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2009 – Yet Another Year in Decline

It’s been a strange year for the film industry, one of contradictions that saw everyone being deeply depressed at significant increases in box office revenue. During a time of recession cinema attendance tends to increase because going to the movies is a relatively cheap form of entertainment – certainly when compared with a night out on the town with all the trimmings or a holiday to foreign climes – a theory supported by an upwards turn in takings of around 14%, despite a decrease in actual product. This year hasn’t really seen many of the hyper-mega-super-blockbusters we have come to know and loathe love hit the screens – only a few of the standard SF/comic franchises have made an appearance, including a fashionably late Mr Potter. Despite the stellar box office takings the studios don’t have the vaults of Kugarrands to spend on either the movies or marketing because other branches of their multi-media businesses have suffered the effects of the recession. But perhaps this is a good thing as some of the best products we’ve seen this year have been the lower budget productions – more thoughtful, more intelligent or a little bit quirky.

3D is here to stay. Right? We’ve had a slew of ‘em this year, culminating in James Cameron’s over-hyped Avatar, allegedly the reason behind the industry spending billions upgrading cinemas, although matters such as piracy and the ability to charge more at the ticket stall certainly attracted many takers. So was Avatar worth it? Well, yes. A cross between Titanic (1997) and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984), the plot involved humans wanting to obtain the elusive element unobtainium (a timely homage to ‘science faction’ ‘classic’ The Core) on a distant planet so that they can make squillions of dollars back home. However, the indigenous 12 foot blue humanoid aliens, the Na’vi, aren’t really so keen on having their forest planet transformed into a giant mine for corporate profit and empire building. The humans come up with two possible solutions: try to connect with the aliens and convince them to co-operate, using Na’vi avatars controlled remotely by human scientists, or alternatively just have the military blast them out of existence. So not a social, economic, militaristic and environmental deconstruction of the present at all then. It goes without saying that the effects are stunning, but they complement the story and characters rather than simply add a ‘wow factor’. Yes the plot is thin but Cameron knows where to place his camera rather than just wave it about hoping the editing will sort it all out in post-prod (that’s you, Mr Bay). And if you get a chance to see Avatar in IMAX – take it.

Avatar aside, 3D still tends to fall into the realm of the family film or horror movie, but this year’s filmmakers have generally eschewed the format’s gimmicky nature (see Fly Me to the Moon, actually don’t…) in favour of a good story and character development, the 3D enhancing the film rather than becoming its raison d’ĕtre. It’s a shrewd move that adds credibility to the format and, crucially, means the lucrative DVD/Blu-Ray/TV markets won’t leave punters questioning why characters inexplicably wave things at them. Best of this year’s bunch were Pixar’s Up!, Disney’s Bolt and Coraline, all of which were so splendid that they were even capable of wowing provincial audiences who could only see them in dimension-poverished 2D. In Up! 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen ties thousands of helium balloons to his house to defy the property developers who are trying to get him into an old people’s home and flies off to Venezuela to search for a waterfall that captivated both him and his late wife throughout their youth. But he’s not alone because wilderness explorer Russell has unintentionally joined the adventure. Utterly charming, beautifully realised, moving and funny Up! is yet another solid gold winner for Pixar and, while the very young may be restless at first (the opening is an mini-film in itself), the wacky comedy ensures that everyone comes out satisfied.

Bolt is a superdog. His mission, should he accept it (which he always does) is to protect his owner, Penny, from the forces of evil. What he doesn’t realise is that he’s actually an ordinary dog who’s the star of a TV show and that Penny is an actress. When he accidentally ends up on the other side of America he has to team up with an alley cat and a hamster in a ball – who happens to be his biggest big fan – and get back to his beloved Penny. With a solid premise and great animation, Bolt is a whole load of unassuming fun. Its influences are plain to see – Toy Story (indeed Pixar luminary John Lasseter is now giving a guiding hand at Disney’s animation branch) and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, among others – but its characters and story hold the piece together.

