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8th Annual VaRaces Awards

  • Created on Wednesday, 17 February 2010 20:09
  • Written by carcrashking
8th Annual VaRaces Awards


This year's Varaces Awards celebrates the outstanding car chase and car race achievements in film for 2009. While there were fewer releases of films with notable automotive action in them, those that did more than made up for that fact. Thanks goes out once again to the Special Guest Presenters for their nominations and contributions. And special thanks goes out to the VaRaces website founder Derrick Hopkins for his dedication of maintaining the website, without which these Awards would not be possible.

 

 

People's Chase Award

This award lets website users vote on their favorite car chase of the past year. The Nominees were:

The Tournament

 

 

A contest that involves a tournament of the world's deadliest assassins sounds inviting enough. But if you throw in a car chase between a tanker truck and a double decker bus that causes vehicular mayhem, then it becomes a notable event in anyone's car chase film calendar.

 

12 Rounds

 

A lot of automotive action appears in this film with no less than three extended car chase sequences and a race against time involving a speeding firetruck. A surefire way to appeal to automotive enthusiasts.

 

Fast & Furious

The Fast and the Furious franchise returned with its fourth instalment with the main principals of the first in the series returning as Dom and Brian take on a Mexican drug cartel. This instalment did not disappoint car chase fans by featuring the usual array of classic American muscle cars and Japanese imports pitted against each other.

G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra

G.I. Joe arguably featured the most spectacular sequence in the crop of car chase films in 2009 with an epic chase sequence set along the recognisable streets of Paris. And any chase that attempts to topple The Blues Brothers record of destroying vehicles is a must see for any car chase film fan.

Antikiller: D.K: Love Without Memory

Not often that you have a major car chase contender coming from Russia, but that's what the pursuit sequence in Antikiller D.K. is. The third film in the D.K. trilogy sees its hero Gosha Kutsenko in a Nissan Qashgai pursued by a fleet of BMWs in a chase that results in spectacular crashes.

Echelon Conspiracy

While not on par with the Moscow car chase sequence in The Bourne Supremacy, Echelon Conspiracy does feature a night time pursuit sequence in Moscow that holds its own amongst the other 2009 contenders.

 

 

Winner:

 

12 Rounds

It is true that 12 Rounds does not have a conventional car chase in it consisting of one car pursuing after another. However, what it does have are major variations on the standard car chase format, namely an extended car/foot chase sequence, a car/ferry boat chase, and finally a car/trolley pursuit and rescue sequence. All of these are impressively staged and while John Cena is no Bruce Willis, he certainly is a more talented an actor than other wrestlers who have tried to make the transition into film. For these reasons, 12 Rounds is a deserved winner of the People's Chase Award.

 

 

Most Inventive Car Chase:

 

Each year filmmakers are always trying to raise the bar when staging pursuit sequences and one way they do so is to introduce innovation in some way. All of the 2009 contenders for this category added a new twist to the car chase that made them stand out from the crowd. The Nominees are:

12 Rounds

We have all seen car chases before that featured other types of vehicles, most famously the pursuit of the elevated train in The French Connection. But rarely do you get to see in the same film a 1972 Chevrolet Camaro speeding after a moving ferry or, for that matter, witness a Ford Crown Victoria pursuing a runaway trolley in a bid to rescue its passengers and protect the welfare of innocent bystanders.

Fast & Furious

The producers of the Fast and Furious franchise are always faced with the same challenge of doing something innovative with each new outing in the series. Fast & Furious was no different by having an elaborate pursuit sequence set in a network of secret tunnels on the US/Mexican border.

G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra Special Guest Presenter: n_easter12345

The use of similator suits came into direct use with this action packed chase down the streets of Paris. The bad guys pile into an indestructible H2 (Hummer 2) and immediately starts the chase by plowing into a city bus and causing a big accident. It's always nice to see a car chase that not only thrills but piles on spectacular car accidents at the same time. A lot of money went into the making of this movie and a lot probably went into the making of this chase. Not only did the H2 make accidents but it got tossed up numerous feet in the air by a passing train, causing a chain of explosions and accidents. Even a motorcycle gets in on the action. Definitely one of the best of the year.

 

Winner:

G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra

By any reckoning the extended Paris chase sequence is unlike any other car chase. To be sure, there seems to be some elements of it that are derived from the pursuit sequence in The Matrix Reloaded, namely its inclusion of martial arts on a moving vehicle, and the wholesale automotive destruction on display. Still, what makes the G.I. Joe chase distinctive is that it is essentially a foot and car chase with the pursuers traveling at speed in supercharged accelerator suits. Now that's a first.

