2009 Calvin Awards: Best Picture

February 13, 2009

The best movie of 2008.

First at the box office but second in our hearts this year is The Dark Knight. Yes, we know that the cards and letters are going to fly in from a certain segment of people. These are the same people trying to boycott the Oscars since it didn't get a Best Picture nod as well as those who are trying to guarantee that no one else ever plays The Joker again in a movie, retiring the role with Heath Ledger's performance. Good luck with that. For our part, we found The Dark Knight to be the rare big budget blockbuster that not only matches but in fact easily exceeds expectations. This has been readily apparent throughout the announcement of this week's awards, particularly Heath Ledger's record-shattering win total and its finishing in first *and* second in Best Scene. By now, everyone knows what there is to love about The Dark Knight, so we won't belabor the point other than to say that it barely lost a virtual coin flip to be our overall favorite movie of the year.

Slumdog Millionaire and Iron Man are our third and fourth favorite movies of the year. This was also a hotly contested battle with a lot of fervent support on both sides. In the end, the novelty and creativity of Slumdog Millionaire's rags to riches story (okay, when I put it that way, it doesn't sound so novel) of a trio of Indian orphans whose lives occasionally intersect wins out. Director Danny Boyle does a phenomenal job in handling all of the moving parts in this story, getting optimal performances from several children along the way. Iron Man is a much different style of movie, a kick-ass comic book come to live onscreen. While the Marvel release had its thunder stolen a bit by the DC property, Batman, I am one of the few at BOP who considers Iron Man to be the superior film and it was in fact my favorite of the past year.

A pair of titles that have cleaned up at The Calvins this year, Frost/Nixon and In Bruges, are our choices for fifth and sixth best films of the year. Frost/Nixon's timely release on the heels of the most carefully watched presidential race in American history captivated us. While we recommend Michael Sheen go out and find a project where he will be the star for a change, we love that he followed up The Queen, a project where he went toe to toe with Helen Mirren, with this one wherein he was magnificent yet still outshined by Frank Langella. In Bruges, our choice for Best Overlooked Film of 2009, is a similar form of anti-buddy movie wherein Brendan Gleeson hangs out at a hotel with Colin Farrell and awaits the order to assassinate him. While we have all had the same fantasy about murdering Colin Farrell, Gleeson surprises us by developing a conscience midway through the movie, making his ethical choices murky at best. In Bruges is a magnificent cinematic accomplishment that makes us root for a pair of killers, the best of its ilk since 1994's Leon aka The Professional.


The power acting performances of the year according to most critics, The Wrestler and Milk, are our choices for seventh and eighth best movie of the year. As was the case in the Best Actor category, we like The Wrestler just a touch more than Milk. I think the explanation for this may be traced back to one actor: Diego Luna. He returns the only poor performance in either movie. Otherwise, the acting in each is truly sublime in both releases. Give the Academy a lot of credit this year. They got most of the nominations right.

The Visitor and Kung Fu Panda are our final selections in the Best Picture category. The Visitor is a heartbreaking tale of a widower and the illegal immigrants he accidentally meets who change his life. Its release was unheralded, but it is already available on Starz as well as Netflix Now Playing if you want to give it a shot. You will not be disappointed. Meanwhile, you know all too well what Kung Fu Panda is. BOP has been championing this movie since pretty much the day it was announced in Variety all the way back when it was an Adam Sandler project. The concept of a fat panda who learns that he is a martial arts champion always appealed to us and we were thrilled to discover that the movie is more than just a funny idea. Instead, it's a surprisingly spiritual family film that examines the burdens of expectations and the zen-like state of bliss that comes from the one-two punch of self-awareness and self-confidence. Plus, there is one scary-ass tiger voiced by Al Swearengen. What's not to love?

The problem with only doing ten selections in the Best Picture category is that so many great movies wind up being excluded. Below is a list of BOP's top 25 selections for Best Picture of the 2009 Calvins. All of these titles are highly recommended by our staff. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Album
Best Cast
Best Director
Best DVD
Best Overlooked Film
Best Scene
Best Screenplay
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
Best Videogame
Breakthrough Performance
Worst Performance
Worst Picture

Top 25
Position Film Total Points
1 WALL-E 115
2 The Dark Knight 108
3 Slumdog Millionaire 76
4 Iron Man 74
5 Frost/Nixon 72
6 In Bruges 57
7 The Wrestler 39
8 Milk 33
9(tie) Visitor, The 31
9(tie) Kung Fu Panda 31
11 Let the Right One In 27
12 Man on Wire 26
13 Tropic Thunder 23
14 Revolutionary Road 22
15 Forgetting Sarah Marshall 16
16 Rachel Getting Married 15
17 Doubt 14
18 Burn After Reading 13
19 Bolt 12
20(tie) Speed Racer 10
20(tie) Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist 10
22(tie) Get Smart 8
22(tie) Boy A 8
22(tie) Cloverfield 8
22(tie) Definitely, Maybe 8
22(tie) Tell No One 8

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