2009 Leaman Awards - The Part-Time Critic

Monday, January 16, 2017

2009 Leaman Awards

 *Last Updated 8/21//2022

2009 Films Seen: 114
Number of Films with A or A+ Grade: 1 
Key Films Still to See: n/a

Brief Summary: Outside of a top two or so, it was nearly impossible to put the Top 25 together because there was just a dearth of "pretty good" films this year; films that were good and enjoyable, but not necessarily great and praise worthy. Although lots of "pretty good" films make for enjoyable viewings, it's tough to get passionate about it. Does that make sense?

Not a "best of" list or a "favorite" list - but a list of the films and sequences (action, drama, comedy, & musical) that I think represent the best the year had to offer. So think of it as a strange mixture of favorite, best, and defining. Once you get to the top ten films, it definitely becomes more defined as a Top Ten list of the year. The number one film is my favorite of the year. 

Honorable Mentions: 17 Again, The Blind Side, Funny People, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Crazy Heart

25. Saw VI (B)
24. The Brothers Bloom (B)
23. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (B)
22. The Taking of Pelham 123 (B)
21. The Shinjuku Incident (B)
20. Precious (B)
19. Inglorious Basterds (B)
18. Red Cliff 2 (B)
17. Adventureland (B)
16. Invictus (B)
15. Taken (B)
14. Public Enemies (B)
13. Up in the Air (B) 
12. The International (B)
11. Army of Crime (B+)

THE TOP TEN
10. The Young Victoria (B+)
9. A Prophet (B+)    
8. Coraline (B+) 
7. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (B+) 
6. Moon (B+)

5. State of Play (B+): State of Play is a fun political thriller that seemed to just slip out of pop culture too quickly in my opinion. The plot is much too detailed to convey here, but its many revelations are all earned, surprising, and engaging. Sandwiched in-between all the plot and mystery, are some great issues dealing with the privatization of homeland security, the dying of print journalism, and the question of fairness and accuracy in reporting. The acting is excellent across the board (Crowe, Bateman and Mirren especially) and the production is memorable as well. 

4. Sherlock Holmes (B+)

3. The Road (B+)

2. Ip Man (A-)

1. The Hurt Locker (A)


FAVORITE ACTION SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
The Very Good:
  • "Cena Drives a Fire Truck Through New Orleans Causing Great Damage" -12 Rounds
  • "Collecting Money in A Warehouse of Boxes" -Chocolate
  • "Meat Market Mayhem" -Chocolate
  • "Finale Adventure to Stop the Cloud-Food Machine" -Cloudy with a Chance for Meatballs
  • "Opening: Stealing Gas Trucks in the Dominican Republic" -Fast & Furious (Commentary)
  • "Paris Nanotech Chase: Joes Attempt to Stop a Missle Launch" -G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
  • "Securing the Money: Fight & Chase" -Merantau (Commentary)
  • "Rescuing Slaves: Jaa Goes Drunken Style" -Ong Bak 2 (Commentary)
  • "Shootout in the Woods at Little Bohemia" -Public Enemies
  • "Finale: Boat Shootout & Fight on the Seine River" -Taken
  • "Three Assasins Converge on the Motorway in a Doubledecker" -The Tournament
The Great:
  • "Finale: Air & Land War Between the Navi and the Military" -Avatar
  • "Finale: From Rooftops, to Dojos, and the Side of a Building" -Chocolate
  • "Guggenheim Museum Shootout" -The International
  • "Ip Man Unleashed: One vs. Ten" -Ip Man (Commentary)
  • "Finale: Lobby, Garage, Elevator, to the Docks" -Merantau (Commentary)
  • "Finale: Battle of Red Cliff - from Sea to Headquarters" -Red Cliff 2
  • "Desert Chase: Machines Chase Humans to the Bridge" -Terminator Salvation (Commentary)
  • "Opening: Killing the Comedian" -The Watchmen
The Best: "Finale Fight: Assassins, Weapons, & Elephants Oh My!" -Ong Bak 2 (Commentary)
Commentary: Do yourself a favor and spend the $3 to rent the video just to see the final 10-15 minutes of this movie. The experience of making this movie may have broken his career trajectory, but at least we got this legendary piece of martial arts film-making out of it. This is Tony Jaa's masterpiece. Like all the greats before him, this one comes from the desire to one-up the rest of the martial arts. The sequence begins with Jaa returning to his village after assassinating the general only to find a group of assassins have arrived. What follows is one of the most intense, complicated, varied, and stylish fight sequences ever committed to film. I have to believe that Jaa was looking to top Japanese Samurai fights and most especially, Lau Kar Lueng weapon fights, like in Legendary Weapons of China or anything with the Gordon Liu. Some of the shots in this finale sequence feature more than 20 complicated moves between multiple fighters before any edit. This is insanity! Jaa doesn't just use multiple weapons well here, he showcases them all in fantastic and complicated long takes that would be career highlights for any fighter. Additionally, the assassins themselves get specific costumes and fight styles that are so cool and diverse, they could populate an entire franchise of films - but we get to see him fight them all in just one 10 minute epic sequence. The final phase of the fight sees the entrance of an elephant - which is a Jaa trademark. I like to think of this as his Jackie Chan prop fight as Jaa finds every possible way to fit on and around the elephant - using it to his advantage. By the end, if you aren't exhausted by Jaa's endless skill and creativity then you are a soulless creature! This sequence shows Jaa had so much more to offer the world than just his Muy-Thai stylings and out of this world athleticism.


