2009 Calvin Awards: Best Picture

February 13, 2009

The best movie of 2008.

The most coveted prize at The Calvins this year was also the most hotly contested. Since the inception of BOP's movie awards, all of the Best Picture races have been close. The largest margin of victory ever came during the first year, 2002, when The Royal Tenenbaums won by a margin of 199-188. 2003 saw About a Boy win by an equally narrow 124-113. Since then, Lost in Translation has won by seven votes, Eternal Sunshine has triumphed by six votes, Serenity has eked out a four vote victory, The Queen has won by five votes and The Bourne Ultimatum has won by nine votes.

Looking at the above, two things are obvious. The first is that our group has always had eclectic taste about what the best movies are, frequently shunning end-of-year awards contenders for much less storied releases. The other is that no film has ever won in a blowout, but even by our standards, this year's competition was close. In point of fact, voting came down to the wire with the score exactly tied prior to the delivery of the final ballot. Unfortunately for this year's second place finisher, the voter in question did not have that film in their top ten. This skews the results a bit to belie the scoring as much less hotly contended than is the case, but make no mistake on the point. No one at BOP knew who the winner was going to be until minutes prior to the end of voting. Even for us, that's a first.


And the winner is...WALL-E. While the voting was tight, the voices of the people were clearly heard on this one. WALL-E was nominated on 90% of the Best Picture ballots this year and was named the number one film on over a quarter of them. The only reason this competition was even close was because the second most popular film of the year was ranked higher on the lists of almost everyone who voted for both films. WALL-E was the populist choice as well as the one that more people thought was the best movie of the year, but the other film had its fair share of (wildly aggressive) supporters as well.

In the end, what swayed our staff to name a Pixar movie as the best of the year for the first time were those magical first 45 minutes. By now, the conversation borders on overdone, but the silent movie portion of WALL-E is in the discussion for most gripping storytelling segment of the 2000s and arguably going even further back than that. Pixar's bold decision to let the animated pictures each tell their thousand words allowed the movie to feel more timeless and otherworldly despite its largely (scorched) Earth-bound focus. WALL-E emphasizes all of Pixar's strengths at once. It is ostensibly a movie for children; it is also somehow a stirring science fiction epic in the Galaxy Quest mold with regards to humor, and there are strong romantic comedy elements thrown in to boot. It is a tour de force accomplishment of storytelling that is the perfect capper on a historically unprecedented run of movie greatness by one studio.

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