And the award goes to...

The Cultural Capital annual film awards pick out the best, worst and most unlikely movie moments of

In recent weeks, voices have been clamouring to know the outcome of 2011 New Statesman Cultural Capital film awards. Admittedly, these voices have been located exclusively inside my own head but, hey, what can you do except keep taking the medication? So here it is at last without further delay: an awards ceremony with no envelopes, tearful speeches, goodie bags or Ricky Gervais -- guaranteed!

Film of the year
A Separation

Honourable mentions
Le quattro volte, Meek's Cutoff, The Portuguese Nun, Bridesmaids, Ballast, Weekend, Neds, Love Like Poison, The Fighter, Sleeping Beauty, Snowtown, Dreams of a Life, Treacle Jr, The Guard, Rango.

Worst Film of the Year
Rowan Joffe's 1960s-set adaptation of Brighton Rock, which rendered unintelligible Graham Greene's fierce, lean novel and subjected it to the kind of wanton assault that Pinkie himself might have performed with a switchblade. Runner-up: Roland Emmerich's laughably dumb Anonymous, a would-be mystery asking whether Shakespeare was the true author of the canon attributed to him. The bigger mystery was how such a dazzling cast (Vanessa Redgrave, Mark Rylance, David Thewlis, Rafe Spall, Derek Jacobi) got mixed up in this tosh.

The "Good Film, Shame about the Ending" Award
The Tree of Life. The reunion of departed souls on a beach wasn't clever when it was used 20 years ago in Longtime Companion, and it hasn't gained poignancy or profundity in the interim. Runner-up: Kill List.

The "Good Sequel, Shame about (most of) the preceding instalments" Award
The stirring and surprising Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

Most Inexplicably Praised Film of the Year
A tie: Midnight in Paris and Drive.

Best Use of the Tomatina festival in a motion picture
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Runner-up: We Need to Talk About Kevin.

The Clockwork Orange/"Singin' in the Rain" Award for Previously Innocuous Song Corrupted For All Time By Its Use in a Disturbing Film
Tiny Tim's "Tiptoe Through the Tulips", as used in the 80% terrifying ghost story Insidious. I didn't like that song before and I don't like it now -- but for entirely different reasons.

The Jackie Brown/"Across 110th St" Award for Reappropriating a Well-Known Song to Inventive Effect.
The Salt of Life, Gianni Di Gregorio's life-affirming comedy, for the inspired use of the Pixies' "Here Comes the Man" in its final montage. Runner-up: "Greensleeves" in Love Like Poison.

Best Use of an Interval
Jihne Mera Dil Luteya. I'm continually astonished by the inventive ways in which Indian cinema exploits the convention of the interval; why don't western filmmakers take advantage of the opportunities it presents for cranking up tension and reinvigorating film structure? The identity of the main candidate for paternity in this fun if overlong "who's the daddy?" comedy-drama appeared to be revealed on the cusp of the interval -- only for that supposed revelation to be turned on its head when the audience returned 10 minutes later clutching tubs of Double Chocolate Chip.

Best Newcomers
Acting: Tom Cullen (Weekend), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Conor McCarron (Neds), Alex Shaffer (Win Win).
Directing: Lance Hammer (Ballast), Justin Kurzel (Snowtown), Julia Leigh (Sleeping Beauty), Will Sharpe & Tom Kingsley (Black Pond).

Most Heartening Comeback
The writer-director Jamie Thraves, whose inquisitive, bittersweet comedy Treacle Jr arrived a full decade after his debut The Low Down (with only the neglected, straight-to-DVD Patricia Highsmith adaptation The Cry of the Owl in between). Runner-up: the actor Chris Langham, returning from disgrace with an unhinged performance in the disquieting comedy Black Pond.

