PERFORMANCE: Renee Zellweger
Bridget Jones' Diary
The Academy are very neglectful when it comes to honouring comedic performances, even more so when the film itself isn't in the hunt for major category honours. So it was incredibly thrilling and exciting on Oscar morning (well, Oscar night here since nominations are announced at about Midnight Australian time) to discover that they had nominated Renee Zellweger for her role as the smoking, drinking, eating, shagging machine Bridget Jones. Zellweger had never been better and hasn't been since.
Anthony Dod Mantle
He won an Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire, but deserved it for Lars Von Trier's astonishingly photographed Antichrist. "Suck on that, Anthony Dod Mantle" indeed.
TREND: Woody Allen Becomes Relevant Again
Match Point, Scoop, Cassandra's Dream, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
I am actually a fan of both Scoop and Cassandra's Dream so this string of films was just wonderful. Match Point would rank in my top five Allen films and I remember being so surprised that I was able to go see this movie on a weekend and bring my friends along and that they liked it! It was their own first experience of Woody Allen. It's been good to anticipate a new Woody Allen movie again, hasn't it? I never saw Whatever Works, but some like that one too.
Plus, when did "Woodsy" (thanks Marge) get such good taste in men? Jonathan Rhys Meyers can disappear please, but Hugh Jackman, Javier Bardem, Colin Farrell, Ewan McGregor... talk about delicious.
SHOT: "My Pet Goat"
SCENE: "Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France"
Everything that Quentin Tarantino gets lambasted for is here in this opening scene from Inglourious Basterds (a weird edited version of it can be seen below), and yet most people loved it anyway. I'll never figure some people out. Maybe it was the Nazi costumes that distracted people?
CRAFT: Sound Design
Red Road, INLAND EMPIRE and Antichrist
I'm lumping these three together because they make a divine trinity of left-of-centre horror movies that all featured some of the most impressive sound design of the decade. I would have given my personal Oscars to all three in their given years despite the lack of explosions and car crashes and so on. How about all that fuzzy CCTV footage from Red Road, or the screams on Sunset Blvd from INLAND EMPIRE or the acorns dropping on the tin roof of Antichrist? Can you conjure up those sounds (and the images with them) right now? I bet you can. But can you remember a single unique sound about, say, The Bourne Ultimatum?
CHARACTER: "Anton Chigurh"
Played by Javier Bardem
No Country for Old Men
Yes, Bardem was great as Chigurh, but I think that had to do more with the character than Bardem. So sue me.
TREND: South Africa
uCarmen, Yesterday, Disgrace, District 9
For some reason South Africa played a nice little supporting part in the decade that was the '00s. And I didn't even see Oscar-winner (the first for South Africa) Tsotsi or Clint Eastwood's Invictus. Not enough people saw uCarmen, Yesterday or Disgrace, which probably features John Malkovich's best performance yet.
PERFORMANCE: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Sister Gyllenhaal's best performance this decade was not Secretary or Sherrybaby, but this one in Don Roos' acidic Los Angeles dramedy. As the sexed up singing golddigger Gyllenhaal deserved about seven Oscars.
This moment will tear you up.
EXPERIENCE: Mike Figgis' Experimentation
It was around the year 2000 where I really truly started to take my love of film seriously and started to seek out more than just the Oscar movies when it came to seeing the "good" films. When Mike Figgis' experimental TimeCode came to my town as a part of a local cinema chain's "Cinema Paradiso" series (aka movies that they can feel special about programming because they have things like subtitles or weird titles and the like) I went and was quite pleased. It was like a grand new way of experiencing cinema, having to watch all four quarters of the screen as four different stories unfolded, some overlapping and so on. I left buzzed and wished more movies gave me that feeling.
Little Children & A Single Man
Two of the best because they don't follow the strict blueprint of a trailer. It helps that they're filled with gorgeous imagery, too. Neither film lived up to the trailer, but Little Children was still good. A Single Man, not so much.
SHORT: The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello
Dir. Anthony Lucas
Lucas' Oscar and BAFTA-nominated, AFI-winning short is a wonder of production design in its tale of a navigator on board a dirigible that is escaping a plague that has infected the population of Earth. It's astonishing to see, and I saw it on the big screen in a double feature with Russian silent classic The Man With the Movie Camera.
