Best in show: the year in superlatives

Posted by · 10:22 am · December 19th, 2008

Cate Blanchett in The Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonThe year is slowly coming to a close, and after this week’s year-in-review pieces, I’m happy to see so much healthy and spirited discussion on my humble picks for the year’s best films.  Today I’m wrapping all of that up with a list of superlatives, some of them in your usual categories, the staples, some of them in a couple of, oh, let’s call it “fun” arenas that I like to mix in year in and year out.

I should note, however, that Nathaniel Rogers at The Film Experience is the king at this stuff.  His annual “Film Bitch Awards” are a must-read.  Here’s last year’s set.

So with that, let’s get into the awards.  I used to call these the “In Contention Awards,” but I don’t think that’s fair anymore now that we have a slew of contributors.  So I’ll let them speak to their favorites at their leisure.  These reflect my views of the season and mine only.  You know the Best Picture champ, of course, but beyond that, I hope you enjoy the rundown.  Just keep the (inevitable) disagreement friendly:

Best Picture
“Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures)

Best Director
Danny Boyle, “Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Actor
Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler”

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

Best Supporting Actor
Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”

Best Supporting Actress
Samantha Morton, “Synecdoche, New York”

Best Adapted Screenplay
“Slumdog Millionaire” (Simon Beaufoy)

Best Original Screenplay
“Synecdoche, New York” (Charlie Kaufman)

Best Art Direction
“Synecdoche, New York” (Mark Friedberg; Lydia Marks)

Best Cinematography
“The Dark Knight” (Wally Pfister)

Best Costume Design
“The Fall” (Eiko Ishioka)

Best Film Editing
“Slumdog Millionaire” (Chris Dickens)

Best Makeup
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

Best Music (Original Score)
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Alexandre Desplat)

Best Music (Original Song)
“The Wrestler” from “The Wrestler” (Bruce Springsteen)

Best Sound Editing

Best Sound Mixing

Best Visual Effects
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

Best Animated Film

Best Foreign Film

Best Documentary
“Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father”

Best Ensemble Performance

Most Underrated Film of the Year
“The Incredible Hulk”

Most Overrated Film of the Year

Best Directorial Debut
Charlie Kaufman, “Synecdoche, New York”

Breakthrough Performance (Male)
Michael Fassbender, “Hunger”

Breakthrough Performance (Female)

Lina Leandersson, “Let the Right One In”

Best Cameo Performance (Male)
William Fichtner, “The Dark Knight”

Best Cameo Performance (Female)
Viola Davis, “Doubt”

Best Performance in a Bad Film
Brad Pitt, “Burn After Reading”

Worst Performance in a Good Film
Thandie Newton, “W.”

Best Hero
David and Kate Bagby, “Dear Zachary”
It’s almost too easy to give this to the Caped Crusader, so looking elsewhere, it is nearly impossible to deny a superlative such as this to couple of strong people like David and Kate Bagby, strong in the face of pain and difficulty throughout the events depicted in “Dear Zachary,” David, particularly, a ball of driven fire after said events and advocates to this day against the fissures in a law system that yielded their pain.  I challenge anyone to disagree with me here and have a leg to stand on.

Best Villain
The Joker, “The Dark Knight”
Is there really any commentary necessary?

Best Poster
“Funny Games” (link)

Best Trailer (for a trailer released in 2008, not necessarily a film released in 2008)
“Milk” (link)

Most Surprising Film of the Year

Most Disappointing Film of the Year
“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”

Most Ambitious Film of the Year
“Synecdoche, New York”

Most Intriguing Failure

Best Action Sequence
“The Dark Knight”
Having been newly (and falsely) revealed as Batman himself, district attorney Harvey Dent and his police escort are pursued through the streets of Gotham by the sadistic Joker, culminating in a harrowing display of practical effects wizardry as a massive 18-wheeler flips head over heels, Wayne Tower looming overhead.  Cal me a sheep, but it’s hard to give it to anything else.

Entertainer of the Year
Robert Downey Jr.
The loss of “The Soloist” from the year’s slate took some sting out of this, a rather obvious award, but even with a one-two punch like “Iron Man” and “Tropic Thunder,” and perhaps an Oscar nomination on the way, it seems impossible to deny Mr. Downey such a designation.  Welcome back to the fray, sir.  It’s been too long.

Five Worst Films of the Year
1. “Doomsday”
2. “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor”
3. “The Happening”
4. “The Day the Earth Stood Still”
5. “Speed Racer”

Top 10 Films of the Year
1. “Slumdog Millionaire”
2. “Bolt”
3. “Synecdoche, New York”
4. “Pineapple Express”
5. “The Dark Knight”
6. “Hunger”
7. “The Wrestler”
8. “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father”
9. “Gomorrah”
10. “Let the Right One In”

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39 responses so far

  • 1 12-19-2008 at 10:36 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I couldn’t agree more with Samantha Morton as Best Supporting Actress — that she hasn’t even got a nomination from any of the more left-field awards bodies is shameful.

