Well, with regards to the title of this best and worst, another appropriate title would be the first annual best and worst of the year, seeing as how it is the first that is not about six months overdue. This year has seen the release of a number of great films, and rather unfortunately, some rather naff films to put it lightly. Following is a basic sum up of what went on in the year of film. Also, if a particularly good film does not get acknowledged in any awards, like last year, I will acknowledge it’s relevance at the end of the ceremony, be it a metaphorical or a literal ceremony. Also, take this as an information guide for highly recommended films and some to miss. Feel free to comment this acknowledge ceremony (more appropriate a phrase I would think, I don’t have the budget for a red carpet ceremony) with your own opinion on the best and worst of 2008.
The Second Stan and Ollie Award For Best Comedic Film Of The Year - Nominees
· Get Smart
· Kung Fu Panda
· Tropic Thunder
And the winner is… Kung Fu Panda
Yes, say what you will, “eh, Kung Fu Panda, a comedy?” Yes, just because it’s an animated film doesn’t make it a comedy. With regards to the other nominees first off, I seemed to be the only person who found Get Smart rather humorous. I think Steve Carrell is a great comedian who terribly underrated. Also, Tropic Thunder, the big comedy of the year, while not being everything it was hyped up to be, had a number of memorable roles, particularly those of Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Cruise. However, Jack Black proves himself in Kung Fu Panda to be one of the top comedians in the world, creating a lovable and amusing character in Po, the titular Kung Fu Panda. It is a film full of laughs and in-jokes directed at the martial arts genre, and despite being an obviously well-animated product of today, contains all of which we expect from a good comedy film.
The Second Philip K. Dick Award For Best Science-Fiction/Fantasy Film Of The Year - Nominees
And the winner is… Wall-E
To put it simply, we have not had a truly great science-fiction film since The Matrix, let’s face it. Also, the fantasy genre has left the mainstream and independent scene for quite some time, ever since the void after the end of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Twilight I felt was a charming film, and I found that the central romance was engaging and enthralling for all the right reasons, but that it was still certainly a flawed film. Cloverfield on the other hand is like a relic from the past being updated for the future. Besides The Host, how long has it been since we had a great monster movie? I think it may even go back as far as Godzilla. Cloverfield is a great adrenaline-fueled rush of a film, a modern updating of the Japanese classic, but lacks the emotional depth to make it a true masterpiece. That namesake however, has been aptly fitted by the shoes (or rather tracks) of Wall-E. Wall-E is a beautiful film, with some stunning animation, now so advanced that we can become emotional engaged with the characters onscreen, animation or not. It speaks very highly of how animation has advanced nowadays, when we have films like this, Kung Fu Panda and Waltz With Bashir being released in the same year. The fact that animation is now being taken seriously in America, rather than being left the domain of Miyazaki, Oshii, Otomo and the rest of the Japanese artists, speaks highly of how far animation has come along, and Wall-E is the definitive example of this. A true classic.
The Second John Carpenter Award For Best Horror Film Of The Year – Nominees
· The Mist
· The Orphanage
And the winner is… The Mist
Ever since the release of Danny Boyle’s 2002 masterpiece 28 Days Later, we have failed to see another horror film worthy of having that label. Say what you will about The Descent or Saw, trust me, they’re overrated. The Descent, loses itself in a pile of it’s own filth, and Saw, while being good and solid, fails to reach out to greater heights. The feeling is similar with Rec. Here we have something which at times is pulled off very well and is genuinely scary, and other times is just boring. However, on the opening statement, it is rather fitting that after a long wait, we get two films that are released in the same year which are genuinely great horror films. The Orphanage is a great film, with The Shining coming to mind, and a strong central performance from Belen Rueda. However, in the case of The Mist, “great film” would be an understatement. I feel that this is the first true horror masterpiece since 28 Days Later. Not only is it a truly tension filled piece, it has a rock solid screenplay, a hell of a performance from Marcia Gay Harden, but it also realises moral questions regarding our own existence, and whether the monsters are on the outside of the building, or the inside, like that other great department store horror movie, Dawn Of The Dead. Also, it has an ending which packs a punch in a manner similar to that of Shakespeare, certainly by all means the best twist since The Sixth Sense if that gives you an idea of how powerful it is.
The Second I Am Legend Award For Biggest Disappointment Of The Year – Nominees
· Diary Of The Dead
· In Bruges
· Quantum Of Solace
And the winner is… In Bruges
Diary of the Dead in my opinion was enjoyable enough. Certainly a disappointment by all means in comparison to his earlier work. His new Dead trilogy is becoming to Romero’s original Dead trilogy what the new Star Wars trilogy was to the original Star Wars trilogy, only marginally better. Quantum Of Solace, I am not going to say I told everyone so, but I had a hunch that people were going to be disappointed after the massive hype levels after the success of Casino Royale. In Bruges was better than each of the other two, so why does it win this dubious honour you might ask. Well, I tell you this much, yes, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are good in it, and it has some funny lines, but that does not mean that it should get all the acclaim it is receiving. I mean, it is up for an Oscar for goodness sake. Yes, this is the Colin Farrell comeback movie, but this isn’t The Wrestler. The only reason people are applauding this is not because it is a great film, but because Colin Farrell is actually in a good movie for a change. There, rant over, don’t want to talk about In Bruges any more. Taking up too much of my time, fast typer or not.
The Second David Fincher Award For Best Thriller Of The Year – Nominees
· Gone Baby Gone
· Vantage Point
And the winner is… Gone Baby Gone
This really hasn’t been a good year for the thriller. I mean Vantage Point is an ok, solid enough film for the first hour and then it says “screw it, let’s just annoy whoever watch’s it and say, ha ha, we got your money.” However, like the horror genre, we have two outstanding examples of a good thriller. For example, Waz is one of those films that could easily be looked over and dismissed as “torture porn” by any old critic. However, I think that it is terribly that a film with such an ingenious plot and solid central performance should be overlooked in any way whatsoever. Nonetheless, the thriller of the year goes Gone Baby Gone, a classically structured thriller, with some great acting, a labyrinthine plot and a stunning directorial debut effort by Ben Affleck. It is a masterpiece which truly raises some moral questions regarding the suffering of the true victims throughout the film, the children of Boston. Also, heads up to Dave Fincher, hurry up and claim your namesake award. Zodiac didn’t win last year, and this year you didn’t even have the good grace to make a thriller. And while we are on the topic the namesake awards, John Carpenter, make another movie, never mind a great movie.
