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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Link Dump: Top 10s and Some Nitpicking
Time is short, so here are a few links to end of the year movie lists and the like. Still not sure when I'll get to my top 10, but it probably won't be this week.
  • The 2008 Top Tens - Movie City News collects and aggregates 286 top 10 lists, ranking the movies by number of list mentions and a weighted version that considers how high on each list a given movie was ranked. The top 5 movies on the list are WALL-E, The Dark Knight, Slumdog Millionaire, Milk and The Wrestler. Not a bad list, though at most, only two of those will be appearing on my list. One nitpicky frustration - why on earth did they put all the data in images? It makes it a lot more difficult to find a movie you want to know about.
  • The 19 Best Movies That You Didn't See in 2008: An interesting list of the underdistributed, sometimes underrated films of last year. Except for Speed Racer, which was horrible. Honestly though, this year's list isn't as good as last year's list, which I take as just another sign that 2008 was not a particularly good year for movies.
  • jim's ten best favorite movies of 2008: the movie - Jim Emerson's top ten is presented in the form of an 8 minute montage of clips from his favorite movies. I was able to name 4 of them (probably because I haven't seen the other 6, and I have to say, I didn't see anything in his clips that indicated that I was missing anything). Kind of a stereotypical critic's list... but I'm greatly looking forward to his 2nd annual Exploding Head Awards (that's a link to last year's awards - he hasn't posted this year's yet).
  • Speaking of Jim Emerson, he's been doing some spectacular nit picking (don't miss Part 2) on The Dark Knight, particularly with the first sequence in the film which culminates with a school bus merging with other school busses. If you still haven't seen The Dark Knight, don't read his posts! They will put you in the wrong frame of mind to watch the movie (or any movie, for that matter - at least, any movie you're watching for the first time). Now, these are nitpicks, but I do believe that Emerson has a point. I love the movie, and I'm sure regular readers wouldn't be surprised that it will be my top movie of the year, but it isn't perfect. There are several sequences that cheat in one way or another, whether it be through editing or awkward camera angles or any other number of filmmaking tricks. Emerson's argument boils down to a question of whether the filmmaking tricks employed in TDK impair suspension of disbelief. I would say that when I view a movie, I have a certain sense of moviegoing goodwill. When I watch a movie, I want it to be good, I want to be sucked in and immersed in the world a film creates. But sometimes there are things that happen in a movie that are simply unbelievable. These movies knock you out of the movie's world and force you to recognize that you're actually sitting in a theater (or on a couch, or whatever). These moments work against my moviegoing goodwill. Usually a single moment won't do it - it's a culmination of things. After a while, my goodwill runs out and the movie simply can't recover. The Dark Knight obviously grated on Emerson. He found himself wondering about all the details of the various things that were being presented to him. He claims this was a sorta unconscious effect. He knew he didn't like the movie, but couldn't explain why until he'd seen the movie a few more times on DVD/BR, where he could really dig into it. That's when he started noticing all of the shots or edits that worked against his suspension of disbelief. Now, I didn't have that problem. Indeed, I've seen the movie 5 times since it came out, and while a couple of things jumped out at me during my first and second viewing, I didn't really start to think about it until the 5th viewing, at which point some of the imperfections became more clear. But even then, it wasn't enough to ruin my moviegoing goodwill. Even reading Emerson's well thought out objections, I find that I can see his point without granting that it ruins the movie or the suspension of disbelief that is required to watch it. I'm interested by this sort of thing, because I think people like the movies they like for less rational reasons than we're willing to admit. There are a lot of great movies that I can nitpick to death, but still love anyway. So when I find myself trying to explain why I dislike a movie with something like "Well he fired 8 shots out of that there revolver! You can't do that!" or "...giant humanoid robots really don't make any sense" I think what I'm really trying to say is that the movie did not pull me in and immerse me in it's own world. The frustrating thing about this is that I think this can be dependant on mood. Context matters, and there are certainly times when I'm muchmore willing to suspend disbelief than I would normally be... and vice versa. Well, I've babbled on long enough, so I'll just leave it at that for now.
Didn't mean to get off on that tangent there. That last subject is perhaps something I'd like to revisit at some point, but it will not be tonight...
Posted by Mark on January 28, 2009 at 08:30 PM .: link :.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

