A few words about the SAG awards in general. I think of all the (US) movie awards (or at least the ones that give awards for acting) I respect them the most, because it is actors awarding the achievement of their peers. This is not to say that politics and those other unsavory and exploitative aspects of the movie industry are not present in the considerations, but I think they are perhaps less prominent. I also like that they refer to their awards as "Outstanding" work rather than "Best". I don't know why it seems fairer to say that one performance was more outstanding than the others than to say that one was the best of all, but it just does. I guess "Outstanding" just implies less superiority.
Now, one might ask, if the one in question was petty and vindicative, or just genuinely confused, "Mary, why on Earth do you respect the SAG awards when they gave their top honor last year to Crash, which you hate?" It's a fair question. First of all, I do not hate Crash, I just find it woefully inadequate and incompetently executed; what I hate is the fact that it won the Best Picture Oscar over four vastly more deserving films, (including one for which I feel personal affinity). However, the Best Picture Oscar takes into account all aspects of filmmaking, whereas the Screen Actors Guild only recognizes acting. As mentioned, the top SAG award is Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble, and as I have stated before in my analyses of Crash, the strongest aspect of the film was the casting/acting (except for weak-link Ryan Phillipe--blargh). The SAG also win bonus points for being one of the few American organizations of film professionals savvy enough to award top acting honors to Johnny Depp for his portrayal of Jack Sparrow in the original Pirates of the Caribbean.
And now a few impressions on a particularly excellent movie I just saw:
Today I splurged and went to see Pan's Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno) in the regular cinema because I don't trust the $3 cinema to get it in. And I have to say it was amazing (no pun intended), absolutely enchanting. I loved it because it was such a beautiful mixture--I might go so far as to call it a marriage--of romanticism and realism (one might go so far as to say naturalism; it would probably be more accurate). I might not have ever believed it possible had I not seen it with my one eyes, but now I'm a believer. I'm going to assume that you've read the plot synopsis so you know what the story's about because I don't think I'll do it justice and I don't want to spend so much time on it, but one thing that really impressed me is that the question of whether the supernatural aspects were real or products of Ofelia's imagination is left entirely open to interpretation, so realists and naturalists can appreciate it without sucking the joy out of it for us Romantics.
I have to say, though, watching the movie and then reading about it on IMDb afterward I (re)discovered something upsetting about myself, which is that I've become so accustomed to see computer-animated imagery in movies that I'll often just assume that images are CG when in fact they were not. This was the case with this movie; I just assumed the faun was computer-generated, but it turns out there was an actual guy in an actual costume and what were apparently very elaborate prosthetics. This is very upsetting to me, because I'm someone who believes that there's a place for CGI, but as much should be done practically as is feasible (and safe for everyone involved), so it makes me sad that sometimes I don't appreciate that which is done practically. One the other hand, sometimes there are computer-generated images that I don't realize are computer generated (quite a few in both PotC movies that I didn't realize before watching the DVD commentaries). I guess I will definitely have to see Pan's Labyrinth again to fully appreciate it. I did find that none of the effects were entirely realistic-looking to me, but that's okay because, depending on one's interpretation they are either figments of a young girl's imagination or supernatural phenomena outside the realm of anyone's actual experience, so they don't have to look "real". Who's to say what's "real" anyway?
If I still respected the Oscars I'd be disappointed that it didn't get a nomination for Best Picture. I find elements in it similar to both Life is Beautiful (the resistance to fascism, the romantic values of imagination and the wisdom of children) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (elements of fantasy, though there are considerably fewer fantastic elements in CTHD). Anyway, I haven't seen the other nominees for best foreign film in a foreign language (that's what I'll call it since that's what it is), and unless one wins I probably won't get the chance, so I'm unable to make any sort of comparison, but I would like to see Pan's Labyrinth win. Although I'm torn now as to whether I want Pan's Labyrinth or Little Miss Sunshine to win for Best Original Screenplay. I think I'm going to say that Pan's Labyrinth was probably the superior screenplay because of the aforementioned marriage of romanticism and naturalism, although I won't be disappointed if either of them win, and if something else wins I will, though not heartbroken because, again, haven't seen the other nominees and probably don't care enough to make the effort.
Today as I was walking out of the theater I was entertaining the notion that foreign films are generally better than American films, but as I continued to think it over I realized that that's probably not necessarily the case. Living where I do in the United States, I unfortunately do not get much exposure to foreign films because there's not much of a market for them here. I'm not exactly sure why that is (were I interested in pursuing my scholarly career, that would be an interesting research topic). The foreign films that I do get a chance to see, generally speaking, are those considered to be the best of the best; in other words, those that generate critical acclaim and/or award nominations. In my experience, the good reputations have been entirely deserved.
Certainly deserved in the case of Pan's Labyrinth. If you get a chance, go see! go see and report back!