Monday, February 22, 2010

The Awkwards! Honoring the Best in Film from 2009

UPDATE: I apologize for how much of a pain in the ass this was to read before. I've respaced the posting so that it may not be quite so difficult to read. Also, if you don't have an account on this site, you can still feel free to comment just by going to the comments section, selecting "Post a Comment," and selecting a name of your choice.

Remember how I said I don't like handing out "bests," boys and girls? Well, I lied!

Going back 100% on my earlier statement, today I will be handing out the inaugural Awkwards, honoring the best in film from the past year according to the staff of the soon-to-be-hopefully-maybe-not-but-thanks-for-asking-famous blog Awkward is What We Aim For: namely, me!

Unlike the Oscars, I only have 14 categories, and I only use six of the Academy's (technically, seven, but I use slightly different criterion for my Best Artistic Direction award). Some are more fun than others, but overall, I want to capture all aspects of a film in these categories that may have not as much to do with the technical work, but what, as an audience member, we appreciate.

I also award 5th through 1st, so no one feels left out. After all, these are by far the most important awards given out this season... (*snigger*... did I just snigger at myself?) The only other rule I have is that one performer can't be nominated twice in one category. So without further ado, let's get started with a fun one...

Best Ensemble
Away We Go
An Education
Inglourious Basterds
Precious
Up in the Air

5th Place: The small but special cast from Up in the Air.

4th Place: Great character actors show the protagonists all their possible futures in Away We Go.

3rd Place: The Europeans, Americans, and the incomparable Christoph Waltz all rock in Inglourious Basterds.

2nd Place: I dare you to try to ignore the passionate women of Precious.

1st Place: Each member of the cast brings something special to the table in An Education.

Best Individual Scene
The First Nightclub, An Education
The Supermarket, The Hurt Locker
Mary's Confession, Precious
The Phone Scene, A Single Man
Natalie's Hotel Lobby Breakdown, Up in the Air

5th Place: Watching an adrenaline junkie deal with the everyday doldrums is heartbreaking in The Hurt Locker.

4th Place: The sights and sounds of the nightclub are overwhelming for Jenny in An Education.

3rd Place: Anna Kendrick delivers the best comedic breakdown in recent memory in Up in the Air.

2nd Place: Precious' climax doesn't allow you much time to recover, but what an incredible confession.

1st Place: George's life is turned upside down by one phone call in A Single Man.

Best Supporting Actor
John Krasinski, It's Complicated
Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker
Alfred Molina, An Education
Stanley Tucci, Julie & Julia
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

5th Place: Mackie was pitch-perfect and a true support for Jeremy Renner in his role as Sgt. Sanborn.

4th Place: Krasinski was having the time of his life outfunnying Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin at every turn.

3rd Place: Pain and pleasure are difficult to portray so well and so winningly, but Molina does it with aplomb.

2nd Place: Tucci's Oscar-nominated turn in The Lovely Bones can't hold a candle to his sweetly supportive husband to Julia Child opposite Meryl Streep.

1st Place: There's just no competition for the magnificent, mellifluous Waltz as Col. Hans Landa.

Best Individual Line
An Education
Inglourious Basterds
It's Complicated
Precious
A Single Man

5th Place: "It takes time in the morning for me to become George." One of the first lines from Firth in A Single Man sticks with you long after you've left the theater.

4th Place: "Real women sacrifice!" Mary Jones claims she's a real woman in Precious, but she's nothing but a monster.

3rd Place: "It’s not enough to educate us anymore, you’ve got to tell us why you’re doing it." Jenny so desperately seeks An Education of a different kind, but she makes a few missteps along the way.

2nd Place: "That's a bingo!" Landa's evil is infectious in Inglourious Basterds.

1st Place: "I'm a bit of a slut." Jane knows the affair is wrong, but just so right, in It's Complicated.

Best Supporting Actress
Emily Blunt, Sunshine Cleaning
Mo'Nique, Precious
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Rosamund Pike, An Education
Paula Patton, Precious

5th Place: Patton loves Precious so deeply, but she can't seem to save her.

4th Place: Blunt's American accent could have been the only neat thing about her performance in Sunshine Cleaning, but oh, did she do so much more with that role.

3rd Place: She's more than a ditz: Pike is both hilarious and surprisingly complex in An Education.

2nd Place: Natalie Keener may be Kendrick's breakout role, but she made it so much more fascinating than a simple ingenue.

1st Place: Mo'Nique is in a category of her own as the monstrous mother of Precious.

