Friday, February 20, 2009

My 2008 Movie Awards

Movie of the Year
I can't pick out a movie of the year that was better than all the others. I was impressed by parts of Wall-E, Frost/Nixon, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, El Orfanato (The Orphanage), and The Dark Knight. Forcing myself to pick one film out of thin air to be number 1, I'll pick The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. They stretched a pretty uninteresting Fitzgerald novella, and mixed in the script of Forrest Gump (not a film I thought much of); then used the most startlingly surprising special effects I can remember seeing since Jurassic Park in 1993 or Gollum in the LOTR films. And somehow they drew me in, and in one particular scene towards the end left me quite breathless. Most of the other 2009 films gave me more or less what I'd expected from them, while Benjamin proved a surprise.
Most Financially Successful New Hollywood 'Idea'
Chick flicks - since the 90's ended, Hollywood chick flicks have generally been progressively stale romantic comedies. The Devil Wears Prada was a bit of an improvement a year ago, and this year we got Mamma Mia & Sex and the City. Maybe it helped that they originated from the WestEnd and the TV industry, rather than the film studios. And that the source material was written by women. Mamma Mia was directed by a female Brit, and SATC by a tv director. Even Twilight, a film which I didn't enjoy quite so much, but at least had an attractive style to it, and was a huge hit, was written and directed by women.
All three films benefited from attractive characters and actors, and plots that didn't simply revolve around two people falling in and out of love, and then in love again in time for the happy ending (I saw What Happens In Vegas this year and it proved how low the genre has fallen).
All films made big $'s. Mamma Mia wasn't particularly expensive by Hollywood standards, but went on to make US$590m worldwide.
Fun & Dumb
They weren't classics, but I had fun with Indiana Jones 4, Mamma Mia, and Sex and the City.
Tropic Thunder was sometimes fun (Robert Downey Jr, the fake previews at the start) and sometimes dumb (Tom Cruise and Matthew McConaughey).
Wall-E was FUN and not dumb in the slightest.
Biggest Miscalculation
Star Wars - Clone Wars was so plain ordinary. A not very interesting a Saturday morning cartoon serial, with no excitement or dramatic trajectory. I was grateful for the 3 Star Wars prequels, even though they didn't equal the original films. But this latest animated film was a plain waste of effort.
Biggest Piece of Crap
I avoid most 'romantic comedies' these days - because they star people like Kate Hudson and Adam Sandler, who never make good films. But I accidentally saw What Happens in Vegas, and can't believe it made over US$200m worldwide. It wasn't romantic OR funny, the characters were unlikeable wangs, and the tacked on 'romantic' ending laughably bad - so what did people see in it then? I've seen worse films in previous years (I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry; Date Movie; Battlefield Earth), but there was no reason for this film's existence.
10,000 BC was stupid, dull and un-fun too.
Most Annoying Remakes
Why was Hulk remade as The Incredible Hulk? They made a big fuss over the new film taking on a more action-packed feel, but the end result was the usual sequel that's just a copy of the original, but a bit less good.
I Am Legend annoyed me. The empty New York streets were great, really convincing. Will Smith alone with his dog interesting enough. But then crap CGI nasties, and a couple of pointless survivors turn up to make everything obvious and stupid. Half a good film.
Best Non-Hollywood Films
The spooky Spanish drama The Orphanage
The Brit/Indian mix of Slumdog Millionaire
Werner Herzog's intriguing doco on the people who inhabit Antartica - Encounters at the End of the World
And the highly entertaining doco on the cheap and nasty Aussie film industry in the 70's & 80's -
Not Quite Hollywood
Worst Performances (or 'miscasting' if you're being kind)
Peirce Brosnan
in Mamma Mia - such singing! So bad one risks feeling warmly towards him out of sympathy.
Cameron Diaz & Ashton Kutcher supposedly hating each other then suddenly loving each other (in time for the credits) in What Happens In Vegas. And I used to like Cameron :-(
Memorable Performances
Heath Ledger - Dark Knight
Brandon Walters - so charismatic in Australia
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona - a cliched tempestuous Spanish artist role, but she was hilarious and sexy as (as she always is in films when they're not set in the US)
Brad Pitt - Benjamin Button - half the credit goes to the special effects artists, but I can't think of anyone else being better in the role. Having been a famously pretty young man who we've all seen grow up over the past decade and a half, seeing him convincingly age backwards added an extra sense of surprise to it that it wouldn't have had with almost anyone else.
Harrison Ford - Indiana Jones - old fashioned star power still at work
Robert Downey Jr - Tropic Thunder
Wall-E - Wall-E
Best Use Of Nudity
Jason Segel - Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Cate Blanchett's 'older person' underwear scene - Benjamin Button
Gilles Marini, the neighbour who likes to shower outdoors - Sex and the City
Most Excessive Overuse of Designer Names
Sex and the City, watching girls squealing over brand names is bearable in very short doses, but not when they go shopping every 17 minutes. As much fun as when I used to find myself sitting on a chair in the lady's section at DJ's, staring at passers-by while mum had four outfits to try on in the change rooms. And while we're at it, when Mr Big knocked down the neighbour's apartment to build Carrie that ridiculously big walk in wardrobe - I was not liking them so much anymore.
Good Spookiness
The Mist - a monsters in the mist movie with extra bite
The Orphanage - stylish Spanish chills, sad and touching, like Pan's Labyrinth crossed with The Others
Best Recreated Cities
Darwin - Australia
Shanghai - Lust, Caution
Best Landscapes
China - The Painted Veil
India - Slumdog Millionaire
Better Than They Should Have Been
Harrison Ford as Indiana in his mid 60's - the film wasn't perfect, but Harrison was
Meryl Streep singing ABBA in Mamma Mia - strange to think it actually worked
Best Olds
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones - neither hiding his age, or giving in to it
Jack Thompson & David Gulpilil in Australia - it was great seeing both guys in reasonably substantial roles
Best Dressed
Nicole Kidman - Australia
Best New Faces
Forgetting Sarah Marshall, with both the Brit Russell Brand, and Mila Kunis (the voice of Meg from Family Guy). She's gorgeous and needs to be allowed to appear in other than cartoon form more often.
And the charismatic Brandon Walters in Australia of course.
Best Sexiness
Lust, Caution - steamy
Worst CGI
Some of the CGI effects in Indiana Jones 4, Australia, and I Am Legend were clearly dodgy.
Speed Racer and 10,000 BC had some impressive effects (I'm a big fan of mammoths), but put effects ahead of story. Boring.
Best Special Effects
Benjamin Button's effects blew me away with their realism and dramatic impact.
Wall-E had some beautifully designed scenes, and The Dark Knight deserves respect for not going down the route of too much CGI.
Australia & Nicole Kidman - got lots of criticism in the Australian press because the film had faults, was a little odd or lazy in parts, and it didn't do well in the USA. But it had a lot more going for it than most films released in Australia in the last decade, and ended up being the second most successful film in Oz last year (after The Dark Knight), and made approx US$200m worldwide. Some credit is due.
Harrison Ford as Indy - he was great!
The Happening - not the scary film it was promoted as, but a quirky 60's-style paranoid b-movie (mild) chiller.
For Scenes of Emotional Impact (for arm-rest gripping and/or "no, I'm not crying, I've just got something in my eye" scenes)
The Orphanage
Sex and the City - I'll admit to finding the emotional mood of one scene dramatic and touching
Beyond Our Ken - doco on the Australian cult Kenja and it's leader Ken Dyer, with a disturbing real-life ending
Mamma Mia
Benjamin Button

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