Best in show: the year in superlatives

Posted by · 4:29 pm · December 18th, 2009

Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock HolmesWrapping up my perspective on the year today, a personal list of superlatives, Oscar categories and other silly nonsense.

Swing back around on Monday for the ultimate wrap-up, my list of the best films of the decade.

Best Picture
“A Serious Man” (Focus Features)

Best Director
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, “A Serious Man”

Best Actor
Sharlto Copley, “District 9”

Best Actress
Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”

Best Supporting Actor
Alfred Molina, “An Education”

Best Supporting Actress
Mo’Nique, “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”

Best Adapted Screenplay
“Up in the Air” (Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner)

Best Original Screenplay
“A Serious Man” (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)

Best Art Direction
“Sherlock Holmes” (Sarah Greenwood)

Best Cinematography
“Antichrist” (Anthony Dod Mantle)

Best Costume Design
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” (Monique Prudhomme)

Best Film Editing
“Avatar” (James Cameron, Stephen E. Rivkin, John Refoua)

Best Makeup
“District 9”

Best Music (Original Score)
“Crazy Heart” (Stephen Bruton, T Bone Burnett)

Best Music (Original Song)
“The Weary Kind” from “Crazy Heart” (Ryan Bingham, T Bone Burnett)

Best Sound Editing
“Star Trek”

Best Sound Mixing
“Star Trek”

Best Visual Effects

Best Animated Feature Film
“Mary and Max”

Best Foreign Film
“A Prophet”

Best Documentary
“The Cove”

Best Ensemble Performance
“The Messenger”

Most Underrated Film of the Year
“The Lovely Bones”

Most Overrated Film of the Year
“(500) Days of Summer”

Best Directorial Debut
Duncan Jones, “Moon”

Breakthrough Performance (Male)
Tom Hardy, “Bronson”

Breakthrough Performance (Female)
Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”

Best Cameo Performance (Male)
Robert Duvall, “The Road”

Best Cameo Performance (Female)
Amy Landecker, “A Serious Man”

Best Performance in a Bad Film
Paul Schneider, “Away We Go”

Worst Performance in a Good Film

Rachel McAdams, “Sherlock Holmes”

Best Hero
Ric O’Barry, “The Cove”

Best Villain
Mr. Harvey, “The Lovely Bones”

Best Poster
“Drag Me to Hell” (link)

Best Trailer (for a trailer released in 2009, not necessarily a film released in 2009)
“A Serious Man” (link)

Most Surprising Film of the Year
“Star Trek”

Most Disappointing Film of the Year
“Away We Go”

Most Ambitious Film of the Year

Most Intriguing Failure

Best Action Sequence
I’d be tempted to say “the whole damn film,” but the final battle sequence is a next-level thing that will put the film alongside the giants of cinema milestones.

Entertainer of the Year
Weta Digital
“The Lovely Bones” didn’t get it’s proper respect for its effects palette, but it waas visionary nevertheless.  To balance work on that with work on “Avatar,” probably the most challenging effects gig ever, how can you not tip your hat?

Five Worst Films of the Year
1. “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li”
2. “Amelia”
3. “Friday the 13th”
4. “The Men Who Stare at Goats”
5. “Watchmen”

Top 10 Films of the Year
1. “A Serious Man”
2. “Up in the Air”
3. “Antichrist”
4. “The Cove”
5. “Avatar”
6. “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
7. “An Education”
8. “Mary and Max”
9. “Bronson”
10. “The Lovely Bones”

In case you missed it, check out my top 10 column here and my “if I had a ballot post here.

What are your personal winners this year?  Have your say in the comments section below!

→ 45 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

45 responses so far

  • 1 12-18-2009 at 4:37 pm

    Esteban said...

    I’m glad someone’s finally giving Gaby Sidibie the dues she deserves.

  • 2 12-18-2009 at 4:38 pm

    Mr. Gittes said...

    Ric O’Barry!!!!!

    I guess it’s my loss, but the last twenty or so minutes of Avatar was completely underwhelming for me. A cinematic milestone? My God. The “action” in The Cove, now that’s riveting stuff – a milestone. My two cents.

    Damn I have to see A Serious Man. Now.

  • 3 12-18-2009 at 4:52 pm

    Dylan said...

