analysis:  House of Flying Daggers wins the Nighthawk while the next three earn noms as do Shanghai Triad, Farinelli and The Skin I Live In.
Barney’s Version is the only Oscar nominee so far.  Orlando won the BAFTA while seven other films have earned noms.

  • Best Technical Aspects
  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  2. House of Flying Daggers
  3. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
  4. Kung Fu Hustle
  5. Lone Star

Analysis:  This just adds up the totals in the Tech categories.  Crouching Tiger wins by quite a ways (9 points) but there’s also a massive 26 point drop after House.

  • Best Original Song:
  1. “Stay (Faraway, So Close)”  (Faraway, So Close)
  2. “A Love Before Time”  (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
  3. “Welcome to the Dollhouse”  (Welcome to the Dollhouse)
  4. “Belleville Rendezvous”  (The Triplets of Belleville)
  5. “We Are the Children of the World”  (The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus)

Analysis:  “Stay” actually doesn’t win the Nighthawk in one of the best years ever but “A Love Before Time” does.  “Dollhouse” earns a nom.  This is one of SPC’s weakest categories.
“A Love Before Time”, “Belleville” and a song from Paris 36 earned Oscar noms.  “Stay” earned a Globe nom.

  • persepolisBest Animated Film:
  1. Persepolis
  2. The Triplets of Belleville
  3. Waltz with Bashir
  4. The Illusionist
  5. Paprika

Analysis:  This is almost the full list of Animated films released by SPC (they also released the low *** Sky Crawlers).  It’s a close win for Persepolis over Triplets but then a drop to low ***.5 for the other three films.  It’s not surprising that all of these films are Foreign films as most domestic Animated films don’t need to find distributors as Foreign ones do.  All of them earn Nighthawk noms but none win the award.
Persepolis, Triplets and Illusionist were Oscar nominated.  Waltz wasn’t in spite of a Foreign film nom.
The Illusionist earned a Globe nom.  Persepolis and Waltz earned BAFTA noms.  My Top 4 all earned Annie and BFCA noms.
Triplets and Persepolis each won two critics awards while Waltz and Illusionist won one each.

  • Crouching-Tiger-Hidden-Dragon_poster_goldposter_com_7Best Foreign Film:
  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  2. Talk to Her
  3. All About My Mother
  4. House of Flying Daggers
  5. Broken Embraces

Analysis:  SPC has long had a relationship with Almodovar so it’s not surprising he’s got three films in an excellent Top 5.  The top three and Embraces win the Nighthawk as do Cache, Saraband and A Separation.  A whopping 21 films earn noms.
Way too much to list here.  SPC has won the Oscar 11 times including three in a row from 92-94 (after Miramax’s four in a row).  It also won six times form 92 to 00 and then another five from 06 to 11.  There have also been 19 nominations.  The only years since it began where it didn’t have an Oscar nom were 1995 and 2004 and the studio earned three noms in 1999, 2009 and 2011.
SPC has won 11 Globes out of 28 total noms.  It has twice won four in a row (97-00, 08-11).  It earned three noms each in 1998 and 2009.  It has two awards and five total noms just for Almodovar films.
It is slightly less successful at the BAFTAs with just 9 wins though with 22 noms including three wins for Almodovar and three more noms.  In 1999, it actually had four of the BAFTA nominees.  It has twice had three year winning streaks.
The BFCA started later so there are only 6 winners (two Almodovar) and 11 nominees (three Almodovar).  SPC did manage four of the nominees in 2011.
All About My Mother won five critics awards, A Separation won four and Crouching Tiger won three.  House, Lives of Others and Cache each won two.  Another 18 films won one each.  In six different years, two different SPC films managed a critics award and in 2005 three films took home a total of four awards.

  • Best Film (by my points system):
  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  2. House of Flying Daggers
  3. Lone Star
  4. Howards End
  5. An Education

Analysis:  Adding up all of my points.  Crouching crushes everything with the fifth most points all-time (behind Wizard of Oz, which has a lot more songs and the three Lord of the Rings films, which have a lot more supporting performances).

  • Best Film  (weighted points system)
  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  2. House of Flying Daggers
  3. Lone Star
  4. Howards End
  5. An Education

Analysis:  The distances between the finishes are enough that no films move at all when converting to weighted points.