 

Best Blu-Ray/DVD Release:

2009 was another disappointing year for car chase and car race films with few notable releases on either Blu-ray or DVD. Nonetheless, there were a few that brightened the home entertainment release calendar. The Nominees are:

Fast & Furious

Film distributors try to lure customers to Blu-ray not just with the promise of HD but by offering extras that the normal dvd versions do not possess. The Blu-ray release of Fast & Furious is a case in point, and is packed with extras on the stunts, driving, and vehicles in the film. In short, everything you wanted to know about Fast & Furious but were afraid to ask.

Freebie and the Bean

Although most of the 1970s car chase films have been released on DVD, for some reason Freebie and the Bean was not and languished in semi-obscurity with its circulation consisting of the sale of out of print VHS copies. However, Warner Bros. has recently set up its Warner Archive, an on demand DVD and download service which has made the film available as well as hundreds of other titles from its back catalogue. The DVDs are bare bones and feature no extras, but who cares. The transfers look good and its great to see Freebie and the Bean finally on DVD.

Love the Beast

The release of Love the Beast warrants purchasing not just for the film itself to have the opportunity to see Eric Bana as pure car enthusiast and to see him race his Ford Falcon GT coupe. But what adds value to the release is the extra 20 minute interview with Jeremy Clarkson discussing all things automotive in nature.

 

Winner:

Freebie and the Bean

You don't necessarily need loads of dvd extras or ones with TV stars appearing in them to have a winner dvd release. All you need is one that features a classic 1970s car chase film.

 

Most Destructive Chase Scene:

Nothing like a few spectacular crashes to spice up a car chase, but when one is a contender for the Most Destructive Chase Scene Award, one expects a much higher degree of destruction on show as all the nominees for this category demonstrate. The Nominees are:

Antikiller: D.K.

Antikiller D.K. makes the most of its multi-vehicle pursuit premise down a Russian highway to orchestrate a series of awesome collisions, be they with oncoming vehicles or with cars that happen to be in the way. It also ends with an impressive demolition of a roads maintenance building as Gosha Kutsenko's Nissan Qashgai rams through it.

G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra

It is a fair bet that if a Hummer is used in a car chase it will result in serious collateral damage. But when its fitted with a plow in front of it to clear its path, as in the car chase in G.I. Joe, then it is guaranteed that serious automotive mayhem will ensue.

The Tournament

It is one thing to feature a tanker truck in a car chase, quite another when the other vehicle it is pursuing is a double decker bus. The results - total carnage down a British motorway as various vehicles are destroyed in the process.

 

Winner:

G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra Special Guest Presenter: Star Wars Fanatic

Considering it managed to obliterate The Blues Brothers previous record by allegedly destroying 112 cars in the making of the film, there's no questioning 2009's most destructive car chase. G.I. Joe's chase scene started as it meant to go on as the Hummer ploughs into a city bus, which was actually a real and unstaged accident causing injury to those involved. And then, as if the chase could become any more ludicrous with the G.I. Joe team pursuing the villain's Hummer on foot via their accelerator suits, the vehicle utilises a customised plow which is used to mangle any unsuspecting cars in its path. It's a spectacular and riveting sight, as multiple cars perform pirouettes simultaneously through the air reminiscent of The Matrix Reloaded. The chase even concludes with a highly destructive feat, as the Hummer gets struck by an oncoming train and vaults into the air with preposterous altitude, before culminating in an explosive high speed rollover. It may be far fetched, but it's hard not to revel in such alluring automotive destruction.

 

Best Driving:

Behind every great car chase sequence there is a great stunt driver at the wheel of the stunt vehicle. Each of the 2009 nominees for the Best Driving Award have expert driving skills on show. The Nominees are:

Echelon Conspiracy

It's not everyday that you watch a car chase film and discover that the main vehicle in the chase is a Renault Kangoo Express. Despite being a far inferior vehicle compared to the BMWs pursuing after it, the Kangoo manages to elude its pursuers thanks to its driver John Reed, who proves his stuff as he dispatches each of the BMWs one by one as a result of his expert driving skills.

12 Rounds Special Guest Presenter: n_easter12345

Director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger) set out to make the best action movie possible. What's an action movie without a really good car chase? That's exactly what we have with 12 Rounds climatic trolley chase through downtown New Orleans. A Ford Crown Vic gets a sure-fire workout as it speeds to stop an out-of-control trolley, dodges cars from all directions, and it even gets driven into an electrical power station. When you look at a good car chase, you look at the driving skills that had to have been mastered in order to make this scene possible. Whether you didn't like the movie as much as the similar Die Hard 3, you still have to enjoy this scene.

Fast & Furious

Great driving skills are part and parcel of the Fast and Furious franchise and the fourth in the series holds true on this score. With Dom Toretto and Brian O'Connor returning as leads, so did their continuing rivalry to out preform the other, as can be seen in the L.A. street racing scene. After all, virtuoso driving is what the franchise is about.