    (PS. You’re missing Best Original Screenplay, but I think I can hazard a guess.)

  • 2 12-19-2008 at 10:50 am

    Speaking English said...

    Most misunderstood films of the year:

    “Burn After Reading”

    Seriously. I cannot even begin to understand how people could so vehemently trash these film when they have so many redeeming qualities.

    “Australia” is big, beautiful, sweeping, and loaded with grand sequences that pop off the screen with magical lyricism. Its scope and its wonder, combined with its potently moving message is a joy to behold.

    “Burn After Reading” is a sensationally structured, HYSTERICALLY biting satire with one of THE ensembles of the year. It’s the most purely enjoyable, delightful, darkly hilarious film of the year – or any year.

    Critics really dropped the ball on these two. Shame.

  • 3 12-19-2008 at 11:05 am

    Jeff said...

    Very good breakdown of the less-than-stellar cinematic crop.

  • 4 12-19-2008 at 11:13 am

    JAB said...

    you’re so spot on about Brad Pitt. I really didn’t like that movie, but he was great, and i actually would’ve given best male cameo to JK Simmons in Burn After Reading.

  • 5 12-19-2008 at 11:18 am

    Chris said...

    Thank you for putting ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ as one of the worst movies of the year. What a worthless pile of crap that was.

  • 6 12-19-2008 at 11:30 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    JAB: J.K. was my #2 there, but I just loved Fichtner too much.

  • 7 12-19-2008 at 11:58 am

    Joe said...

    Kris you forgot to throw in “Animated Film”, Since you were such a supporter of Bolt i figure it would be nice for the film to have its own spot on your list. Plus its just another excuse for the diehard Wall-E fans to get angry haha.

  • 8 12-19-2008 at 12:08 pm

    David said...

    Holy crap!! Thank you!!! Someone finally noticed Samantha Morton in Synecdoche…. just like a previous post mentioned. I couldn’t get her out of my head… and still can’t… since seeing it… she brought a lovely absurdity but humanity to her role. Great stuff.

  • 9 12-19-2008 at 12:28 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Ah, thanks Joe.

  • 10 12-19-2008 at 12:36 pm

    Patrick F said...

    I’d agree with The Fall for Costumes except for the fact that I found the costumes distracting. I don’t think the costumes served the narrative. I think they substituted for it.

  • 11 12-19-2008 at 1:26 pm

    Vito said...

    Tapley, I like and agree with most of your opinions. Although, I’m really surprised you thought Pinapple Express was that damn good, haha. I also wholly agree that WALL-e is most overrated film of the year. Campea has been annoying with all that damn praise for it. Haha.

  • 12 12-19-2008 at 1:28 pm

    nick said...

    The Fall will sweep all of my awards this year, almost from top to bottom.

    I’d definitely call Hancock intriguing…but certainly not a failure.

    Milk did indeed have a phenomenal trailer.

    Overall, great picks. I applaud your open love for Synecdoche, NY. A masterwork.

    Also, Burn After Reading was bad? Really? I thought it was virtually flawless. An extremely funny film.

  • 13 12-19-2008 at 1:49 pm

    BurmaShave said...

    Burn After Reading is the seamless mix of gory violence and comedy that Pineapple Express completely fucked up.

  • 14 12-19-2008 at 1:53 pm

    BurmaShave said...

    Also, as it is with talking about Rourke being back from the dead when he’s coming off of Sin City, Man on Fire and Domino, it’s bizarre welcoming Downey “back to the fray” when he’s had Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Zodiac. Also Doomsday knew exactly what it was, and singling it out for special rebuke betrays a severe lack of humor.

  • 15 12-19-2008 at 3:43 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Appetizers, Burma. Certainly brilliant performances, but this year was the open arms of populist sentiment, a whole other ball game.

    By the way, I have a great sense of humor. Doomsday is a piece of shit. C’est la vie.

  • 16 12-19-2008 at 7:31 pm

    Joel said...

    Definitely agree with your love for “Bolt.” Saw it last night. Brilliant stuff. Has secured at this point my #5 spot on my list :)

    My bottom five stands as follows:

    1. In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
    2. You Don’t Mess with the Zohan
    3. Meet the Spartans
    4. Space Chimps
    5. Speed Racer

  • 17 12-19-2008 at 8:06 pm

    N8 said...

    lol! Oh, Kris, Kris, Kris. Will you ever get over the love for WALL-E? ;)
    At least you had the sense to give Burtt his due credit in Sound Editing.

    Disagreements about WALL-E aside, this is a pretty decent list. I particularly like your winner for Best Male Cameo!

    “Do you have any idea who you’re stealing from? You and your friends are DEAD!”


  • 18 12-19-2008 at 8:30 pm

    D.Ramirez said...

    and how about Superhero Movie and Disaster movie for worst films of the year?!?!?!

  • 19 12-19-2008 at 8:32 pm

    Alex said...

    Why is Blanchett not getting any Kudos?

    She deserves it over Angelina Jolie for sure!

