My Saturn Award Picks

Joss Whedon attended once, so they’re legit, you guys.

In a few hours, the 40th Saturn Awards are due to be presented are to be presented in Burbank, California. Those of you with lives that involve more than lazily scrolling through Wikipedia might ask me what exactly the Saturn Awards are and why they should care about them. The short answer is that the Saturn Awards are presented each year by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films to honour the best in not only movies of those genres, but also TV and, for some reason, home video.

“Chucky: The Complete Collection” and “Award Nominee” are two phrases that you never thought would ever appear in the same breath.

As for why we would need this fairly anonymous award, that’s rather straightforward as well. While I love and cherish the Academy Awards, they can be notoriously stuffy when it comes to nominating movies for the Best Picture Award. There’s a reason that some movies are referred to as “Oscar-bait”: It can seem sometimes that all some movies need to to is try really hard to be nominated for an Oscar and the Academy will lose  its shit over it, even if it’s just so-so or, in some cases, just plain bad.

Unrelated Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close poster.

 One of the more recent examples is The Dark Knight in 2009. TDK was the highest-grossing movie of that year and is widely considered, along with The Avengers and the new X-Men movie to be in the running for the title of greatest comic book movie of all time. It’s such a damn great movie that even the Academy took notice, rewarding it with 8 nominations: Best Visual Effects (Which it lost to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Best Film Editing (Lost to Slumdog Millionaire), Best Makeup (Lost to Benjamin Button), Best Cinematography (Lost to Slumdog Millionaire), Best Art Direction (Lost to Benjamin Fucking Button) Best Sound Mixing (Lost to Slumdog Bloody Millionaire) Best Sound Editing (Which it won) and, obviously, Best Supporting Actor for the late Heath Ledger (Which it also won, as it damn well should have).

Notice anything about those categories?

Not a single one of them is the Best Picture category.

Now, I can understand that not every great movie can get a nomination. If that was the case, the Oscar ceremony would double in length, and Ellen DeGeneres was already a bit thin on material during regular programming. But do you know what movie was nominated for Best Picture instead of TDK? The Reader. A movie that just barely got a “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and that you have probably never heard of before. Oscar-bait at its most stereotypical.

So basically, that’s why I like the Saturn Awards so much. Even if the movie are, in general, inferior to the Oscars, the Saturn Awards still let the movies that us plebes enjoy take the spotlight. Besides, let’s be honest here: How many of you actually watched 12 Years a Slave before it won the Oscar?

Ah,whatever. I’ve rambled long enough. The following are my Saturn Award picks. The list of nominees can be found here. I won’t be doing predictions for TV or Home  Video categories, but I do hope that Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones clean up.

Best Independent Film

“Fucking Matthew McConaughey.”

My pick: 12 Years a Slave

Second place: Inside Llewyn Davis

12 Years a Slave is the best movie of 2013 (The Academy didn’t screw this one up!) So it’s obviously going to win the majority of awards it’s nominated for, and it doesn’t even have to contend with Dallas Buyers Club or Gravity this time around.

Best Special Effects

My pick: Gravity

Second place: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Gravity has proven since its release that as long as you combine an unspectacular, somewhat predictable script with plot holes, nobody will give a shit if your movie looks pretty enough. Hell, I didn’t care! I gave it a 9.5 out of 10!

Best Makeup

Fun fact: Evangeline Lilly is from Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. She remains the only Fort Saskatchewan resident whose fame isn’t attributed to hockey or petty crime.

My pick: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Second place: Thor: The Dark World

 Any Middle-Earth movie is pretty much a shoo-in for awards like this. Odd that they couldn’t do anything about Orlando Bloom starting to look like Joaquin Phoenix though.

Best Costume

Good Lord.

My pick: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Second place: Thor: The Dark World

This might be the only category that 47 Ronin has ever been nominated for that wasn’t “Biggest case of cinematic blue balls of 2013.” Don’t pretend like you didn’t hear the words “Keanu Reeves samurai movie” and immediately start pissing yourself in excitement. Or maybe that was just me.

I might have problems, you guys.

Best Production Design

Blah blah blah Gravity, blah blah blah special effects orgasm blah blah blah so fucking good blah blah blah…

My pick: Gravity

Second place: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Man, if Gravity hadn’t been released in 2013, The Hobbit might’ve really cleaned up in their Oscar categories, never mind the damn Saturn Awards.

Best Editing

My pick: Gravity

Second place: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

I’m still not totally sure how to properly evaluate editing, but when in doubt, go with Gravity.

Best Music

“Doo doo doo, dooo, doo doo doo… Do do do… DOO DOO doo doo… doo doo doo…” That’s classic stuff, right there.

My pick: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Howard Shore)

Second place: Iron Man 3 (Brian Tyler)

I’m kind of surprised that Steven Price wasn’t nominated for Gravity, but hey, he already has the damn Oscar, and it’s not like you could ever go wrong with Middle Earth music.  

