The Fifth Annual Andy Movie Awards – Part Two

Notice the subtle changes? No... well I did it anyway.
Here’s part two of the big extravaganza (read part one here), wherein I present the major awards, and a few more minor ones…

Best Actress in a Leading Role
The nominees are…

Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married
Melissa Leo for Frozen River
Meryl Streep for Doubt
Kristin Scott Thomas for I’ve Loved So Long
Michelle Williams for Wendy and Lucy

That’s right, no Kate Winslet nomination. While the rest of the awards giving bodies debated over which Winslet performance to honour (and whether or not her role in The Reader was a leading or supporting one… for the record, it’s a leading role), I’ve chosen to pass over both of them. It’s not that she didn’t do a good job in both, she may very well be the best actress of her generation, so of course she did a good job. It’s that both of her films were bad, and neither performance was strong enough to make me want to honour two films that were of the worst I had to suffer through. Still, if she wins, maybe she’ll go back to making interesting movies. As for the five performances I judged as superior, Michelle Williams gave a devastating understated performance in the ultra-low budget Wendy and Lucy, while Meryl Streep was the opposite with her showy role in Doubt. She was strong, of course, she’s Meryl-freaking-Streep, but she chewed a little too much scenery for my tastes. I prefer the more balanced performances of I’ve Loved So Long‘s Kristin Scott Thomas, who spends most of the movie as repressed and sedate before exploding as the movie hits its climax, and Melissa Leo in Frozen River, as a character whose quiet desperation leads to some horrible decisions. Strong performances all, but my choice was easy: Anne Hathaway was fantastic in Rachel Getting Married, making a character whose flawed narcissism could have easily made her intolerable, but Hathaway gives the character enough depth and empathy that your heart goes out to her, even when you’re wincing over her behaviour.

The award goes to…
Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married

Best Makeup
The nominees are…
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Tropic Thunder

This was actually a big year in makeup achievement, forcing me to snub Hellboy and The Duchess, whose work would normally contend for a nomination. In these three films, the makeup work was integral to the storytelling, as inferior work in any of them would’ve destroyed the illusion of the story. It’s hard to tell how much of the ageing/de-ageing of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was makeup, how much was lighting, and how much was CGI, but I’m guessing they all combined to make the old-man baby (and even more impressive, the young Brad Pitt). I LOVED The Joker’s makeup in The Dark Knight, not only making the clown terrifying, but also making the concept of a clown villain not seem so outlandish in the setting. More creative was the makeup work on Two-Face, which pushes their work over the top. But the award goes to Tropic Thunder, a film that wouldn’t work at all if the makeup being didn’t succeed in creating the illusion that Robert Downey Jr is actually a black man. Technique and performance combine to create a memorable performance that wouldn’t have been possible without the other.

The award goes to…
Tropic Thunder

Best Actor in a Leading Role
The nominees are…

Robert Downey Jr for Iron Man
Richard Jenkins for The Visitor
Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn for Milk
Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler

Yeah that’s right: Iron Man, bitches. Think about it: everything that was good about Iron Man was because of Robert Downey Jr, without whom, I’m convinced that the movie would’ve been as forgettable as most of the recent superhero movies had been prior to it. Good acting isn’t merely the purview of stuffy biopics and gritty character pieces. That said, the four contenders from this award come from those type of movies. Frank Langella went beyond the typical impersonation of Richard Nixon to create a real character in a film that whose driving action was two men talking to each other in a room. Richard Jenkins was a revelation as a meek professor who slowly begins to feel again, with a performance that could’ve easily been ruined by a more conventional leading man unwilling to disappear into the part. Sean Penn brought real charisma and warmth to his role as Harvey Milk, which are two adjectives not usually associated with his work. But I have to say, I enjoyed his performance a lot more before I saw the 1984 documentary The Times of Harvey Milk. I know performances shouldn’t be judged on their mimicry abilities, but something bothered me by the way he made Harvey Milk more effeminate than he really was, as though that’s what he had to do to play gay. So that takes him down a notch, enough to make my decision to give the award to Mickey Rourke an easy one (although, to be fair, it was always probably going to be easy for me). Randy “The Ram” Robinson was the role he was born to play, with his mere presence adding a sense of realism that makes the film work.

The award goes to…
Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler

Best Adapted Screenplay
The nominees are…
Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire
John Ajvide Lindqvist for Let the Right One In
Peter Morgan for Frost/Nixon
Christopher and Jonathan Nolan for The Dark Knight
John Patrick Shanley for Doubt

Usually, this is the packed screenplay category while I grasp to find five original screenplays, but this year there was an unusual burst of creativity in Hollywood, while a lot of the adaptations were less inspiring. So let’s skip ahead to the two contenders: Simon Beaufoy vs the Nolan brothers. A lot of these awards seem to be coming down to Slumdog Millionaire vs The Dark Knight, and I figure it was about time to give one to Slumdog.

