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9th Annual VaRaces Awards

9th Annual VaRaces Awards


Kites Crash StillThe Annual VaRaces Awards returns again to celebrate the best car chase and racing achievements for 2010. As the new decade rolled in, car chase and racing fans witnessed a bumper crop of vehicular action on the screen. Unlike in other years where a particular car chase film stood head and shoulders above the rest of the field, 2010 yielded a number of quality car chases to make it the most closely contested awards in the past few years.

Once again it is necessary to thank those who have made these awards possible. Special thanks goes to the Special Guest Presenters for their nominations and contributions. In composing the Awards, there was little point trying to express something that had already been compellingly stated. And one cannot fail to mention Derrick Hopkins our VaRaces website founder. Special thanks goes out to him for his continued dedication to maintaining the website and for his unfailing enthusiasm for all things automotive.

 

 

KL Drift 2People's Chase Award

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

Evolusi: KL Drift 2

This sequel deserves to be better known amongst car chase circles, especially amongst fans of Japanese imports. The film also features no less than four extended car chases and opens with a drifting race. An impressive effort, with some noteworthy automotive action despite the film's limited budget.

Inception

Christopher Nolan's dream world thriller was a critical and box office success and arguably the must see event film of 2010. More relevantly, it also showcased one of the most innovative narrative scenarios to place a car chase in, as well as an extended slow motion crash sequence that without a doubt has to be one of the longest in film history.

Faster

Dwayne Johnson consolidates his status as one of Hollywood's main action leads in this revenge flick with a plot that resembles film noir of the 1940s. While the film's title suggested more car chase action than the film actually delivered, the sight of Johnson fleeing from the police in a 1967 Pontiac GTO while driving in reverse down a busy thoroughfare was a treat.

The Other Guys

No surprise that The Other Guys proved to be so popular amongst car chase fans. Not only does the film open with a completely over the top car chase which ends with an airborne Chevrolet Chevelle SS crashing into a double decker bus, it also ends with an extended multi-car pursuit sequence featuring the most unlikely of vehicles to turn up in a pursuit sequence - a Toyota Prius.

Due Date

Road movies are often the perfect vehicle to present a car chase and Due Date did not disappoint. The film sees its two leads commandeer a Chevrolet Silverado towing a trailer while pursued by the police in Ford Crown Victoria interceptors. Short and sweet and featuring some decent automotive destruction.

Date Night

It is always great to see an Audi R8 feature in a car chase, but it is quite another thing to see it get hitched to a bumper of a taxi during mid pursuit. Add heaps of destruction onto that and Date Night proved to be one of the surprise car chase hits of 2010.

The Expendables

This action all star romp was a return to form for Sylvester Stallone as both star and director. While one of the more notable elements of the film was its application of CGI to the depiction of gunshot and knife wounds, the film's standout car chase involving a Ford F-100 pick-up eluding a variety of SUVs held its own amongst the films other action sequences.

From Paris With Love

Freeway pursuit sequences set in Paris have a long and illustrious pedigree, most recently as seen in G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra, winner of last year's Most Inventive Car Chase Award. From Paris With Love continues this tradition with a car chase involving an Audi A8 pursuing a Volvo 850 and John Travolta wielding a bazooka. Oh yes.

Kites

This Bollywood action-romance epic with Hollywood style production values features three extended car chases, the most notable sees the romantic leads climb aboard a transporter and off-load its cars onto the highway below causing untold automotive carnage. It may have been done before but perhaps not to this level of spectacular destruction.

Knight and Day

Knight and Day was one of the major action film releases of 2010, and its two major multi-vehicle car chase sequences was a highlight of the summer. Its second chase that featured Smart roadsters evading bulls running along Sevilla's streets also was one of the more striking car chase images of the year.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

We have seen Nicholas Cage in car chase films before, and there has be a lot of CGI used in the staging of car chase action sequences as of late. But how often does one witness vehicles morphing onto other vehicles in mid chase?