FAVORITE DRAMATIC SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
The Very Good:
  • “Tossing the Grenade into the Soldiers and Taking Life” -Army of Crime
  • "Bathtub Showroom Moment Between Two sisters" –Away We Go
  • "Judith reveals to Matteo her Involvement in the Destruction of his Film" –Broken Embraces
  • "Scrooge Watches Cratchit's Family as they Toast Him" –A Christmas Carol
  • "Harry Coaxes the Truth about Tom Riddle from Professor Slughorn" –Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • "An Undercover Mission is Discovered by an SS Officer in a Basement and Ends in a Firefight" –Inglorious Basterds
  • “Shocking Revelations During an Interview with the Banker” –The International
  • "A Visit to Mandela's old Prison" –Invictus
  • "Mitch Tells the Story of him Losing his Temper with his Daughter" –Julia
  • “Sunbeam Torches Earth as John Koestler Embraces his Family” –Knowing
  • “Plane Crash and Its’ Aftermath in One Take” –Knowing
  •  “Stealing Arrows: A Clever Boat Trick” -Red Cliff 2
  • "Carousel of Death Spins and One Decides Who Dies" –Saw VI
  • “Jackie saves Crime Boss from Assassination by Taking the Arm of the Taiwanese Boss” –The Shinjuku incident
  • "Kirk is Born as the U.S.S Kelvin is Destroyed" –Star Trek
  • "Getting the Truth in a Motel Room" –State of Play
  • "Ryder forces Walter Garber to admit to his Bribe with everyone listening" –The Taking of Pelham 123
The Great:
  • "Jake Climbs Iknimaya, Tames his Own Ikran and Learns How to Fly" –Avatar
  • "Hans Landa Slowly Gets a Confession from a Farmer Hiding Jews" –Inglorious Basterds
  • "The Truth Comes Out in a Sit Down with Mom, Precious and a Counselor" -Precious
  • "I Have a Particular Set of Skills" -Taken
  • "Carl and Ellie Marriage and Passing Montage" –Up 
The Best: “Disarming a Bomb at the UN Building While On-lookers Conspire to Set it Off" –The Hurt Locker
Commentary: n/a


FAVORITE COMEDIC SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
*Didn't keep great track of this category initially
The Very Good:
  • "Pumping Up the Horse Race Game" -Adventureland
  • "Whitey Tighties in the Pool" -Adventureland

The Great:
  • n/a 
The Best: "Mistaken Identity: Apartment Battle" -17 Again
Commentary: n/a


FAVORITE MUSICAL SEQUENCES OF THE YEAR
*Only one major musical released this year (Nine)

The Very Good:
  • n/a 
The Great:
  •  "You Make My Dreams Come True" -(500) Days of Summer
The Best: “Oh the Times They are Changing: Opening Title Sequence” –Watchmen
Commentary: n/a
BEST DIRECTOR
Nominees:
  • Kathryn Bigelow The Hurt Locker
  • John Hillcoat The Road
  • Duncan Jones Moon
  • Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes
  • Yip Wilson Ip Man
Commentary: n/a


FAVORITE FILM ENSEMBLES
Nominees:
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglorious Basterds
  • Precious
  • The Road
  • Up in the Air
Commentary: An easy choice as I enjoyed all the performances in this film quite a bit. In fact, I think the film works (and works well) simply because its leads are so charming, charismatic, and agreeable. I think the 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, Kendrick 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.