Best Use of Music
Crazy Heart
An Education
Nine
A Single Man
Up in the Air

5th Place: "Be... Italian..." Sure, the movie sucked, but the music sure was great in Nine.

4th Place: From the funky title sequence, Jason Reitman proves yet again what a master hand he is with music in film in Up in the Air.

3rd Place: The strings are as beautiful as the story in A Single Man.

2nd Place: "You've Got Me Wrapped Around Your Little Finger" is the irresistible heart of An Education.

1st Place: Bad Blake's mournful "The Weary Kind" makes Crazy Heart all the better.

Best Title
(500) Days of Summer
An Education
Inglourious Basterds
It’s Complicated
Julie & Julia

5th Place: You get the focus of Julie & Julia through its title, but that title is witty and fun nonetheless.

4th Place: Calling to mind the most ridiculous Facebook relationship status, It's Complicated perfectly encapsulates the central conflict.

3rd Place: Jenny's search for An Education seems simple in its title, but the complexity lies just beneath the surface.

2nd Place: Inventive, quirky, and intriguing, (500) Days of Summer's title is everything the movie is as well.

1st Place: What else? Misspellings and all, Inglourious Basterds' title is pure genius.

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Brad Pitt, Inglourious Basterds
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
Peter Sarsgaard, An Education

5th Place: Slippery, manipulative, and all-too-perfect, Sarsgaard played his role as I wish Vera Farmiga had played hers in Up in the Air.

4th Place: His celebrity often causes me to forget how fun it is to watch Pitt create indelible characters like Lt. Aldo Raine.

3rd Place: Though it didn't appeal to me in the way it did for so many others, I did love seeing a washed-up Bridges sing (literally) for his life.

2nd Place: Kathryn Bigelow may have crafted The Hurt Locker masterfully, but Renner gave it real heart.

1st Place: The only film performance I can remember that brought me to tears, Firth is an emotional victim trapped in memory in Tom Ford's directorial debut.

Best Onscreen Chemistry
Zooey Deschanel & Joseph Gordon-Levitt, (500) Days of Summer
John Krasinski & Maya Rudolph, Away We Go
Jeff Bridges & Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Alec Baldwin & Meryl Streep, It's Complicated
Anna Kendrick & George Clooney, Up in the Air

5th Place: They're destined not to be together, which is sad, because there was a true charm to Bridges and Gyllenhaal's relationship in Crazy Heart.

4th Place: Snobby? Perhaps. Whiny? Definitely. But Krasinski and Rudolph are winningly charming in Away We Go.

3rd Place: He loves her, but she just likes him. The back-and-forth is always fun between these two hipster gods.

2nd Place: The over-50 set can be just as frisky and fun as young kids. Just ask Streep and Baldwin!

1st Place: The whiplash-inducing speed of their dialogue is just half the charm of Kendrick and Clooney. They also have a genuine, platonic affection that is so much more genuine than the chemistry between Clooney and Farmiga.

Best Artistic Direction
Avatar
An Education
Inglourious Basterds
Precious
A Single Man

5th Place: Gritty and difficult to swallow at times, Precious' ambience amplifies the desperation of the characters.

4th Place: The color trick doesn't always work, but on that final fade-out, damn if A Single Man didn't create an artistic finale to remember.

3rd Place: The art direction is crazy and schizophrenic, just like Quentin Tarantino, and just like Inglourious Basterds.

2nd Place: There's a calm to An Education, despite the turbulent time period of the '60s so well-recreated for the screen.

1st Place: Yes, the story did suck, but Avatar's new world, Pandora, truly did show incredible artistic vision.

Best Actress
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Melanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

5th Place: It's hardly a supporting role; in fact, Gyllenhaal is the emotional anchor of Crazy Heart.

4th Place: She's mysterious in a way that Farmiga couldn't approach: Laurent is a revelation onscreen.

3rd Place: Sidibe throws up emotional walls and locks the world out in a way never before seen in a film.

2nd Place: Streep is always a force to be reckoned with onscreen, but her Julia Child is simply a delight.

1st Place: She may be a newer debut, but Mulligan proved herself as this generation's Audrey Hepburn in a brilliant star performance.

Best Finale
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious
A Single Man
Up in the Air

5th Place: Life is an interminable cycle for Sgt. William James in The Hurt Locker's heartbreaking ending.

4th Place: So many possibilities are presented to Ryan Bingham in such an intriguing way as Up in the Air ends.

3rd Place: It's fun and funny, but Inglourious Basterds' ending is also completely appropriate.

