Why the Willys, you ask?
I always liked going to the movies. But in my early college years, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I was originally a theatre major and had the misguided notion of becoming an actor. But when it occurred to me that I wasn’t willing to live the life of a starving artist, I decided to become a starving journalist. I thought, “Heck, maybe one day someone will pay me to be a movie critic” – after all, I always liked going to the movies.
Every year, I would watch the Academy Awards. In fact, I would make a day of it: starting with watching the E! Red Carpet arrivals and ending with counting how many of my Oscar predictions came true. I have to confess that sometimes, I would even go in front of the mirror and give an acceptance speech – remember, I foolishly wanted to be an actor.
But sometimes, I would find myself disagreeing with who won and sometimes, even the nominees. I remember being in an uproar when The Sixth Sense was nominated for Best Picture. Ditto when Madonna wasn’t nominated for Evita or The People Vs. Larry Flint for best picture, both in 1996 – the year The English Patient won.
Ever since then, I thought about giving out my own awards. In 1997, I sent an e-mail out to everyone I knew and blathered on about my favorite movies of that year. I put in the subject box: “The 1st Annual Willy Awards.”
I’m a dork.
But now I am paid to be a movie critic – not much, albeit – and I’ve decided, for the first time, to publish my favorite films of the year in what I like to call, “The 5th Annual Willy Awards.”
Laugh if you must at the cheesy graphic of my head on an Oscar statuette. But I’ll have you know our diligent graphic artist Fred worked hard on making it just right.
So, here they are.
The 5th Annual Willy Awards
The Dreamworks’ produced CGI phenom, Shrek came out with a bang and never let up. SNL alums Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy lent their comic voices to an ogre and a donkey and made one of the most satirical feature animated films in a long time. Not only is it beautifully drawn, on PCs granted, but the script pokes just the right amount of fun at the entertainment industry to not put off viewers.
BLACK HAWK DOWN
This anti-war film realistically depicts a dreadful scene that lasts more than an hour of screen time and does so in compelling fashion. Character development and heavy dialogue gave way to gruesome visions of hell on earth. The film is one of the most powerful statements about warfare today and its apropos timing educates America about the importance of good foreign relations. RUNNER-UP MONSTER’S BALL
This French import was delightful as it was different. Narrated in subtitles throughout, Amelie takes its viewer on a journey of a woman who finds herself by helping others. Audrey Tautou is enchanting as the heroine whose heart is as big as it is lonely. More inspirational than Pay It Forward and more touching than A.I.RUNNER-UP MONSTERS, INC.
BEST INDEPENDENT FILM
Possibly the riskiest film of the year, Memento tells its twisted tale backward. Guy Pearce carries the film as the amnesiac who tattoos his body with clues to a murder. Odd, confusing and brilliant all at the same time, this film deserves to be honored.
BEST SOCIAL COMMENTARY
An insightful look at the state of voyeurism in America today, 15 Minutes tells the story of two foreigners who kill a cop and sell the videotape of his murder to a tabloid television show. Every character in the film wants his or her “15 minutes of fame” and the final scene proves how far some will go to get it. With good execution and solid acting, 15 Minutes’ message rings loud and clear.
BEST CHICK FLICK
John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale’s impeccable chemistry sets the tone for a comedy that also boasts slapstick humor from Jeremy Piven and new-age neurotics from Molly Shannon. Cusack bumbles his way through another romantic comedy with a charm that eerily fails to tire and Beckinsale lights up every scene she’s in.
BEST ACTION MOVIE
Everything from John Travolta’s guns to Halle Berry’s breasts were meticulously composed to create a testosterone-packed action flick that rivals anything Jerry Bruckheimer has produced in the last decade. Hugh Jackman’s gruff hero transformed the Australian “hunk o’ the moment” into a bonafide movie star.
BEST KID MOVIE
Chris Columbus would have committed career suicide if he didn’t do justice to Harry Potter. Not because I would have noticed, but because every child and his or her mother would have crucified the director of classics such as Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire. Fortunately for the kids, Harry Potter was everything the children of today could have asked for and more. And if it had any substance that would have entertained anybody older than 15, I may have liked it, too.