FAVORITE MALE PERFORMANCES
Nominees:
  • Jason Bateman State of Play
  • Jim Broadbent Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • George Clooney Up in the Air
  • Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes
  • Jeremy Renner The Hurt Locker
  • Sam Rockwell Moon
  • Saul Rubinek Julia
  • Mark Ruffalo The Brothers Bloom
  • Cristoph Waltz Inglorious Basterds
Commentary: n/a


FAVORITE FEMALE PERFORMANCES
Nominees:
  • Emily Blunt The Young Victoria
  • Vera Farmiga Up in the Air
  • Helen Mirren The Last Station
  • Mo'Nique Precious
  • Carey Mulligan An Education
  • Gwyneth Paltrow Two Lovers
  • Blanco Portillo Broken Embraces
  • Meryl Streep Julie & Julia
  • Tilda Swinton Julia
  • Rachel Weisz The Brothers Bloom
Commentary: Mo'Nique walks away with the award - a powerful performance that won't be forgotten anytime soon.



FAVORITE SCREENPLAYS
Nominees:
  • Adventureland
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
  • An Education
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglorious Basterds
  • Moon
  • The Road
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • State of Play
  • The Young Victoria
Commentary: n/a


BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Nominees:
  • Anvil: The Story of Anvil
  • It Might Get Loud
  • Kobe: Doin' Work
Commentary: n/a


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE


Nominees:
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
  • Coraline
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaur
  • Up
Commentary: A beautiful variety of strong animated films this year. From the stop-motion of Coraline and Fantastic Mr. Fox, the hand drawn animation of The Princess and the Frog (not nominated), to the CGI work in the other competitors, this is quite a deep year. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is the surprise of the year yielding great laughs and a quietly moving story amongst it.

BEST FILM EDITING
Nominees:
  • Crank: High Voltage
  • The Hurt Locker
  • The Road
  • State of Play
  • Up in the Air
Commentary: n/a


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Nominees:
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Ip Man
  • The Road
  • Where the Wild Things Are
Commentary: I didn't think most beautiful film of the year could be a Harry Potter film. In fact, it doesn't take but 10 minutes into the run time before I considered giving it the award, lol. I can't remember a film to use shadows, dark browns, yellows and blues to better effect than this one. While I have plenty of issues with the Harry Potter series, this is a bright spot for me. The story can be frustrating, the character arcs slow and ill-paced, but all the technical aspects seem to get better and better with each entry. I look forward to seeing how the next entry can even come close to the work here.


BEST ART DIRECTION
Nominees:
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Red Cliff 2
  • The Road
  • Sherlock Holmes
Commentary: n/a


BEST VISUAL EFFECTS


Nominees:
  • 2012
  • Avatar
  • District 9
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Star Trek
Commentary: I'm not the biggest fan of Avatar and it's no secret that I wasn't bowled over by the experience of it. All of that being said, it didn't have to be a near religious experience in order for me to recognize that the visual effects work in Avatar is at a level we've never seen before. The best and most fully realized visual effects of the decade belong to the last blockbuster of the decade and will be remembered for years to come perhaps not for being revolutionary, but for their richness, depth, and stunning quality.


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Nominees:
  • Avatar
  • Invictus
  • The Road
  • Up
  • The Young Victoria
Commentary: Nick Cave and Warren Ellis have collaborated before on scores for The Proposition and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford to excellent results. I find The Road to be their best work through 2006. Stark and minimalist, the score conveys the emptiness, the wandering, and the struggle our characters experience. The score feels like a lament for the situation our characters are in, but I ironically find notes of hope as well. A perfect mirror of what makes this film so great.


