Film

The 2010 SEALS - Short Ends and Leader's Annual Film Awards

Like the current Academy Awards that decided to revamp its format this year and include 10 choices for Best Picture, our annual Shorts Ends and Leader acknowledgements - or the SEALS, for short - has undergone a bit of a make-over as well. No, we still don't look at the actual Oscar nominees for guidance. We figure that once these movies have made it into mainstream recognition, they no longer need our support. So instead, we only choose movies and moviemakers who didn't manage a ticket to the Kodak Theater on 7 March. We also maintain our own exclusive category - Best Guilty Pleasure - as well as look well beyond the last minute awards season snowballing to find many of our winners. Finally, we don't grouse at success. You don't have to be a box office nonentity to earn our attention around here. In fact, we kind of like your motion picture pot luck success.

But we have tried to be a bit more pragmatic this year. It's hard not to be when a bunch of Hollywood backslappers steal most of your potential thunder. In any other year, we'd be touting the wonders of District 9 or A Serious Man. But since the Academy let these titles into the formerly exclusive Best Picture party, we have to step back and think outside the standard cinematic box. Still, many of you won't agree with most of our choices, forgetting our "no nominee" mandate from a paragraph ago and acting annoyed when your favorite film - In the Loop, Avatar - isn't mentioned. Perhaps the best way to look at The SEALS is as an alternative's alternative, a last gasp wrap up of the year in film before the next massive marketing onslaught starts. In any case, here are the winners for 2010, beginning with:

Antichrist

Best Film

Audacity is in short supply among today's current cinema. Moviemaking, even on the highest of awards season levels, is all about playing it safe while occasionally taking some demographically determined risks. Look over the 10 films selected by the Academy for its first post-millennial plea for ratings. Are any of them as out of this world weird and anarchically ballsy as this Lars Von Trier thriller? With stellar performances from Willem Dafoe and an unfairly robbed Charlotte Gainsbourg (seriously, she deserves a nomination over at least half of the current Oscar crop), this visually stunning work remains one of 2009's most brazen achievements. Chaos reigns indeed.

JJ Abrams

Best Director - Star Trek

It’s still amazing what he managed to accomplish here. Given his track record as a filmmaker (Mission: Impossible III???) and the overall expectations of the fan base, any level of success for a Star Trek reboot would seem like a victory. That the man who mentored Lost into one of TV's consistently compelling entertainments found a way to revitalize both the feel good blockbuster and the sagging fortunes of Roddenberry's baby is cause for massive celebration. Thirty years ago, fans were foaming over George Lucas and Star Wars. In the next decade, it will be Abrams and the latest Trek that gets geeks going.

Nicolas Cage

Best Actor - The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Maybe it's supposed to be a goof. Perhaps no one could team up with the half-crazed humanist Werner Herzog and deliver a performance of subtlety and nuance. Cage's bad lieutenant take is over the top, in your face, and shameless in its desire to confront and confuse. It's also leaps and bounds better than all the semi-serious seat-shifting caused by the current list of gold statue wannabes. In truth, you can take every performance this year and put it up against Cage's condemnation of a couple of old ladies in a nursing home and not find a better, more stunning onscreen epiphany.

Maya Rudolph

Best Actress - Away We Go

It's hard to be the Earth mother center of a slightly new-aged look at pregnancy, especially with Hollywood's longstanding bias toward making biology the cloying cure-all for most of society's woes. But thanks to the man behind the camera - the unfairly marginalized Sam Mendes - and a sunny script from novelist Dave Eggers and his partner Vendela Vida, the former SNL star simply beams here. Rudolph is the ballast for this often clichéd and contrite attempt to put parenting into post-modern terms. She keeps everything in focus, bringing a sexuality and sensibility that few around her share, but all readily warm to.

