Once Upon a Time in the 80s- Special Effects (Part 3 of 17)

Note: This is a recapitulation of a paper I wrote in film school. It will be published here in installments. This is part three you can read part one here and part two here.

The 1980s were marked by the emergence of the computer into mainstream American culture. The increasing accessibility and availability of this tool made its impact on the entertainment industry in a very powerful way. In 1984 one of the most famous commercials of the year was Apple Computer’s ‘Big Brother’ a play on Orwell’s 1984. While unlike the 90s where computers would soon come to reside in well over half of America’s households, and the science fiction aspect and the improbability of the device was demolished; they were becoming a much more practical tool.

The key in revolutionizing computerized effect lay with one man. In 1977 George Lucas formed Industrial Light and Magic to create the effects for Star Wars. Working out of Marina County California his company soon started to work on effects for many films. Their first heavy volume of releases was in 1985 with Back to the Future, Cocoon, Explorers, The Goonies and Young Sherlock Holmes which with ‘The Stained Glass Man’ had the first fully computer generated character. The rest was history in 1986 comes Aliens which took the computer generated character to the next level and it’s been an ongoing game of “Can You Top This?” ever since.

The fact that the special effects craze came about in the late 70s and grew exponentially in the 80s is like kismet. This was a decade that was jam-packed with action films but also had an abundance of fantasy films still around. This new technology opened up possibilities for narrative never before seen and they were used, for example, a journey inside a human body in Innerspace. The kind of film that was in demand with the American public was also the kind of film that was well-suited to the new special effects technology.

Before the apathetic generation-x-ridden 90s when films of social dementia disguised as poetry like American Beauty would run amuck, the 80s was a decade riddled with myth and fantasy, here’s a sample: The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, The Neverending Story, Legend, Dark Crystal, Back to the Future, Flight of the Navigator and so on. Escapism being a large part of the cinematic formula coupled with the youthful audience allowed for these advances and this type of storytelling which is only recently beginning to creep back into being.

The shift away from fantastical storytelling that occurred in the mid-90s and lasted until about 1999 in a way has impeded the progress of CGI. While in some films it blends in perfectly and is breathtaking in others it sticks out like a sore thumb. Sure, there are films and studios that will be cheap, but had there been more constant works the floor of marginally acceptable CGI would’ve risen. The man who is always breaking the glass ceiling of CGI excellence is George Lucas, and he says he tries to push other directors with every film he does, hopefully people will follow suit.

The computer generated image is one of the few things from the 80s which was expanded upon in the 90s. The technology has some very practical uses such as digital stunts and extras. With this technology the director’s vision can more easily be realized where as if something doesn’t exist the way he sees it can be created. This is one of the 80s lasting legacies. When we’re looking back upon this decade we, of course, can’t forget some of the films that came out of the decade, but we must also remember that filmmaking was forever changed in this decade because ‘Special Effects’ became a term that we could apply to almost every film. A new cinematic tool was beginning to be fully realized and is still being perfected to this very day.

 Footnote and Work Cited:

1. The Empire Strikes Back won an Academy Award for Special Achievement in Special Effects. The following year it was a category at the awards, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Drangonslayer were nominated.

2. Star Wars: Episode II- Attack of the Clones Dir. George Lucas. Feat. Hayden Christiansen, Ewan Macgregor, Natalie Portman, Christopher Lee. 2002, 20th Century Fox. DVD extra features.

In Anticipation Of: Mercy


A large part of why I started this blog, as opposed to continuing at the site I was perviously, was that I wanted to control my content and also if I should choose to be publishing daily I wanted to not necessarily constrain my focus to a particular region or breaking news.

Yes, having access to information is great, and I partook in the internet explosion that occurred when Jurassic Park IV added itself to next summer’s calendar, but I want to focus mostly on things I have seen rather than will see. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and the new Universal/Blumhouse production of Mercy, which starts rolling today, is an exception.


Gramma (Signet)

Mercy is based on a short story by Stephen King. The original story was entitled “Gramma” and was first read by most in his short story collection The Skeleton Crew.

When I heard the news the name of the story didn’t immediately ring a bell. As the casting announcements started coming I decided to revisit it. This time I read it not just to be refreshed on the story but to look at it as an adaptation. I can still mostly keep prose in mind as pure prose (Hitchcock reached a point where he could no longer read for pleasure because he read everything with an eye for adaptation), unless I am consciously adapting it like I did with Suffer the Little Children.

So, how are the elements being prepared for the screen? How good do they look? For the most part they reinforce my positive outlook.

The Story

Now, as is the case with a lot of prose (particularly King’s), a certain amount of externalization will need to take place. Much of the tale takes place in a single location and chronicles the protagonist’s reaction, through inner monologue, to the predicament he finds himself within.

