2008 Calvin Awards: Best Picture

February 22, 2008

I'm f*cking Sarah Silverman.

The category of Best Picture is the crown jewel of The Calvins. It is a hotly contested race that deftly demonstrates the eclectic nature of the BOP staff. Past winners in this category include The Queen, Serenity, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Lost in Translation, About a Boy and The Royal Tenenbaums. In looking at this list, it is readily apparent that we eschew mainstream voting. In fact, only Lost in Translation won so much as a Golden Globe for Best Picture. The Queen only merited such acclamation in its native country's BAFTA Awards. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind's only other major awards season win was from our friends at the Online Film Critics Society. The others were completely ignored with regards to Best Picture save for The Calvins. We are an island unto ourselves with regards to voting.

Given the above, the selection of the 2008 Calvin for Best Picture is understandable. Our staff votes for what we consider to be the best movie, independent of what the hype is with regards to a project. We feel that the finest production of the past year is The Bourne Ultimatum. The third film in the action spy series based on the writings of Robert Ludlum has been the best reviewed thus far, an impressive feat given the expansive praise for the previous two titles.

Despite the rapturous adulation heaped upon the climactic movie in the Bourne trilogy, its critical as well as financial success (final box office of $227 million domestically) has not translated to awards season recognition. To wit, the production's three Academy Awards nominations are all in the area of technical expertise. These same editing awards are the only ones for which it has consistently been lauded during awards season. This mystifies BOP, as the movie's quality is superior to any of the productions nominated for Best Pictures at the Oscars this year...and yes, that includes the exponentially more heralded title that finished second in our voting. The Bourne Ultimatum got left behind due to the prejudice action movies face each year during awards season. Our staff refused to be influenced by such artificial delimiters, instead focusing upon the fact that in the past calendar year, the Best Picture is undeniably The Bourne Ultimatum.

No Country For Old Men finishes in second place in the race for Best Picture, a location that must feel unfamiliar to the cast. It has dominated awards season, presumably culminating in a coronation at The Academy Awards on Sunday evening. This dark, nihilistic exploration of how good and evil are exemplified in the real world hypnotized our staff with its malice. Had the Coen Brothers bothered to give the film an ending, it probably would have wound up earning Best Picture honors. Due to Tommy Lee Jones' unfocused rambling at the end, BOP could not in good conscience accredit a mostly great movie instead of a completely great one. Yes, we expect some hate mail for being honest about this.

Unexpected pregnancy is hilarious. Sure, those of you who are late for your periods might disagree with this tenet, but 2007 box office was emphatic on the point. Our third place entrant, Juno, and our fifth place entrant, Knocked Up both have made over $100 million domestically. And if you had made a bet in Vegas for the above statement to be true, you would be a millionaire now as well. For whatever reason, the idea of attractive, charismatic, level-headed women discovering that useless guys had ferti-pregged them proved to be the magic formula for populist movie success. BOP is no different from the mainstream on both movies. Again, we are not here to surprise, impress, misguide or patronize. Best Picture should not be elitist. It should be a statement of truth. The overwhelming majority of people who saw Juno slam a jug of Sunny D or Grey's Anatomy trying to explain the adult ramifications of her morning sickness to Seth Rogen enjoyed it. We are among those included in the statement above to the point that Juno was only four points away from beating the more hyped No Country for Old Men for second place.

The meat in the pregnant women sandwich is, fittingly enough, Ratatouille, which finishes in fourth place in the race for Best Picture. Pixar's latest masterpiece has taken the disturbing premise of a rat in the kitchen, a health code violation if ever there were one, and turned it into a genteel celebration of an outsider learning to fit in. Remy the rat lives with family and friends trained to feast off the refuse in life yet he has a hunger for the finest flavors in the world. His quest to better himself takes him away from the comfort of home, eventually leading him to a formerly great Parisian restaurant that has fallen upon hard times. They are even considering marketing the dreaded frozen dinners that define the lowest common denominator in cuisine. New to the world and harboring a secret about his identity, Remy is forced to make a deal with a human to hide under his hat and guide him in cooking some of the most flavorful entrees in the city. Brad Bird has always shown a deft touch in relaying genuine human emotions upon animated creatures who are generally not your run of the mill person, whether they be superheroes, rats, iron giants or Hank Scorpio. Remy might be his finest demonstration of this ability thus far. His story, Ratatouille, fits perfectly in the Pixar library as the proverbial film for all ages that warms our hearts while providing frequent belly laughs.


Sixth and seventh place go to Michael Clayton and Hot Fuzz. The former film continues George Clooney's amazing hot streak of picking perfect projects. Close in tone to Syriana and Good Night, and Good Luck, Michael Clayton is less political than either of those films, hearkening back to Russell Crowe's work in The Insider. Like Clooney's previous powerhouse dramas, however, Michael Clayton deftly demonstrates how good guys are fallible and how bad guys have trust issues, even among themselves. Even the movie's final moments demonstrate confusion about whether anything has changed due to the actions of the main character. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Hot Fuzz is the fourth of five comedies on our list. BOP's adoration for Simon Pegg is well known, so its placement here is presumably unsurprising. What pleases our staff is that we are no longer the only people singing his praises. Celebrations of Pegg's genius have become trendier than we had ever expected or even hoped possible. Now, if we can finally get that Region 1 release of Spaced Series 1 and 2, our lives will be perfect.

Once, There Will Be Blood and Superbad comprise the rest of our selections for Best Picture. Once has had a killer run during the Calvins, probably prompting many of you to ask, "What in the Blue Hell is Once?" If you try it out because of this and don't like it, please don't hate us. Actually, if you try it out and don't like it, we hate you. There Will Be Blood's length reminds us once again that Paul Thomas Anderson seems to enjoy testing the audience's insomnia. Those of us with plenty of patience and a heapin' helpin' of caffeine are rewarded with yet another masterpiece, albeit one without Frog Rain. Superbad is the last of our five comedies selected, and its presence demonstrates that we love Seth Rogen. It also shows that we were lecherous, drunken teenagers who smell our own. Superbad is raunchy, but our staff pities the people who cannot laugh at its universal issues about the pratfalls of high school living.

The top 25 vote getters for Best Picture are listed below. Due to this, I will forgo the usual pattern of listing titles that just missed the top ten. Instead, here are the other releases outside the top 25 in the category that received at least one vote for Best Picture:

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Breach, Fay Grim, Great World of Sound, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Ha-Buah (The Bubble), Into the Wild, The Lookout, Persepolis, Quiet City, Rescue Dawn, Severance, Sicko, Talk to Me, and This Is England. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Album
Breakthrough Performance
Best Cast
Best Director
Best DVD
Best Overlooked Film
Best Picture
Best Scene
Best Screenplay
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
Best Video Game
Worst Performance
Worst Picture
Top 25
Position Film Total Points
1 Bourne Ultimatum, The 73
2 No Country for Old Men 64
3 Juno 60
4 Ratatouille 46
5 Knocked Up 41
6 Michael Clayton 40
7 Hot Fuzz 39
8 Once 36
9 There Will Be Blood 25
10 Superbad 23
11 Stardust 19
12 3:10 to Yuma 18
13 Eastern Promises 15
14 Simpsons Movie, The 12
15 Zodiac 11
16(tie) The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford 10
16(tie) The Hoax 10
16(tie) Savages, The 10
16(tie) Charlie Wilson's War 10
20 Sunshine 9
21(tie) Away from Her 7
21(tie) Waitress 7
21(tie) Gone, Baby, Gone 7
24 No End in Sight 6
25(tie) Wind That Shakes The Barley, The 5
25(tie) Talk to Me 5



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