The Kristen Wiig Award For Imminent Superstardom
So named because last December on this site I expressed a wish to see Kristen Wiig receive the role and acclaim she deserved -- only for that wish to be granted tenfold when she co-wrote and starred in the gleeful Bridesmaids. Feeling as giddy as Aladdin after his first encounter with the genie, I'm now going to put forward the British actress Juno Temple, who followed small parts in films including Atonement and Greenberg with a dazzling turn this year in Gregg Araki's apocalyptic horror-comedy Kaboom; as a perky partygoer with confidence and coolness to burn, she stole the show and invited comparison with Judy Holliday (well, from this writer at least). Expect to see her next year in William Friedkin's screen version of Tracy Letts's play Killer Joe.

Most Touching Screen Romance
Make that bromance: Seth Rogen and Jay Chou, in the much-reviled The Green Hornet, were positively twinkle-eyed together. Runner-up: Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the "cancer comedy" 50/50.

Best Aspect Ratio
4:3 aka Academy ratio aka the square frame aka "Hey! Where's the rest of the screen gone? Somebody fetch the projectionist!" As seen in Wuthering Heights, Meek's Cutoff and The Artist. It's what all the coolest cinema screens are wearing this year.

Best Score
Last year it was Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross's score for David Fincher's The Social Network. This year it's Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross's score for David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Most Unlikely Showdown
Tom Hollander vs Eric Bana in Hanna. That's right: it's Rev opening a can of whup-ass on the Hulk!

Best Twist
The Skin I Live In. You mean he was... so she is... and that's why... wooaahh!

 

 

 

Ryan Gilbey is the New Statesman's film critic. He is also the author of It Don't Worry Me (Faber), about 1970s US cinema, and a study of Groundhog Day in the "Modern Classics" series (BFI Publishing). He was named reviewer of the year in the 2007 Press Gazette awards.

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Britain's diversity crisis starts with its writers. Here's why

What happens on the casting couch draws the headline, but the problem starts on the page, says James Graham. 

I’m a playwright and screenwriter, which – pertinent to the issues we’ll be discussing in this enquiry – still feels weird to say. I get embarrassed, still, saying that, in a taxi or hairdressers. I don’t know why I still carry that insecurity about saying I’m a writer, but I do, because it sounds like I’m lying, even in my own head.

Obviously I’m completely biased, and probably overstating the influence and importance of my own profession, but I think so many of the problems surrounding lack of representation in the performing arts start with writers.

If we aren’t encouraging and generating writers from certain communities, classes or backgrounds to tell their stories, to write those roles, then there’s not going to be a demand for actors from those communities to play them. For casting agents or drama schools to prioritise getting diverse actors on stage. We need to create those plays and TV dramas –like the ones that I grew up with. I didn’t have any access to much theatre until I was fifteen, but I did have Boys From the Black Stuff, and I did have Cracker, and I did have Band of Gold. I think the loss of those regional producing bodies – Central, Granada – now all completely centralised into London, means that we just tell less of those stories. I remember a TV show called Boon – anyone? – which was set in Nottingham, and I would see on the TV streets I’d walked down, and think, Oh my God, that actor is walking down a street I’ve walked down. That sounds like it’s insignificant. If you’re from a town that is deprived, that feels ignored, it isn’t.

I was very lucky that at my school (which was, at the time, the largest comprehensive school in the country), from the headmaster down to the drama teachers, everyone just believed that working class kids should do plays. Be in plays, read plays, perform plays to the community. Both inside the curriculum of the school day, and outside it – drama teachers dedicating their time to staying behind. Our head of drama identified a group of us who clearly had a passion for it. We weren’t likely thesps. One lad’s entire family were made unemployed when the pit closed. Many lived on the big council estate. My parents and step-parents worked respectively in warehouses, the local council, or as the local window cleaner (incidentally, my first real job. Which I was terrible at).

Our drama teacher was encouraged and determined enough to launch the first ever Drama A-Level in our school. Based on that, about 10 or 12 of us got the confidence – or arrogance – to take our own show to the Edinburgh Festival. We were 16 or 17, and the first people in our community to ever go to visit the festival. We did a play up there, and after that, a psychological unlocking happened, where I thought: maybe I could do a degree in drama (it was the first time I had ever thought to do so) at university (the first in my family to go. Well, joint-first. My twin sister went on the same day, but I walked into my digs first).