It’s a highly effective narrative, which has potential for great visuals, interesting construction and a lot of tension. In fact, it was brought to the small screen during the short-lived return of The Twilight Zone.

The Screenwriter

Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)

Brought in to adapt the story into a screenplay was Matt Greenberg whose previous credits include Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, The Prophecy 2 and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later as his franchise prolonging starting points, then Reign of Fire; an intriguing installment of Masters of Horror called The Fair-Haired Child, then most importantly 1408, based on King and the upcoming Pet Sematary remake. King projects have been botched enough that track record and pedigree matters; Darabont and Garris usually means a good visual treatment of the tales; Greenberg may as well, if his previous works are any indication.


The Haunting in Connecticut (2009, Lionsgate)

Peter Cornwell has genre experience in a film I happened to like quite a bit, A Haunting in Connecticut. That does lead me to the next point…


Based on the narrative of the story itself this film should be a PG-13 horror movie. I believe a faithful adaptation would make it so. You’d need to amp things up to get it to an R-Rating. I don’t have an issue with that in and of itself, it’s just something I predict.


American Horror Story (2012, FX)

Stephen King, the story and the team (including Blumhouse the production company helming who have had much genre success lately, namely Sinister and the Paranormal Activity series) are enough to make this a movie to anticipate, however, then you get to the cast.

Dylan McDermott is first billed. In recent years he’s not only had a return to prominence, but I’m sure gained many new fans with his very successful forays into the horror genre. Most notably on American Horror Story. I know my appreciation of his work has grown exponentially.

The lead as per King’s text is George, the younger of two brothers, who I presume will be played by Chandler Riggs. Playing Carl Grimes in The Walking Dead is no small feat. You know this to be true whether you’re a fan of the show, graphic novels or both. I read a lot of the books before trying the show and Riggs gives a much more well-rounded interpretation of Carl than I had imagined.

Then there’s Frances O’Connor who I have not seen nearly enough of since I first became of her in Artificial Intelligence: A.I.

Joel Courtney and Chandler Riggs (Joel Courtney/Twitter)

If we are to presume McDermott and O’Connor are the parents and Riggs is the younger sibling, then naturally Joel Courtney (Super 8) would be Buddy, the older brother. If this is to be the case then it would be an interesting change of pace from Courtney‘s appearances thus far. In Super 8 and his guest spot on The Haunting Hour he’s been a dreamer, a bit of nerd, and all-around good kid. However, Buddy, as written from George’s perspective, is your typical older brother maybe a little meaner, a little more antagonistic than most.

Last, but certainly not least when the source material is called “Gramma,” is the grandmother who will be played by Shirley Knight, which is another great choice. It’ll be great to see her in a film like this as opposed to Paul Blart: Mall Cop.


I don’t want to wander into potential spoilerdom. The story, which should give you an idea what the film will sort of be (but don’t judge it on that!), is out there if interested. I also needn’t go into each production department and discuss where else awesomeness can happen, but the potential exists elsewhere also! The more I got into the story and examined in cinematic terms the more exciting a prospect it became. I am definitely looking forward to this one.

BAM Award Winners: Best Editing

This is perhaps the most crucial category to the filmmaking process that was absent from these awards for a large period of time. However, until one edits, learns to edit both in theory and in practice it is very difficult to start to interpret the edit of a film. The editing choice ultimately is always an aesthetic choice because the technical aspects, what was removed, how scenes were improved due to judicious cuts or how the whole was bettered by losing a scene or a shot can only truly be evaluated if one has seen all the footage. Nevertheless, it’s here and here to stay. The decision in this category is very difficult year after year. Here are the films that have shown themselves to be the most impressive thus far.

2019 Nicholas Monsour Us

2018 Andrew Wehde Eighth Grade

2017 Jason Ballantine It 

2016 Brett Granato, Maya Mumma, and Ben Sozanski O.J.: Made in America


2015 Margaret Sixel Mad Max: Fury Road


2014 Bernard Beets The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears (2013, Strand Releasing)

2013 Victoria Boydell Broken

Broken (2012, Film Movement)

2012 Joe Bini We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011, Oscilloscope Labs)

2011 Hank Corwin, Jay Rabinowitz, Daniel Rezende, Billy Weber and Mark Yoshikawa The Tree of Life

2010 Trevor Waite Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1983

Red Riding: In The Year of Our Lord (2009, IFC Films)

2009 Mark Day Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

2008 Thomas Alfredson and Daniel Jonsäter Let the Right One In

2007 Chris Dickens Hot Fuzz

2006 Jim Mol The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things

2005 Andy Blumenthal and David Finfer Waiting…


2004 Steven Weisberg Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

2003 Peter Boyle The Hours

BAM Award Winners: Best Score

Below you will find the posters for the winners of the Best Score award at the BAMs. I considered looking for YouTube clips to accompany them but obsessively uploading anything and everything is a new phenomenon and some were hard to find so rather than post some but not all I decided to forgo it. Secondly, the only thing that really needs to be noted, as you can see for yourself the multiple winners, is that somehow in 2008 (when I already posted winners online) I omitted the category. I have no excuse for this but I won’t try to retroactively fix it, it is what it is. It’s things like that which have me more vigilantly listing my considerations.

