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2008 Movie Awards
Sunday, February 15, 2009

Best Films of 2008
I saw somewhere on the order of 70 movies that were released in 2008. Most critics see more than that, but your average moviegoer probably sees far less than that. I have to say, I've been really disappointed with 2008. It's been a rough year for movies and I had a really hard time cobbling together a top 10 (Hence the extreme lateness of this post). The 6-10 of my list is somewhat weak and probably wouldn't have made the list in either 2006 or 2007. On the other hand, the films near the top of the list are great, and would compete with the films of the last two years.

Of course, making a top 10 list is an inherently subjective exercise. I've noted before that these lists tend to tell you more about those who are compiling the list rather than the movies on the list. The hosts of the Filmcouch podcast were recently talking about how these sorts of lists are an autobiographical exercise and invited listeners to send in their top 5 lists, at which point they would psychoanalyze the list and try to come up with a picture of who the list's owner was. I submitted my list, and they tried to figure me out by the movies I listed. Before I go through their results, I should probably let you see my full list, so here goes:

Top 10 Movies of 2008
* In roughly reverse order
  • Man on Wire: This documentary follows French tightrope walker Philippe Petit's amazing high-wire stunt performed between the World Trade Center towers in 1974. This act was, of course, illegal, and indeed, the film carries with it many of the conventions and tropes of the heist movie... except that Petit wasn't stealing anything, he was just obsessed with tightrope walking (and had been performing various other similar stunts around the world, such as his walk across the towers of Notre Dame). The story is amazing and Petit is bewildering. I'm particularly thankful that director James Marsh decided to completely ignore the 9/11 angle, as such sermonizing would be unnecessary and distracting.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Slumdog Millionaire: Danny Boyle's Dickensian romp across India is getting a lot of attention these days and is seemingly a frontrunner for the Best Picture Oscar. There seems to be something of a backlash as well, which I feel is somewhat undeserved. I certainly don't think it's the best film of the year, but it features an interesting mix of dark and edgy material with a more optimistic undertone. There are moments of extreme violence and tragedy, but the movie is ultimately an uplifting experience. Of the Oscar nominees, it's my favorite.
    More Info: [IMDB]
  • Teeth: Adventurous filmmaking at its best, this movie is about a teenage girl who has teeth... down there. This is most unfortunate for all the males in the movie, especially the ones who attempt to take advantage of our heroine (which is to say, most of them). As a male, it was sometimes hard for me to watch (let's just say the film gets graphic), but in the end, I had a lot of fun with the movie. Despite it's B movie/horror roots, the film delves deeper than you might expect, exploring the nature of sexual power and male/female interactions. If you think you can handle the gore, it's a good film.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • The Bank Job: Based on the true story of the 1971 Baker Street bank robbery, this movie follows a band of amateur thieves as they plan and execute their heist, which is aimed at the safe deposit boxes rather than the standard cash. What they don't plan on is that the safe deposit boxes also contain loads of dirty secrets, and there are people who don't want those secrets to come out. Nefarious acts ensue. I have to say that I was really taken with this movie. It seems like a by-the-numbers heist movie, but I'd say it's the best heist movie made in the last several years (and I like me some heist movies).
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Mad Detective: Directors Johnny To and Ka-Fai Wai have crafted an exceptional police procedural and infused it with a giddy wackiness in the form of their main character, Bun, who can see the inner personalities of people. Bun's talents are explained in a stunning visual manner and the film's climax is a cinematic masterpiece. Unfortunately, this film is hard to find and it took me a while to get to it, but it was well worth the wait (it actually displaced the original number 10 movie on this list and may deserve to be even higher on the list than I placed it).
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Full Review]
  • Forgetting Sarah Marshall: A movie that almost perfectly walks the fine line between romantic comedy and raunchy comedy, never straying to far from either. I'd say this is a tough trick to pull off, but this sort of mix seems to be producer Judd Apatow's specialty. Still, I think even among those films, this one is a winner. The film feels fresh and all of the characters in the movie are surprisingly well developed. The film is written by and stars Jason Segal, who goes all out in his performance. Mila Kunis is wonderful, as are the other supporting characters played by Kristin Bell, Russell Brand, Bill Hader and Jonah Hill. Excellent stuff.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Winner of 2 Kaedrin Movie Awards]
  • Let the Right One In: This Swedish horror film follows a lonely 12 year old boy, bullied by schoolmates, who falls in love with his neighbor. She happens to be a vampire. Set against a stark and beautiful snowy backdrop (excellent cinematography here), this film is not your typical vampire movie. It's more contemplative and subtle. There are moments of violence and gore, but they highlight the sadness of a vampire stuck in the body of a 12 year old girl. It's clear that vampires are a bad thing, an evil thing, but they're also sad creatures (and not in the whiney romantic, woe-is-me Interview with the Vampire way), which kinda endears you to them. It's also surprisingly tender, as you see the relationship between the young boy and vampire blossom. There is a Hollywood remake coming, but from what I've heard so far, you'd do far better to watch the original.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Timecrimes: An intricate Spanish time-travel thriller, and my favorite film of the 2008 Philly film festival. It has a light and humorous feel to it, but it's got a dark edge and it doesn't shy away from consequences. It's intelligent and rewards thought, but it's not difficult to follow or understand (which can be a problem with some time travel movies). Perhaps it's just my affinity for time travel stories, but I loved this movie.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Capsule Review]
  • The Counterfeiters: This movie actually won the 2007 Oscar for best foreign-language film last year, so perhaps a bit of a cheat, but it did not get a theatrical release until this year. And it's a fantastic film. It follows the story of Jewish artists and counterfeiters forced to produce fake foreign currency, destined for use by the Nazis to destabilize the economies of the UK and US. The film contains a series of fascinating moral dilemmas. Do you refuse to help the enemy and endanger your lives and the lives of those around you? Or do you protect them while aiding your enemy? There are no easy answers here, and there are two main characters who both espouse differing answers. Neither and both are proven right, if that makes any sense. Not an easy movie, but extremely compelling and highly recommended.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • The Dark Knight: It's an obvious choice for me, and while I can perhaps see some flaws in the film, I can't deny that it was the most enjoyable, entertaining and thought provoking (not an easy mixture) moviegoing experience of the year. One of my criteria for compiling a list like this is rewatch value, and when you consider that I've already seen this movie 5 times (while I have not seen any of the others on this list more than 2 times), it has to be at the top of my list. It's like a crime story that happens to feature a man dressed as a bat fighting a man dressed as a clown. This is another movie that features intricate plotting and a focus on consequences. There are no easy answers here either. Heath Ledger's inspired turn as the Joker is destined to become a classic, and the character is the perfect foil for Batman. The worst thing I can say about the movie is that the sequel has nowhere to go and will certainly pale in comparison.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Winner of 2 Kaedrin Movie Awards] [Blog Post]
So how did the Filmcouch hosts do in psychoanalyzing me? For the record, the top 5 I sent them was a little different - I had The Bank Job where Forgetting Sarah Marshall is in the above list. Anyway, their first observation was that I was a relatively young male, which is certainly true. The next thing they noticed was that all of these movies are about people who are operating under the radar (i.e. counterfeiters, bank robbers, vigilantes, vampires, etc...), so they think I'm drawn to people who operate outside the system (or smarter than the system). This may be partially true (see next paragraph for more). They also noticed that most of the movies touch on the idea that sometimes you have to do a bad thing to make things right (i.e. two wrongs make a right), and in some cases, sympathy for people doing bad things (but a recognition that such sympathy is strange). Because of that, they see me as someone who likes shades of gray. Again, this is probably partially true (more below).