 

Winner:

Fast & Furious Special Guest Presenter: Star Wars Fanatic

The latest installment in the long running racing franchise may have lacked the flamboyant drifting found in Tokyo Drift, but the driving found in Fast & Furious was still impressive in its own right. Each of the film's many driving scenes showcased a number of skills, from heavy duty pickups performing reverse 180s, to street racers weaving through dense traffic and charging around 90 degree corners.

 

Best Game:

2009 was a good year with respect to the release of driving simulation games with the release of three major entries in the genre. The Nominees are:

Colin McRae: DiRT 2 Special Guest Presenter: Star Wars Fanatic

Codemasters have garnered a reigning reputation for producing high quality driving games over the years, and DiRT 2 certainly lived up to this track record. The balanced physics, exotic locations and impeccable presentation made for a continually captivating experience - careening down hazardous dirt tracks and edging perilously close to cliff edges has seldom felt so real. All in all, it was a sterling tribute to the rally legend and ranks as one of the most thoroughly enjoyable driving games to date.

Forza Motorsport 3

Microsoft's Forza's series has been battling Sony's Gran Turismo for the top spot in the the driving simulation game genre, and they may have trumped Sony with its latest outing. Boasting a selection of over than 400 vehicles to choose from, new and improved tire physics, and vehicle responsiveness, Forza 3 rewards the novice player as much as the expert.

Need For Speed: Shift

Ditching its previous preference for open racing environments, the latest installment in the Need for Speed series focuses upon enhancing the experience of circuit racing. And an enhanced racing circuit driving experience it does indeed deliver by a much improved presentation of famed racing circuits and by the unbelievable sensation of speed while driving the vehicles.

 

Winner:

Colin McRae: DiRT 2

Raising the standard of quality of presentation, from its menus to the presentation of views behind the wheel, and its exotic locations, Dirt 2 was the definite leader of the pack in 2009.

 

Best Racing Scene:

The VaRaces Awards also honours those films that have outstanding racing scenes in them. There were a few notable releases in 2009 with a couple of them documentaries. The Nominees are:

Racing Dreams

It's rare that a karting film warrants nomination for Best Racing Scene but Racing Dreams is not your ordinary documentary. The film follows three young racers compete for the World Karting Association title and showed some surprisingly engaging racing scenes as they race up to speeds of 70 mph. The future stars of NASCAR no doubt.

Love the Beast

Love the Beast is much more than a documentary that follows actor Eric Bana's love affair with his 1974 Ford Falcon XB. It is equally about the spirit and commitment involved in auto racing. The highlight of the film is the extended coverage of Bana racing his Falcon at the Targa Tasmania Rally, a gruelling five day endurance race, that is a tribute to the golden days of auto racing of the past.

Fast & Furious Special Guest Presenter: n_easter12345

How about that breathtaking race down L.A. streets? Fast & Furious is the fourth in the franchise that looks and feels like the original, race wise. Not to mention having Vin Diesel and Paul Walker back in the driver's seats was like an added bonus. What's a race down packed L.A. streets without a couple of really good car accidents? That's exactly what we got when an SUV goes airborne and a racer flips over and falls off a bridge. To say that this movie did satisfy race fans is to say the least. This scene defines street racing at its most dangerous and most exciting.

 

Winner:

Fast & Furious

There are always great street racing scenes in Fast and Furious films and Fast & Furious continues the tradition. With and extended night time street race down the streets of L.A. that features a stunning array of modifieds going flat out, inspired driving, spectacular crashes, and a GPS system that guides they viewer along the way, it is no wonder that it was the hands-down favourite for the Best Racing Scene Award.

 

Chase of the Year:

This award goes to the best car chase sequence put to film in terms of execution, stuntwork, integration with story, innovation, and sheer destructiveness. Few car chases are strong in all areas. The best car chases are. The Nominees for the Chase of the Year Award for 2009 are:

12 Rounds

12 Rounds shows that you do need to use the conventional car chase format to offer engaging and well staged pursuit sequences. Innovation goes a long way to making a pursuit sequence more absorbing for the viewer and the car/trolley pursuit and rescue sequence in 12 Rounds is an object lesson on how to do just that.

Fast & Furious Special Guest Presenter: Star Wars Fanatic

Fast & Furious not only saw the return of Mr Gravely voice but delivered a trio of pulse pounding car chase sequences. From the fuel tanker hijacking opening to the intense central street race and the final, multi vehicle desert showdown, Fast & Furious provided a strong variety of car chases and each scene held their own with diligence.

G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra

Clocking in at over seven minutes, the pursuit sequence in G.I Joe is nothing short of being epic in scale and execution. For sure, there are moments in the sequence that are outlandish and OTT, but like the film itself, the chase never pretends to be anything more than solid action entertainment.

