After a while, it got eerie. Favoring Michael Winterbottom's In This World a day or two after it was shown was easy. But as the days rolled on and the films right along with them, many of them very, very good, was I really still sure I could or should carry on answering that persistent question, "What's your favorite?" with the title of the very first film shown in the Competition? Was I really so sure?
No. Of course not. But I kept settling on this one again and again anyway. And even now that the International Jury has awarded it the Golden Bear, the Berlinale's top prize, I'm still not 100 percent sure. But it's the film I would have chosen, too.
There's more to selecting the winners than deciding which films, directors or performances are "better," by whatever criteria, than all the others. We know, for example, that all the jury members have to approve, more or less, of the decision. Some end up settling for their second or third choices; maybe even most of them do. They have to go for a highest common denominator of sorts.
You also have to spread things out, create a sort of balanced tableau. You can't throw all the awards at the French, for example. And you have to be very careful when you hand them out to the Americans, especially to Americans who either have won already or will soon likely win more awards for the same work. Berliners tend to boo when that happens. That said, there are a lot of Americans this year.
The Jury Grand Prize, the Silver Bear, has gone to Spike Jonze's Adaptation. Hard to argue with that; I probably would have gone for Hero, though, but then again, how do you compare even those two and a film like Blind Shaft? You couldn't give Silver and Gold to two hand-held realistic socio-political examinations of the plight of the poor. Ultimately, because comedies never get the recognition they deserve anyway, Adaptation is a fine counterpart to World. Balance.
Silver Bear for Best Director goes to Patrice Chéreau for His Brother. Hm. Nah. I've said my piece on that, though.
Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore take a collective Silver Bear as a "female ensemble" for Best Actress. At first, I thought, fine, I didn't like The Hours, but these are some wonderful actresses. But the more I think about it and the more I see snippets in all these reports on the Oscar nominees, the more I'm souring on these performances, too. Nope, my choice would have been Sarah Polley for a performance that was far less showy but absolutely essential to My Life Without Me.
I do, however, absolutely agree with the choice of Sam Rockwell for Silver Bear for Best Actor for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. A Silver Bear for "an artistic contribution" goes to Li Yang for writing and directing Blind Shaft. No objections from me on that one, either.
Majoly, Serge Fiori and Mamadou Diabaté get a Silver Bear for best film music for Madame Brouette, which I suspect, probably too cynically, I suppose, needed something as the only film in the Competition from Africa. And you couldn't argue that the music wasn't the best thing about it.
AGICOA, the Association of International Collective Management of Audiovisual Works (Association de Gestion Internationale Collective des Oeuvres Audiovisuelles), gives a "Blue Angel" award for best European film and this year it goes to Good Bye, Lenin!, and it's nice to see that film get something. It's going to be more of a crowd-pleaser than an award-winner in the long run. And finally, Hero gets to take home something after all, the Alfred Bauer Prize, "awarded in memory of the Berlinale's founder."
A zillion other awards are given to short films, films that have run in the Forum and Panorama programs and so and so on. I hope to catch some of the winners at some point. You can scan that list here.
If you've been following this coverage, you may be interested to know how the two polls I've mentioned turned out in the end. I've tallied up the stars in the Screen poll, and the top five slots are filled out so: 1) The Hours; 2) Hero; 3) Adaptation and 25th Hour; 4) In This World and My Life Without Me; and 5) His Brother. Fortunately, Der Tagesspiegel worked out their complicated system themselves, and by their figuring, the six German film critics they've been checking in with rank the top five Competition films as follows: 1) 25th Hour; 2) My Life Without Me; 3) The Hours; 4) The Twilight Samurai; and 5) Angst.
In an interview after the awards gala, Michael Winterbottom was asked if he thought the Jury's decision for In This World was politically motivated. In answer, he talked a bit about the politically charged festival this year, what with war hanging over all our heads and even the Americans speaking out against it at every opportunity, and then, he talked about the struggles of the characters he's portrayed in his film and he talked about the honor and, in short - good for him - left the question unanswered.