2008 Kaedrin Movie Awards: The Arbitrary Awards
So the formally announced 2008 Kaedrin Movie Awards came to an end on Friday, but here's a few additional awards that don't really have any other nominees:
  • Best Monsters: (nominees must be a class of monster, not an individual) Cloverfield. I wasn't terribly impressed with the movie overall, but they did try something interesting with the whole creature-feature sub-genre, and the monster in this film was pretty darn cool...
  • The "You know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else" Award for Worst Dialogue: The Happening. "You're not interested in what happened to the bees?" No, no I'm not. Heh. Part bad dialogue, part bad delivery, this was hands down the worst movie of the year.
  • The Proximity to Jason Vorhees Award for Heroic Stupidity*: The cops in Inside. I think the worst part about it was that these very same cops showed some actual intelligence to start with (they figured out what was going on with very little help)... but once they got in the house, they became total morons.
  • The Tyler Durden Multiple Personality Award: The Signal. The movie has three directors, each of whom took a third of the movie and did something rather different with each part. Particularly great was the hilarious second segment... even though it is miles away from the rest of the movie when it comes to tone or atmosphere.
  • The Blatant Disregard to Physics Award: Wanted. If a gun is moving when you shoot it, the bullet curves!
All in all, a pretty even year. Even including the arbitrary awards, no film rose above 2 wins (Dark Knight and Forgetting Sarah Marshall both took home 2 awards). So that about wraps it up. The only thing that remains is the top 10 list, which I'm still not happy with and am not yet ready to post. And I've got a busy week coming up, so it may be a little while before they get posted... but they will be posted!

* Thanks to Yahtzee for the (approximate) award name!
Posted by Mark on January 25, 2009 at 11:24 PM .: link :.

Friday, January 23, 2009

2008 Kaedrin Movie Awards: Best High Concept Film
The nominations for the 2008 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. This week, I'll be announcing two winners every day, culminating in a post with my top 10 movies of the year and possibly some other wrap-up posts.

Best High Concept Film: Teeth

This film is surprisingly successful considering it's rather odd and unconventional premise. Our main character is Dawn, a typical High School teenager in small town America. In fact, this town is powered by a nuclear power plant, and Dawn has developed an "adaptation." She has teeth in an... unexpected... place. A place that is unfortunate for all the males in the movie, especially the ones who attempt to take advantage of Dawn (which is most of them - not something I particularly like about the movie, but still). So yeah, this is about as weird as it gets, but it works surprisingly well. A hard movie to recommend (especially to males), but it is a bit of fun.

And that wraps up the regular awards. Stay tuned for some Arbitrary Awards on Sunday, followed by a top 10.
Posted by Mark on January 23, 2009 at 08:45 PM .: link :.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

2008 Kaedrin Movie Awards: Best Action Sequences and Best Plot Twist/Surprise
The nominations for the 2008 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. This week, I'll be announcing two winners every day, culminating in a post with my top 10 movies of the year and possibly some other wrap-up posts.

Best Action Sequences: Hellboy II: The Golden Army

This was a really tough one. It really came down to The Dark Knight and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and I had trouble deciding which one featured the best action sequences. Neither is particularly brilliant in terms of action scenes, but in the end, I went with Hellboy because the only really great action sequence in The Dark Knight was the flipping tractor-trailer sequence. Sure there were plenty of serviceable fights, but nothing spectacular or on the level of Hellboy II. So while The Dark Knight is definitely the better movie, Hellboy II takes the prize.

