2009 BAM Award Winners

In the last of the remaining re-posts here is a list of my 2009 BAM Award Winners complete with my rationale for each. Again, the text (save for minor grammar and syntax corrections) is mostly unchanged, in order to preserve my thoughts from the time accurately.

These awards and their winners are based on my opinion alone.

Best Picture

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

Where the Wild Things Are

One of the most emotionally engaging experiences from beginning to end in a long time and also a purely visual film. When comparing all other Best Picture nominees, all of whom where great, nothing quite lives up to this.

Best Director

Where the Wild Things Are (2009, Warner Bros.)


Spike Jonze Where the Wild Things Are

It always takes something very special to split Best Picture and Best Director and that didn’t happen this year. However, here you have a case of a film thriving due to the vision of its director. A man amongst the few who can truly be called a visionary and who had such a clear concept of this adaptation that Maurice Sendak endorsed it in featurettes leading up to the release. Spike Jonze made this film happen beginning to end struggles with the studio and all.

Best Actor

A Single Man (2009, The Weinstein Company)

Colin Firth A Single Man

A performance which is reserved when the character is trying to be as such is great, however, it is when that reserve cracks that the true greatness bubbles over: when he’s questioned by Charley, when he’s trying not to let his voice crack on the phone and tears are rolling down his face, when he’s allowing himself to be happy and many other moments.

Best Actress

Jimmy Bennett and Michell Monaghan in Trucker

Michelle Monaghan Trucker

During this performance Monaghan reminded me of several different leading ladies such that her persona was unique and all her own. She plays a frustrated, somewhat immature, lonely woman and while she never fundamentally changes who she is. We do see her change in her attitude and behavior. She’s a gritty, tough character who does not hesitate to run out into the street and protect her estranged son at the first sign of trouble. It is a moving and complete performance and it is great.

Best Supporting Actor

landainglourious

Christoph Waltz Inglourious Basterds

Absolutely the easiest decision to make. This performance is the work of a virtuoso in action. How Waltz remained unknown to the American public this long is a mystery and it’s a credit to Tarantino that he cast him.

Best Supporting Actress

inglourious_basterds47

Diane Kruger Inglourious Basterds

A strong an impactive part very deftly played by Miss Kruger. She is believably a movie star, a lady of society and a spy. She is quite convincing in pain and like Waltz perfromed in more than one language astutely which is very admirable indeed.

Best Cinematography

Before Tomorrow (2008, Isuma)

Norman Cohn and Félix Lajeunesse Before Tomorrow

This is a film which spends a lot of its time in the cramped confines of a tent or cave but also shoots majestic arctic vistas. However, landscape and wilderness cinematography is not enough to win there is framing and exposure to consider and how these shots tell the simple story of the film which is just enchanting. The fire-lit scenes inside allow for added intensity in the simplest scenes and day scenes in tents allow for diffused backlight.

Best Makeup

Film Title: The Unborn

The Unborn

Creepy and effectively done job on several fronts where makeup and not effects were used.

Most Overrated Film

Paranormal Activity (2007, Paramount)

Paranormal Activity

Hyperbolic critical acclaim not withstanding this film never escalated whatever tension it did build far enough to be a satisfactory experience. How it can be cited by some as one of the scariest movies they’ve ever seen is a mystery.

Most Underrated Film

Aliens in the Attic (2009, 20th Century Fox)

Aliens in the Attic

A grossly underrated family film that is reminiscent of 1980s family films and sci-fi. It’s funny and a pretty good action film at the same time.

Worst Picture

Orphan (2009, Warner Bros.)

Orphan

The tagline says it all: “There’s something wrong with Esther.” This is a movie that starts going downhill and never stops.

Best Editing

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)


Mark Day Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

This film feels so much shorter than its running time. Everything is always visually clear the story is told well and none of the cuts leave you scratching your head.

Best Song


“Quiero Que Me Quieras” Gael Garcia Bernal Rudo y Cursi

As catchy as the original, if not catchier, “I Want You to Want Me,” however, this version has a Northern Mexican flair and also a very comedic side as can be witnessed here.

Best Score

Where the Wild Things Are (2009, Warner Bros.)