So here are the past winners in this category:

2019 Michael Abels Us

2018 John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies Halloween

2017 Benjamin Wallfisch It 

2016 Mark Korven The Witch

2015 Tom Holkenborg (Junkie XL) Mad Max: Fury Road

2014 Fons Merkies Finn

2013 Steve Jablonsky Ender’s Game

2012 Mihály Víg The Turin Horse

2011 Michael Giacchino Super 8

2010 David Arnold, The Chronicles of Narnia the Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010, 20th Century Fox)

2009 Carter Burwell and Karen O. Where the Wild Things Are

2008 Not Awarded

2007 Nick Macina August Rush

2006 Patrick Doyle Wah-Wah

2005 Bruno Coulais The Chorus

The Chorus (2004, Nonesuch Records)

2004 Philip Glass Undertow

2003 Philip Glass The Hours

2002 John Williams Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002, 20th Century Fox)

2001 John Williams Artificial Intelligence: A.I.

2000 Thomas Newman Pay it Forward

Pay it Forward (Warner Bros.)

1999 James Newton Howard The Sixth Sense

1998 Antonio Pinto and Jacques Morelebaum Central Station (Central do Brasil)

Central Station (1998, Sony Pictures Classics)

1997 John Williams Jurassic Park: The Lost World

1996 Dick Hyman Everyone Says I Love You

BAM Award Winners: Best Sound Editing/Mixing

I will not purport to be a sound guy, which us quite different than knowing something about it. I did learn it and study it. I have my tastes and know some rules of the game and tricks of the trade. However, I did not include a sound category before I had studied it. It was originally called merely Best Sound Design. If you pay attention at the Oscars you’ll note that Mixing and Editing will usually go to the same film. They are separate and distinct skills and prizes but there is a definite link. I will not pretend that I can split the hairs necessary to sub-divide the category so I will keep it as one. This past year (2010) was when the slash was added to the prize.

2019 Midsommar 

2018 A Quiet Place

2017 Dunkirk

2016 The Jungle Book


2015 Mad Max: Fury Road


2014 The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears (2013, Strand Releasing)

2013 Leviathan

Leviathan (2012, Cinema Guild)

2012 The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black (2012, Hammer Films))

2011 Super 8

2010 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe (2005, Disney)

2009 Avatar

2008 The Spiderwick Chronicles

2007 August Rush

2006 Final Destination 3

Final Destination 3 (2006, New Line Cinema)

2005 Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005, 20th Century Fox)

2004 The Passion of the Christ

The Passion of the Christ (2004, Newmarket Films)

BAM Award Winners: Best (Original) Song

Firstly, the parentheses in the headline are meant to indicate that the winner has not always been a song written specifically for the film. Therefore in some years the word “original” has dropped out of the category heading. However, the qualification is still virtually the same: the song must appear in a film and under a new orchestration. I define orchestration rather loosely meaning someone doing a cover can qualify.

Secondly, I saw a lot of chatter on Twitter during the Oscars indicating that this category should be dropped. Whether or not the Oscars will I don’t know. I doubt it. The Academy has too much tradition and potential production value invested in this category. As for me I’m only really interested in aesthetics and don’t have a show to put on I see no reason to scratch it. I’ve heard no valid argument against its inclusion, many say “Not every film has one” but not every film uses visual effects heavily or is animated or foreign but the categories remain. The ubiquity of an element is helpful but unnecessary. All the songs below are memorable, catchy and capture the essence of the film in which they are contained. And, yes, there is an art to either selecting, placing, orchestrating and/or writing that song so the category will remain.

It’s more prevalent here than elsewhere so I will state it now: TV movies are not excluded from inclusion in the BAMs as a rule so you will find one in here amidst the eclectic mix.