Best Films With No Top 5 Finishers:

  • Cache
  • Volver

Worst Film with a Top 5 Finish:

  • Faraway, So Close

Nighthawk Notablesan_education18

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Best Line (dramatic):  “I would rather be a ghost, drifting by your side as a condemned soul, than enter heaven without you.”  (Chow Yun-Fat in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
  • Best Line (comedic):  “A man in love with a woman from a different era.  I see a photograph.”  “I see a film.”  “I see an insurmountable problem.”  “I see a rhinoceros.”  (Tom Cordier, Adrien de Van, Owen Wilson and Adrian Brody in Midnight in Paris)
  • Best Opening:  In the Bleak Midwinter
  • Best Ending:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Best Scene:  the fight through the seasons in House of Flying Daggers
  • Best Kiss:  Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat  (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
  • Best Death Scene:  Chow Yun-Fat  (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
  • Most Gut-Wrenching Scene:  the death of the son in All About My Mother
  • Most Heart-Wrenching Scene:  Chow Yun-Fat’s death in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Best Use of a Song:  “The Tallest Man, The Broadest Shoulders”  (Driving Lessons)
  • Funniest Film:  In the Bleak Midwinter
  • Performance to Fall in Love With:  Carey Mulligan in An Education
  • Sexiest Performance:  Zhang Ziyi in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Coolest Performance:  Danny Chang Kwok-kwan in Kung Fu Hustle
  • Best Trailer:  Talk to Her
  • Best Cameo:  Tom Hiddleston and Alison Pill in Midnight in Paris

note:  As usual, several categories that are normally here (Best Ensemble, Most Over-Rated) are given a fuller treatment above and so aren’t listed here.

note:  Soundtracks I Own from SPC Films (chronological):  Crouching Tiger

At the Theater:  By the end of 2011, I had probably seen over 1000 films in the theater at some point or another and had definitely been to the movies over 1000 times.  I have seen the following SPC films in the theater: In the Bleak Midwinter, Lone Star, The Celluloid Closet, Welcome to the Dollhouse, Sweet and Lowdown, Crouching Tiger, Triplets of Belleville, House of Flying Daggers, The Merchant of Venice, Saraband, Kung Fu Hustle, Midnight in Paris


Academy Awards

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  58
  • Number of Films That Have Won Oscars:  16
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  17
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  2
  • Best Picture Nominations:  5
  • Total Number of Nominations:  96
  • Total Number of Wins:  21
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Foreign Film  (30)
  • Directors with Most Oscar Nominated Films:  Zhang Yimou  /  Pedro Almodovar  (3)
  • Best Film with No Oscar Nominations:  Perfume – The Story of a Murderer
  • Year with Most SPC Nominated Films:  2009  (8)
  • Year with Most DW Nominations:  2000  /  2009  (13)
  • Year with Most DW Oscars:  1992  (4)

Oscar Oddities:

  • Every Oscar winning film for SPC has won either a major award (writing or acting) or Foreign Film.  Two films have also won other awards but every film has won at least one of those things.
  • Of the 58 films nominated for an Oscar only 11 of them have failed to earn either a major nomination (writing or acting) or Foreign Film.

Most Oscar Nominations

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  10
  2. Howards End  –  9
  3. Capote  –  5
  4. Midnight in Paris  –  4
  5. An Education  –  3
  6. twelve films  –  2

Most Oscar Wins:

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  4
  2. Howards End  –  3
  3. fourteen films  –  1

Most Oscar Points:

  1. Howards End  –  380
  2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  365
  3. Capote  –  235
  4. Midnight in Paris  –  195
  5. Talk to Her  –  125
  6. An Education  –  125
  7. Pollock  –  95
  8. A Separation  –  80
  9. Indochine  –  75
  10. Frozen River  –  75

Critics Awards

  • Number of Films That Have Won Critics Awards:  47
  • Number of Films With Multiple Awards:  23
  • Best Picture Wins:  4
  • Total Number of Awards:  116
  • Category With the Most Awards:  Foreign Film  (34)

Most Awards:

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  11
  2. Capote  –  10
  3. Howards End  –  8
  4. House of Flying Daggers  –  7
  5. A Separation  –  6

Most Points:

  1. Capote  –  671
  2. Howards End  –  537
  3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  529
  4. House of Flying Daggers  –  360
  5. A Separation  –  296

Most Points by Critics Group:

  • NYFC:  2046  –  90
  • LAFC:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  240
  • NSFC:  Capote  –  170
  • BSFC:  Capote  –  210
  • CFC:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  140
  • NBR:  Howards End  –  260

Golden Globes

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  47
  • Number of Films That Have Won Globes:  16
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  9
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  1
  • Best Picture Nominations:  2
  • Total Number of Nominations:  61
  • Total Number of Wins:  17
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Foreign  (28)
  • Best Film with No Globe Nominations:  Cache

Globe Oddities:

  • Of the 61 total nominations, 28 were for Foreign Film.
  • Of the 17 total wins, 11 were for Foreign Film.
  • Of the 61 total nominations, all but 15 of them were for Foreign Film, Actor or Actress.
  • The only wins outside of Foreign Film (11), Actor (2) and Actress (2) are Screenplay (Midnight in Paris) and Director (Crouching Tiger).