Carter Burwell and Karen O. Where the Wild Things Are

The score to Where the Wild Things Are not only made itself instantly felt and known but also played on a loop in this critic’s head for at least a solid week.

Best Sound Editing

Avatar (2009, 20th Century Fox)

Avatar

This version of the award truly combines the edit and the design and both, from what can told in a single screening, are great in this film.

Best Visual Effects

Avatar (2009, 20th Century Fox)

Avatar

Probably the most impressive display of effects that has graced the silver screen in a long time. This is truly a technical milestone and it appears WETA has surpassed ILM at least for the time being.

Best Cast

A Single Man

The intimacy of scene in A Single Man is as cinematic as you can get. There are flashbacks, two-person parties, conversations in hushed tones and all demanding that scene partners match Firth. While it’s true he’s frequently alone it is through his character’s interactions with the world that we learn about him and for that the whole cast needs to be up to snuff, whether it be leads or smaller characters like Carlos and Jennifer Strunk.

Best Performance by a Child Actor

Is Anybody There? (2008, BBC Films)

Bill Milner Is Anybody There?

As stated in the review of the film Bill Milner is the greatest actor of his generation, meaning professional child actors around his age, there is seemingly nothing he can’t do just based on this performance and Son of Rambow. Should he continue taking smaller independent work he’ll be allowed to grow and could transition quite seamlessly into an adult career as currently his talents seem boundless.

Best Original Screenplay
Inglourious Basterds (2009, The Weinstein Company)

Quentin Tarantino Inglourious Basterds

It’s an original. The title takes its inspiration from an Italian film of the late 70s about American GIs behind enemy lines but similarities end there. Tarantino doesn’t second guess himself once and he created one of the most unique and enjoyable films of the year.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

Spike Jonze, David Eggers and Maurice Sendak Where the Wild Things Are

Jonze spoke about how he worked with Sendak to get something he felt was true. Sandak was quoted as saying he felt this film elevated his work. It was a brilliant adaptation which lead to a brilliant film. It was the rare adaptation which allows for expansion of tale as opposed to its contraction and it succeeded due in part to that fact.

Best Art Direction

Is Anybody There?

anybody_9small_1241523992_crop_550x362

This is a film that not only dresses a house but its roof, the yard, a train station, Clarence’s magic lorry and a cemetery amongst others. There is a muted tonality to everything in the film and there are great conscious decisions made all over the sets and appearing in frames all over.

Best Costumes

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

Where the Wild Things Are

Thankfully CG was only needed for the faces of the Wild Things, and a great job was done there, however, if the Wild Things has been all CG it would’ve greatly diminished the overall effect and charm of the film.

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The Flip Side: Seeing the Movie Then Reading the Book

Asa Butterfield in Hugo (Paramount)

Recently I re-posted a series of articles I wrote on The Site That Shall Not Be Named (no it’s not the Dark Lord’s site) about how to divorce oneself from the source material when you’re watching an adaptation of a beloved book, comic, TV Show or what have you. If you want to read that series start here, otherwise bear with me.

In that series I really tackled a problem many face but mainly it pertained to books and their readers the most. To be more specific people who happened to have read the book prior to watching the film, which is a tough transition.

However, a twitter friend of mine and blogger in his own right, recently posted this intriguing entry:

People who follow me at all know I read a lot.

I read books now more than ever, used to read more newspapers and magazines.

But, I hear all the time, I want to see say “Hunger Games” but I need to read the book/books first. I personally prefer seeing the movie first.

Books are a totally different format, richer, longer, have subtext, a medium of words. Film is a medium of images and sounds, and quite a bit shorter at around 90-120 minutes. The average screenplay is 95-125 pages long, the average book is around 300 pages. It’s simply different.

For me a good example of this is Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo”. Although the book the “Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick is very cinematic, and the look is in the movie, Scorsese adds scenes, depth of character and a few other things I don’t see in the book. I did see “Hugo” before reading the book, and think if I read the book first I would have used my image of the book to cloud the movie and not loved the movie for what it did well but get trapped in comparisons.

An example of a book I did read first which clouded my judgment of the movie is “Jurassic Park.” I quite enjoyed Micheal Crichton’s novel, and I missed several scenes (especially the river scene) that were in the book in the movie. Although Spielberg does a good job with it, I find actually the monster movie “The Lost World” to be more fun. I think this is partially because my view of the book hurts the movie.