    Movie: Fantastic Mr. Fox
    Actor: Sharlto Copely
    Actress: Melanie Laurent
    Sup. Actor: Christolph Waltz
    Sup. Actress: Mo’Nique
    Breakthrough Performance: Sharlto Copely

    Top Ten:
    Fantastic Mr. Fox
    Inglourious Basterds
    District 9
    (500) Days of Summer
    Up in the Air
    Julie & Julia
    An Education

  • 4 12-18-2009 at 4:52 pm

    Shelby said...

    Re District 9 best makeup. I was watching one of the Blu Ray extras and they had a segment on the massive makeup job that Copley had to go through every day. Including one day where they spent 5 hours on it, and then had to take it all off again because for some reason they couldn’t shoot the scene that day. Ugh!

    Although I’d have to think Jeff Goldblum went through even worse on “The Fly.”

  • 5 12-18-2009 at 4:55 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    Alfred Molina is good but that’s a serviceable performance in a nothing role. Surely there were better supporting male performances in what you saw.

  • 6 12-18-2009 at 4:56 pm

    Jim T said...

    “(500) Days of Summer” is indeed overrated.

    I think Antichrist is perhaps the Most Ambitious Film of the Year because if Cameron was as ambitious he would have payed more attention to the script. I know, I can’t help raining on its parade :p

  • 7 12-18-2009 at 4:59 pm

    ninja said...

    Hans Landa and Mary Lee Johnston are the villains of the year. Mr Harvey, though creepy, doesn`t hold water. I understand your love for Bones but that`s the way it is. Tucci may pull a win because he`s due but Landa will be remembered.

  • 8 12-18-2009 at 5:05 pm

    Strange List said...

    What an odd choice of films. Sadly, most of your choices don’t have a chance. “Up in the Air” is too much of a saccharin, glib comedy and is too much “the George Clooney”show. Nobody in the real world is praising it like the bloggers and critics are. Everybody is shrugging. “Anti-Christ” is too offensive. “A Serious Man” is good but it is too small. Love the Coen Brothers, but they’ll be lucky to make it on to the top ten this year. I hope they do though and that Michael Stuhlbarg gets a nomination. “Avatar” will get best visual effects, but it looks like it is his ex, Kathryn Bigelow’s year to sweep the director and best picture awards. ” Nobody is liking “Lovely Bones” and even bothering to see it. “The Messenger” is just another in a long line of generic “coming home” type films that use drama on the domestic front and has too much competition among more gritty and epic soldier stories such as Locker and Basterds which are picking up far more critical praise and which take place on the battlefront. “District 9” doesn’t have enough momentum to snag a best actor nomination, let alone any more likely categories. That field is way too competive this year. Plus the film was an interesting idea, but sort of fell apart structurally. Can’t wait to see what that director will do next though. Yes, “moon” should get best newcomer director. Yes, “the cove” was a good documentary. Those and “Star Trek” for sound, you might be right on. Otherwise, I think this is more of your wishful thinking than anything!

  • 9 12-18-2009 at 5:05 pm

    Jim T said...

    Charlotte Gainsbourg was no angel as well. But she probably doesn’t win. It was a very competitive year :p

  • 10 12-18-2009 at 5:07 pm

    Shelby said...

    Avatar’s Oscar chances depend heavily on its box office take. Don’t kid yourselves. If it even slightly doesn’t live up to expectations in terms of money, forget about anything beyond the usual tech categories.

  • 11 12-18-2009 at 5:09 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Strange List: Did you miss the part where I called it MY list of winners?

    Chad: I disagree. I thought Molina brought a lot of brilliant nuance to the role, and a real weight of emotion. I don’t think it was a particularly great year for supporting actors in general, but I still think Molina’s work stuck with me the most.

  • 12 12-18-2009 at 5:33 pm

    Paul Outlaw said...

    Nice art direction choice (and illustration). ;-)

  • 13 12-18-2009 at 5:40 pm

    Intermezzo said...

    So u think the best score this year is the one from Crazy Heart? … It really annoyes me how people these days do not care about film music composition. This is not a complain about your criteria but, man, what a choice… It really discourage one to keep writing about film music…

  • 14 12-18-2009 at 5:41 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    Sharlto Copley, eh? Interesting….he’s certainly set in Hollywood for life, Oscar nomination or no.

    Wait, no Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in your list of the worst? I mean, that fucking goat movie was stupid, but at least it didn’t try to appeal to the lowest common denominator and make millions off of it. Year’s worst, no question for me.