Best Plot Twist/Surprise: Spiral

Another really difficult category to pick. Honestly, all of the nominees could easily have won this award. I ended up going with Spiral because of the fact that it flew under most people's radar and it's actually a pretty decent film. I don't want to actually talk about the twist, but it's pretty well done. I'm sure some people will guess it beforehand, but it still works. The movie itself is pretty good too. It's a slow burn and probably not for everyone, but I really enjoyed it. Next up would be Inside, which I really didn't see coming... but ultimately, I didn't like that movie as much as Spiral. I also seriously considered the underrated (and, uh, poorly titled) Body of Lies. And the other nominees were pretty good too.

And coming down the homestretch, tomorrow we've got the final category: Best High Concept Film
Posted by Mark on January 22, 2009 at 09:35 PM .: link :.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

2008 Kaedrin Movie Awards: Best Sequel & Biggest Disappointment
The nominations for the 2008 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. This week, I'll be announcing two winners every day, culminating in a post with my top 10 movies of the year and possibly some other wrap-up posts.

Best Sequel: The Dark Knight

It's rare for a sequel to be better than or even equal to the original, but The Dark Knight is just such a movie. Batman Begins was a good movie, but The Dark Knight manages to improve on almost every aspect of what made Batman Begins work. I think comic book sequels seem to work a lot better than typical sequels... perhaps it's the massive amounts of source material that filmmakers are able to pull from. Or maybe it's because the origin story dominates the first movie, while the second movie focuses on more of a story with already established characters. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (another comic book movie) was certainly pretty good for a sequel (though it's not as good as the Batman movies). I included Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay as a nominee, but that was more because I liked their first movie so much. I have an affinity for bad stoner comedies, but the latest Harold & Kumar installment left something to be desired.

Biggest Disappointment: Quantum of Solace

This is always a difficult award to pick. I tend to avoid bad movies, so the "winner" of this award is almost always a watcheable movie. This year, there were quite a few disappointments. Quantum of Solace takes the cake because I loved Casino Royale so much (see the 2006 awards) and was really looking forward to the latest Bond installment. Alas, it was not to be, as I noted immediately after seeing it. Nothing else this year inspired more disappointment, not even the new Indiana Jones movie, which was immediately forgettable (indeed, when I started thinking about this year's awards and top 10 list, I almost forgot that this movie came out...). The Happening was poorly reviewed, but so were Shyamalan's past two films and I really enjoyed both of those. Nevertheless, I didn't expect it to be very good and even then I was surprised at how bad it was. Definitely the worst movie I've seen in the theater in several years. The other nominees weren't exactly prizes either.

On deck: Best Action Sequences and Best Plot Twist/Surprise
Posted by Mark on January 21, 2009 at 06:57 PM .: link :.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

2008 Kaedrin Movie Awards: Most Visually Stunning & Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film
The nominations for the 2008 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. This week, I'll be announcing two winners every day, culminating in a post with my top 10 movies of the year and possibly some other wrap-up posts.

Most Visually Stunning: The Fall

A gorgeous feast for the eyes!* And perhaps that's all it is, but if nothing else, it's a gorgeous feast for the eyes. Ok, so it's a little more than that, but like director Tarsem Singh's other film, the similarly gorgeous feast for the eyes The Cell, The Fall is missing a coherent plot. He manages to frame the story in such a way that it doesn't matter that much and it's an enjoyable movie, though it's not a great plot. But its a gorgeous feast for the eyes. Other nominated films were certainly fine. It's hard to beat Guillermo del Toro's creature design in Hellboy II: The Golden Army. WALL-E is gorgeous. Let the Right One In has a stark beauty that contrasts well with the story. But none of the other nominees quite approached that gorgeous feast for the eyes level that The Fall did...

OMG! The island is actually a butterfly!

Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film: Timecrimes

In a category dominated by horror films, the lone SF film wins! Unless you consider some of the others SF. Timecrimes is a great film though. This intricate Spanish time-travel thriller was my favorite film of the 2008 Philadelphia Film Festival and it will be in the top 5 of the year for me. All of the other nominees are great too. Cloverfield was probably my least favorite, and even that one tried to do something genuinely interesting in a tired creature feature sub-genre. Teeth is notable for the sheer audacity of its premise. The Ruins, Let the Right One In, Inside - it's been a good year for horror. As I mentioned in the nominations, I cheated by nominating The Man from Earth, which is technically a 2007 movie. It's a really simple premise and the movie basically consists of a bunch of college professors talking about something in a cabin for an hour and a half. Yet it had some neat ideas that were expored in an interesting way. I don't think it would win any awards, but SF fans should definitely check it out at some point (for Netflix users, it's on their Watch Online feature, which is where I saw it).

Coming tomorrow: Best Sequel and Biggest Disappointment

* The "gorgeous feast for the eyes" phrase comes from Matty Robinson in his review on Filmspotting. Brilliant.
Posted by Mark on January 20, 2009 at 08:51 PM .: link :.

Monday, January 19, 2009

2008 Kaedrin Movie Awards: Best Comedic Performance & Breakthrough Performance
The nominations for the 2008 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. This week, I'll be announcing two winners every day, culminating in a post with my top 10 movies of the year and possibly some other wrap-up posts.

Best Comedic Performance: Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall

I had trouble with this category too. Unlike the last two years (winners were for Borat and Superbad), there really weren't that many truly standout comedic performances this year. When I thought of the best comedic moments though, one scene in particular kept popping into my head, and that's the first time Segal performs his song "Dracula's Lament" to a stunned crowd in some random Hawaiian bar. Hysterical. Segal also shows a certain commitment to being funny that other nominees just didn't have (this is, of course, code for something, but I don't want to say what because a big part of why it's funny is the shock). I considered giving the award to both Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott for Role Models, but I didn't want to give another tie (which I did last year) and plus, Seann William Scott was also good in the underseen The Promotion (I guess the Kaedrin equivalent of splitting votes or something). Brad Pitt was one of the better things about Burn After Reading, but then I realized that I laughed the hardest at the scenes with J.K. Simmons and David Rasche, and they weren't even nominated (perhaps they should have been). And Justin Long, while hilarious, has such a small part that he can't seriously contend (this seems to be a common type of nomination - last year's Kristin Wiig nomination was for similar reasons), but I also wanted to throw some love to another underappreciated movie, Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Perhaps a new award is in order. The comedic cameo award or something. We'll see. If there was one this year, Justin Long may have taken it home...

Breakthrough Performance: Mila Kunis in Forgetting Sarah Marshall

This one was a lot easier to pick. I suppose it's not a true "breakthrough" in that I already knew who Mila Kunis was from her role in That '70s Show, but her performance here was a revelation. Miles apart from what I expected, it totally revised my view of her as an actress, which is more of a breakthrough than any of the other nominees managed. One of the requirements for this award is looking the person up on IMDB to see what else they've done or will be doing... and I started noticing Kunis in other places too. I knew she did the voice for Meg Griffin in Family Guy, but never really associated that with her... and I didn't know just how much she was featured on Robot Chicken either. I even sat through American Psycho II: All American Girl when it came on TV (it's, uh, not so great, as you'd probably expect). Alas, not much great stuff seems on the horizon for her... but she was great in Forgetting Sarah Marshall... Also worthy of note in this category is AJ Bowen, who was actually nominated for both this award and best villain/badass. His performance, especially during the hilarious second section of the movie, was great.

Next up: Most Visually Stunning and Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film
Posted by Mark on January 19, 2009 at 07:58 PM .: link :.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

2008 Kaedrin Movie Awards: Best Villain/Hero/Badass
The nominations for the 2008 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. This week, I'll be announcing two winners every day, culminating in a post with my top 10 movies of the year and possibly some other wrap-up posts.

