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?
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).
- The Joker, played by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
- Prince Nuada, played by Luke Goss in Hellboy II: The Golden Army
- Irina Spalko, played by Cate Blanchett in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
- Tai Lung, voiced by Ian McShane in Kung Fu Panda
- Lewis Denton, played by AJ Bowen in The Signal
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.
- Major Eden Sinclair, played by Rhona Mitra in Doomsday
- Batman, played by Christian Bale in The Dark Knight
- Hellboy, played by Ron Perlman in Hellboy II: The Golden Army
- Tony Stark/Ironman, played by Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man
- Mike Terry, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor in Redbelt
- Fox, played by Angelina Jolie in Wanted
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…
- Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall
- James Franco in Pineapple Express
- Russell Brand in Forgetting Sarah Marshall
- Seann William Scott in Role Models and The Promotion
- Paul Rudd in Role Models
- Brad Pitt in Burn After Reading
- Justin Long in Zack and Miri Make a Porno
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.
- Mila Kunis in Forgetting Sarah Marshall
- Rhona Mitra in Doomsday
- Steve Coogan in Hamlet 2
- AJ Bowen in The Signal
Most Visually Stunning
- Hellboy II: The Golden Army
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- The Dark Knight
- The Fall
- Let the Right One In
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.
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…
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!
- The Happening
- Speed Racer
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
- Quantum of Solace
- Pineapple Express
- The X Files: I Want to Believe
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.
Best Plot Twist/Surprise
Not a particularly strong year for the plot twist either.
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.
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!