Saturday, March 21, 2009

AFT Awards: Top 10 Scenes of the Year

Beware spoilers for Cloverfield, Doubt, Slumdog Millionaire, Traitor, Waltz with Bashir, Wanted, and The Wrestler.

This is a special category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards, my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. These are my ten favorite scenes of the year, listed in alphabetical order by film title.


Cloverfield
That entirely elusive monster finally shows its face – only for a second, but it’s such a gloriously exciting and thrilling moment.

Cloverfield
Those dumb characters think they’re going to get out of New York alive, and board a helicopter to catch a ride out. Their helicopter doesn’t just go down – the monster swats it down and the last survivors don’t have much time left.

Doubt
All the tension that’s been building the whole time between Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius explodes as the two debate what’s really happened, and start screaming at each other. Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman yelling at each other is a marvelous sight.

Slumdog Millionaire
Latika waits at the train station for Jamal, and he spots her, looking so perfect to him. His happiness is short-lived and interrupted by his brother and the goons as well as A.R. Rahman’s fantastic beat.

Slumdog Millionaire
Jamal’s made it to the final question, and decides to call his brother, who of course has put the phone in Latika’s getaway car. Her race to find the phone is combined via parallel editing with the heroic demise of Salim. The best part – she answers the phone and doesn’t have any idea what the answer is. That’s always been the point of this amazingly unique film, though.

Traitor
A so-so movie is made slightly exceptional in one brilliant yet highly implausible moment, as Samir reveals how he prevented two dozen suicide bombers from inflicting mass casualties across the United States – putting them all on the same bus. It doesn’t quite make sense but watching them all realize that they’ve been put together is a great victory for this otherwise disappointment-filled film.

Waltz with Bashir
Ari remembers his dream in this repeated scene accompanied by the unbelievable musical track “The Haunted Ocean,” and the animated background is incredible. The scene plays again and again because it’s just as effective the fourth of fifth time around.

Wanted
Angelina Jolie’s Fox has only just introduced herself, and James McAvoy’s Wesley is not prepared for the thrill ride he’s about to experience. He’s just standing there as the guy in the truck is about to take him out, but have no fear! Fox is able to spin the car around and get the door to open and close, timed perfectly to drag Wesley in. It’s one of the first of many fantastically exciting moments throughout the film.

Wanted
Fraternity leader Sloan’s duplicity is revealed, and all the gang is ready to just ignore it and be content with the sins they’ve committed. Not so much for Fox, who opts to kill every one of them with a single bullet. This is no normal bullet, of course, since throughout the film it’s been made clear that bullets don’t necessarily fly straight, and therefore one bullet can go around in a circle and take out every one in slow motion. Brilliant.

The Wrestler
Aging wrestler Randy the Ram needs to make some more dough, and so he gets a job at a deli counter. While his job will lead to future woes and bloody fingers, there’s one wonderful scene where he seems genuinely happy and interacts in a fun way with his customers, even calling one scrawny guy “good looking” while serving him meat. It’s a great showcase for Mickey Rourke.

Friday, March 20, 2009

AFT Awards: Best Director


This is the twenty-fourth category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Runners-up:
CLINT EASTWOOD, CHANGELING
GUILLAUME CANET, TELL NO ONE
MIKE LEIGH, HAPPY-GO-LUCKY
ARNAUD DESPLECHIN, A CHRISTMAS TALE
ERAN KOLIRIN, THE BAND’S VISIT


The winner:
Ari Folman (Waltz with Bashir) crafted a magnificent story from his own memories and guided his amalgam of different forms with a steady, nostalgic hand.

Other nominees:
Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) used the slums of India as his set and took a number of untalented actors under his wing to create a marvelously entertaining story. Jonathan Demme (Rachel Getting Married) managed a frightening amount of intimacy and closeness with a broken family opening itself up for a big wedding. Courtney Hunt (Frozen River) guided her small cast of actors through a difficult but fascinating story about desperate mothers struggling to make their lives work during hard times. Charlie Kaufman (Synecdoche, New York) stepped behind the camera for the first time to direct one of his own wacky screenplays and magnificently utilized a whole fake city as his stage.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

AFT Awards: Best Ending


Beware spoilers for “Cloverfield,” “Iron Man,” “Wanted,” “In Bruges,” “Revolutionary Road” and “Slumdog Millionaire.”

This is the twenty-third category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Runner-up:
Cloverfield killed off all its characters, which was probably for the best as they were all super annoying, but didn’t resolve anything with the monster. The last bit of the videotaped footage has been analyzed to death, and I love the idea that the monster was shot into the water in the background and that the last sound heard can be played backwards to say “It’s still alive.”

The winner:
Iron Man went out on a pitch-perfect note that completely defined the character of Tony Stark. It’s a perfect way both to end a standalone project and to set itself up for a sequel, with cameras flashing and reporters wailing as Stark decides to announce that he is in fact the title superhero. I’m not counting the bonus footage after the credits, especially since I forgot to stay for it, but it’s great to see that Iron Man is going to be part of a greater Marvel movie universe, and it’s always terrific to see Samuel L. Jackson in any role, big or small.

