HAPPY NEW YEAR! WELCOME TO “THE POPPY AWARDS”

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WELCOME TO THE POPPY AWARDS!

This is where I’ll list my choices in a variety of catagories for the best and worst of 2005.

2005 was a banner year for the movies, at least in terms of MY enjoyment. I didn’t really find a total clunker out there. I enjoyed all the movies I saw, some more than others. You know I really enjoyed or loved a movie if I go more than once when it’s at the theatre, and then pick up the DVD the day it comes out. I did that with several summer movies, and will do it again when the winter crop hits DVD.

When it comes to the traditional catagories, I am naming my PERSONAL favorites. I don’t care what the critics say about things; generally, so far the critic’s year end choices have been positively mystifying, usually because I haven’t seen what they’re talking about yet (Munich, Brokeback Mountain, Walk The Line) or don’t intend to (Syriana, Transamerica). So keep that in mind when I give the acting and picture and director awards, i’m speaking from my HEART.

SO HERE WE GO. Presenting THE FIRST ANNUAL POPPY AWARDS!

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PICTURE OF THE YEAR: KING KONG

Runners-up (In no particular order): Revenge Of The Sith, Lords Of Dogtown, Batman Begins, Rent, Harry Potter and the Goblet Of Fire, The Producers, Kung Fu Hustle, Sky High

It wasn’t easy selecting a winner in this catagory, although it really came down to just two films, this one and Rent, with Dogtown a very close third. Peter Jackson and company really made this old-fashioned movie a romp through the park, and although there were some bits in act two which could have been shortened, overall the film was just spectacular. Setting the movie back in the thirties, when the original movie took place, was a stroke of genius, and spared the attempt to modernize the story as happened in 1976. It was a good old-fashioned adventure yarn, pure and simple. Outstanding performances from Jack Black, Naomi Watts, Adrian Brody, Jamie Bell, Evan Parke, and Andy Serkis, once again back in the motion-capture suit to help Jackson capture Kong the same way he captured Gollum in LOTR, helped make this movie definately one worth seeing, and unfortunately, one that the pundits are shooting down because they want to see Jackson flop after the huge LOTR Trilogy did so well…

BEST PERFORMANCE, MALE ACTOR, LEADING ROLE: DANIEL RADCLIFFE, Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire

Runners-Up (in no particular order): Christian Bale, Batman Begins; Anthony Rapp, Rent; Nathan Lane, The Producers; Matthew Broderick, The Producers; Adrian Brody, King Kong; Jack Black, King Kong; Johnny Depp, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory; Stephen Chow, Kung Fu Hustle; Hayden Christenson, Revenge Of The Sith; Emile Hirsch, Lords of Dogtown; John Robinson, Lords of Dogtown; Michael Angarano, Sky High

Without quarrel, this year was filled with electric performances. Some of them were downright brilliant. I’ve chosen Daniel Radcliffe because he has shown incredible growth since the beginning of the Harry Potter movie series in 2001, and in GOF, the darkest of the films so far, Radcliffe takes the character to some incredible new depths. Forced finally to come face to face with the horror of Voldemort, Harry is thrust into an adventure which costs the life of one new friend and nearly ended up costing many others their lives as well. Radcliffe’s steely performance even trumps his dynamite performance in Prisoner of Azkerban in 2004. Yes, Christian Bale accomplished virtually the same thing in Batman Begins, but overall, I think Radcliff had the most electric lead performance of the year.

BEST PERFORMANCE, FEMALE ACTOR, LEADING ROLE: NAOMI WATTS, King Kong

Runners-up (in no particular order): Qui Yuen, Kung Fu Hustle; Rosario Dawson, Rent; Danielle Panabaker, Sky High; Zhang Ziyi, Memoirs Of A Geisha

Female performances were a bit hard to judge this year. I don’t see a lot of "eclectic" or "art house" films, unless they interest me (most do not). Naomi Watts is perfectly cast as Ann Darrow, the heroine of King Kong. A down on her luck actress, she signs aboard director Jack Black’s unseen (and still largely unwritten) movie because she needs the money, and ends up having the world’s largest ape fall for her. Watts delivers another Oscar caliber performance, and the transformations her character undergoes from the early parts of the film to it’s inevitable conclusion are handled with skill and easily make her a big winner in my eyes. And that’s HUGE considering she was up against Zhang Ziyi, who is perhaps the most beautiful actress alive today (not that that should have ANYTHING to do with it….)