Best Villain/Badass: The Joker, played by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

There's no real contest here. There was a lot of consternation about Ledger when he was initially announced as the Joker, but he more than rose to the challenge. Ledger's dark, twisted turn as the Joker was the first to come to mind and is without a doubt the best villain of the year. The Joker has always been the best Batman villain, but even amongst other incarnations of the Joker, this one is a rousing success. This Joker stands for anarchy and chaos and he does so in an intelligent and almost empathetic manner. The only other villain who could even come close to competing this year was Prince Nuada from Hellboy II: The Golden Army. In addition to an intimidating physical presense, he shares the empathetic anti-villain quality with the Joker. Also worthy of mention is Cate Blanchett in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Nuked Fridges, who isn't given much to work with but does a good job with it nonetheless. But in the end, Ledger nailed it.

The Joker

Best Hero/Badass: Tony Stark/Ironman, played by Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man

I struggled with this award. There's no real clear winner here, so the deciding factor was really Robert Downey Jr.'s performance. I didn't mind Christian Bale's growling as much as most, but he didn't do anything really remarkeable there either... The only other real contender for me was Hellboy, but in the end, I went with Ironman. I think the movie is a bit overrated, but Downey Jr. took what could easily have been a cheesy character and elevated him to a charismatic rogue that you can't help liking... That said, I think several characters from 2007 could have taken the crown easily.

Up next: Best Comedic Performance and Breakthrough Performance. Check back Monday for the winners.
Posted by Mark on January 18, 2009 at 05:17 PM .: link :.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Wrestler
When I was in high school, I joined the wrestling team. Now, amateur wrestling of the sort I was participating in is not the same thing you see on TV. That wrestling is usually called "professional" wrestling. Both sports have some things in common, but amateur wrestling is much closer to other martial arts while the professional variety is closer to the theatrical arts. Thus professional wrestling is usually referred to as "fake" wrestling... and no one was more guilty of that than us "real" wrestlers. Of course, in some ways, our griping was justified, but on the other hand, we were also rather ignorant of the realities of professional wrestling. There is still quite a bit of physicality involved in the sport, and over time, it can certainly take quite a toll. Bill Simmons gives an excellent description of this in his review:
Pro wrestling chews up and spits out its athletes with grueling schedules, brutal physical punishment and a tacit understanding that performance enhancers are okay—as are greenies, sleeping pills and painkillers. These guys destroy their bodies, then their hearts give out and they die. Google the phrase "dead wrestlers," and your computer will start to smoke like an overtaxed car engine.
From the first shots of The Wrestler, you see just how much of a toll it takes. The scene is simple - it just features our main character, Randy "The Ram" Robinson, sitting in a chair preparing for a match. It's instructive that you don't need to see his face or hear him talk about it to know just how broken down and battered The Ram is (even before the match). You can see it in his posture and you can hear it in his breathing. This represents most of what The Wrestler has gotten right, which is Mickey Rourke's performance (which is as excellent as everyone says and yes, the parallels between Randy and Mickey Rourke himself are eerie. I won't belabor the point any more than that becaues it's been covered so extensively by everyone else...) and the inside look at the professional wrestling world that drives everything.

In the 1980s heyday of wrestling, Randy the Ram was at the top of his game, performing at venues like Madison Square Garden in front of sold out crowds. 20 years later, he's battered and broken, playing tiny venues, signing autographs at small, local conventions, and working part-time at a grocery store. He dreams of reclaiming past glory, but hits a roadblock when he has the inevitable heart attack after a match that exemplifies the physical nature of "fake" wrestling. The doctor is clear: if he keeps wrestling, he'll die. This forces Randy to take stock of his life, and he attempts to restablish a relationship with his daughter while expanding his existing friendship with a stripper. The stripper, played by Marisa Tomei, parallel's Randy's story. Like Randy, she has chosen a career with a shelf life, and she's nearing the point where she will no longer be able to rely on her body to make money. She seems better prepared to face this fact than Randy though, and has done a reasonable job separating her personal life from her professional life. Randy is not so lucky. How these relationships play out comprise the rest of the story.

