Sitting down for a brutal year in review session is an annual thing here at Cinema Blend. You've no doubt seen some of our 2008 wrap up already happening on the site, and there's more to come. But this is the big kahuna, the blue whale of our 2008 adios party if you will. Every year the CB movies editors meet up and talk about what we liked best about the past year. The result is what you see here, The CB Awards.
For this year's discussion Film Editor Rafe Telsch, Managing Editor Katey Rich, and me, that bearded guy with the glasses got together over fondue. At least I think it was fondue. I know there were sharp sticks involved. There surrounded by fountains of cheese and pointy things we uncovered Rafe's talent for flaming jazz flute along with the truth about the movies of 2008. What is it? We can't agree on anything. Here they are, the 2008 CB Awards which, as usual, almost certainly won't ever get around to actually awarding anything.
JOSH: Why do we even have this category? I thought we settled this in our top tens. Well if you read my top ten then you'd know the best movie of the year is The Dark Knight. Here's why: It has Batman. It also has the Joker. And anyone who says different is Jim Emerson. Come on, it's a no-brainer. Don't give me that WALL-E noise, it's a movie about a trash compactor! He can't even talk. Slumdog Millionaire? If I want to watch little kids rob people I'll stand on a street corner and jingle the change in my pockets. We're in a recession after all people. Watch your wallets and hope that the next time some unemployed stockbroker tries to mug you Batman will be there to swoop down and pull your chestnuts out of the fire.
RAFE: We have this category because not everyone reads our lists. And... well, because we have to have it. What sort of awards would this be without a Best Movie? Jeez, Josh, we have to have some sort of standard to go by. If nothing else, consider it another opportunity to talk about how awesome The Dark Knight is. It's not just a comic book movie, it's a piece of cinematic art, ripe for critical analysis on just about every level. Christopher Nolan caught people's attention with Batman Begins, but here he raises the stakes with a movie that has 60 years of history behind it, yet I didn't mind in the least when it looked like Nolan was going to push that aside to make this his own work. It's just that good. Forget about the fact that it has Batman. It's just incredible storytelling through and through.
KATEY: Well, Josh, I'm open-minded enough to be able to pick two Best Movies, just for the sake of variety. Wall-E tops my Top Ten, but for a more traditional pick I'm going for Milk, which is more than just a just-gay-enough performance by Sean Penn and an unintentional Obama metaphor. It's also cute boys making out! Just kidding. It's a lyrical, emotional and poignant biopic that looks great... and I don't just mean James Franco in tight jeans.
RAFE: Most of the actors who have gotten a lot of acclaim this year are in movies I haven't seen yet: The Wrestler, Milk, etc. So I'm going with the performance that stood out the most to me, which is (hands down) Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. I'm not giving the award to Ledger because he died or because I feel bad for his family. I'm giving it to him because he honestly deserves it. In a trade where looks are everything, Ledger disappeared completely into a madman - mind, body, and spirit. It's hard to see the actor underneath the character, and that's the way this industry should be. My only regret with awarding this to Ledger is that he won't be around to collect a second one.
KATEY: Nice try, Rafe, picking the dead guy so none of us can argue with you. I'm hard-pressed to point out anything bad about Ledger, but for me the performance of the year was Leonardo DiCaprio in Revolutionary Road. Hiding behind nothing, not accents or costumes or makeup and scars, his Frank Wheeler is one raw, exposed nerve, struggling to keep up with the strict rules for 1950s American men. He's never used that baby face and reedy voice better, playing macho but truly wounded by his constant battles with his wife (Kate Winslet). It's a perfect grown-up role at last, and further evidence that DiCaprio just gets better with age.
JOSH: Leo in Revolutionary Road? I can't think of another performance that did less for me. It seemed a lot like his Howard Hughes character in The Aviator, minus the boxes of Kleenex on his feet. Rafe is dead on here. I've seen all of those movies he hasn't seen and I don't care whether or not Heath Ledger is dead, his is still by far the best performance in anything anywhere this year. Trust me, I was ready to hate it, ready to call corpse lickers on anyone praising him but dammit… they're right. Ledger is amazing. It's not hype, it's not post-coffin stress disorder. He's just that good.
KATEY: I think Rafe and Josh stuck me with kicking off the Best Actress section because I'm a girl, and I guess I should be offended by that. But maybe I'm revealing a gender bias in having such a hard time choosing a performance here, when so many talented actresses did really, really amazing work this year. Even when their movies weren't all that, so many women commanded the screen in a way that's usually left to the guys. But here's my chance to talk up a performance not many others are, and that's Michelle Williams in Wendy and Lucy, a tiny indie that rests entirely on her fragile, overburdened shoulders. As a woman trying, and failing, to find her place in the world, Williams is wide open and wonderful, giving the kind of quietly devastating performance that doesn't win Oscars, but sears its way into your heart.