The Kenneth Loach Award For Best Drama Film Of The Year - Nominees
· The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas
· The Wrestler
And the winner is… The Wrestler
What a good year for the drama genre. I mean, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is a wonderful film, with a brilliant twist on the story of The Holocaust, told in a fable-esque manner from the child’s perspective. Also, the child actors in this film give great performances, certainly ahead of many of their elder peers this year. We also saw another masterpiece from our man Clint in Changeling. This is the kind of epic of which harks back to the days of old Hollywood, in which epic meant a good, solid drama, and not just a long film. The film is knotted together by an outstanding central performance by Angelina Jolie, proving once again that she is a perfectly capable actress who deserves to be shed of the labels of which are keeping her from winning awards. However, in my opinion, The Wrestler is without question the drama of the year. It is a sports movie, but, like so many other sports films, it is not about the action in between the ropes, but outside. This is a very real drama approached in a manner rather differently than Aronofsky’s previous films, which contained a hyper-realised version of life. In this, it is brutally real, showing every little harsh detail in the life of Randy “The Ram” Robinson, played by Mickey Rourke, in one of the best performances of the decade.
The Sylvester Stallone Award For Best Action/Adventure Film Of The Year – Nominees
· The Dark Knight
· Hellboy II: The Golden Army
· Mongol – The Rise To Power Of Genghis Khan
And the winner is… The Dark Knight
Say what you will about ole Sly, despite all the rubbish he has done, for some of the true masterpieces he made, he rightfully deserves the award’s namesake. Anyway, regarding the nominees, Mongol – The Rise To Power Of Genghis Khan is rather reminiscent of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and is both a genuinely entertaining action film and a drama with a good solid plot. This seems to be the key to great action movies, because the feeling is mutual with Hellboy II: The Golden Army. With this film, Guillermo seems to take full advantage of playing with the Hellboy character, creating a great film and script perfectly appropriate for the character, played greatly by Ron Perlman, who truth be told, just missed out on my nominations for Best Actor, coming fourth on the list. However, in must jump the bandwagon and admit that The Dark Knight truly is the action masterpiece of the entire decade. The action sequences are beautifully balanced out by a labyrinthine plot of Shakespearean reminiscence, reeking of the tragedies of which the bard was most famous for creating. It really is a phenomenal film, which is superbly directed, and contains an absolute scene stealer of a performance by the late Heath Ledger as The Joker. Trust me, if you get bored (and I didn’t), The Joker and his infrequent enigmatic appearances will keep you going.
The Second GWB Award For Most Unintentionally Offensive Film Of The Year – Nominees
· Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging
· Sex And The City
And the winner is… Sex And The City
Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging is the kind of film one would take for granted with regards for it being offensive, and I must say that I didn’t really find it offensive, I just felt that on the odd occasion, the male gender in general was portrayed in a number of silly stereotypes that only young girls could hide or hair about. Now, Rambo on the other hand I can see why one would be offended by it. It is a ludicrously violent film which then has the gall to suggest that it really isn’t about violence. However, I wasn’t offended, I in fact found rather enjoyable. Maybe it’s because I am a guy and I don’t mind blood and guts and what not. Perhaps this is the kind of “brain candy” guys are hit with when movies, particularly action movies, are catered towards them. Perhaps this is why I found Sex And The City so offensive. Perhaps not, because personally, say what you will, I can watch chick flicks. I mean, aren’t Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging and Twilight essentially chick flicks? What I found so offensive, was not the materialism, but the fact that the film-makers actually tried to disguise the materialist intentions with a “dramatically harrowing” story. No, I will not buy that thank you. When reviewing this film, I mentioned as example 101, “You gave me a new life.” “You gave me Louis Vuitton.” Maybe girls will realise the “importance” of this piece of dialogue, please excuse me the benefit of the doubt if I sound sexist, but you must be stupid to believe that this line is funny, ironic or charming in any way. Like I said in the review, intention is not the same as what’s said. That is like saying, “I hate you” is the same as saying “I love you.” No it’s not. This film is terribly offensive. Rambo is the other end of the spectrum. Maybe it caters to the male of the species more, but not only that, it does not use Rambo’s knife as an analogy for dramatic purposes. Finally, the film is about eighty minutes including credits, so you do not have enough to complain, whereas Sex And The City is an excessively indulgent and rotund two-and-a-half hour offensafest, if that is a word, thank you very much.
The Christopher Doyle Award For Best Cinematography Of The Year – Nominees
· Michael Bonvillain - Cloverfield
· Wally Pfister - The Dark Knight
· Sergey Trofimov and Rogier Stoffers - Mongol – The Rise To Power Of Genghis Khan
And the winner is… Sergey Trofimov and Rogier Stoffers – Mongol – The Rise To Power Of Genghis Khan
This year, we had a number of outstanding films with great cinematography. Each of the nominated in this year’s award category each displayed different types of cinematography, each of which where judged on the basis of how well they were implemented into the overall product. Film is a visual medium, and the use of cinematography to tell a story is taken into account when judging the winner. The Dark Knight was a film this year that really ticked all of the boxes, in that it had a little bit of everything, and that is why it was such a huge success. The cinematography in this film works differently than the original, in which Gotham City was not dissimilar to the work seen in The Crow, whereas this time it was raw, edgy and gritty city streets. It was best used in the action sequences, in which it was spliced together with computer graphics so well to the point where you couldn’t tell what was a computer generated image and what wasn’t. With regards to Cloverfield, using the Digital Video format was perfect for the film they were trying to make. The end result is an adrenaline-fuelled rush of a film, creating a bombardment of tension that feels very close to home. However, the two cinematographers of Mongol win this award, not because it is sunsets over cities, it is because of how it is implemented into the film. There are a number of key scenes in the film without any dialogue and minimal score, but you still know what is going on through the power of the cinematography, which remains consistently beautiful throughout.