I found their comments interesting, and it did make me wonder about why I really did choose the movies that I did. I think there is some truth in what they say, but I wouldn't say that I am the person they describe. There are some things that I'm fascinated by that aren't things I'd actually do. For instance, I've written before about vigilantes, and despite what the hosts of Filmcouch may think, I'm not a vigilante, and don't really have a desire to do so. What fascinates me about vigilante stories, though, is consequences. This is something that The Dark Knight did in spades, and it also features prominently in a lot of the other movies on the list. I wouldn't say that I particularly like the idea of "two wrongs make a right" but I am fascinated by situations in which the only possible alternatives are wrong. What do you do when no available option is right? How do you counter someone like the Joker? What are the consequences of time travel? What happens if you become a vampire when you're 12 years old? Do you help the Nazis destabilize the Allied economy, or do you protect your fellow concentration camp prisoners? I'm also the type of person who thinks the devil is in the details, and so I like movies that show that sort of thing. Again, Batman is a good example of this sort of thing. Everyone agrees that fighting crime is an honorable thing, but when you get down to the details of such an endeavor, things become a lot more complicated. Sure, Batman could spend all his time taking down the criminals on the streets - but then he's not getting at the root of the problem. But taking on the root of the problem has consequences. And so on. So I supposed their "shades of gray" thing might be somewhat accurate as well. But the point remains, while I may be fascinated by vigilantes in film, that doesn't mean that I want to be a vigilante, nor does it mean that I would tolerate a vigilante in my community. Something similar could be probably be said for other people prominently featured in my list (i.e. vampires, bank robbers, etc...) I'm fascinated by them, but it's not like I want to be them. Perhaps there's a cathartic value in these movies as well. They mentioned that I might be someone who likes to operate outside the system, but in fact, I do no such thing in my life. I'm pretty firmly ensconced within the system. But I suspect that makes people who operate outside the system fascinating... So anyway, that's what Filmcouch thinks. Not a bad job, but perhaps you can't truly read someone's soul through a list of 5 movies:p