Best Performance by a Younger Actor

From Kick-Ass to Carrie, Chloe Grace Moretz is at her best when doused in blood.

My pick: Chloe Grace Moretz, Carrie

Second place: Ty Simpkins, Iron Man 3

Yes, Carrie was total dogshit, but Chloe Grace Moretz was the best part of that whole mess. Just please pick a better movie next time.

Best Supporting Actress

My pick: Scarlett Johansson, Her

Second place: Evangeline Lilly, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug… I guess

It might seem like an odd pick, considering that ScarJo never once appeared on screen, but a) She was pretty damn amazing in that movie and b) Name one other actress on that list who was anything other than “pretty good.”

Best Supporting Actor

My pick: Benedict Cumberbatch, Star Trek Into Darkness

Second place: Tom Hiddleston, Thor: The Dark World

Some people may criticize Benedict Cumberbatch for being, y’know, a white guy playing an Indian character (Khan Noonien Singh), which would be a legitimate argument if he wasn’t already played by Ricardo Montalban in The Wrath of Khan, who was, you know, Mexican.

Best Actress

My pick: Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Second place: Sandra Bullock, Gravity

Because Jennifer Lawrence is amazing, and Gravity can’t win everything.

Best Actor

My pick: Joaquin Phoenix, Her

Second place: Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis

I also really loved Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man 3, so any of these three actors winning would be fine in my book.

Best Writing

My pick: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis

Second place: Spike Jonze, Her

Her might have won the Oscar, and that was a fine movie, don’t get me wrong, but to tell you the truth, I grew a lot more attached to the Coen brothers’ movie. On an unrelated note, I was surprised that Jennifer Lee was nominated for Frozen. I love Frozen, but.. y’know, come on.

Best Director

My pick: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

Second place: Peter Jackson, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Ah dammit, we’re back to kissing Gravity‘s ass. I guess you couldn’t really argue with it.  2013 was kind of Alfonso Cuaron’s bitch.

Best Comic-to-film Motion Picture

My pick: Iron Man 3

Second place: Thor: The Dark World

Gwyneth Paltrow notwithstanding, Iron Man 3 is the only nominee from this category that isn’t all that seriously flawed, although Thor, Man of Steel and Wolverine were all very enjoyable, in my opinion.

Best Animated Film

Seriously, that dress is made of ICE. There is no fucking way that’s comfortable.

My pick: Frozen

Second place: Despicable Me 2

Well, duh.

Best International Film

I don’t usually watch foreign films, so I’ve missed out on all these movies. The World’s End looks awesome though, so I’ll have to check it out at some point.

Best Action/Adventure Film

The only one of these movies that I’ve seen is The Lone Ranger, and fuck that movie.

Best Thriller Film

I haven’t seen any of these movies either.

Best Horror Film

My pick: This is the End

Second place: None. Horror movies suck.

Horror movies are, in general, pretty damn stupid. But hey, if this Academy is going to consider This is the End a horror movie for some unfathomable reason, then who am I to complain? That movie kicked all sorts of ass!

Best Fantasy Film

My pick: Her

Second place: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

I considered going with The Hobbit, as I don’t consider Her to be a fantasy movie (At least in the traditional sense). However, This is the End isn’t an actual horror movie, and I still gave that movie the nod in that category, so whatever.

Best Science Fiction Film

My pick: Gravity

Second place: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

With no 12 Years a Slave or Dallas Buyers Club to stand in its way, Gravity should take the top prize it is capable of receiving. Much respect to Hunger Games, Star Trek and Pacific Rim  though, who would have been top contenders in any other year.

 

Frozen (Movie Review)

“Suck on this, Iceman.”

Well, Pixar had a nice long reign as the dominant force of animated movies, but it looks like everybody’s favourite evil empire has finally reclaimed the throne.

The king has returned, bitches.

Let’s face it. It’s been a bit of a rough decade or so for Walt Disney Animation Studios in pretty much every single aspect of the film-making business that isn’t “making all the money.” The first Disney Renaissance is commonly accepted among people with too much time on their hands to have ended after Tarzan had its way with the box office in 1999. In the couple of years that followed, Disney kind of went through an awkward period, releasing such movies as Fantasia 2000, Dinosaur, The Emperor’s New Groove  and  Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

Can you guess which two of those movies don’t suck?

Obviously, one of them’s the one where David Spade voices a cartoon llama.

With the exception of Dinosaur (Which was just terrible), all of those movies were box office disappointments, especially for Disney, who, just last decade, had grossed nearly a billion dollars thanks to the masterpiece that was The Lion King.

