2006 Muriel Awards

James Frazier


James' blog:

James' Mad Grasp For Relevancy

James' ballot:

Best Feature-Length Film
1. Babel
2. United 93
3. Children of Men
4. Casino Royale
5. The Prestige
6. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
7. Flags of Our Fathers
8. Art School Confidential
9. Marie Antoinette
10. The Departed

Best Lead Performance, Male
1. Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan)
2. Daniel Craig (Casino Royale)
3. Clive Owen (Children of Men)
4. Forrest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland)
5. Hugh Jackman (The Prestige)

Best Lead Performance, Female
1. Helen Mirren (The Queen)
2. Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada)
3. Kirsten Dunst (Marie Antoinette)
4. Maggie Gyllenhaal (Sherrybaby)
5. Kate Beckinsale (Underworld: Evolution)

Best Supporting Performance, Male
1. Brad Pitt (Babel)
2. Ken Davitian (Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan)
3. Jack Nicholson (The Departed)
4. Adam Beach (Flags of Our Fathers)
5. Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine)

Best Supporting Performance, Female
1. Rinko Kikuchi (Babel)
2. Adriana Barraza (Babel)
3. Eva Green (Casino Royale)
4. Cate Blanchett (Babel)
5. Vera Farmiga (The Departed)

Best Direction
1. Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men)
2. Paul Greengrass (United 93)
3. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel)
4. Christopher Nolan (The Prestige)
5. Martin Campbell (Casino Royale)

Best Screenplay
1. Guillermo Arriaga (Babel)
2. Alfonso Cuaron, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby (Children of Men)
3. Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan (The Prestige)
4. William Broyles Jr., Paul Haggis (Flags of Our Fathers)
5. William Monahan (The Departed)

Best Cinematic Moment
1. Passengers storm the cockpit (United 93)
2. Deaf-mute girl attempts to seduce detective (Babel)
3. Long take: battle and cease-fire in immigrant camp (Children of Men)
4. Naked wrestling match (Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan)
5. Torture sequence (Casino Royale)

Best Breakthrough Performance
1. Rinko Kikuchi (Babel)
2. Daniel Craig (Casino Royale)
3. Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan)

Best First Feature by a Director
1. Laurie Collyer (Sherrybaby)
2. Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking)
3. Paul Dinello (Strangers With Candy)

Best Ensemble Performance
1. The Cast of Babel
2. The Cast of The Departed
3. The Cast of United 93

Best Cinematography
1. Emmanuel Lubezki (Children of Men)
2. Barry Ackroyd (United 93)
3. Tom Stern (Flags of Our Fathers)

Best new DVD Release
1. King Kong
2. Munich
3. Capote

1. Babel

Commentary on favorites in various categories:

Best Feature Film- After seeing United 93, I was certain that nothing else to come could match it. Babel proved me wrong. A stunning web of stories, each containing a smoldering cinematic and emotional resonance, I left the theater shaken to my core, the experience seared into my brain. I'll never forget it, and believe it is the best film of 2006.

Best Lead Performance, Male- There was no shortage of excellent work this year, but Sacha Baron Cohen's
half-real/half-fiction turn as a racist yet lovable third world reporter was truly a movie character for the ages.

Best Lead Performance, Female- - Perhaps I'm being lame in picking the most praised performance of the year as my favorite, but Helen Mirren's delicate portrayal of the stalwart monarch was as close to pitch perfect as is imaginable. As for my 5th place choice of Kate Beckinsale, I only argue that it is incredibly rare that actresses are well cast in action hero roles, and she looked ass-kickingly good during every moment of Underworld: Evolution. I could have picked Judi Dench for 5th place, but I enjoyed Beckinsale a thousand times more.

Best Supporting Performance, Male- Brad Pitt's performance as an ordinary, frantic husband [in Babel] trying to save his critically injured wife was explosive without going over the top, gentle without being too soft, and terribly moving without begging for our sympathy. Easily his best work to date.

Best Supporting Performance, Female- If there was a category simply titled "Best Performance of the Year, Male or Female", Rinko Kikuchi would have my vote. No other performer was as brave, as raw, or as heartbreaking in their understanding and illustration of agony and frustration. In a better world, Kikuchi would be an instant worldwide star. In this one, hopefully she'll win an Oscar.

Best Direction- Alfonso Cuaron created the most fully realized, dazzling, and frightening world to be on the screen in years. The ultra-long shots were mind-boggingly in their complexity, unforgettable in their intensity.

Best Screenplay- Guillermo Arriaga's script for Babel accomplished the nearly impossible; taking entirely different characters scattered throughout the globe, telling their story through a shifting chronology, and making each and every individual sympathetic and relatable, all of this seamlessly.

Best Cinematic Moment- I was tempted to simply list United 93 as the best cinematic moment. The entire film was practically in real-time, each jarring sequence building until the climax. Even the most naive audience member knows that the passengers will fail to save their own lives, but nonetheless the overwhelming desire to see it end nicely results in the most startlingly vicious and jarring scene of the year. Close behind is the climax of the Japanese girl's segment in Babel, which had the most shattering rejection and personal defeat I can recall in years.

Best Breakthrough Performance- My reasons for placing Kikuchi at the top are visible above. But Daniel Craig's James Bond had wonderfully human textures lacking in every previous incarnation.

Best Ensemble- Althought great distances separate the majority of Babel's cast, their stories lean on one another, bringing tremendous importance and weight to every other performance.

Best Cinematography- Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography may be the best of the new millennium. The long takes allow for a constant increase in pressure that most filmmakers can only dream about achieving, making Children of Men the most extraordinary technical achievement of the year.

My Own Category: Most Overhyped Films of the Year

1. Pan's Labyrinth
2. Dreamgirls
3. Letters From Iwo Jima

My Own Category: Best Underseen Film of the Year
(Films that grossed $20 million or less, major theatrical release concluded)

1. Art School Confidential
2. Marie Antoinette
3. Brick

- I actually liked Letters From Iwo Jima, but found it lacking compared to the vastly superior Flags of Our Fathers. On the other hand, I didn't like Pan's Labyrinth or Dreamgirls, and could do without either.