Saturday, July 7, 2012

Best of 2011 - The Techs

    I am not an expert on the intricacies of the art and science involved in many of the tech or craft categories, so maybe I am unqualified to judge what is the best, oh let's say editing of the year.  This almost discouraged me from making lists in many of these categories.  However, I feel that the set decorators, directors of photography, hairstylists, etc. often get treated like second class citizens when it comes to many critic's awards, and I don't want to play that way.  I know how integral the people behind the scenes are to the magic that keeps us staring at that screen and they deserve a little recognition.  I can tell when a film that really worked hinged on precision and timing in the editing room well enough to recognize some very worthy work.  If there was work that was even more worthy but escaped my attention due to my aforementioned lack of expertise, I apologize.  I also apologize to the sound editors and mixers who I really did feel too ignorant to make judgement calls about, but here at The Movie Frog, we appreciate you too.  Clicking on the name of a highlighted film will take you to my review of said film, where applicable.  And now, the first annual...Froggies?

Best Achievement in Make-Up and Hair Styling
     You know, I keep reading on other film blogs about how the Academy has lumped the make-up artists and hairstylists in together this year and how that must make them feel having to share a category.  Very few seem to realize that as I stated in my review of The Help back in August of last year that they have always shared the category, the name has just never reflected it.  I myself was planning on referring to this list by this title before the Academy even announced the name change.
  6. Captain America:  The First Avenger
      Lisa Westcott, David White  
     I am surprised the work this department turned in did not gain more buzz than it did.  Not only did you have the complicated, flashy job of turning Hugo Weaving into the Red Skull, but it was a period piece that required styling to match an age seventy years gone.
  5. Anonymous
      Heike Merker, Bjorn Rehbein
     This film required the even more stylized look of a much farther removed era and even period theatrical stage makeup.  The entire production was visually stunning.  This was a key component.
  4. The Help
      Camille Friend
     I only listed Ms Friend because the film's inclusion here is really ALL about the amazing hair design and implementation.  I'm serious.  Watch it again and think about it.
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
      Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight, Lisa Tomblin
     It will be a refrain when discussing this movie, but it did have a leg up in that many of the effects this team had to create had already been developed and implemented earlier in the series, but they still deserve one last round of kudos for playing such an essential role in the creation of such an intricate, fantastic world.  The range of effects created for this series is almost unparalleled.
  2. The Skin I Live In
      Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Marti
     The makeup crew behind this film had to slowly transform actor Jan Cornet into actress Elena Anaya...and not let us realize exactly when the performers switch.  Which they did.  Well.
  1. The Iron Lady
      Mark Coulier, J. Roy Helland
     What can I say?  Sometimes the Academy does just get it right.  Whatever this film's many flaws may be, the work done by these men to transform Meryl Streep physically into Margaret Thatcher was outstanding.  The likeness was amazing and the makeup never wore the actress.

     And the Tin Toadstool (just thought of that) for worst makeup and hair of the year is awarded to...
   J Edgar
   Tania McComas
     This...enthusiastic makeup department head oversaw all the old age effects on this picture.  This means that it was under her watchful gaze that Leonardo DiCaprio was transformed into a Sid and Marty Croft character and Armee Hammer transmogrified into a standard manekin left on the sidewalk in the middle of the afternoon, in July, in Las Vegas.

Best Costume Design
     I feel like the work of the costumer is fairly easy for even the uninitiated to see, so for the most part I'm just gonna give you my picks here without a whole lot of justification.
  10. The Housemaid
        Se-yeon Choi
  9. The Help
      Sharen Davis
  8. Albert Nobbs
      Pierre-Yves Cayraud
  7. My Week With Marilyn
      Jill Taylor
  6. Captain America:  The First Avenger
      Anna B Sheppard
     Again, this film may seem like an odd choice but it's the double duty of super hero movie costumes and serious authentic period outfits that I can't help but be impressed by.
  5. The Artist
      Mark Bridges
  4. Jane Eyre
      Michael O'Conner
  3. Anonymous
      Lisy Christi
  2.Mysteries of Lisbon
      Tania Franco
  1. Midnight In Paris
      Sonia Grande
     I know, I know, two highly stylized time periods automatically trumps one, but all three eras of this film were handled brilliantly.  When I'm right...

