Twelve months and 105 new films later (a new record!) it’s once again time for the rundown of my film rankings followed by the NFB film awards.
10. All Is True
Kenneth Branagh decided to tackle something a bit closer to home for the Bard, in a literal sense, with this project. There was rich opportunity in the premise, since we know so precious little of Shakespeare’s personal life, especially the time just before his death when he allegedly retired to his hometown of Stafford-upon-Avon, so Branagh could go about crafting something altogether unique. And he did so with a truly stellar cast to fill everything out.
A real “Tracey Jordan is: Hard To Watch” exercise, All Is True is very much an Oscar-baitish kind of film, wherein a famous personality gets the specified biopic treatment. But, like with many films unfortunately saddled with Oscar bait terminology, that doesn’t mean it actually isn’t any good. And it is quite good, even if it may occasionally skirt the boundaries of being misery porn.
It is a character study of a Shakespeare who is deeply insecure about his life and legacy, with a focal point being his hither-to ignored grief over deceased son Hamnet. As an analysis of deferred grief, it’s quite affecting, thanks in no small part to Branagh’s performance. But all of the Shakespeare’s have effective narratives in their own right, from Judi Dench’s Anne who doesn’t feel ecstatic having Will back, eldest daughter Susana who goes through the pitfalls of a puritan marriage, and youngest Judith, hiding her own secrets and suffering from comparisons to a dead brother. And let’s not forget Ian McKellan’s single sequence cameo, a must-see film-stealer.
At the end of the day it is a group of renowned thespians quoting Shakespeare at each other for an hour and a half, and that is worth the price of admission alone. All Is True has few failing elements. The cast is, of course, excellent, the narrative is strong, the visuals are a delight and the whole thing comes together really wonderfully. It’s an unorthodox biopic that is more than worthy of the subject.
Rian Johnson proved that Star Wars could still be the iconic genre-defining production it once was, but I would be lying if I expressed confidence that J.J. Abrams could finish the job properly. The fear was that the vocal minority would encourage the creation of a nostalgia-fuelled 180-degree swing, that would row back on all of the good The Last Jedi did. Well, if this is the end of the saga, at least as we have known it so far, then it is one that I happy to declare just fine. And some may think that declaring it so is damning with faint praise, but I do not intend for it to be taken that way. It serves as a worthy conclusion to the trilogy that Abrams started with The Force Awakens and that Johnson continued with The Last Jedi.
It’s an epic tale of growing up, redemption and the fight between good and evil, as true to those three critical things as Star Wars has ever been. Its central duo of Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver are fantastic, and have a cackling villain to go up against that moves past nostalgia and into the realms of true enjoyability again. The cast is great, the camaraderie between them all is tangible, and as a sci-fi action set-piece, it’s more than worthy of the Star Wars name. The course corrections are to be regretted, but they do not ruin the experience.
At its very core it has a positive message about facing fear and evil down wherever we can, because there are more of us than them, a commentary on the modern world that I appreciate. The smile I had on my face when the credits rolled may not have been as big as it was for The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi, but it was still there. This story can still get me, and The Rise Of Skywalker did. If this is the saga, as we have known it, seeing its binary sun’s set, then it has gotten a send-off that we can look back on with happiness, while we look to the future with a new hope.
8. Ad Astra
With a strong central performance from the lead and some spectacular visuals, Ad Astra came swooping in to break up a bad run I was having back in September. The latest in a ever increasing list of realistic space adventures, it grabs a hole of you right from the off and holds on tight. A really intriguing journey across the solar system, its episodic scope in the first hour provides some excellent sci-fi set-pieces, before a weightier narrative takes over the latter half.
Ad Astra grounds itself by being really about little more than a son trying to get past what the lack of a parent in his upbringing did to him, and to avoid becoming a victim of the sins of the father. It’s a grand journey through the landscapes of our universe as well as being an interesting glimpse at how the future of space exploration may go; but it has that critical core of relationship drama to form itself around, and that is what makes Ad Astra as good a film as it is.
Pitt gives one of his best career performances in a role that allows some thoughtful explorations of space travel as symbolic for other things. The rest of the cast do good work also, in a lovingly crafted universe that is real enough to feel within touching distance, and alien enough that it’s central theme of looking for purpose beyond our planet is believable. It’s at time thrilling, at others moving, frequently contemplative but always captivating in its emotional story-telling and spectacular visuals. It projects a hopeful vision of a future where we can repair ourselves and our relationships through honest introspection, away from the void of either space or abandonment. It was a breath of fresh air in September, and remains one of the best of the year.
Nearly five years ago I offered a glowing assessment of the How To Train Your Dragon franchise, for the strengths of its story-telling, character evolution and visuals. It was something made with care, in a world when animated movies frequently aren’t. This is too good of a franchise to lay dormant forever, and frankly it was too good of a story to leave without a conclusion. With the same cast and crew on board, I went into The Hidden World with some great expectations.