The Ennio Morricone Award For Best Film Composition Of The Year - Nominees
· Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard - The Dark Knight
· Fernando Velasquez - The Orphanage
· Clint Mansell - The Wrestler
And the winner is… Clint Mansell – The Wrestler
As mentioned in the previous category on cinematography, film is a visual medium, but in my opinion, visuals go hand in hand with score, and whenever both of them work well together, you do not even need to write dialogue. Why do you think Koyaanisqatsi works (note to all: look up movie)? Now, The Orphanage has some beautiful music which fits in brilliantly with the piece as a whole, but in my opinion is missing the true magic which makes a memorable score. Hans Zimmer, this year’s composing Hall Of Fame inductee, and his scoring partner James Newton Howard implement their score well in a number of scenes, particularly in enhancing the existential nature of The Joker. In that film, it is best used in The Joker’s final soliloquy, in which we are hooked in wonder and awe at a great combination of dialogue, acting, cinematography and music. However, all around, I feel that Clint Mansell’s minimalist score for The Wrestler is the one that deserves the award. It is non-obtrusive to the story at hand, and let’s you become completely indulged in the world of Randy “The Ram” Robinson. Also, in a number of the scenes in which dialogue is not used (i.e. the wrestling scenes), the music is what helps carry across the visual story, and in my opinion, this is what a good score should, and that is why The Wrestler has the best score of the year.
The Paul Schrader Award For Best Screenplay Of The Year - Nominees
· Guillermo del Toro and Mike Mignola - Hellboy II: The Golden Army
· Frank Darabont - The Mist
· Robert D. Siegel - The Wrestler
And the winner is…Frank Darabont – The Mist
This is an interesting bunch of nominees in this category. For example, we have a horror movie, a sports movie and a superhero movie. Talk about strange bedfellows. Anyway, I believed that Guillermo del Toro and Mike Mignola at least deserved a nomination for their work on Hellboy II: The Golden Army. What could have been a schlock, bog-standard summer sequel was transformed by this script. I mean, all of a sudden we are now able to relate to Hellboy, a red demon from hell meant to bring upon the destruction of humanity, and feel sympathy for his plight as he struggles to prepare for fatherhood. Also, it is the funniest script of the year by a mile. With regards to The Wrestler, Robert D. Siegel has created what may seem like a fantastical character in Randy “The Ram” Robinson, but instead, with this script, he comes across like any other guy, except he has taken too many knocks in his life. Siegel’s script really hits home with the harsh, brutal reality that the wrestling life can be to a lot of people. However, The Mist gets the gong for a number of reasons. For starters, some might say, a horror film, a great script? Well, it is because of the script that the film is so damn scary at times. Each of the character’s is given dialogue of which does not sound inappropriate in the slightest when uttered by the actor’s portraying the characters, particularly in the case of Marcia Gay Harden as Mrs Carmody. Also, the film is masterfully structured, in that we are only revealed little snippets of the whole mystery, and given enough of a teaser to keep us guessing and on the edge of our seat till the final minute. Also, the ending is masterfully structured, and serves as the best twist ending that comes to mind since Memento.
The Thelma Schoolmaker Award For Best Editorial Work Of The Year – Nominees
· Kevin Stitt - Cloverfield
· Lee Smith - The Dark Knight
· Bill Pankow - Redacted
And the winner is…Kevin Stitt- Cloverfield
Yeah, say what you will about the winner, his name is tits backwards. Anyway, to start with the nominees, as a whole, the film Redacted really wasn’t that good and personally, rather boring at parts. The acting was poor and the script was woeful. However, Brian de Palma directs well and Bill Pankow clearly knows how to keep the audience interesting, using a number of different types of format and medium in order to show us the opinions and atrocities depicted in the film. Lee Smith’s work on The Dark Knight is sharp and certainly a clean cut, with the action sequences certainly being edited superbly. Also, the scenes with dialogue are brilliantly edited, so that not a bit of important dialogue seems missed out, nor does it seem that it makes the film overly long. My only problem with the editorial work on this film is in the last scene in which we keep jumping in between a fight scene between Batman and The Joker and the two boats with bombs on them. The two should have been dealt with in two separate scenes, because let’s face it, we are distracted from what we want to see, and that is Batman and The Joker and their final confrontation. It is for these reasons that Kevin Stitt, Mr Tits, gets the deuce for this one. His editorial work on Cloverfield is something that makes you realise the full capacities with which the film medium can be twisted to one’s imagination. I mean, one of the old criticisms about old monster movies was that they were clearly men in suits. Then, when technology advanced, the only way to make a monster was through highly advanced, expensive computer graphics. Cloverfield was a relatively low-budget flick by Hollywood comparisons, and what they have done here is work their way around all of the potential errors with their clearly inferior computer graphics and created a film which puts you in the centre of the action and genuinely scares the hell out of you.
The Peter Jackson Award For Best Artistic Direction In A Film – Nominees
· Anthony Caron-Delion, Peter Francis, John Frankish, Paul Laugier, Mark Swain and Judit Varga - Hellboy II: The Golden Army
· Wang Min Kwa and Hai Ming Xiang - Mongol – The Rise To Power Of Genghis Khan
· Anthony B. Christov, Jason Dreamer and Mark Cordell Holmes - Wall-E
And the winner is…Anthony B. Christov, Jason Dreamer and Mark Cordell Holmes – Wall-E
For those of you less informed on the ways of film, artistic direction is really how the sets are designed and more or less how the world that the characters in the film inhabit look. For example, Blade Runner would be an example of great artistic direction. Anyway, in every single one of his films, Guillermo del Toro has some great artistic direction. The case is not an exception with Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Each one of the fantastical sets looks completely majestic and magical, with the standout set really being the troll market. The case is likewise with the work on Mongol. Mongol has the look of an Asian Lord of the Rings film, with some of the sets of the time looking completely realistic. Also, the costume department has really done a stellar job of making the cast looking like they inhabit that world. Finally, it must be said that overall scenery, dressed or not, has clearly been exploited well for the film by the art department. However, in terms of artistic direction, it is the gurus of Pixar who deserve great credit for their work on this film. At the beginning of Wall-E, the world is as drab, deserted and desolate as any great science-fiction dystopia, and is so good, that it actually makes garbage piles skyscrapers high look beautiful. Then, once the film moves on, the other animated designs are beautiful, but in great contrast to what we see earlier on. Wall-E in my opinion has set a new standard in animation, not only because artistically it is beautiful, not only because it is artistically better than any film this year, but because it stands as proof from Pixar’s humble beginnings just how far along animation has come along in little over a decade.
