With Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and Piranha 3D now out of the bag, the summer blockbuster season has finally come to an end. And with that in mind, it’s time to do our round-up of the best of the season.
Only summer blockbuster films are included here, for fairly obvious reasons, and we’re taking the release of Iron Man 2 as the start of the season and the release of Scott Pilgrim as the end. Thus, a film would have had to be released in that window to qualify (which also leaves The Other Guys and the terrific Despicable Me out of the equation).
Without further ado…
BEST FILM Toy Story 3
Nominees Inception, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, The Expendables
Considering this had been derided as one of the most disappointing summers for some time, there suddenly came a flood of films that instantly lifted the standard. Inception, clearly, has a massive case for the top prize, and it’d be hard to quibble about it taking it. Likewise, there’s a strong argument that Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is the kind of gleeful one-off we’re simply not likely to see again for some time. And The Expendables? If summer blockbusters are supposed to be about huge amounts of fun, that’s the movie that got the memo.
But Toy Story 3 is something very special. More than any film of the summer, it’s stuck in our minds long afterwards, bringing together an unbeatable cocktail of humour, action, horror and excitement, along with a brilliantly moving ending. Shrek never really stood a chance…
BEST DIRECTOR Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim Vs The World)
Nominees Christopher Nolan, Sylvester Stallone
It’s hard to separate our two winners, and thus we’ve ever-so-slightly copped out by splitting the prize. But both Lee Unkrich and Edgar Wright very much deserve the nod.
Unkrich put together as tight a three-act movie as you could hope for, with some quite majestic directorial touches, particularly knowing when to restrain what’s happening on screen to maximum effect.
Edgar Wright, meanwhile, confirmed his status as an extraordinary filmmaker with his hugely confident adaptation of Scott Pilgrim. Whether you warm to the film or not, its direction is quite brilliant.
Christopher Nolan, again, had a mighty shout here, although there’s a school of thought that, as terrific and original as Inception is, he lost his grip a little on the final act of the film.
And Mr Stallone? Again, for a willingness to go old-school and pull it out with the minimum of fuss, he gets a nomination. Now run along, Sly. You’ve got a sequel to make…
BEST ACTOR Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man 2)
Nominees Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception) Russell Crowe (Robin Hood)
Surprisingly, not a terrific field this year. The winner? Well, even if the film around him struggled to measure up at times, there’s little doubting the leading man genius that is Robert Downey Jr. He easily made us buy much of the hokum nonsense that was being banded around, and was comfortably the best thing in Iron Man 2.
Elsewhere, accent aside, Russell Crowe was a solid Robin Hood, and Inception was anchored around Leonardo DiCaprio. Neither of them fuelled their respective films in the same manner as Mr Downey Jr, though.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Sharlto Copley (The A-Team)
Nominees Terry Crews (The Expendables) Jay Baruchel (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) Alfred Molina (Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time) Laurence Fishburne (Predators)
Probably our favourite acting performance of the summer came from Sharlto Copley, whose effect on The A-Team as Murdock wasn’t a million miles away from Alan Rickman’s on Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves. Hilarious, unpredictable and leaving you yearning for more, Copley ate up what little screen time he had, and remains the most compelling reason to demand an A-Team sequel.
Terry Crews gets on the list for waltzing through a particular scene in The Expendables with consummate glee, while Messrs Baruchel and Molina both emerged from their respective Jerry Bruckheimer blockbusters with deserved plaudits. Meanwhile, the perfectly enjoyable Predators comes alive when Laurence Fishburne turns up. Long may he reign.
BEST ACTRESS Angelina Jolie (Salt)
Nominees Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim Vs The World) Cameron Diaz (Knight And Day)
As weak a category in summer blockbuster season as it, sadly, always appears to be. However, Angelina Jolie’s take on Evelyn Salt is arguably the stand-out. Originally a film written with a male lead in mind, Jolie finally nails this leading action star stuff in a far more convincing manner than she managed in the Tomb Raider movies. In the process, she launched a franchise.