As previously hinted at, the wrestling bits in the movie are fantastic. Despite my high school activities, I never knew much about professional wrestling, but this movie feels right. It hits all the notes of authenticity, from the aformentioned brutality to the backstage banter and wrestling jargon. Unfortunately, the two main relationships described earlier in this review are less successful. Of course, reuniting with an abandoned daughter and a relationship with a stripper represent a mine field of potential cliche, so it's somewhat impressive that screenwriter Robert Siegel is able to navigate with reasonable success. He doesn't emerge unscathed, particularly with respect to the relationship with the daughter (not that stripper subplot is perfect), but he managed to avoid the most troubling cliches. The movie's themes come through loud and clear. It ends on the perfect note, and I'm hard pressed to think of a better ending shot this year, if not this decade.

I loved director Darren Aronofsky's first film, the creepy, paranoid math-based thriller Pi, and was duly impressed by his manic drug addiction tale Requiem for a Dream. I was less impressed by his last effort, 2006's gorgeous looking The Fountain, a movie best described as an "interesting failure." In The Wrestler, Aronofsky has toned down the manic style that impressed so many, but in doing so he has lost none of his visual potency. Instead of the quick cuts and spastic style of his previous efforts, he takes a much simpler, almost verite aproach. The camera follows Randy the Ram in long unbroken takes, often from behind, giving you his view of the world almost as if we're watching a documentary. I can't say it's always fun, but it's usually compelling.

In the end, it's not Aronofsky's best movie and it's not perfect, but it's an improvement over The Fountain and one of the better movies of this year. The simple story basically amounts to a small, character based drama, and at a high level, it proceeds mostly as you'd expect, but it's definitely worth a watch (even if it's just for Rourke's performance). I haven't watched profession wrestling in probably over 20 years, but that doesn't matter - the movie is compelling for other reasons, and can be interpreted in several ways.
Posted by Mark on January 14, 2009 at 09:02 PM .: link :.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

2008 Kaedrin Movie Awards
As of today, I've seen 62 movies that would be considered 2008 releases. This is on par with my 2007 viewing and perhaps a bit less than 2006. So I'm not your typical movie critic, but I've probably seen more than your average moviegoer. As such, this constitutes the kickoff of my year end movie recap. The categories for this years movie awards are the same as last year, and will proceed in a similar manner. Nominations will be announced today, and starting next week, I'll announce the winners (new winners announced every day). After that, there might be some miscellaneous awards, followed by a top 10 list.

As I've mentioned before, 2008 has been a weak year for movies. Not sure if this was because of the writers strike, some other shift in studio strategy (the independent arms of many studios seem to be closing up shop, for instance), or that my taste has become more discriminating, but whatever the case, I've had trouble compiling my top 10. Indeed, I'm still not sure I've got a good list yet and am still scrambling to catch up with some of the lesser-known films of the year (many of which had minimal releases and are not out on DVD just yet). This is why these awards and my top 10 are a little later than last year. However, one of the things I like about doing these awards is that they allow me to give some love to films that I like, but which aren't necessarily great or are otherwise flawed (as such, the categories may seem a bit eclectic). Some of these movies will end up on my top 10, but the grand majority of them will not.

The rules for this are the same as last year: Nominated movies must have been released in 2008 and I have to have seen the movie (and while I have seen a lot of movies, I don't pretend to have seen a comprehensive selection - don't let that stop you from suggesting something though). Also, I suppose I should mention the requisite disclaimer that these sorts of lists are inherently subjective and personal. But that's all part of the fun, right?

Best Villain/Badass
It's been a pretty good year for villainy! At least on par with last year, if not better. As with the past two years, my picks in this category are for individuals, not groups (i.e. no vampires or zombies as a group). Winner Announced!

Best Hero/Badass
A distinct step down in terms of heroic badassery this year, but it's not a terrible year either. Again limited to individuals and not groups. Winner Announced!