The Sergei Eisenstein Award For Best Unintentional Propaganda Film Of The Year – Nominees
· Sex And The City
And the winner is…Rambo
Each of these films, besides Redacted, more or less were not designed for the purposes of propaganda and sending home a message. For example, Sex And The City, which I am sure you have gathered by now, I didn’t exactly enjoy, claimed to be a good fun chick flick with emotional depth at the core. However, one could easily market this film as, well, the great things about consumerism. Sex And The City is such a materialist piece of garbage which defies belief in the fact that it depicts the leads going around shopping, taking part in Vogue photo-shoots et al, and then it has the nerve to imply after two-and-a-half hours of this that life is not all about shopping. Redacted in my opinion literally is propaganda. The characters are typically one-dimensional, and everything about these people is virtually despicable. Don’t get me wrong, I hated the Iraq War, but if you want people to get the idea that “war is hell,” have a strong emotional core that can let people be drawn into your message. Thus, by process of elimination, Rambo is by default our best unintentional propaganda film. Reasons? Well, for one, as stupid and ridiculous as it is, the film is actually enjoyable brain candy, and you can’t help but root for Sylvester Stallone playing Rambo again. Also, as sad as it is that a ridiculous, ill-proportionate film that this is, it has proved to be making a difference in the Burmese conflict. For example, the film is now banned over there, and is used as a propaganda film by rebel fighters to rally together against the Burmese dictatorship. So, in essence, while it may be silly action movie to us, to some, it is an important relic, and thus it rightfully deserves this award.
The Second James Cameron Award For Best Sequel Of The Year – Nominees
· The Dark Knight
· Hellboy II: The Golden Army
And the winner is… The Dark Knight
Rambo wins again. No kidding. Really as good as Rambo is for a laugh and brain candy, it really isn’t the best sequel of the year. Sylvester Stallone plays Rambo well again and the action is frenetic, but there really isn’t much else to it. Like I said, propaganda. Anyway, it is rather a shame that a brilliantly made sequel such as Hellboy II: The Golden Army arrives on a year in which the cloud of The Dark Knight has shrouded over the world. I think personally that this sequel expands on the limited story of the original, and that Del Toro really has fun creating the film. The script is solid, Ron Perlman delivers a brilliant performance as the lead in a far more three-dimensional role, and that it is everything that we would want from a summer blockbuster. However, unfortunately for these guys, there was another group of film-makers working on the sequel to a superhero movie, and that was the behemoth of The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight as a film does everything that the second Hellboy does but better. Expanding upon the brooding origin story of Batman Begins, here we have a labyrinthine epic of Shakespearean proportions, with the ensemble cast of the year, some brilliant direction, and of course, that performance. The Dark Knight will not just be remembered as the best sequel of this year, but also as one of the best sequels ever.
The Second Award For Most Surprisingly Entertaining Film Of The Year – Nominees
· Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging
· Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull
And the winner is...Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging
As you can tell from the list above, there are a number of big action movies which could have won this award. Once again, plain and simple, I really enjoy Rambo for what it is, even if virtually everyone else has decided to use the DVD case of the film as a bedpan. Also, with regards to Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, I really was not expecting much. Yeah, the whole company was back on the bandwagon, but truthfully, I went in with the pre-conception that I was going to be bored. Bored I was not. Harrison Ford is great in his signature role, Spielberg does the necessities as director, and while the film may well be a Transformers-esque version of Indiana Jones, ticks virtually all of the boxes on the entertainment scale. However, Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging really deserves this one. This had nothing going for it by my pre-conceptions, I mean, chick flick directed at kids no older than thirteen, this the kind of thing that normally screams horrorshow for me. However, in my opinion, as stereotypical about males and as corny and cliché as it is, the central performance and consistently heart-warming mood throughout was enough to keep one watching past its obvious flaws. Taking the parent’s position here, this is a film I would really recommend buying your pre-teen daughter. A really genuinely nice film to watch, of which there aren’t a lot anymore.
The Lucio Fulci Award For Most Excessively Violent Film Of The Year – Nominees
· Pineapple Express
And the winner is…Rambo
This year saw a number of genuinely excessively violent films. On the gore meter, Pineapple Express is relatively tame, but I feel, that with the extended fight scene with Dale, Saul and the other drug dealer it qualifies enough. Then of course, the final shootout, which really is just ridiculous. Also, what would an award for violence be without an appearance by the latest Neil Marshall film. If you thought that Dog Soldiers and The Descent were violent, you haven’t seen anything yet. In this film, which is effectively a carbon copy of nearly every other film in a post-apocalyptic setting, we have blood circuses, crazy 28 Days Later-esque mutants, amputations, decapitations and what not. Oh, and not to mention medieval sword fights and chases in barren highways right out of Mad Max and Death Race 2000. On any other year, Doomsday would be the clear winner, but this year is special. Why? Well, for starters it’s the return of Rambo. And, of course, it’s the 21st Century, and everything about ridiculous action sequences. What better combination than the bloodless brutality of the originals and the excessiveness of 21st Century war films. In a film which lasts 80 minutes and totals 238 onscreen kills, this truly is Hollywood genocide in every sense of the word (or phrase). I think that Lucio Fulci, legendary Italian splatter king, would be proud of the anarchic seeds of which Stallone was quite clearly enjoyed reaping, in what has to be one of the most violent films ever made in America, I kid you not.
The Alan Moore Award For Best Superhero Film Of The Year – Nominees
· The Dark Knight
· Hellboy II: The Golden Army
· Iron Man
And the winner is…The Dark Knight
2008 truly was, in my own critical opinion, the year of the superhero movie. Even the lesser films such as The Incredible Hulk were certainly passable enough to enjoy. However, instead of usually getting the one big superhero film, we instead got three. Not only did Marvel manage to produce The Incredible Hulk, they also managed to pull out a surprise behemoth in Iron Man, which turned out to be one of the most profitable films of the year. In this film, which is certainly entertaining, we see that Robert Downey Jr’s long, hard-fought comeback has truly come full-circle and that Jon Favreau is perfectly capable of creating a summer blockbuster. However, the year belonged to the superhero sequels. While not earning as much money as Iron Man, Hellboy II: The Golden Army proved to be a great film, just narrowly missing classification as a masterpiece by my ratings system. But, let’s face it, you know it, I know it, the superhero movie of the year was The Dark Knight. As I mentioned earlier, the film in itself engulfed everything else in sight like the giant cloud from The Mist. The film truly was the only true monster of the year, and what we have on our hands is not just the best superhero of the year, but undoubtedly the best superhero film of all time. It has become the benchmark upon which all future films of the genre will be judged.
