Tuesday, March 8, 2011

2009 in film, a long and rewarding journey of mine


Yeah I'm dumb and posted these out of sequence. WHATEVER. New additions to be made... a sort of 2009 in film from this 2011 lens! Will post in future... unlike 2008 I already have over 100 viewings.

This is my best films of the year sort of “Brandon Awards” silly thing. As everyone seems to know, individuality and independence are important to me. Over the years I've always had trouble within myself battling with public opinion especially when it comes to film. There’s such a dominating presence from the Oscars and the few highly revered critics that it becomes hard to admit you like one over another. After the complete and total rejection of Revolutionary Road from the Oscars I felt rejected because I loved that movie so much and it had a major impact on my life. So in conclusion, this year I decided to set out on the journey of seeing all the “Oscar films” before the Oscar nominations came out. I wanted to make my own choices about what’s the best and which performances truly moved me. I changed some of the categories to ones I’m more comfortable with. From the large amount of films I’ve watched in 2009 I’ve learned more about the world and myself than probably than what I’ve learned from a full year of school. So just in case anyone is interested, this is my 2009 in film. (If you'd like any personal recommendations, just ask!)

Note: The only major film I haven’t seen is The Last Station which comes out after the Oscar nominations do so I’m finalizing this without it. 

Winners at the end! (the nominations are probably more important)

Best Picture (10): 
A Single Man, Antichrist, Avatar, Away We Go, The Cove, The Hurt Locker, The Messenger, Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire, Up in the Air, Where the Wild Things Are

Honorable Mentions: A Serious Man, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Invictus, The Lovely Bones

Best Director: (I'm sorry I did so many, I was just madly in love with every single one of these directorial triumphs) 

Nominees: Tom Ford (A Single Man), Lars Von Trier (Antichrist), Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Jason Reitman (Up in the Air), Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are)

Honorable Mentions: Joel and Ethan Coen (A Serious Man), James Cameron (Avatar), Wes Anderson (Fantastic Mr. Fox), Clint Eastwood (Invictus), Peter Jackson (The Lovely Bones), Oren Movermen (The Messenger), Lee Daniels (Precious) 

Male Acting Performance: 

Nominees: Colin Firth (A Single Man), George Clooney (Up in the Air, The Men Who Stare at Goats, Fantastic Mr. Fox), Patton Oswalt (Big Fan), Max Records (Where the Wild Things Are, The Brothers Bloom), Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious man)

Honorable Mention: Nicolas Cage (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans)

Female Acting Performance: 

Nominees: Julianne Moore (A Single Man), Charlotte Gainsborgh (Antichrist), Sairose Ronan (The Lovely Bones), Monique (Precious), Gabby Sidibe (Precious), 

Honorable Mentions: Meryl Streep (It’s Complicated), Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria, Sunshine Cleaning)

Ensemble Cast: 

Nominees: Away We Go, Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, The Lovely Bones, 
The Messenger, Precious
Honorable Mentions: A Serious Man, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Original Screenplay: 
Nominees: A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen), Avatar (James Cameron), Away We Go (Dave Eggers, Vendela Vida), The Brothers Bloom (Rian Johnson), The Messenger (Alessandro Camon, Oren Moverman)

Honorable Mention: It’s Complicated (Nancy Meyers)
NOTE: Yes, Avatar for Screenplay. I will fight this to the death. Dialogue is the least important part of the screenplay. Cameron's story may be generic but the plot structure is done to perfection. The poignant moments would not be poignant without the brilliant plot structure (again, not original, but excellent). 

Adapted Screenplay: 

Nominees: In the Loop (Armstrong and Blackwell), Invictus (Anthony Peckman, John Carlin), The Men Who Stare at Goats (Peter Straughan, Jon Ronson), Precious (Sapphire, Geoffrey Fletcher), Up in the Air (Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner, Walter Kirn)

Overall Art Direction: (10) (Sound, lighting, editing, cinematography, costumes, etc.): 

Nominees: A Serious Man, A Single Man, Antichrist, Avatar, The Brothers Bloom, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Moon, Nine, Where the Wild Things Are

Honorable Mentions: Bronson, (500) Days of Summer, The Hurt Locker, The Lovely Bones, Public Enemies, Watchmen

Documentary: (seen 11)
Nomineees: Anvil! The Story of Anvil, The Cove, Good Hair

Animated Feature: 9, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Mary and Max, Ponyo, UP

THE WINNERS (in reverse order):

Animated Feature: Fantastic Mr. Fox - Here I award bold risk and "pure wild animal craziness" over superior use of technology coupled with tired ideas.
Runner up: UP

Documentary: The Cove - One of the most powerful and essential films of the year, should be at the top of your Netflix Queue.

Overall Art Direction: All ten of these deserve to win it's too hard to choose but I will anyway...
MOON - driven by a masterful score by Clint Mansell, Duncan Jones created something really special here. Notable performance by Sam Rockwell too.
Runner Up: Antichrist - See this one if you're a masochist. 