2nd Place: She may not sing "Jai Ho," but that's because Precious' small step into a new life doesn't come in a grand sweep like Jamal's did in Slumdog Millionaire.

1st Place: Ironic, twisted, and in many ways, absolutely necessary, A Single Man's ending brings you to tears.

Best Director
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Lee Daniels, Precious
Tom Ford, A Single Man
Lone Scherfig, An Education
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

5th Place: It smells somewhat of student work, but Ford's directorial debut is moving and intriguing.

4th Place: Scherfig proves with her extremely likeable film that Bigelow isn't the only talented female director this year.

3rd Place: Daniels knows that the acting is the heart of a film, and he directs two undeniable female dynamos, along with countless other strong supporting performances.

2nd Place: He's the master of crazy: Tarantino manages to top even himself with Inglourious Basterds.

1st Place: Women can make movies just as well as men, as Bigelow proves with her directorial tour-de-force.

Best Picture
An Education
Inglourious Basterds
Precious
A Single Man
Up in the Air

Isn't it nice to see only five nominees? It's fairly obvious which five movies were my favorites this year from the other nominees; in case you were wondering, the other five in a group of ten would have been The Hurt Locker, It's Complicated, Sunshine Cleaning, Crazy Heart, and Away We Go.

In 5th Place: Somewhat surprisingly, Inglourious Basterds. Though it reaped a total of 10 nominations, it wasn't always greater than the sum of all its parts, though it was still an incredible movie.

In 4th Place: Precious. It wasn't afraid of telling you exactly what this world is like. If only all movies were as brave.

In 3rd Place: Up in the Air had a magic that can't be exactly defined, but charms you every time you watch.

In 2nd Place: A Single Man is a beautiful character study, and each moment enraptures you. You miss it instantly when it's over.

The Awkward for Best Picture of 2009 goes to: An Education. Somehow, I have a knack for loving movies that for others doesn't have the same appeal. But to me, the Lone Scherfig film is indelible, intriguing, and ultimately satisfying. Like Doubt last year (which would have been my Best Picture of 2008), An Education isn't flashy or over-directed like some films (Avatar), nor does it star some huge A-lister that gives the "Performance of a Lifetime" (Milk). Most of all, it doesn't rely on an artificially happy ending to lift your spirits (sorry, Slumdog!). Instead, it simply is what it is, and hopes to please you without pretending to be something it isn't. It truly is my favorite film from this past year.

If you only count the six Oscar categories (the acting, directing, and Best Picture contests), the nomination tally would look like this:

6 nominations
An Education

5 nominations
Precious
Inglourious Basterds

3 nominations
A Single Man
The Hurt Locker

2 nominations
Up in the Air
Crazy Heart
Julie & Julia

1 nomination
Sunshine Cleaning
It's Complicated

And if you count all the categories, the count is revised to:

12 nominations
An Education

10 nominations
Precious
Inglourious Basterds

8 nominations
A Single Man

7 nominations
Up in the Air

5 nominations
The Hurt Locker

4 nominations
Crazy Heart
It's Complicated

3 nominations
Julie & Julia

2 nominations
Away We Go
(500) Days of Summer

1 nomination
Sunshine Cleaning
Avatar
Nine

Anything surprising on this list, readers? I'm a little surprised at how much I loved Inglourious Basterds and how much I didn't actually like The Hurt Locker--seriously, only 5 nominations and no Best Picture? Also, quirky comedies actually did pretty well. What shocked you? What makes you want to vomit on this list? Take it to the comments!

3 comments:

Simon said...

Have you heard the use of Jefferson Airplane in A Serious Man? It's great. For that category, I mean.

Austin149 said...

Yay, I can comment! I really do feel like Precious should take the win for best picture. However as I have not seen the vast majority of these movies I suppose I really can't be trusted with the decision. Also I'm glad you included Away We Go, it looked good and your descriptions have further fueled my desire to see it. Sadly I don't know when I'll get to it as the copy of Burn After Reading I rented from Netflix like 4 months ago is still gathering dust in my room.

Kevin said...

Simon: Agreed. I neglected to mention it because I was so caught up with the violins and other strings.

Austin: Precious is an incredible film, absolutely no doubt. As I told you, it's ridiculously hard for me to choose between those top three films. But An Education just makes me smile when I watch it. Away We Go got bashed by critics and was a LOT better than people gave it credit for. Maya Rudolph was thisclose to getting Maggie Gyllenhaal's Best Actress slot. You definitely need to watch it AND Burn After Reading (a surefire Awkward Best Picture nominee last year...if the category had existed...)