  Tin Toadstool:  Sucker Punch
                          Michael Wilkinson
     Anyone who is tired of hearing feminists say that women are infanticized and objectified by their representations in American media should stop making films like Sucker Punch, because it completely validates all of these women's positions.  The costumes were probably the most egregious I'ing and O'ing. of the entire production.

Best Editing
     This is one of the categories where I feel like I don't have the eye to really appreciate all of the finer points of the job that these artists do.  Here are ten films that even I couldn't help but appreciate the editorial contributions in.
  10. Bullhead
        Alain Dessauvage
     So many times in Bullhead, quick cuts were used to the cattle and other imagery that would help to illustrate what was going on in Jacky's head.  It was an effective but tricky technique that had to cut away from him long enough to make the point, but return to Jacky quickly enough to prevent the viewer from breaking their connection with him.  It really enhanced an already impressive performance.
  9. Hanna
      Paul Tothill
     Action films always present editors with a challenging task and this was a very stylized film for that genre. In a movie like this, pace and timing are everything.
  8. Hugo
      Thelma Schoonmaker
     I think this one sort of speaks for itself.  Highly visually stylized film.  Almost had a rhythm like a dance.
  7. 13 Assassins
      Kenji Yamashita
     The last half of the movie is an hour long non-stop highly choreographed, high impact, vastly creative fight sequence between our band of 13 and a whole town full of angry enemy warriors.  Nuff said.
  6. The Artist
      Anne-Sophie Bion, Michel Hazanavicius
     This film was edited in a way that was very reminiscent of silent era Hollywood without causing any emotional disconnect in viewers more accustomed to the way modern movies flow.
  5. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
      Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall
     Everything I said about Hannah applies here but more so.
  4. Drive
      Matthew Newman
     And just a teeeeny bit more so.
  3. Pina
      Toni Froschhaminer
      Sometimes the way that the vignettes that made up this documentary flowed together were almost as creative as the brilliant choreography and dance found within them.
  2..We Need To Talk About Kevin
       Joe Bini
     This film flowed so seamlessly back and forth along its narrative timeline and carried the viewer so effortlessly along, how can you not honor the man who put the pieces back together that way.
  1. The Tree of Life
      Hank Corwin, Jay Rabinowitz, Daniel Rezende, Billy Weber, Mark Yoshikawa
     Too many cooks can sometimes spoil the broth, but the film, while all over the place, is so brilliantly all over the place and abstractly cohesive at the same time.  Tree of Life should win a special award for "film most impossible to try to explain without sounding like a douche."  I think it just did. Trust me, this had to be one of the most difficult films ever from an editor's perspective.
  Tin Toadstool:  W. E.
                          Danny Tull
     I was really surprised to find that this film did not share an editorial staff with MTV's the real world.  I struggled to avoid giving all of these to W. E. but in this case, there was just nothing justifiably worse to choose from.

Best Art Direction and Set Decoration
     Which is really what this award is at the Oscar's too, they just don't call it that.  And Art Direction is a lot like Set Design for you theater geeks.  
  10. Albert Nobbs
        Art Direction:  Susie Cullen, Set Decoration:  Jenny Oman
     Everything in the world of Albert Nobbs looked as stuffy and reserved as Albert
  9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow Part 2
      Art Direction:  Andrew Ackland-Snow, Alastair Bullock, Set Decoration:  Stephanie McMillan
     How can a world that has become this familiar to our collective subconscious still look this visually impressive?  How can you not honor that one last time?
  8. Jane Eyre 
      Art Direction:  Karl Probert, Set Direction:  Tina Jones
     The ruins sealed the deal for me on this one.
  7. Anonymous
      Art Direction:  Stephan O. Gessler, Set Decoration:  Simon-Julien Boucherie
     I mean, this movie was really amazing to look at, every scene.
  6. The Housemaid
      Art Direction: Jung-yoon Bae, Set Decoration:  Hyeon-mi Yang
     Contemporary settings usually get ignored by the Academy in this category but the opulence of the Goh home is a work of art in itself.  The incorporation of fire into the sets is truly inspired.
  5. We Need To Talk About Kevin
       Art Direction:  Charles Kulszinski, Set Decoration:  Heather Loeffler
     Another contemporary piece but it deserves its place on this list simply for all the brilliant uses of the color red throughout the production.
  4. The Skin I Live In
      Art Direction: Carlos Bodelor, Set Decoration:  Vicent Diaz
     Pedro Almodovar films always seem to occupy a world just off of reality.  This part of the production team really showed us that world in a tangible way in Skin.  Uncomfortably beautiful with just a whiff of Clockwork Orange.
  3. Midnight In Paris
      Art Direction:  Jean-Yves Rabier, Set Decoration:  Helene Dubreuil
     This is deserving in all the same ways, for all the same reasons, that it was deserving in Costume Design.
  2. The Artist
      Art Direction: Gregory S. Hooper, Set Decoration:  Austin Buchinsky, Robert Gould
     Half of this movie was movie sets within movie sets and all of it was set in a long gone era, and all of it had to look enchanting and magical.  Somehow all of that worked.
  1. Hugo
      Art Direction: David Warren, Set Decoration:  Francesca Lo Schiavo
     Again, the world of Hugo was a highly stylized one, especially from a visual standpoint, sort of off-fantasy with period elements.  Beautiful work.
  Tin Toadstool:  W.E. 
                          Art Direction:  Steven Lawrence, Set Decoration:  Celia Bobak
      Sometimes more is not better.  Royalty has never looked so gauche.

