Kim Hollis's 2009 Calvins Ballots
By Kim Hollis
March 2, 2010

Have you seen Kim's other sock puppet creations? This hat is just the tip of the iceberg.

Many people who follow BOP will know that I'm a huge fan of animated films. 2009 was a banner year for animation, with my Best Picture balloting including five animated movies in its mix (and if you count Avatar as animated, another one just missed). You could say that this is simply a result of a bias toward enjoying cartoon flicks more, but the honest evaluation is that if you really were looking for quality storytelling told in innovative and creative ways, animation offered all of this and then some.

My favorite film matched "Up" with the rest of BOP, as I've rarely felt so moved and engaged as I did during Pixar's latest magnum opus. Although the first ten minutes were extremely difficult to watch – yes, I cried - they told us everything we needed to know about Carl and Ellie. Then the movie veers off in all kinds of unexpected directions as Carl and Russell get to South America and encounter a strange bird and a host of talking dogs. There's never been anything like it before, and there probably never will be again.

As I reflect over my various category votes, though, I'm realizing that maybe my Best Picture vote wasn't right. I love Up and it resonates with me in so many different ways, but I had been torn at the time of voting between it and Fantastic Mr. Fox as my top choice of the year. Because I'd had the opportunity to see Up multiple times and because I was so deeply in love with Carl, Russell, Dug and Kevin, I eventually made the decision that the Pixar film was the best.

And yet...

Fantastic Mr. Fox was my top choice in Best Cast, Best Overlooked Film, Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Use of Music. Yes, Up played into all of those categories (with the obvious exception of Overlooked), but it didn't have that universal top finish across many categories that Fantastic Mr. Fox did. Consider the cast, if you will. George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe and Owen Wilson all had key roles, though perhaps my favorite of the voice performances came from Eric Chase Anderson as Kristofferson. The screenplay is absolutely sparkling and seamless, with an understated touch of humor that resonates long after the viewing experience has ended. The music is fantastic, from soundtrack selections like the Beach Boys' Heroes and Villains and tunes from Burl Ives to the whimsical score by Alexandre Desplat. And finally, I remain ever impressed by Wes Anderson's effortless transition from live action to stop-motion animation. These creatures seemed more alive than a lot of humans in most films.

But there were a number of humans whose performances struck me as top notch. The best performance I saw in 2009 was that of Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds (I'm not deviating from the norm at all, here). He effuses charm and menace all at once, and does so in four different languages. I especially was impressed with the way he'd shift Col. Landa from geniality to cold-eyed fury in an instant. Other great performances of the year included Jeremy Renner (in The Hurt Locker), George Clooney (in Up in the Air), Carey Mulligan (in An Education) and Vera Farmiga (in Up in the Air).

TV tangentially relates to what we do with movie-watching, and my continued favorite show is Friday Night Lights. I find something to love each and every time I watch the show and Kyle Chandler's Eric Taylor is one of the great characters on television. A surprising second place goes to Modern Family, which is appointment television for me and the best comedy in years. I love love love Cameron and Mitchell. And Manny. And Phil. Aw, hell, I love them all.

The weird outlier categories from the Calvins are Best Album and Best Videogame. I liked The Decemberists' Hazards of Love best, but also think 2009 was a particularly great year for music. I'm really fond of all of my top ten and find myself changing my mind about the positioning of the contenders even as I look at my list. The best videogame of 2009 was The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, which is just all kinds of adorable and fun. Scribblenauts is inventive and clever, though occasionally frustrating in terms of gameplay. Creativity goes a long way, though.

Special Recognition

Best Character: Dug (Up)

Best Line: "Sometimes it's the boring stuff I remember the most."

Most pleasant surprises: 17 Again / Bandslam (the yin and yang of Zac Efron/Vanessa Hudgens)

Biggest disappointment: Drag Me to Hell

Most anticipated films of (the rest of) 2010: Hot Tub Time Machine, How to Train Your Dragon, Iron Man 2, Toy Story 3, Inception, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1)