Tuesday, January 19, 2010

2009 Leaman Awards: Major Awards and Commentary

Here is the BIG STUFF! Thanks for reading and Enjoy!

Best Supporting Actress

- Vera Farmiga Up in the Air
- Mo'Nique Precious
- Gwyneth Paltrow Two Lovers
- Blanca Portillo Broken Embraces
- Rachel Weisz The Brothers Bloom

Winner: Mo'Nique Precious
Runner-Up: Blanca Portillo Broken Embraces

Comments: It wasn't never really a race this year as Mo'Nique walks away with the award. Easily the most 'evil' of the performances, Mo'Nique doesn't shy away from going over the top, and this pays off with her emotional plea in the final act of the film, revealing more character than most care to admit. The best antagonist since Ledger's Joker.



Best Supporting Actor

- Jason Bateman State of Play
- Jim Broadbent Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- Saul Rubinek Julia
- Mark Ruffalo The Brothers Bloom
- Christoph Waltz Inglorious Basterds

Winner: Jim Broadbent Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Runner-Up: Jason Bateman State of Play

Comments: Has there ever been a more interesting character in the Potter films than Professor Slughorn? Conflicted from the beginning, I absolutely delighted in Slughorn's struggle with his past failures mixed with his delight in helping and 'collecting' students. Slughorn is played with wit, charm, and potency by the always great Jim Broadbent. Slughorn's confession to Harry is my favorite moment of the whole series, as well as the best acted.



Best Actress

- Emily Blunt The Young Victoria
- Carey Mulligan An Education
- Tilda Swinton Julia
- Gabourey Sidibe Precious
- Meryl Streep Julie & Julia

Winner: Carey Mulligan An Education
Runner-Up: Tilda Swinton Julia

Comments: How refreshing and delightful to find this outstanding performance amongst a year filled with disappointments in the cinema! Equal parts innocent and naive, as well as sexy and adventurous; Carey Mulligan is the center of the entire film. Mulligan gives one of the best debuts of the decade, it just so happens it's one of the best female performances of the decade.



Best Actor

- George Clooney Up in the Air
- Russell Crowe State of Play
- Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes
- Viggo Mortensen The Road
- Sam Rockwell Moon

Winner: Sam Rockwell Moon
Runner-Up: Viggo Mortensen The Road

Comments: The best twin performance since Nicholas Cage in Adaptation (Rockwell is not quite as good), is also the best male performance of the year. Much of Rockwell's trademark quirkiness is reined in here as Rockwell gives a solid and greatly layered performance that just might be the highlight of his career.



Best Ensemble

- Inglorious Basterds
- Precious
- The Road
- Sherlock Holmes
- Up in the Air

Winner: Up in the Air
Runner-Up: Inglorious Basterds

Comments: This was a pretty easy choice for me this year as I truly enjoyed all the performances in this film. In fact, I think the film works (and works well) simply because its leads are so charming, charismatic, and agreeable. I think the films performances actually help to temper and balance out the stark purposelessness of universe of Up in the Air. If I return to the skies, It will be to simply watch Clooney, Farmiga, Kendick and Bateman, live out these characters, despite how the film ultimately uses them.. I don't know if I can say that about any other film this year.



Best Director

- John Hillcoat The Road
- Duncan Jones Moon
- Kevin MacDonald State of Play
- Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes
- Quentin Tarantino Inglorious Basterds

Winner: John Hillcoat The Road
Runner-Up: Kevin MacDonald State of Play

Comments: Adapting and bringing to the screen one America's great novels is not an easy task. Hillcoat confidently commands The Road creating the perfect tone and atmosphere that coarsens through every aspect of the film, including it's subtext and performances. Working with a fairly slim plot and stoyline, Hillcoat masterfully coaxes out every ounce of value.



Best Picture

5. Ip Man




4. Moon




3. Sherlock Holmes




2. The Road




1. State of Play

Comments: State of Play marks the first time I've ever given my Best Picture award to an 'A-' film (the only 'A' film of 2009). Despite these circumstances, State of Play is still a solid film that deserves recognition, so I'm glad to give it some. The plot is much too detailed to convey here, but its revelations are all earned, surprising, and truly engaging. Sandwiched in-between all the plot and mystery, are some great issues dealing with the privatization of homeland security (can I say again how much I enjoy the film's failure to confirm the easy scapegoat here?), the dying of print newspaper, and the question of fairness and accuracy in reporting.

The acting is excellent (Crowe, Bateman and Mirren especially) and all the production is memorable as well. All in all, this will be one film that I'll look forward to watching again and again in the future, much like A Few Good Men. It's a blast to watch, remember the twists and enjoy the performances.


2009: A Year in Review
"It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better"

I love watching movies. I devote nearly all of my spare time to watching them, thinking about them, writing about them, and sharing them with friends. Not every film turns out to be one worth devoting all that time to and unfortunately in 2009 that extended to the majority of films I saw. About halfway through the year, as I began to be disappointed by film after film, I suspected that it would be a tough year for me, but I never thought the year would end with only one 'A-'' film (and that took a second viewing for me to arrive at). This is the worst year in film dating all the way back to 1996 (and at least that year had Jerry Maguire and Scream in the 'A' range.). So what made the year so bad? Were there any bright spots in the whole thing? Lets take a closer look at the year.

Looking over the list of what I would label as 'disappointments', it's hard to remain positive about the year. The list of directors with prestige that turned in average to terrible films this year is simply astounding; Eastwood, Proyas, Jonze, Zemeckis (who hasn't made a great film since 2000's Cast Away), Cameron, Jackson (of the Peter vairety), Soderbergh, Linklater, Raimi, Gilliam, Coen Brothers, J.J. Abrams, Howard, Gilroy, Gervais, Marshall, Allen, and Ramis. All directors I look forward to and not a single one produced a film that I care to watch again. Alas, perhaps 2009 was missing those prestige dramas, but did it at least deliver my bread and butter genre? Did it succeed in prodcuing great blockbuster entertainment?

Looking over my grades for this year's blockbuster is like looking over the report card for a failing high school football player. The list of casualties include: Wolverine, Star Trek, G.I. Joe, Angels and Demons, Harry Potter 6, 2012, Watchmen, Terminator 4, Transformers 2, Night at the Museum 2, and Avatar. All of these failed to deliver the goods in my opinion failing to either deliver a fun and entertaining ride, or the rare blockbuster that is as deep as it is wide. Sherlock Holmes is this year's best blockbuster film, delivering everything a blockbuster should have while offering something deeper as well.

Two unlikely areas produced the best surprises of the year for me. Hong Kong/Asian cinema and animated films truly 'saved' the year from near disaster. While it's been a down year for American blockbusters, Chocolate, Ip Man, Red Cliff, Ong Bak 2 all represent the cutting edge for action films. What a relief. Not to mention the unusually great animated category. I thought that 2008 was going to be the 'down' year for the 2000's, but I guess sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better. Which, when you think about it, is a pretty fitting statement for 2009 in general. Bring on 2010!
- The Part-Time Critic: Kyle Leaman




2 comments:

8rent said...

I'm glad Sam Rockwell gets some love here. He's very, very underrated, and he always threatens to steal the scene when he's in a supporting role.

In fact, some of my most rewatchable movies have Rockwell lurking (or starring): Heist, Galaxy Quest, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (as a child game show junkie, his Chuck Barris is positively a mirror image), Frost/Nixon, on and on. The guy is just good.

Kyle Leaman said...

Agreed Brent.

He's one of those consistently excellent actors that never breaks it through to stardom. He's terrific in 'Moon' and deserved much more recognition in a pretty weak acting year for males.

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