The Hidden World somehow manages to pull the same trick again, in a production that serves as a surprisingly poignant and very entertaining final installment to this franchise. Growth of character, both literal and metaphorical, is not only refreshingly present in the narrative, but pivotal to the story being told, with Hiccup becoming the leader he has to be on Berk and Toothless contemplating a separation from his friend, and that’s just some of the maturity that The Hidden World shows off. Other things stand out too, like the skillful blending of drama and comedy; the way the villain problems of the last entry have been improved upon with a more interesting antagonist; and how it looks great in all respects. There is some genuine art in The Hidden World, vistas of amazing originality, backgrounds of stunning creativity, looming islands, breath-taking skies, buildings designs that radiate innovation.
This conclusion is a well-deserved one for an excellent franchise, and it does not disappoint. As a stand-alone story and as the third part of a trilogy, it works really well, with excellent VA, script, visuals and general narrative. It’s sadly rare, outside of Pixar anyway, to find animated films that are still treated with this level of care and reverence by their production teams.
Initially, I was not going to give Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film a viewing. But I couldn’t help myself in the end. Tarantino, for all of his flaws, has that track record. The cast assembled here is stellar, and the premise is interesting. More than anything, I am drawn to Tarantino because I still remember how Reservoir Dogs and Inglorious Basterds impacted on me, and I am willing to temporarily look past the negatives to see if I can get that feeling again.
Once Upon… might be Tarantino’s most mature film yet, and while it has its flaws, and can’t claim to be in the upper tier of his back catalogue, it is a very welcome improvement on the arrogance of The Hateful Eight. It’s a mid-life crisis playing out on screen, showcasing a reserve that I’m not sure I can say the director has ever been able to portray before. Tarantino crafts an engaging and well-paced three-forked narrative that, while it weaves out to some cul-de-sacs, never fails to engross.
It has a scope that is epic in its own way, between fading TV star Rick Dalton’s crisis of confidence, gopher Cliff Booth’s search for relevancy and Sharon Tate’s wistful exploration of Hollywood in the 1970’s. The director gets three wonderful performances out of DiCaprio, Pitt and Robbie, with a script that shows his capability, after all these years, to surprise simply by rolling back. It looks great and sounds great, a personal representation of the director’s bittersweet nostalgia for the time and place that is 70’s LA.
It probably says something about Tarantino and the general quality of his films that I really, really liked Once Upon… and yet would still rank it in his filmography as ahead of only The Hateful Eight and Deathproof. It’s good to be reminded of just how brilliant Tarantino can be in that way, after such disappointment last time out. But, if we are reaching that terminal point, Once Upon… is an excellent penultimate offering. The man has his issues, and it will be impossible for me to ever view Tarantino the way I did at the time of Inglorious Basterds, which I still consider his best. But eight out of nine ain’t bad at all. Once Upon… is a very applause-worthy achievement, and maybe the director has one more in him yet.
What a premise this was, if you are looking for quality drama to mine. Two excellent casting decisions for the two leads. A director with a serious pedigree. A script from the man who has cleaned up recently when it comes to the biopic genre. And the chance for a deep and relevant debate, on-screen, over the current status and future of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Two Popes, when all is said and done is simply two old men talking about what the Roman Catholic Church needs to be. One, valuing the millennia of tradition, sees strength in conservative values that have endured so much; the other, valuing the practicalities of a changing world, see’s that fundamental change is the only way forward. The direct topic of conversation may be whether Jorge Bergoglio has the will to take on the task, but that’s all that The Two Popes is, a micro-chasm of a debate that dominates discussion of the Church. The film lives or dies on whether that debate is worth having in this manner, and it is a rousing success on that score.
Both Hopkins and Pryce settle into their opposing parts and fully make them their own, imbuing The Two Popes with twin character studies even as it focuses so much on the larger debate. Benedict is a lonely old man regretting the missteps that he has made and the experiences he has shut himself off from, while Bergoglio is aghast at the obscene pageantry of the Church even as he hides his own sense of sin from the days of the Dirty War. In a number of excellent set-pieces the two leads spar back-and-forth verbally on this topic and that, full of vim, vigour and no little amount of bite. Both have things to regret and both have absolution to seek, but, in a story that is as engaging as it is insightful, only one of them will be left with the direction of the Church in his hands.
For that reason I think quite positively of The Two Popes, and that is before we get into the two wonderful performances at its heart, which make the very most that they can out of Anthony McCarten’s moving, engaging and witty script. The Two Popes is the kind of film that every Catholic should see, just for the way that the debate between the conservative past and the inevitably liberalised future is framed.