Jackie Earle Haley

Best Supporting Actor - Watchmen

It was hard enough bringing Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' iconic graphic novel to the big screen. Even more difficult was the numerous casting decisions that had to be made, considering how beloved (and mythic) many of the characters were. So Zack Snyder earns a billion brownie points for picking this former Bad News child star as Rorschach, the complicated narrative's marauding amoral compass. In a performance filled with masterful moments, none are better than when, confronted with his true identity, our antihero explains the events that lead to the "death" of his real persona. The pain in Haley's eyes is so powerful it nearly pierces your heart.

Zoe Saldana

Best Supporting Actress - Avatar

Stop it, right now. We know that almost 100% of this turn is tricked out in a computer, but motion capture has to have something to base its bitmap actions and reactions on, and no one did a better job than this emerging star. Ms. Saldana makes us believe in the Na'Vi and her earnest warrior/guide Neytiri. Even better, she finds the right balance between big budget F/X spectacle and personal approach to guarantee that we never get lost in the dizzying 3D dynamic. Of all the work done to bring this story to life, Ms. Saldana is the most important element in keeping the fantasy "real", so to speak.

Greg Mottola

Best Script - Adventureland

When you think about it, this movie shouldn't have worked. Instead of focusing on raunchy high school antics and gross out gags, Mottola (most famous for helming Superbad) went for depth and emotion. Instead of casting hot Hollywood post-tween Twilighters, he went for Jesse Eisenberg and…well, a few other unusual choices. The result was one of the most heartfelt and flawlessly observant looks at what it was like to be a young adult in the mid '80s ever. Not only is the humor warm and witty, but the rest of the narrative and timeline nods are equally pristine. Not just nostalgic, but knowing.

Anvil: The Story of Anvil

Best Documentary

Apparently, Oscar doesn't do "feel good" when it comes to documentaries. It also doesn't "get" heavy metal music, or the men who make it. This masterful example of perseverance and the bonds of friendship didn't even make the original Academy short list, let alone find a way toward a nomination - and that's a crime. This remains 2009's finest fact film, a rollercoaster of failures and unfulfilled wishes that continues to play out in real life (the group is currently touring the US to sold-out audiences). While the little gold statue will eventually go to some goody two-shoes, this doc earns its far finer rock and roll spoils.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Best Animated Feature

They can blame The Secret of Kells. While the Irish indie darling stole this film's potential Academy thunder, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller can take pride in knowing that they created one of the funniest, freshest CG films of this or any other year. Right up there with Pixar's best, this sunny, inventive effort does so many things right that it would take some backwards Oscar politicking fluke to find it on the outside looking in. While it's hard to imagine it could dethrone the current House of Mouse cartoon kings, this remains one of the year's biggest - and best - surprises.

Dead Snow

Best Foreign Film

This was TOUGH. Truthfully, the sly and quite subversive White Ribbon is this year's best foreign film. Period. But in staying with our "no nominees" format, we can't champion it. Therefore, we have to look beyond the usual international suspects and pursue alternative subtitled fare. The answer? NAZI ZOMBIES, or course. The minute one learns that this film focuses on a group of stranded vacationers surrounded by reanimated members of the Third Reich, all manner of exploitative schlock possibilities are trigger - and for the most part, this Norwegian horror romp delivers. While Michael Haenke deserves Oscar gold, this crazy little creepfest deserves some surreal scary movie recognition of its own.

2012

Best Guilty Pleasure

For those of us who grew up in the '70s, the disaster film was our pre-Spielberg big ticket item. We couldn't wait to see what Irwin Allen had for us next, be it an earthquake, a towering inferno, or a capsized cruise ship. Leave it to German genius Roland Emmerich to take all three conceits and inflate them with the latest cinematic air hose, CG, into something truly unhinged. The destruction (and sinking!!!) of Los Angeles is just one of dozens of definitive action/catastrophes that will blown away your peanut-sized mind. Sure, things slow down toward the end, but when you've wiped out most of humanity, there's not much more that you can do.

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.