This weekend, the 91st Academy Awards were held. The show’s producers flirted briefly with shafting some of their nominees by awarding their categories during commercial breaks, but they folded under pressure from anyone and everyone who actually loves and respects movies. So we got to watch all of the winners receive their awards, including when Green Book won best picture. It all left us with a feeling that this whole thing can be done better.
If we removed some categories, why not add some other ones?
Most Affecting Family Relationship in a Motion Picture
The nominees are…
Some might argue this as a cheat for the category, but the group of thieves here are a family in every way but blood. From the concern and affection they feel for each other, to the clear pain they endure at the loss of their own, this family’s journey will leave you in tears.
Like so many superhero movies this is ultimately a story about one man’s troubled dealing with his parent’s passing. It’s not the hero’s relationship that affects most here, though, as that honor belongs to his cousin — the film’s villain — Erik Killmonger. It’s almost Shakespearean in its painful familial truths and revelations.
Hearts Beat Loud
A widower and single father comes to terms with his daughter’s imminent departure for college, and their final weeks see an already close family grow closer. There’s a warmth and sweetness here that’s absent from far too many portrayals of parents and their teenage children, and it leaves you humming its happy tune for quite a while after.
A teenager goes missing, and her father dives deep into a search for her. The film’s a thriller, one set entirely on a computer screen at that, but John Cho’s performance reveals degrees of emotion that aren’t often visible in mystery/thrillers.
A family is at the core of this brutally dark horror tale, but while other films bring husbands, wives, and children closer under the threat of terror this nightmare is focused on their disintegration. Loss, forgiveness, and madness are only the beginning.
And the winner is… Hearts Beat Loud
The world is a rough and terrible place, and sometimes movies offer an escape from that reality. This sweet salve for your aching heart is deceptively simple in its narrative in the best possible way. There are no artificial conflicts or road blocks, no false notes between the father and daughter, and no missteps throughout its 97 minute running time. Director/co-writer Brett Haley creates something beautiful here, and both Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons give performances built on warmth, honesty, and love. You spend the film smiling, and it’s a feeling that stays with you. (Rob Hunter)
Best Death Scene in a Motion Picture
The nominees are…
Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) in Mandy
Mandy is a hallucinogenic vehicle which sees Nic Cage deliver his finest performance in years. He slays demonic bikers and cultists who disrupt his idyllic life in the woods with his titular significant other. However, the reason why he’s killing these wackos is that they burned his wife alive for emasculating their leader, who wanted to claim her as his own. While the movie is trippy fun fo, the most part, Mandy’s death is disturbing as she was killed for refusing to become a possession. The bravery she shows during those moments, though, is very admirable. It also causes Cage to sit on a toilet seat in his tighty whiteys, and that must count for something.
Charlie (Milly Shapiro) in Hereditary
Hereditary contains a couple of memorable moments that stuck with me, but the death of Charlie — a child — was the most unsettling. After eating a cake with some nuts in it, she enters anaphylactic shock and her stoned brother tries to drive her to the hospital. Unfortunately, they don’t make it to their destination because Charlie opens the car window for air and gets decapitated by a telephone pole. We already knew something bad was going to happen to her after she ate the baked goods, but we didn’t expect it to be this unexpected, gruesome, and disturbing.
Hezekiah Buckland (John D. Pszyk) in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich
This death is as throwaway as they come, but it consists of a man being decapitated by a homicidal puppet while he’s urinating, followed by said gentleman urinating on his own severed head when it falls into the toilet bowl. No one said that death has to be classy, folks. As far as outrageous kill scenes go, this is by far one the wildest you’re ever likely to see. I want to go out in a similar manner when my time is up.
Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in Avengers: Infinity War
With Spider-Man: Far from Home coming out this year, it’s safe to assume that young Peter Parker isn’t staying dead forever. That said, watching him turning to dust in Tony Stark’s arms was a tear-inducing moment that brought some much needed high stakes and unpredictability to the MCU. We look forward to his return in the upcoming Avengers sequel, but for now let’s pretend that he’s dead and isn’t coming back so we can be surprised when he does.
Josef Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) in The Death of Stalin
While it’s important to remember that the real Stalin was a tyrant who did some evil things, it’s still completely and utterly fine to laugh at absurd movie versions of the dead Russian dictator. This is especially true in Armando Iannucci’s black comedy, which sees old Joseph die following a cerebral hemorrhage while his committee bicker whether or not his final act, which sees him point at a painting of a lamb, is a call for a glass of milk or socialism.