Coraline, based on Neil Gaiman’s book, was another masterpiece of animation from Henry Selick, who really didn’t get the recognition he deserved for A Nightmare Before Christmas (this year’s 9 was similarly credited to Tim Burton who, along with Timur Bekmambetov, took a producing credit). This is a dark but magical fantasy where lonely Coraline chances upon a door in the wallpaper of her new home that opens into a passage leading to another version of her house. She meets her other mother who, unlike her regular mum, is attentive and charming. She also cooks a better dinner but strangely has buttons where her eyes should be. Coraline is offered the chance to stay in this new and apparently happier world, provided she is willing to undergo a small operation. The perfect horror story for children, Coroline’s PG rating belies the way that the scares really get under your skin. The quirky sets, the exemplary model animation and the delightfully macabre humour mark it out as one of the year’s most successful films.

Monsters vs Aliens was a slice of silly fun. When Susan Murphy is hit by a meteorite on her wedding day she becomes the towering Ginormica and is locked away with a bunch of other monsters in a secret government institution. However when aliens attack earth, the military set the monsters on the invaders with the promise of letting them go free… if they can save the world. With a pile of in-jokes that reference classic sf – Dr Strangelove, Attack of the 50 foot woman, The Thing, Earth vs Flying Saucers, Mars Attacks, Spaceballs, Destroy All Monsters – this is pacey fun all the way, all the more surprising when compared with Dreamworks’ otherwise generally moribund fare.

Fantastic Mr Fox shunned whizzy CG and 3D by reverting to traditional, tactile, stop-motion techniques. Expectations were high for Wes Anderson’s animation debut (American accents notwithstanding) as he retold Roald Dahl’s story about the cunning Mr Fox, who feeds his family by stealing from three crooked farmers. Living in a hill underneath a tree along with Badger, Rabbit, Weasel, and their families, matters come to a head when the irate farmers pool resources and set out to irradiate the villainous vulpes once and for all. The distinctive and deliberately stylised animation combined with Anderson’s off-the-wall sense of quirky humour set out to make Fantastic Mr Fox a satisfying addition to the canon of children’s film that, due to its almost Ladislav Starevich qualities and a typically oddball soundtrack, will stand the test of time. Like Coraline, there are scary bits but it also features an animated Meryl Streep dancing far more assuredly than she did in Mamma Mia!

9 (not to be confused with Nine) was an oddity. Too scary for kids and probably too childish for adults, it was hard to see where this was pitched. 9 is a sackcloth ragdoll (think Little Big Planet’s Sackboy with a frown) who, along with 1 to 8, has awoken to find himself in a post-apocalyptic world where mechanised monsters roam the land, decimating anything in their wake. 9 persuades the others that they must try to learn about the machines and their intentions. The world’s future could depend on them… if the filmmakers can think of an ending. Though visually stunning and baroque in its vision, the scant plot (a series of set pieces that resemble someone playing a particularly good platform game) and po-faced grimness detract from the otherwise enjoyable thrill ride. Still, first time feature director Shane Acker is definitely a figure to watch.

The popularity of franchise films and comic book adaptations has not diminished but once again their numbers appear to be on the decline, with a few studios trying to kick-start new examples or reboot old ones. The much delayed release of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince charts Harry’s 6th year at Hogwarts as he finds an old textbook that used to belong to the Half-Blood Prince and becomes spectacularly good at making potions. And of course there are more clues to discovering more about Voldemort. David Yates, who directed the previous film and is completing the final two, manages to produce something cinematic and coherent from another sizeable tome, increasing the imminent threat to breaking point (the film is at times quite violent). The result is the young wizard’s most successful outing yet (bar Year Three) with action set pieces tempered by scenes of character development and interaction. And this time Helena Bonham Carter gets to be truly evil.

What a waste of time X-Men Origins: Wolverine was. Well, that’s not strictly fair, the titles featured a pretty spectacular montage of Wolverine battling through history so we recommend watching that and then not bothering with the rest. In the mid-1800s, Logan and Victor leave home after one of them kills their father. They serve together in a number of wars and eventually join a team of mutant commandos. Logan wants to quit but finds it impossible to leave as his commander has plans for his future. X-men fans might enjoy this but the minimal plot and poor characterisation just don’t cut the mustard. Even the set pieces have reached a ‘seen it all before’ saturation point and the ‘Logan’s wife’ plot is so underdeveloped the audience has little sympathy for him or anyone else for that matter. In a year that tried to push 3D it’s surprising that anyone bothered with this 1-D yawnfest.

And in the Hasbro toys franchise market Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen competed with G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Both are chock full of set pieces but the latter eschews Michael Bay’s penchant for unfathomable scattershot shots for Stephen Sommers’ typically gung ho Saturday Morning style action with modern tech. They sort of remember to put a plot in amidst all the action.

