Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Getting Technical: Best Craftswork of 2009

(Rather than doing a big post highlighting all of the best work in film from this year, I've decided to compartmentalize everything, each day taking a different look at the different aspects of moviemaking. )

The below-the-line crew members are the unsung heroes of the film industry. They are the people who make the film a reality, not the overpaid stars, not the pretentious director, or the money-mongering producer; no, it's all the little people who tend to get no recognition. Today, I'm gonna give all these guys (or girls) the recognition they deserve.

The technical side of filmmaking is, in all actuality, the most challenging to do, and very often the most rewarding when you manage to do it well. Anywhere from Cinematography, to Makeup, all the way to the lowly Production Assistants (yes, I've been there), everyone pulls their own weight to make the film work and be the best that it can be. That is why I'm giving all of the below-the-line people their time in the spotlight, naming the best of 2009 in all of the major tech categories, and then finishing everything up by naming what I think to be the Best Crew that worked on a film this entire year, based upon the quality of the work involved (now the Best Crew award has nothing to do with the story or direction or acting, purely to do with the technical details of the film and how well done every aspect behind-the-scenes meshed together to create perfect movie magic). Without further ado, let's get going:

Best Cinematography - Bruno Delbonnel, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
There was some really great work this year, and I was actually very tempted to give it to Takeshi Hamada for Departures all due to the wonderful change of seasons sequence, but I've gotta go with Bruno Delbonnel for his ability to bring the magical look of Harry Potter back to life in a way that we haven't seen since probably the third film in the franchise.
(Runners-up: Daniel Mindel, Star Trek; Eric Steelberg, (500) Days of Summer; Takeshi Hamada, Departures; and Larry Fong, Watchmen)

Best Film Editing - Maryann Brandon & Mary Jo Markey, Star Trek
The only real competition here was James Herbert for Sherlock Holmes, having the usual Guy Ritchie flair interspersed throughout in the action sequences, but Brandon & Markey did so well on Star Trek, there is not a single poor edit in that film as far as I'm concerned. They stayed on all the shots just long enough to get the full spectacle, which is something I tend to gripe about in fantasy or sci-fi films.
(Runners-up: James Herbert, Sherlock Holmes; James Cameron, John Refoua, & Stephen E. Rivkin, Avatar; Julian Clarke, District 9; and Mark Day, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)

Best Make-up - Star Trek
Head-and-shoulders above its competition, the make-up work for Star Trek was phenomenal, from turning Eric Bana into a Romulan, to tiny details like creating the Vulcan's ears, or to the countless prosthetic aliens in the background, this film would have been nothing if it weren't for the talented make-up artists behind-the-scenes.
(Runners-up: District 9, Where the Wild Things Are, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Terminator Salvation)

Best Costume Design - Jenny Beavan, Sherlock Holmes
I really liked Michael Kaplan's work on Star Trek, capturing the look of the classic old uniforms in a flashy way, but being realistic, Jenny Beavan nailed the late 1800s with so much panache and style in Sherlock Holmes that it brought to life the personalities of both Holmes and Dr. Watson.
(Runners-up: Jany Temime, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; Michael Kaplan, Star Trek; Michael Wilkinson, Watchmen; and Coleen Atwood, Public Enemies)

Best Art Direction - Rick Carter & Robert Stromberg, Avatar
The most original film in the longest of time deserves this honor. The art direction for Avatar was astounding, original, and dare I say it, beautiful. I've never seen anything else like it, from the creature design to the design of the world of Pandora, and for that reason, the film's art direction is the best of the year.
(Runners-up: Stuart Craig, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; Scott Chambliss & Karen Manthey, Star Trek; Sarah Greenwood & Katie Spencer, Sherlock Holmes; and Alex McDowell & Jim Erickson, Watchmen)

Best Sound Mixing & Editing - Star Trek
Good sound is often undervalued in a film, but when you see a film that sounds as if it was recorded inside a tin can, then you realize just how important it is. The sound work was really marvelous in so many films this year, but it was with Star Trek that I was able to hear the best balance between dialogue, sound effects, and music, although Watchmen came awfully close.
(Runners-up: Avatar, Sherlock Holmes, Where the Wild Things Are, and Watchmen)

Best Visual Effects - District 9
I know, in the year with Avatar, I'm going with District 9, but that is because it was the most seamless integration of CGI and live-action that I think I have ever seen. Even in Avatar, when the live-action was against the CGI, you could tell it was fake, but in District 9 it was almost indistinguishable. While Star Trek came close for its beautiful space battles, and Harry Potter wowed me with its smooth integration of effects work (same for Wild Things), District 9 was this year's visual effects champ.
(Runners-up: Avatar, Star Trek, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Where the Wild Things Are)

Best Overall Crew - Star Trek
Overall, Star Trek was the best made film of the year, technically. It had marvelous visual effects and beautiful cinematography. As well, fantastic make-up, costume design, and art direction with stellar sound. The only way a film can be made with such quality across the board is if all the little people all the way down to the Production Assistants and the Best Boys are stellar at their job, and judging by the quality of Star Trek, I'd say they were all up to snuff.
(Runners-up: Avatar, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Watchmen)

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