It’s bandwagon jumping time, and since Hollywood is about ready to hand out its own brand of bewildering backslapping, the nearly three-year-old SE&L figures it too can champion its own choices for award winners. Oscar might have the hoopla, the bags of swag, and all that staggering star power, but what the newly christened SEALS have is something the Academy can never boast – artistic integrity. Granted, the gray hairs in the group sometimes get it right – can’t argue with all their choices, Crash aside – and it’s possible that these new prizes will clash with conventional thinking. But when it comes right down to it, if Blockbuster Video, MTV, and The National Rolling (Down a Hill) Association can declare their preferences for the year’s trophy-deserving best, why can’t we?
That being said, we have to set up some guidelines. First and foremost, as joking Johnny-Come-Latelys, we will avoid the already nominated Academy entries. If it has already been pointed out by Oscar, we will let the Gold One have his glory and simply move on. After all, nothing smacks more of Tinsel Town tonsils to tushy than agreeing on who they feel deserves Best of Year recognition. Secondly, we will try to mine the ENTIRE previous 12 months in film. We won’t skip over efforts from January or March just because most of the cachet pictures wind up playing between November and December. And finally, this isn’t a competition. Other choices may be mentioned, but the SEALS don’t play the nomination game. Either you’re a winner, or you’re not.
So, without further ado, lame jokes from a PC host, or an interpretive dance number based around the choices for Best Song, here are the 2009 SEALS:
The idea sounds hokey, when you think about it. A giant alien monster attacks New York City, and a group of spoiled 20-something yuppsters capture the whole thing on a handheld video camera. It’s like The Blair Witch Project
mixed with Godzilla
. But thanks to the production input of overseer J.J. Abrams, the brilliant direction of Matt Reeves, and the amazing CG work that turns the Big Apple into an even bigger catastrophe, we buy every intense minute. Certainly you can nitpick the notion of an escaping group of friends playing everything to the camera, but the rollercoaster results definitely speak for themselves.
Michel Gondry - (Be Kind, Rewind)
Of all the filmmakers in 2009, Gondry had the hardest job (well, perhaps second to Matt Reeves making a monster attack on Manhattan seem viable and believable). He had to take well known works of modern pop culture memory - RoboCop
, Driving Miss Daisy
- and covert them into the surreal “Sweded” versions within his masterful love letter to the VCR. Then he had to balance those obvious spoofs with the story featuring a sense of community and shared cinematic sentiment. He even managed to make both Jack Black and Mos Def loveable and lamentable at the same time. He definitely earned his accolades on this one.
Jason Segal - (Forgetting Sarah Marshall)
It’s always hard to strike out on your own, especially when you’ve been successful as one of the ‘FoA’ (Friends of Apatow). But with Sarah Marshall
, Segal suggests that he’s always been an original comic voice just waiting for a chance to be showcased. He’s remarkable in this role, literally baring it all to play a decent guy dumped by a demanded, TV star diva. We definitely feel Peter’s pain as he goes through the breakup, making his eventual hook-up with hotel clerk Rachel that much more satisfying. And then there’s the amazing finale featuring a puppet opera take on Dracula? With Segal singing? Priceless.
Elizabeth Banks - (Zack and Miri Make a Porno)
Banks was the “It” girl of the last 16 months. She was in Fred Claus
, Definitely, Maybe
, Meet Dave
, Role Models
, and The Uninvited
. But none of these roles captured her true performance personality and outer/inner beauty better than her turn as Miriam “Stinky” Linky. Her no BS approach to life matched effortlessly with an ever-present vulnerability, and the look on her face during her love scene with co-star Seth Rogen is enough to break one’s tragic, tender ticker. Miri makes for the ultimate gal pal - sexy, smart, sensible, spontaneous, spirited, and oh so very special…kind of like Banks herself.
Craig Robinson - (Zack and Miri Make a Porno)
Best Supporting Actor
In a movie filled with funny people, in a narrative that needs both an audience window and a sense of streetwise sense, Robinson fulfills all roles - and then many, many more. He gets many of writer/director Kevin Smith’s best lines (“Her name’s Bubbles.”) while maintaining the kind of cautious perspective that give the narrative its zing. His domestic scenes with costar Tisha Campbell-Martin are sensational, encompassing everything we need to know about Delaney in five minutes of ferocious infighting. With equally great work in The Pineapple Express
, this was definitely Robinson’s year.
Rosario Dawson - (Seven Pounds)
Best Supporting Actress
Granted, some may see her as the co-star in this Will Smith weeper, but by applying the proper definition to the term ‘supporting’, we can see that Dawson both determined and defied description here. She’s the heart and soul of a film that’s supposed to feature its far more famous leading man, and she carries us through the convolutions that turn the story from sentimental to almost indecipherable. As an example of sexy seriousness or serious sexiness, she’s both eye candy and a strong emotional core - and that’s the perfect complement to an often confusing drama.
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg - (The Pineapple Express)
The stoner comedy needed a cleverer comeback. Harold and Kumar just weren’t going to make it. Leave it to the Apatow crew to reinvent the genre while brining something new - read: action-packed firepower and crime thrills - to the mix. Director David Gordon Green, best known for his slow ensemble dramas like Snow Angels
and All the Real Girls
steps up and redefines his career with his work here. But its Rogen and Goldberg, last seen giving Superbad
it’s profane polish that deserve the most credit. They managed to find a way to make both the weed and ass kicking work and work well.
Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired
While his latest bid to throw out the warrant against him has so far failed, the famed Polish director still has this movie to vindicate his cause. No, Polanski doesn’t deny having sex with an underage girl (he does claim it was consensual). His problem lies with the judicial system of ‘70s California, a cabal conspiring to teach the famous - and infamous - a legal lesson they wouldn’t soon forget. With the help of a media that actually insinuated Polanski bared some blame for the death of his wife Sharon Tate at the hands of the Manson clan, we witness justice perverted for the sake of personal fame.
Best Animated Film
In the feast or famine arena of animation, you’re either on your way to Oscar Gold (Bolt
, Kung Fu Panda
, Waltz with Bashir
) or scraping the part of the bottom of the barrel where fellow films like Space Chimps
and Fly Me to the Moon
lie. That makes picking a decent title here rather tough. Igor
, however, definitely eases said pain. It’s a peculiar little effort, part Mad Monster Party
, part standard CG effort. Thanks to the character design and voice acting, we forgive most of the flaws. And when compared to crap like Delgo
and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
, it’s positively inspired.
Let the Right One In
Best Foreign Film
Something is definitely wrong with the Swedes. Instead of picking what it perhaps the best vampire film of the last three decades as their official Oscar selection, they go with some nepotistic choice from a filmmaker last acknowledged by the Academy for 1971’s The Emigrants
. Huh? Anyway, this brilliant little effort, taking the entire bloodsucking mythos and boiling it down to a story about the struggles of adolescence is ten times more moving than most horror films and about a billion times more inventive than that sloppy tween-romance shite known as Twilight
. If you want good foreign fright, this is the movie to see.
Best Guilty Pleasure
Samuel L. Jackson in full Nazi regalia! Scarlett Johannsson as a half serious, half sketch comedy creation, providing the perfect real world balance to the visual’s overreaching hypereality. Frank Miller pulling out all the stops as he tries to mimic the work of others who’ve better interpreted his neo-noir graphic novels. This and many more reasons make the update of Will Eisner’s comic strip crime fighter a true culpable delight. Better than “so bad, it’s good”, this is the kind of filmed failure that’s so unbridled in its desire to drop dead and implode that, instead, it becomes a kind of crazed masterwork.