Honorable Mention
* In alphabetical order
  • 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days: Brutal drama about a woman who helps her friend get an illegal abortion. The film takes place in Romania towards the end of the Soviet era, and it's not a very pleasant film, though it is very well made. Strange as it may seem for a movie about abortion, it doesn't take a side in the pro-life/pro-choice debate, and is more effective because of that.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Baghead: This ultra-low-budget (reputedly around $1000) horror film has its share of flaws, but it's also quite an entertaining flick. Aside from it's low-budget nature, there's nothing particularly groundbreaking here, but I've always maintained that there is something to be said for a well-executed genre film, and this movie does its job well enough.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Body of Lies: This underrated (and, uh, poorly titled) spy movie was actually reasonably smart and entertaining. It has a distinct political viewpoint on the war on terror, but it doesn't overplay its hand and keeps the lecturing to a minimum. The movie focuses more on the plotting of the story than the politics, and I think it works reasonably well.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Burn After Reading: The Coen brothers perplexing follow up to the critically lauded No Country for Old Men is about as different from that film as possible. I'm very much reminded of their follow up to Fargo, which was The Big Lebowski. I didn't care much for Lebowski the first time I saw it, but as time went on, I came around. I have a similar feeling about this movie, though I still don't think it's near the top of the Coen brothers films. My biggest issue with the movie is that none of the characters are particularly likeable. On the other hand, several are pretty funny, Brad Pitt's performance is hilarious, and the scenes at the CIA offices with J.K. Simmons and David Rasche are priceless.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: I actually enjoyed this more than I expected. I'm always game for a David Fincher film, but the previews for this looked awful. So I came away from the film with a pretty good feeling, but that said, there were a bunch of things I didn't particularly care for. Many have mentioned this film's similarities to Forrest Gump, a movie I loath, so it's interesting that I don't mind this movie and even enjoyed it. Not Fincher's best work, but an interesting diversion.
    More Info: [IMDB]
  • The Fall: A gorgeous feast for the eyes. The story follows a man in a hospital who tells a story to a little girl in order to coax her into getting him some morphine. Most of the film takes place in the imaginary world the man creates, which is visually impressive, but the story he tells is somewhat lacking. Of course, that's kinda the point, because the man is kinda making things up as he goes along, but that doesn't make it much better. Ultimately, there are parallels between the real world and the imaginary one, and in the end, I did enjoy the film.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • In Bruges: I really liked this movie right up until the end, which I felt was rather stupid and glib in attempting to tie everything together. There are some stereotypical characters here: the two hitmen who are opposites of each other - one a philosophical type, the other more hedonistic. Fortunately, the writers do a really good job with those characters, and Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell give excellent performances too. If it weren't for the ending, this film would probably be in the top 10.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Iron Man: One of the more enjoyable and fun experiences of the year, and one of the better superhero movies, I nevertheless felt this film was somewhat overrated. It's a good, solid film. Robert Downey Jr. gives an excellent performance. The explosions and action were cool. But ultimately, I don't think this film carries the weight of a movie like The Dark Knight, and there are certain aspects which are lacking in this film. For instance, I thought the film lacked a credible villain. I suppose the reveal of the true villain was supposed to be something of a surprise, but it was blatantly obvious from the start who the bad guy was going to be, and the climatic battle was a bit too silly for me. With a box of scraps!
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Kung Fu Panda: Is there a more common trope than anthropomorphized animals in American animated movies? Despite the cliche, this film was a lot of fun.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Ladrón Que Roba a Ladrón: It's like a latino Ocean's Eleven! It even has a latino George Clooney lookalike (but he's the villain in this film). Unfortunately, it's not quite as good as Ocean's Eleven, but it is still a rather entertaining heist film. It doesn't quite hit all the appropriate notes and the various twists aren't quite twisty enough, but it gets the job done and is definitely worth a watch.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • The Promotion: This odd and underseen comedy stars Seann William Scott and John C. Reilly as assistant managers at a supermarket who are vying for the same promotion. It's offbeat and quirky and fun, but with a darker edge (which I'm assuming is why it didn't get much of a release). That said, it's got an interesting sort of understated humor that works well. I enjoyed this a lot and think it could be interchangeable with my number 10...