  • 15 12-18-2009 at 5:43 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I struggled with whether or not to include Burnett and Bruton’s work in the category at all. There was, once upon a time, such a thing as the Best Song Score category, so with them essentially combined, when something comes along like the work on Crazy Heart, you’re faced with a decision.

    My favorite traditional score of the year was probably Mark Bradshaw’s from Bright Star, but I believe you’ve expressed your opinion on that one in the past.

    I went with Burnett and Bruton because of the creativity that went into a robust soundtrack and a list of tunes that could be absolute hits on the radio today. That takes talent, talent I think deserves to be noticed by the music branch.

    If that’s so discouraging, I think we just see things from completely different angles.

  • 16 12-18-2009 at 5:43 pm

    James D. said...

    I would have thought you would take Waltz over Molina. He seemed to be the one thing you liked about the film.

    I would look down upon the Sharlto Copley pick, but I have trouble picking a great male acting performance above it. Maybe Aragorn.

    Good to see your recognition of Schneider for Away we Go. That film was horrendous save for his role as well as Messina’s.

  • 17 12-18-2009 at 5:48 pm

    Comcom said...

    Amy Landeckerrrr! Ahah, nice choices. :]

  • 18 12-18-2009 at 6:17 pm

    Zach Heltzel said...

    Watchmen being there is ridiculous to just about every possible degree.

  • 19 12-18-2009 at 6:24 pm

    The Dude said...

    I immediately disregard everything you post, Kris, because you did not name Bill Murray as your best cameo (male) performance of the year. For shame.

    (I’m kidding! But seriously…his cameo in “the movie I won’t name because I don’t wanna spoil the surprise” was friggin’ hilarious). Cool list. I’m glad to hear I wasn’t the only one who loved the “Drag Me to Hell” one-sheet.

  • 20 12-18-2009 at 6:49 pm

    aspect ratio said...

    Kris, are you doing any “shots of the year” list this year? That was always my favorite.

    Not sure about Sidibe being listed as breakthrough though. To me breakthrough means the first big performance that gets you into the limelight and (should) propel you onto a career.. and honestly, can anyone see Sidibe, no matter how great she was or even if she wins the Oscar, having much of a movie career, post-Precious? Don’t take this the wrong way, I’m not trying to be insensitive (or racist), but there aren’t a whole lot of parts for a large African-American girl in Hollywood or even in independent films, unfortunately.

  • 21 12-18-2009 at 6:54 pm

    Glenn said...

    “Tucci may pull a win because he`s due but Landa will be remembered.”

    You say Tucci and yet don’t say Waltz, but instead say the character name. That actually says a lot. And I want Waltz to win, too!

    Nice list there, Kris!

  • 22 12-18-2009 at 7:58 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    aspect: Yeah, I’m going to start working on that next month. Maybe end of Jan./beginning of Feb?

  • 23 12-18-2009 at 8:13 pm

    Chris138 said...

    Wow, The Men Who Stare at Goats is really worse than Watchmen? That’s quite an achievement.

  • 24 12-18-2009 at 8:52 pm

    Frank Lee said...

    Worst Movies of the Year:

    1. Where the Wild Things Are
    2. 2012
    3. Drag Me to Hell (which, granted, was not as bad as the other two, but was more overrated)

  • 25 12-18-2009 at 9:31 pm

    cineJAB said...

    how can The Lovely Bones be underrated if it hasn’t really been released yet?

  • 26 12-18-2009 at 9:39 pm

    Anna said...

    What was wrong with Rachel McAdams in Sherlock Holmes?

  • 27 12-18-2009 at 9:46 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    Kris any chance of a shots of the decade list? Too much?

  • 28 12-18-2009 at 9:47 pm

    Danny King said...

    Definitely agree with you on Away We Go. A very big disappointment for me.

  • 29 12-18-2009 at 10:13 pm

    Matt King said...

