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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 great...let's roll!

Best Flick:  "The Wrestler"

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 night

  1. "Pineapple Express"

  2. "Gran Torino"

  3. "Milk"

  4. "Young @ Heart"

  5. "Frost/Nixon"

  6. "The Reader"

  7. "Changeling"

  8. "Slumdog Millionaire"

  9. "The Dark Knight"


Best Actress--Cate Blanchett, "The 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 working today

  1. Kate Winslet, "The Reader."  Fantastic work, but isn't she always great?

  2. 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

  3. Marisa Tomei, "The Wrestler."  Tomei is getting better each time she works now, after spending years being so-so

  4. Frances McDormand, "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

  1. Sean Penn, "Milk."  I will be shocked if someone besides Rourke or Penn wins the Oscar this year

  2. 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 about the "flawed hero"

  3. Frank Langella, "Frost/Nixon."  He won the Tony for this work in 2007, and his performance here drives an already-strong production

  4. Sam Rockwell, "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, "Role Models"

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

  1. Frances McDormand, "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 dramatic flair

  2. Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."  Yep, she's hot, but why does she almost get acting raves, too?  She must really be good at something...

  3. Viola Davis, "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

  4. Christina Ricci, "Speed Racer."  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., "Tropic Thunder"

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

  1. 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

  2. Brendan Gleeson, "In Bruges."  His work with Colin Farrell mixes everything so well...will this guy ever get to star in his own movie???

  3. 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

  4. Bill Irwin, "Rachel Getting Married."  Lost in the Anne Hathaway Showcase is Irwin's tender performance as Rachel's dad...great, subtle work


Discuss.  On to Part II...



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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09