2009 was an important year for the business of cinema; games were changed with the acquiescence of audiences to the notion of 3D, low budgets met with large returns, old franchises spawned reboots and rebakes with varying success, the British film industry remained strong and gave us some bright new stars in our sky.
We asked our writers to come up with an alternative set of awards which would honour those films, directors and actors who made 2009 such an enjoyable year. Strong emotions are rendered in strong language, be warned if words offend.
So, here now, I present to you our awards for 2009 – The Truffles.
2009 meant, for me, the respectable return to sci-fi. Star Trek, District 9, Moon and now Avatar showed that sci-fi can appeal to a wider audience. For a sci-fi fan, it was a feast.
This was also the year of the “Little Movie That Could”. If you look at The Hurt Locker, District 9, Moon, Paranormal Activity….all of these are smaller films which took the industry by storm.
Here’s my list of the moments that were best (or not) for me.
Waterworks guaranteed award: Hands down it has to be Karl’s life montage in UP. Guaranteed to make you think, for a least a second about you’re own life. Damn you Pixar!
Great trailer…but what happened to the movie: The first trailer for Watchmen. This is the one with the song by Muse. When I first saw the trailer I got extremely excited. Having read the graphic novel, I couldn’t wait for the film. I walked out of the theater so disappointed I couldn’t stand it. My exact words were “How can a movie follow the source material so closely but miss the mark so far?”
Most obnoxious use of lens flares: Oh J.J., how you love your lens flares….as shown in Star Trek. There is a such thing as over kill and I think you have reached it. Don’t get me wrong I loved the movie and your work. But let’s take it down a notch shall we?
Best theater experience: For me it was seeing Terminator Salvation at the Mann’s Chinese Theater in L.A. in the D-Box Motion Capture seats. There nothing like watching a movie and feeling like you’re on a roller coaster, literally, not figuratively.
Kitchen Sink Award: This goes to Michael Bay for Transformers 2. He tried to throw so much stuff into this film, much like a Kitchen Sink Casserole. The movie wasn’t as good though. It came across more like dirty dishwater.
Classic Line: “Not at the table Carlos.” – The Hangover. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone quote it, I’d be rich.
The “Ick” Factor: Anything involving the old lady’s toungue from Drag Me to Hell. You have to love a movie that grosses you out, makes you jump and giggle all at the same time. And we can’t forget about the talking goat.
The “Can’t Move from My Seat Because This Movie Kicked So Much Ass” Award: District 9. After the film ended I sat there with my jaw on the floor along with the 2 people that went with me. Amazing film. Showed Hollywood that it doesn’t take an $80 gazillion budget to make a great film.
The “Konk-SHUUUUUU” Award: This must go to The Box. I just couldn’t get into and it and it left me longing for a nap.
Best use of personal rules: Zombieland. And remember Rule #18 – Limber up!
Most pointless character in a major motion picture: Helena Bonham Carter’s Doctor Serena Kogan in Terminator Salvation. Hated her in the film, completely unnecessary and pointless.
Most impressive debut: Duncan Jones easily.
Trailer of the Year: A Serious Man
Best Holy Sh*t Moment: Knowing (Alex Proyas) the incredible one take plane Crash scene. I’m pretty sure I said Holy Sh*t a number of time as the scene played out. Gobsmacking cinema
What film did you enjoy the most: Inglourious Basterds
What film disappointed you: Transformers ROTF, Crap messy fights, terrible plot, awful acting, Robot girl, Megan fox, Robot testicles….I could go on all day.
Films I’m most looking forward to in 2010: Inception, Kick Ass, Toy Story 3, Predators, TRON 2
Break out star: He’s been around for a while but Joseph Gordon-Levitt definitely took a huge step up this year in the excellent 500 days of Summer
Most important film: Avatar, The story wasn’t that great but it worked for me with the stunning technology used to make the first true 3D experience and incredible CGI
Best marketing: Watchmen, loved the graffiti on walls, the logo projected on buildings, the fake front pages on the Newspapers, the projected image of Dr. Manhattan rising from the Thames (didn’t work too well but still a great idea)
Top 7 films: Inglourious Basterds, Moon, The Hangover, District 9, 500 days of Summer, Where the Wild things and The Road (which is not out till 2010)
Top 7 crap films: Law Abiding Citizen, Jennifer’s body, 2012, Twilight Saga New Moon, Transformers ROTF, GI Joe and Halloween 2.
Most pointless character in a major motion picture: Megan Fox/Isabel Lucas (Transformers 2)
Seriously Michael Bay? Draping Megan Fox over a motorbike is one thing, but zooming your camera up Isabel Lucas’s skirt just before she chokes Shia LaBoeuf with a robotic tale is a low point in cinema, one among many in your latest film.