BEST SOUND DESIGN
Nominees:
  • Avatar
  • District 9
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglorious Basterds
  • Public Enemies
Commentary: Although the whole film features awards worthy sound work, one sequence stands out in particular; the destruction of hometree. The sound work for this sequence nearly becomes a character within itself, giving the viewer all sorts of detailed information about the scene. The bass literally pushed me in my seat and the sound detail felt so realistic I could've sworn there were fans rushing air in my face. One of the standout experiences of Avatar.


BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Nominees:
  • The Brothers Bloom
  • Ong Bak 2
  • Public Enemies
  • Red Cliff 2
  • The Young Victoria
Commentary: n/a


BEST MAKE-UP & HAIR DESIGN
Nominees:
  • District 9
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Moon
  • The Road
  • Red Cliff 2
Commentary: n/a
BIGGEST GUILTY PLEASURE
Nominees:
  • 17 Again
  • Funny People
  • Ong Bak 2
  • Saw VI
Commentary:


MOST SURPRISING FILM
Nominees:
  • Cloudy with a Chance for Meatballs
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Ip Man
Commentary: 2009 has turned out to be quite a great year for animated features, and there was no animated film that surprised me more than Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. The horrible trailer gave the impression that the film was a one gimmick film attempting to just capitalize on the 3D craze. In actuality, it's a refreshing and entertaining film that reminded me of Emperor's New Groove or Kung Fu Panda (though not quite in their league).


MOST DISAPPONITING FILM 
Nominees:
  • The Informant!
  • Terminator: Salvation
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Commentary: I suppose I should've known better than to get my hopes up for this film, but the combination of an excellent trailer, a gritty and visceral aesthetic, and the inclusion of Christian Bale suckered me in. Besides an excellent second act action beat, this film fails on all levels and single handedly has destroyed any interest I still had in the Terminator franchise.


MOST UNDERRATED FILM
Nominees:
  • Adventureland 
  • The International
  • State of Play
  • The Tournament
Commentary: Not the best conspiracy thriller ever conceived, but The International is a solidly entertaining and intriguing film that moves quickly, features a couple great dramatic moments, and a fantastic gun fight. Director Tom Tyker does an excellent job of location scouting, giving the film's travelogue locations a slick and modern aesthetic. The film always remains visually appealing, but it's ultimately the 'realist' position that the movie concludes with I enjoy the most. Like Traitor from 2008 (though not quite at that level), here is a thriller that flies under the radar, but delivers as well as any the past few years.


MOST OVERRATED FILM
Nominees:
  • District 9
  • Drag Me to Hell
  • The Hangover
Commentary: The Hangover is not only one of the most pedestrian sex comedies I've seen in a while, but it's also the most overrated. The Hangover takes an interesting premise and squanders it with cardboard characters doing immoral actions and ultimately learning nothing while getting away with everything. As the men learn of their escapades their reaction is laughter and incredulity, its never remorse or reflection. Don't be fooled, The Hangover is no Wedding Crashers nor is it even Knocked Up, this film could've starred Jerry O'Connell and gone straight to DVD in college towns.


WORST FILM
Nominees:
  • Chandni Chowk to China
  • Food, Inc.
  • Friday the 13th
  • Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li
  • Year One
Commentary: There was no more frustrating movie I watched in 2009 than Food, Inc. Much like Super-Size Me, Food Inc. is filled with fallacious arguments fired out in sanctimonious fashion. Straw men, unexplained inferences, contradictions, anecdotal evidence, and some outright propaganda could all be ultimately forgiven, if the film was just for entertainment. Unfortunately, it's about as entertaining as An Inconvenient Truth, and just as troubled by the facts and logical consistency.


BEST COMPILATION OF WORK
Performances/Accomplishments (that I saw anyways):
  • Sandra Bullock: The Blind Side, The Proposal 
Commentary: n/a


ERIC BANA AWARD
*Given for the best performance in a bad film (See 2004's Troy)
Nominees:
  • Helen Mirren The Last Station 
Commentary: n/a


THE END!

"Thanks for the adventure. Now go have one of your own." -Up


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