 

Winner:

 

The Other Guys (Peoples Chase)

The Other Guys

Its hard to judge what chase in The Other Guys made the film so popular amongst car chase fans. If there was an award for the most Bombastic Car Chase, then surely its opening pursuit sequence would win hands down as a parody of the over the top vehicular action scene. And while the second chase is a bit more traditional in nature, with plenty of destruction and pursuit vehicles on show, one gets the sense that the director had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek when conceiving this sequence too. It is this careful balance between homage and piss take that makes The Other Guys the deserved winner of the People's Chase Award.

 

Most Inventive Car Chase:

 

The history of the car chase in film would be much shorter and less enduring had it not been for all the efforts of pervious filmmakers to do something different with it as compared to the car chases of the past. The 2010 contenders are no different and show how one can take the standard car chase and push it in a new direction. The Nominees are:

Date Night (Inventive)Date Night Special Guest Presenter: Star Wars Fanatic

Having a high powered Audi R8 feature in a car chase is already a rare feat in itself, but the ordeal it is put through in Date Night undoubtedly makes it 2010’s most innovative, albeit preposterous, chase sequence. In a novel premise, the Audi becomes improbably lodged to the front end of an unsuspecting taxi, with both vehicles remaining attached to each other throughout the duration of the pursuit until the bitter end, resulting in carnage as both drivers struggle to maintain control. It’s all a bit too silly for my tastes, but it’s unlikely we’ll see such a scene repeated any time soon.

Inception

On face value, there doesn't seem to be anything really innovative about the car chase in Inception. We have seen transit vans appear in car chases before and there is nothing unusual about the fact that it's pursued by a number of armed heavies in a range of vehicles. So what makes the car chase in Inception so special? For one thing, we are talking about a car chase taking place in a dreamworld with the chase itself governed by dreamworld logic. For another, the car chase is the context for another dreamworld taking place at a deeper level. When the transit van swerves, it's not just the occupants of the van who feel it, the entire dreamworld taking place at a deeper level is also affected. On top of that, the chase features what has to be the longest slow motion depiction of a vehicle plunging off a bridge in film history.

Endhiran Special Guest Presenter: thedriveintheatre

Reportedly the most expensive and highest-grossing Indian film of all time, this Tamil science fiction film also boasts two of the most ridiculously inventive live-action/CGI car chases since The Matrix Reloaded. In the first pursuit, the Terminator-lookalike leaps over, under and in between vehicles with wild abandon, at one point even body-surfing a hapless driver before front-flipping his jeep. But the best is yet to come, as he pulls two buses to face each other while in motion, before hopping onto a police car flying in mid-air through the gap. The second chase is even more ludicrous, as an army of robots combine into a giant version of themselves, before proceeding to stomp down a highway, knocking aside law-enforcement vehicles and helicopters while chasing the protagonists in an RV. A stunning achievement that has been completely overlooked by car chase fans this year (including Yours Truly), this unintentional parody completely destroys the laws of physics to deliver what must be the most deliriously absurd chases in recent years.

Salt

It is not every day that one comes across a car chase in which the pursued character is in the back seat of a car but actually controlling the vehicle. It is even more unusual to see Salt (Angela Jolie) taser the driver to induce him to step on the gas pedal in an effort to elude her pursuers.

 

Inception (Inventive)

Winner:

Inception

The car chase in Inception shows that innovation need not be restricted to introducing a new type of vehicle into a chase sequence, or by having its vehicles do something that is unprecedented and new. Like Deja Vu, 2006 winner of the Most Inventive Car Chase Award, the car chase in Inception proves that innovating the narrative context of a chase can be equally fresh and engaging.

 

Best Blu-Ray/DVD Release:

2010 was a step up from last year with a few notable previous car chase classics being reissued or released for their first time.  As is the increasing trend, Blu-ray releases tend to pack in the extras making them desirable additions to car chase film collectors. The Nominees are:

Death Race 2

The Wraith

As a 2010 film, this sequel was not a major film to look out for during 2010 but as a direct-to-video release it was noteworthy since that was the only means for fans of the original to catch what turned out to be the prequel to Death Race. It is debatable whether the pre-story of the original warranted a film in its own right, but who cares if we are talking about a film whose principal premise is to present death racing!