Best Comedic Performance
Not a particularly strong year when it comes to comedy, but there still seem to be plenty of good performances, even in films I thought were lackluster... Winner Announced!

Breakthrough Performance
Not a particularly huge year for breakthrough performances either, but definitely several interesting choices. As with previous years, my main criteria for this category was if I watched a movie, then immediately looking up the actor/actress on IMDB to see what else they've done (or where they came from). This sometimes happens for even well established actors/actresses, and this year was no exception. Winner Announced!

Most Visually Stunning
Winner Announced!

Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film
I'm a total genre hound, despite genres generally receiving very little attention from critics. As usual, there was a dearth of quality SF this year, especially because I don't consider Iron Man or The Dark Knight SF. However, a strong showing from the horror genre rounds out the nominations well. Plus, disappointed by the poor showing of SF, I cheated by nominating a 2007 SF film... I can't even fudge the release dates the way I can with some independent or foreign flicks - by every measurement I can think of, it's a 2007 film. But it was such a small film that flew under just about everyone's radar (including mine!) that I'm going to include it, just to give it some attention, because I really did enjoy it. Winner Announced!

Best Sequel
Honestly, I only saw 4 or 5 sequels all year, so this was a difficult category to populate (as it is every year). Still, there were at least two really great sequels this year... Winner Announced!

Biggest Disappointment
Always a difficult award to figure out, as there are different ways in which a movie can disappoint. Usually, expectations play just as big a part of this as the actual quality of the film, and it's possible that a decent movie can win the award because of astronomical expectations. This year had several obvious choices though. Usually I manage to avoid the real stinkers, but this year I saw two genuinely awful movies... in the theater! Winner Announced!

Best Action Sequences
This is a kinda by-the-numbers year for action sequences. Nothing particularly groundbreaking or incredible, but there were some well executed, straightforward action movies this year. These aren't really individual action sequences, but rather an overall estimation of each film. Winner Announced!

Best Plot Twist/Surprise
Not a particularly strong year for the plot twist either. Winner Announced!

Best High Concept Film
This was a new category last year, and like last year, I had a little difficulty coming up with this list, but overall, not bad. Winner Announced!

Anyone have any suggestions (for either category or nominations)? Comments, complaints and suggestions are welcome, as always.

It looks like The Dark Knight is leading the way with an impressive 6 nominations (rivaled only by the 8 nominations earned by Grindhouse last year... with the caveat that Grindhouse is technically 2 movies in one). Not far behind is Hellboy II with a respectable 5 nominations. Surprisingly, both Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Signal earned 3 nominations, while a whole slew of other films garnered 2 noms, and an even larger amount earned a single nomination. As I mentioned earlier, I'm going to give myself a week to think about each of these. I might end up adding to the nominations if I end up seeing something new. Winners will be announced starting next Sunday or Monday. As with the last two years, there will be a small set of Arbitrary Awards after the standard awards are given out, followed by the top 10.

Update: Added a new plot twist nominee (Spiral), because I just watched it and it deserves it!

Update 1.25.09: Arbitrary Awards announced!