2016 “Turn Up the Beef” Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Atticus Schaffer, and Emma Stone Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

2015 “Svarthamar” Petúr Ben Metalhead


2014 “Prologue: Into the Woods” James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Daniel Huttlestone, Emily Blunt, Christine Baranski, Tammy Blanchard, Lucy Punch, Tracey Ullman, Lilla Crawford, Joanna Riding, Meryl Streep and Stephen Sondheim Into the Woods

Into the Woods (2014, Disney)

2013 Do You Want to Build a Snowman? Kristen Bell, Agatha Lee Monn, Katie Lopez Frozen

Frozen (2013, Disney)

2012 Ricky Koole “You Are the One” Kauwboy

2011 Born to Be Somebody Justin Bieber Justin Bieber: Never Say Never

2010 Never Say Never Justin Bieber (feat. Jaden Smith) The Karate Kid

2009 Quiero que Me Quieras Gael Garcia Bernal Rudo y Cursi

2008 A Capella rendition of Sweet Child O’Mine by Tom Davis, Kathryn Hahn, Lurie Poston and Elizabeth Yozamp in Step Brothers

2007 The New Girl In Town The Cast Hairspray

2006 What I’ve Been Looking For High School Musical

2005 America (Fuck Yeah) Team America: World Police

2004 Vois Sur Ton Chemin The Cast (Soloist: Jean-Baptiste Maunier) Le Choristes

2003 Toi, mon amour mon ami Virginie Ledoyen and Ludivine Sagnier 8 Femmes

BAM Award Winners: Best Costume Design

This is another category that is one of the newer generation. It also took a break in 2008 when lack of notes and laziness lead to a temporary pairing down of awarded categories. At the Academy Awards this category almost invariably goes to a period piece. I tend to try and award either combination fashions or outright fantasy. When the proclivity for period is acknowledged by a winner who uncouthly also adds she’s not giving up her award voting and nomination practices should be re-examined. The bottom line is that Costume Design is so much more than historical accuracy, as every film needs its cast dressed and all choices reflect plot and character.

Without further ado, the winners…

2019 Julian Day Rocketman 

2018 Sandy Powell, Mary Poppins Returns

2017 Wonderstruck

2016 Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children


2015 Mad Max: Fury Road


2014 Colleen Atwood Into the Woods

Into the Woods (2014, Disney)

2013 V8 – Start Your Engines!

V8 - Start Your Engines! (2013, Universal/Rat Pack)

2012 Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas (2012, Warner Bros.)

2011 Hugo

2010 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010, 20th Century Fox)

2009 Where the Wild Things Are

2008 Not Awarded

2007 Bridge to Terabithia

Bridge to Terabithia (2005, Disney)

2006 The Prestige

2005 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

2004 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

2003 Peter Pan

Short Film Saturday: Frosty Man and the BMX Kid

Firstly, welcome to the first short film Saturday of the new year. I wanted to have a new one up last weekend, but amongst other things having all my BAM posts needing to go up, and my Best of the Year in general and horror took out much of my screening time.

However, I do want to try and make up for the loss and will try and get two films up today. The first of which will leverage of the BAM Awards some and features a 2012, James Rolleston (Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Leading Role for Boy).

Frosty Man and the BMX Kid is a very quick, quirky, funny tale featuring some heavy Kiwi accents (so listen close) and a mysterious stranger. This was a finalist in the Your Big Break Competitions run by New Zealand Tourism.

BAM Award Winners: Robert Downey, Jr. Award for Entertainer of the Year

This award is one I will present annually to the actor, writer, director or any combination thereof who has in my estimation the best year. The only real criteria is that they have multiple credits. The credits can be two responsibilities on the same film or more than one film. The idea came to me based on Robert Downey, Jr.’s incredible 2008. He was the first winner and the name stuck.

2019 Tom Holland 

Holland’s appearances as Spider-Man continue to be stellar. One of the litmus tests of my Entertainer of the Year Award are appearances through the year. Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home took care of the spring and summer appearances. At Christmas he leant his impressive voice talent to Spies in Disguise. What about the fall? Well, when it appeared Spider-Man was doomed to cinematic limbo outside the MCU after Disney and Sony couldn’t come to an agreement, he stepped in behind the scenes and helped remedy that situation. It was the kind of movie news needed this year.

2018 Emily Blunt 

Being nominated twice in the same year does not guarantee you the award as the transcendent performer of the year by default. Being as magnetic, wonderful, and bookending the year with A Quiet Place and Mary Poppins Returns made it a cinch.

2017 Stephen King 

If you’ve been to my site over the years it’s not secret that I am a huge fan of Stephen King, and I have sought almost any opportunity I could find to write about him.

Here are some notable instances:

A review of It (1990)
A series on his as-of-yet unadapted works
A series on adaptations of his work focusing mostly on Maximum Overdrive

However, in the BAM Awards as entertainer of the year was not something I foresaw.