Most Globe Nominations:

  1. Howards End  –  4
  2. Midnight in Paris  –  4
  3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  3
  4. six films  –  2

Most Globes:

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  2
  2. fifteen films  –  1

Most Globe Points:

  1. Midnight in Paris  –  210
  2. Howard End  –  205
  3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  155
  4. Central Station  –  75
  5. four films  –  70

Guild Awards

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  26
  • Number of Films That Have Won Guild Awards:  6
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  8
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  1
  • Best Picture Nominations:  5
  • Total Number of Nominations:  51
  • Total Number of Wins:  7
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Screenplay  (7)
  • Best Film with No Guild Nominations:  Talk to Her

Most Guild Nominations:

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  7
  2. Capote  –  7
  3. Midnight in Paris  –  5
  4. Howards End  –  4
  5. Curse of the Golden Flower  /  An Education  –  3

Most Guild Wins:

  1. Curse of the Golden Flower –  2
  2. five films  –  1

Most Guild Points:

  1. Capote  –  290
  2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  265
  3. Midnight in Paris  –  240
  4. Howards End  –  160
  5. An Education  –  125


  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  46
  • Number of Films That Have Won BAFTAs:  14
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  19
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  5
  • Best Picture Nominations:  5
  • Total Number of Nominations:  113
  • Total Number of Wins:  21
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Foreign Film  (31)
  • Best Film with No BAFTA Nominations:  Saraband


  • Only four SPC films have managed a BAFTA nomination without one of the following three categories: Foreign Film, Screenplay (of some kind), British Film (six films): Orlando, Wilde, The Merchant of Venice, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus.

Most BAFTA Noms:

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  14
  2. Howards End  –  11
  3. House of Flying Daggers  –  9
  4. An Education  –  8
  5. Capote  /  The Lives of Others  –  5

Most BAFTA Wins:

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  4
  2. Howards End  –  2
  3. Nil by Mouth  –  2
  4. All About My Mother  –  2
  5. Talk to Her  –  2

Most BAFTA Points:

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  485
  2. Howards End  –  410
  3. An Education  –  310
  4. Nil by Mouth  –  250
  5. Capote  –  235
  6. The Lives of Others  –  210
  7. House of Flying Daggers  –  190
  8. All About My Mother  –  170
  9. Talk to Her  –  120
  10. I’ve Loved You So Long  –  115

Broadcast Film Critics Awards  (Critic’s Choice Awards)

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  31
  • Number of Films That Have Won BFCA Awards:  10
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  6
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  0
  • Best Picture Nominations:  5
  • Total Number of Nominations:  41
  • Total Number of Wins:  10
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Foreign Film  (17)
  • Best Film with No BFCA Nominations:  Saraband


  • Of the 31 SPC films to earn a nomination only 10 did not receive a nomination for Picture or Foreign Film.  None of those 10 earned more than one nomination.

Most BFCA Noms:

  1. Capote  –  4
  2. An Education  –  4
  3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  2
  4. Volver  –  2
  5. Waltz with Bashir  /  Midnight in Paris  –  2

Most BFCA Wins:

  1. ten films  –  1

Most BFCA Points:

  1. Capote  –  190
  2. An Education  –  155
  3. Midnight in Paris  –  130
  4. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  90
  5. Rachel Getting Married  –  70

All Awards

Most Nominations:

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  49
  2. Howards End  –  36
  3. Capote  –  32
  4. An Education  –  23
  5. House of Flying Daggers  –  20
  6. Midnight in Paris  –  16
  7. Volver  –  13
  8. All About My Mother  –  11
  9. A Separation  –  11
  10. The Triplets of Belleville  /  Waltz with Bashir  /  The White Ribbon  –  10

Most Awards:

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  24
  2. Capote  –  15
  3. Howards End  –  14
  4. All About My Mother  –  10
  5. A Separation  –  9
  6. House of Flying Daggers  –  8
  7. Talk to Her  –  6
  8. The White Ribbon  –  6
  9. Central Station  –  5
  10. six films  –  4

Total Awards Points

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  1872
  2. Howards End  –  1635
  3. Capote  –  1619
  4. An Education  –  864
  5. Midnight in Paris  –  732
  6. House of Flying Daggers  –  643
  7. A Separation  –  460
  8. All About My Mother  –  458
  9. Talk to Her  –  415
  10. Rachel Getting Married –  350


Lists for studios are harder because I have to come up with them myself.  There are no books that rank the best films by studio and no way to sort through them on TSPDT (and limited ways on the IMDb).

The TSPDT Top 10 SPC Films

  1. Cache  (#214)
  2. All About My Mother  (#309)
  3. A Separation  (#375)
  4. Talk to Her  (#382)
  5. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  (#384)
  6. The White Ribbon  (#398)
  7. Safe  (#472)
  8. The Lives of Others  (#494)
  9. Orlando  (#500)
  10. Synecdoche, New York  (#657)

note:  The numbers in parenthesis are the position on the most recent (2020) TSPDT list.
note:  SPC is the only film to have one of its Top 10 films be a post-2011 film which is especially odd given how much weight TSPDT puts on older films.  Amour is actually ranked 10th at #620.

