2009 Kaedrin Movie Awards: Most Visually Stunning & Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film

The nominations for the 2009 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. This week, I'll be announcing two winners every day, culminating in a post with my top 10 movies of the year and possibly some other wrap-up posts.

Most Visually Stunning: Avatar

For all its faults, you have to admit that Avatar is a gorgeous movie to look at. Amazingly, the Na'vi seem real. James Cameron has somehow vaulted across the uncanny valley and emerged unscathed on the other side. While I don't know that his use of 3D is really all that revolutionary, I appreciate the fact that Cameron doesn't take the opportunity to poke me with stuff (like every other 3D movie). Pandora (though a ham-fisted name for a planet) is a fully realized planet. Well, actually it's not, but visually, it is. The rest of the nominees are pretty good, but none can really match the spectacle of Avatar.

Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film: Paranormal Activity

This is always a difficult category, probably because I mix two of my favorite genres. Usually there's not enough SF to warrant a full category, but this year there were 3 pretty solid SF films. Of course, only Moon even comes close to a true hard SF story, with the other two (Star Trek and District 9) lacking a little science in their fiction, but even Moon had me nitpicking over plot details. It's definitely worth watching, if only for Sam Rockwell's performance(s), but it didn't quite hit me the way horror films did this year. I had a blast with Drag Me to Hell and 4bia (a lame play on the word phobia) was an early favorite, but no horror film stuck with me the way Paranormal Activity did. It got a bit too hyped, which is never good for scary movies, but it still worked well for me. While the "found footage" premise is hardly unique, they did provide one major innovation for the sub-genre: the tripod. There's still some shaky camera footage, but for the most part, it's sitting on a tripod, and it's more effective because of that. Anyway, my favorite horror movie of the year and it will probably find a spot on my top 10.

Coming tomorrow: Best Sequel and Biggest Disappointment