Throughout the year I made mental notes of actors and directors who had multiple credits to their name who made their mark through a large swath of the calendar year. I usually like these awards to be like revelations rather than conscious decisions. Once I tried resisting choosing King, I knew he was the only choice.


And I only resisted because picking the creator of source material would be a new frontier, but it is worthy of inclusion. I always cite the author of source material in my nominations on equal footing with the screenwriters.


With it seeming, based on early looks, that King was going to have a very good year, many retrospectives came but the new work showed there are people working now who want to work with his material, and know how to mold it for film.


And it was a very good year for Stephen King, and the BAM Awards were no exception. Films based on his works garnered 30 nominations; including three of five Best Adapted Screenplay nominations.

He also saw two more of his works turned into TV shows Mr. Mercedes and The Mist.


He and his son Owen released the timely novel Sleeping Beauties, and he has a new novel due out this spring; so it’s clear he’s still kicking but his impact on me and many has been long-lasting and will continue, but 2017 cinematically was a standout for highlighting his work, and it’s why he’s the recipient of this prize.

2016 Dwayne Johnson

To say that I never expected when he was making a name for himself in the WWE that I’d one day award Dwayne Johnson anything would be an understatement.

However, with the second season of the HBO show BallersCentral Intelligence, and one of the bigger Gray Area films of the year, Moana.

Johnson has come a long way, but has always seemed a parallel on a higher plain than another honoree on this page.

It was a great year for him, he has three big 2017 films and has become one of the more enjoyable personalities onscreen and one of the few movie stars.

2016 Leonardo DiCaprio

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 22: Actor/activist Leonardo DiCaprio speaks during the Paris Agreement For Climate Change Signing at United Nations on April 22, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

2015  Will Ferrell

Sometimes it’s next to impossible to pick this award and not confuse it with a Lifetime Achievement award. Though the main difference is, even though this is also a body-of-work trophy it’s awarded for a year’s work irrespective of the accomplishments made in prior years.

Yes, Will Ferrell has been at it longer than many of us care to realize right now and I’ve been a fan for quite some time and think he has had very few misses along the way. However, this year there was a lot of stuff, all throughout the year, and it was all hilarious; at least his involvement was.

I like to be inclusive of comedy, and horror, and any other genres the awards generally disregard, so those are just some reasons this funny man is honored this year. Now, for some more specifics about his 2015….

First, there was Get Hard, as with any projects he does with Adam McKay behind the scenes there is silliness and farce in equal measure. There’s much topical humor about the world of high finance aside from broad generalizations and stereotypes exploited for comedic value.

A Deadly Adoption really should have sealed it any, but these awards are ones that kind of occur to me rather than being ones that I consciously plot more often than not. First, this film was a secret project. It was then a surprise announcement as a Lifetime Movie mocking Lifetime Movies, mysteriously pulled from its premiere then rescheduled. It then received a drubbing from those not prepared for the film’s tongue-so-firmly-planted-in-cheek. Will McKinley’s take on it echoes my sentiments on it perfectly. It’s very effective, funny when the absurdity hits you with its subtlety and marks the 2nd straight year a TV film has been included in the BAM Awards.


Ferrell Takes the Field is Ferrell taking his love of baseball to a hilarious extreme to help a charity, create a documentary and promote the MLB by making appearances at 10 positions in real Spring Training games. It aired on HBO and is well worth your time if you like him or baseball or both.


Shortly after that I discovered that perhaps his most hilariously insane character Orson Welles caricature (my reading) Eric Jonrosh had The Spoils Before Dying on IFC. I was able to stream the first two so far. It doesn’t start as strongly as The Spoils of Babylon but he’s as funny as ever.


Then came Daddy’s Home, a re-teaming with Mark Wahlberg and a return to more family-friendly fare where he’s more successful than most comedians.

The cherry on top of his 2015 was his unannounced return to SNL in a recent cold open as Dubya.

Clearly it was a great year for him, and one thing Wahlberg said in his junket/circuit interviews was true, to paraphrase he said “His comedy doesn’t come from a dark place, he just genuinely wants to me make people laugh,” and in 2015 he made me laugh quite a lot.

2014 Honoree

The Giver (2014, The Weinstein Company)

Brenton Thwaites

Oculus (2013, Relativity Media)

One of the awards in the universe of them that has always particularly bothered me are handed out at the ShoWest Convention. They are the Male and Female Star of Tomorrow. What bothers me is that usually when I see these winner announcements there is very little that the recipient has done to earn it. Seeing as how it is labeled as a “tomorrow” prize I can allow that to slide, but it gets my hackles up and gets me feeling like going on a good Dennis Green-style tirade. Even the BAFTA Rising Star Award to contrast usually has nominees who are a bit more accomplished. This roundabout lead-in is to explain the fact that at 25 years of age, yes, Brenton Thwaites is young but he had a breakout year unlike too many I’ve seen and I’ve missed one of his credited titles.