 

Winner:

Fast & Furious

One would be hard pressed to name another film series in the past fifty years more committed to providing automotive action to car chase fans than the Fast and Furious films. Despite being the fourth film in the series, Fast & Furious holds up remarkably well compared to its predecessors. Its three main automotive scenes - the opening tanker hi-jack, the L.A. street race, and the final multi-vehicle pursuit sequence in the desert - are all stand out scenes, especially the latter, that on their own in another film would have made them a contender for a Varaces Award. But to have all three in the same film shows a real passion for the art of automotive entertainment.

 

Worst Chase of the Year:

Some chase sequences are ignominiously given the worst chase of the year status, not because they have poor production values or are incompetently staged. Instead they are perceived as such because of the expectations car chase fans have that there will feature a great chase sequence but what they are presented with thoroughly disappoints. This holds true for this year's Nominees:

District 9

While by no means was District 9 promoted as a car chase film, or was there an expectation that it would offer automotive action, there is without a doubt a feeling that there was an opportunity missed to stage a great chase in the District 9 shanty town when the Toyota Hilux is pursued by a military helicopter. Instead what one gets is an all too brief pursuit sequence. Lets hope Neill Blomkamp offers a more extended pursuit sequence if he gets the opportunity to make a prequel.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Special Guest Presenter: Star Wars Fanatic

In all honesty, Revenge of the Fallen's effort barely qualifies as a car chase due to its pitifully short running time. Those who were hotly anticipating a comeback from Michael Bay in the extravagant car chase department were sorely disappointed. It's been all too long (5 years in fact since The Island) since we have experienced a true trademark Michael Bay chase, and both Transformers films rank as unforgiveable missed opportunities.

 

Winner:

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Michael Bay was once revered by car chase fans for raising the bar on the scale of destruction one normally associated with the car chase,  as can be seen in the pursuit sequences in Bad Boys II and The Island. But after both Transformers films, it almost seems that Bay has abandoned the car chase as a form of action entertainment.

 

 

 

Lifetime Achievement Award: Person

Bill Hickman

A legend amongst American stuntmen, Bill Hickman has earned his place in car chase history not only as a stuntman and stunt driver extraordinaire, but also for his ability to act. Unlike other stunt drivers who could only serve as stunt double, Hickman had the ability to be both actor and stunt driver thus lending far more credibility to the chase sequences he was in. In both Bullitt and The Seven Ups Hickman plays the baddy, and when he's at the wheel it is really him driving at high speed and undertaking the dangerous driving manoeuvres.

Hickman began his film career as a driver for James Dean and would often give him racing tips. He honed his stunt driving skills for the TV show The Fugitive when automotive stuntwork was called for in a particular episode, but it was his stunt driving of the 1968 Dodge Charger R/T in Bullitt that made him the recognisable face of the Hollywood stuntman. He was stunt coordinator and stunt double for Gene Hackman for the famous chase in The French Connection, and was at the wheel of the camera car to capture the shots of oncoming traffic. He would reprise his roles again as stunt coordinator and stunt driver in The Seven Ups and is credited for coming up with the idea for the final crash by which the chase spectacularly ends.

Hickman had a hand in other films with notable automotive scenes, such as Rebel Without A Cause, The Great Race, Vanishing Point, Diamonds Are Forever, and Electra Glide in Blue that stand as an impressive list of credits. Yet it is for his memorable work for Bullitt, The French Connection, and The Seven Ups that he assumes his place amongst the greats in the car chase hall of fame.

 

Lifetime Achievement Award: Vehicle

 

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

The Mitsubishi Evo is probably the best known and the most respected Japanese high performance vehicle. When the Evo was first rolled out in 1992 it was designed to compete in the World Rally Championships while still managing to offer the conveniences of a street car. After minor adjustments were affected to its mark II and III models, the Evolution IV introduced its more aggressive styling that makes it such a readily recognisable vehicle, a styling that is still visible in the latest Evo X edition.

Of course, one cannot mention the Mitsubishi Evo without at the same time acknowledging its serious rivarly with the Subaru Impreza both at the World Rally Championships level as well as their competition with each other for ultimately the same market of potential buyers. This rivalry has continued even into the domain of the big screen where Evos and Imprezas are often set chasing or racing each other, as perhaps most memorably captured in The Legend of Speed, arguably the best non Hollywood street racing films ever made. In The Legend of Speed the Evo does beat the Impreza in the climatic race, but it is then set alight by the protagonist in what seems to be a sacrificial act to the automotive gods.

There is not one Fast and Furious film in which an Evo does not appear, and in these cases it usually has a starring vehicle role. But its impressive list of film credits do not end there. Evos play important roles in Taxi 2, Thunderbolt, and Initial D. It is the Evo's multiple appearances in these major car chase and racing films that makes it the winner of the 2009 Vehicle Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

 

 

 

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