The Werner Herzog Award For Ingenious Concept In A Film – Nominees
And the winner is…Waz
This new award for ingenious concept in a film is an award which acknowledges film-makers ever-strenuous attempts to create an original film in today’s cinema world. Each of the film’s this year were great strokes of genius, having a basic plot concept which more or less kept the film consistently watchable due to their originality. For example, Cloverfield essentially resurrected what was seen as a genre which was dead in the water, the monster movie. Even outside of the US, monster movies were becoming rarer and rarer, with only last year’s The Host of South Korea coming to mind ever since the disastrous US remake of Godzilla. Cloverfield updated it to incorporate the new digital video technology which has made films seem all the more gritty and realistic. Also, Wall-E takes a rather unconventional approach to the typical children’s animation. The first third of the film is virtually silent, with Wall-E wandering around the desolate ruins and rubbish of Earth. Also, the film goes on to send an important message regarding the environment, a message which not often seen in a film of this type. However, I think Waz deserves to win this for a number of outstanding reasons. For starters, Waz could have been so much worse, for much of the film is cliché, but it is done so well that it remains consistently watchable. For example, as of late, with the release of Saw, Hostel, The Hill Have Eyes and various other copycat films, it seems to have been the case that every modern slasher film must be excessively violent in the manner of the old gritty grindhouse films of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Waz however, heads down the route of psychological thriller, and as we follow Eddie Argo through the dark streets of New York (shot in Belfast), we discover a genuinely terrifying plot, and by the end, we are drawn in and gripped, with a real killer twist in the tail. Truthfully, while at times archetypal and cliché, the film really does prove to be an original due to some brilliant film-making and acting.
The Katharine Hepburn Award Best Supporting Role By A Female Actor – Nominees
· Marcia Gay Harden – The Mist
· Amy Ryan – Gone Baby Gone
· Marisa Tomei – The Wrestler
And the winner is…Marisa Tomei- The Wrestler
In the female supporting actor category, we had a number of great performances here. Personally, I felt that Amy Ryan’s performance in Gone Baby Gone as Helene McCready was rather overlooked. In this film, Ryan plays the mother who has had her daughter kidnapped. Upon first impressions, we would get the idea that she is a trailer-trash loser who doesn’t care about her child, but later as the plot thickens, we find she is grieving in the only way she really knows how. Both sides of the character are played rather well by Ryan. Also, this year we saw the rise of a truly great horror film villain in Mrs Carmody, played by Marcia Gay Harden. Harden portrays the manic preaching woman with suitable gusto, in a rather dominating performance which steals The Mist altogether. With a combination which inflects charm and advantageousness, Harden’s Carmody divides those in the store, and with the circumstances and the power of Harden’s performance, we cannot see why people would not submit themselves to her level of insanity. However, in terms of performance, I feel that Marisa Tomei as Cassidy in The Wrestler really deserved the award. Having already proved herself as an actress, her she shines alongside Mickey Rourke as the stripper with a heart. Tomei portrays this woman who is past her prime with striking poignancy that can’t help but come close to the bone, especially as we find out more about her as the plot thickens. With a brilliantly human performance, this was the female supporting role of the year.
The R. Lee Ermey Award For Best Supporting Role By A Male Actor – Nominees
· Robert Downey Jr. – Tropic Thunder
· Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
· Gary Oldman – The Dark Knight
And the winner is…Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
I think that this year, let’s face it, everyone is more or less unanimous as to who is going to win this award. Robert Downey Jr. in his second great performance of the year becomes one of the first men in years to go blackface for a role, which has certainly caused great controversy. Nonetheless, in the best comedic performance since Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat Sagdiyev, Downey Jr completely steals Tropic Thunder from the full-time comic actors Ben Stiller and Jack Black. And truth be told, say what you will about other great performances this year, The Dark Knight had the best ensemble cast of the year. The two nominated here (and the winner) are the outstanding examples of the film’s superb performances. Personally, I feel that Gary Oldman was great as Jim Gordon in this film, as one of the few who does not have a bravado performance, playing the rather human policeman. As Gordon, Oldman brilliantly balances the police officer’s neutrality in the conflict between he, Batman, The Joker and Harvey Dent. Also, in the final scenes, he portrays the human heart of the film and successfully makes the evolution of Gordon into the strong, determined man convincingly. However, Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker is one of the defining performances of the decade. Injecting multiple facets into what was essentially a two-dimensional clown in the comic and earlier filmic depictions, The Joker here becomes an existential figure of humour and terror. Ledger pulls off in this film one of the greatest figures of black comedy in film history. When in memory has a character been so funny and utterly terrifying at the same time. Also, The Joker here becomes one of film’s great figures of existentialism, bringing to mind Rutger Hauer’s John Ryder, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator and Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh. The phantom nature of The Joker is pulled off rather convincingly, particularly in his final soliloquy, one of recent screenwriting’s greatest dialogue. Put simply, it is a shame that Ledger passed before receiving his deserving awards for this role.