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Role Models: This is probably the funniest movie of the year, and if not for the more cliched story, it might have been in the top 10. Still, it was much better than some of the other high-profile comedies this year, and all of the comedic performances were well done and funny.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Spiral: [Note: This was originally my #10 film, but was unseated once I saw Mad Detective. I've preserved my original thoughts here, with some additional notes.] Unquestionably the weakest movie on this list and I have to say that it just barely squeaks onto the list [Again, it has since been knocked off the list]. It's not a great movie, and in objective terms, several of the honorable mentions probably deserves to be here ahead of Spiral. But for some reason, this movie got under my skin and stuck with me, so here it is. It's a slow burning thriller that I'm betting most people haven't even heard of (another reason to give it some love, I guess), but I did enjoy it quite a bit.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Wall-E: The first half of this film was spectacular and ambitious filmmaking, but as soon as the humans showed up, things started to get less interesting. It's still a wonderful film, and I have to give credit to a movie that spends the first 45 minutes or so with almost no dialogue... and yet manages to be compelling and interesting. Visually impressive, funny, and touching.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • The Wrestler: Darren Aronofsky's character portrait of a down-on-his-luck professional wrestler is very well made, but ultimately a little too cliched for my tastes. It's an excellent movie, but it's not really my type of movie. However, Mickey Rourke's performance is amazing and the final shot in the movie is exceptional.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Full Review]
  • Zack & Miri Make a Porno: I've always been a fan of Kevin Smith's brand of raunchy humor, and this film is no exception. Perhaps not the funniest movie of the year, I still laughed a lot and as usual, Smith grounds the film with heart you don't often find in raunchy comedies. I don't think it's his best work, but I do think it was criminally underseen.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
Bottom 5 Movies of the Year
Perhaps as evidence of how bad a year this is, I am listing out my 5 least favorite movies. Typically, I'd have a tough time with this list, because I generally try to avoid bad movies and am usually somewhat successful in that. This year, I was not.
  • The Happening: The worst dialogue delivered in the worst possible way make this film laughable. The story is rather pointless as well. I've been something of a Shyamalan apologist in the past, as I liked The Village and even Lady in the Water, but this movie is just indefensible.
    More Info: [IMDB]
  • Speed Racer: Matty Robinson (of Filmspotting fame) described the movie thusly: "It's like a skittles induced stroke." Of course, he was being favorable to the movie, which is something I'm not inclined to do. It is visually ok, but everything else was pretty awful (except for Christina Ricci, who was unfortunately given nothing to do).
    More Info: [IMDB]
  • Storm: My least favorite movie of the 2008 Philly film festival. It has a lot of interesting ideas, none of which are followed through in any detail, instead devolving into an incomprehensible stew of cliches and unlikeable characters.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Capsule Review]
  • Sukiyaki Western Django: I have to give Takashi Miike credit for trying something new and different, but ultimately the film didn't work for me at all. Perhaps I was in the wrong mood or something, but I just couldn't get into this movie.
    More Info: [IMDB]
  • The X Files: I Want to Believe: This could have made an excellent creature of the week type episode of the original series, but instead the movie attempts to tie in way too much of the series' baggage, thus creating a mess of a storyline. I really liked the show a lot, but found this movie terrible.
    More Info: [IMDB]
Should Have Seen
There are a couple of these that might even have potential for unseating my number 10 movie, but I couldn't get to them for whatever reason (usually that it wasn't playing near me or otherwise available). For instance, I ordered Mad Detective (co-directed by Kaedrin favorite Johnny To) on blu-ray on January 21, but according to Amazon, the delivery estimate is sometime in early March!? Well, that just about covers it for 2008. The only thing that remains is the annual liveblogging of the Oscars (which are next Sunday? Yikes, time flies!) Anyway, here's to hoping that 2009 is a better year!

Update 2.21.09: Well that didn't take long. I saw Mad Detective last night and decided that it needed to be on the top 10. This knocks Spiral off the list and into the Honorable Mentions. Also worth noting are the comments to this post where I have an interesting discussion Adam from Filmcouch. And finally, the Filmcouch podcast mentioned my comments on this week's podcast as well. Thanks guys!
Posted by Mark on February 15, 2009 at 09:25 PM .: link :.


End of This Day's Posts

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 :.


End of This Day's Posts

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 :.


End of This Day's Posts

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 :.


End of This Day's Posts

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 :.


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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 :.


End of This Day's Posts

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 :.


End of This Day's Posts

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 :.


End of This Day's Posts

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 :.


End of This Day's Posts

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