After the introduction of the Academy Award for best Animated Movie (About a decade or so too late) in 2002, Pixar was bogarting center stage, winning seven Oscars, while Disney was just struggling to keep up, failing to win any of their nominations, especially when he nomination were as puzzling as the ones for Brother Bear and Treasure Planet, two movies you did not even know existed. Even when Disney quietly initiated their second renaissance with the release of The Princess & the Frog, they still remained second fiddle to Pixar. And rightly so, although somebody needs to explain to me why Tangled wasn’t at least nominated.

And then, something happened: Pixar shot themselves in the foot, thanks to a trio of terrible-to-non spectacular movies, and were left in a similar position to the one Disney experienced after the first Renaissance. And from the ashes of Pixar’s run of dominance, Frozen rose like a goddamn phoenix.

Good luck getting this song out of your head sometime in the next decade, by the way.

Now, despite the Fall Out Boy reference, I’m not a teenage girl, and, despite my complete and utter hatred of my existence on this godforsaken planet, I’m not the parent of a toddler, so I wasn’t exactly part of the main audience that this movie was aimed at. Besides, fuck this movie. It is the duty of a cultured movie critic like myself could easily destroy this cynical effort to feed some Disney execs’ cocaine habit, while singing the praises of some foreign film that nobody outside of Europe has ever seen, right?

Well, let’s just say there’s a reason I’m reviewing Frozen right now and not The Great Beauty.

 Frozen

 Directed by: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee

 Produced by: Peter Del Vecho

 Screenplay by: Jennifer Lee

 Story by: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Shane Morris

 Based on: The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson

 Genres: Animated, Musical, Fantasy, Comedy

Voices of: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk, Ciarán Hinds

Music by: Cristophe Beck

Songs by: Robert Lopez, Kristen Anderson-Lopez

Oscar nominations (Wins in bold): Best Animated Feature, Best Original Song

Plot: The crown princess of the Scandinavian kingdom of Arendelle, Elsa, was born possessing the power to produce ice, frost and snow whenever she so desires, essentially making her, among other things,  the odds-on favourite to win any sort of Battle Royale between the Disney Princesses. Somebody needs to get on that, by the way.

One night, when playing with her little sister, Anna, Elsa accidentally strikes Anna in the head with a bolt of, um, ice magic that knocks her unconscious  and turns a part of her hair white. Anna is saved from further harm, and remains energetic and fun-loving as ever, but loses all memory of Elsa’s magic. Elsa, on the other hand, is immediately spirited away by her parents, the king and queen, to her chambers, where she is isolated from damn near everyone, including her sister, causing a rift between the two sisters. Elsa is trained as best as possible by her parents to control her powers with limited success, and grows up introverted and constantly worried about her powers hurting somebody else. As it turns out, locking a young girl in her room in order to prevent her from interacting with other people doesn’t exactly make a confident young woman. Who fucking knew, right?

When the king and queen die at sea during a storm, Elsa (Idina Menzel), the heir to the throne, is set to be declared queen once she comes of age. When the castle gates are opened for the coronation Anna (Kristen Bell), excited to meet new people after years of isolation, meets a charming prince from the “Southern Isles” or whatever named Hans (Santino Fontana). After the coronation goes off without a hitch, much to Elsa’s relief, Anna and Hans enthusiastically ask Elsa for her blessing of their marriage. Because she’s not insane, Elsa refuses, much to Anna’s displeasure, and an argument ensues and, in a fit of emotion, Elsa accidentally unleashes her powers and causes an eternal winter in Arendelle.

Big deal, I live in Edmonton. This is June for me.

Horrified, Elsa flees up the North Mountain, and Anna, with the help of a misanthropic Sami ice vendor named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his reindeer Sven, heads up the mountain to find her sister.

While there are many things that can make or break a Disney movie, at the forefront must be the animation. Since the 1930’s, Disney has been at the forefront of animation, but they’ve been known to slip up a couple of times, which can take a pretty heavy toll on a movie like this one.

Thankfully, this movie surpasses all expectations. It looks incredible. Along with Tangled, Frozen, while still mostly CGI, also blends in elements of traditional hand-drawn animation, and while the former movie looked great, the technique is exploited to its full potential in this movie, especially in scenes where Elsa is using her powers. The scene during “Let It Go” when she’s building her castle is a sight to behold, especially. I don’t think that even the most jaded cynic wouldn’t look at that scene with the utmost reverence for how far we’ve come since the days of Steamboat Willie.

Or whatever the fuck’s going on here.

The only quibble that I have with the animation (And it’s more of an observation than an outright complaint, mind you) is that, for some reason, all the female character’s eyes are goddamn huge.  Not to take anything away from the animators, because the characters still look amazing, but did they feel like they needed to make the girls look extra pretty by blowing up their eyes or something? Kinda weird for a movie with otherwise relatively progressive themes, but I must admit Id be lying if I said I cared enough to really let it bother me.

