The Golden Lion is the name of the award given to the best movie at the Venice Film Festival. This year, Paul Thomas Anderson's hotly anticipated The Master was set to receive the award until the panel of judges realized it was too good and changed their minds.
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The Hollywood Reporter's Matthew Beloni reports the panel, led by Michael Mann, were all set to hand over the awards for best movie, best directing, and best performance (to be jointly given to Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman) to The Master, until someone pointed out rule 7.2, footnote six, corollary seven. (Not the actual rule.) The festival's new rules state there's a two major award limit per film. Instead of giving The Master to best picture prize it deserves, the panel had a "heated session" to determine which award they'd take away. In the end, they decided the Golden Lion would be given to a Korean film, Pieta.
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In the end, this won't matter for The Master. The Golden Lion is one of those "prestigious" film festival awards executives wrap in a wreath of leaves and put in a trailer or on a DVD case to try and convince you to watch their very important movie. Do you remember who won the Golden Lion last year? How about who won Cannes' Palme d'Or two years ago? Of course you don't. There will be six more equally as unimportant festival prizes that no one outside of distribution execs and movie critics actually care about that will line up to take the Golden Lion's place.