The award goes to…
Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire

Best Original Screenplay
The nominees are…
Charlie Kaufman for Synecdoche, New York
Jenny Lumet for Rachel Getting Married
Martin McDonagh for In Bruges
Robert D. Siegel for The Wrestler
Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Jim Reardon for WALL-E

The MOST original award would go to Charlie Kaufman, who took us on a tour of the twisted recesses of his mind, a journey I’m not sure I’m anxious to take again. Martin McDonagh put a fun new twist on the hitman genre, with a slick, funny, dramatic post-modern romp that was far better than originally expected. It might have featured the snappiest dialogue in any screenplay this year, but my award goes to the screenplay that featured the least dialogue: the largely silent work of WALL-E. A wonderful story with poetic action, hilarious slapstick, and the best romance of the year, all with a topical undertone about the dangers of our wasteful consumer culture, all for a movie that had to be made accessible to audiences of all ages.

The award goes to…
Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Jim Reardon for WALL-E

Best Director
The nominees are…

Darren Aronofsky for The Wrestler
Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire
Jonathan Demme for Rachel Getting Married
Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight
Andrew Stanton for WALL-E

Anyone who wonders how much politics and campaigning matter for the Academy Awards need to look no further than the director nomination of Stephen Daldry of The Reader, a Weinstein Company film that has been described by many as “indifferently directed”. Or that the popular Ron Howard gets a nomination for setting up a series of two-shots and close-ups over four of the nominees above (or three of them I guess, as I suppose Andrew Stanton wasn’t eligible as the Academy hates animators… or at least doesn’t know what to do with them). Seriously, adapting Frost/Nixon from the stage over the greatest blockbuster epic of the decade? Weak sauce Academy. Again, this one comes down to Slumdog Millionaire vs The Dark Knight, two films that succeeded largely due to the style and attention of its directors. Unusually for a picture I’m otherwise fawning over, there were no acting nominations for Slumdog Millionaire, because what I responded to most was it’s Danny Boyle-ness. He’s such a fantastic visualist and this was a perfect forum for that style. Christopher Nolan helmed the biggest, most difficult, most epic effort of the year, and succeeded in creating one of the biggest movies of all-time.

The award goes to…
Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight

Best Cinematography
The nominees are…
Javier Aguirresarobe for Let the Right One In
Maryse Alberti for The Wrestler
Anthony Dod Mantle for Slumdog Millionaire
Claudio Miranda for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Wally Pfister for The Dark Knight

Like the awards show itself, I tend to get a little quicker at the end of this post. If you’re tired of reading, imagine how I feel writing it. But there’s time for one more big flourish before the band plays me off. There’s a great mix of work with this year’s nominees, from Javier Aguirresarobe’s haunting, cold visuals that created the mood that made a quiet little story feel like a chilling horror, to Maryse Alberti’s grungy view of the bingo halls and strip clubs of The Wrestler, to Claudio Miranda’s soft-focus efforts to make Pitt and Cate Blanchett look young. But the big contenders for this award are, say it with me Slumdog Millionaire vs The Dark Knight, each faced with unique challenges. Anthony Dod Mantle had to shoot with digital hand helds on the busy streets of Mumbai without comprising Danny Boyle’s visual style, while Wally Pfister had to light up the top of skyscrapers, the bowels of tunnels, and darkened interrogation rooms, all while adhering to Christopher Nolan’s desire to achieve stylized realism. Sure, the Hong Kong and tunnel chase scenes were the big eye-catchers, but what clinches this award for me is how Pfister was able to shoot an interrogation scene between a face-painted psycho and a man in a rubber batsuit, and have it seem tense instead of ridiculous.

The award goes to…
Wally Pfister for The Dark Knight

Best Picture
The nominees are…

The Dark Knight
Rachel Getting Married
Slumdog Millionaire
WALL-E
The Wrestler

No surprises here, as my nominees repeat my top five films of 2008. That’s not always the case, as my list of personal favourites often feature some fun blockbusters that might not be of the same quality of “best picture” nominees. Not this year, as the two best blockbusters were of higher calibre than your typical awards nominees, while most of the awards bait were forgettable also-rans not worth the paper their Oscar campaigns were printed on. There’s not a lot more I have to say about these five nominees that I didn’t already say in year-end top ten list, so if you haven’t already read that go ahead and so, I’ll wait.

The winner of that list is the winner here. After years of dumbed down, effects-driven blockbusters that are driven more by sales opportunities than vision and storytelling, I choose to celebrate when Hollywood gives us the opposite. Previous Andy Movie Award Best Picture winners include The Million Dollar Baby, Munich, The Departed, and No Country for Old Men, great movies all, and all safe choices. This year I’m going with my heart and my head.

The award goes to…
The Dark Knight

Related:
Inaugural Andy Movie Awards (2005)
Second Annual Andy Movie Awards (2006)
Third Annual Andy Movie Awards (2007)
Fourth Annual Andy Movie Awards: Part One (2008): Part One
Fourth Annual Andy Movie Awards: Part Two (2008): Part Two
Top 10 Movies for 2008

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4 thoughts on “The Fifth Annual Andy Movie Awards – Part Two

  1. I haven’t seen any of the best actress performances, but I love Kate Winslet and she was overdue. I know that shouldn’t be the reason, but in the politics of the Academy Awards it is.
    I do look forward to seeing the performances, then I might change my mind.

  2. Pingback: Critically Speaking Picks the 83rd Academy Awards – Part Two « Critically Speaking

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