It’s time once again for one of my signature posts: the fifth (and probably final) Andy Movie Awards, where I select not only who I think should win the awards being handed out this Sunday, but also who should’ve been nominated with those winners. There’s a lot of posts around this time of year where writers predict who they think will win Oscars, and some about they think should win. But unless you’re the only person in the world who agrees completely with the Academy’s nominees, it’s a false choice. What if your winner wasn’t nominated? What if you’re forced to choose the only worthy nominee in a group of junk?
Instead, I write a super-long post that basically amounts to a series of specified year-end lists, not only for the big awards that people care about, but also the other awards that most people don’t. The only Academy Award categories for feature length films that the Andy Awards don’t cover are Best Achievement in Editing (because I don’t know enough about the process to pass judgement, as with most viewers, I only notice editing when it’s bad), the two sound categories (as it’s not something I notice while watching movies), and Best Original Song (because it’s a stupid award. Instead, I’ve substituted it for my own award).
To make my decisions, I’ve seen 66 films that had a North American release date in 2008. The Academy nominated a total of 36 feature length films, of which I’ve seen 27 (75%). When you take out the ten films nominated in the foreign language and documentary categories (only four of which were released outside of LA/NY… I caught three of those), I’ve seen 24 out of 26 (92%), with the exceptions being Defiance (nominated for Original Score) and Australia (nominated for Costume Design). Thus, whenever my nominations divulge from the Academy (other than in those four categories), it’s because I disagree, not because I don’t know. Which brings me to why this very well may be my last post of this nature: I can’t imagine myself finding the time in the upcoming years to watch this many movies again.
So read on for part one of the end of an era…
As I did with my albums of the year list, I have to begin this list lamenting the fact that the 2008 year in film was not as good as the 2007 year in film. It was a down year for art in general, as pretty much any critic you read will tell you. Part of the reason for the negativity is the fact that the usual year end glut of awards baiting prestige films were largely disappointing, often ranging from merely solid to outright bad. And since that’s the steady diet critics (and myself) are fed around the time they write year end lists (albeit theirs come out at the actual end of the year, whereas mine waits until February, but I have to pay to see my movies), so it’s not surprising that the same enthusiasm wasn’t there, especially when the year before featured instant classics like No Country for Old Men, Zodiac, and There Will Be Blood.
Instead, the greatness in 2008 came not from the types of movies Hollywood likes to get dressed up for to dole out awards, but from the films fans line up for to buy overpriced concessions to see on opening day, or movies released early in the year when people weren’t paying attention. So this list is still filled with movies I enjoyed quite a bit, and recommend to everyone. As of this writing, I’ve seen 63 films released in North America in 2008, which includes some foreign language films that were released in their native countries in previous years, but doesn’t include some TIFF films I saw that haven’t yet been released (some of which would definitely contend for this list and will probably pop up next year… unless it is phenomenal). Of those 63, these were the best…
Because I make an effort to avoid bad movies, my year-end worst lists are always my least complete. I read reviews, early buzz, and have little affinity for genres that tend to produce crappy movies, so for me to see a bad film, it had to have something going for it. The result is a list of movies that many of you may have enjoyed, some may even be making year end best of lists. This doesn’t necessarily make you wrong and me right (although, I totally am), but rather shows that I don’t merely listen to critical consensus or popular thought, and also shows that sometimes I’m wrong about what I think will be a good movie when it comes time for me to pick out an evening’s entertainment.
The Oscar nominations for 2008 were announced today (posted here). As always, my more complete thoughts on what were the year’s best will appear in both my year-end top ten movies list (which looks to be pushed back to early February this year) and the Andy Movie Awards, which should appear the week of the ceremony. But I thought I’d get some initial reaction on what the Academy snubbed, what they foolishly recognized, and what I have yet to see in my annual, catch-up-on-Oscars viewing checklist.
American Teen (2008)
Starring: Hannah Bailey, Colin Clemens, Megan Krizmanich, Mitch Reinholt, Jake Tusing
Directed By: Nanette Burstein
Starring: John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Malcolm McDowell, James Lipton, Greg Germann, Diedrich Bader, Nick Swardson
Directed By: Byron Howard and Chris Williams
Rachel Getting Married (2008)
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mather Zickel, Bill Irwin, Anna Deavere Smith, Anisa George, Tunde Adebimpe, Debra Winger
Directed By: Jonathan Demme
I’ve cooled off on writing movie reviews lately, in part because I wrote up 28 movies in 10 days about a month ago, in part because I’ve been wanting to use this blog for more than just movie reviews. So I’ve let a few 2008 releases that I’ve seen pass without reviews, but still have the desire to get my opinion of them on he record. In some cases, enough time has passed since I last saw the film that I couldn’t hope to write a full review, so here’s four mini-reviews on some 2008 movies that may be of interest.