BEST PERFORMANCE, MALE ACTOR, SUPPORTING ROLE: MICHAEL ANGARANO, Lords Of Dogtown

Runners-Up (in no particular order….well, the first one is…) Jesse L Martin, Rent; Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Rent; Jamie Bell, King Kong; Evan Parke, King Kong; Steven Strait, Sky High; Michael Caine, Batman Begins; Heath Ledger, Lords of Dogtown; Victor Rasuk, Lords of Dogtown; Kurt Russell, Sky High; Deep Roy, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory; Brendan Gleeson, Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire (and also Robert Pattinson, Rupert Grint, and Michael Gambon)

This catagory KILLED ME. Absolutely KILLED ME. How do I give JUST ONE award to ONLY one of the two best performances of the year, leading or supporting role? It wasn’t easy. Jesse was just SOOOO GOOD. But ultimately, loyalty and performance won out. And without a doubt, I think Angarano’s performance in Lords of Dogtown was THE performance of the year, in ANY catagory. His thoughtful portrayal of a teenage rich skateboard rat named Sid won me over and made me a fan of his for life. Virtually unknown by the public in early 2005, Angarano has become one of the hottest young in-demand actors over the past year. In addition to Dogtown, he also had the lead in Disney’s Sky High this summer (just a few short weeks after Dogtown‘s release) and has already completed or is working on FIVE more movies hitting the screens in 2006. Not bad for a kid who just turned 18 in September. Angarano manages (without intentionally meaning to) to steal every scene that he’s in when playing Sid. When you can steal a scene from Heath Ledger, that’s saying a lot, especially as Ledger’s performance in the same movie garnered some Oscar talk when the movie came out. Angarano’s character is the ONLY fictional character in the biopic, although he’s based on a real person (named "Gino") who wasn’t an actual part of the Dogtown group. And from his first scene in the movie, to the heartbreaking scenes near the end of the movie where 17-year old Sid, now fatally afflicted with a brain tumor and wheelchair-ridden, manages to bring the three friends he loves the most back together after the break up of the original Dogtown Zephyr team for a summer of stunt skating in his rich father’s pool, Angarano’s performance is FLAWLESS. It is Sid/Gino’s pool that is known to skateboard fans worldwide as the "Dogbowl" and even non-skate fans cannot help but be moved by the Dogtown boys’ efforts to make their friend’s last days as happy as they can be. This absolutely SUPERB young actor has another "fatal Illness" movie coming out, One Last Wish, which got raves at the Toronto Film Festival for his performance. And even though the Oscars will no doubt over look him, here’s hoping Angarano will get the recognition he deserves for both Dogtown and Sky High when the MTV Movie Awards roll around in May 2006…

BEST PERFORMANCE, FEMALE ACTOR, SUPPORTING ROLE: TRACEY THOMS, Rent

Runners-up (in no particular order): Idina Menzel, Rent; Emma Watson, Harry Potter and the Goblet Of Fire; Kelly Preston, Sky High; Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Sky High; Uma Thurman, The Producers, Michelle Yeoh, Memoirs Of A Geisha

Rent was the most scary time for me. I’ve been a RentHead for almost 10 years, and I didnt’ know if the movie would be done right. It WAS. It was AWESOME! And Tracey Thoms came in and stole the show, right out from under original broadway cast member Idina Menzel playing Maureen’s uptight and lovable lesbian lover Joanne. Tracey, one of two newcomers to the project (the other was Rosario Dawson), stepped in and made the role her own. Her powerful vocals helped carry this musical to the top of the heap, and it’s a shame no one else is recognizing her incredible performance.

AND THE LAST BIGGIE…

DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR: CATHERINE HARDWICK, Lords Of Dogtown

Runners-Up(in no particular order): Peter Jackson, King Kong; Chris Columbus, Rent; Mike Newall, Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire; Susan Stroman, The Producers; Rob Marshall, Memoirs Of A Geisha

First off, let me say I realize that  Steven Speilburg is going to win the Oscar for his movie Munich. But I haven’t seen it yet, and I think Catherine Hardwick is being viciously maligned in some circles. Her adept direction help make Lords Of Dogtown the cult hit that I think it is destined to become. Her vision, and the fact that she grew up in Dogtown herself (although she didn’t know the others until their adult lives crossed) helped her make Pacific Ocean Park pier come alive for the viewers, helped make the lives of three friends from the wrong side of the tracks touch our lives forever. A skateboarder herself in her childhood, she recognized the special things that the Zephyr Team did and knew how to make the birth of modern competitive skateboarding appealing even to the average fan. For that, and for helping in bringing back memories of a wonderous part of my mid-teen years that I’d totally forgotten about, Catherine Hardwick deserves my kudos.

OK, NOW THAT THE BIGGIES ARE OUT OF THE WAY…

I have a few more awards to give…and i’ll hand them out…tomorrow…

PART TWO OF "THE POPPIES" coming January 2nd!

And watch for "The Rosies" coming in the next day or so from my other half, and the other part of this blog…:)

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