Look, we like the Oscars. Sort of. There’s all that political crap and there’s always some sort of stupid upset that makes us yell at the TV. And rarely does our beloved genre get rewarded by the Academy. So we’ve made our own Oscar categories this year, and are honoring the performances, visuals and villains that made us sit up and take notice. We’re calling them The Ripleys because hey, who better to represent than our #1 Final Girl?
The Ripleys 2011
Jenny adds: Our group, like most, experiences some disagreement and indecision. We could knife fight about it or hit our heads against the wall until we choose, but we’ll settle for a few ties. We listed the rest of our qualifiers in our last post and they’re no different here.
Rutger Hauer (Hobo with a Shotgun)
Min-sik Choi (I Saw the Devil)
Jenny Dreadful: I’m always a fan of Min-sik Choi, but Rutger Hauer is definitely my choice. I praised him in great detail in my review of Hobo with a Shotgun, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat myself a little. Centered in an irreverent and colorful setting slick with cartoony splatter, we experience this incredibly poignant character that calls to mind the hardships of the homeless and damaged. It’s a testament to the success of his performance that we can feel such sadness and affection for the titular Hobo moments away from laughing at a decapitation.
crowbait: Both our contenders are playing people neck deep in gruesome violence and who are on both the giving and receiving ends of brutal treatment. Both also work overtime to bring a real sense of sympathy to their characters. Though it may seem easy for Hauer at the start, his character being the typical, down-on-his-luck drifter with simple hopes, the violence he brings to those around him and himself mars that simple goodness. Min-sik Choi is working from the opposite end of the equation and must work to make us feel sorry for a monstrous serial killer but the simple bafflement he shows as his own ways of violence are turned on him (and the deplorable tactics used by his tormentor) bring real complexity to the character.
StayFrosty: Both of these characters could so easily fall into the one-dimensional trap. But thanks to Hauer and Choi, they become nuanced men who are at turns brutal, cruel, sympathetic and almost heroic. Sometimes all in the same scene.
StayFrosty: In the best possible way, this performance hurts. Dunst’s portrayal of the cycle of depression (itself a reflection of the emotional state of director Lars von Trier) hits all the right notes, and all the raw spots. She takes this character from apparent happiness to crippling indecision to calm acceptance in the face of destruction brilliantly. That she wasn’t up for an Oscar last night is a damn shame, but I’m sure Meryl Streep isn’t crying about it.
Jenny Dreadful: It’s surprising that the most realistic portrayal of paralyzing depression I’ve ever seen is found within this beautiful and surreal art film. From facial expressions that speak a thousand words to channeling the worst of von Trier’s demons on screen, Dunst was incredible. I don’t enjoy judging other viewers, but I suspect audience members who question her performance and character’s behavior have never experienced or witnessed the extremes of chronic depression firsthand. If you have, her execution of the role and the overall film are emotionally overwhelming. I… was cutting onions before the screening. Or I had something in my eye. Allergies?
Runner-up: Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Best Supporting Actor
StayFrosty: Okay, it’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I love David Tennant. LOVE him. But even putting that adoration aside, Tennant’s Peter Vincent is the perfect supporting actor in a film: he comes in, he steals every scene he’s in, he leaves. And he fights vampires. And he’s shirtless often. What’s not to love?
Jenny Dreadful: Although the film itself won’t be getting any praise here on FGSG (see my review on Cinedelphia here), David Tennant’s Peter Vincent is worth the price of admission. A surprisingly fun spin on a beloved character.
Best Supporting Actress
StayFrosty: From the moment she first sets foot on the screen, Lin Shaye takes over this movie. She can change from a kind, friendly medium to terrifyingly describing a demon behind a fan to wearing a gas mask during a seance. This lady knows how to work a movie, and she manages to be amazing without taking away from the other performances or sticking out in a bad way. It’s a balancing act, one she does wonderfully.
Jenny Dreadful: Agreed. From grandmotherly warmth to intensity that chills you to the bone, the always delightful Shaye excels in Insidious.
crowbait: This is a great role for Lin Shaye to play because it is so wide ranging. It shows her commitment to the genre and her willingness to do some really odd things to make a movie powerfully creepy.
