When we first started handing out the Alties™, our annual alternative Academy Awards in 2002, Wes Anderson was wowing movie nerds everywhere, not just his own dwindling cult; people were actually excited to see Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman act onscreen; 3D was a ridiculous old relic of the days when movie studios were worried about losing out to TV; and streaming was something tears did on an actress’ face when she was really going for a little gold statuette.
So much has changed since then. And yet so much hasn’t. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may have switched up its rules for Best Picture nominees twice in as many years, but the slate of nominees is still filled with legacies (War Horse, not even the best Steven Spielberg movie released last year—that’d be Super 8), successful heartwarming crap (The Help), and titles possibly most distinguished by how hard their studios lobbied for their nominations (our pick: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close). Which isn’t to say that all the movies suck—2011 was a great year for movies in a lot of ways, and not just from the fringes—but Hollywood’s chosen form of recognizing excellence remains a frustrating, uneven patchwork of popularity contest, self-congratulation, and cluelessness, all encapsulated within an overlong televised pageant studded with bad jokes and ridiculous musical numbers. (If you don’t have a place to watch it, we’ll have it on over at our house.)
And so, for the 10th year running, City Paper offers its own slate of awards, some granted with heartfelt respect, others with eyebrow-raised, nose-holding contempt, all thanks to contributions from Lee Gardner, Erin Gleeson, Bret McCabe, Max Robinson, Brandon Soderberg, and Violet LeVoit. And no, we couldn’t resist a joke about Michael Fassbender’s dick. The Alties™ go to. . . .
Best Comedy: Bridesmaids
Best Short Film (Horror): the first half of Insidious, when it was a creepy-as-shit haunted-house flick, before it turned into an homage to Poltergeist starring Darth Maul’s kid brother
Best Sci-Fi: Attack the Block. Bret McCabe: Not only is it incredibly smart and a genuine good time, but with gems like “Calm down Biggz, this ain’t Pokemon” and “No one is going to call you Mayhem if you keep acting like such a pussy,” it deserves to be endlessly quoted by bros over drinks.
Best Documentary: Project Nim
Best Kid’s Movie: Rango
Best Disappointing Kid’s Movie, Even by Kid’s-Movie Standards: Cars 2
Best Movie That Made No Sense but Was Good Anyway: The Tree of Life
Best Movie That Nobody Saw: Warrior. Bret McCabe: It’s nearly two hours of mixed-martial-arts ass-kicking with a brother-vs.-brother melodrama and Nick Nolte. This has “dude soap opera” written all over it.
Best What-he-always-does: Kermit the Frog, The Muppets
Best What-he-never-does: Albert Brooks, Drive
Best What-she-always-does: January Jones as a petulant ice queen in X-Men: First Class
Best What-she-never-does: Rachel McAdams as a cranky bitch in Midnight in Paris
Best Comedic Performance: Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids. BM: While the rest of the stellar cast is busy working wonders with Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo’s rock-solid script, McCarthy channels a John Goodman-ish role from a Coen Brothers’ movie.
Best Aging Graciously Onscreen: Christopher Plummer, Beginners. BM: Dude is the same age as fellow Best Supporting Actor nominee Max Von Sydow, but Plummer, who gets better with every passing year, not only portrays a man who comes out of the closet at 75 with an adorable vitality, but, even better, plays a 75-year-old man who knows his dick still gets hard.
Best Aging Weirdly Onscreen: Matthew Lillard, The Descendants. BM: The spazziest actor of the Scream generation finely hones his rubbery jitteriness into the man cuckolding George Clooney, finally giving Hollywood a skeezy Jimmy Stewart.
Best Actor Forced to do Crap in a Hollywood Movie: Bruno Ganz, Unknown. BM: The New German Cinema veteran adds a dose of grace and wily ’70s uncertainty to this year’s installment of Liam Neeson’s renegade hard-ass Eurotrash adventure.
Best Actress Forced to do Crap in a Hollywood Movie: Viola Davis, The Help. BM: She is far too classy and dignified ever to do this, but if she wins the Oscar I will French kiss an octopus if she gets onstage and says, “Please, I hope this means nobody ever has to say lines like, ‘You is kind, you is smart, you is important’ ever again.”
Best Running and Laughing: Jessica Chastain, Tree of Life. LG: It’s pretty much all she did the whole movie.
Best Use of Jack Black: The Muppets. Erin Gleeson: It turns out keeping him immobilized works out well.