This is England
It was fashionable to single out Stephen Graham as best in show for his performance as Combo, but the entire ensemble was brilliant in Shane Meadows' astonishing film, my #1 film of 2007. I actually would have nominated both Graham and Joe Gilgun on any Best Supporting Actor ballot and given the top prize to the latter. And then there's Thomas Turgoose as the protagonist of the film, as well as Jo Hartley, Andrew Shim, Vicky McClure, Andrew Ellis and the wonderful Rosamund Hanson as Cyndi Lauper wannabe "Smell".
MUSIC: "Titulos de Cabecera"
In a movie filled with homages to classic noir cinema, perhaps my very favourite was this piece of opening credits music from Alberto Iglesias. He wasn't nominated for an Oscar for this score, but he was for The Kite Runner. Think about that for a moment.
SCENE: "Demolition Derby"
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
One of the most frustrating things about the "omgthedarkknightisthegreatestmovieevermade" debacle of 2008 was that so many people seemed to jizz their pants at the moment the truck flips over. "omgsoawesomeneverbeendonebeforeever!" And yet here it was five years earlier in one of the best action scenes of the decade. I'm not going to say that Jonathan Mostow's Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is the better movie, but this scene was crazy good. BTW I like this entire chase scene, not just the truck flipping. Pure and utter destructive mayhem, and I don't mind admitting that sometimes that just fills with me joy.
TREND: Viola Davis Cameos
Antwone Fisher, World Trade Center & Doubt
To quote Meryl Streep: "My god, somebody give her a movie!" While her roles in Far From Heaven and Solaris can't really be deemed cameos since she's there throughout, these three most definitely are and are, without a doubt, the best scenes in each of the films. Unfortunately there isn't a single shot or clip of Davis in World Trade Center out there on the internet as far as I can tell, but she is so good in it. Antwone Fisher is a better movie for her scene alone and Doubt? Well, everyone already knows how great she is in that one. Now, please, somebody just give her a lead role in something!
PEOPLE: Kate Winslet
Quills, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Romance & Cigarettes, Little Children, Revolutionary Road & The Reader
Before I start, please note I have not seen Iris. A quick look at Winslet's resume shows quite a few clunkers and apart from Eternal Sunshine it's hard to really pinpoint a performance that is more than "Kate Winslet Great", ya know? It's quite she never won an Oscar until The Reader, always great, never really OMGIMUSTREWARDTHISPERFORMANCE. Having said that, I think The Reader is her second greatest performance so I'm quite happy with her winning an Oscar for it.
DIALOGUE: Wolf Creek
"Head on a stick."
Just typing it makes me go cold.
PERFORMANCE: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Who exactly saw this coming? Not me. Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin was my choice for #1 film of 2005 and a bunch of that love comes from Gordon-Levitt's performance as the small town hustler who moves to NYC and finds life isn't any better.
Center of the World
Sex. Lollipop. Hooker Heels. Red. Red. Red.
CRAFT: Black & White Photography
One of favourite things to come out of the decade was the return of black and white cinematography. And not just in "black and white because it's set in the 1950s" - although that's good too, Control - but in the cases of movies like The White Ribbon, Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary and The Man Who Wasn't There it added potent thematic value to the film.
PERFORMANCE: Marcia Gay Harden
The best performances in Mystic River were the women. Figures, since Clint Eastwood is so busy ignoring them (Gay Harden and Laura Linney) that they have to try and act their way out of paper bags in order to get noticed. Harden absolutely blew me away - I had not seen Pollock at this stage - with the way her voice quivers and shakes in that scene on the stoop with Sean Penn and, well, the entire rest of the movie. Her look through the crowd, her confrontation with Tim Robbins... all of it.
CRAFT: Original Screenplay
For such blissful use of the Aussie vernacular. I dare you to find a movie that sounded more Australian from the last decade. The use of words like "frangers", "mouth-breathers" and "munted" add so much colour, and then there's dialogue like this: "Mc as in McDonalds and Gahan as in if you can actually read it's written on my badge." Sure, it helps if you have Brendan Cowell - as Aussie-sounding as you can get - reading your dialogue.