Read on for reviews of:
Baby Mama (2008)
Burn After Reading (2008)
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
Pineapple Express (2008)
This one’s a couple days late, but I didn’t feel like lugging around the laptop one more day and didn’t feel like writing when we got home from our last screening. I’m home now, and ready to put the whole whirlwind trip behind me. It was a great time, but I’m glad to be home with my couch and my dog. So here’s one more day of TIFFing before I get back into the routine of the real world.
Read on for musings on Chocolate, The Real Shaolin, and Miracle at St. Anna, plus a couple of wrap-up thoughts…
Allow me, if you will, to say a few words about my festival companion: my wife Kim. Like all our vacations, this couldn’t have happened without her, as she did the heavy lifting in terms of planning (when we actually get on vacation, the roles tend to reverse, with me doing the day-to-day planning. I guess she’s the long-term thinker of the relationship). We both enjoy movies, they’re one of our primary activities, but I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn when I say that I’m more into them than she is, and thus this vacation is more geared toward my interests than hers. When I first proposed it, I had to sell her a bit on TIFF with the promise of celebrities (of which we’ve seen a few, but not the ones I suggested we’d see) and the idea that we’d do a few more things in the area besides just going to movies all day (which, other than the Blue Jays game to start the trip, was a bald-faced lie. And again, a baseball game is more my idea of fun than hers).
Despite that, she’s embraced this vacation and its manic scheduling in full. There’s been the odd hiccup, and a few bad movies, but as a whole, it’s been great. I’ve had a great time sharing this with her (as we always have a great time sharing experiences with one another), and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. She’s also been a big trooper in tolerating/helping me stay on top of this blog (which has been another fun element of the vacation for me), letting me type away while we wait for movies (while she watches movies on her iPod), allowing me to stay up and write instead of insisting that I go to bed with her, and even at times getting the laptop ready for me while I went to use the restroom. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.
But tonight, we decided to take a break from the hectic scheduling and take a night for ourselves, skipping our screening for American Swing when we didn’t feel like getting up from our nap in time to make it. Instead, we enjoyed a nice dinner at a place called The Corner, which was probably more memorable than the 26th movie of 29 (we’ll now be down to 28).
Read on for musings on What Doesn’t Kill You and $9.99…
A change to the schedule today, which came with associated headaches. We realized that the 20 minutes we were giving ourselves after The Ghost to get to a different theatre (albeit one nearby) to see Chocolate simply wasn’t going to be enough, given that they start giving tickets to the rush line at about 15 minutes prior to the start of the film, and that we prefer sitting next to each other.
So we traded our tickets to see The Ghost for vouchers, getting up early to do so. Then we hopped on the subway to rush over to our next screening, realizing that the guy who did the exchange screwed up: giving us one regular voucher (which was correct), and one day voucher (which was not). Day vouchers can only be used for screenings prior to 5:00 pm, but we were planning on using it in a rush line for a 6:30 pm screening (as is our right, being Festival Lite package holders). So now we had to go back to the line from this morning, at a time when time was precious (we had to get in the rush line and grab dinner). After making the switch and grabbing some subs, we were pretty far back in the rush line for Uncertainty. But we made it into the screening (just barely), proving that the rush line process can work sometimes (largely because at this part of the week, no muckity-mucks are attending screenings anymore, so the reserved seats are turned over to rush liners).
Read on for musings on Synecdoche, New York, Gigantic, Uncertainty, and Me and Orson Welles…
Today is the day that TIFF kicked my ass. Coming off possibly our best day of the fest, this might be our worst. It started with a 12:45 screening, before which we only had a couple pocket pitas that I made to eat. We then had to boot it over to another screening a ways away, without anytime to get anything more than gummi bears to eat. So I’ve been undernourished today, leading to a general lethargy. The movies haven’t helped either.
After that screening, we did have dinner, but it wasn’t that hot. We had time after that to go back to the hotel for a nap, but that might have done more harm than good. I seriously considered skipping the final screening of the night, but pushed through it and now here we are, waiting outside the Ryerson for the 9:00 pm screening of Good. Here’s hoping it is. And to top it all off, we left our last free Red Bull in the fridge.