Runner-up: Charlotte Gainsbourg (Melancholia)
James Wan (Insidious)
StayFrosty: We couldn’t decide between these two gentlemen because the films are so different, and the effect they have on us are so opposite. Without a doubt, Lars von Trier has made one of the best movies of the year – beautiful and devastating and unforgettable. But Wan has made the movie we invite people over to watch again and again, the thrill ride that uses mood and atmosphere instead of CGI and cheap scares. And both of those things are worth rewarding. Congrats, gents, for making movies beautiful and fun and scary and amazing. We can’t wait to see what you both do next.
Jenny Dreadful: Von Trier’s heart-breaking use of the screen as personal exorcism results in difficult, beautiful and groundbreaking film. Wan is fun, innovative and in love with the genre; a treasure within the horror community. We’re not the Oscars. You can’t make us choose.
Melancholia (Manuel Alberto Claro)
Jenny Dreadful: Although this film is gorgeous throughout its significant running time, the piece opens with a series of astounding images; both representational and abstract interpretations of the events to come slowed to an aching crawl. Kirsten Dunst in wedding gown as Ophelia, the main players ominously lined up on the “stage,” the planets about to collide… The big climax is equally beautiful and affecting. This is a film meant for the big screen.
StayFrosty: That opening sequence. It took my breath away when I first saw it, and the gorgeous, disturbing images have never strayed too far from my mind. These are shots that stop you in your tracks, and while the rest of the film is no less beautiful. I feel lucky that I was able to see this one on the big screen.
Best Art Direction
Jenny Dreadful: Getting a little sillier now, but no less sincere. From the color palette to the playful comics-style costuming and sets… to the freaking FONTS… Hobo with a Shotgun has some serious visual style. The look is consistently reminiscent of the material Eisener seeks to emulate without falling into the common trap of sacrificing quality for nostalgia.
crowbait: The costuming of the circus, in all its extravagance, becomes horrifying as the costume of warring clowns in an ending that can only be described as a battle between monsters. In all the grunge of the war and the decrepit world outside the big top the contrast is delightful.
Jenny Dreadful: We’re cheating a wee bit as we named The Last Circus among our Best films of 2010, but these wild designs (part whimsical, part nightmare fuel) warrant recognition.
StayFrosty: From the opening scenes to the gut-wrenching final shots and all moments in between, our characters might be in clown costumes, but those costumes have never been more serious, scary and sad. Special notice to the costuming choices for the main character (the sad clown). His costumes reflect the intense emotional changes he undergoes, and when he spirals down into rage and insanity, he makes for one of the scariest – and striking – looking clowns I’ve ever seen.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross)
StayFrosty: I love this score. It’s evocative of the stark, bleak mood of Fincher’s film without ever overpowering the scenes. It works exactly like a score should. And frankly, I listen to it on its own as much as I listen to any “regular” CD.
crowbait: I might not be popular for thinking this but I much preferred this score to this duo’s work on last year’s The Social Network. I like to think that the Oscar was awarded by psychic prediction for this one instead. A great, understated score for a film very much about the internalization of hurt.
Runner-up: Insidious (Joseph Bishara) Because we’re afraid he’ll come get us. See below. Also because he was great.
crowbait: Yeah, it’s a cover but as with other Reznor covers it infuses a driving, dangerous energy into the music without overwhelming the source. A great compliment for the opening segment of the film.
StayFrosty: The Oscars may not recognize cover songs, but we do. And this is without doubt, the best song from a genre film this year. Possibly the best song this year that wasn’t by a Muppet. Karen O’s wailing vocals, combined with Reznor’s gritty arrangement, make for a dark, electrifying take on the Zepplin classic. I could listen to this all day.
Best Short Film
StayFrosty: Holy shit, this is hilarious. I can’t possibly describe it, you must see it to believe it. It’s all funny, but special props to Joel David Moore for possibly the funniest Hitler (and definitely the funniest use of the German language…sort of) ever committed to celluloid.
crowbait: Whenever there’s a compilation of shorts released as a whole there has to be one standout and the mania on display here easily buries the accompanying stories. Though there is also a funny musical about homosexual werebears.
StayFrosty: I love David Fincher. The man makes no compromises in any of his films, and I respect that. And though people complained when he started the remake of TGwtDT, I knew that it would be worthwhile if he had chosen to do it. And boy is it ever. It’s beautiful and rough and painful and rewarding, and at times so very upsetting to watch (and this is from a lady who’s seen a lot of stuff, just check our top 13). It’s a credit to Fincher that he doesn’t flinch from the difficult topics addressed in these books and the original film, and while his take on Lisbeth Salander is different than Sweden’s Noomi Rapace, it’s no less quality.