Use of Music
     I sort of made this category broad enough to cover Original Scores, Original Songs, and films that made brilliant use of non-original pieces.
  10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
        Original Score:  Alexandre Desplat
     Yeah, a lot of the motifs at play here are familiar from earlier in the series, but it doesn't negate the quality of the work being done.
  9.Martha Marcy Mae Marlene
      Original Music:  Daniel Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans
     I'm not sure which, if either, of the above mentioned gentlemen wrote the song that Patrick sings for "Marcy Mae" when she first joins the commune, but it was a chilling moment, enhanced greatly by John Hawkes' performance.
  8. Hanna
      Original Score:  The Chemical Brothers
     Following up their excellent scoring on Tron, The Chemical Brothers seem primed to follow Trent Reznor from pop innovation to Oscar glory...some year soon.
  7. Shame
      Original Score: Harry Escott
     Not to discount Mr. Escott's fine composition, but it is really Carey Mulligan's brilliant rendition of New York, New York that earned Shame a place on this list.  Heartbreaking.
  6. Chico and Rita
      Original Music:  Bebo Valdes
     Chico & Rita is a story of jazz musicians in Cuba's golden age of music.  The story is the music and vice versa.
  5.  Pina
  Most of Pina's music is unoriginal to the film, but it is a dance documentary, and an exquisite one.  Dancing IS about the music, and it is one of the film's most integral elements.
  4. Drive
      Original Score:  Cliff Martinez
     Nothing makes B-movie violence seem like art house styling like a soaring, powerful score set behind it.  Job well done.
  3. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
      Original Score:  Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
     Hot off of their Oscar win for The Social Network, this pair returns to prove that they may indeed be the hottest new thing in music composed for film.
  2. The Artist
      Origianl Score:  Ludovic Bource
     Most films are supported by their score as a background soundtrack underneath the sound of the dialogue and action.  In The Artist, the score WAS the soundtrack.  Front and center.  If it had not worked, the film would not have either.  They both DID.
  1.  The Tree of Life
       Original Score:  Alexandre Desplat
     The score was disqualified for Oscar consideration because of unoriginal elements woven throughout it, but it is so magnificent that I couldn't care less.  There is probably just as much unscripted screen time in The Tree of Life as in the Artist and often the music was the whole movement of a scene.  I cannot stress how impressive the great Mr. Desplat's work is here.
  Tin Toadstool:  To Die Like a Man
       No original score here, but there is this sequence in the woods where all the characters freeze in tableau for like five minutes while the moon or stars or something sing gospel music to them.  It was by far the worst part of a movie that was pretty bad already.