Read on for musings on Adoration, One Week, and Good…
Time to review the theatres themselves. Thus far, we’ve only been to three of the different theatres showing festival screenings, with two others to experience later this week. A majority of our screenings have been at the Ryerson Theatre, which is a large amphitheatre for the college, seating 1200 people. This is the third big venue for the festival, following Roy Thompson Hall (home to the big gala premieres) and The Elgin Theatre (home to the Visa Screening Room, which features other big gala premieres and second screenings of stuff from the Thompson). Screenings at those two theatres aren’t eligible for use with our Festival Lite packages (which is, of course, complete bullshit – especially when it comes to repeat screenings at the Elgin. I can understand reserving gala premieres for those willing to pay $40, but repeat screenings? This is what has shut us out of films like Burn After Reading, The Duchess, Rachel Getting Married, and The Good, The Bad, and The Weird). So the Ryerson is the only place we can go for third-tier gala premieres (such as Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Slumdog Millionaire, and tonight’s The Brothers Bloom), and the odd big name repeat screening (Passchendaele, RocknRolla). Luckily, because it’s such a big venue, we were able to get into all the screenings we chose for it, and have always been able to get seats where we want (which is generally close to the front to get a good view of the celebs, and off the side as close to the aisle as possible).
The bad side of the Ryerson is that it’s a pretty shitty place to watch a movie. The sound is fine and the picture quality is great (using Dolby Digital when they can), but the seats are terrible, meaning that you spend most of the film squirming from one uncomfortable position to another. The washrooms are also a mess, down the stairs and across a hall, with the ladies room usually a solid 15 minute wait (of course, the dude’s line is never that long, so I’m good. But I can still sympathize for my wife, right?).
The Scotiabank Centre is your typical modern cineplex, with comfy seats, cup holders, and stadium seating, plus fast food in the concourse. It’s also the only one that lets us line up inside, so that’s a nice touch on the rainy days (oh, and Kim wants me to add that it takes our Scene card for concessions). No complaints there, although you’re not gonna get any premieres here (that said, Ed Harris still showed up to introduce Appaloosa). The AMC is a new venue, similar to Scotiabank in that it has the modern amenities of a multiplex, but better. Every theatre is digital, the seats are more plush, the armrests pull up so we can sit closer to each other without the barrier, there’s a nice individual snack plan. So far, AMC is our favourite venue, with the only flaw being that they make you wait outside (although today we able to get out of one screening in time to walk into the next, foregoing the line). Too bad there’s no AMC theatres where I live.
Read on for musings on The Wrestler, More Than a Game, The Dungeon Masters, and The Brothers Bloom…
Now that we’ve been at this for four days, we’re settling into the routine pretty well. We wake up and have a little something to eat at the hotel (since we have a kitchen in our room), then head out to the first screening. When we have back-to-back screenings (which are generally separated by an hour), we’ll grab something portable for lunch/dinner and eat it in line for the next screening. At some point, we’ll have time to come back to our hotel for a nap (or simply relaxing while still being awake), then head out to the final screening (taking the subway to each location, as we’re right on the line and most of the theatres are as well).
But there’s also a routine to the screenings themselves, which is of more interest to you, the reader. We’re generally seated 20 minutes or so before the film is due to begin (today I’ve been using that time to write this stuff on my laptop… like I’m doing right now, whereas previously the laptop stayed at home while Kim and I played Scrabble on our iPods). The films never start on time, as they want to give enough time to sell tickets to people in the rush line. Then the festival programmer comes out to introduce the film, thank the sponsors, tell us to turn off electronic devices, and introduce the director/producer who is in attendance (every screening thus far besides Passchendaele has had a representative, generally the director, except in the case of the multi-director effort covered below). The director gives a short intro to the film, and if it’s a premiere, will also introduce the cast in attendance. They then sit down (or leave if they’re not sticking around), the lights dim, and the anti-piracy message comes on screen (to which those in the audience in the know reply “Arrrr”). We get a Bell Lightbox ad (that’s the new festival location that they’re building), then a Universal NBC message thanking the festival volunteers (for whom we in the audience applaud), an annoying Motorolla ad I’m more than tired of, and a Cadillac people’s choice award ad I’m also tired of (but less so than the Moto one), and the film begins.
If it’s a premiere, the toadies in the reserved seats will applaud for the studio/distributor banners of whomever they work for. Generally, the audience will applaud for anyone mentioned in the credits who was announced to be in attendance (whereas toadies will also applaud for people like the DP or others mentioned in the credits that we don’t know). When the film is over, there’s more applause (maybe even a standing O, generally induced by the toadies), and a short Q&A. If Kim and I have another screening to get to, or didn’t particularly like the film, we don’t stick around for that (which is why at TIFF, aisle seats are king. We’re sitting at the aisle right now, in two seats separated from the rest of the row. These may be my favourite seats yet). As we leave the screening, we hand off our ballots for the People’s Choice Award, rinse, repeat.
Read on for musings on New York, I Love You, Ashes of Time Redux, and Plastic City…