Another example for me from a recent movie is “The Hunger Games.” My wife has read through this series twice already, and I am still around 20% in the first book. I quite enjoyed the movie, and wonder if my judgment of the book would have clouded how I see the film.

Basically movies and books are entirely different mediums. If you try to make the movie just like the book you get boring movies like Chris Columbus’s Harry Potter 1 and 2, which although good and nowhere near as rich to me as Cuaron’s version that shares the vision of the book but doesn’t feel the need to get everything in Harry Potter 3 (still the best of the series to me.
What do you think?

The general points up there I agree with almost without exception. I wanted to quote the post mainly for context and also as shorthand to expound on my observations on this opposite phenomena I didn’t examine.

I completely agree with the assertion that one musn’t read the book before seeing the movie. The book is not Cliff’s Notes to the film. The film has to sink or swim on its own merits. With regards to The Hunger Games, I liked it but I knew innately that there was backstory and subtext from the book only being hinted at on screen, however, it didn’t ruin the film for me.

With regards to subtext allow me to make a minor semantical point: yes, many films are surface only but when you study them you learn to read them (I’m not being poetical, we say that) and seek the subtext. Some films are what they are; vapid or brilliant there’s not much else going on, those are few. There will be more forthcoming dialogue simply because the examples are ones I so closely relate to but I will transition, believe me.

Another thing that even I didn’t really examine in the prior series is that there really isn’t a direct correlation between pages in a book and a screenplay. One can make it, and I have, for a mathematical argument but truly the literal conversion of book to film can have so many more variables. A good example would be Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust. I stuck with it and finished it and liked, despite it being the most challenging read of my life. Such is the stream of consciousness and transition from reality to memory to fancy to dream that it makes it a very involving and exhaustive experience. Were you to take certain pages out of the book and transcribe them to screenplay form you could have so many changes of time and location that one novel page could be three to four screenplay pages. Again, if you’re a completist and being literal. A good film of the book would have some of those montages implied in the writing but not all of them.

Certain writing styles do imply montage as Eisenstein talks most about in the book of his I’m in the midst of and what can be done in a paragraph of prose may take a page or more in a screenplay depending on how you decide to exploit it cinematically. This is just further food for thought when thinking about taking something that’s purely text and turning it into visuals.

With regards to the example of Hugo above it’s amazing that we both reached virtually the same conclusion about the film having inverted reading schedules. I took The Invention of Hugo Cabret out of the library and devoured it because it was a quick read, liking the story much better than the presentation thereof and then though I knew Scorsese and Logan made certain changes I felt they enhanced the film and made it the best of 2011.

Sam Niell in Jurassic Park (Universal Pictures)

With regards to the Jurassic Park films, I actually tried to read the book and I failed to complete it despite needing to write a book report on it. That did not diminish my desire to see it or affect my view of it. I absolutely adored every second of it. Being a budding cinephile and a kid who at more than one point wanted to be a paleontologist it was, and will remain, one of the most exhilarating movie-watching experiences of my life. It’s magical. On the other hand, I didn’t try and read The Lost World, I disliked it a lot. How much? This much. I was pleased to learn in my Spielberg class that part of the reasoning behind his doing The Lost World was that Universal had been begging him for a sequel since 1982 and he would not hear of it being E.T.

Michael Gambon and Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Warner Bros.)

As for the Harry Potter films: I love them and I love the books. My love for both is separate but equal, to re-appropriate an old phrase. I always read them before I saw them but with the few production delays they had the gap between reading and viewing grew as the films moved on. My favorite is The Half-Blood Prince, it’s the apex of the story cinematically and in the books I feel so much of what was built in the series lead to that point. The Prisoner of Azkaban is great but like many of the films they stumble at the goal line, metaphorically speaking but that one just loses the ball entirely with the very last image and piece of voice over. Only part of the issue with the first two films is Columbus. The other part is that the books steadily grew in size through the course of the series. Slavishness to the novel was easy, and maybe a requisite to establish the franchise at the beginning. As the books grew slavishness became more difficult to accomplish, nearly impossible, thus the films truly came into their own as a separate but equal enterprise.