Oh dear, oh dear. Salvation is what we needed after Terminator Salvation, the fourth entry in the long-running series that really should have been terminated after T2 (1991). The familiar plot (John Connor, Terminators, violence) is given a ‘twist’ by being set in the future world that the other films flashed forward to. Sadly, though, director McG has a hard time coaxing any enthusiasm in a film full of sound and fury but signifying nothing. A big budget and big explosions couldn’t save the film from the biggest crime of all – it was boring. With that in mind the prospects for anything good to come out of the latest attempt to update the aging Star Trek brand were looking slim to say the least – a bunch of TV hopefuls trying to ‘reboot’ the original series from the bottom up under the steady hand of JJ Abrams, the man behind the underwhelming MI3 (2006). But wait. What a revelation! Treading the fine line between updating the franchise and keeping the trekkies happy was not going to be easy, but somehow it all works – breakneck pacing, genuinely exciting set-pieces and great interaction between the characters as we see how young scallywag Kirk grows up and finally accepts responsibility as commander of the USS Enterprise.

Frank Miller, armed with the arsenal of techniques he learned co-directing Sin City (2005), returned in his adaptation of Eisner’s comic character The Spirit. Miller’s version is a visually intense and constantly imaginative assault on the senses as the titular Spirit battles with his old enemy The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson) and an assorted bevy of freakish thugs and femme fatales. The plot twists are fast and convoluted, the faux noir dialogue is occasionally annoying and much of the iconography jaw-droppingly tasteless but its main problem lies in the fact that however hyperactively imaginative it is, it remains a detached and cold experience. Far more satisfying was Zack Snyder’s long awaited Watchmen, a two-and-a-half hour adaptation of one of the defining comics of the 1980’s. Inevitably Watchmen is held in such high esteem that whatever Snyder did someone was going to get annoyed about it (“they cut the psychic space squid!”) but film is film – it isn’t a comic. Obviously they had to leave some things out but what is surprising is how faithfully the whole thing plays – it’s as though Snyder sacked his storyboard artists and just grabbed another couple of copies of the collected edition at his local Waterstones. Superb effects and mercifully not toned down to appeal to a PG-13 audience Watchmen was spectacular, thoughtful and brutal. The title sequence alone is worth the price of admission.

Hollywood also provided a number of non-franchise/comicbook SF films this year, some of them preposterous, some a little more thoughtful. Surrogates is set in the future where humans interact with each other through surrogate robots (all, naturally, better looking than they are in real life), thus reducing crime to zero and making everybody happy, except for those who choose to reject this life of lethargic hedonism and live outside the sterile cities. Cop Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) has to leave his relatively blissful surrogate life to investigate the death of a real person – the surrogate shot by a shadowy figure wielding a new type of weapon. This is all eminently watchable SF puff with a few good ideas and a couple of well staged action set-pieces; this is after all a Bruce Willis film, not Tarkovsky. The problem is that once the high concept idea has drawn you in your left with a big pool of ‘so what’ – especially when you realise that the trailer does, in fact, show you the entire movie, only quicker.

Knowing’s mildly preposterous premise – Nicolas Cage becomes aware of impending future disasters via a time capsule message at the local primary school – turns into an interesting and engaging film thanks to Alex Proyas’ direction. The denouement doesn’t quite live up to the promising start, but it’s worth a watch, particularly for the elaborate and spectacularly staged disaster scenes, which added an odd combination of thrill and sobriety to the often absurd proceedings.

Now District Nine was a pleasant surprise. ET refugees have been placed in a camp in South Africa and are getting restless due to the appalling conditions. The Multi-National United organisation is given the task of closing the camp down and evicting the unpopular “prawns”. Tension between human and alien is inevitable. Why can’t the aliens just go home? Combining action with social commentary District Nine was one of the more thoughtful action SF films of the year. Not so Outlander, although it did have aliens and action. In fact, it was ludicrous – ‘Vikings meet aliens’ probably best summarises the plot. A human-looking alien crashes to earth several centuries ago and has to ingratiate himself with a bunch of violent Vikings before they make peace with each other and all set off to fight a big alien monster together. With lots of action, not much story and no introspection, it passed the time.