  • 20 12-19-2008 at 8:58 pm

    Raw Shark said...

    I have a hard time believing you actually think Bolt is better than WALL-E.
    Also, Speed Racer and Burn After Reading are good films, while The Incredible Hulk and Hancock are trash.

  • 21 12-19-2008 at 10:02 pm

    Joel said...

    Raw Shark: Speed Racer? Good? The only good part of that movie for me was when the projectionist started playing Harold and Kumar 2 instead. In a theater full of kids. That movie was migraine inducing crap, right, Kris?

    I’ll give you Hancock though. Big disappointment for me. Will Smith was good. But it was way off the mark.

  • 22 12-19-2008 at 10:05 pm

    Robert said...

    Great list, Kris. Glad you singled out Blanchett. I can’t believe Pitt is getting all of the nominations, and Blanchett is left on the sidelines. At least the Critics’ Choice committee nominated her for Best Actress.

  • 23 12-19-2008 at 10:19 pm

    Vito said...

    I haven’t seen Curious Case yet, but it seems that Blanchett is nominated every year. Don’t get me wrong I adore her, but is her performance in this film really good enough to warrant ANOTHER nomination?

  • 24 12-19-2008 at 10:39 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “At least the Critics’ Choice committee nominated her for Best Actress.”

    Proud to know I had a small hand in that.

    Vito: This is Blanchett’s best performance since “Elizabeth” in 1997, and perhaps her best work yet It’s subtle across a spectrum of complicated emotions and ages and is flawless throughout. I think without her, I wouldn’t have nearly the interest in the film that I do. It’s the work during the framing scenes, at her oldest, that really rings true, like the work of a master.

  • 25 12-20-2008 at 6:51 am

    Alex said...

    Are her nominations getting to be almost too routine that people have stopped appreciating her work (kind of like Meryl Streep). Maybe it is karma for being nominated for Elizabeth 2.

  • 26 12-20-2008 at 9:12 am

    Vito said...

    Well, it just seemed to me from the trailers that the movie is obviously focused on Pitt and Blanchett just seemed to be his love interest. Nothing in the trailer really indicated an Oscar worthy performance for me. I seem to be wrong judging from what Kris said, whose opinion I respect, of course. I’m sure he’s right. I’ll just have to wait and see the film.

  • 27 12-21-2008 at 9:54 am

    Anidi said...

    “Nothing in the trailer really indicated an Oscar worthy performance for me.”
    oh, please Vito…watch the movie….

    she gives one of the most surprisings performances of the year, i was surpised because i’ve thought that she was going no where after last year oscar…and maybe the no-kudos-situation is a karma after all.

  • 28 12-21-2008 at 10:02 am

    Matt said...

    “Most Overrated Film of the Year

    This and Bolt as Best Animated Film make me laugh out loud. You’re a laughing stock right now, you realize that, right?

  • 29 12-21-2008 at 10:22 am

    Billyboy said...

    Nice to see Samantha Morton there…

    One of the most underrated actresses ever.

  • 30 12-21-2008 at 10:48 am

    JAB said...

    Kris: I have to say worst performance in a good movie should go to Scarlet Johanson for Vicky Cristina Barcelona. She was just ridiculously bland in an ensemble of firecracker performances.

  • 31 12-21-2008 at 2:54 pm

    Chris said...

    Most Overrated Film of the Year


  • 32 12-21-2008 at 4:19 pm

    jp said...

    totally agree with JAB on scarlett johanson. she was abysmal in VCB.

    great list all around although i really enjoyed burn after reading. nice to see blanchett, morton, and leandersson. they were all phenomenal. (and i couldn’t agree more when it comes to Wall-E. one of the most overrated films EVER if you ask me)

  • 33 12-22-2008 at 2:08 am

    Mike said...

    Wall-E is definitely overrated. One of the most overrated films of the year and my least favorite Pixar film (that I’ve watched anyway). It better not get in for Best Picture. It doesn’t deserve it. I like animated having its own category and Wall-E should stay in it.

  • 34 12-23-2008 at 5:10 am

    Dean Treadway said...

    If only WALL-E could have maintained the brilliance of its nearly-silent first half, and shunned the chaotic blahness of its final half, it would be the truly great movie that some think it to be. As it is, it’s a flawed film that almost makes it to masterpiece territory–almost.

  • 35 12-26-2008 at 11:34 pm

    Michael said...

    I know we’re dealing with subjective opinions here, but it’s hard to take a guy’s taste in film seriously when he thinks that an over-stuffed, rather turgid film like “The Incredible Hulk” was under-rated, and that a pleasant, moderately amusing, but mostly forgettable film like “Bolt” was the best film of the year. Hulk got just as much love as it deserved.

  • 36 12-26-2008 at 11:35 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Number two film of the year. Heh.

  • 37 1-31-2009 at 11:23 am

    Matt said...

    Best Animated Film of the Year: WALL-E

    Most Overrated Film of the Year: The Dark Knight

    Biggest Fanboy: Kristopher Tapley