Jason Lee's 2009 Calvins Ballots
By Jason Lee
March 2, 2010

Penny Arcade is right. Multi-player on this is best described as Divorce Mode.

2009 was a glorious year for movies - but then again, what year isn't a great year for movies? Great films always abound, and anyone who depressingly claims that "such-and-such year was a bad year for the cinema" was simply too lazy to look hard enough.

But enough soapboxing, I'm here to talk about my Calvin ballot. Instead of boring you with in-depth discussions about each and every category, going far too in detail regarding the order and rationale for my decisions, I'm going to cherry pick my most passionate points and dwell on them for just a little bit longer. After all, with 2009 being such a great moviegoing year, it'd be a shame to let it go so quickly.

Let's start with Best Actress. Oh Meryl, Meryl, Meryl. You're so good, so often, that I fear that your fellow thespians (and the larger moviegoing public) have started to take you for granted. But not this movie-lover. You embodied the heart, soul, and bigger-than-life persona of Julia Child. I cannot imagine anyone else playing this part. You were robbed of the Oscar last year, and I fear that the same fate will befall you this year, but I take solace in the fact that you were, beyond any shred of a doubt, the Best Actress of 2009. Could you have done a better (if not, a comparable) job as Sandra Bullock did in The Blind Side? Surely. Could Sandra Bullock have matched you as Julia Child? Not a chance.

Breakthrough Performance. There are always a host of questions to consider when pondering the relative difficulty of a performance. Was the actor playing against type? Was the actor playing a famous icon from the past? Was the actor working with some challenging dialogue, situations, themes, etc. For me, the choice of Mariah Carey as the #1 Breakthrough Performance of 2009 was obvious. Not only was she playing the complete opposite of her diva public persona, not only was she throwing herself back into a cinematic world that had earned her scorn, mockery, and derision, but her most important scenes came opposite a woman destined to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. To top it all off, who was originally cast in her part? HELEN F-ING MIRREN. ‘Nuff said. Mariah, you dun broke through.

Best Scene. Pixar takes my breath away, this year and every year. They make me laugh, cry and smile. They've worked their magic for over a decade, and yet they have never produced a scene like the opening 15 minutes of Up. Seeing Carl and Ellie's life together, their happy moments and their devastating moments...I can't even articulate the myriad of emotions that this scene brings out of me. It's simply perfect and it will go down in history as one of the best sequences in the history of animation.

Best TV Show. Without question, every year Top Chef stands as the best reality show on television. They feature great and talented people doing what they're great and talented at, whilst having their work judged and discussed by even greater and more talented judges. And their Las Vegas season featured their most talented group yet. It was as riveting as any TV drama, and as competitive as any Olympic final.

Best Videogame. The New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a glorious experience. Creative, challenging, innovative, and most of all, incredibly fun. Play it by yourself and have a ball. Play it with friends and laugh yourself silly. No company celebrates the communal nature of video games better than Nintendo, and The New Super Mario Bros. Wii demonstrated this in spades.

Worst Picture. I Love You, Man made me want to rip my arm off just so that I could have something to throw at the TV. It was not funny. It was not charming. It was just stupid. Stupid, annoying characters doing stupid, annoying things. There was not a single thing in the movie that I liked. Except the credits. Because it meant that the movie was over. I loathed this film. I would rather watch The Proposal on repeat than watch I Love You, Man again.

Best Picture. This category, like Breakthrough Performance, was a no-brainer for me. Not only was Avatar the most inventive, creative and daring movie, it was also the most moving. The technical aspects of the movie immersed me a wholly-realized world. The characters were fully fleshed out, with impulses and motivations that not only propelled the plot forward, but harkened back to fables and legends intrinsic to everyone's childhood. And the fall of the Tree of Souls was the single most spectacular sequence I've seen in the movies since... since I don't even know. Its impact reminds me of how I felt the first time I saw the Death Star explode in Star Wars. For me, Avatar was not only the best movie of the year, but was the best movie of the decade. And seriously, what a way to go out.