RAFE: Oh, you're wrong Katey. If we gave you a role because you're a girl it would have been cooking our CB Awards dinner instead of letting Josh take us to such a luxurious locale. Actually, I had nothing to do with who started what category this year, so maybe Josh is being sexist. Is it sexist of me to say that I know I missed most of the highly acclaimed performances by women this year? Most of the movies that are garnering the most attention haven't come out on DVD yet, and I missed them in theaters. I'm going to toss this one to Julianne Moore for her work in Blindness... either that or her uncredited vocal work in Eagle Eye. Heck, she's almost eligible for our Samuel L. Jackson Award of Excellence this year. Is it sexist that we didn't give it to her?
JOSH: Seriously Katey, crying sexism for being assigned the Best Actress category is unfair. Now crying sexism because I assigned you a pink font… you might have a case there. Or maybe I just like pink. It's the color of my fuzzy slippers. I'm torn on this category though. I really loved Michelle Williams in Wendy & Lucy, but I guess I have to go with Meryl Streep in Doubt for her work as nun-Columbo.
KATEY: It's hard to miss Fred Willard in Wall-E, given that he's the only human in the whole thing, but his presence in the year's best movie is so simultaneously lighthearted, sardonic, and tragically serious that his bit part becomes one of the keys to the film. At the start he's a funny, smarmy politician type, maybe even a sly jab at the Bush administration, as he shows up in centuries-old billboards exhorting absent humans to buy buy buy! But when he gives the instructions to the Axiom to return to earth, and then not to return after all, he's a sobering reminder of the planet's destruction, and how far the people on the Axiom are from actual humans. Plus, he's Fred Willard-- welcome anywhere, but that goes double for the end of the world.
JOSH: Fred Willard was in the year's best movie? I had no idea he was in The Dark Knight! I guess I blinked and I missed it. So I'll have to go with Tyler Labine in Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Who the heck is Tyler Labine? He plays “Sock” on TV's Reaper and in Zack and Miri randomly walks into a scene to play a drunk guy who interrupts shooting. It's one of the funniest moments in an already very funny movie, and he pulls it off in under sixty seconds.
RAFE: Hmmm, I must have blinked because I really don't remember any cameos that stood out to me this year, even though I liked the idea of this award. So instead of giving it to a person, I'm declaring the Best Cameo was by Captain America's shield in Iron Man. The brief appearance really was a "blink and you'll miss it" moment, which I had to go back and watch for specifically a third time on DVD before I saw it. If inanimate objects aren't your cup of tea, then how about Samuel L. Jackson in the same movie, for his post-credit appearance as Nick Fury. The main reason the shield gets it above Jackson for me is because everyone on the Internet knew about Fury's appearance, but the shield surprised us all.
RAFE: A couple of years ago I gave Josh a hard time for picking an entire movie as his selection for this award. Now I'm stealing his idea and using it as my own. There were a lot of really nice visual effects this year, but one little robot stands above it all - Wall-E. Pixar really outdid themselves with their latest creation, challenged even farther by having to make the character communicate almost solely through squeaks, bleeps, and movement. Sure, I keep Wall-E's voice on my cell phone as my ringtone, but it's not his voice that makes the movie compelling - it's the visuals, from the way Wall-E carries himself throughout, to his expressive little eyes. Somehow, through the use of its visuals, Pixar manages to give their creation a soul deeper than a lot of live-action actors, and that deserves notice.
KATEY: I love Wall-E-- seriously, love Wall-E-- but no single moment in film thrilled me more this year that the one-two punch of Batman flipping the semi-truck, then rounding off the wall in the Batpod. It was such a "Holy shit!" moment that it drew gasps all three times I saw it in theaters. And half of it, the truck flip, was done without CGI at all. Now that's spectacular.
JOSH: I guess this explains why Rafe walked in wearing one of my old Hockey jerseys. I thought it was a little strange that we'd both own a Red Wings jersey with “Tyler” on the back. I didn't even know he liked the Red Wings. Since he's stealing all of my best bits (What's next Rafe? Irresponsible drinking? Expressing pent-up sexism through pink fonts?), I guess I'll have to agree with Katey. That Batpod flip really was eye-popping. Plus the guy who made it happen actually posts on our forums. Support your own I say! Batpod. Best effect. Yeah. Copy that Telsch.
JOSH: There are a number of movies I wish belonged on this list, because being on it would at least mean the filmmaker responsible hasn't sunk so low that we expect nothing of him. It would be nice for instance, to throw The Happening on here, since it'd mean before the movie's release there was at least some glimmer of talent left in Shyamalan. Or boy do I wish I could put The Love Guru down. Mike Myers was so great once, it's sad to think he's sunk so low that now we all simply expect him to suck. So instead of those truly horrendous movies I'm going with Pineapple Express. Sure it wasn't terrible, but it wasn't nearly as funny as the trailers promised either. And what the heck happened to the soundtrack between the advertisements and the actual movie? They milked that Paper Planes song in the ads for everything it was worth, and it was brilliant. In the film, no Paper Planes and no definitive, decent soundtrack to speak of. This is a movie that couldn't even deliver on the music it promised, let alone the kind of hilarious comedy we'd expect from a stoner buddy comedy starring James Franco and Seth Rogen. Seriously guys, what the fuck?
