gARTh's 2009 Movie Awards


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Beginning in 2008, the winners were chosen by user voting via Myspace and Facebook, with the exception of in a few categories added later. These are marked with an *.

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Kathryn Bigelow - The Hurt Locker

Jeff Bridges - Crazy Heart

Meryl Streep - Julie & Julia

Supporting Actor:
Christoph Waltz - Inglourious Basterds

Supporting Actress:
Mo'Nique - Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Adapted Screenplay:
Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner - Up in the Air

Original Screenplay:
Quentin Tarantino - Inglourious Basterds

District 9


Sherlock Holmes

Art Direction:

Costume Design:

Star Trek

Visual Effects:

Sound Mixing:

Music - Original Score:
Michael Giacchino - Up

Music - Original Song:
Karen O and the Kids - "All Is Love" - Where the Wild Things Are

Music - Use of Previously Recorded Song; Feature:
Metallica - "For Whom the Bell Tolls" - Zombieland

Music - Use of Previously Recorded Song; Trailer:
Nine Inch Nails - "The Day the World Went Away" - Terminator: Salvation

Animated Feature Film:

Documentary Feature Film:
The Cove

Foreign Language Film:
The White Ribbon (Das weisse Band - Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte) - Germany

Animated Performance:
Ed Asner - Up

Villainous Performance:
Christoph Waltz - Inglourious Basterds

Comedic Performance:
Zach Galifanakis - The Hangover

Cameo / Bit-Part Performance:
Bill Murray - Zombieland

Breakthrough Performance:
Sharlto Copley - District 9

Breakthrough Filmmaker:
Neill Blomkamp - District 9

Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds - Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) visits the farm of Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet).

(500) Days of Summer - "I don't know how to tell you this, but... there's a Chinese family in our bathroom."

The Men Who Stare at Goats - "No goats. No glory."

Poster Art: (select link to view)
A Christmas Carol (One Sheet 6)

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*Most Underrated Film:

Films that did not receive a wide release, were unsuccessful at the box office, were not nominated for any major awards or receive acclaim at any major film festivals, and were generally unknown to most audiences at the time of their release... but were well-liked by most critics and audiences that did happen to see them.

The Brothers Bloom - Written and Directed by Rian Johnson.

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Special Achievement Award:

James Cameron's Avatar

The idea, in some form or other, for the groundbreaking film Avatar lay dormant inside the head of director James Cameron since he was a child. In 1994 he wrote a treatment, outlying a basic story and characters. After his Oscar-winning 1997 feature Titanic, work was begun on Avatar for a 1999 release. Quickly, the director realized that the technology in which he wanted to create the world of Pandora and its inhabitants simply did not exist, and he spent the next decade helping to create that technology. From new techniques to better capture an actor's expression through "mo-cap," to creating new cameras that would yield more depth and higher resolutions than ever before, not to mention his work with digital 3D and the numerous computer effects leaps his Digital Domain effects house, among others, have made, Cameron was on his way to not only realizing his vision for a science-fiction epic, but changing the way films are made in Hollywood. If you doubt that the film's impact is that far-reaching, know that many of these technologies have been in practice for years by other filmmakers, effects houses, etc. as they've been developed. But only Avatar would show just how far the imagination-envelope could be pushed, and how beautifully realized it could be.

Production began in 2006, (although by this time much had already been filmed), with principle actors filming in New Zealand and around Los Angeles. Relatively unknown actors Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana, whose film credits had not been star-making at this point, were cast as the leads. Supporting them would be stars Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Wes Studi, Stephen Lang and C.C.H. Pounder among others, with literally thousands of people working on the production. Almost four grueling years later, the film was ready to be unveiled. An epic science-fiction-action-romance that would blow all the competition away.

While the film will be most remembered for its game-changing visuals, the effects are not the only thing to be praised here. The plot, while some may find it contrived and simplistic, is actually a multi-layered story about a vast number of things presented as a timeless tale of boy-meets-girl. The most obvious is the story on the surface, of the grim machine-filled world of man invading the peaceful natural world of the Na'vi tribe. But there's more to it than that, if one were so inclined to look deeper; for example, the allusions to Hinduism, where the term 'avatar' originated. James Cameron and Dr. Paul Frommer, linguist and Director of the Center for Management Communications at USC, developed around 1,000 words of the Na'vi language, some based on pronunciations found in Ethiopia or the in New Zealand Maori, others created out of thin air. The actors in turn had to learn to speak, convincingly, a fictitious language. Then there's Pandora itself. Not just a backdrop, but a full ecological system, inhabited by creatures, plant life, and the jokingly-named element "unobtanium" that causes all the fuss in the first place. All of these things don't just make for an entertaining film, they are all linked by the fact that they were developed, down to the last detail, to fully immerse the viewer into another world. Pandora is now a real place, just as much as Tolkien's Middle-Earth, with its own past, present, and future.

The actors are as much to praise as Cameron, for it is their brave performances that help audiences connect with a film inhabited by mostly computer generated characters, creatures, and environments. Sam Worthington's dual turn as the wheel-chair bound soldier Jake and his avatar-likeness truly holds Cameron's story on its shoulders. Zoe Saldana turns in an equally important turn as the Na'vi princess Neytiri. Without her performance shining above and beyond the technology that provides the visual, audiences would not feel her pain for her people and be swept away by her growing feelings for Jake. It is a testament to these two above all others that Cameron's vision was such a success. Also of note is the sweeping dramatic score by veteran composer James Horner (honored for his work on Cameron's Titanic and Aliens), who brings a sense of hope in the face of doom, splendor in the face of devastation, and love in the face of war.

James Cameron has always been the sort of director that delivers entertaining films. They always push the limits of what a film can do, technologically and otherwise. However, for the first time, there's an actual message beneath the action and behind the beauty. So, for all it's technological breakthroughs and visual wonders, for all its adrenaline-pumping and awe-inspiring spectacle, Avatar becomes a full-on experience by being somewhat important, as well. Something that, after the lights have come up and you find yourself at home in your life, you can take with you.

1 comment:

  1. ARRRGGGHH!!!! GIVE ME INGLORIOUS BASTERDS ANYDAY OVER AVATAR!!!!!!!!!! It truly was the first James Cameron film since Piranha II that left me unimpressed. the visuals were mind blowing. The writing should have been laughed off the screen in a year where Tarantino presented another masterpiece. Still, your writing was beautiful on the subject. Love reading your work brother!