Not such a good year at the movies if compared to 2005 and 2006, and there's isn't even a single masterpiece.

movie of the year

Nothing this year has had as much impact on me as has Mel Gibson's Apocalypto given its gruelling tale of cruelty, the sort I never witnessed before. The runner-up is 300 for its awe-inspiring visual magnificence.

best movie of the year

There was a number of very well-made movies this year, but none was as good as Smokin' Aces for its exciting action and excellent direction.

enchanting

Polar Express was made a number of years ago but it still packs a punch in many of its moments especially the near-accident of the magic train, the dance sequence of chocolate presentation, and the North pole environment. These are possibly the most magical ever sequences in movie history. Ratatouille, another fantasy, is a very enjoyable runner-up, even given its formulaic touches, typical of so much animation out there.

cinematography

Munich can't be beaten in this category for its flawlessly-polished look. It is followed by a much smaller movie, Three Colours Blue, for its beautiful usage of lighting.

production design

It's rare that an old movie would impress this much due to its visual aspects, but the design of the alien environment in Alien was breath-taking. The runner-up happened to be District B13 for its rotting and crime-ridden urban setting.

cast

What helped make Apocalypto feel so real is its cast of unknowns; I did not notice any misplacement or annoying performance. The runner-up is the cast of American Ganster (and that does not include the two leads). Hot Fuzz wins the title for comic cast.

performances

My most favorite of all the year's performances goes to Taraji Henson who plays an exciting, yet heartbreaking, role of a sniper in Smokin' Aces. The best female performance was however that of Anne Parillaud, who plays the lead in Sex is Comedy, portraying a tough yet lovely movie director. The performance is enhanced very well by her limp. As for male performances, there's a tie between Anthony Hopkins in Fracture and Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland, which is a pity because that was Forest's best ever performance while Anthony's was business-as-usual. Mark Ruffalo's subdued but highly-focused character in Zodiac is runner-up.

characters

The best villain is Josh Brolin's dirty cop found in American Ganster for its unflinching acts of corruption. My favorite character is Gerard Butler's Spartan king in 300 while the most exotic is the Angelina Jolie's demon in Beowulf. The most desirable gal is Rosamund Pike in Fracture while Vera Farmica of The Departed, Ana Claudia Talancon' in El Crimen del Padro Amaro, and Kerry Washington in The Last King of Scotland are tied as runner-ups. Julianne Moore in Next is the year's best detective given her unrelenting focus in getting the job done. A special mention should go to John Heder's goofy and kind-hearted ice skating champion in the delightful Blades of Glory. The best character design is the child-killing, pale monster in Pan's Labyrinth.

visuals

The year's greatest spectacle Transformers is also the year's best visual effects showcase, and should have tied with the runner-up, Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End, had it not been so exciting. That runner-up would have won had it come up with something more interesting than the stormy battle. 300 easily wins the year's best imagery/visual design, and The Number 23 takes second spot due to its gorgeous fantasy-like scenes. The most horrific/shocking imagery emanates from The Last King of Scotland, a scene that showcases the aftermath of the cheating wife.

action

The best action of any movie this year emanates from the gripping The Bourne Ultimatum, given its excellent execution and the relentless dedication of the Bourne character, and his lead adversary. The best action sequence is however to be found in the final battle in The Kingdom. The best chase sequence is to be found in the very first scene of District B13, where the very athletic hero saves his neck from some very unloving fellows.

miscellaneous

Munich ties with Cars as regards the best sound. There's a tie between The Number 23 and Lucky Number Slevin (presentation of textual info and the slick murders) as the best opening credits sequence. The runner-up is The Kingdom, while the best closing credits is by 300, with its nice mix of 2D and 3D imagery. Next wins both most romantic scene (the definition of beauty) and most painful scene (wheelchair explosion) even though both their impact was painfully reduced on a revisit. The movie also offers best concept (seeing the future in a mere 2 minutes). Runner-up happens to be Solaris, whose concept is reminiscent of that of Sphere and therefore not so fresh. Solaris is also runner-up for most surreal, winner by far being the unbearably weird The Fountain. The Last King of Scotland had the best music, Apocalypto had the best costume design, and Five Fingers had the best twist. The most overrated movie turns out to be Vertigo, which frequently appears in many elevated lists of the all-time greatest movies. Instead of a landmark, I saw a badly-acted old-time thriller, not a bit better than those Humphrey Bogart flicks. The runner-up is The Searchers which lacked anything commendable, bar some nice images during the final battle.

special mention

Something like Alpha Dog has not quite been done before and therefore maintains amazing levels of freshness given various moments (the angry telephone call, Justin Timberlake's cool) even though it remains pointless. Another special mention should go to Devil's Rejects for its crazy storyline of killers-for-fun and gruesome violence, reminiscent of Natural Born Killers.

best first-time viewing experiences

As anyone knows and as seen many times above, movies never offer the same experience when revisited. So here's a listing of those which were most impressive on first viewing in order of which had the most impact: Apocalypto, Fearless, 300, Next.

others

these and these:

45; 30000 Leagues Under the Sea; 51st State; 88 Minutes; About A Boy; Aviator, The; Back to the Future 1 & 2; Bad Santa; Beat the Drum; Blood Diamond; Brotherhood of the Wolf, The; Chariots of Fire; Click; Covenant, The; Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo; Devil's Rejects; Die Hard 4.0; Domino; Doom; Dreamers, The; Drop Dead Gorgeous; Employee of the Month; Eragon; Fantastic 4: the Rise of the Silver Surfer; Final Destination 3; Giant; Graduate, The; Gridiron Gang; Grudge, The; Happily Never After; Happy Together; Hills Have Eyes 2; In America; In-Crowd, The; Me & Dupree; Meet the Robinsons; Mission, The; Mr. Brooks; Perfect Man, The; Pursuit of Happiness, The; Searchers, The; She's the Man; Sleeping Bride; Star Wrek; Sum of All Fears, The; Throne of Blood; Time Bandits; Troy