Where would we be without Roland Emmerich and his cinematic Götterdämmerungs (not forgetting to include a new and innovative way of decimating the White House)? In 2012 the world is going to end. The Mayans predicted it, so it must be true. It’s because of those wretched mutating neutrinos that are causing the earth’s core to boil and we’re all doomed. Everyman and failed author (John Cusack) must save his family from a series of increasingly bombastic natural disasters and two-dimensional stereotypes. Cod-science hokum of The Core (2003) variety make this an enjoyable, if overlong, spectacle – you’ll laugh, but not when the film-makers want you to.

You know, you can wait years for a time-travel love story, then two come along at once. Both The Time Traveller’s Wife and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button depicted the difficulties of holding down a long-term relationship while one of the partners can’t function properly in time. In the Time Traveller’s Wife, Henry (Eric Bana) cannot stay still in time and flits in and out of his lover Clare’s (Rachel McAdams) life. Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) was born an old man who progressively grows younger. Both films have merits, but were overlong you can’t help wondering whether the time travel element just spices up an otherwise not particularly fascinating love story. Or is that too cynical and unromantic?

The glorious Inglourious Basterds is included because it all happened in an alternative universe – honest, it’s Tarantino’s re-imagining of WW2. Once upon a time in Nazi occupied France… an elite squad of American soldiers kill and scalp Nazis. Meanwhile cinema owner Shosanna is planning her own revenge on the Nazis who slaughtered her family earlier in the war. Overlong at 153mins, this is a Tarantino talky that’s sporadically violent but its tongue remains firmly in its cheek. And Brad Pitt’s Texan-Italian accent is just hilarious.

Shorts was another SF/fantasy, you know, for kids, from everyone’s favourite hyperactive big kid Robert Rodriguez. This is pure wish fulfilment fun that doesn’t patronise but could alienate adults with its stream of consciousness ‘cool’ stuff like crocodiles, bogey monsters and mini-aliens. The narrative is made of a series of shorts that are not in chronological order but it’s easy to follow but you’re left wondering why they bothered – maybe it’s a primer for watching Pulp Fiction (1992) in later life?

And away from the big hitters there were some smaller or quirkier offerings this year, although this sector is finding funding increasingly difficult as studios hedge their bets on larger ‘tentpole’ flicks in proven genres. The problem is exacerbated by a lack of willingness on the part of many multiplexes to take a risk with smaller movies so that the chances of seeing all but a few of the independents outside London is slight. Terry Gilliam returned to form with The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, a wonderful, if slightly ramshackle (but therein lies much of its charm) flight of imagination. Tony finds himself involved with the magical but rickety travelling theatre of Dr Parnassus – a medieval throwback anachronistically creaking its way through modern London. But the imaginarium is not what it seems – it contains a gateway to surreal and dangerous worlds of the subconscious – and Dr Parnassus has a terrible secret that he is keeping from his daughter Valentina. Interest in the film centred primarily on this being the last performance by Heath Ledger, who died before filming had been completed – the occasional substitution of his character with Johnny Depp /Jude Law/Colin Farrell actually feels right for the film and adds a further level of surrealism to proceedings. There’s more imagination in this modestly priced carnival of the bizarre than in a score of Hollywood fantasies and even a Python-style ‘dancing policemen in drag’ segment. At times shocking, hilarious and just sheer bonkers The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus’s DIY ethic and gung-ho acting do much to ingratiate it with viewers.

In Gerald McMorrow’s Franklyn, a number of apparently unconnected characters find their lives entwined in an unexpected way in contemporary London. Meanwhile in the religion-rife metropolis of Meanwhile City a vigilante called Preest escapes the authorities and seeks answers amongst the oppressive urban landscape. This is an ambitious film that takes in sf, religion, suicide, drug addiction and homelessness amongst its many themes. The mise-en-scene is impressive on a film with such a low budget; the Gilliam-meets-Dark-City (1990) landscapes of Meanwhile City contrasting with the low-key normality of contemporary London. The downside is that the multiple plot strands require a lot of goodwill from the audience as they take a while to unravel and there is a nagging sense the film is too clever by half. That said it is different, imaginative and ambitious in scope – something that not too many British films can claim.

Duncan Jones’ Moon was one of the highlights of the year. Energy shortages on Earth are a thing of the past because, on the dark side of the moon family man Sam, aided with chirpy robot GERTY, are responsible for controlling the mining of resources that the earth needs. Sam is coming to the end of his three-year stint on the station and looking forward to seeing his wife and daughter again. But then strange things start happening… A heady mix of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969), Dark Star (1974), Silent Running (1972) and Solaris (1972), Moon may wear its influences on its sleeve, but it makes the final product its own. The effects (though partly CGI) have a tactile quality that recall pre-Star Wars intelligent SF and are better for it.