SHOT: "Bonnet Jump"
The Matrix Reloaded
The series didn't hit its nadir until The Matrix Revolutions and there is still a lot to enjoy about Reloaded, mostly revolving around this freeway action scene from which this moment is from. One of the few moments that the Wachowski Brothers got it right.
PERFORMANCE: Casey Affleck
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
How anyone saw this as anything other than a lead performance from the younger Affleck brother is mindboggling, but at least someone was noticing enough to nominate him for all those awards that he should have been winning in the lead category. It's like watching James Dean come back to life.
DIALOGUE: Look Both Ways
"Everyone's fifteen minutes of blegh!"
SHOT: "Lizzy on the Swing"
Pride & Prejudice
As I recently rewatched Joe Wright’s “Pride & Prejudice” – one of the finest films of the decade for sure – it was this moment as Lizzy sees her friend Charlotte that stuck out to be as a perfect example of why this movie is so good. Not only is it of Keira Knightley, the film’s greatest virtue, but it just beams joyfulness, which is something “Pride & Prejudice” radiates through and through. You would have to be a tough-as-nails viewer to not get joy out of this movie as joy is everywhere in it.
Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid
Genre tends to create some interest designs, and that's just the case here with Anacondas. This poster makes me wish that it had been around during the times of VHS and it would have used that bubble design and I probably would have spend time at the video store just ogling it.
SCENE: "Happy Ending"
Most people go with the "fuck you" monologue from earlier in the film, but my favourite scene from Spike Lee's 25th Hour is this film-ending (and highly spoiler-tastic) sequence that chronicles the life Edward Norton's "Monty Brogan" could have if he so chooses.
PEOPLE: Jude Law
AI: Artificial Intelligence, Road to Perdition, Cold Mountain, I ♥ Huckabees, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Closer, The Aviator, Breaking and Entering, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus & Sherlock Holmes
I know Jude cops a lot - a lot - of flak these days, but just look at that list of movies and remember his performances in them. My favourite? I ♥ Huckabees. He's always been so good at comedy and yet rarely seems to go there, which is a shame. Most underrated? Anthony Minghella's Breaking and Entering.
I think the final scene has sorta ruined this movie for a lot, but it's actually still a very good movie (even the stuff with Helen Hunt). The best moments come during Tom Hanks' final attempt at escaping from the island that has been his home for so long. From Wilson's tear-jerking float away to the moment the ship roars past, it's all powerful stuff and I recommend you give the movie another watch just to remind yourself.
PERFORMANCE: Christoph Waltz
"Col. Hans Lander"
Yes, he is just as good as you have been reading about for the past year since he won Best Actor at Cannes all the way until he won the Oscar in March. Terrifyingly good, you could say. If I never see the "that's a BINGO" scene during an awards show ever again, however, I'll be happy.
My eyes were certifiably exploding from their sockets during this sequence of Maggie Cheung and Ziyi Zhang in Zhang Yimou's Hero.
SCENE: "Down in Mexico"
I still find it bizarre that this scene was edited out of GrindHouse! I guess that's one good thing that came out of splitting the movies up for their Australian release - Death Proof came out six months later, Planet Terror went direct-to-DVD - because this scene, set to The Coasters' "Down in Mexico" of Vanessa Furtilo giving "Stuntman Mike" (Kurt Russell) a lapdance is superb.
Nelson Yu Lik-wai
One of my favourite moments of the 2008/9 awards season was when the esteemed Los Angeles Film Critics Association voted Zhang Ke Jia's Still Life as Best Foreign Language Film and gave Nelson Yu Lik-wai their prize for Best Cinematography. Still Life went ignored almost everywhere else on the international awards/festival circuit apart from a much-deserved Golden Lion award at Venice. Part of that film's magic is the cinematogaphy. The deep greens and foggy vistas of the Yangtze River prove to be an intoxicating, yet desperately sad combination, for Je Kia's film.
DIALOGUE: The Class
"But sir, I didn't learn anything."
I can't remember the exact line of dialogue and there doesn't seem to be anywhere that has the direct quote, but this moment at the end of Laurent Cantet's The Class is like an implosion of effectiveness.