Adapted Screenplay: PRECIOUS (easy choice). I read the book and was amazed by how Fletcher maintained Sapphire's profound poeticism while still condensing the story. 
Runner Up: Up in the Air

Original Screenplay: The Brothers Bloom - A hard choice to make, probably the one I'll be most condemned for on this list. Johnson's screenplay has layer after layer after layer of partial mystery. The characters are all conning each other, and Johnson's conning the viewer, but then he is and he isn't. It's just mind boggling to me how under appreciated this film is. 
Runner Up: A Serious Man - do I have to justify a Coen Screenplay? Flawless

Ensemble Cast: Precious - Monique, Gabby Sidibe, Mariah Carey, Paula Patton, AND Lenny Kravitz all stunned me. Lee Daniels knows how to pick em and direct em too. Another easy choice.
Runner Up: The Messenger - The movie is centered around the all the moral conflicts and difficulties faced by the three main characters played by Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, and Samantha Morton. To say this is a poignant film is an understatement. Even all the one scene roles of people acting as families receiving the "bad news" astonished me. Amazing film, another one that doesn't get the credit it deserves. 

Female Acting Performance: Charlotte Gainsbourgh (Antichrist). Easily the single most shocking and incredible performance by an actress I've ever seen. I bow down to Charlotte.
Runner Up: Charlotte Gainsbourgh
Second Runner Up: Monique (Precious) for making the most hate-able character of the year round and complex

Male Acting Performance: Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) - watch this clip and all is explained - http://www.traileraddict.com/clip/a-serious-man/ive-tried-to-be-serious
Runner Up: As a single performance, Patton Oswalt in Big Fan. As the conglomerate I made it in the nominations, George Clooney for his three excellent nominatable roles (even the voice acting).

Best Director: Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are) - Spike creates his third movie, his third masterpiece. Every picture on the internet of this film is an example of how unique and still powerful Spike is as a director. He's not different to be different, he's just a genius with his own vision. His ability to get Max Records to the emotional layers he got him to are unbelievable. Somehow he successfully adapted one of the most unadaptable books I've ever read. Spike is probably my greatest inspiration, so yes this is biased.

Runner Up: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) - She deserves the Oscar, hopefully the sexist academy won't disappoint this year (like they usually do). I had chills for days after I saw this, my entire body was in knots. This better dominate the Oscars.

BEST PICTURE: I feel awful not choosing some of these but I can't choose them all. I'm picking three. My criteria is based on a few things. First and more normal, I'm basing my choice on the general appreciation of the films and my personal interaction with them. Second, more importantly and controversially, seeing how many people a films affected and how dramatically is important here too (it's not just about me, and it's not just about how well it's made)

Note: I refuse to consider Where the Wild Things Are to be a winner because I'm way too personally attached to compare it to others. I've never spent nearly as much time with a film, it's my personal #1 (possibly of all time, I switch around too frequently to say). So really these are the top 3 of 9. 

Second Runner Up: Avatar - at this point Avatar has made $1,372,993,105. This movie is not as powerful or as good as many of the films mentioned and I also wasn't as "wowed" by the technology as much as most. However, this is an intelligent and powerful film. I can talk about the Hurt Locker all day but it doesn't have the power of Avatar because people didn't go to the movies and see it. Avatar was not chosen for a moment because of it's visual prowess. I chose Avatar because it is an excellent film that people are seeing. It's a major budget picture that's not moronic (*cough* Transformers *cough*). In a time where the middle class of the film industry is dying, we need the big budget pictures to step up and challenge people intellectually while still entertaining. 

Runner Up: Away We Go - Another one people would discredit me for. If it wasn't for all the people I've met who cite this as a favorite film I wouldn't have done this. This movie has been on my mind since the moment I saw it back in June. I really can't even count how many people told me how uplifted and hopeful this film made them. It's actually sort of shocking. The weird thing is I don't know how to rationalize it either. The thing we (the people who loved this) are mostly starting out in life. We don't know where to go, or what to do, or how to handle responsibility. This film helped us look upon the daunting "road of life" ahead, and still hope for happiness. 

WINNER: Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire

Many people, myself included, have cited the second part of the title to be ridiculous and stupid. After reading the novel I get why they did it (the word "push" is emphasized often). This story is about pushing yourself in spite of all else. This film isn't trying to be realistic, Precious' problems are absurdly unrelenting. It's about facing each problem one at a time and making the best of what you've been given. There's love and beauty all around us, you just have to keep your head up and look for it. At the beginning of the movie Precious, an obese poor black teenage girl, looks in the mirror and imagines a skinny white girl with smooth silky blonde hair. At the conclusion of the film, she looks in a mirror and sees an overweight poor black teenage girl. She says to herself, "ok." This is what this project of mine is all about. Not trying to be like people want you to be, choose the "right" films and portray myself as smart or equal or anything. It's about being honest with yourself and being ok with that, loving that. I'm sure no one has read this whole thing or cares really, but that's not the point. Just my attempt at finding some honesty, some of the real me. Even though this will never get back to a single one of these people, I'd like to thank every participant in every film cited in this award thing for creating something that has touched my life. In addition to those, some other films I loved that didn't make the cut but DID touch my life are:
The Hangover, Whatever Works, Bruno, Harry Potter 6, Paper Heart, Bright Star, Food Inc, The Girlfriend Experience, Broken Embraces, The White Ribbon, Jennifer's Body (weird, I know), Brothers, Zombieland, Me and Orson Welles, and Adam. 

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