Thanks to filmdom's less-than-inspired offerings last year, I truthfully wasn't looking forward to the Daynas, the awards named after me, voted on by me, and traditionally intended to spotlight those slighted by Oscar. But I couldn't not hold them, due to the fact that a Dayna now carries such astonishing clout, plus celebrities really seem to like shiny stuff. So after spending countless hours arranging for the nominees to attend, I decided to skimp on the remainder of the details.
Since my apartment looks like a Barnes & Noble exploded, I moved the ceremony outdoors to the little wino park around the corner, where the attendees enjoyed "panini" (ham sandwiches I stomped on with my engineer boots) and "mimosas" (Colt 45 and Tang). And their now-expected swag bags consisted of a tiny first aid kit, just in case anyone impaled themselves on the park's charming glass shards. I assured the skeptical stars that they were the first to sample this radical new technology, called the iBleed.
Hell, I made do with their half-assed efforts; they can live with mine. So here it is: the awards, speeches, and squabbles that marked the 2nd Annual Daynas.
Best Director: Terrence Malick, TheNew World
The elegant epic about the very mad affair between Captain Smith and Pocahontas is one of the most polarizing films of the year, though Malick should have surprised exactly no one with his trademark languor, which people find either somnolent or seductive. Consider me seduced (as well as enlightened, since I finally get Christian Bale), but consider me impatient, too: I don't want to wait another handful of years for the next Malick experience.
Best Actor: Jeff Daniels, The Squid and the Whale
Daniels' masterful turn as a selfish and pompous dad doing the best he can in Noah Baumbach's dark comedy about the dissolution of a family should have earned him a gold-plated Oscar instead of a foil-wrapped Dayna.
Biggest Scam: High Tension
This French slasher flick featured the year's most preposterous twist, a plot point that made absolutely no sense. Yet, somehow, it actually salvaged the movie.
Director AlexandreAja: "I'm grateful you let me slide on this one. I promise not to try something so insulting until my next film."
Most Precious Film: Me and You and Everyone We Know
Yet one more Sundance-anointed annoyance that was supposed to charm me with its eccentricity, but instead reminded me that life is too short for art without truth.
Most Vicious Supporting Actress: Gong Li, Memoirs of a Geisha
As the eye-popping Hatsumomo, Gong chews enough scenery and twirls enough moustache to make us forget her shaky command of English. It's not her fault, though; Geisha should have been made in a foreign language anyway. But I haven't decided which one.
Underratedest Film: The 40-Year-Old Virgin
This adorable raunchfest revived a genre (along with Wedding Crashers), earned a pile of money and much critical acclaim, but got almost zero year-end respect. Is that because it's about S-E-X? That's awfully L-A-M-E.
Best Actress: Claire Danes, Shopgirl
The most lovely and effortless performance of 2005 came from one of my least favorite actresses: Danes conjures both heartbreak and hope as a young woman who learns her lessons the hard way.
Danes: "Sure do appreciate the backhanded compliment, Dayna. Who are you wearing tonight; Salvation Armani?"
Best Penguin-Free Documentary: Stolen
My favorite entry in the 2005 High Falls Film Festival was this riveting look at a $300 million art heist from a Boston museum and the increasingly surreal investigation that followed, leading to both the Irish Republican Army and the US Senate.
Most Surprising Supporting Actor: Tom Arnold, Happy Endings
Casting professional punchlineArnold as Maggie Gyllenhaal's love interest was arguably the riskiest casting of the year, and it paid off in spades. He was the high point in a frustrating shambles of a film.
The Jude Law Award for Overexposure: Keira Knightley
Renamed this year in honor of last year's recipient, this award goes to the person I most wish would take an extended vacation, and Knightley wins hands down: The Jacket, Domino, Pride & Prejudice, as well as every magazine cover except High Times. Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow, Crash, Get Rich or Die Tryin') might have won this if he weren't so damn green-eyed --- I mean gifted.
The You-Don't-Call-or-Write Award: Ryan Gosling
Gosling does it right: Makes a couple of good films, goes away, then makes a couple more. But his only 2005 appearance was in the widely ignored Stay, so I am looking forward to the upcoming Half Nelson. Gosling was also awarded the Please-Rescue-Me-From-This-Soul-Sucking-Drudgery Award, which used to go to Benicio del Toro (curiously AWOL as well, save Sin City), who is now playing Che Guevara in Steven Soderbergh's upcoming Guerrilla... which also features Gosling.
The Three-Strikes-and-You're-Out Award: Cameron Crowe
The "mimosas" made me sort of mouthy by this point, and I allegedly rushed the podium with this outburst: "Hey, Crowe! Are you so smitten with your own words that you've forgotten that they need to be delivered in a certain order so that they actually make sense? First the incomprehensible Vanilla Sky, now the embarrassingly contrived Elizabethtown. Why don't you 'show me the talent'! Get it? It's like 'show me the money,' but different! Where are you going?"
So I was delighted to finally kiss 2005 goodbye, and while I'm trying to remain optimistic about next year's Daynas --- the films of 2006 look rather promising on paper --- there is still an undercurrent of dread. Jude Law can't stay away forever.
Documentaries used to be completely distasteful to me, the Brussels sprouts of the film world. I ingested them because I knew they were in some way beneficial, even if I couldn't see how at the time. It's possible I've grown more mature, but a likelier explanation is that documentary features have just gotten more accessible.
This year's Oscar nominees for Best Documentary are Darwin's Nightmare, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, March of the Penguins, Murderball, and Street Fight. None of the nominees are about the Holocaust and none were made by Michael Moore or Errol Morris. All have showed on Rochester screens (Street Fight aired on PBS), and all educate as well as entertain. And no doubt due to its family appeal, Penguins has grossed more at the box office than any of the five nominees for Best Picture.
Filmmaking has gotten easier, with inexpensive and user-friendly equipment enabling movies to be made on the most shoestring of budgets. Documentaries that the chains wouldn't have booked on a dare are suddenly enjoyable moneymakers instead of dry and utilitarian screen fillers. How can we ensure that this continues? Simple. Keep watching.
--- Dayna Papaleo
This year's Oscar story
The characters in Woody Allen's Match Point completely annihilate a number of commandments --- including the ones about coveting and killing --- but the religious right doesn't seem to mind. They're too agitated over BrokebackMountain, director Ang Lee's Oscar-nominated Western about two men who embark on a decades-long affair that both enriches and wrecks their lives. Apparently murder and adultery is less damaging to Christian values when it involves heterosexuals.
Accuracy in Media (www.aim.org), a Washington, DC-based watchdog organization that "sets the record straight on important issues that have received slanted coverage," posted a column on February 23 lauding the efforts of VILE, a group which recently protested Brokeback at the Little Theatre. AIM echoes VILE's stance that Brokeback is pro-homosexual propaganda, though it's difficult to imagine straight people watching the agony endured by the main characters and wishing they were gay, too.
If anything, Brokeback is pro-tolerance propaganda, and it's not just our far-right brethren whose minds could use some opening. Even forward-thinking people I know have made comments like "I don't want to watch that," referring to what they mistakenly assume to be nonstop cowboy-on-cowboy action. But all you would see is the heartbreaking tale of two people aching to be together. And you can probably relate to that.
Well, there's always home video in case you're concerned that the theater employees might question your sexuality. And don't worry --- there are no documented cases of someone catching gay from a piece of art.