TREND: 2nd Time's the Charm
Spider-Man 2, The Bourne Supremacy, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Dark Knight, Final Destination 2, The Devil's Rejects & 2 Fast 2 Furious
Sequels proved to be a good thing this past decade with many franchises improving upon the originals. In some cases it was a big leap in quality (Spider-Man 2), some cases they proved to be more polished (Final Destination 2) and sometimes they were completely different, and thus better, movies (The Devil's Rejects).
I know, I know... I was never a big Crash hater - I've always said I wished I thought the film was as bad as so many others seem to think it is - but I think there are many moments in it that are really great, this scene being one of them.
CRAFT: Costume Design
The Phantom of the Opera
No matter my feelings towards the movie (it's kinda meh), I was obsessed with the costumes from the moment the trailer premiered. And somehow Alexandra Byrne was nominated for an Oscar for... Finding Neverland? How strange.
CHARACTER: "Edna Mode"
Voiced by Brad Bird
It's basically just Linda Hunt and that's why she is, ahem, incredible.
What a way to start you movie, Mr Haneke. I applaud you. Love the gradual typing of the credits over the top, too, to throw us off the scent of what you're doing. Nicely played.
PERFORMANCE: Kat Stewart
Em 4 Jay
She has two brief scenes, can be best described as a "cameo", but not really because when Em 4 Jay was made Kat Stewart was hardly the KAT STEWART that she is now thanks to fucking' mothafuckin' Underfuckin'belly (bless). I loathed the film as I am wont to do with Alkinos Tsilimidos films, but Stewart left me speechless.
CHARACTER: "Mick Taylor"
Played by John Jarratt
Instantly iconic Aussie character in Wolf Creek's sadistic, murderous, insane outback slaughterer. An amalgamation of several infamous real life people (as well as "Crocodile Dundee") into the body of John Jarratt, who is absolutely frightening in a role that, in the "biz", they call once in a lifetime.
SCENE: "The Shoe"
This scene has become a moment that represents Ray Lawrence's Lantana as that shot of Rachael Blake looking scared through the thicket of twisted branches seems to be used anytime the film is written about. What isn't mentioned is how great the scene actually is. It's a tightrope of tension and a moment of pure edge of your seat nail biting stuff in a film that deliberately subverted the audience's expectations of what it would be. When the big reveal is made it's almost as if Lawrence doesn't care anymore, but this scene that acts as a bridge in the mystery is so finely done that I had to include it.
PEOPLE: Anna Faris
Scary Movie, Lost in Translation, Brokeback Mountain, Smiley Face, The House Bunny & Observe and Report
Yes, I legitimately think Anna Faris was a more valuable asset to cinema in the past decade than Kate Winslet. She's been Oscar-worthy three times - Lost in Translation for her brilliant cameo as
SCENE: "The Hospital"
Ana Kokkinos, to her credit, got a helluva performance out of Francis O'Connor in this scene (although O'Connor also overacts throughout the rest of it). Of course, Kokkinos tries her hardest to ruin this scene in last year's Blessed by making frustrating cutaways when all she needed to do was keep the camera on O'Connor's face, which will cut through you like razor blades. I didn't like the movie, but I was on the verge of tears at this moment. O'Connor won the AFI Award for this performance, which is what happens when you're the central focus of one of the most devastating scenes in your country's cinematic history.
SCENE: "Wig in a Box"
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Smile. On face. Now.
PERFORMANCE: Heath Ledger
The Dark Knight
What is there to be said that hasn't already been said? I'm hardly playing activist to an underrated or under-represented performance here am I? While my feelings on whether Ledger gave his best performance in this or Brokeback Mountain is clear and unflinching (you'll see how high the latter ranks eventually), he really is stupendously good here and helped recreate an icon.
MUSIC: "Die Another Day"
Die Another Day
This was the best James Bond theme song since "Live and Let Die" by Wings. Fact. Well, it's a fact for me and that's all that matters around these parts. If kd lang's "Surrender" had actually been used for the theme to Tomorrow Never Dies then you'd have a debate on your hands, alas...
Join us again for the third entry in this series - the scary middle child if you will - where we hear from Erykah Badu, Kerry Armstrong, Bruce Springsteen, Renee Zellweger and The Lovely Laura Linney makes an appearance right next to a celebration of moments that made me go JUMP in the night. Return soon!