Similarly low-key in the effects department, Cold Souls shows Paul Giamatti having trouble getting into his role in a Chekov play. He finds an innovative solution for his acting angst: a high-tech company who can extract and store souls. Giamatti has his put into storage with the aim of restoring it post-performance, but he doesn’t realise there’s an international trade in souls and his ends up inside a Russian soap-opera actress who is unwilling to trade it back, even if it does look like a chickpea. Cold Souls sank without a trace on release – a real shame for this low key, quirky and underplayed but very, very funny film. Think Charlie Kaufmann (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich)-lite with a wonderfully self-deprecating performance from Giamatti, who basically plays a version of himself, and you’re there.

Horror films traditionally perform well in a time of recession – if you’re having a bad time horror movies show others having it far worse plus plentiful added gore – the perfect antidote to downturn blues. Vampires too are all the rage but, wouldn’t you know it, the big hitters are aiming squarely at teens this time around. Twilight: New Moon made a killing at the box office. Bella’s still with Edward, but after an accident at a party, it turns out the vampires can’t restrain themselves and so they leave to resist future temptations. Bella becomes an adrenaline junkie and meets a new friend, Jacob. He’s a werewolf. So that’s alright then. Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant was an attempt to bring vampires to a slightly different teen demographic than the anodyne ‘Mills and Swoon’ of Twilight. Darren Shan meets an enigmatic-ish vampire at a freak show and after a series of tedious encounters leaves his ordinary life, dies, and joins the Cirque Du Freak as a vampire. While the freak show itself is interesting and mysterious, the film doesn’t have staying power and ends up being anaemic (not good for a vampire film) and annoying. Even the Brits chipped in with the pseudo-exploitation, pseudo-comedy Lesbian Vampire Killers, a cynical and frankly embarrassing effort all around. Fortunately it wasn’t all so-called comedy and teen moping, as Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In proved to be one of the year’s highlights. Oskar is a bit of a loner. He’s getting bullied at school and seems to find it hard to make friends. Then a strange girl called Eli moves in next door. She smells a bit odd and can’t stand sunlight but the pair form an unlikely friendship. However it appears that Eli has a craving for human blood. Let the Right One In is understated, intriguing and atmospheric – a real slow burner with sporadic moments of violence and one of the best bully comeuppance sequences in the history of cinema. This is a horror film for the art-house audience but one with enough humanity to broaden its appeal. Unlike, say Twilight, it doesn’t feel the need to explain the vampire conventions, it just gets on with the plot.

Thirst was Park Chan-wook’s latest, a deviation from his ‘vengeance trilogy’ and the candy-floss images of last year’s I’m A Cyborg. A priest has become a vampire following a blood transfusion, comforting patients in hospital and then drinking their blood after hours. He does at least feel bad about it. But after starting an affair with the wife of a friend he embarks upon a new life of hedonism. With lashings of sex and violence, Park takes his time telling his story and laces the content with his usual brand of black humour.

Based on a Japanese anime of the same name, Blood: The Last Vampire was, bizarrely, a Hong Kong, France, Japanese, Argentinian co-production which followed the anime for the first half and then deviated wildly to produce something a bit more conventional in tone but no less ambitious. Saya works for a secret organisation dedicated to the eradication of demons. She looks 16 but is, in fact, several hundred years old and can easily dispatch vampires with her trusty samurai sword. When she is sent to an American military base she realises that this may be her opportunity to finally destroy the evil arch vampire Onigen. OK so the scripting is poor, the acting variable and the computer effects quite ropey, but the action is great, courtesy of Cory Yuen, some of the visuals striking and they never let ambition be dampened by a meagre budget.

