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'The Master' Wins, Then Loses, Top Prize at Venice

The Master
The Weinstein Company

In the movie equivalent of awarding every player on a children's soccer team a trophy just for showing up, the Venice Film Festival invoked special rules over the weekend to prevent Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" from winning their top honor after jurors had awarded the film too many prizes.

Apparently there is such a thing as being too good.

Telling the tale of a 1950's pseudo-religious cult that may or may not be based on Scientology, "The Master" has been earning major award season buzz right from the moment its first trailer debuted and introduced the world to eye opening performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman. And the Venice jury, headed by "Heat" director Michael Mann, was reportedly blown away as well, voting to give the film its top honor as well as awards for directing and acting.

In a bizarre twist, though, Venice recently amended their rules to prevent one film from winning more than two awards, apparently believing that excellence is secondary to inclusiveness. Every film is its own special snowflake and deserves a gold star, right? As a result, the jury had to rescind "The Master's" Golden Lion award and instead give it to Korean director Kim Ki-duk's "Pieta."

"The rules are very specific," Mann told The Hollywood Reporter. "A film may only win one award. The exception is actors. A film could win for actor and one of the other awards, but a film can’t win for actor and Golden Lion."

Mann still managed to trick the system a little bit, as the jury awarded the top acting prize jointly to both Hoffman and Phoenix, while also giving the directing prize to Anderson, meaning "The Master" actually won three prizes instead of one.

"[The Master] was awarded best director because we really thought Paul Thomas Anderson's directing was fantastic," Mann said. “And it allowed us to award the actors. Nobody else could have played these roles. It’s a three-handed triumph."

Unless, of course, you actually think the best movie should win the prize for best movie. But that would be crazy, right?

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