Best Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Mia Wasikowska’s terminally ill wearer of cloche hats and overalls, Restless
Best Cinematic Schadenfreude: Contagion, for allowing Gwyneth Paltrow’s legions of detractors to watch her character immediately prove herself generally kind of an awful person, die a painful frothing-at-the-mouth death, get her skull sawed open and her scalp folded down over her smug-even-in-death face, and then disappear for most of the rest of the movie
Best Resourceful Dog Sidekick: (tie) Snowy, The Adventures of Tintin; Uggie, The Artist
Best Onscreen Romance: James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender’s Magneto, X-Men: First Class
Best Performance by an Artificial Life Form: Meryl Streep’s hair, The Iron Lady
Best Performance by an Artificial Body Part: Stephen Lang’s veneers in Conan the Barbarian. LG: Lang’s scenery-chewing evil wizard character Khalar Zym must be packing some pretty powerful magic to have such shiny, white, and even choppers in the primeval wilds of Nodentalhygenia.
Best Performance by a Real Body Part: Michael Fassbender’s penis, Shame
Best Hair: Tintin’s immobile La Roux coif, The Adventures of Tintin
Best Facial Hair: Bruce Greenwood’s my-moustache-has-a-moustache full-face whisker explosion, Meek’s Cutoff
Best Psychotic Freddie Mercury Impression: Dominic Cooper, The Devil’s Double
Best Gratuitous Nudity: The Last Year In Marienbad-style tableau of strippers staring like mammary mannequins, Drive.
Outstanding Achievement in Cragginess: Sam Shepard, Blackthorn
Best Pimpmobile: the Red Skull’s souped-up Nazi science dragster, Captain America: The First Avenger
Best Worst Clothing Item: Ryan Gosling’s silk scorpion jacket, Drive. Max Robinson: Looks cool on the Goz, less so on you and your dumb friends.
Best Use of 3D: Fright Night. MR: The only movie this year that dared to bathe its audience in flaming vampire guts!
Best Music Cue: A sex addict’s sister (Carey Mulligan) showering in his apartment as Chic’s “I Want Your Love” blasts from a turntable, Shame
Best Movie Everyone Around You Will Be Quoting Annoyingly in Three Years (But Only, Like, Three Scenes): The Trip
Best Out-of-Context Movie Quote Turned Meme: “Why Cookie Rocket?” Rise of the Planet of the Apes. MR: Why indeed.
Best Yeah Right: Rise of the Planet of the Apes. LG: So the scientists didn’t know that the lab chimp taking part in their kabillion-dollar drug research was pregnant?
The Brotherhood of the Wolf Can’t the Movie Just Keep on Going? Award: Hanna. BM: The line to keep Saoirse Ronan steadily killing people in kinda/sorta Godardian action flicks starts right behind me.
Best Ambiguous Ending: Take Shelter
Worst Ambiguous Ending: Martha Marcy May Marlene
Best Steampunk: Hugo
Best Fuck Everybody: Red State
Best We Are the 1 Percent: Atlas Shrugged: Part 1
Best Overrated Claptrap: Super 8
Best Smoking Porn: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Best Time to Make the Doughnuts: Tower Heist
Best My Little Pony Ad for Man-Children: War Horse
Best First-World Problems: Carnage
Best TOTAL MASSACRE: 13 Assassins
Best Permanent, Bone-Deep Ick: A Serbian Film
Best Didn’t The Getaway Remake Teach Y’all Anything?: Straw Dogs
Best This Is Why They Hate Us: Jack and Jill. BM: This godawful Adam Sandler vehicle earned more bad reviews than Chris Brown at a National Coalition Against Domestic Violence convention and yet still scored top-five box-office numbers its opening weekend.
Best Reason to Re-evaluate Your Opinion of David Gordon Green: (tie) The Sitter and Your Highness. EG: Yeah, OK, maybe Zooey Deschanel’s adorable puppy face gets old fast, but All the Real Girls was still actually good. And remember the gorgeously shot, heartbreaking-yet-funny George Washington?
Best Feature-Length Theatrically Released DVD Special Feature: Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, a documentary whose sole reason for being seems to be to illustrate in a number of ways that CoCo is actually kind of an attention-starved dick
Best Death: Ciarán Hinds hugs a semi in the opening minutes of The Debt.
Outstanding Achievement in B-Movie Character Naming: Jebedia Loven, the shaved-head post-vampire-apocalypse Christian millennial maniac from Stake Land
The Federico Fellini Memorial “And Introducing . . .” Casting-Coup Cup: Laurence R. Harvey, The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence). LG: You remember Danny Devito’s performance as the Penguin from Tim Burton’s Batman Returns? Harvey could have played the role with minimal makeup.
The 2012 “What the Fuck, Nic Cage?” Award for Excellence in Onscreen Weirdness: Cage’s undead John Milton drinking a Flying Dog out of the bloody skull of the man who killed his daughter, Drive Angry.
The “Stuck in the Middle With You” Award for Reframing Innocuous Pop: Enya’s “Orinoco Flow” as music to disembowel by in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Best Hollywood Being Hollywood: The Adventures of Tintin. Brandon Soderberg: Steven Spielberg takes one of the most iconic character designs of all time, drawn in the famous ligne claire (clear line) style by Belgian comics legend Herge, and puffs the little guy into an atrocious three-dimensional Garbage Pail Kids-looking baby man.