The IMDb Top 10 SPC Films

  1. The Lives of Others
  2. A Separation
  3. Incendies
  4. The Secret in Their Eyes
  5. Lagaan
  6. Waltz with Bashir
  7. Persepolis
  8. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring
  9. Central Station
  10. A Prophet

Top 10 U.S. Domestic Box Office

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  $128.07 mil
  2. Midnight in Paris  –  $56.81 mil
  3. Capote  –  $28.75 mil
  4. Howards End  –  $25.96 mil
  5. Kung Fu Hustle  –  $17.10 mil
  6. Friends with Money  –  $13.36 mil
  7. Volver  –  $12.89 mil
  8. Rachel Getting Married  –  $12.79 mil
  9. An Education  –  $12.57 mil
  10. Lone Star  –  $12.40 mil

note:  I deliberately excluded the IMAX films that SPC has distributed.
note:  It probably set bad expectations that the first film SPC released grossed so highly that in the 20 years since only five other films have even made half what it made.
note:  It’s worth mentioning that because of the way that SPC releases its films, it has never had a film gross more than $1 million in its opening weekend.  On the other hand, thanks to their release strategy, only 7 of its Top 100 opening weekends have failed to at least gross 10x what they made in their opening weekend.


Someone needs to write a book on SPC.  Presumably no one has because it doesn’t have a big personality and it mostly doesn’t involve Hollywood itself.


The Best SPC Film I Haven’t Yet Reviewed

A Separation
(2011, dir. Asghar Farhadi)nader_and_simin_ver9

When hurt, we hurt.  That is hopefully not always true, but it is a fairly common rule of basic human behavior.  This is a film about almost all of the negative human emotions you can possibly find.  It deals with anger, hate, jealousy, rage, pain.  There are characters in this film who presumably love each other but they are so tied up in their own emotions that they find themselves unable to reach that most basic of emotions.

The separation of the title is between Simin (played very well by Leila Hatami) and Nader (played even better by Peyman Moaadi), an Iranian couple of fourteen years.  Simin wants to leave Iran to find a better life for both herself and their teenage daughter Termeh.  But Nader doesn’t want to leave his father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.  Simin files for divorce but it isn’t granted.  She leaves anyway (though not Iran – just back to her parents) which sets in motion a series of events that end up with Nader being tried to the murder of an unborn child.

The series of serious subjects that will be addressed in just over two hours includes domestic abuse, miscarriage, caring for an ill parent, doing what is best for your child, trying to survive on subsistence living, lying for perhaps noble reasons, lying for not noble reasons and the choice of a child when faced with which life she will choose.

Even before this film was released, Asghar Farhadi was establishing himself as not only the best writer-director at work in Iran or even the Middle East, but one of the best at work in film today.  In films like Fireworks Wednesday and About Elly, he showed a way to cut through to the reality of human dialogue, to create characters who feel like real people, who react like real people, who make mistakes, whose mistakes are sometimes compounded by their own actions.  This was the film that really saw him make much more of an international breakthrough, winning not just the Oscar but also the Globe, BFCA and four of the six critics awards.

We may flinch as we watch the film, flinch at the way lives are lead that we wish we could change, flinch at the actions of people who are hurting not just the people around them but also themselves without even really knowing it, flinch at the pain in their eyes because the acting is so very, very good and flinch at the honesty in every minute of the film.  But we don’t stop watching, right down to the very end because the characters, the story, the film itself is so compelling.

The Worst SPC Film I Haven’t Yet Reviewed

Masked and Anonymous
(2003, dir. Larry Charles)masked_and_anonymous

Writing talent is not interchangeable among different forms.  Plenty of talented novelists can’t make the transition to screenplays and vice versa.  Great non-fiction writers might be crap when it comes to fiction.  And the greatest songwriter, not just of my time, but of any time, is not someone you want writing a film.  Hell, if you’ve read his book tarantula, you might have already been aware of that.  Without the music to hang around it, it’s just a mosaic mess of words and images with nothing coherent.

But here we get Masked and Anonymous, a film written by Bob Dylan (and Larry Charles, but Charles’ form of satire in such things as Seinfeld and Borat was always going to be a weird fit to Dylan’s symbolism), starring a roomful of acting talent (Jessica Lange, Ed Harris, Angela Bassett, Penelope Cruz, not to mention the reuniting of the Dude with Walter, although not in those same characters (but good lord it would have been so much better if that had been the case)) but without a coherent story or a single line of dialogue you can be bothered to remember two seconds after it’s been said.  What’s more, one of the stars is Dylan himself and if you’ve seen Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid you know that Dylan is not an actor, no matter how long he stands on screen and mumbles to himself.