The Wraith

This cult 1980s film was on the verge of entering into obscurity until its 2010 special edition release from Lionsgate Home Entertainment gave it a new lease on life. The DVD offers a restored edition of the movie, extensive production history via its audio commentary from the writer-director Mike Marvin, and a featurette on the Dodge Turbo Interceptor, arguably, the main star of the film.

Brewster McCloud

Given the reputation of Robert Altman, it has been surprising just how long it took to see one of his earlier directorial efforts appear on DVD. Of more interest to car chase fans, the film is not only notable for having an extended chase sequence that at times is an obvious parody of Bullitt, but arguably also one of the first 1970s films that parodied the 1970s car chase cycle itself.

 

Winner:

The Wraith

The Special Edition rerelease of The Wraith does what a major DVD release should do. Offer a much loved classic to its core fans and provide an opportunity for the film to raise its profile by making it accesible to a younger generation of car chase fans to increase its popularity. The Special Edition DVD of The Wraith does just that.

 

Most Destructive Chase Scene:

One would not be overstating the case to claim that with the car chase comes expectations of automotive destruction in some shape or form. Some car chase and racing scenes tend to emphasise this less, sometimes as a result of budget, sometimes as a matter of creative intent. This Award goes to those filmmakers who like to use the the opportunity to portray destruction on a scale that stands out from the rest. The Nominees are:

Knight and Day Special Guest Presenter: n_easter12345

Every one of the four principle chases in this movie ended up with at least one major car accident. Most notably, one of the movie's biggest action sequences (the freeway chase down I-93) was the best example for featuring total auto carnage. It's even more notable for featuring the movie's protagonist hanging on the roof while shooting at bad guys in an SUV down the wrong side of the road in a tunnel and still having to avoid an SUV that flips right over the hero's car.

The Other Guys Special Guest Presenter: Star Wars Fanatic

This spoof on the well-established buddy cop thriller opens with a bang in the form of a thrilling chase that features a tasty dish of destruction. As Samuel Jackson and Dwayne Johnson pursue after felons in their police Chevelle, things turn OTT when a stalled tour bus comes into the equation. But even a hefty tour bus couldn’t stop these dogged pursuers, as it soon becomes the chase vehicle after the Chevelle meets its demise from ploughing into the bus. The car then gets launched into the felon’s SUV causing it to roll and explode just in time for the opening credits. When you also factor the film’s other chase, involving a Toyota Prius of all vehicles, with its unique take on the familiar car-smashes-into-row-of-parked-cars routine, The Other Guys certainly had no shortage of automotive destruction.

Kites Special Guest Presenter: thedriveintheatre

This Bollywood movie set largely in America stars a mismatched couple who go on the run while being pursued by the Las Vegas police. Amidst the musical numbers and the brooding love scenes are several notable car chases, among them an inventive hot-air balloon jump and a nice nod to Thelma and Louise. But the standout chase is the middle highway pursuit. Taking a leaf from Michael Bay's trope of 'throwing obstacles out the back of a vehicle', the couple board a car transporter from a scrambler before dropping several cars in the path of their pursuers. Mayhem ensues before culminating in a grand finale; the music drops before rising to a crescendo, as a Mercedes wipes out two cruisers in a single barrel-roll. The carnage is rendered in different angles, allowing the viewer to appreciate the devastation before the protagonist drives an Eclipse off the back ramp, ending the chase. The fact that this is a traditional car chase, shot in long arcs and steady tracking, with nary a visual-effects shot, and produced from a foreign studio but set in the Mojave Desert, makes this chase all the more remarkable.


Kites (Most Destructive)Winner:

Kites Special Guest Presenter: Star Wars Fanatic

Rarely has the Bollywood industry gained any significant recognition for car chase content, but Kites represents a possible turning point. Each one of the three chases found in the film contains a high crash-count, but the Bad Boys 2-esque showdown involving police cars and a car transporter that spills its load into their path is undoubtedly the standout scene. One salivating setpiece in which a Mercedes performs a high speed rollover, only to be struck by two police cars causing one of them to flip, was particularly awe-inspiring. Bonus points are also awarded for destroying a VW Beetle. The only aspect that ruins an otherwise stellar act of carnage is the fact that it was clearly staged on a runway rather than a highway as the film would lead you to believe.