The lead’s name would have been enough to get me really interested in this. But Blindspotting has enough to recommend it outside of the chance to see Daveed Diggs in non-musical surrounds. A cursory examination of its premise offers much in the way of relevant commentary on modern-day situations, not just in the American setting, but even in my own adopted city in terms of gentrification and changing social norms. It’s good then that Blindspotting is a low-budget indie triumph, a wonderful portrayal of west-coast America in these turbulent times, and a forthright examination of the state of play in race relations for the same.
I think the thing that really impressed me about Blindspotting is how it manages to encompass a dual plot-line on race and identity from both a black and a white viewpoint. Diggs’ Collin is of course centre-stage, a man caught up in the cruel American legal system and now desperately trying to claw his way back out. His journey is one filled with heartache and dread, a gradual realisation that you can’t just go home again, not after the things that he has done and experienced. Through a succession of excellently constructed scenes, most notably a late second-act flashback, we learn so much about Collin and how he has come to be where he is, and all organically.
And then there is Miles, the best friend whose own part of proceedings allows for a look at the experience of a white man growing up in a predominantly black area, that is becoming increasingly gentrified and, well, white. The pressure turns into toxic masculinity quick, with the strain of being a provider for a young family getting to him. Between the two, Blindspotting provides some tremendous opportunities for visual story-telling and character drama.
I was very impressed by Blindspotting, coming from a director with little experience of features and a central actor who has never had to carry a production of this type. Diggs is wonderful, as is Casal. The film tells two very important individual stories and its commentary on police shootings, the struggles of ex-cons, and masculinity in the modern world is thought-provoking throughout. As much as all that, it is simply timely: the film captivates with its sparkling script, replete with a heady mix of drama and comedy. Entertaining and engaging, the people behind Blindspotting are ones to look for again.
3. Knives Out
A film that had pretensions of being both a tribute and a quasi-satire of the Agatha Christie brand of murder mystery, replete with a single main location, loads of suspects and an aloof detective with an odd accent, I eagerly awaited Knives Out. The director, the cast and the promise of a production that would, to use a phrase that morons have taken to using as a criticism of anything that doesn’t mire itself in predictability, subvert my expectations, was all there. I was fully confident that Knives Out would be a continuation of Johnson’s excellent work.
Well, Rian Johnson most definitely did it again. Consider my expectations subverted, and in a good, nay, great way. In the process of delivering a truly excellent murder mystery, the kind that Agatha Christie would have matched only on her very best day, Johnson somehow managed to flip everything and turn his movie into an expose of how entitled, rich, white elitists in American are treating minorities, and how they can be defeated.
Johnson constructs a truly whip-smart and captivating mystery, where every bit of dialogue is tailor-made to advance the plot or to draw attention to something that will be important later. Knives Out is a film that rewards attention, and will have any audience member attempting to solve the crime before the final solution plays. And then there is the other side of Knives Out, that becomes apparent just around the half-way point: that commentary on how the quasi-gentry that make up America’s 1% only really care about the people beneath them insofar as they are a stepping stone to more power, or are an enemy to be neutralised. But sometimes, the little guy can fight back, in their own way.
Rian Johnson, directing a luscious looking production, nails every bit of the murder mystery genre in a fashion unseen for a while, and then layers everything with some expert allegory and allusion. It’s paced so well, never feeling slow or burdensome, and has an intricacy that delights. The ensemble cast is utterly superb, with Ana de Armas establishing herself as one of the best actresses working today and everyone else doing good work. It looks great, sounds great, and is great. Rian Johnson has now firmly declared that he is one of the best, most inventive, and most exciting directors in the business, whose future projects I await with baited breath.
2. Toy Story 4
The thing that amazes me about Toy Story isn’t just the way the first film signified a paradigm shift in animation. It isn’t just its remarkable longevity. It isn’t just the way it has managed to consistently craft deep, mature stories out of a bunch of walking, talking toys. It is that every time another sequel comes out, it has proven the doom-mongers and cynics wrong, and produced something arguably better than what came before. Beyond nostalgia bait, beyond cash-ins, beyond the creeping Disneyfication of Pixar, Toy Story continues to be the benchmark of animation. It says something that I hadn’t the slightest doubt that #4 in the series would continue that trend, and I can count on a few fingers the amount of franchises I can say the same about.
A treatise on the nature of parenthood, and how sometimes it’s OK to think of your own needs above others, 4 see’s Tom Hanks’ Woody explore a significant road-not-travelled in the form of Annie Potts’ returning Bo Peep, an antithesis to Woody’s strongly held view that lost toys need rescuing. That’s the launching off point for an at times funny, at times melancholy journey, that feels more like an epilogue than a direct continuation of the franchise. In line with Pixar’s consistent quality, it is a film that challenges the audience to consider fundamental questions related to personal self-worth.