Best Visual Effects
     I tried to consider not just how impressive the special effects were, but how well they were used to enhance (rather than totally overshadow) the plot.  That should help explain why some of the films below weren't ranked higher than they were, as well as why some were left off.  I had a difficult time distinguishing exactly which members of the vast teams behind the visual effects on these movies should be singled out, so I just gave up.
  10. Anonymous
     The London cityscape of a bygone age was recreated with a majesty that simple sets or location shots in the present day never could have produced.  Like most visual aspects of this film, it was quite impressive.
  9. X-Men:  First Class
     Marvel Studios always does a state of the art job with their FX while still focusing on story.  There was nothing that revolutionary or mind boggling here, just believable work that wove seemlessly into the film.
  8. Take Shelter
     Yes, the work here was quite simple and low tech compared to most of the films on this list, but it was still integral to the plot and dollar per dollar maybe the most that anyone on the list got for their money.
  7. Transformers:  Dark of the Moon
     I admit, some of the sequences in this film were mind blowing, and it had some of the most innovative effects on this list.  The reason that it doesn't rank higher on the list is because the effects were so amazing and all-attention-hogging, that you failed to notice anything else about the movie.  To me (and this is just me) truly great Visual Effects of the cinema should enhance a film rather than distract from it.  It's almost like they were purposefully designed to keep you from noticing how hollow the rest of the film was.  Hmmm...?
  6. The Tree of Life
     We've all seen CGI dinosaurs before, but the way that the FX were integrated into Tree of Life made them MEAN so much.  They served the film well, as they should.
  5. Thor
     I don't care that this film got almost no Visual Effects buzz, I thought Asgard looked great.  In a super-hero flick that flits casually between dimensions, the effects never once ruined the suspension of my disbelief.  And I can be a very cynical bastard about such matters.
  4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
     So many characters and creatures (and Kreature), and spells, and worlds, and ghosts, and we all bought into it all for the most part, I mean, come on, you know you did.  I did.
  3. The Adventures of Tin Tin: The Secret of the Unicorn
     Whether the animation branch wants to honor this film as true animation or not, the team here used existing technologies in new ways and created an animated film that looked so hyper-real that it was almost a little spooky.  The characters looked alive and, thanks to motion capture, bits and pieces of them were
  2. Hugo
     There were no monsters, aliens, dimension hopping, spells, or space travel in Hugo per se, but the use of 3D effects was probably the most artful in any film ever, so it didn't really need those things to deserve this slot.
  1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
     Rise put motion capture animation beings into our own world, which means that it took human actors and turned them into animation, and then integrated it back into our world and it so totally worked that you had more empathy for the apes than you did for the humans.  To feel something complex in relation to a visual effect is probably the greatest compliment you could give its creators.
  Tin Toadstool:  The Strange Case of Anjelica
     The supernatural aspects of this film were totally mishandled in every regard, but the cheesy cut and paste (like with scissors and actual paste) green screen effects were absolutely the worst part of the whole experience of watching the movie.

     I saved this one for last because this was a really great year for cinematography.  Many of my favorite films of the year are on this list and nine of them got five star ratings from me (#8 was a 4 1/2 star film).  There are many other films that in a weaker year could easily have ranked in the top ten including Midnight in Paris, The Skin I Live In, Harry Potter, etc.  These, however, are the ten films I have chosen to honor.  I think that watching the films is the only way to really see why, so commentary will be minimal.
  10. Take Shelter
        Adam Stone
  9. The Descendants
       Phedon Papamichael
     Makes you want to move to Hawa'ai.
  8. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
      Jeff Cronenworth
     The man is truly a master of his craft.
  7. The Artist
      Guillaume Schiffman
  6. Shame
      Sean Bobbitt
  5. Hugo
      Robert Richardson
     Best use of 3D camera work ever!
  4. Drive
      Newton Thomas Sigel
  3. We Need To Talk About Kevin
      Seamus McGarvey
     So much red, so much pain, so beautifully rendered.
  2. Melancholia
      Manuel Alberto Claro
     There was more exquisite camera work in the first ten minutes of this film than in most whole films.
  1. The Tree of Life
      Emmanuel Lubezki
     There was more exquisite camera work in every ten minutes of this film than in most whole films.
  Tin Toadstool:  To Die Like a Man
                          Rui Pocas
     Just as overblown as everything else in this film, but with weird red screen effects that meant nothing.

     And thankfully, that is it for today.  The next installment of the 2011 series will be up next Saturday.  In it, we will cover the acting lists from Best Actress to Best Juvenile Performance.  And don't miss the beginning of my coverage of the films of 2012 in my DVD reviews tomorrow.  I'll see you then.


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