Favourite derogatory name: Prawn (District 9)
Guaranteeing that I’ll never enjoy a prawn cocktail again…
Bottled Childhood Award: Where the Wild Things Are
Spike Jonze plunges us all deep into the fountain of youth with his sublime tale of wild rumpus and dark fantasy.
Most impressive debut: Duncan Jones (Moon)
Easily the best British film of the year, and indicative of a brilliant year for popcorn and hard sci-fi, Moon deserves its place alongside Blade Runner, Alien and 2001.
Trailer of the Year: A Serious Man (The Coen Brothers/Mark Woollen)
Once seen, never forgotten. Ramming the conventions of movie trailers firmly up its collective tucus, this was a high point of the year, managing to imbue the two or so minutes with enough Coen-ness while at the same time creating something detached and unique.
Most Accomplished use of Swearing in a major Motion Picture: In the Loop
Malcolm Tucker runs verbal riot on the big screen.
Best Holy Sh*t Moment: The swimming pool (Let the Right One In)
See it – you’ll know why.
Kicking the Arse of Adversity: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Gilliam returned to cinemas with a totally unique and beautiful work, and casting Tom Waits as the Devil is a stroke of genius – one among many in his career. Thank God he’s making films.
Best Use of Opening Credits: Watchmen
Even fans of the Zack Snyder adaptation of Alan Moore’s comic mini-series will admit that the film left a lot to be desired. The director’s insistence on fidelity may have pleased fanboys, but it left many audience members (particularly those unfamiliar with the comic) somewhat cold.
Despite its flaws, the film did have some flashes of brilliance, particularly the title sequence.
Set to Bob Dylan’s ‘The Time’s They Are A Changing’ it manages to introduce the audience to the world in which the film is set with grace and style. Not only was it absolutely enthralling, but it also took care of all the exposition that could have bogged down an already cluttered film.
Making the World A Better Place: Let The Right One In
Let The Right One In may well have been marketed as a horror movie, but it isn’t. Despite the unearthly overtones, Let The Right One In has more in common with Son of Rambow than Nosferatu.
Although it didn’t receive a wide release at the cinema, it has already achieved a cult status that has kept it bobbing along in the DVD/Blu-Ray charts for the last few months.
If you haven’t seen it already, go grab yourself a copy. Now. If you have it’s fairly safe to assume you’ll agree that this faultless little flick is one of the year’s best.
Most Misunderstood Movie: Observe And Report
The humour is black as night, the characters are utterly repugnant and there’s one scene that goes so far across the line of good taste and decency that it’s currently somewhere out near Pluto, but for the few people that actually got Observe And Report it was one of the funniest films of the year.
Coming out shortly after Paul Blartt: Mall Cop, and with both Seth Rogen and Anna Farris playing against type it’s not really surprising that most of the audience saw a very different film to the one they were expecting. Hopefully time will be kind to Observe And Report, and it’ll have a good afterlife on DVD. Otherwise it’ll be forever known as 2009′s least successful Mall Cop-movie.
3D Game-changer: Coraline
Avatar may claim to be the most important 3D movie of all time, but that honour really should go to Coraline.
In a year that heralded a countless computer-generated 3D films – each pic claiming to use it for a ‘narrative purpose’ – the only film to actually do so was one of the most old-fashioned movies released this year.
The film has a girl moving between two realms, reality and fantasy. The director, Henry Selick, had his production team create sets with more depth for the fantasy world, giving the ‘real-world’ sets a far more claustrophobic feel. While this is barely noticeable in the 2D version it is apparent when watching the film in 3D.
Best Blockbuster: Star Trek
In a year of utterly disappointing summer movies, Star Trek stood apart from the field. While it may have been seriously flawed, it was still far better than any other high-budget studio pic of the year, a remarkable feat given the hit-and-miss nature of the franchise in the past.
The opening, eleven-minute, pre-credit sequence is as good as any pre-credit sequence ever made, and could well stand alone as short independent of the rest of the movie. The remaining hundred and ten minutes aren’t quite as good, but the film is still great fun.
Most Overrated Film: The Hangover
I enjoyed The Hangover. It was a fun film, but it’s nothing more than a decent comedy. Recently it has had ideas above its station, with ‘for your consideration’ adverts, fuelled by positive reviews, and good box-office, but it’s still a frat-boy comedy, and it doesn’t stand up to a second viewing.
Changing British Film For The Better: Moon
Not only an utterly terrific movie, and one of the best science fiction films in years, Moon managed to prove that there was more to British film than mockney gangsters, period dramas, gritty realism and twee comedies.
Certain to spawn waves of inferior imitators, Moon, the debut of commercials director Duncan Jones, is superbly written, acted, shot and directed. Not to mention the outstanding production design by Gavin Rothery.
One of the best British films for a long time.