Another staple of any classic Disney movie is the great soundtrack, and I’m pleased to say that Frozen doesn’t disappoint… Most of the time. The backing soundtrack from Christophe Beck does a nice job pretty much the whole time throughout of  ramping up or scaling down the intensity, even if you don’t really notice so until the end. The songs, written by the married songwriting team of Trey Parker and Matt Stone collaborator Robert Lopez and his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, do pretty much a great job of setting the tone throughout the movie, and, I’d expect that kids would go pretty wild over them too, since they’re extremely catchy.  Hell, I haven’t seen the movie for a couple of weeks, and I still have all of the songs ricocheting through my head at the same time. This is not a good feeling.

My brain is imploding inside of itself! Somebody help me!!!

“Frozen Heart” kicks off the movie, and it’s a lot more aggressive, and kind of darker than what you’d expect from most Disney movies. It’s not exactly “Circle of Life”, and it wasn’t an integral component for my enjoyment of the movie, but hey, I’ll take it.

“Do You Wanna Build a Snowman” is one of the two really fantastic songs in the movie, and it’s also probably the most touching, which you wouldn’t expect from its upbeat beginning. It does a really good job of showing of the two main characters’ emotional states too. “For the First Time in Forever”, while a bit more formulaic, and not grammatically sound as a title,  is also a fun listen, and mostly showcases Anna’s personality: Energetic, klutzy, optimistic, yet lonely.

Also, who knew Veronica Mars could sing?

 “Love is an Open Door” is a cheesy song that would fail in any context outside of the movie, but gets by here thanks to the charm of Kristen Bell and Santino Fontana, and “Fixer Upper” is just the biggest piece of shit, but pretty much any flaw present in those two songs are immediately made up for in “Let it Go.” The one song in the entire movie that lets only the great Adele Dazeem Idina Menzel showcase her Broadway-honed talents, and has even people who hate this movie (Horrid as they may be) admitting under their venom-tinged that “this one’s pretty good”. I’m not gonna spend too much time on this song, because at this point, it doesn’t need to prove itself to anyone, so I’m just gonna go ahead and get to the voice cast.

So, I guess we’re just gonna go ahead and pretend that a dress made out of ice wouldn’t be insanely uncomfortable?

 While Idina Menzel gets most of the attention because of her singing (And the fact that Elsa is the most badass Disney Princess ever. Come at me, Mulan.), and Josh Gad is rightly praised for being hilarious as Olaf, the magic snowman, but stealing the show for me is Kristen Bell. I’ve never seen an episode of Veronica Mars, so I can’t really comment on her real-life acting ability, but I feel confident saying that nobody else could have played the part of princess Anna as well as Bell. A character that would’ve been a ditzy mess in the hands of anybody else….

Unrelated stock Kirsten Dunst photo.

… Kristen Bell injects so much charm and wit into the character that it’s hard to fathom somebody criticizing her performance.

Like I said, Gad is great, and Menzel, Fontana and Groff are fine in their respective characters, none of which seem to only be there to fill some bullshit stock character role, thank God. I guess you could make an argument that Olaf was kind of unnecessary, but come on, the dude’s hilarious. And that “In Summer” song? I love it. It’s so chock-full of not-so-subtle irony. Your seventh grade English teacher would love it.

SPOILER ALERT

I think the thing I enjoyed best about this movie is the ending. I’ll be the first to admit that the movie hits specific Disney beats. The “I Want” song, the romance (Although this one did surprise me and didn’t feel forced by any means), and, most importantly, the protagonist, a princess, of course, is helpless and is saved by, what else, true love! Oh spare me Disney, you schlocky asshole of a company! Why don’t you stick to buying every other film studio in the goddamn world, you sexist fucks!

Seriously though, keep buying the film studios. I love it.

Yes, true love does save Anna from an icy doom, but Disney wisely decides not to have Kristoff save both Anna and Elsa from their respective ends (As most other Disney movies would end) and has the girls save each other, not with the power of romantic love, that weird, undefinable emotion that compelled Prince Charming to make out with Snow White’s dead body, or whatever, but with sisterly love, which is proven, in this movie, to be just as strong. It’s a somewhat subtle touch, but it definitely won me over.

SPOILER END

What nominations/wins did it deserve?:

  • Best Animated Feature: Boy does it ever deserve that win. Hell, I would’ve lobbied hard for its inclusion on the Best Picture shortlist if I was a member of the Academy. One day, I guess.
  • Best Original Song (“Let it Go”): Believe the hype.

Overall: It’s not without some minor flaws, but Frozen easily merits the hype that has made it a global phenomenon (My little cousin is struggling to decide whether to be Anna or Elsa for Halloween this year). It’s not the best Disney movie ever, but it’s certainly the best one since the first Disney Renaissance. If nothing else, it has set the bar really high for Big Hero 6.

I, for one, am extremely optimistic.

Rating: 9/10