 

Best Driving:

Faster (Best Driving)

Every car chase sequence constitutes an opportunity to showcase some great driving, be it the character at the wheel, or the stunt driver working behind the scenes. 2010 was notable for the number of car chase sequences that equally emphasized driving ability. The Nominees are:

Faster

Given that the character Dwayne Johnson plays is simply called the 'Driver', it was only natural to conclude that some stand out driving sequence would occur in the film. And for sure it does in the shape of Johnson as getaway driver in a 1967 Pontiac GTO eluding pursuing police cruisers while driving in reverse and performing some remarkable technical turns.

The Town Special Guest Presenter: n_easter12345

It takes a lot to outrun police cars in Boston. What makes it that much more exciting is to outrun police cars down the very narrow streets of Charlestown. Director Ben Affleck definitely has a knack for creating a very claustrophobic and yet suspenseful chase complete with a couple of shootouts and car accidents.

The Expendables Special Guest Presenter: n_easter12345

Sylvester Stallone's action-packed epic of numerous 80's action stars had to feature a car chase as almost every best 80's action movie did. What he did was put a bit of a modern spin on it, but boy is it exhilarating. Having to outdrive baddies in SUV's, Stallone and Jet Li find themselves down a packed freeway with bad guys in front and behind them. The Expendables car chase is definitely some of the best driving in a long while.


Winner:

The Town (Driving)

The Town Special Guest Presenter: thedriveintheatre

Largely snubbed by the Academy this year, Ben Affleck's hard-hitting crime epic of a bank robber and his doomed romance with one of his hostages boasts not only the best shootout scenes since Heat, but one of the greatest car chases of the year. When an armoured car heist goes horribly wrong, the gang is pursued by Boston P.D. through the narrow streets and alleyways of Charlestown. The last time a Dodge Caravan was featured in a notable chase was in Mr and Mrs Smith, and here it is similarly pushed to its limits. The burly family van barely misses lampposts, skitters off curbs, and threads-the-needle between intercepting units before being given a glorious send-off Molotov-style.

 

Best Game:

Driving simulation games are as much anticipated as the release of major car chase films in the gaming community and have natural appeal to car chase fans as well. 2010 saw a number of releases in the genre. The Nominees are:

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Special Guest Presenter: Star Wars Fanatic

Criterion Games, famed for their fast paced Burnout franchise, took over the wheel of last year’s annual Need for Speed, and the results were second to none. With the focus back on exotics, exhilarating police chases and the open road, Hot Pursuit represents the first NFS game in many years that managed to even remotely capture the spirit of the classic Need for Speed appeal. Sporting an incredible raw sense of speed, tension and wince-inducing crashes that only Criterion could pull off, car chase fans have rarely had it better in a game.

F1 2010

As its name suggests F1 2010 is based upon the 2010 season of Formula One racing and follows Codemasters previous release of F1 2009. The sequel continues in the same spirit offering an unprecedented sense of speed, a detailed car set up for the true F1 enthusiasts, and a highly demanding gameplay that rewards in dividends once mastered. But its chief attraction is its active weather system that makes driving in the rain an experience yet to be matched by similar games.

Heavy Rain (car chase sequence) Special Guest Presenter: Star Wars Fanatic

While not strictly a driving game, Heavy Rain deserves a place here for including a level that is possibly the closest we’ll ever get to acting out a cinematic car chase outside of Driver. Renowned for its innovative control scheme and narrative, Heavy Rain focuses on Ethan who is trying to track down the Origami Killer, a serial killer who targets children – Ethan’s son is set to be the next victim. Before he is given access to his son, Ethan is tasked with a series of death-defying trials from the Origami Killer, driving down the wrong way down a rain-soaked freeway. It’s incredibly immersive as you dodge oncoming traffic by moving the controller like a steering wheel, allowing you to feel your character’s peril as police soon engage pursuit.

Need For Speed Hot Pursuit (Best Game)

 

Winner:

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit stands head and shoulders above the rest of the 2010 contenders. It offers the choice of being the pursued or the pursuer and it gives you the opportunity to drive mouthwatering exotics. But most of all Criterion Games understood the undeniable attractions of the opportunity to drive like a complete motor maniac.