And the winner is… Charlie (Milly Shapiro) – Hereditary
Decapitated heads being peed on will always score points for creativity, but at the end of the day, death is awful, tragic, heavy, and should tear our souls apart. Charlie’s unfortunate demise was a brutal reminder that death is bleak, sudden, and could happen to anyone at any time. Additionally, any mainstream release that has the guts to kill a child character so violently deserves all the awards. (Kieran Fisher)
Best Casting Director
Casting Directors get no love. It is an art often dismissed by people within the industry because some see their acknowledgment as subtracting from the all-mighty director’s vision. To understand this heated internal strife better, we highly recommend watching Tom Donahue’s 2013 documentary Casting By. That film caused a mini-stir inside Hollywood and possibly forced the hand of The Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences to allow Casting Directors their own voting branch, but no prizes for their contribution. Three years after that, The Academy handed an honorary statue to Lynn Stalmaster for her notable work on now-obvious classics like West Side Story, The Graduate, and Superman. Another three years and Casting Directors are still kept to the shadows. That has to change.
The nominees are…
The Favourite (Dixie Chassay)
If the world were fair and just, this Sunday we would hand an Oscar each to Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone. Their chemistry together is savage and utterly delicious. The insane challenge of The Favourite, however, goes into filling out the rest of the royal court. Not only Harley (Nicholas Hoult) and Lord Marlborough (Mark Gatiss), but also The Wanking Man (Paul Swaine) and the infinite footmen and pages.
Hereditary (Jeff Johnson, Jessica Kelly)
Movie families are a tough code to crack. Mom + Dad = these two brats? Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro don’t necessarily look like the imagined genetic offspring of Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne, but emotionally they fit together perfectly as a couple of kids suppressed by their horrendous family tree. That’s solid alchemy. Then consider all the other faces and disturbed personalities that Johnson and Kelly brought together to fill out the rest of the background horrors required by Ari Aster. That’s wizardry.
Roma (Luis Rosales)
Yalitza Aparicio was encouraged by her sister to join one of many casting calls scattered throughout America and Mexico. She was not asked to perform for the camera, but to only describe who she was, mentioning a few details of her daily life. That was enough. With a lead plucked from hundreds of possible others, the real heavy lifting of filling Roma with equally sincere personalities began.
Sorry to Bother You (Eyde Belasco)
Boots Riley needed an army of maniacs to pull off his artistic rallying cry. That might not have required a like-minded cast, but only a willing one. In an era ruled by formula, that’s quite an impressive feat. To discover a group of collaborators eager to go down this particular rabbit hole could not have been an easy task. Yet, what other actors could you imagine in these roles?
Support the Girls (Sally Allen, Toni Cobb Brock)
While I’ve never worked in a Hooters, Man Cave, Double Whammies, or any other breastaurant I totally feel like I’ve served alongside a group of co-workers similar to the waitresses, managers, and customers assembled in Support the Girls. That sincere camaraderie does not just simply walk onto the set.
And the winner is… Roma (Luis Rosales)
Alfonso Cuarón could not have conjured that magnificent group of performers out of thin air. The director was desperate to recreate a memory of his childhood, and he did not want to populate it with the usual performer faces. To achieve authenticity, a wave of casting directors crashed upon Mexico City as well as the states of Oaxaca and Veracruz. Nearly every role required fresh electricity and Luis Rosales could not simply rely on his Rolodex. Authenticity is not a science, but an art. You know it when you see it. You better trust the vision of the casting director gathering your talent. (Brad Gullickson)
Best Movie to Premiere on a Streaming Service
The nominees are…
The Night Comes for Us (Netflix)
Timo Tjahanto’s violent opus is a contemporary action classic that’s going to stand the test of time as one of the true genre masterpieces. No other movie in 2018 compared to this one for sheer brutal spectacle, and that’s a cinematic art form that’s been lost on the Academy throughout the years. In a year that produced Mission: Impossible – Fallout, The Night Comes for Us was the ultimate “hold my beer” action yarn — and that’s no small feat. Every single fight scene is chaotic savagery, carried out by human machines with a high threshold for punishment. And their punishment is our damn pleasure.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (Netflix)
Last year saw the romcom make a big comeback with a slew of releases that made us laugh and tugged at our heartstrings. Netflix was responsible for a couple of them as well. The best of the bunch, however, was this unexpected delight based on Jenny Han’s 2014 novel of the same name. While it doesn’t rewrite the rules of the genre, the movie is utterly charming and hits all the mushy sweet spots with aplomb. Noah Centineo (who’s this generation’s Cary Grant) and Lana Condor are fantastic as the central couple, and I hope their romance continues for several sequels. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is just a sweet movie that made us all feel happy.
Cold Hell (Shudder)
Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge has been rightfully praised as a brilliant actioner about female empowerment and taking the fight to gross dudes. With all the real life stories about abusive men that have surfaced in recent times, movies like this are therapeutic. Stefan Ruzowitzky’s Cold Hell contains similar themes, along with some mixed martial arts and car chases for extra excitement. It’s a movie where a vicious killer messes with the wrong lady and gets more than he bargained for, and it deserves to be seen by a much larger audience. But just because it flew under the radar doesn’t make it any less deserving of this prestigious award nomination.