I enrolled in drama at Hull University. A high proportion of my peers were middle class. A higher proportion from London or the South East. They talked often about institutions I had never heard of. They were talking about the National Theatre: I didn’t know we had a national theatre that my parents had been paying tax for that I had never been to. Many had performed with the (again, apparently) ‘National’ Youth Theatre, also in London. Paul Roseby, also on this panel, has made such leaps forward in getting the NYT producing in regional venues, and making auditions possible for people across the UK, but unfortunately, at the time, that wasn’t the case for me – and I was the ideal candidate to be in the National Youth Theatre.

I started writing because I had the confidence after I read texts by people like Jim Cartwright, Alan Bennett, John Godber, Alan Ayckbourn: Northern writers, working class writers that made me think it wasn’t just something that other people do.

After returning home, and working at local theatres, I moved down to London. I had to. The major new writing producers are there. All the TV companies are there. The agents are there. I was lucky to find support in a pub fringe theatre – though the economics meant there was no money to commission, so I wrote plays for free for about four years, that would get produced, and reviewed in the national press, while I worked various jobs in the day and slept for a time on a mate's floor. The first person to ever pay to commission me to write a play was Paul Roseby of the National Youth Theatre. I’m now very lucky to be earning a living doing something I love. In a way, compared to actors, or directors, it’s easier for writers who don’t come from a background that can sustain them, financially, in those early years. Your hours can be more flexible. Yes, it was annoying to miss rehearsals because I had a shift in a call centre, but it was still possible to do it. If you’re an actor or director, you’re fully committed. And if you’re doing that for nothing, there starts to be cut-off point for those from backgrounds who can’t.

I’m sure that local and regional theatres are the key to drawing in talent from less privileged backgrounds. But the range of national arts journalism that cover work outside London has been so significantly reduced. In our little echo chamber a few weeks ago, we theatre types talked about Lyn Gardner at the Guardian. Her coverage has been cut, which is very directly going to affect her ability to cover theatre shows outside of London – and so the self-fulfilling cycle of artists leaving their communities to work exclusively in London takes another, inevitable, turn.

I am culpable in this cycle. I have never done a play at the Nottingham Playhouse, my local producing house growing up – why? Because I’ve never submitted one, because I know that it will get less national press attention. So I just open it in London instead. That’s terrible of me. And I should just bite the bullet and say it doesn’t matter about the attention it gets, I should just go and do a story for my community. And if I, and others, started doing that more, maybe they will come.

I also want to blame myself for not contributing back to the state schools that I come from. I really really enjoy going to do writing workshops with kids in schools, but I would say 90 per cent of those that I get invited to are private schools, or boarding schools, or in the South of England. Either because they’re the ones that ask me, because they’re the ones who come and see my shows in London and see me afterwards backstage, or because they have the confidence to email my agent, or they have the budget to pay for my train ticket. Either way, I should do more. It would have helped the younger me so much to meet a real person, from my background, doing what I wanted to do.

I don’t know how to facilitate that. I take inspiration from Act for Change, creating a grassroots organisation. I know that there is a wealth of industry professionals like me who would, if there was a joined-up structure in place that got us out there into less privileged communities, we would on a regular basis go to schools who don’t get to meet industry professionals and don’t unlock that cultural and psychological block that working class kids have that says, that is not for me, that is something that other people do, I would dedicate so much of my time to it. That’s just one idea of hopefully better ones from other people that might come out of this enquiry.

James Graham is a playwright and screenwriter. This piece is adapted from evidence given by James Graham at an inquiry, Acting Up – Breaking the Class Ceiling in the Performing Arts, looking into the problem of a lack of diversity and a class divide in acting in the UK, led by MPs Gloria De Piero and Tracy Brabin.