There were a couple of horror-thrillers worth your attention: Orphan was a welcome revival of the creepy kid film. Kate and John – married, two children – wish to add another to their brood. A local orphanage reveals Esther, a polite and talented child and the family adopt her. But Esther is not what she seems, not just in her unfashionable clothing or ‘foreign’ accent, but the events that happen around her. What is her dark secret? Orphan is tense, exciting and slow burning. It’s a modern horror so has to have a nasty scene at the start just to make sure you don’t think you are watching Kramer vs Kramer (1979). The denouement is preposterous and although the final act can’t top the build up it’s still a cut above the norm. In Jennifer (daughter of David) Lynch’s Surveillance there’s a very nasty serial killer on the loose and the body count is rising. FBI weirdoes Anderson and Hallaway interrogate the witnesses and suspects at a local desert police station. But the stories from addicts, kids and police, all seem to tell the tale slightly differently. It’s nasty and deliberately weird but Lynch does use her limited budget well. It is an interesting thriller, if too clever for its own good.

Jennifer’s Body was the latest offering written by Diobolo Juno Cody. Jennifer is the most popular girl in school. All of the girls want to be friends with her, and all of the boys want to have sex with her. Her best friend Needy is a nerd. Jennifer ends up as a sacrifice in a rock band’s Satanic ritual and becomes possessed by a demon, causing her to chow down on the local jocks. Jennifer’s Body wants to be Heathers with demons but it doesn’t quite work; there’s plenty of gore but no real tension and the premise doesn’t really follow through to anything.

In Zombieland pretty much the whole world has been taken over by zombies. The few survivors search for the last remaining Twinkies and head out to a theme park because it seems to be the best thing to do. There’s plentiful fun in this po-mo horror comedy with an excellent cameo from Bill Murray adding the icing to a very bloody cake.

And let’s not forget the low budget ‘sensations’. Colin told the sorry tale of a zombie’s miserable existence, unusual in that it followed the plight of the zombie and not the survivors of whatever plague had afflicted the world. It allegedly had a budget of about £45, an inspiration to low-budget filmmakers the world over, was innovative and engaging, if overlong by about 20 minutes. (Why don’t horror directors realise that 80-90 minutes is the perfect running time for a horror flick?) Paranormal Activity currently has the record for the biggest budget:earnings ratio ever. A simple plot involving a couple who’ve just moved into a new pad, there’s definitely some sort of presence ensuring that they won’t get a wink of sleep. A Blair Witch for the end of the Noughties?

Triangle was another small film that managed to pack a decent number of scares into its running time. A yachting trip ends in near disaster when the weather turns nasty and a group of friends have to be rescued by a passing liner. But why is the ship deserted and why does Jess feel as though she’s been here before? You think you know where Triangle is going to take you, but it manages to defy expectations and turn itself into a relentless little number with a few shocks along the way, turning it into an Escher sci-fi horror rather than the standard supernatural/psycho mix we’ve come to expect.

Even Sam Raimi eschewed the megabudgets of Spider-man and returned to his Evil Dead days with Drag Me to Hell, a tale of a yuppie who is cursed by an old gypsy. Energetic and frenetic, with typically gross-out scares and shocks, it wasn’t Raimi at his best, but was enjoyable (and importantly funny) hokum nevertheless.

And then there were the sequels: The Descent 2 was actually pretty decent – it started immediately after the original had finished and, while it’s hard to buy the premise that the sole survivor would immediately return to those dank caves with the monstrous creatures inside, it does deliver the scares and gore, just not the originality. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans didn’t see Kate Beckinsale in her Kate Beckinsale Impractical Tight Black Number™ because this was a prequel but that didn’t stop it from being another waste of a premise. Still, at least the franchise didn’t go the route of many horror vehicles as the latest (and weakest) The Final Destination felt obliged to become 3D as did the re-make of My Bloody Valentine. It wasn’t the only re-make (so help us…) as Friday 13th, Last House on the Left and Halloween 2 wasted valuable screen estate that could have been showing Let the Right One In. Incredibly Halloween 2 was an even worse re-make of a film that was terrible in the first place. And just when you thought it could get no worse there was Saw, where are we now, Saw 6? Its relatively lacklustre box office should have killed the franchise stone dead but oh no, apparently the problem wasn’t the film, it was because it wasn’t in 3D…

Despite the general air of media and economic malaise there were a few reasons to feel upbeat about the year. But with increasing pressure on lower and middle budgeted films, escalating conservatism in multiplexes and a panacea to all ills that involves wearing uncomfortable plastic glasses, the future may well become more myopic, albeit with an extra dimension thrown in (at a surcharge).

So, the winners are:

Best SF: Moon

Best Fantasy: Coraline and Up!

Best Horror: Let the Right One In

Special Remarkable Comicbook Adaptation Award: Watchmen