Jenny Dreadful: Ah. The timeless classic. A wonder for all ages. Human Centipede 2. Surprised to see it on our Awards list? Although we had a fair number of disturbing and violent films to choose from, HC2′s gratuitous use of sand-paper, staplers, pipes, gas pedals and more ordinary objects pushed the limit and yielded surprisingly realistic results. Tom Six, you take the cake. The… horrible… poop cake. No one should eat poop cake.
StayFrosty: I don’t think I could say it better than JennyD on this one. HC2 made you wait for it, doling out some sandpaper here and some hammer bashing there, but once the gore-splosion hit, man did it hit hard. And unrelenting. And gross. When the two of us are shouting in disbelieving horror at the screen, you know it’s something special. And by special I mean poop cake.
Runner-up: Hobo with a Shotgun by Jason Eisener
crowbait: Exactly what you want from a film monster. Strong, highly graphic visual design and an inherent brutality that marks it as the alien source of evil.
Jenny Dreadful: I picked this icon imagery for two reasons. 1. Unlikely as it may be in our modern world, I thought it would be fantastic if someone could watch Insidious without having the appearance of the threat spoiled for them. And… 2. I don’t want to look at it! A wonderful frightening entity that manages to freak me out every time I watch the film despite knowing when the best scares are coming. (Fun trivia: Joseph Bishara is also the composer of the film’s score.)
StayFrosty: We’ve already established that Wan is a smart filmmaker, and the choice of Lipstick-Faced demon as the main villain of Insidious is another great move. At first, you just get glimpses – shadowy shots of long, claw-like hands reaching out for a sleeping child. And then, out of nowhere, smack in the middle of the day, that face. That fucking terrifying face. I’m not ashamed to agree with JennyD that I didn’t want to have to look at that face behind a face each time I went to write here. By the end, when you finally see the whole creature in all its messed up glory, you aren’t disappointed.
Runner-up: Trolls from Troll Hunter
Best poster art
TIE: Human Centipede 2 & Hobo with a Shotgun
StayFrosty: It’s pretty simple for me. HC2 has the most evocative image of the year on a poster- you can love or hate the movie, but that poster is a hell of a thing. And HwaS is done in such a fabulous exploitation style. They don’t make them like that anymore.
Jenny Dreadful: Even if you hate the film, you have to admit this Human Centipede 2 poster image is wonderfully creepy and well-designed. From afar, I thought it was a spinal column. Next, I figured it was probably the shape of an insect. Then I realized I’d stumbled into the gateway of a Boschian Hell landscape. (Bosch LOVED butts. Connection?)
Ah. Moving on. In a world overrun by floating Photoshopped heads, The Hobo with a Shotgun poster is welcome tribute to the illustrated posters of film’s past. Artwork by Tom Hodge. Mr. Hodge, all of my fellow illustrators working today, and the ghosts of illustration past… we salute you!
Best Credits Sequence
StayFrosty: This is the best opening sequence in many many years. Probably one of the best I’ve ever seen. I can’t think of a better way to open this movie than sending you on a nightmare (but beautiful) trip into Lisbeth’s subconscious – by the time the music fades and the actual film starts, you’re already thrilled, energized and a little unsettled. What a way to begin.
crowbait: The sequence is alternately titillating and horrifying as a picture of the complex and contrary images in the heroine’s head. Nice place to visit. Bad place to live.
Best Post-credits Sequence
StayFrosty: This movie is not so great, but I am SO glad FGSG decided to wait out the credits, because we found the absolutely hilarious Shark Night Rap. My god, if only the movie had been as good as that three minute rap. Do yourself a favor and watch this. You will not be disappointed. I mean, the man manages to rhyme “shark ghosts”. And frankly, just the phrase “shark ghosts” is enough to crack me up.
crowbait: Here’s a taste.
Most Anticipated 2012
StayFrosty: Words cannot describe how much I’m looking forward to this movie. No seriously, I can’t think of any short way to talk about how I feel about another movie in the Alien universe directed by Ridley Scott with a cast that seems impeccable. The only way to thrill me more is to add a power loader.
crowbait: I already deeply admire the guts that Ridley Scott has shown in breaking from the Alien continuity in order to make this prequel free from the tampering of the trademark holders. We know we will get what he wants and what he wants is a great movie.
This concludes our Ripleys list, readers. Comment with your picks. We’d love to hear them! Now, until next time, let’s enjoy a year of bloody fun.