So having said all that in the interest of piggybacking and elaborating on points I previously made; What about seeing the movie first and then reading? I am very intrigued by the idea but I do not have much practice with it. I have a few candidates in mind to try it with but let’s see what case studies I have (Yes, we are quite literally discovering it together, hence why I wanted to write this post).

Jack Nicholson in The Shining (Warner Bros.)

The Shining

I decided to pick up a Stephen King book because I saw The Shining. I was just into High School and it was the first time I enjoyed being scared. I was averse to horror before then. I learned from King and went on to read many that he read. However, the film and the book are very different beasts. I had no problem with having a cast in my head, King even acknowledges that in a foreword or afterword of one of his books, but like I said it was different. I didn’t dislike it. I don’t disagree with King’s comments about Kubrick either, yet I still enjoy Kubrick’s riff on the story more than the book or the mini-series. Do I skew to the movie for having seen it first? Yes. However, then there’s The Hunger Games. I tried to read it as a library book. Hardly started. I then saw the movie still knowing next to nothing and would likely enjoy the book more.

Pet Sematary

Miko Hughes holding a copy of Pet Sematary

Here’s one where if you make me pick which one I like I’ll kick, scream and refuse. I love them both so, so much.

Storm of the Century

Colm Feore in Storm of the Century (ABC)

Ha, I’m such a cheater because this is a screenplay but regardless I may be in a minority but I really enjoyed it in both incarnations.

Hellraiser/The Hellbound Heart

Doug Bradley in Hellraiser (New World Pictures)

Clive Barker brings such imagination and originality to everything he does it’s hard to be disappointed but it is a somewhat different interpretation of the vision than the one he put on screen I find. Similarly, he’s working on a comics series of Hellraiser now, which is incredibly good.

The Exorcist

Linda Blair, Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller in The Exorcist (Warner Bros.)

With all apologies due William Peter Blatty the movie rips the book to shreds quality-wise. However, the reading experience was just fine.

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption/The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption (Columbia Pictures)

It wasn’t a tainted reading experience in any way and it’s evidence of why Frank Darabont is Stephen King’s best adapter.

The Body/Stand by Me

Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O'Connell and Corey Feldman in Stand by Me (Columbia Pictures)

In a similar way to Stephen King’s reaction to Darabont’s The Mist he also loved this one because of a crucial change Rob Reiner made for the better. Reading it was fine, watching it more lively. In this case it might’ve tainted it in my mind from having seen it so much.

Apt Pupil

This story as written is outstanding. Yes, the cast remained the same but the story delves into the psychology of the situation in ways the film scarcely attempts. You should read it.

The Langoliers

The Langoliers (ABC)

Augmented by having seen it first in part because I love the mini-series up until the very end. It’s like King says, the story just falls into place so smoothly and that translates on to the page and the mini-series is great until one of the worst third act blunders, and effects shots ever.

Misery

Kathy Bates and James Caan in Misery (Columbia Pictures)

How can having Kathy Bates in your head not make it better?

Cycle of the Werewolf/Silver Bullet

The Cycle of the Werewolf (Signet/Berni Wrightson)

It’s a totally different beast entirely. It’s a short little book with Berni Wrightson working his magic illustrating it, giving you new images to focus on.

Creepshow

Creepshow (Berni Wrightson/Signet)

Quite frankly with the premise of Creepshow being tales in the style of old EC Comics how can it not be a good comic book, seriously?

Burning Secret

Burning Secret (Vestron Pictures)

I’m surprised I had forgotten this one. This tale is quite literally the perfect example of this list. I saw this film by chance on Netflix. I was rather intrigued by it and was curious to read the book. The book was rather short and a quick read. The adaptation is great because it develops cinematic subtext without using any of the inner-monologue inherent in the prose. What this does is create an air of mystery and a questioning of motives, at least to an extent, which never happens in the book. The strength of the book is that you get explicit detail about the thought processes of each character. In short, you get slightly different but very well-realized renditions of the tale. In each version the medium is exploited brilliantly.

These are likely the only examples I can be completely certain of. Having thought on them: Yes, the argument does have merit. It can be better and more enjoyable to watch and then read. This might mean that The Hunger Games and A Song of Fire and Ice are in my future.