BEST POPCORN FLICK
He may have followed the same formula he always has, but at least Michael Bay tackled one of America’s bleakest days (before Sept. 11, that is) as opposed to more asteroids hitting earth in Armageddon 2. For 45 minutes, he brutally brings to life the mayhem that ensued on Dec. 7, 1941. The script could have been better and its blatant attempts to be Titanic were too transparent, but at least Pearl Harbor brought in audiences and kept them in their seats for three hours.
NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE
Every scene of this film could have been its own movie. Yes, it was stupid. But at the same time, Not Another Teen Movie spoofed on every single clichÃ© as well as every single entertaining aspect that was used in countless films during the 1980s and 1990s. The details, such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High references in the background of scenes, make you realize how much work was put into a stupid comedy making fun of stupid comedies.
The film was funny at times, but it dragged in most parts. However, it was all worth it when you discover what you thought all along turned out to be the best joke of all. You know, Bruce Willis really needs to start picking films that entertain throughout – and not just the last ten minutes.
Othello set in high school. The Venetian army doubles as a basketball team. Sounds pretty dumb. But Tim Blake Nelson’s directorial debut was stylistic, well-acted and just as powerful as William Shakespeare’s original.RUNNER-UP PLANET OF THE APES
This film had three endings. Do I need to say more? Steven Spielberg had me for the first hour and a half. I liked the story of an artificial boy who just wanted to be loved. And although he was downright scary, Haley Joel Osment held his own as the lead in a feature film. But the final 45 minutes are making me think twice about rushing to see The Minority Project this summer.RUNNER-UP THE MAJESTIC
A KNIGHT’S TALE
Come on, now. They were singing Queen’s “We Will Rock You” at a medieval jousting tournament. Shannyn Sossamon must have impressed somebody because she’s currently starring in 40 Days, 40 Nights, but she, along with just about every aspect, was annoying in A Knight’s Tale.
WORST MOVIE OF THE YEAR
If I’ve said it once, I certainly don’t mind saying it again: You think Mariah Carey had a mental breakdown after making the movie? I almost had one after seeing it.
RIDLEY SCOTT BLACK HAWK DOWN
The man kept that much action going for an hour. Even with the shaky camera work, you never lose sense of the overall theme – even if the details are hazy.
TOM WILKINSON IN THE BEDROOM
While his body language tells you everything, his eyes hold all his character’s secrets. There are two crucial scenes when he makes you cringe in your seat because the tension he builds up finally breaks when he does the unexpected. It’s tough to upstage Sissy Spacek, but British actor Tom Wilkinson manages to do it with the best performance by an actor this year.RUNNER-UP TOM CRUISe VANILLA SKY
HALLE BERRY MONSTER’S BALL
For a decade, Halle Berry has been used as a sexpot showing only moments of a possible greatness. Who would have thought that in the same year she controversially exposes her breasts in a scene that can only be described as gratuitous, she would give one of the most powerful performances in recent memory? The former model plays a poor black mother in Georgia whose husband is executed one day and her son hit by a car the next. How she conveys her character’s reaction is heartbreaking.RUNNER-UP AUDREY TAUTOU AMELIE
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
STEVE BUSCEMI GHOST WORLD
As Seymour, the loser of Thora Birch’s affections, Buscemi gives one of the most methodical performances of his career. The twitches he employs tell more about his character’s background than the dialogue he effortlessly utters. RUNNER-UP JIM BROADBENT IRIS
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
DAKOTA FANNING I AM SAM
At age seven, Fanning stood her own against Sean Penn and, at the same time, stole every scene she was in. The amount of maturity she showed in I Am Sam is not as impressive as how believable her character was as a girl who loves her dad even though he is mentally retarded. RUNNER-UP CAMERON DIAZ VANILLA SKY
DUSTIN DIAMOND MADE
The two main characters, played by Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn, try to get into a nightclub in a scene reminiscent of A Night at the Roxbury when Screech from Saved by the Bell walks right in. The unforgettable line goes something to the effect of: “You just let friggin’ Screech walk in?”RUNNER-UPJON LOVITZ 3000 MILES TO GRACELAND
- Contact William Albritton at firstname.lastname@example.org