FIPRESCI names ‘Ghost Writer’ Film of the Year

Posted by · 6:20 am · September 20th, 2010

This news actually dropped a few weeks ago, but I neglected to mention it while I was distracted with Venice goings-on. Anyway, since the award was presented at the San Sebastián Film Festival this past weekend, it seems appropriate to bring it up now.

FIPRESCI, the international critics’ association, is best known for the independent awards they dish out at most major film festivals — which, obviously, tend to line up more with critical consensus than jury decisions. (At Venice last week, for example, they chose the widely admired Russian entry “Silent Souls.”)

However, once a year, they poll their collected membership to elect a Grand Prix winner for Film of the Year. A list of past winners of the prize, awarded since 1999, reads rather like a greatest-hits compilation of recent arthouse cinema: “There Will Be Blood,” “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” “All About My Mother,” and so on.

So, what’s their Film of the Year for 2010? Roman Polanski’s “The Ghost Writer.”

It’s at this point that I think progressive media loyalty to Polanski may have gone into overdrive: “The Ghost Writer” is an elegantly crafted little thriller, with a campaign-worthy performance by Olivia Williams in the mix, but I’m having a tough time swallowing it as the most significant achievement in world cinema of the past 12 months. I fear voters have put the backstory ahead of the filmmaking in this instance.

Of course, it’s not the first time Polanski has been prominently (and somewhat unexpectedly) honored this year: he took Best Director at the Berlinale in February. It does make me wonder whether the director’s band of supporters in the Academy might show up for the film come nomination time — despite its low profile and early release date. In a decidedly sparse Best Adapted Screenplay field, for example, perhaps this is a dark horse to keep on eye on.

For the record, here is the full list of FIPRESCI Grand Prix champs:

1999 “All About My Mother,” Pedro Almodóvar
2000 “Magnolia,” Paul Thomas Anderson
2001 “The Circle,” Jafar Panahi
2002 “The Man Without a Past,” Aki Kaurismäki
2003 “Uzak,” Nuri Bilge Ceylan
2004 “Notre Musique,” Jean-Luc Godard
2005 “3-Iron,” Kim Ki-duk
2006 “Volver,” Pedro Almodóvar
2007 “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” Cristian Mungiu
2008 “There Will Be Blood,” Paul Thomas Anderson
2009 “The White Ribbon,” Michael Haneke
2010 “The Ghost Writer,” Roman Polanski

[Photo: Summit Entertainment]

→ 25 Comments Tags: , , , | Filed in: Daily

25 responses so far

  • 1 9-20-2010 at 7:27 am

    James D. said...

    So bizarre. I liked it quite a bit, but it still a pretty forgettable film. It wouldn’t be the worst thing to get a nomination, though.

  • 2 9-20-2010 at 8:03 am

    Elton Telles said...

    “The Ghost Writer” isn’t the best movie of the year, but I think it’s nice a great, but underrated thriller get this important prize. And Polanski rocks! Always did.

  • 3 9-20-2010 at 8:22 am

    RyanT said...

    Great shout out to Olivia Williams though. I’d be quite happy if she gets ANY award recognition from anywhere. Though… would she be supporting or lead? Hm.

  • 4 9-20-2010 at 8:22 am

    AmericanRequiem said...

    i enjoyed it quite a bit, it was a nice companion piece to shutter island back in march

  • 5 9-20-2010 at 8:23 am

    Michael said...

    I loved The Ghost Writer but I can’t help but feel this is more of an award showing the group’s solidarity in terms of the whole Polanski controversy and also a way to reward the director for his lifetime collection of work.

  • 6 9-20-2010 at 9:08 am

    Ella said...

    I wonder when the poll was conducted. Has this membership seen most of the top films of 2010?

  • 7 9-20-2010 at 9:23 am

    Scott C said...

    It’s a great little movie, and I’m so happy to see it getting an award like this. Whether or not it’s the single best thing released this year, it is better than a lot of the films that will end up being nominated. And if this helps keep Olivia Williams in the running for a Supporting Actress nomination, well, that’s just one more reason to like this move.

  • 8 9-20-2010 at 10:21 am

    red_wine said...

    Its a supremely perplexing choice. Good movie and all and the name of a legendary director attached but seriously just read The Ghost Writer with the other past winners of this prize and it already seems vastly inferior.

    Could they really pick no better? I think Guy more than support for Polanski, this award might signify fractured voting in a poll spread across the world (some 296 critics voted I think) where I am assuming pockets of critics saw pockets of films centered around the festivals they attended and this lead to very small tallies for most films with 1 widely seen film taking the top prize as a matter of course.