The Second Cate Blanchett Award For Best Lead Performance By A Female Actor Of The Year – Nominees
· Angelina Jolie – Changeling
· Kiera Knightley – The Duchess
· Belen Rueda – The Orphanage
And the winner is…Angelina Jolie – Changeling
Say what you will about Kiera Knightley in terms of acting prowess, in my opinion she gave the performance of her career in The Duchess. As Georgina, she plays the strong female role who cannot understand the world she lives in greatly. The world in The Duchess is pre-dominantly patriarchal and male-dominated, and this is a film which very much caters to the feminist perspective, of which the performance by Knightley certainly reflects. Instead of being given the typical young under thirty role given to young actresses, here we have a strongly written role of which Knightley plays well. Also, it seems that horror films this year have been the breeding ground for some stellar female performances. I felt that after watching The Orphanage that as good as it was, the film would by no means be as good without the central performance by Belen Rueda. This is not just your typical scream queen, which is also done well, but also here we have a rather multi-faceted performance, with Rueda playing two sides of a coin, both in the role as the mother of her child and the child herself in the eponymous orphanage in which she grew up. It’s a brilliantly well-balanced performance. However, by my own estimations and opinions, the stunning performance by Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins in Changeling was by far the best female performance of the year. Looking past Jolie’s public image and sex symbol status, she is a genuinely good actress, and here the acting prowess truly comes of age, in a film made by Oscar friendly Clint Eastwood. This is a truly rare thing in female acting today, in that a female actor gets to play the lead role in a two-and-a-half hour epic. The fact that Jolie has been given this responsibility speaks very highly of her, and this is a performance that harks back to the strong post-World War II era of female acting from the mid/late 1940’s through to the mid-1950’s. Jolie dominates the film in a performance that is completely human and relatable. As the woman who has lost her child and had him replaced by another child by the police, her performance will the type that proves to be an inspiration to many other women around the world, balancing the fine line between the trauma of her loss and the determination to seek justice in the world. This is easily in my opinion the best female performance of the past few years.
The Second Kevin Spacey Award For Best Lead Performance By A Male Actor Of The Year – Nominees
· Casey Affleck – Gone Baby Gone
· Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler
· Stellan Skarsgard – Waz
And the winner is…Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler
Really, truthfully, there is no question that Mickey Rourke deserves to win this award. Nevertheless, despite this, there were other great performances by male actors this year. The best thing about Stellan Skarsgard’s performance in Waz was the fact that he was able to turn a character that was essentially a cliché into something completely fresh. As the hard-boiled detective Eddie Argo, Skarsgard’s performance is a wonderful piece of understated minimalism which could completely pass over your head as a good performance. However, as the film adds up, you can completely understand the intelligence and relevance of Skarsgard’s performance. Also, having freed himself from the reigns of supporting actor roles, Casey Affleck truly shines as the lead in his brother’s directorial debut Gone Baby Gone. Affleck’s own experiences in Boston clearly reflect the acting on display here, which like that of Skarsgard, is a minimalist performance which is really well done. As the determined Patrick Kenzie, Affleck manages to perfectly portray the young, intelligent and occasionally naïve private detective with the strength of that of an experienced film veteran, of whom he is surrounded in the film, even standing toe to toe with the great Morgan Freeman. However, this year’s acting gong’s quite rightfully belong to one Mickey Rourke for his “performance” as Randy “The Ram” Robinson in The Wrestler. When I put quotation marks around the word performance, it is for a specific reason, in that you have to wonder, is this Rourke re-living his life’s experiences? As a former boxer himself, Rourke truly has been through the meat grinder to say the least, and this rugged look perfectly suits that of The Ram. Not only is this a wonderful physical performance by Rourke (he puts himself through hell for this movie), the brutality of his in-ring matches are reflected by the harsh realities that surround him. You cannot help but feel for The Ram as he attempts to re-connect with his daughter and get out his emotions with Cassidy. It is this repression outside the ring that is contrasting to his in-ring matches, in which he truly comes alive: wrestling is the only thing that The Ram knows, and it is the world by which he lives and dies. Everything of the above is played to perfection by Rourke, in a performance which combines the best of both the behemoth bravado and human minimalist sides of the acting spectrum.
The Steven Spielberg Award For Best Producer Of The Year – Nominees
· Judd Apatow – Pineapple Express, Forgetting Sarah Marshall
· Guillermo Del Toro – Hellboy II: The Golden Army, The Orphanage
· John Lasseter – Wall-E
And the winner is…Guillermo Del Toro
Each of the following nominees for best producer of the year has made a significant stamp on the entire film scene for the year. In terms of a money-making machine, after the successes of Knocked Up and Superbad, Judd Apatow has really taken his production rate to the next level this year. Besides the afformented Pineapple Express and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, he also had his hand in Drillbit Taylor and Step Brothers, among others. His production rate truly has made him the resident King of Comedy, dominating the entire comedic climate. Also, John Lasseter deserves to be given much credit for his production work this year. While not producing multiple films this year, his work as head honcho behind Wall-E certainly has to be accredited. Also, with his recent promotion as the head honcho of Disney, never mind Pixar, is enough to tell you that this is a man who is going to make history. With numerous movies in the pipeline, it seems that Disney will be revived under this watchman’s gaze. However, with the combined output of both his own Hellboy II: The Golden Army and The Orphanage, it is Guillermo Del Toro who deserves to win this award. This year was all about gambles which would pay off for Del Toro. On the second Hellboy, he really raised the bar, and it paid off in the end and likewise with that of The Orphanage, giving debut director Juan Antonio Bayona free reign over the film, in a move which proved to be for the better of the film in general. What resulting in Del Toro’s output this year was one of the best horror films in years and certainly one of the most easily enjoyable films of the year.
The Thin White Dude’s Award To Best All-Round Performer/Film-Maker Of The Year – Nominees
· Judd Apatow – Producer – Pineapple Express, Forgetting Sarah Marshall
· Robert Downey Jr – Lead Actor, Iron Man – Supporting Role, Tropic Thunder
· Guillermo del Toro – Producer – The Orphanage – Director – Hellboy II: The Golden Army
And the winner is…Robert Downey Jr.
Really, this was the year that belonged to one Robert Downey Jr. like it or not. Judd Apatow as producer this year certainly headed up the stands in terms of financial success, with his films grossing over a billion dollars this year. Also, Del Toro had a great one-two punch with his production on The Orphanage and the direction of Hellboy II: The Golden Army. But unfortunately for these two, the long and arduous rebirth of one of Hollywood’s modern greats had come full circle. Being given the responsibility to head up a major film franchise like Iron Man was the stamp of certification that Downey had been looking for his entire career. After being a nobody for so long, held down by drink, drugs and mayhem, his patient and calculated return to form had paid off. Also, not only was his performance in Iron Man a symbolic thing, but his performance in this movie was also one of the year’s memorable performances. As playboy billionaire Tony Stark, he certainly plays up a hyper-realised version of himself rather well. While it is easy to remember he played Iron Man this year, one cannot forget his astounding performance as Kirk Lazarus in Tropic Thunder (how could one forget). In a wonderful poke at Hollywood method acting, Downey plays the controversial blackface role to great comedic effect, outwitting the comedy veterans in the film, in what must certainly be the comedic role since that of Sacha Baron Cohen in Borat. Yes, while an amazing financially successfully producer and a great visionary may have had a great year, the year really belonged to Robert Downey Jr. with two excellent performances.
