THE POPPY AWARDS – SPECIAL CATAGORIES

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THE POPPY AWARDS: SPECIAL CATAGORIES

Yesterday, I presented my year-end awards for the major catagories. Today, I’d like to present my special awards. These are awards I think various actors or movies deserve that aren’t covered by the regular awards.

So here we go….

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BEST ANIMATED PERFORMANCE: Gromit, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit

Without a doubt, my favorite animated movie of the year. And Gromit, as he does in the three Wallace & Gromit shorts, completely steals the show. Here is a dog who is the brains of the operation, who does all the cooking for his master, puts up with all his masters inventing, helps out with his masters job (in the case of this movie, they’re human pest controllers), and who is a graduate of Dogwarts (check out the photo montage at the beginning of the movie), and yet still walks on all fours, even though he frequently is on his hind legs. Gromit is one of the most lovable characters ever created…and he does it all without saying a word.  Cheers to Gromit!

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE: John Robinson, Victor Rasuk, Emile Hirsch, and Michael Angarano, Lords Of Dogtown

Every generation it seems, there is a movie with an ensemble cast that you just know is going to explode to bigger and better things. In the 70s, it was American Grafitti, in the 80s, it was The Outsiders. The 90s brought Dazed and Confused and Empire Records. And now, you have Lords Of Dogtown. The four leads in this movie are all on the rise, and all have recieved critical raves for earlier performances. And you just know they’re destined for bigger and better things. John Robinson first garnered attention with his largely improvised performance in Gus Van Zant’s chilling Elephant, Victor Rasuk for his turn in Raising Victor Vargas, Emile Hirsch for his sensitive work in The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, and Michael Angarano for work on several TV Series and the movie Dear Wendy.  Now all four are poised for superstardom, and it’s going to be fun to watch these four talented guys take off. Robinson will next be seen in Seraphim Falls, a civil war drama; Rasuk is starring in I’m Reed Fish, a new indie ensemble drama; Hirsch is already recieving raves for his upcoming turn as a murderous drug dealer in Nick Cassavetes’ Alpha Dog opposite N Sync heartthrob Justin Timberlake and another emerging actor, Anton Yelchin; Angarano already scored a huge surprise hit this past summer in Sky High, and will next be seen in FOUR, count ’em, four films: One Last Thing, Bondage, Man In The Chair, and Black Irish.  These four guys are poised to take over as the next generation of young stars destined for greatness, and we’ll be chronicling their successes and failures right here on PNR.

BEST NEWCOMER: Steven Strait, Sky High

19-year-old Strait stole many a young ladies hearts with his major movie debut this past year as not-so-bad-guy-with-a-heart-of-gold Warren Peace in Disney’s hilarious Sky High. This young actor and musician has the smoldering looks that the ladies of all ages go for (ask Rose…her nickname for him is "Cookiepants"). His turn in Undiscovered, largely considered by many to be one of the worst films of 2005 (blame Ashley Simpson, not Steven), also attracted attention. and i’m betting that we’ll be seeing more of Steven Strait in the future, including the likely sequel to Sky High…speaking of which…

MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE: SKY HIGH

Had you told me that a Disney film would be one of my favorite films of the year at this time last year, I would have said you were crazy. Disney’s family output of late has been exceptionally lame. But then, along came this sleeper, about the son of the world’s two greatest superheroes and his friends trying to survive at superhero high school. It’s the first film Disney has put out in a long time that appeals to ALL ages, and it’s the type of comedy that Disney did so well back in the days before Walt passed away. And how appropriate it is that Disney looked to their number one teen star of the 60s and early 70s. Kurt Russell, to help make the magic again. Russell, playing The Commander, dad to Michael Angarano’s Will Stronghold, makes magic on the screen in his most enjoyable performance in years. Kelly Preston, as Mom Jetstream, is also hilarious. And the movie has a dynamite supporing cast, including young actors Nicholas Braun, Danielle Panabaker, Steven Strait, Mary Elizabeth Winsted, Dee-Jay Daniels, and Kelly Vitz, along with veterans like Lynda Carter, Cloris Leachman, Kevin McDonald, Bruce Campbell, and a hilarious, scene-stealing Dave Foley. I admit, were it not for the presence of Michael Angarano, who has become a "must-see" actor in my book, I probably would have skipped this movie. And that would have been a huge mistake on my part. A sequel is planned but is still in pre-production stages, so lets hope they make it as fun and as funny as the first one. Not bad for the "little movie that could", earning almost double of the money it was predicted to make. Budgeted at a modest $35 million, it was expected to just barely make it’s money back. Instead it became a $63 Million smash – proof that good word of mouth can really pay off. If you didn’t catch Sky High in the theatres, do yourself a favor and rent the DVD – it’s worth it. And there are some hilarious extras on it to boot…

BEST DOCUMENTARY: MARCH OF THE PENGUINS

How could you NOT be taken in by this enchanting documentary, which has now become the second biggest-grossing movie of it’s kind? I admit there were several other documentaries out there this year which I wanted to see but didn’t get a chance to, including Mad Hot Ballroom, Rock School, and Murderball, and had I seen them, I may have picked one of them. But I didn’t, so Penguins gets the nod.