Early in 2014 he was one of four actors to give an absolutely tremendous performance in Oculus. Horror movies are both notoriously overlooked in terms of performance but also typically don’t even seem to care if there are good ones being turned in. His work as a young man who has just been released from psychiatric observation for a traumatic experience that lead to his conviction for the murder of his father is a tremendous part of the success of this film.

Then there is the small, yet significant role, that seems to need to factor into this award on an annual basis. He plays Prince Phillip in Maleficent. Now, one of the things that Maleficent did get right it is that the film was about Maleficent and Briar Rose almost exclusively, and similar to Sleeping Beauty (and other Disney tales) the prince is almost incidental, but he is cast well and carries himself quite regally.

Also in the summertime he was the face, the centerpiece of Jeff Bridges’ longtime-coming labor of love The Giver. Being the memorykeeper of his dystopian futuristic society he has to come off as the dreamer and a hero and does so in both calls to duty. He shares the screen with Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep among others and does amazingly well in a film I thought to be highly underrated.

Lastly, there’s The Signal, which is far more than an “indie cred” project but a twist-heavy sci-fi tale that continuously wanders down the rabbit hole. Confused by his circumstances Thwaites’ character here is like a cross of his two other performances on the year and he has not only much dialogue to handle, but plenty of solo time in the early stages of act two where he excels.

It’s rare for a performer in one year to go from unknown to the reason to see a movie, but Thwaites certainly did that in 2014 in my estimation. If I were to place a bet on his future I would think it’s a sure thing but this award, unlike those others, is solely about the year you just had. Whereas, I had cause to nominate some actors twice like Tom Hardy, Thwaites certainly did threaten to earn individual nods, had a great year and established a cinematic presence one that I believe will both grow and linger for quite some time.

2013 James Franco

James Franco (People)

In what ended up being a prescient post I was assigned James Franco in a Facebook Actor Game. Basically I was assigned him by a friend and asked to categorize movies he’d been in. Here were my observations, both general and on one of his films of this year. In general:

In my first time playing I was assigned James Franco, which is a pretty interesting choice, and not just because he’s already in the running for Entertainer of the Year this year. So I figured I’d share my thoughts in something slightly larger than a Facebook post here. Also, if you’re so inclined you can like The Movie Rat’s Facebook page here.

And on the specific film from this year, This is the End:

It’s too early to tell if this film really is a game-changer, however, what can be said is that it’s a fantastically executed concept and uproariously funny. Crass and immature, yes, but funny too.

As it turns out it was a bit of a game-changer for James Franco, as opposed to a comedy trend (as of yet), because I saw a few other titles with him since then that sealed the deal.

Oz the Great and Powerful is no great shakes, but it wasn’t in my estimation a poor or disconnected Franco but rather a fairly flat film that he made a little more interesting and a less-than-admirable character.

This is the End (2013, Sony Pictures)

As for more specifics about his participation in This is the End, if it was the last film I’d seen him in this past year, I’m likely picking someone else as a winner. However, the fact that in the middle of the performances of his I saw is a hilarious send-up of how he’s perceived (being perhaps overly-intellectual and perhaps pretentious) while shouting down Danny McBride’s masturbatory habits is the jewel in the crown, for lack of a more humorous term.

Following that I saw Homefront. In Homefront he plays a character named Gator in what is essentially one of the more ideal Jason Statham vehicles yet devised. And while I’d fall short of calling his antagonistic turn there multi-faceted it is a bit more dimensional than most characters of that ilk are given the leeway to be. Franco’s handling of the character and the way he operates surely make Gator stand out more than he likely wold have in the hands of most other actors.

Spring Breakers (2013, A24)

Lastly, at least based on what I saw, there was Spring Breakers, now you’ll note I didn’t particularly care for that film. However, make no mistake about it that there are things about it that I appreciated, and had it not been for Franco as Alien I may not have even have had the desire to complete it because after a certain point he was all that tethered me to the narrative.

That just takes into account what I could see. Many other things Franco was involved in hit Netflix later in the year, or didn’t even get there by year’s end, and they are things I do want to see, like: Interior. Leather Bar., Lovelace, As I Lay Dying, Palo Alto and Child of God.

And that’s just film work. With Franco going to adapt classic works of literature like The Sound and the Fury, I’m more than a little curious about his fiction. All that and he’ll be back perhaps a bit more inspired of all this for the continuation of the Apes prequels. One way in which this award can be viewed as in a career-path altering one, at least in terms of perception. My first selection, the namesake, was a comeback; next a multiple hat-wearer; next a breakout star; next an established star with a varied year; here it’s more an established name elevating his standing in my eyes based on an incredible run, may it keep going.