    Kris, I was just wondering your reasons for disliking 500 Days of Summer. I quite enjoyed the movie, but I’m not as fanatical as some people. To me, it’s a fine movie, and an excellent examination of the postmodern romance. The acting was not “quirky” acting, but genuine lived-in performances. Gordon-Levitt was a little to earnest I believe, but Deschanel gave a superb performance. I found it to be a wonderful balance of comedy and drama, as well as Webb’s excellent balance of the different mediums being used. The non-linear treatment of the story is overused at times, and yet worked here wonderfully in its demonstration of the mind after a break-up, and the idealization of a relationship post-breakup. The ending I found to be a little too easy, but it functioned perfectly fine for the movie. I’m interested to hear your arguments against it. I always enjoy hearing reasoning against a movie I like. So, do tell, Kris…

    Actually, any others who hated the movie (Jim T. up top), I’d love to hear your arguments against the film.

  • 30 12-18-2009 at 10:18 pm

    Matt King said...

    Oh, I also disagree with you Kris about Away We Go. I found it to be wonderful, its episode structure, though lacking in a normal point of conflict (which, incidentally, I didn’t have a problem with, I found its structure to be interesting.) Its performances were all excellent, the only problem performances for me was, shockingly, Jeff Daniels. But I’d rather hear the arguments against 500 Days of Summer.

    But I agree with you on A Serious Man. That movie is fucking genius. Excellent use of structure to exemplify theme, and great understated cinematography (so claustrophobic, specific, and elusive) from Deakins.

  • 31 12-18-2009 at 11:16 pm

    joseph bell said...

    honestly kris this is without a doubt the most pathetic awards list I have ever seen. In an effort to be different and more fresh than the academy, you have put together a ridiculous collection of films, as well as utterly horrendous list of best actors and actresses that begs the question whether you know what you are really doing with this site. As far as continuing to bash the oscars, both with your interview with anne thomspon and by your amateurish list, I find it kind of ridiculous that a man who makes his living predicting and prognosticating the oscar, ridicules the very institutiono that he anxiously waits to represent. It all comes of as pretentious, and self righteous, and for people who view your website, extremely insincere and honestly offensive. If you don’t like the oscars, don’t make a site called incontention,which says that noone has award coverage this deep. Rude, insincere and frankly in many regards upsetting. I hope you change your tone. It’s fine to be dismayed with the AMPAS for continuing to make questionable choices, it’s another to insult those you are supposed to be writing for. That’s not okay.

  • 32 12-19-2009 at 1:09 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...


  • 33 12-19-2009 at 5:49 am

    JJ said...

    Yeah, (500) and Away We Go are 2 of my favorite films of the year. I just love them. I know I love a movie when I want to re-watch it again immediately.

  • 34 12-19-2009 at 10:55 am

    M said...

    Interesting list Kris. Haven’t seen some of those movies. However, it is your personal choice so I don’t see why anyone thinks they have the right to argue with you about your own choices that might differ from theirs.

  • 35 12-19-2009 at 11:14 am

    drbenway said...

    Sharlto Copley?

    He does what all non-actors have done since the dawn of mankind: hit one note and hold it for 90+ minutes. I also wonder if he gets this win without the funny accent…

    In the interest of Better Internet Communication: the tone of the above is more “good-spirited ribbing with a hint of sarcasm” than “hostile criticism”.

  • 36 12-19-2009 at 11:21 am

    Strange List said...

    Zoinks! Joseph Bell was a little harsh. It’s a strange list, given. You like what you like, no one can take that away from you. We can chuckle about it, as it would be really fun for Anti-Christ to get nominated for anything, if not just for the fun “chaos reigns” factor. But he’s wrong to make it personal. He shouldn’t have attacked you or your web site, which is informative. Thanks.

  • 37 12-19-2009 at 4:24 pm

    SHAAAARK said...

    Best Picture: Where the Wild Things Are
    Director: tie between Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker, and Spike Jonze, Where the Wild Things Are
    Actor: Ben Foster, The Messenger
    Actress: Tilda Swinton, Julia
    Supporting Actor: Peter Capaldi, In the Loop
    Supporting Actress: Marion Cotillard, Public Enemies (how is it possible to give such a great performance in such a mediocre film? Amazing)
    Ensemble: Inglourious Basterds
    Original Screenplay: Moon
    Adapted Screenplay: In the Loop
    Film Editing: The Hurt Locker
    Art Direction: Coraline
    Cinematography: Lance Acord, Where the Wild Things Are
    Costume Design: Inglourious Basterds
    Visual Effects: District 9
    Makeup: Drag Me to Hell
    Original Score: Bruno Coulais, Coraline & Michael Giacchino, Star Trek
    Not doing sound categories or Song
    Breakthrough Actor: Michael Stuhlbarg
    Breakthrough Actress: Carey Mulligan, An Education
    Special Award for Prolific Excellence: Woody Harrelson
    Best Animated Film: Coraline
    Most Underrated film: Funny People
    Most Overrated Film: The Hangover
    Bottom Five:
    Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
    The Hangover
    GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra
    Best Cameo, Male: [REDACTED], Zombieland
    Best Cameo, Female: Melanie Lynskey, Away We Go
    Best Voiceover Work: Kevin Spacey, Moon
    Best Hero: Coraline Jones, Coraline
    Best Villain: Hans Landa, Inglourious Basterds
    Best Poster: Precious
    Best Trailer: Where the Wild Things Are