MOST FUN AT A MOVIE: GODZILLA:FINAL WARS

I had never had the opportunity to be in a theatre filled with Godzilla fans and fanatics before (well, except for when we went to see the god-awful american version in 1998), so to see what is being billed as the Big G’s final movie with an audience filled with them was absolutely FANTASTIC. Not to mention that in our area, it was playing at the historic Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, which is one of our favorite movie houses (and, because of money problems, it’s in danger of becoming extinct). The energy of the crowd was infectious, and although i’m not the G fan that Platinum Rose is, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The movie wasn’t half bad, either. We also saw the Japanese version of the original movie at this theatre in the summer of 2004, and it was a revelation as well. G Fans just seem to radiate energy, and it made one Friday evening in early summer an absolute dynamite night out.

MOST INFECTIOUS SPONTANIOUS LAUGH AT THE MOVIES THIS YEAR: WALLACE AND GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT

We saw this on opening night, and the crowd at the Loews Boston Common theatre was mostly adults, all in a good mood and ready to laugh, and WAS an allaround great time. But there was one priceless moment – Wallace and Gromit are always good for those – that set this audience into one huuuuuge laugh riot. There is a chase scene as the film reaches it’s climax between Gromit and Philip, the dog of the movie’s villian, Victor Quartermaine. They are battling in a kiddie airplane which is riding along the edge of a building, when the plane, taken from a coin-operated kiddie ride, slows to a stop. The action stops dead for a moment, as Gromit searches his pockets (!) for another coin, but comes up empty. Philip, looking disgusted, reaches into his pocket, pulls out a flower-design coin purse, gives a sheepish grin to Gromit, and plucks out another coin and drops it into the coin slot..at which point the plane starts up again and the action starts as if it had never left off.  I will never EVER forget the hysterical laughter that this sold-out audience erupted into as that flowery coin purse came into view, and i’m sitting here giggling so hard tears are streaking my face just remembering the scene myself. Nick Park and company are true comic geniuses, able to touch a heart and able to convulse in nearly everything they do.  If you don’t believe me, check out their recent TV series, Creature Comforts, now running on BBC America in the states. Or take a moment and see Were-Rabbit if you haven’t already. In fact, we’ll be seeing it again next weekend – it’s playing at (where else) the Brattle Theatre in a double bill with Corpse Bride, and we wouldn’t miss the chance to see it – and laugh hysterically – for a THIRD time….

BEST FUNNY CAMEO: Stacy Peralta and Tony Hawk, Lords of Dogtown

As you can no doubt tell by now, LOD is one of my favorite movies of the year. But there were two cameos that were especially cool. Now, damn near the entire original Dogtown Zephyr team has cameos in the movie, true, but these two were very cool. The first one has John Robinson, playing Stacy Peralta, on the set of TV’s Charlie’s Angels circa 1976. As he does his scene, the director yells "Cut!" and says that they can’t see his face because of his long hair. The Charlie’s Angels director: none other than the skateboard legend himself, Stacy Peralta (who is also the screenwriter of the movie).  Another cameo just a moment or two later, John Robinson, as Stacy Peralta, is at the White House, where he’s meeting as couple of astronauts (perhaps this was President Ford or Carter’s way of trying to be ‘hip’). One of the astronauts says to Stacy, "Do you mind if I try that out?" referring to the skateboard. Astronaut in full gear gets on the skateboard and promptly falls on his ass. The Astronaut: modern skateboarding superstar – and legend – Tony Hawk. And this cameo is especially funny to those of us who are big skateboarding fans. It was Stacy Peralta, then just launching his own skateboard team in the 80s, who first discovered Tony Hawk. I can’t help thinking how weird that must have been…for Hawk to be on set playing something he’s not with an actor playing his real-life mentor…with the real Peralta, on-set as advisor and screenwriter of the movie, no doubt looking on..

