2008 Bellview Awards, Part I
2008 was an interesting year. I saw 80
flicks (down from my running average of 100+ over the last five
years), but I saw less than normal only partially because I was
busy. So many movies came out this year that I DIDN'T want to
see that I stayed out of theaters for long stretches. This was
also aided by the fact that when I did go to see a movie, it was
almost always a disappointment until about November, when the
Oscar-worthy films began rolling out in theaters.
I can't really explain it. I've heard
any number of reasons--last year's writer's strike that affected
this year's movies, a number of big-time directors mostly staying
out of the light this year, delays for films that are going to roll
out in 2009 instead of this year. My guess goes down other
paths, though. Filmmakers are shooting for the middle more
often than they used to. Independent films have lost their
luster, mainly because "indie" films these days still have a
half-dozen major stars taking a break from mainstream films.
Lots of stars "took the check" this year. Of the 80 films I
saw, 10 were based on either a comic book property or a video game;
10 films (some crossover here) were sequels. Seeking out good,
original entertainment is getting harder and harder at the movie
theaters...I couldn't even guess at the number based on a book,
play, or a remake of another movie!
As shitty as the year was in movies, the
year in DVD entertainment was phenomenal. Truly, phenomenal!
If you have the money, my best advice (even for the hardcore
moviegoer like myself) is to invest in the following in 2009:
a Blu-ray DVD player, a 40-50" 1080p LCD television with 60-120hz
technology (cuts down on motion blur; yes, this makes a difference),
HDMI cables (these can be bought for $6) and a sound system
installed by a professional or a geek. Movies make it to DVD
in three months now, sometimes less, and with kids, their cell
phones, their incessant chatter and a ticket price that hits $11 at
Tysons Corner now, the home investment is worthwhile AND you'd be
surprised how great the quality is of watching "The Dark Knight" at
home from a technical perspective.
And, gaming in 2008 was also phenomenal...I
know that because Meg sees me on the couch with a controller in my
hand almost every day. As I mentioned recently in this space,
I sold my Wii because I finally decided that the system is only
built for the casual gamer, ideally one who is a child or a parent
or who works for the United Colors of Benetton. But, if you
are a PS3 or Xbox 360 owner, I don't know if life could be any
better...and the technology looks/sounds incredible on the right
home entertainment system.
The other major disappointment this
year--didn't write enough essays. The few that were unleashed
on the people were well-received, but I have to get "back to the
studio" more often in 2009...of course, with my wedding and at least
six others to hit, that ought to be pretty easy!
Thanks again to everyone who made 2008
This one was tough this year; what put this
one over the top was the Q&A I saw after my screening with director
Darren Aronofsky and actress Marisa Tomei (correctly called "New
Jersey hot" by a radio host I heard recently), because it made the
whole movie better to hear how real-life WWF wrestlers received the
film, how hard Aronofsky fought for Mickey Rourke to be in the film,
and how Bruce Springsteen presented the film's title track to the
director. Once you see the film, you WILL root for it on Oscar
"Young @ Heart"
"The Dark Knight"
Best Actress--Cate Blanchett,
Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
I think Blanchett's performance in this film
is award-worthy, but most critics have not agreed with me so far.
No matter--Blanchett's work as both a young woman and an old one
prove once again how she is the most versatile dramatic performer
Kate Winslet, "The Reader."
Fantastic work, but isn't she always great?
Angelina Jolie, "Changeling." A
tour-de-force by Jolie, who had time to make two very different
movies this year (the other was
"Wanted") while adding an eleventh child to her family
Marisa Tomei, "The Wrestler."
Tomei is getting better each time she works now, after spending
years being so-so
"Miss Pettigrew Lives
for a Day." I wanted to stab Amy Adams during this movie,
but McDormand's lovable character made it all better
Best Actor--Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler"
Everyone agrees about Rourke's performance
here--once you see "The Wrestler", you can only ever imagine Rourke
playing this character, and that he plays himself playing a wrestler
only adds to the fun
Sean Penn, "Milk." I will be
shocked if someone besides Rourke or Penn wins the Oscar this
Clint Eastwood, "Gran Torino." The
racist in all of us (yep, I said it) comes out in a way that is
strangely lovable in Eastwood's acting...talk about the "flawed
Frank Langella, "Frost/Nixon." He
won the Tony for this work in 2007, and his performance here
drives an already-strong production
"Choke." I don't
know why no one is talking about his work here more; maybe the
film was too wacko, but Rockwell adds another piece of great
work to his resume
Best Supporting Actress--Jane Lynch,
In her half-dozen or so scenes, Lynch--a
frequent Christopher Guest player--made me laugh out loud each time,
with her last scene being her best
"Burn After Reading."
The film, overall, is average, but McDormand's work here is some
of her best and a true mix of physical and spoken comedy with
Barcelona." Yep, she's hot, but why does she almost get
acting raves, too? She must really be good at something...
"Doubt." Talk about
making the most of one scene...maybe this film's best acting
moment, which is saying something given the talent she is
working with here
This is a bit of a stretch, but Ricci always makes the most of
her scenes and she picks up an otherwise unremarkable cast (or
maybe it was the direction)
Best Supporting Actor--Robert Downey Jr.,
Based purely on the work, I think that Heath
Ledger will win the Oscar in this category (it doesn't hurt that,
well, he's dead...voters think about that stuff). But no
one--NO ONE--in recent film history has been an MVP for a movie like
Downey was in this film; he keeps the first half of it marginally
passable until Tom Cruise and Jack Black help make the movie roll
downhill in the last 30 minutes
Ledger, "The Dark Knight." The
work is fantastic, no doubt. Just stop telling me he was
better than Nicholson in "Batman"...sorry, I'm not buying.
No one argues this--his scene in this film in the hospital as
the nurse is maybe the scariest funny moment in the movie
"In Bruges." His
work with Colin Farrell mixes everything so well...will this guy
ever get to star in his own movie???
James Franco, "Pineapple Express."
His stoner character breaks out thanks to a great script...I'm
really not sure how different this is from Franco in real life
"Rachel Getting Married."
Lost in the Anne Hathaway Showcase is Irwin's tender performance
as Rachel's dad...great, subtle work
Discuss. On to
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