What is the story of the film?  The IMDb is pretty succinct: “A singer, whose career has gone on a downward spiral, is forced to make a comeback to the performance stage for a benefit concert.” but Wikipedia’s description gives you a much better idea of why this film is such a colossal waste of time: “An iconic rock legend, Jack Fate (Bob Dylan), is bailed out of prison to perform a one-man benefit concert for a decaying future North American society. The film touches on many subjects from the futility of politics, the confusion of loosely strung government conspiracies, and the chaos created by both anarchy and Nineteen Eighty-Four-styled totalitarianism. It further reflects on life, dreams, and God’s place in a seemingly increasingly chaotic world.”

Did any of those great acting talents think for a second that this was going to mean something coherent would come out on screen?  It’s one of those films where you look at the talent and say yes, but then watch the trailer and go, wait a minute, to what end is all this talent?  Roger Ebert hits the nail on the head right here: “The vanity belongs perhaps to those who flattered their own by working with him, by assuming (in the face of all they had learned during hard days of honest labor on a multitude of pictures) that his genius would somehow redeem a screenplay that could never have seemed other than what it was, incoherent raving juvenile meanderings.”

Bonus Review

Welcome to the Dollhouse
(1996, dir. Todd Solondz)welcome_to_the_dollhouse_ver1

This is, in all honesty, a film I never hoped to return to.  However, I prefer my Bonus Review to be a film I saw in the theater and even more, I prefer to have it be a film I originally saw in high school or college (which technically this just misses, as it came out a couple of weeks after I graduated).  The problem, of course, if you saw the list above, is that I’ve seen hardly any SPC films in the theater and almost all of them have been reviewed already (or are slated to be reviewed later for a different post).  That left me with this, the only SPC release prior to 2005 that I saw in the theater and haven’t yet reviewed, a film that makes my skin crawl because it is so unbearably uncomfortable to watch and yet, is a very well made film because it is so true on so many levels.

Todd Solondz may be the most uncomfortable filmmaker who has ever had a prominent career.  But I didn’t know that in May of 1996 when this film opened (apparently without much info on BOM so I missed listing it in the Nighthawk Awards for 1996 since I pulled my films I saw in the theater from their weekend reports).  The film was getting good reviews and no matter how awkward it might seem, it couldn’t possibly be worse than Kids, right?  Kids had come out just before my senior year began, one of the first films I ever saw at the KOIN Center in Portland (which used to be the premiere arthouse in the city – Howards End, the first ever SPC release, played there for a year and I never went to see it which was just dumb of me) and the same place I would see Welcome to the Dollhouse.  Both films had established reputations for their directors and both were filled with unknowns (that one of the stars of Kids would eventually become an Oscar nominee and another would become known as one of the hotter actresses on the planet does not bely that they were unknown at the time), both dealt with the darkness of being a teenager (or almost teenager) and both made you squirm in your seat in the theater.  This film, at least, didn’t have a rape scene which would have exposed the character to HIV but there was the threat of a rape scene that kept coming up in a disturbing and realistic way.

Welcome to the Dollhouse is about the most miserable time in life: middle school.  You’re not yet a teenager, but you’re not really a kid anymore either.  It’s especially worse if you’re a middle child, with an older brother who wants to seem very adult and a younger sister who’s the brat of the family and demands all the attention (that’s not a diss at my sister but I do understand the misery of being a middle child in middle school).  It’s even worse for Dawn Weiner, who is odd looking and extremely unpopular and makes it worse by dressing in a way to try and desperately be popular.  And kudos to the film for actually finding an actress who looked appropriate.  Just the year before in Circle of Friends, Minnie Driver was cast as kind of the odd girl but two years later she was the desirable babe for both John Cusack and Matt Damon.  With all due respect to Heather Matarazzo, she will never be cast in that role and she seems to have accepted it.

But Dawn makes everything worse for herself.  And yet, she’s not trying to.  She can’t help it, in the same way so many other kids can’t help it.  She tries to reach out to people but they don’t want her help.  She tries to dress provocatively at school and fails miserably.  She dresses for comfort at home but then, dressed in footie pajamas, will try to hit on the guy who’s so clearly out of her league, not to mention much older.  That guy is the new singer for her brother’s band.  In another sign of Solondz’s understanding of how personalities work, her brother is very well written as the kind of ambitious, forceful guy who will start a garage band and recruit a singer but also dorky enough not to realize that playing the clarinet will doom him to failure in a band.  The band has at least one really good song (the title song for the film) and Dawn is captivated by watching the lead singer but she’s so hopelessly pathetic that she doesn’t even realize how pathetic she is.  When a local tough guy in her middle school tells her he will rape her and tells her to meet him after school, she actually does it, in a scene that reminds me of the line from Jeffrey (also from my senior year, but I saw that at Cinema 21): “You know, when that asshole started kicking me, I had this horrible stupid thought, this flash, that at least it was … physical contact.”