KATEY: Pineapple Express may have had its faults, but it was consistently funny and entertaining, which is way more than we can say for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I know we've bashed the nuke the fridge moment too many times by now, but seriously guys, what the fuck? Who greenlit that idea, then decided the swinging monkeys and "Knowledge was their treasure" was a valuable addition as well? Did it never occur to anyone that, since they were dealing with an aged and decrepit hero, they might not want to mess with a good thing? I never thought anything would be more annoying that Kate Capshaw being lowered into the pit by the eeeeeeevil Indians, but Shia LaBeouf getting whacked in the crotch in the jungle is burned into my brain for all time. Thanks for nothing, Lucas.
RAFE: I guess I'm the only one who actually had hope that Star Wars: The Clone Wars or The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor would be any good, because I was disappointed by them both. Of the two, The Mummy was probably the more disappointing, if only because I had already heard how horrible Clone Wars was looking by the time the movie hit the screen. Brendan Fraser would have been better off staying out of the pool for this third chapter of his franchise. As a stand-alone picture it might not have been bad, but attempting to tie it to the previous movies wound up being the worst thing for the picture, resulting in a truly disappointing product.
KATEY: 2008 didn't offer as many sequels and threequels as 2007 did, but even so, the choice here is a total no-brainer. Not only was The Dark Knight the best sequel imaginable for the already-great Batman Begins, but it's the best achievement in superhero movies yet, proof that a man in a cape and tights can exist in a realistic, terribly familiar world. There has been a lot written about The Dark Knight already, and there's surely more to come, but the basic fact is that Batman and company struck a nerve this year, both here and abroad, and that alone makes it the year's most important movie-- yes, even more than my beloved Wall-E. You can't blame Christopher Nolan for dragging feet on the third one-- I'm not sure I'd want follow this up either.
RAFE: This year this category is redundant. By saying The Dark Knight is the best picture of the year, it naturally has to be the best franchise extension. It's not like Batman had much competition though, especially since the other promising franchise chapters are listed in my Disappointing Film answer above. Rack up another award for The Dark Knight - too bad it's unlikely any real awards will be as gracious toward Nolan's opus.
JOSH: This is probably the spot where I should buck the trend and go with Sex and the City: The Movie just to prove I'm not a total sexist who forces his female employees to type in pink fonts. But I'm not going to do that. Instead I'm going with Hamlet 2, because somebody finally figured out a way to keep that bastard Shakespeare from being so boring. Besides, how many other sequels do you know of which have successfully added in both Jesus and a time machine all in one fell swoop? Does The Dark Knight have a rocking musical number you can sign aloud at Christmas parties as a way of offending your relatives? I don't think so. Rock me sexy Jesus! Oh who the hell am I kidding, we all know it's The Dark Knight.
Given to the actor who appeared in the most awesome films this year. It's all about quantity.
RAFE: This award is given to the actor or actress who appeared in enough roles (and quality roles) to separate themselves from the other categories. This year Sammy J. only put in a few appearances, so we're handing the Award of Excellence off to Robert Downey Jr., who racked up five credits on IMDb in 2008 (although technically that's only from two parts - three if you count what he did in Tropic Thunder as two separate parts). Sure, it's not as prolific a year as Jackson himself had, but quality has to count for something.
So which role earns Downey Jr. the distinction in my mind? No doubt about it - Kirk Lazarus from Tropic Thunder. Much like I said about Ledger above, RDJ disappears completely into his role. In fact, he disappears so thoroughly into Lazarus, who transforms so completely into his character, Sergeant Osiris that there's no trace of Downey in the movie. When the actor breaks down and starts losing control, it's Lazarus, not Downey that we see. Honestly, the role is so transformative that I have to wonder whether Downey even really put in any time on this movie other than promoting it, because his face and voice are barely recognizable in the movie.
KATEY: I loved Kirk Lazarus, Australian accent and Jeffersons theme song and all, but I think we can all agree that Iron Man was the superior of Downey Jr.'s two movies. And even then, that movie could have died had Downey Jr. not been such a thrill to watch, even when his head was just bobbling around inside the Iron Man suit and he had nothing to act with but a camera jammed right in his face. Iron Man is probably the easiest acting gig Downey Jr. has ever had, just coasting on his natural charisma, but I have no problem with that. He's day to Batman's night, and thank God we've got them both.
JOSH: I'm not sure whether Iron Man is the better RDJ movie this year, but I do know that Tropic Thunder had the most RDJ characters. This award is all about quantity and Tropic Thunder had so many different shades of Robert Downey I'm still trying to figure it all out. Come on, he's the dude disguised as a dude playin another dude! Sam Jackson would approve. I don't know why he would approve, I just generally assume he approves of anything which is intrinsically awesome. He's Sam.
For more of Cinema Blend's BEST OF 2008 click HERE.
Check out the winner of this year's Flaming Hobbit Award!