Update 2.15.09: Top 10 of 2008 has finally been posted!
Posted by Mark on January 11, 2009 at 11:46 AM .: link :.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Link Dump
For obvious reasons, time is a little short these days, so here are a few links I've found interesting lately:
  • Still Life - This is a rather creepy short film directed by Jon Knautz. It has a very Twilight Zoney type of feel, and a rather dark ending, but it's quite compelling. Knautz went on to make Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer... alas, that film, while containing a certain charm for the horror aficionado, isn't quite as good as this short.
  • Zero Punctuation: Assassin's Creed: I've seen some of Yahtzee's video game reviews before, but while they are certainly entertaining to watch, I've never quite known whether or not they were actually useful. It can be a lot of fun to watch someone lay the smackdown on stupid games, and Yahtzee certainly has a knack for doing that (plus he has a British accent, and us Americans apparently love to hear Brits rip into stuf), but you never really know how representative of the actual game it really is. Well, after spending a lot of time playing around with Assassin's Creed this week, I have to say that Yahtzee's review is dead on, and hilarious to boot.
  • A Batman Conversation: It's sad and in poor taste, but I bet some variant of this conversation happened quite frequently about a year ago.
  • MGK Versus His Adolescent Reading Habits: Look! I'm only like 2 months behind the curve on this one! MGK posts a bunch of parodies of book covers from famous SF and fantasy authors (I particularly enjoyed the Asimov, Heinlein, and even the Zahn one).
  • Top Ten Astronomy Pictures of 2008: Self-explanatory, but there are some pretty cool pics in here...
  • Books as Games: I realize most of my readers also read Shamus, but still, this faux-review of Snow Crash if it were created as a video game before it became a book but in the present day (it, uh, makes more sense in his post) is pretty cool.
  • "Sacred Cow Slayings" Rumored at Sony... Is PlayStation In Jeopardy?: It figures... I finally get off my butt and buy a PS3 and then rumors start appearing that Sony is about to can the program. I don't think it will happen, but this news is obviously not comforting...
  • Keanu Reeves wants to make a live-action version of Cowboy Bebop. No comment.
Posted by Mark on January 07, 2009 at 08:56 PM .: link :.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The PS3, Revisiting Predictions & Other Odds & Ends
The PS3 came yesterday, so I've spent most of the time since then in a Blu-Ray and Video Game induced haze. I was lured out by my brother this afternoon to watch the Eagles playoff game (we won!) and maybe feed myself too. While I'm out, I figure I should at least make some pretense at updating the blog with something...
  • Might as well get this out of the way first: The PS3 is actually pretty great. At this point, I've spent most of my time playing Assassin's Creed, which is great so far (though my understanding is that it gets repetitive and that's certainly something I'm starting to see...). I also watched the Final Cut of Blade Runner. The set I got comes with 3 other versions of the movie and like 15 hours of extras (these are in standard definition though), including an almost 4 hour in-depth documentary on the production. I also got Resistance, Call of Duty 4, and The Dark Knight, but have yet to fiddle around with those. The PS3 online system seems decent, though I haven't really done anything with it just yet. All in all, I'm very satisfied with my purchase so far.
  • Last January, I made 5 predictions for 2008, and it turns out that I was mostly correct! Neal Stephenson did announce a new novel (which I thoroughly enjoyed), but I was wrong about the setting (though I admitted that possiblity in my prediction). The WGA strike did end, and for the most part, TV didn't recover much of what they lost. There were few new shows that did well and big ratings drops for existing hits like Heroes. Box Office numbers were a bit skewed by The Dark Knight and Iron Man, but admissions were down (on the other hand, they were only down 4%, which isn't bad when compared to the rest of the economy). I predicted Blu-Ray would pick up ground, but not that Blu-Ray would win so decisively and so early. My DRM prediction seems rather stale - not much has changed in either the music industry or the movie industry. And Barack Obama did win the election. So overall, I'd say 4 out of 5 wasn't bad... but that's probably more because I didn't really go out on a limb with any of my predictions! Not sure if I'll be making any predictions for 2009, but you never know...
  • As I have for the past two years, I'm going to do another Kaedrin Movie Awards series of posts for 2008. As I've mentioned before, 2008 hasn't been a particularly great year (perhaps still feeling the effects of the writer's strike?), so I'm still trying to catch up with some films in order to compile my lists. if you have any nominations for the standard awards (see last year for an example) or any arbitrary awards you'd like to see, feel free to leave some comments or send me an email...
That's all for now. I believe I have some evil people to assassinate. Or perhaps I should repel an alien invasion. Or maybe I should just watch The Dark Knight again. Decisions, decisions...
Posted by Mark on January 04, 2009 at 08:33 PM .: link :.

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