Thursday, February 12, 2009

2008 Leaman Awards: Minor Award Nominees and Winners (Web Edition)

Here are all the nominees and winners for all of my minor awards. Enjoy!

Best Makeup

- The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- The Dark Knight
- Hellboy II: The Golden Army
- Synecdoche, New York

Winner: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Runner-Up: Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Comments: A strong slate of contenders for the makeup crowd this year, but the giant leap forward that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button represents in the field of makeup cannot go unnoticed. The real achievement here is not that the makeup stands out as an achievement, but in its ability to make the viewer completely believe in the transformation that Benjamin undertakes throughout the film, without becoming a distraction


Best Costume Design

- The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
- The Duchess
- The Fall
- Hellboy II: The Golden Army
- The Other Boleyn Girl

Winner: The Fall
Runner-Up: The Duchess

Comments: Every year there are a number of great costumed films and they mostly fall into the “historical” or “fantasy” category. As you can see from my nominees, this year is no different. It’s tiring to see most fantasy films year after year present practically the same armor and outfits, so it’s refreshing to stumble upon the “fantasy” outfits found in Tarsem’s The Fall. From mind blowing dresses to some truly authentic and unique armor, The Fall is the most unique, creative, and simply the best costuming of 2008.

Best Sound

- The Dark Knight
- Defiance
- Jumper
- Quantum of Solace
- Wall *E

Winner: The Dark Knight
Runner-Up: Wall *E

Comments: For nearly the entire year Wall *E was slotted to take the top prize and only lost it after a late viewing of The Dark Knight. The sound design by Ben Burt on Wall *E is award worthy and it really is an integral piece of why Wall *E is as loved as it is. However, the sound design and the sound mixing on The Dark Knight are second to none. While watching The Dark Knight, I felt completely engrossed in the entire sound environment. If I had to pick a favorite sound “moment”, then I would point to the entire sequence where the Joker and his gang attempt to capture Harvey Dent from his armored car.


Best Original Score

- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- The Dark Knight
- Seven Pounds
- Slumdog Millionaire
- Speed Racer

Winner: The Dark Knight
Runner-Up: Slumdog Millionaire

Comments: I remember hearing a lot of praise for the score for Batman Begins, and I must confess that I didn’t really understand it in 2005. Then came along The Dark Knight. This is hands down, my favorite score of 2008. The score perfectly captures the two genres of the film, giving us a pulse pounding thriller score for the crime aspects, while allowing us to soar with the superhero aspects. On top of that, the introduction of the theme for the Joker is the single greatest musical triumph of the year. Like no other musical cue, it single handedly conveys the chaos and anarchy that follows the Joker like a boat and its wake.


Best Visual Effects

- The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
- Iron Man
- Jumper
- Speed Racer
- The Spiderwick Chronicles

Winner: Speed Racer
Runner-Up: The Spiderwick Chronicles

Comments: While I wouldn’t say that Speed Racer introduces any genuinely new ideas into the field, it wins the award for the ways in which it so seamlessly uses everything at its disposal to create an entirely CGI’ed world that feels tactile and real, while still allowing the camera to move as freely as it wants. Re-watch the second half of the Casa Cristo Race in the mountains and just examine how in some sequences the camera freely zooms and floats from car to car to helicopter and back, without ever cutting away to an edit or taking us out of their created world. It’s the visual effects work of the year.


Best Art Direction

- Changeling
- The Fall
- Hellboy II: The Golden Army
- Speed Racer
- Synecdoche, New York

Winner: Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Runner-Up: The Fall

Comments: Usually a fun category for me, but I think the art direction category was a little weak this year. In the end, Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army won for its sheer inventiveness and creativity. Del Toro really does have a great mind for interesting creatures and outlandish designs, and he allows it to run wild in this film. It’s clear that Del Toro cherished the art direction stages of making Hellboy II. I just wish a little more time would have gone into the writing stages as well.


Best Cinematography

- The Dark Knight
- Defiance
- Rachel Getting Married
- Slumdog Millionaire
- Speed Racer

Winner: The Dark Knight
Runner-Up: Rachel Getting Married

Comments: Unlike The Dark Knight’s win for “Best Sound” which came at the last moment, I thought that The Dark Knight had cinematography in the bag the moment that I walked out of the theatre. The other nominees are all worthy of winning, but The Dark Knight, like Batman atop Gotham, sits heads and shoulders above its competition. Wally Pfister continues his quest to find even more shades and nuances in the color black, while giving us some of the most memorable and iconic images that will last throughout film history.