In the years after this film, Solondz would continue to bring up horrible concepts and yet find a truth at the core of them, the same way he did with the potential rape scene.  In Happiness he writes the most awkward father-son discussion in film history (and yet, not unrealistic given the circumstances in the film) and in Storytelling we have a guy who accuses his girlfriend of sleeping with him because his seizures give her orgasms and a teenager who, after learning his family has been killed, telling the man who had been filming a documentary involving the family that at least he got a good ending for the film.  Solondz is a talented writer, but holy shit, I don’t want to know what made him turn to writing such fucked up characters.


All-Time:  The following films land in the Top 5 all-time in the various categories: Call Me By Your Name (Adapted Screenplay, Original Song), Pain and Glory (Actor, Editing, Original Score, Foreign Film), Blue Jasmine (Actress), Whiplash (Supporting Actor, Sound, Sound Editing), Foxcatcher (Supporting Actor), Mr. Turner (Cinematography, Costume Design).

Academy Awards:  Not much has changed.  Several films have earned between 3 and 5 nominations including three Best Picture nominees (Amour, Whiplash, Call Me By Your Name).  Films with Oscars continue to win either Foreign or a major award and only three of the 22 films nominated since 2011 have failed to be nominated in one of those two things.  Whiplash is the only multi-Oscar winner and is now third in points.  Almodovar added another nomination.

Critics:  Amour wins 10 awards, tied for second most.  SPC adds 14 more Foreign Film awards.  Call Me By Your Name sets a new LAFC record (260) and a new CFC record (150).  Amour sets a new NSFC record (260).

Globes:  Elle became just the second SPC film to win multiple Golden Globes.  But it marks the continuing trend.  Of the 9 Globes won by SPC films since 2011, four were Foreign Film and four were Actress (Elle won both).  The other was Supporting Actor (Whiplash).  Whiplash is also the only film (out of 24) to earn a Globe nomination that wasn’t nominated for Actor, Actress or Foreign Film.

Guilds:  Thanks to Blue Jasmine, Foxcatcher, Whiplash and Call Me By Your Name we have more films with decent nom numbers but Blue Jasmine is only the second SPC film to win multiple guild awards and none of those films break into the top 3 in points.  Five of the nine films were nominated for Screenplay so that continues to dominate.

BAFTA:  Whiplash is the biggest, becoming just the second SPC film to reach 3 wins and all three of its awards (Supporting Actor, Editing, Sound) were a first for SPC at the BAFTAs.  It’s also notable in being just one of five out of the twenty SPC films nominated since 2011 that wasn’t nominated for either Foreign Film (11 films) or Actress (four more plus two also nominated for Foreign).  SPC won as many acting BAFTAs in Best Actress in the first three years after 2011 as it had won through 2011 (three), winning three years in a row with Amour, Blue Jasmine and Still Alice.

BFCA: Call Me By Your Name easily sets new marks for noms (8) and points (305).  Blue Jasmine in 2013 became the first film to earn multiple BFCA noms without a Picture or Foreign Film nom.  Still, though 2019, no SPC film has won more than one award.

Top 10 U.S. Domestic Box Office (through November 2020)

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  –  $128.07 mil
  2. Midnight in Paris  –  $56.81 mil
  3. Blue Jasmine  –  $33.40 mil
  4. Capote  –  $28.75 mil
  5. Howards End  –  $25.96 mil
  6. Still Alice  –  $18.75 mil
  7. Call Me By Your Name  –  $18.09 mil
  8. Kung Fu Hustle  –  $17.10 mil
  9. To Rome with Love  –  $16.68 mil
  10. Friends with Money  –  $13.36 mil

Notables:  I saw Amour and Whiplash in the theater.

Notes on Films:

  • The Bronze  –  Definitely worth watching just for the sex scene, which is one of the funniest in film history but also worth watching for Melissa Rauch’s performance.
  • I’m So Excited  –  This is why Almodovar is one of my favorite filmmakers.  In between serious films he’s willing to make pure, unadulterated silliness like this and still have it be so fun and good.
  • Mr. Turner  –  In a very tough year (2014) for Actor, Cinematography, Art Direction and Costume Design, this is still one of the best in all of those categories.
  • Puzzle  –  Kelly MacDonald as an unhappy housewife who loves doing puzzles.  I don’t want to watch this film, I want to somehow live this film and rescue her and do puzzles with her.