The Second Stanley Kubrick Award For Best Direction By A Film-Maker Of The Year – Nominees
· Ben Affleck – Gone Baby Gone
· Danny Boyle – Slumdog Millionaire
· Christopher Nolan – The Dark Knight
And the winner is…Christopher Nolan – The Dark Knight
This year, there were a number of outstanding directorial contributions made to film. For example, even though neither were nominated, it must be said that the work of Guillermo Del Toro and Darren Aronofsky for Hellboy II: The Golden Army and The Wrestler respectively was rather top class. These nominees stand out for particular reasons. For example, this year I feel that we had a rather strong directorial debut on display from Ben Affleck, who while not being a particularly great actor, has shown great potential with this first film. Gone Baby Gone is a masterfully structured and crafted thriller, and Ben Affleck clearly understands the story, and manages to churn every bit of emotional power from what could have been a straight-up, terribly nihilistic film. Also, his other great achievement in directing this film is the way in which Boston is portrayed. Affleck interweaves the lives of the inhabitants of Boston in the story, so much so that Boston itself becomes a character in the film. Another directorial achievement occurred this year, in that we saw the true rise to form of Danny Boyle as a director. While in my opinion Slumdog Millionaire is not his best film by any means, I think that the best thing about it is the direction, in that he manages to keep what could have been a pastiche of images and ideas together in one piece. This is certainly not a masterpiece by any means, but his overall contribution to what was good about the film was certainly significant. However, over Affleck and Boyle, the award this year goes to Christopher Nolan, perhaps this generation’s strongest film-maker, for his work on The Dark Knight. Nolan had so much going against him as a director for this film. For starters, it was a two-and-a-half hour epic, which is never an easy thing as a director, and of course, you have the death of Heath Ledger before the film is released. To answer why I feel he addressed these issues rather well, I think that Nolan managed to structure his film in a way in which it was consistently interesting, and I must say also that I have seen the film multiple times since, and I find that more things can be dug out of it each time. Also, with regards to Ledger’s death, this could have easily been an issue that could have influenced the entire way in which the end product we received would have turned out. However, Nolan refused to let Ledger’s death get in the way of post-production, while still paying a fitting tribute to him. Finally, Nolan has created here a very rare thing in today’s cinema, an action film which is rather intellectual and serves well as a strong dramatic work.
The Akira Kurosawa Award For Best Foreign Language Film Of The Year
· Mongol: The Rise To Power Of Genghis Khan
· The Orphanage
And the winner is…The Orphanage
Truth be told, while I did see a hell of a lot of films this year, I cannot say that I saw many foreign language films at all this year. I guess that this is why Che is here on the nominees list. Yeah, I feel that the film is a wonderful achievement in attempting to depict Che Guevara onscreen, but I think that it is a seriously flawed and completely uneven film. I mean, the first part is a two-star film, and the second is a four to a five-star film. Thus, as a whole, it is about a three-star film. There are some horrible script problems at play here, and I feel with better editing, it could have been potentially been cut into a three-hour film. A better example of strong foreign language film was Mongol: The Rise To Power Of Genghis Khan. Here what we have is a good strong, solid screenplay, which is not disproportionate and deals with only one side of Genghis Khan’s life, rather than trying to cram it all down into four hours. Truth be told, this is the film that Che should have been. The cinematography and art direction is rather beautiful, and I feel that you can get behind the characters in the film. Genghis Khan or not, this is the romanticised portrait that Che Guevara should have received, not a flawed mess of a film claiming to be art. Despite the fact that Mongol is an obviously great film, there was another better foreign language film this in The Orphanage. As mentioned earlier, Guillermo Del Toro took a real gamble on this project that certainly paid off here. What we have on our hands is perhaps the best example of a claustrophobic, location specific horror film since The Shining. Juan Antonio Bayona lends a fresh sensibility to an old genre of film, and he is backed up by a great screenplay and director of photography. However, the best thing about the film in my opinion is the central performance by Belen Rueda. What we have here is not your bog-standard scream queen substandard role, but a genuinely elaborate character, of which is performed marvellously by Rueda. This here is perhaps one of best examples of horror films in recent years, and rightfully deserves to win this award.
The Second Ed Wood Award For Worst Film Of The Year – Nominees
· Eagle Eye
· The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor
· Prom Night
And the winner is…Prom Night
While it is quite obvious that there were some stunning films this year, there were also some really awful films. Each of the nominees for this honourable award were so cringeworthingly poor that they even forced me to back down on my famous last words on last year’s best and worst of the year. Last year, I made a guarantee that AVP2: Requiem would win this award, and that I personally would be sending a trophy to the Strauss Brothers with an enclose copy of their masterpiece. Now, if you ask me, the fact that we actually not only had three worse films than AVP2 is rather disgusting, but also it does not speak very highly of Hollywood the fact what has been produced on their part has forced me back down on my famously stubborn opinions. To begin, I was moderately interesting in The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor for the first five minutes, until poor CGI saw his royal master Jet Li turn into a Baby Ruth chocolate bar. There was so much that was poor about this film, what with an absolutely hideous script, the much-hyped Jet Li/Michelle Yeoh fight scene lasting about thirty seconds and the now infamous sequel hinting line at the end of the film: “There were mummies found in Peru.” And it only got worse from here. Eagle Eye was an interesting concept which was pulled off rather poorly. It was a case of shove two young stars at the centre of the Michael Bay-esque mayhem and shove all the interesting elements into the background i.e. Billy Bob Thornton and Rosario Dawson. I tell you what, I bet if Billy Bob Thornton and Rosario Dawson played the leads instead of Shia LeBeouf and Michelle Monaghan, it would have been a better movie. Instead what we have here is producers cackling at the fact that we have been duped and they now have our money in their pockets and on their hands as gold rings. However, even worse than these horrible films was Prom Night, a vomit-inducing excuse for a film. Truth be told, I don’t even think I can be as original in my hatred for this film as I was the first time, so here I will leave you an extract from my original review (also my lazy excuse). “This is a film that I watch and makes me question myself as to why I watch films… The truly terrifying thing about this movie is that they believe that they are making a horror film that will absolutely scare the living daylights out of the people (and yes, that was a purposeful film reference)… This was a film which left me in genuine discomfort throughout, and is a predictable by the book horror which is a terrible, dirty, bloodless, terror-less, proto-fascist piece of propaganda bilge mad all the more terrible by the fact that everyone involved took it very seriously.” Yep, I said all that.
