It’s the third day of Crikey‘s ode to the year in moving pictures and the winners keep on coming.

In other movie news, next Monday, March 8, there’s a little awards ceremony, The Oscars. It might a public holiday in some parts of Australia but the Crikey team will be at work, liveblogging all the action, from fashions on the field to James Cameron’s acceptance speech(es).

Tune in to the coverage (starts 12pm on Channel 9) and read Crikey for all the best commentary.

But for now, back to The Golden Choc-Tops.

The Most Intense Crap-Yer-Dacks Scene

No year at the movies is complete without a bunch of sweaty gasp-inducing scenes that present otherwise healthy audiences the very real possibility of cinema-induced heart attack. Viewers of the nano budget fake spookumentary Paranormal Activity got one hell of a final jolt, with a last-minute “rrraaaaa!” scare that sent audiences into a tizzy the world over.

There was a breathless bullet-ridden Clive Owen gun fight set in the Guggenheim in The International; a morbidly captivating death-by-swimming-pool-pump-suction scene in the outrageous Final Destination 3D; and that awful, awful moment in which one of the characters in Samson & Delilah got taken out by a speeding car.

However, the award for the Most Intense Crap-Yer-Dacks Scene of 2009 is a tie between two white-knuckle moments in two exceptionally well constructed war films: Robert Connolly’s Balibo and Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker.

In Balibo one of five petrified Australian journalists (the famous Balibo Five) emerges from a shack where the others are hiding to plead his case to nasty looking Indonesian militia. “Journalist, Australian, Australian press, journalist, journalist,” he says, before absorbing a bullet in the head at point-blank range. It is a moment destined to go down as one of Australian cinema’s most harrowing wartime re-enactments.

In the nail-gnawing The Hurt Locker, a squad of American soldiers led by staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) must deal with a panicked Iraqi civilian (translation: “I don’t wish to die! I have a family!”) who has enough bombs strapped to his chest to blow everybody to kingdom come. The timer, of course, is ticking away. Trouble is, a bunch of padlocks prevent James from reaching the wires. Viewers with heart conditions, consider yourselves warned.

The Best Performance by an Inanimate Object

It’s the category no awards-distributing body in the world dareth recognise: the most outstanding feat of acting from an inanimate object. And no — we’re not talking about Sandra Bullock’s Oscar-nominated performance in The Blind Side.

Last year was a good year at the cinema for inanimate objects. There was the button that inadvertently led to a character’s spectacular demise in Sam Raimi’s gnarly horror pic Drag Me to Hell. There was a little girl’s blanket in Imagine That! that Eddie Murphy draped over his head to transport him to an imaginary alternative world where his career still had a modicum of credibility. And, yeck, there was the rusty pair of scissors in Antichrist that Charlotte Gainsbourg used to (Mr Buckmaster proceeded to end this sentence with an intricate description of an act so deplorable Crikey could not in good conscience publish it. Buckmaster has been severely reprimanded and ordered by management not to watch any more films depicting body mutilation and certainly no more Lars von Trier pictures. That is all — ed.).

But all these inanimate objects were out-staged by one quietly spoken prop (total lines: zero) pivotal to the narrative thrust and crazy-in-the-coconut concepts of filmmaker Richard Kelly’s latest mind melt (he directed 2001’s dark indie drama Donnie Darko). The title of the film — The Box — is dedicated to the packaging of said object, a plain red buzzer that bears an uncanny resemblance to the popular toy “the bullsh-t buzzer”. However, instead of yelping pre-recorded insults at those who touch it, this buzzer once pressed achieves two things, which were eloquently explained by the great Frank Langella (star of Frost/Nixon) who spends the entire movie walking around with half a face.

“First, someone somewhere in the world who you don’t know will die,” he gravely intones. “Second, you will receive a payment of one million dollars.” The buzzer from The Box was undoubtedly the best bout of acting (or non acting — whatever you want to call it) by an inanimate object in 2009. It contributed a quiet, unassuming and dignified performance in a movie that was anything but.


Coming up tomorrow: The Best Cinematic Surprise Award (aka the I thought It Was Going To Be Sh-t Because The Trailer Looked Woeful But Actually It Wasn’t That Bad Award) and Best Non-S-xual use of Food.

Peter Fray

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