Other nominees:
Wanted, in addition to a great scene near the end which I’ve named as one of my favorites in a forthcoming post, ended with a superb bang. Sloan’s demise is presented in the same way the movie started, with a decoy target and impossibly zigzagging bullet. The best part is Wesley’s final sarcastic remark – “what the fuck have you done lately?”

In Bruges was wonderfully creative in the way it left things open from the point of view of narrator Colin Farrell and also managed to have the villain brilliantly mirror the hero’s story in its final scenes.

Revolutionary Road was a sub-par film that wanted to send a deep message about unhappiness, and for me it was only effective in the final scene, where Kathy Bates’ character is talking to her husband about how impossible it is for them to have been so unhappy with each other, and the extremely minor character of the husband makes a powerful gesture by subtly turning down his hearing aid so that he doesn’t have to hear her, emphasizing his unhappiness.

Slumdog Millionaire went out in true Bollywood style with an awesome dance sequence set to a stellar original tune by composer A.R. Rahman.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

AFT Awards: Best Opening


This is the twenty-second category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

The winner:
Reprise wove a wonderful story with its opening hypothetical tales, fully describing the lives and intersecting paths of its characters in mere moments with a dazzlingly clever and brilliantly edited introduction..

Other nominees:
A Christmas Tale proved it really was a fairy tale with its fun and holiday-spirited opening play and musical accompaniments. Waltz with Bashir didn’t waste any time, rushing some pretty scared animated dogs at the camera. Slumdog Millionaire got right to it with exciting music and an intensely memorable title display. Tell No One started the way great thrillers do – with a serene night scene that was anything but calm and ultimately quite violent.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

AFT Awards: Best Ensemble Cast


This is the twenty-first category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Runners-up:
A CHRISTMAS TALE
THE BAND’S VISIT
HAPPY-GO-LUCKY
MILK
IN BRUGES


The winner:
Synecdoche, New York was full of incredible actors playing each other, and I’m sure it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without the terrific pairings of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Tom Noonan, Samantha Morton and Emily Watson, and a number of amazing supporting players.

Other nominees:
Slumdog Millionaire had, with the exception of Irfan Khan, all actors unknown in the United States, and they worked together as well as the most seasoned, trained cast. Rachel Getting Married brought together an incredibly diverse ensemble of actors and they all felt searing in their realness. RocknRolla was made hilarious and irresistible by the unique contributions of Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton, Mark Strong, and every other actor involved. Reprise built relationships between young, fresh faces who make me want to see Norwegian movies every day.

Monday, March 16, 2009

AFT Awards: Best Limited Performance


This is the twentieth category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

The winner:
Thekla Reuten (In Bruges) had a brilliant small part as the pregnant hotel head whose unwillingness to lay down got her caught in the middle of the film’s most edgy and violent characters.

Other nominees:
Peter Sarsgaard (Elegy) was perfect to play Ben Kingsley’s tortured son desperate to share his problems with the father who always neglected him. Amy Ryan (Changeling) has been doing so many diverse things lately (from “Gone Baby Gone” to “The Office”), and she’s great as a fellow psychiatric ward patient who is not prepared to put up with what the doctors do to her. Emile Hirsch (Milk) teamed with Sean Penn for the second year in a row, and showed that his interactions with people are actually quite entertaining – the look makes the part. Marie-Josée Croze (Tell No One) was the focus of her film, but was hardly in it, but for the moments she was, she was entirely refreshing and real.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

AFT Awards: Best Breakthrough Performance


This is the nineteenth category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

The winner:
Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) had an insanely big debut in the (arguably) most popular movie of the year and hopefully we’ll see a lot more of her soon.

Other nominees:
AnnaSophia Robb (Sleepwalking) was a revelation in a devastatingly poor movie, and at only fifteen years old, I hope we haven’t seen the last of her. Ayush Mahesh Khedekar (Slumdog Millionaire) was one of the youngest players in his cast, and was just as terrific as all the older ones. Summer Bishil (Towelhead) took on a lead role in a heavyweight cast and stood her own ground; I’m curious to see her play her own age in future films. Mila Kunis (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) shed all of the goofiness accumulated on “That 70s Show” and delivered a truly surprising adult performance.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

AFT Awards: Best Foreign Film


This is the eighteenth category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order. For this category, I consider eligible only films that were released in their native countries within the past year. Therefore, films like “The Band’s Visit” and “The Counterfeiters,” had I seen them earlier, would have been eligible last year.

The winner:
Waltz with Bashir (Israel) wasn’t just the best foreign film of the year, it was the best film of the year, and proves that Israel really is churning out some great movies these days.

Other nominees:
A Christmas Tale (France)
Lost Islands (Israel)
Reprise (Norway)
Tell No One (France)

Friday, March 13, 2009

AFT Awards: Best Animated Feature


This is the seventeenth category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

The winner:
Waltz with Bashir was enormously successful in its attempts to explore the animated medium and tell its story in a masterfully creative manner.