The Thin White Dude’s Acknowledgment Award Recipients
Composer - Hans Zimmer – Known for his stirring orchestral compositions on films such as Gladiator and this year’s The Dark Knight, he is one of cinema’s most prime composers.
Editor - Thelma Schoolmaker – Best known for her work on Martin Scorcese films such as Raging Bull, her work as editor helped give directors such as Scorsese a down-to-earth, raw and gritty feel.
Screenwriter - Robert Towne - Best known for his work throughout the late 1960’s to the 1970’s, Towne is an Oscar winning screenwriter for his work on Chinatown, used by universities as an exemplar guide to screenwriting and considered the best script ever by many.
Cinematographer - Ron Fricke – Known for his incomparable perfectionism and attention to detail, Fricke is best known for his work on pure films such as Koyaanisqatsi and his own directorial debut, Baraka.
Actress – Ellen Burstyn – Despite never being on the Hollywood scene, Burstyn has gained significant critical acclaim for her role in the 1970’s in films such as Alice Doesn’t Live Her Anymore, The Exorcist and in a late career revival, Requiem For A Dream.
Actor – Marlon Brando – Hailed as perhaps the greatest actor that ever lived, his performances range from 1950’s work such as A Streetcar Named Desire, The Wild One and On The Waterfront, with a career revival in the 1970’s, starring Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, and as Jor-El in the original Superman film
Producer – Steven Spielberg – While known generally as a film-maker, Spielberg is also one cinema’s most successful producers, founding his own studio Dreamworks, now considered to be one of the most profitable studios in Hollywood and second only to Pixar for it’s animation product.
Director – Werner Herzog – Considered to be the last of the great European film-makers, after a career of work such as Aguirre: The Wrath Of God, Fitzcarraldo and Stroszek, Herzog still remains active, with an output average two productions a year, with multiple documentaries and films in the pipeline for Herzog in the future.
The Second Clockwork Award For Best Film Of The Year - Nominees
· The Dark Knight
· The Wrestler
And the winner is…The Wrestler
Personally, I feel that this is a terrific trio of films of which I believe each of the film-makers should be very proud. For a long time, The Dark Knight was considered by myself to be the best film of the year. It is an amazing achievement in film, with some superb direction by Christopher Nolan and one of the most memorable performances in recent years by the late Heath Ledger as The Joker. It was considered this way until around November/December time, then one night I went to see Changeling, and was pleasantly surprised. Not only was it a great film, I also felt that in terms of an epic two-and-a-half hour film, it kept me more interested that The Dark Knight did, which says something about the quality of the work. Also, with a top performance by Angelina Jolie of which is one of the best given to a female in years, I felt that Clint, the old dog, had managed to nab up the award from the hands of Chris Nolan. Always remember, Clint never says die. Then again, so neither did Mickey Rourke. Unlike many of the masterpieces of this year, what we had on our hand’s this year was a beautifully understated human drama, whether or not it is a sport’s film, and needles to say, after gathering up two acting awards, it plays out rather realistically. Directed well by Darren Aronofsky, who you would find is actually rather suited to directing this kind of film, what we have here is some amazing onscreen chemistry between Rourke and Marisa Tomei, with both of these performances resonating off the other, making each performance seem all the better. For example, I sincerely doubt that Rourke’s performance would be as relevant as if Marisa Tomei’s character was not in the script. Speaking of which, the script is undoubtedly one of this year’s best, with the story being wonderfully structured and backed up by brilliant dialogue, packed with both humour and poignancy. Personally, I feel that The Wrestler is as perfect we have come with a film over the past few years. Take last year’s winner, No Country For Old Men. I love this film, really, but putting this up alongside the strength of The Wrestler makes it seem so much weaker. For example, No Country in my opinion has more script errors than The Wrestler, and while both certainly are masterpieces, there is no doubt in my mind that The Wrestler is the better film. I just feel that with some many great elements coming together to make this phenomenal composite, you cannot help but acknowledge just how great this work really is. It truly is deserving of the Second Clockwork Award For Best Film Of The Year.
List of multiple award winners
The Wrestler – Winner of five awards: Best Film, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Film Composition, Best Drama Film
The Mist – Winner of two awards: Best Screenplay, Best Horror Film
Wall-E – Winner of two awards: Best Artistic Direction, Best Science-Fiction/Fantasy Film
The Dark Knight – Winner of five awards: Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Sequel Of The Year, Best Superhero Film Of The Year, Best Action/Adventure Film
Rambo – Winner of two awards: Best Unintentional Propaganda Film, Most Excessively Violent Film
The White Dude’s Top Ten Of 2008
1st – The Wrestler
2nd – Changeling
3rd – The Dark Knight
4th – Wall-E
5th – The Mist
6th – Gone Baby Gone
7th – The Orphanage
8th – Hellboy II: The Golden Army
9th – The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas
10th – Mongol: The Rise To Power Of Genghis Khan
The Thin White Dude’s Year Average – 6.17
Well, another year gone, another year of film gone. It sure has been a trip for me, having done my first full year of good solid reviewing. It took up a lot of my time and patience, but having done this best and worst makes it pay off. Through all of the poor messes and annoyances that one receives throughout the year, they are paid off for in dividends by the odd great movie that you get. I hope that you have all enjoyed each of my rants, particularly that of Prom Night, because I certainly have enjoyed the experience. Now that the mission of 2008 is complete, there is only one thing left to do: there will always be another mission on the horizon, and thus another year comes into my gazely stare.
The Thin White Dude Signs Out!