  • 38 12-19-2009 at 6:50 pm

    billybil said...

    I must admit I am disappointed. Having developed an interest and appreciations for your insights over the past year I am a little surprised at your choices for Best Actor and Best Actress.

    I think it is often misleading, although tempting, to award actors for the role in which they were cast as much for how well they performed the role. Certainly in the case of Sidibe there is nothing extraordinary about her performance except her appearance and her willingness to be vulnerable added to a boldly written, daringly conceived role. She does nothing in that film that most accomplished female actors can’t do – hurt, fear, anger, frustration, depression, false hope – these are emotions which are common in many female characters and are necessary for any serious professional actress to possess. I’ve written before that I definitely think Sidibe should be applauded and acknowledged for rising to the challenge in her first major role with nominations but to be called the best performance of the year seems far more to do with the role as written than for the performance given.

    It is a little more difficult for me to question that Mr. Copley does not deserve your recognition since I have yet seen several of the performances being mentioned as the best of the year. However, again, the big but broad emotional demands and the physical challenges of the role within a fresh, unique story certainly greatly contributes to the impressiveness of the performance – perhaps making it seem more accomplished than another, less charismatic part.

    At the same time you do a wonderful job of discussing the challenges and accomplishments of Mr. Molina in AN EDUCATION. Now there I agree that you’re identifying more subtle, challenging contributions made by an extremely accomplished and fine actor. I’m not yet sure if he’s the one I’d give my award to but certainly his performance is fine on many levels.

  • 39 12-19-2009 at 7:12 pm

    Shelby said...

    Drbenway, you’re really wrong on Copley.

    Lord knows what he’s really got under the hood in terms of talent and longevity (I suppose we’ll find out), but I thought his performance was of very high quality in District 9. It’s one thing to improvise one’s lines in a self-consciously “mumblecore” way; it’s quite another to improvise with theatrical effectiveness and dramatic clarity, which he did throughout. (I don’t even know of any other current film actors who can DO that.) He created a vivid character and was 100% committed to that characterization – not to mention unexpectedly effective in dramatic moments once they got done with the the “Borat with aliens” first act. Best actor of the whole year, I don’t know. But attention ought to be paid.

  • 40 12-19-2009 at 7:27 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    billybill: I actually think Copley had a very complicated character to deal with considering the (rather authentic) emotional arc, the vulnerabilities of craven humanity he was working with, and, of course, the overall embodiment. I think it’s vastly underrated as a performance.

    And as for Sidibe, suffice it to say I disagree entirely with that assessment. What may have seemed broad to you was actually rather specific to me. It wouldn’t have drawn the emotional reaction otherwise.

  • 41 12-20-2009 at 12:35 am

    Julian Stark said...

    Awesome to see all the Sidibe love.

    Also glad to see that somebody hated that mess some people like to call Away We Go.

  • 42 12-20-2009 at 12:31 pm

    billybil said...

    Thanks for the respectful response.

    I will definitely revisit DISTRICT 9 and Copley’s performance with your comments in mind. Thank you.

    As for Sidibe – I’m afraid judging the effectiveness of her performance based on the emotional response it inspired is exactly the sort of reaction that concerns me. The entire movie is geared to inspire just such an emotional response. However, I can think of far less justifiable reasons for awarding someone the best of year than being emotionally affected.

  • 43 12-21-2009 at 9:39 am

    cineJAB said...

    I’m finally seeing A Serious Man tonight

  • 44 12-22-2009 at 11:57 am

    Fitz said...

    Zoe Saldana deserves some love as does Bridges.

  • 45 12-22-2009 at 12:10 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    I just saw Up in the Air and you have criminally snubbed Young MC of the Best Cameo award.