 

Best Racing Scene:

Just as exciting as a car chase is a well staged automotive race. 2010 saw some notable entries in this category. The Nominees are:

Death Race 2

Death Race 2 takes the video game aesthetic of Death Race and pushes it to a higher level. Although the death race itself is intended to represent televised entertainment, the presentation of the race itself has more the feel of a video game. Characters are introduced as if they are gaming characters, and when they die, their name is removed from a leader board that looks like something out of a driving simulation game.

Evolusi: KL Drift 2

One would expect a that a film that seems to be all about street racing would have plenty of racing scenes. As luck would have it, the film does feature four extended car chases and only one drift race at a professional circuit that opens the film, which has some pretty impressive drifting on show. For die hard fans of drift racing, the opening racing sequence is a treat.

TRON: Legacy

Motorcycle racing is exciting enough, but the lightcycle racing in Tron: Legacy takes the form to a higher level. Competitors compete in a combative style of motorcycle racing that takes place in the virtual world of a lightcycle arena. A light runner, a four wheel drive version of the lightcycles, joins the action with the race turning into a chase as the light runner escapes from the arena. Presented in state of the art CGI, the sequence goes to show what CGI can do when used properly.

Unstoppable

Arguably Unstoppable offers one of the more innovative racing sequences of 2010. Ned, a worker for the railway is ordered to race along a runaway freight train in a Ford F350 pick up as the train barrels through Pennsylvania wreaking havoc and destruction along its path. Providing escort to Ned is a bevy of state troopers, some of whom end up crashing as they try to keep pace with the train.

Death Race 2 (Best Racing)


Winner:

Death Race 2

One would be correct to describe Death Race 2 as derivative. After all, we are talking about a prequel to a rebooting of the 1970s classic Death Race 2000. Still there is plenty of visceral automotive action on show in the film that would keep most car chase fans entertained. And if you are into seriously modified vehicles, terrific stuntwork, and elaborately staged death inducing crashes, then this film is for you.

 

Best Race-Against-Time Scene:

New to Varaces Awards is the Award for the best race-against time sequence. While race-against time scenes do not necessarily possess car chases or racing sequences in them, they often contain significant automotive action and are worthy of recognition. The contenders for 2010 are:

The Last Shot Special Guest Presenter: n_easter12345

Director Emilio Rodriguez's action short features a spectacular race-against-time sequence down a busy freeway as a man races to get to his kidnapped wife in time before she's killed. What's even more amazing is that the film was done with no budget at all, so to take what looks like a big budget action sequence and do it with no budget, just a lot of swerving and fast driving, it really makes the scene all that more special.

Unstoppable

It would be fair to say that virtually the entirety of Unstoppable consists of a race-against-time as a variety of vehicles attempt to stop a runaway freight train hauling a deadly load of molten phenol before it can derail and devastate the city of Stanton Pennsylvania. Of its more notable sequences are the two that involve pick-ups, one rigged to travel on rail, that race alongside the lead locomotive in an effort to board it and stop the train.

Due Date

Like Unstoppable, the entire plot of Due Date can be viewed as a race-against-time, except this time the race involves a father-to-be hitching a ride with a wannabe actor from Atlanta to Los Angeles to be present at the birth of his child. Automotive sequences abound in the film, with the highlight a chase involving a Chevrolet Silverado towing a trailer, destroying two Ford Crown Victoria police interceptors pursuing after it.

 

Unstoppable (Best Race Against Time)

Winner:

Unstoppable

Based upon a real life story, Unstoppable possesses all the ingredients that go into making a standout action film: a great premise, good casting, and strong direction from Tony Scott who has become one of Hollywood's best action directors. Unstoppable shows the possibilities that the race-against-time format offers and for this reason is a worthy first time winner of this 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 2010 are:

Knight and Day Special Guest Presenter: n_easter12345

The film's impressive Spain climax features a wild motorcycle chase with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz being chased by multiple sports cars while they're chasing a car on their own. Also at one point during the chase, they're having to deal with bulls at the same time. One hilarious shot is one of the sports cars getting in the way and being thrashed by the bulls, sending the car flipping over. In a great chase, there's not only great car accidents and a rousing soundtrack (this one done by car chase master John Powell) but also a lot of great driving as well. Knight and Day features some of the best car chase stunts of the year (second only to Date Night).