2012 Samuel L. Jackson

Samuel L. Jackson

I think I did start to list potential candidates for this but then thought it’d take some of the drama out of it. Also, if you have to think too much about a body-of-work award like this one, it’s nearly invalidated.

So first there are honorable mentions…

I admit to being woefully ignorant about the oeuvre Joss Whedon before this year. I was not one of the legion following his TV series’. However, with the anticipation building towards The Avengers I saw Dr. Horrible and previously fell in love with The Cabin in the Woods.

Late in the year when this topic was bandied about Matthew McConaughey’s name was getting a lot of traction for roles in Magic Mike, Killer Joe, The Paperboy and Bernie. Also, Mud did well on the festival circuit and is an anticipated 2013 film for me. McConaughey’s year was astoundingly good.

So why not those two? Whedon lacked the spontaneity of some of my past choices. I know of him but not his work and was looking forward to the releases based on premise/buzz. McConaughey’s accolades though mostly genuine almost seem like mea culpas. For whatever reason, he’s got a bad rap. I’ve always liked his work. He hasn’t always been put in the best situations casting-wise (I like Contact but that comes to mind) but if anyone sees Frailty they’d be willing to give him a permanent seal of approval. I’d argue he’s always been underrated and never phoned anything in unlike some who reach tongue-in-cheek cult status, and this year he found dynamite parts and knocked them out of the park. Always felt he could, but was a closeted fan.

However, owing to the fact that last year’s winner had four roles of note and set sort of a precedent and also appeared in films I saw at different stages of the year, those things are some of, but not the only reasons, I choose Samuel L. Jackson.

Jackson, of course, is part of the phenomenon that is The Avengers. To an extent Jackson’s work as Nick Fury is akin to Alan Rickman’s in the Harry Potter series. Jackson has been establishing Fury as the Marvel Universe built itself up on film. The culmination of the effort is the first Avengers film.

However, before and after that film in the year there were two indies that when combined with Django Unchained make him the clear choice.

Now, Meeting Evil and The Samaritan may not be the most universally embraceable films but I enjoyed both and he seemed to also. Sam Jackson has been quoted as saying that he sometimes bases decisions on roles by deciphering if he would’ve wanted to see these films when he was a kid. I think all his choices for 2012 pass that test with ease.

Last, but unquestionably not least, is his performance in Django Unchained. What he does there is nothing short of astounding especially when you consider his screen time. He plays older than he is, adopts new physicality, puts a slightly different spin on his usual tough-guy persona, and then, with impeccable timing and brilliant results, sends up the sidekick subservience that far too many African-American actors of the the past had to settle for.

However, when hearkening to the past in a different way, Jackson also took part in two films that could be classified as neo-noir and played both sides of the equation (protagonist and antagonist).

Smauel L. Jackson is the kind of actor who upon being involved in a project elevates it and has the potential to do something extraordinarily special. He did so in 2012 four times over. If that’s not entertainer of the year, I don’t know what is.

2011 Andy Serkis

Now, I know what you’re thinking but believe it or not this has very little to do with The Rise of the Planet of the Apes though I will get to that at some point.

Andy Serkis was the lead in the first qualified movie of 2011 an indie film called Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll where he played Ian Drury a punk rock frontman and icon. The film covered a lot of time chronologically and he had a lot of character to play and was nearly honored by the BAM Awards with an acting nomination. It’s a film that makes some interesting creative decisions that is worth seeking out.

Next I saw him playing a completely different type of character entirely, as is par for the course it seems. He played Colleone in the British crime film Brighton Rock and every scene he had in it was just entrancing, he’s flamboyant and pure evil in it and it’s great to watch.

Not I will get to Planet of the Apes. I recognize and get a lot of the positive commentary Serkis received for that film. Whether or not motion capture work can and should be award fodder is a discussion for another time. He emotes for Caesar and makes him a character. In a film that could’ve used a bit more from the human cast he humanized the apes well.

What really seals it though is the fourth Serkis title I saw. When I went to see The Adventures of Tintin I saw his name in the credits and didn’t expect it. So I played a little game wherein I tried to figure out who he was. I had a guess but it wasn’t based on the fact that I knew it was him. It’s more like I know how versatile and impeccable he is.

The man truly is a chameleon and an entertainer to the core and more than deserves this honor.

2010 Chloë Grace Moretz


A few years ago Robert Downey, Jr. was hot on the comeback trail and he could do no wrong. He made Iron Man much cooler than we ever thought it could be and he was side-splittingly funny in Tropic Thunder. Conversely I had been considering creating an Entertainer of the Year award for the BAMs. When those events converged I decided to both name the award after him and have him be the first recipient.