The Full Ranking of All SPC films

note:  This really is pretty much the full list.  According to BOM I am missing one film (Whatever) while according to Wikipedia’s list I am missing two additional ones (Jacquot de Nantes, Marie from the Bay of Angels) which still means I’ve seen over 99% of the SPC films.  SPC has also released 57 Documentaries which are not listed here but which I have seen.  Aside from the IMAX ones they released, the most successful (and one of the best) is Winged Migration, the rare non-IMAX Documentary to make over $10 million.  Other really notable ones are Crumb, The Celluloid Closet (the rare Documentary I saw in the theater), Anne Frank Remembered, American Movie (a must see – the rare Documentary I’ve seen more than once) and The Fog of War.
  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  2. Lone Star
  3. Talk to Her
  4. All About My Mother
  5. Pain and Glory
  6. House of Flying Daggers
  7. Midnight in Paris
  8. Broken Embraces
  9. Howards End
  10. An Education
  11. Cache
  12. A Separation
  13. Saraband
  14. Son of Saul
  15. Amour
  16. In the Bleak Midwinter
  17. The White Ribbon
  18. The Past
  19. The Princess and the Warrior
  20. Rachel Getting Married
  21. Volver
  22. Call Me By Your Name
  23. The Lives of Others
  24. Incendies
  25. Sweet and Lowdown
  26. Julieta
  27. Persepolis
  28. Blue Jasmine
  29. The Triplets of Belleville
  30. Capernaum
  31. The Devil’s Backbone
  32. Bad Education
  33. Run Lola Run
  34. Kung Fu Hustle
  35. Another Year
  36. Still Alice
  37. Capote
  38. I’ve Loved You So Long
  39. Sunshine State
  40. Wadjda
  41. Joyeux Noel
  42. The General
  43. Shanghai Triad
  44. Mr. Turner
  45. Foxcatcher
  46. Character
  47. Black Book
  48. The Man Without a Past
  49. Baadasssss
  50. Labyrinth of Lies
  51. Leviathan
  52. Footnote
  53. Animal Kingdom
  54. Foxtrot
  55. The Secret in Their Eyes
  56. Last Orders
  57. Burnt by the Sun
  58. Ma vie en rose
  59. The Skin I Live In
  60. Whiplash
  61. Waiting for Guffman
  62. Men with Guns
  63. The Imaginarum of Dr. Parnassus
  64. Wild Tales
  65. Breakfast on Pluto
  66. Land of Mine
  67. Take Shelter
  68. Stan & Ollie
  69. Belle epoque
  70. I’m So Excited
  71. Micmacs
  72. The Winslow Boy
  73. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring
  74. Chicken with Plums
  75. The Damned United
  76. Love is Strange
  77. Never Look Away
  78. Frozen River
  79. The Patience Stone
  80. Waltz with Bashir
  81. Happy Times
  82. A Dangerous Method
  83. Made in Dagenham
  84. The Merchant of Venice
  85. A Prophet
  86. Divided We Fall
  87. Broken Wings
  88. Rust and Bone
  89. Safe
  90. Winter in Wartime
  91. No
  92. Sunset
  93. Loveless
  94. The Illusionist
  95. The Road Home
  96. Coming Home
  97. Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
  98. City of Lost Children
  99. The Opposite of Sex
  100. A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop
  101. Welcome to the Dollhouse
  102. Central Station
  103. Paprika
  104. Vanya on 42nd Street
  105. Germinal
  106. Barney’s Version
  107. 2046
  108. The Last Station
  109. Spider
  110. Good Bye, Lenin
  111. Afterglow
  112. Being Julia
  113. Solomon and Gaenor
  114. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
  115. All is True
  116. In Darkness
  117. Driving Lessons
  118. The Spanish Prisoner
  119. The Emperor and the Assassin
  120. Young Adam
  121. Our Little Sister
  122. Lagaan
  123. Puzzle
  124. Olivier Olivier
  125. Curse of the Golden Flower
  126. The Lunchbox
  127. The Wife
  128. The Red Turtle
  129. Testament of Youth
  130. Kill Your Darlings
  131. Of Gods and Men
  132. Sleuth
  133. I Served the King of England
  134. The Long Day Closes
  135. A Pure Formality
  136. Bon Voyage
  137. The White Countess
  138. Lebanon
  139. In a Better World
  140. The Rider
  141. Offside
  142. The Story of Qiu Ju
  143. Dancing at Lughnasa
  144. In the Company of Men
  145. Life Above All
  146. 13 Minutes
  147. Elle
  148. Where Do We Go Now
  149. Carnage
  150. Chloe
  151. Me Myself I
  152. Carandiru
  153. Zelary
  154. Magic in the Moonlight
  155. The Whole Wide World
  156. Persuasion
  157. The Tao of Steve
  158. Moon
  159. To Rome with Love
  160. Laurel Canyon
  161. Saving Face
  162. Mad Love
  163. The Lady & the Duke
  164. Jindabyne
  165. Nil by Mouth
  166. Orlando
  167. Thirteen Conversations About One Thing
  168. Junebug
  169. Synecdoche, New York
  170. Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles
  171. The House of Sand
  172. Imaginary Heroes