The Other Guys

The winner of this year's People's Chase Award, it is no surprise that the chases in The Other Guys are contenders for the Chase of the Year Award. On one level, there are strong car chases in their own right and reveal the inherent pleasures of car action sequences. On another, they offer rewards for car chase fans who are familiar with the conventions of car chases in buddy cop action films and can enjoy when these are played for laughs. It's rare to see these two different impulses work well in combination but when they do the result is something special.

The Town Special Guest Presenter: thedriveintheatre

There are several reasons why The Town deserves the coveted award. The first is because it has a purpose within the story. Like past 'Chase of the Year' winners such as The Dark Knight and The Bourne Supremacy, this setpiece serves to advance the plot. As a result of this scene, FBI agent Frawley has reason to interrogate them, and build his case against the crew. The botched heist also gives Doug the impetus to leave Charlestown after realising how close he is to being captured or killed. Another reason is it features outstanding cinematography and film editing, shot with a combination of in-car freehands, overhead stills, and smooth tracks and zoom-outs. There's even a clever shot of the in-car CCTV recording the chase live. The minimalist soundtrack by Harry Gregson-Williams and David Buckley enhances the on-screen action, instead of detracting from it. The dialogue and reactions of the fear-drenched criminals are authentic, the stunts realistic and simple. All these elements combine to deliver a thrilling chase that is both understated and outstanding; incredible yet believable. Guided by the strong auteur hand of Ben Affleck, this relentlessly breathtaking chase shows Hollywood how it should be done; with meticulous choreography, everyday vehicles driven extraordinarily, and buckets of sheer audacity.

Inception

One would be hard pressed to come up with a car chase that is more innovative and mind bending than the one in Inception. To have a car chase set in a dream is one thing, but its quite another to have it take place in a dream within a dream. Nor have car chase fans been treated previously to such an extended slow motion crash sequence. Being innovative in Hollywood, especially when it comes to staging car chases, is no small achievement so it is only natural that the pursuit sequence in Inception stood out from the crowd.


Winner:

The Town (Best Chase of the Year)

The Town

Like the film itself, the car chase in The Town is a demonstration of how a realist aesthetic can enhance an action sequence. Instead of the usual reliance upon overblown stunts and distracting special effects found in lesser car chases, the pursuit sequence in The Town is able to engage audiences precisely because it gives them the opportunity to be immersed in a realistic experience of being involved in a bank heist and escaping down the back alleys of Charlestown. While the action may appear comparatively low key the chase is able to deliver the goods on the excitement and suspense fronts given the extent which it is grounded in the film's story. It is this powerful combination of realism, plot, and straight ahead action that makes the car chase in The Town the Chase of the Year winner.

 

Worst Chase of the Year:

Just as Hollywood has the Razzies Award for the worst film of the year, Varaces offers the Worst Chase of the Year Award to the most poorly executed, disappointing, or just downright awful car chase. Sadly, two films were released in 2010 that clearly missed the boat as to exploiting golden opportunities to present kick-ass car chases that would appeal to automotive fans. These were:

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief  Special Guest Presenter: n_easter12345

There was a definite opportunity for a really good chase with the hero's Maserati pursued by police, but all we got was a really watered down "joy ride" with the Maserati swerving around cars. Maybe they didn't have the money for it. With a reported $95 million budget, they could have afforded a better sequence.

The A-Team Special Guest Presenter: Star Wars Fanatic

Here we have a film adaptation of the hit 80s show, and not one chase scene featuring the iconic A-Team Vandura van? Utterly inexcusable. Instead, we are treated to a forgettable, throwaway scene involving a Lamborghini being chased by police that barely lasts a minute.


A-Team (Worst Chase)

Winner:

The A-Team

The tagline for The A-Team 'there is no plan B' certainly holds true for the use of the A-Team Vandura van in the film. Beyond some star turns in a couple scenes, the Chevy van gets no serious work out and is not involved in any pursuit sequence in the film. The film did not prove to be a box office hit either so there is scant prospect that there will be a sequel, which is probably a good thing given the attitude of the filmmakers towards staging car chases of any note.