Other nominees:
Chicago 10
Wall-E

Thursday, March 12, 2009

AFT Awards: Best Visual Effects


This is the sixteenth category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

The winner:
Iron Man (John Nelson, Ben Snow, Daniel Sudick & Shane Mahan) looked super-cool and managed to overcome comic book movies’ tendencies to look fake and, well…cartoonish.

Other nominees:
Cloverfield (Kevin Blank, Michael Ellis & Eric Leven)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton, Craig Barron)
The Dark Knight (Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Timothy Webber & Paul J. Franklin)
Wanted (Stefen Fangmeier, Jon Farhat, Boris Lutsyuk & Craig Lyn)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

AFT Awards: Best Makeup


This is the fifteenth category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

The winner:
Synecdoche, New York (Judy Chin) aged every single one of its characters and enhanced the movie’s timeless, endless feel.

Other nominees:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Greg Cannom)
The Dark Knight (John Caglione Jr. & Conor O'Sullivan)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

AFT Awards: Best Sound Editing


This is the fourteenth category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

The winner:
Wanted made me hear bullets fly and ricochet off countless surfaces. It enhances and even makes the experience.

Other nominees:
Body of Lies
Cloverfield
The Dark Knight
Iron Man

Monday, March 9, 2009

AFT Awards: Best Sound


This is the thirteenth category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

The winner:
Wanted wisely emphasized sounds and score over dialogue and highlighted the fact that it was an action movie first and foremost.

Other nominees:
Body of Lies
Cloverfield
The Dark Knight
Iron Man

Sunday, March 8, 2009

AFT Awards: Best Original Song


This is the twelfth category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

The winner:
Roar (Cloverfield) served as an end credits score for the thrilling monster movie and I’ve hardly ever felt like I was on such a whirlwind adventure (barring of course the whole film beforehand).

Other nominees:
Jai Ho (Slumdog Millionaire)
O Saya… (Slumdog Millionaire)
Little Person (Synecdoche, New York)
Down to Earth (Wall-E)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

AFT Awards: Best Original Score


This is the eleventh category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

The winner:
Waltz with Bashir (Max Richter) was made intensely dramatic and moving by its evocative score (the track “The Haunted Ocean” is my favorite).

Other nominees:
The Duchess (Rachel Portman)
In Bruges (Carter Burwell)
Slumdog Millionaire (A.R. Rahman)
Wanted (Danny Elfman)

Friday, March 6, 2009

AFT Awards: Best Film Editing


This is the tenth category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

The winner:
Wanted (David Brenner) weaved a complex story chock full of action and made perfect sense of it through smooth transitions and dynamic storytelling.

Other nominees:
In Bruges (Jon Gregory)
Iron Man (Dan Lebental)
RocknRolla (James Herbert)
Slumdog Millionaire (Chris Evans)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

AFT Awards: Best Costume Design


This is the ninth category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

The winner:
The Duchess (Michael O’Connor) gave Keira Knightley dozens of lavish gowns to wear and everyone else looked great too.

Other nominees:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Jacqueline West)
Married Life (Michael Dennison)
Revolutionary Road (Albert Wolsky)
Synecdoche, New York (Melissa Toth)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

AFT Awards: Best Art Direction


This is the eighth category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

The winner:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Donald Graham Burt & Victor J. Solfo) looked so incredible with all its colors and fantasy-like backgrounds, and drove this timeless story by planting it in such awe-inspiring settings.

Other nominees:
My Blueberry Nights (Judy Rhee)
Revolutionary Road (Kristi Zea & Debra Schutt)
Slumdog Millionaire (Michelle Day)
Synecdoche, New York (Adam Stockhausen)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

AFT Awards: Best Cinematography


This is the seventh category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

Runners-up:
CHANGELING
RACHEL GETTING MARRIED
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD


The winner:
My Blueberry Nights (Darius Khondji) was overwhelmingly intoxicating and it dazzling camerawork catches you in its sway even if the film’s plot can’t.

Other nominees:
The Band’s Visit (Shai Goldman)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Claudio Miranda)
Slumdog Millionaire (Anthony Dod Mantle)
Synecdoche, New York (Frederick Elmes)

Monday, March 2, 2009

AFT Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay


This is the sixth category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Runners-up:
THE READER
ELEGY
TOWELHEAD
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD
IRON MAN


The winner:
Tell No One (Guillaime Canet & Philippe Lefebvre) pulsated like no other thriller with a constantly changing reason for suspense and a plot that just kept getting more intriguing.

Other nominees:
Slumdog Millionaire (Simon Beaufoy)
Choke (Clark Gregg)
Doubt (John Patrick Shanley)
Frost/Nixon (Peter Morgan)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

AFT Awards: Best Original Screenplay


This is the fifth category of the 2nd Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Runners-up:
A CHRISTMAS TALE
HAPPY-GO-LUCKY
THE BAND’S VISIT
WALL-E
MILK


The winner:
Reprise (Joachim Trier & Eskil Vogt) was within its opening moments the most inventive film with the most creative setup in a long time, fresh throughout its entire run time.

Other nominees:
Rachel Getting Married (Jenny Lumet)
Frozen River (Courtney Hunt)
In Bruges (Martin McDonagh)
RocknRolla (Guy Ritchie)