This has taken me longer to cull than I thought this would, but even in such a scant year for good, quality movies, the few gems that there are seem to be on such a same level that it's hard to distill down the winners and the runners-up, but alas time to continue today with the Below-the-Line awards of 2010:
Best Art Direction - TRON: Legacy
Art Direction is everything from the design of the world in which the story takes place in, to the creatures, all the way to the look of the sets. Typically, this award goes to a movie of the fantasy or sci-fi roots, and last year was no different with this going to Avatar, and this year maintains a similar trend, going to TRON: Legacy. From the architectural designs of the grid, to all of the beyond belief designs of the light-vehicles, going far beyond just lightcycles to lightjets and lightcars, this one had it all.
(Runners-Up: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 1, How to Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 3, and True Grit)
Best Costumes and Makeup - True Grit
These two factors are best given together, because the two typically go hand-in-hand. While last year I was split and gave costumes to Sherlock Holmes and Makeup to Star Trek, this year the same movie knocked it out of the park for both. True Grit's costume work was believable of the time period, unlike Westerns of the Golden Age, the costumes didn't look like they just came off the store shelf, and the makeup work was astonishing. Never have muttonchops looked so good, and it's refreshing to see people trekking across the wilderness in a movie that actually look like they haven't showered in days.
(Runners-Up: TRON: Legacy, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 1, Alice in Wonderland, and The Book of Eli)
Best Special Effects - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 1
Special effects work must be seamlessly integrated in order for it to work and allow the audience to suspend their disbelief. You should never know that what you're looking at isn't real, and that is why Star Trek won last year, and why Harry Potter wins this year. There were some stunning individual moments in the world of special effects this past year, but no movie other than Harry Potter managed to consistently weave the visual effects in with the practical to where majority of the movie you had no clue whether what you were looking at was real or not, and that's the mastery of special effects.
(Runners-Up: TRON: Legacy, The Book of Eli, Inception, and The A-Team)
Best Film Editing - The Social Network
Editing is probably the most crucial tool at a filmmaker's disposal to completely change the audience's reaction to a scene. Whether the audience will feel tense at this moment, or if they'll feel at ease, or even what they think of the characters, depending upon the order of the shots, can change, that is why editing is of such crucial importance. Last year, I went with Star Trek, and this year I'm going a little more low-key with a drama, The Social Network. How do you derive suspense from ordinary circumstances in everyday life, such as legal battles over a company or over a broken friendship? It's the editing that made The Social Network what it was, and that's why it shows up here.
(Runners-Up: The Book of Eli, True Grit, Inception, and Black Swan)
Best Cinematography - True Grit
The image is the first thing we notice about the movie, the tones of the colors, the framing, it all goes through our subconscious and clues us into what kind of movie we're watching. Are we watching a gritty cop drama, or are we watching a lyrical fantasy. Last year I went with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and this year I'm going with Roger Deakins' work on True Grit. Deakins captured the beauty of the Wild West, the lyrical simplicity of the time in a way that was visually striking, and ethereal, and that's why he wins.
(Runners-Up: The Social Network, Inception, The Book of Eli, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 1)
Best Musical Score - How to Train Your Dragon
If there is one thing this year was not short off, it was fantastic musical scores. The music within a movie is the final key ingredient to create feeling within an audience, and it is the very thing that allowed Departures to win last year, and it is the very thing that allowed John Powell's fantastically moving score for How to Train Your Dragon to walk away with the prize this year. I'm an old school, movie score purist. I love big orchestral cues that have a sweeping scope, from the big horn blasts of the brass, to the beauty of the strings, but the thing that makes a movie score more than just beautiful music is if the score actually aids the movie in such a way that the visual images would not be the same without the music. While a case could be made for Carter Burwell or Daft Punk (who was the frontrunner till I saw How to Train Your Dragon) the score to How to Train Your Dragon just hit all of the right notes for me, in particular the scene where Hiccup befriends Toothless. It's movie magic that would note have existed if it weren't for Mr. Powell's contributions.
(Runners-Up: True Grit, TRON: Legacy, The Social Network, and Toy Story 3)
Tune in later this week to catch up with my acting and directing honors for 2010!