The only real qualification is that you need to have at least two participations (meaning they can be either two films in which you played the same function actor, writer, director, etc. or two functions in one film in which you excelled). Last year’s winner was Michael Keaton for starring in and directing The Merry Gentleman.

This year’s winner is a young lady who has burst on to the scene with three very memorable performances in three disparate films and is now one of the most sought after actors in film.

Chloë Grace Moretz I first saw as a girl who is literally too cool for school in Diary of a Wimpy Kid. She is the kind of character who while somewhat jaded doesn’t waste time trying to be someone she isn’t or impressing people who don’t matter.

Then, of course, there is her performance as Hit Girl. A turn that only just slightly missed multiple nominations. She literally is the whole reason Kick-Ass works, she floats through a bloodbath of her own creation with ease unlike we’ve seen since the Kill Bill series.

As if that wasn’t enough Miss Moretz also took on the role of the vampire in Let Me In, an American rendition of the neo-classic Swedish film Let the Right One In. While the script and director dictate a different direction for her character than previously indicated she still brings to the role incredible vulnerability, menace and a certain disarming innocence, which help make the film great.

For all those reasons she is Entertainer of the Year.

2009 Michael Keaton

Due to Robert Downey, Jr.’s incredibly entertaining performances in 2008 I decided to name an Entertainer of the Year Award in his honor. Naturally, he was the first winner. This year, at first, qualifiers for that award were few as qualification was stringent to be in keeping with the award’s namesake, meaning that a candidate needed two magnificent parts in films that both equally deserve recognition. Then upon further thought the “Entertainer of the Year” portion of the award’s title came to the forefront and the criteria changed slightly to two participations of equally great entertainment value and thus the award could be easily handed to Michael Keaton for his performance and his direction in The Merry Gentleman, for few had two acting roles that merited recognition on that level.

Keaton not only confidently directs a very adept cast but tells a tale visually with great cinematography. It is also a very different kind of tale which, consistently defies expectations. Unlike some actors-turned-directors the part he plays is not very large in terms of dialogue or very glamorous but it is a great part and he plays it astoundingly well. It is a departure from his usual affable persona. Also, unlike many actors-turned-directors he is unafraid to tell his story in pictures.

In an interview with Guardian he said “It’s great to make your own choices, but there’s a price to pay.” While more mainstream films and appeal have alluded him he found a film here he connected with on many levels. He has crafted a film onscreen and off it that is an embodiment of his statement that “You don’t want to lose your status, but I was never willing to preserve it by doing things I didn’t want to do.” Keaton may not be the name he once was in terms of box office figures but as an artist he has grown in leaps and bounds and this project is a testament to that and this critic hopes there are more on the way.

2008 Robert Downey, Jr.

What else can you say about a man who actually inspires an award to come into being? He literally could’ve swept the male acting categories in 2008 and there wasn’t much that he did that wasn’t awesome and he’s been on a pretty good streak since as well. The award is something that needed to happen and he gave it the push necessary.

BAM Award Winners: Most Overrated Picture

This is one of the final two categories and it’s left to be last because it’s one of my two least favorite. The BAM Awards were created as a reaction and this and the Worst Picture have always been included. I wish one year I’d have to caveat both but I have yet to. The fact of the matter is my awards were born in a reactionary fashion and as much as I like to heap praise and nominations on those I like these two categories are a necessary counterbalance. Furthermore, there will be performers of all disciplines that I like in this category and the next, it’s just unfortunate. This is sort of like my equivalent to Gordon Ramsay saying “What a shame” when he eats a dish because he wants it to be good and it misses.

With the overrated moniker keep in mind this does not necessarily mean I dislike the films listed but just that they are rated too highly by fans, critics and the like. This year I may have a more scientific means of selecting nominees. If you want to know my opinion of a film just ask, it may not be negative just not as overwhelmingly positive as many. This is where you’ll see bigger names on my worst list there will be some more obscure titles but more on that when I get there.

The most overrated films have been…

2012 This award has been discontinued. Please follow the link for an explanation as to why. This post will remain up for archival purposes.

2011 Attack the Block

2010 The Social Network

2009 Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity (2007, Paramount)

2008 Twilight

2007 Superbad

2006 The Queen

2005 Syriana

Syriana (2005, Warner Bros.)

2003 Matchstick Men

Matchstick Men (2003, Warner Bros.)

2002 Spider-Man

2001 Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

2000 The Contender

1999 The Matrix

1998 There’s Something About Mary

1997 Life is Beautiful (La Vita è bella)

1996 Fargo