Fuck-Off And Die Award: GI Joe
What a piece of crap. Having spent the months before the release of the film debating the merits of the film with Dave, and insisting that it would be an incredible parody of every action movie ever made it was, to say the least, disappointing to finally see the movie.
Too stupid to be a decent action flick, but far too dumb to be a clever spoof, GI Joe was an utter waste of time, and one of the few films released this year that made Transformers 2 look like a good idea.
To EVERYONE involved with this piece of crap, including both my favourite Dr Who, Christopher Eccleston, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, one of the greatest actors of his generation, I say FUCK YOU!
Not As Good As You Think Award: Inglorious Basterds
Buried deep within Inglorious Basterds are two great films trying to get out.
The first is a bat-shit crazy story cartoon Nazis versus cartoon Americans. Utterly mad-cap and brilliant fun.
The second is a meditation on the experience of a Jewish girl, who has survived the murder of her family, only to be confronted with an incredibly sympathetic Nazi war hero.
Independently both of these stories could make a terrific film, exploring sides of World War Two that have previously escaped the glare of the cinema scope. Combined they detract from one another to create an entirely offensive mess.
Many people enjoyed Inglorious Basterds, including at least one who loved it for EXACTLY the same reasons I hated it. Even still, I stand by the assertion that Basterds was bloody awful. Consider yourself chastised Tarantino.
Best Comedy/ Best Career Move: Funny People
It’s far too long, and the third act is, to put it politely, troublesome, but Funny People is a great film.
Performance-wise the film is great, and amongst a terrific cast, Eric Bana is outstanding. The script that deserves special attention, providing the cast with the opportunity to show great comedy timing, as well as a hugely likeable side to every character. It’s only real downside is that the development of Sandler’s character goes backwards, and despite that possibly being a realistic turn of events, it’s also utterly frustrating from a narrative point of view.
If I had to Put Money on the Best Picture Contender: The Hurt Locker
It might not fit the usual mould for Oscar-bait, but The Hurt Locker is as likely an award contender as any other flick released this year.
With a close to real life story, a set of fantastic characters, and some of the best acting performances this year, the only reason this film didn’t make a fortune at the box office is the ineptitude of Summit’s marketing department.
Jeremy Renner in particular is outstanding, in a performance that deserves to make him a star, but the whole picture is great, and one that would be utterly deserving of a little gold statuette come March.
First Film to Make Me Cry: Up!
I’ve been watching movies for well over twenty years, and to the best of my knowledge I’d never cried in a cinema. Until I saw Up!.
Quite frankly the saddest thing ever committed to celluloid, the opening sequence of Up! is like watching an innocent relative walk the Green Mile. Absolutely certain of their fate, but utterly incapable of doing anything to help them.
Since seeing it I have found myself welling up at the most ludicrous of situations (Stardust resulted in me spending twenty minutes re-composing myself before I left the house). That said, the movie was another work of magic from Arch-Wizard John Lasseter and his crew, and the loss of my icy demeanour is a price worth paying for an wonderful film.
The Other Great British Film Award: An Education
While Moon moved British film away from its traditional territory, An Education did its very best to show that even old-school Brit-flicks can be innovative and wonderful.
Starring the terrific Carey Mulligan, the story could well have been turned into a mediocre Richard Curtis project. Instead, in the hands of Danish director Lone Scherfig it became something magical. Proof that even the most commonplace British Film doesn’t need to be the dreary waste of celluloid we’re frequently subjected to.
You Must See This Documentary: Starsuckers
Its targets may well be as soft as a newly-made mattress, and its approach scattershot, but Starsuckers is still compelling viewing for anyone who interacts with the media.
Watching it at the press screening at The London Film Festival, it turned an uncomfortable spotlight on journalists that, hopefully, changed the way of few of us think about the industry, as well as the wider world outside.
Crippled Script: Jennifer’s Body
It may well have had far too many Diablo Cody-isms, but the script for Jennifer’s Body was terrific. Unfortunately the execution was beyond terrible.
While many have laid the blame for this on Megan Fox, I would argue that the flaws arise entirely due to the incompetence o director Karyn Kusama.
Swinging wildly from a Heathers-esque black comedy to a low-rent slasher flick Jennifer’s Body could have been terrific. Instead it was an utter waste f time.
The Other Other Really Good Brit Flick: Bunny And The Bull
Not quite up with the other two, but still head and shoulders above the rest, Bunny and The Bull manages to be both hilarious and touching.
The low-fi look of the film disguised an incredibly accomplished script, that was truly hilarious.
Not quite up to the standard of Moon or An Education, but still a work of pure genius.
So there they are, the inaugural Truffles have been awarded and, if nothing else, 2009 certainly prompted some great thoughts and conversations. It’s been a great year with Moon and Let the Right One In gorged on truffles this year – let’s see what 2010 has in store…
See you at the end of 2010!