Best Film Editing

- The Dark Knight
- Kung Fu Panda
- Slumdog Millionaire
- Speed Racer
- Traitor


Winner: Speed Racer
Runner-Up: The Dark Knight

Comments: If I allowed ties in my categories, then this would be the closest I came to it in my entire awards. Dark Knight’s roller coaster editing is an enormous achievement, but I felt that the genuinely original editing style of Speed Racer was more integral to that films success. There is an unprecedented synergy between Speed Racer’s cinematography, visual effects, and film editing, and it really is a marvel to watch. Eschewing traditional editing, Speed Racer is truly unique this year in how it brings together the story it tells and the pace, cutting, and rhythms in how it tells it.


Best Animated Feature

- Bolt
- Horton Hears a Who!
- Kung Fu Panda
- Star Wars: Clone Wars
- Wall *E


Winner: Kung Fu Panda
Runner-Up: Bolt

Comments: Not only is Kung Fu Panda the most surprising film of the year for me, its also my favorite animated film of the year. This is a film that hits every note it’s supposed to, and really delivers the goods. Jack Black is perfectly cast as the panda and gets some great laughs throughout the film. It’s not exactly an epic and sweeping story, but its very light, good-natured, and most importantly, its consistent with its reality and characters. The action is expertly crafted and animated, and really beats most of the great action scenes I have seen this year. Altogether, Kung Fu Panda was one of the best experiences I had all year.


Best Adapted Screenplay

- The Counterfeiters
- The Dark Knight
- Doubt
- Funny Games
- Speed Racer


Winner: The Dark Knight
Runner-Up: Doubt

Comments: Aside from all the great achievements of The Dark Knight, “Best Adapted Screenplay” may be its greatest. When you strip away the music, the sound, the action, and the visual presentation, The Dark Knight would still have the power to captivate and entertain. The true strengths of the film lie in its ability to satisfy on so many levels. The Dark Knight succeeds as a great superhero film, while also succeeding as a film of competing ideas and themes. The fact that this movie would be able to work well on stage as a spoken play, speaks volumes for the genius that went into The Dark Knight’s screenplay.


Best Original Screenplay

- In Bruges
- Kung Fu Panda
- Rachel Getting Married
- Role Models
- Traitor


Winner: Rachel Getting Married
Runner-Up: In Bruges

Comments: Thanks to wonderful cinematography, direction, and performances, it would be easy to think the Rachel Getting Married was created impromptu and on the fly. That the situations and dialogue in the film feel so natural and immediate also belongs to the wonderful screenplay by Jenny Lumet. Rachel Getting Married struck me as one of the most honest and genuine films I have ever watched. Stripped of typical cinematic flare, these characters and their struggles felt much like friends I know and feelings I have dealt with myself. For its brutal honesty and striking sincerity, Rachel Getting Married gets my vote for the best Original Screenplay of the year.

**Exhausted Yet? Yeah...Me too. Stay tuned for the last post containing all the major award nominees and winners and a year in review commentary, capping off and ending the year 2008 for me. Thanks for reading!

3 comments:

8rent said...

Kyle, I love your work. It's always a must-read for me. That said, how can you talk about an adapted screenplay without talking about the source(s) from whence the screenplay has been adapted?

Indirectly related, are you excited for Watchmen?

Kyle Leaman said...

Thanks 8rent.

Your right, it would've be appropriate for me to have addressed the sources, of which there are several on this film (Bob Kane, The Killing Joke, and Nolan and Goyer's Batman Begins to name a few).
I guess it didn't come to mind for me because I have so thoroughly accepted The Dark Knight as Nolan's vision and creation. The darkness, the flimmers of good within that darkness, the exploration of ethical lines within society, the existential identity crisis, and the whole visual look and feel just scream Nolan to me. That being said, your right though, talk of the Dark Knight's screenplay should always mention its sources.

Kyle Leaman said...

With regards to Watchmen,

Armando let me borrow his copy and I'm trying to read through it before I watch the actual film. So far, I have to say that I am reallu enjoying the graphic novel. Its the first one I've ever read, so I'm adjusting to it; but the narrative style is really quite clever and enjoyable.
I'm not quite sure if I am pumped for it in the way I get pumped for most superhero films (looking forward to great action and visual effects), but I am pumped for the film as a creative work.
I am interested to see how Synder has adapted the novel narratively, thematically, and visually. There are so many characters, ideas, and backstories that for the film to be successful, Synder is gonna have to do miracles.

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