Alfonso Cuaron’s critical darling has been praised to the high heavens and back, but Roma deserves every single plaudit its received. On top of being cinematic eye candy and a cinematography master class, it’s a very moving film that oozes intimacy and wonder. Cuaron put his soul into this movie, and it’s evident in every single frame.
22 July (Netflix)
Paul Greengrass is no stranger to exploring grim subject matter based on real world events, but he’s arguably one of the best at doing so. He tackled 9/11 with United 43 and piracy with Captain Phillips, and he did so with respect to the subject matter in both cases. With 22 July, the director dramatized Norway’s worst ever terrorist attack, which culminated in the death of 77 youngsters at a youth camp. And in true Greengrass fashion, he delivered an emotional gut-punch of a movie that boasts hard-hitting realism and a thought-provoking look at terrorism.
And the winner is… The Night Comes for Us
The Night Comes for Us has a threadbare story and characters are more or less punching bags, but it’s also full of surprises and WTF moments that remind us of film’s unique ability to wow and amaze. Choreography doesn’t get the attention it deserves at awards ceremonies, even though it’s been integral to so many amazing movies. This gem contains some of the best fight choreography out there, and that alone deserves some recognition. Ultimately, though, The Night Comes for Us wins because it’s a movie that set out to raise the bar and succeeded. Now every modern action flick has a movie to look up to and try to beat. (Kieran Fisher)
The Nicolas K. Coppola Award for Excellence in an Acting Performance
The Nicolas K. Coppola Award for Excellence in an Acting Performance is reserved for actors that give that little something extra. For those actors that view each and every role as not just another job, but rather a blank canvas with which they can create life altering art. These are the actors unafraid to push the envelope and take their performance to the necessary heights to achieve immortal greatness.
The nominees are…
Nicolas Cage – Mandy
The man who inspired this prestigious honor gave what is arguably his best performance in over a decade in Panos Comatos’ tragic acid trip, Mandy. Everything Cage does well is on full display here. He’s subtle, out of control, and he’s everything in between. While one can point to a number of highlight moments in this film, a chainsaw fight and Cage doing a whole lot of coke are two such
moments that come to mind, the undisputed showstopper features an emotional Cage in undies in the bathroom heartbroken over the loss of his love, Mandy.
Rick Edwards – Best F(r)iends: Volume 2
The name Rick Edwards may not ring a bell with most people, and that’s ok because he’s mostly known for a 117-episode arc on Santa Barbara. In the last 30 years, he’s done little to nothing in the way of acting, but that changed in 2018 when he appeared in Greg Sestero’s Best F(r)iends: Volume 2. It reunites the duo of Tommy Wiseau & Greg Sestero and the results are exactly what you might expect across the board but with a standout turn from Edwards.
Tilda Swinton – Suspiria
Any time an actor goes so far with a character that they create a fake person and pass that person off as the actor behind said character, you know they’re gunning for excellence and that’s precisely what the great Tilda Swinton did with the Suspiria remake. In order to portray Dr. Klemperer, Swinton had to get covered in full body makeup daily and create the “actor” of Lutz Ebersdorf. Along with director Luca Guadagnino, Swinton even went so far as to have a backstory to kill off poor Lutz to keep the ruse going. While this last tidbit was eventually scratched, we cannot overlook this important detail.
Nicolas Cage – Between Worlds
Between Worlds is an incoherent mess of a movie that fails to capitalize off some pretty good ideas. The saving grace is Cage’s turn as a white trash trucker that gets caught in a bizarre love rectangle with a woman he “saves” from a bathroom truck stop, her recently comatose daughter, and the ghost of his dead wife. At least a third of this movie consists of Cage sex scenes that will surely make for a great YouTube super-cut someday. There’s also a scene with Cage, a motorcycle and a water hose that feels like it was ripped from a Warrant music video. So all told, pretty good.
Tom Hardy – Venom
Rumors and reports suggest that audiences missed out on the Venom director Ruben Fleischer set out to make, and that’s a damn shame, but thankful we still end up with a fun film that harkens back to the early 2000s when studios had no idea what to do with comic book properties. One thing that did survive the executive chopping block is Tom Hardy’s maniacal performance. A good 90 minutes of this movie is Hardy arguing with himself and it’s quite possibly the most beautiful thing ever put to film. At one point he has a meltdown in a restaurant and jumps in a lobster tank. Hardy’s Venom isn’t the movie we deserve, but it’s the movie we need.
And the winner is… Rick Edwards – Best F(r)iends: Volume 2
While there is plenty of Tommy Wiseau weirdness here, including an incredible basketball scene, it all takes second fiddle to the tight jeans and cowboy hat of the walking Stetson ad that is Rick Edwards. This bonkers modern day noir is an experience that owes a lot to Edwards’ performance as a former college quarterback desperately holding onto this glory days. Think Uncle Rico with the charming hunkiness of an 80s soap opera stud and the sinister evil of lowest grade B-movie action villain. (Chris Coffel)