  173. The Loss of Sexual Innocence
  174. East-West
  175. Not One Less
  176. Get Low
  177. Paris 36
  178. Toni Erdmann
  179. Quinceañera
  180. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
  181. The Invisible Woman
  182. The Flower of My Secret
  183. Beijing Bicycle
  184. All the Real Girls
  185. Danzon
  186. Tamara Drewe
  187. Celeste and Jesse Forever
  188. Warriors of Heaven and Earth
  189. Once Upon a Time in the Midlands
  190. The Vertical Ray of the Sun
  191. The Jane Austen Book Club
  192. Sugar
  193. Final Portrait
  194. Please Give
  195. Ruben Brandt, Collector
  196. The Slingshot
  197. Son of the Bride
  198. The Band’s Visit
  199. In My Country
  200. The Last Vermeer
  201. The White Crow
  202. Miles Ahead
  203. The Diary of a Teenage Girl
  204. Faraway So Close
  205. Before Midnight
  206. The Counterfeiters
  207. The Legend of Suriyothai
  208. Goya in Bordeaux
  209. The Myth of Fingerprints
  210. Facing Windows
  211. Brigsby Bear
  212. A Fantastic Woman
  213. Infinitely Polar Bear
  214. Happy End
  215. The Valet
  216. Monsier Ibrahim
  217. Pauline & Paulette
  218. House of Angels
  219. Secret Ballot
  220. Fill the Void
  221. Higher Ground
  222. Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky
  223. The Mother
  224. Nine Queens
  225. Mi vida loca
  226. Dark Blue World
  227. L’enfant
  228. The Company
  229. The Hollars
  230. A Window to Paris
  231. A Friend of the Deceased
  232. Zhou Yu’s Train
  233. The Notebook
  234. Wild Grass
  235. Vitus
  236. Love Liza
  237. The Dream Life of Angels
  238. In Custody
  239. Thieves
  240. The Italian
  241. Smashed
  242. The Bronze
  243. The Guard
  244. The Colour of Paradise
  245. Up and Down
  246. O’Horten
  247. The Meddler
  248. My Wife is an Actress
  249. The Accompanist
  250. Mute Witness
  251. Wilde
  252. The Happy Prince
  253. Jimmy’s Hall
  254. Rudo y Cursi
  255. 12
  256. Brick Lane
  257. Layer Cake
  258. The Tango Lesson
  259. Van Gogh
  260. Love and Human Remains
  261. When the Cat’s Away
  262. Me You Them
  263. Kikujiro
  264. Coco Before Chanel
  265. Only Lovers Left Alive
  266. At Any Price
  267. Beautiful Thing
  268. A Chef in Love
  269. The Cuckoo
  270. Big Shot’s Funeral
  271. The Luzhin Defence
  272. Shower
  273. The Sky Crawlers
  274. The Traitor
  275. Novitiate
  276. The Company You Keep
  277. Whatever Works
  278. Moliere
  279. Quitting
  280. Manny & Lo
  281. I Don’t Want to Talk About It
  282. The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy
  283. When Did You Last See Your Father?
  284. The Beautiful Country
  285. 3-Iron
  286. Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer
  287. Look at Me
  288. Respiro
  289. Indochine
  290. Love is All You Need
  291. Lorna’s Silence
  292. The Class
  293. Touch of Pink
  294. Owning Mahowny
  295. Tango
  296. Mother and Chil
  297. Youth without Youth
  298. Trixie
  299. Farinelli: Il Castrato
  300. The Lady in the Van
  301. Restless
  302. Jackpot
  303. Adoration
  304. Living in Oblivion
  305. Hysteria
  306. Crush
  307. Henry Fool
  308. The House of Mirth
  309. My Life Without Me
  310. The Memory of a Killer
  311. Haiku Tunnel
  312. A Man of No Importance
  313. The Fall of the American Empire
  314. Married Life
  315. The Statement
  316. Va savoir
  317. Land Ho!
  318. Truth
  319. After the Wedding
  320. The Seagull
  321. Pollock
  322. Greed
  323. Brother of Sleep
  324. Thumbsucker
  325. Saint Laurent
  326. Redbelt
  327. Just Looking
  328. The Third Miracle
  329. CJ7
  330. Austenland
  331. Damsels in Distress
  332. She Hate Me
  333. Grandma
  334. Maudie
  335. Interview
  336. Art School Confidential
  337. Maggie’s Plan
  338. Friends with Money
  339. I Saw the Light
  340. Amateur
  341. Boundaries
  342. Paris Can Wait
  343. This is My Father
  344. Auto Focus
  345. Angel-A
  346. Irrational Man
  347. Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House
  348. Mifune
  349. Yes
  350. The Burnt Orange Heresey
  351. The Raid: Redemption
  352. Denise Calls Up
  353. Twin Falls, Idaho
  354. The Children of Huang Shi
  355. Heights
  356. Easy Virtue
  357. Broken English
  358. Suburbia
  359. Equity
  360. Darling Companion
  361. Brother
  362. Baghead
  363. Aloft
  364. Levity
  365. Don’t Come Knocking
  366. Groove
  367. The Raid 2
  368. The Leisure Seeker
  369. SLC Punk!
  370. The Wackness
  371. The Comedian
  372. November
  373. The Quiet
  374. Dream with the Fishes
  375. Third Person
  376. Head in the Clouds
  377. Masked and Anonymous