Cameron Diaz? Er, we like her, but she was never going to win this (and she was saddled with a surprisingly weak role), while Mary Elizabeth Winstead put in fine work in Scott Pilgrim, but not enough to get the gong this time.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Marion Cotillard (Inception)
Nominees Ellen Wong (Scott Pilgrim Vs The World) Cate Blanchett (Robin Hood) Ellen Page (Inception)
Just edging out the terrific Ellen Wong, Cotillard nabs this one because, with very little material, she makes such a good impact. Much of the emotional resonance of Inception hangs around her character, and she’s a good enough actress to make a lot of not very much. Ellen Wong, meanwhile, was brilliant as Knives in Scott Pilgrim, and ran the category close, with fine work too from Blanchett and Page. Marvellous.
BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS Inception
Nominee Scott Pilgrim Vs The World
Effects don’t make a film, so we’re quite picky about awarding this. However, two films really impressed this summer.
Christopher Nolan realised that effects could be used to genuinely show us things we hadn’t seen before with Inception, while Edgar Wright used his digital toolbox to enhance his frames (most notably with the brilliant battling bands sequence, for our money).
Both showed expert stewardship of their effects, but Nolan is the one who made our jaws hit the flaw. And the bending city remains perhaps the best big screen moment of the summer.
WORST FILM The Last Airbender
Sheesh. Here’s a movie that made more than The A-Team, Knight And Day, Sex & The City 2, Get Him To The Greek, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and The Expendables, and yet, by distance, is the worst of the summer.
We’re not wanting to hammer nails into coffins here, but we would like to suggest that when the sequel comes around, M Night Shyamalan be excused from duty. Please.
DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE SEASON Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2 is a perfectly fine film, with some great moments. But the problem was that the first movie set a standard that the second didn’t match. We guess we’d kind of settled into the idea that second movies in superhero franchises were generally the best, yet Iron Man seemed to skip to the mistakes most make with part three.
Thus, the film was overloaded with characters, got bogged down by trying to do too much, and towards the end, seemed to repeat the kind of action sequence we’d got in the first movie.
Jon Favreau emerged as a strong director of action sequences, and the early scene in the movie where Whiplash makes his proper entrance on the race track is flat-out brilliant. But perhaps because our expectations had been so lifted with the first movie, Iron Man 2 was still the film that left us just a little disappointed, fun though it was.
MUMBLER OF THE SEASON Mickey Rourke
Rourke managed to mumble his way through both Iron Man 2 and The Expendables with consummate skill. Thus, he just edges out the indecipherable Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson for recognition here. We’d tell you what he said on accepting the award, but we’d need to turn the subtitles on to find out.
BIZARRE MOMENT OF THE SEASON Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson quoting Gandhi
It was not the finest moment of The A-Team, but to give it credit, we’re still chattering about it some time later. Jackson was the weak point of the movie, but as the character with some degree of journey in the movie, it was staggering that much of it seemed to hinge on a few Gandhi quotes.
And in a summer not shy of strangeness (why did Stallone say “It’s not easy being green” in The Expendables? Had he been watching The Muppets?), this was the oddest moment of the lot.
SURPRISE OF THE SEASON The Karate Kid
Admit it, you were expecting it to be dreadful. We certainly were, but while The Karate Kid remake was no classic, it was a great deal better than we feared.
Also, it’d be remiss not to mention Twilight: Eclipse, which is arguably the best film of the franchise to date, and has certainly done director David Slade’s reputation little harm at all.
SPECIAL PRIZE The A-Team
Heck, it was a gleeful mess of a film, but it deserves some recognition for a couple of scenes that put as broad a smile on our face as any other summer movie we can think of.
Firstly, there’s the tank flying through the sky sequence. And then there’s a whole action sequence that appears to have been constructed to take the rise out of the 3D revolution.
Along with The Expendables, we had a pair of action movies this summer that’ll sit as a fine double bill for years to come. And while The A-Team has its problems, it really deserves to find success on disc, where it arguably belongs.
We’ll now hand this over to you to argue about in the comments…!