    I have barely seen anything this year and even I could pick two English language films that I liked better than The Ghost Writer, namely Kick-Ass and Toy Story 3. But I agree Williams was superb, so were Wilkinson and McGregor, Desplat’s score as well as Polanski’s direction.

  • 9 9-20-2010 at 12:14 pm

    Michael W. said...

    I didn’t know about this choice and I certainly didn’t see it coming.

    Back in february when Polanski won in Berlin I thought it could be a contender but even though it received fine reviews there wasn’t really THAT much talk about it, was there? But now this. Could it be remembered more when the season gets underway?

    It’s also shortlisted for the European Film Awards and nominations in the big categories certainly would be a victory for it and then who knows what can happen later on…

    Ella said: “I wonder when the poll was conducted. Has this membership seen most of the top films of 2010?”

    As far as I know it isn’t for the entire year 2010. It’s just the films that has been released since last year’s San Sebastian Film Festival where this award will be given.

  • 10 9-20-2010 at 12:36 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Yes, it’s not run according to the calendar year — which is why “Magnolia” and “There Will Be Blood” both effectively won a year late.

  • 11 9-20-2010 at 12:39 pm

    James D. said...

    Assuming A Prophet is ineligible, the right winner should have been Machete.

  • 12 9-20-2010 at 12:43 pm

    Jordan Cronk said...

    Man, that run of “The Circle”, “The Man Without a Past”, “Uzak”, and “Notre Musique” is pretty darn stellar. As much as I enjoyed it, “The Ghost Writer” kind of sticks out like a sore thumb here.

  • 13 9-20-2010 at 2:26 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Putting his backstory ahead of the filmmaking? Wouldn’t that create a negative effect, n0t a winning one?

  • 14 9-20-2010 at 2:29 pm

    Billyboy said...

    Well, I haven’t seen the supposedly great films from the fall (Black Swan or The Social Network), but for now The Ghost Writer is the best I’ve seen this year. I’m glad the film is getting some deserved recognition.

    And the list of past winners is really good. Polanski’s film fits perfectly, in my opinion.

    Fingers crossed on Polanski as the lone director spot.

  • 15 9-20-2010 at 3:14 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    English: Come on, you’re not that naïve. There’s a lot of sympathy for, and solidarity with, Polanski in liberal media circles. Rewarding the film makes for a good story.

  • 16 9-20-2010 at 3:38 pm

    Angry Shark said...

    This is all about sympathy for Polanski. The film itself is really beautiful, but lacks that extra oomph to make it something great. Achingly beautiful, but slow as molasses. Show me someone with Ghost Writer as No. 1 of the year, and I will show you a pretentious Polanski defender.

  • 17 9-20-2010 at 6:16 pm

    BulgingThrobbingShroom said...

    “It does make me wonder whether the director’s band of supporters in the Academy might show up for the film come nomination time — despite its low profile and early release date. In a decidedly sparse Best Adapted Screenplay field, for example, perhaps this is a dark horse to keep on eye on.”

    Here’s hoping this is the case. The man is great filmmaker.

  • 18 9-20-2010 at 7:37 pm

    Jacob S. said...

    @16: The Ghost Writer was slow as molasses? I found it a really well-paced.

    I liked the film – it’s a great Neo-Noir strongly influenced by Kubrick’s “The Killing” which I really liked with good cinematography, writing, and acting all around, but I *am* surprised that it’s considered best of the year. Although it would never happen, I think it would be amazing if TS3 won. I also think that September is a bit premature to select the best film of the year, no?

  • 19 9-20-2010 at 7:49 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Sorry, I just can’t imagine how anyone could possibly defend the crimes Polanski committed. That’s just scary.

  • 20 9-20-2010 at 11:39 pm

    via collins said...

    I went into the film earlier this year with middling expectations, and was pleasantly surprised. As the year has worn on, I find the artistry of the thing has been repeating over and over – many scenes.

    Whether it’s the best of the year or not hardly matters, I’d argue a few in that list weren’t best of their year either, but they sure do make a formidable list of fine films. And I’ve found I like Ghost Writer a little more all the time.

    English, don’t think there’s anyone defending the alleged crimes here either. I think FIPRESCI are aiming to award good films, not make with the moral values on personal lives. That’s probably a subject for a different discussion.

  • 21 9-21-2010 at 1:40 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    “I also think that September is a bit premature to select the best film of the year, no?”

    See comment #10. Past 12 months, not calendar year.

  • 22 9-21-2010 at 2:33 pm

    Jacob S. said...

    Ah, so they give awards after Rosh Hashana? I see…