BEST SEMI-CAMEO: Lynda Carter, Sky High

"What is a Semi-cameo?", you may be asking yourself. Well, a semi-cameo is more than a cameo, but far less than a real featured part, and it also gets billing. Think "Marlon Brando" in Superman, and you get the idea. Carter, as Ms. Powers, principal of Sky High, got SECOND Billing, right behind Kelly Preston and just ahead of Michael Angarano, for what amounts to about 4 minutes of actual screen time. I love Lynda – grew up watching her as Wonder Woman and had her poster on my bedroom wall – but SECOND billing? Oh well, but it was nice to see her again…which leads me to …

BEST ONE LINER OF THE YEAR: Lynda Carter, Sky High

Despite her lack of screentime, Carter still gets the funniest line in the whole movie, and the best "wink wink nudge nudge" oneliner of the year. With the villianous students now vanquished and having put them all in the power-nullifying detention room, Carter, as Ms. Powers, principal of Sky High tells them as she angrily leaves the room, "There’s only so much I can do for you. I’m NOT Wonder Woman, you know!" ROTFL!

BEST FIGHT SCENE: The Cafeteria Battle, Sky High

How often in films do you get to see your school’s cafeteria utterly DESTROYED? That’s exactly what happens in Sky High, as still-powerless Will Stronghold is tripped by a couple of student baddies, and his lunch ends up all over his new arch enemy, Warren Peace, the son of a super-villain that Will’s superhero father put in prison. The next several minutes of the movie are full of fantastic action as Warren "powers up" (he can throw balls of flame) and starts attacking Will, who’s running…er, crawling for his life beneath the lunchroom tables. As he reaches the end table, and Warren is about to flame his friends, Will’s superpower finally manifests, and his superstrength gives him the ability to toss Warren off the top of the table. Now with his superstrength in full blossom, the battle becomes even more pitched as Warren and his flameballs continue to try and fry Will, as Will knocks Warren on his ass several times, and Warren, no matter what Will does, won’t stay down. It’s an incredibly filmed, dazzling sequence, where you can never see the wires that help the characters to fly around, and where even a brand new rolling camera was debuted during the filming of the scenes. It’s easily one of the best fight sequences of recent years, and here’s hoping the MTV Movie Awards will think so too, as they’re the only major show with this catagory…

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR: First Descent

After seeing the trailer for this snowboarding documentary, I couldn’t wait to see it – i’m a HUGE fan of snowboarding, and one of my favorite athletes, Shaun White, was a big part of the movie. I really wish I had waited. The DVD will probably have TONS of extra footage, but what hit the screen, while still somewhat enjoyable, was a mess, a film editor’s nightmare, in my opinion. The snowboarding sequences are incredible, and the story of current snowboarders teaming up with a couple of pioneers to go boarding on untouched mountains in Alaska held a lot of potential. But they also wanted to throw in a history of the sport, and so it jumps back and forth between the Alaska trip, historical perspective, and individual sequences featuring recent events in the lives of the participants. In the end, it ends up a jumbled, confusing mess, especially if you’re not into snowboarding, which PlatinumRose is not, and so she was bored and confused.  I really had hoped for better, and considering that there were a couple of major jerks in the audience loudly commenting on everything…well that made it even less enjoyable. But it does have it’s moments…like when snowboarding star Todd Richards, talking about the makeup of the 2002 Olympic team, refered to his friend, 4 time US Open champion Danny Kass, as "the dirtbag", which, knowing Kass’ rep and loving his work, cracked me up bigtime…

AND NOW…on to a few other special awards concerning techincalities….

MOST DISTURBING DVD TREND: What happened to the booklets?

More and more DVD’s – even MAJOR releases like March of the Penguins and Sky High – are neglecting to put printed booklets in the DVD cases. In many cases, it makes it hard to discern the extras on the discs, or even the Chapter selection. Come on, Hollywood, I know you’ve lost money this year, but taking the booklets out of DVD’s just SUCKS…

MOST ANNOYING MOVIE THEATRE TREND: "WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE A SURVEY?"

Cheers to those who get the above quote…if not, shame on you…but there’s hope, as Animaniacs is headed to DVD later this year. Anyway, an interesting idea happened this year – why not put electronic screening machines in busy movie theatre lobbies, and poll people on upcoming movies? Well, it’s a GREAT idea in theory…but when we got hit with it, it took almost a half-hour just to watch the clips (in my case from some upcoming movie starring one of my least-favorite actors, Matthew McConaughy), and answer the questions from the polling staff. It didn’t help that we were leaving after seeing First Descent at the time, and I was already bummed out a bit. My advice to the pollsters – make your surveys more moviegoer-friendly and cut them down to 10 minutes or less…because i’m not wasting a half-hour of my time again…

And there you have them – the 2006 Poppy Awards!  I hope you’ll stick around as we head through 2006 and maybe we’ll agree with next years choices! Hey, it could happen, you never know!!!

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