 

Lifetime Achievement Award: Person

Peter Yates

Peter Yates

It would be no exaggeration to claim that Peter Yates changed the course of car chase history forever as the director of Bullitt (1968). Bullitt raised the standards of realism in the police thriller and this same aesthetic was applied to the car chase itself. Gone was the use of rear-screen projection of shots of actors in cars, as was the norm at the time. Gone also was the tendency to ‘undercrank’ the camera to give the illusion of high speed pursuit, by having the Ford Mustang and the Dodge Charger actually travel at speed, up to 110 miles per hour at times. Yates also innovated the car chase by using a range of camera set-ups in the cars that emphasized the fact that Steve McQeen and Bill Hickman were actually driving the vehicles in many of the scenes.

It would be inaccurate to say that all that was innovative and notable in the car chase in Bullitt was attributable to Yates. Like most films, Bullitt was a team effort, and as legend has it, it was McQueen himself who came up with the idea for a realistic car chase and who welcomed the opportunity to be behind the wheel of the Mustang. One should neither overlook the fact that Yates also had the good fortune of having Carey Loftin as student coordinator and Bill Hickman as stunt driver, two of the best stuntmen in the business.

However, it was Yates’s vision that brought all these elements successfully together. Prior to helming Bullitt, Yates directed Robbery (1967) a tough caper film with an opening extended car chase that was similarly realistic in its style, and which brought Yates to the attention of McQueen when he was scouting for a director for Bullitt. Beyond the chases in Robbery and Bullitt, Yates produced only one other car chase in his career, an ambulance and police pursuit in Mother, Jugs, & Speed (1976).  Unlike other directors who have a longer list of car chase credits to their name, Yates’s legacy resides for bringing Bullitt to the screen, which arguably presented the most influential car chase in film history, if not one of the most important action sequences ever filmed. Only the most significant contributors to the film art can make this claim and for this reason Peter Yates is the deserving winner of the 2010 Varaces Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

Aston Martin DB5

Lifetime Achievement Award: Vehicle

Aston Martin DB series

Few car manufacturers have as prestigious a lineage as the Aston Martin. Its brand name conveys much that is associated with the luxury sports car image, perhaps most recently expressed in the Aston Martin DB6 Volante that Prince William and Catherine Middleton drove shortly after their wedding.

The Aston Martin brand was borne in 1913 when Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin successfully competed one of their Singers at the Aston Clinton hill climb in Buckinghamshire, with the first brand named Aston Martin rolling off the production line in 1915. From that moment onward the Aston Martin became associated with speed and racing. In 1922 an Aston Martin competed for the first time at the French Grand Prix and Aston Martins would shortly later compete at Le Mans. However, it was during the post-war years that the distinctive look of the Aston Martin took shape and when the DB series was launched, the initials deriving from the company’s new owner David Brown.

The first screen appearances of Aston Martins were primarily restricted to racing films such as Checkpoint (1956), The Roadracers (1959), The Green Helmet (1961) , and The Young Racers (1963). Significant as these films are, the Aston Martin’s car chase legacy became defined through its recurrent appearance in the James Bond franchise. Its first starring role in a James Bond film would be in Goldfinger (1964), via the now famous DB5, which to this day remains the ultimate Bond car, with its gadgetry put to good use in the film’s legendary car chase. A DB5 would serve a similar purpose in Thunderball (1965) helping Bond to elude baddies before being destroyed by a rocket firing motorcyclist. Later, an Aston Martin V8 Vantage appeared in a similar car chase role in The Living Daylights (1987) where it made short work of a Lada with its lasers. In Die Another Day (2002), an Aston Martin Vanquish was involved in a pursuit-cum-duel with a Jaguar XKR that takes place upon a frozen lake. The DB series would return to the franchise in the form of an Aston Martin DBS in both Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008), the latter appearance representing perhaps the best car chase in the series since Goldfinger.

While the James Bond franchise has seen different actors play the lead role, and undergone a number of re-boots over its history, the Aston Martin DB series has remained a constant feature of the series and justifiably earns the 2010 Vehicle Lifetime Achievement Award.

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