If this is to be the conclusion to Toy Story, it is most certainly a fitting one, a film that is all about rounding things off and giving a sense of closure to the audience. Twice now, Pixar has confounded expectations by releasing additions to the franchise that were wonders all of their own even next to that genre-defining original. And now, thumbing their nose at the cynicism and worry, mocking the concept of diminishing returns, they’ve done it a third time. Toy Story 4 may not be, in my eyes, the best Toy Story movie – for me, that honour still goes to 3 – but that must be considered a debate of fractions in terms of quality.
Toy Story 4 hits all the high marks for narrative, cast, visual presentation, themes and script. It’s fantastically humorous and deeply touching in equal measures, and is just the latest example of Pixar’s stellar achievements. The tale of these toys has allowed for some of the most emotional story-telling of the last quarter of a century, as well as hours of entertainment: 4, engaging, entertaining, skillfully made and heartfelt, is simply the latest stop on that journey.
Sometimes, even I can be surprised by the MCU. I went into Homecoming with not stellar expectations, and walked out incredibly impressed. I walked into Far From Home feeling a little fatigued with the superheroes, and walked out astonished. Not only might this be the best Spider-Man film ever made, not only might this be the best MCU film made to date, it immediately went into contention for film of the year. Jon Watts and Tom Holland did it again and did it better.
Holland does his best work yet as the titular web-slinger, in a a two-hour stretch where he is able to mix so well the dichotomy of being a mouthy teenage superhero and a veteran of battles that have left him with a bit of PTSD. Far From Home see’s a kid with the world on his shoulders who just wants to find the right moment to tell the girl he really likes how he feels about her: what could otherwise end up being bland cliche is instead the best character journey of the MCU. Whether he is being grossed out by his aunt and her relationship with “Happy” Hogan, or facing down death and destruction with a steely gaze, Holland brings the goods, making a firm, and frankly undeniable, claim to being the best Peter Parker in the business.
Everything around him is so much greatness as well. They include Zendaya’s pitch-perfectly endearing MJ and her playing off with Holland, a romantic plot-line that calls to the influence of Buffy and Stranger Things. There’s the motley collection of friends and hangers-on providing a varied and ethnically diverse backdrop for every scene and every conversation. There’s a perfect blending of comedy and drama, something that the MCU and the larger genre consistently get wrong. There’s the varied locations that make the affair seem as unique as possible, and the impressive score work from Michael Giacchino. And there are some of the genre’s very best set-piece sequences, most notably when the nature of reality is called into question.
Above all of them is Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio, the best villain of the MCU’s existence, a rip-roaring allegory for the era of fake news, whose thesis statement of “People will believe anything” forms the ideal backbone for what Far From Home is trying to get across. Alongside a tearing down of the Tony Stark deification, Quentin Beck serves up a storm as a master-manipulator, a breath of fresh air in the supervillain stakes.
Watts brings them all together to form a real master-piece of superhero cinema, an excellent Spidey film, an excellent addition to the ever-growing canon of Marvel Studios and one that leaves off with just the right amount of growth, change and tantalising plot threads for the future. If it is the MCU plan to move away from somewhat overcooked epics like Endgame so they can instead focus on these kinds of adventures, then I can feel the fatigue falling away. It’s bold, it’s bright, it’s beautiful, it is the best possible version of itself and it is the best film of the year.
Honourable mentions this year go to numerous stand-out examples of film-making. Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened was a genuinely enrapturing piece of recordation documentary. I got a big kick out of Steven Soderbergh’s High Flying Bird, his second film shot on an iPhone. Fighting With My Family spoke to my love of pro-wrestling, and was an excellent biopic in its own right. Captain Marvel was a very important first step for the MCU, and I had plenty of kudos to give to Avengers: Endgame while we are at it. On the other side of the superhero coin, Shazam! was a very solid contribution from DC. I really enjoyed The Sisters Brothers, easily Joaquin Phoenix’s best performance this year. John Wick: Chapter Three – Parabellum was everything that I expected it would be and more. See You Yesterday was a very engaging low-budget sci-fi with deep political themes. Klaus was excellent animated fare. Arctic was a very pleasant surprise with a top-notch performance from Mads Mikkelsen. The King was an excellent twist on Shakespeare from Netflix.
On the other side of things, there is a real battle for the film I would decree the worst I have seen this year. Dragged Across Concrete, Gotti and Kardec could all be considered within touching distance, but in the end it simply has to be the outrageously over-hyped and over-rated Joker, a film that arose genuinely hateful feelings in me, while the others mostly generated boredom or mild irritation. Joker was abhorrent in its many messages, a woeful facsimile of better directors visually and, damn what the consensus says, not very well acted in its lead.
And so, to the awards.
Awarded to the actor who has impressed the most throughout the year in leading roles.
Brad Pitt (Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, Ad Astra),
It was the twofer that did it for me this time around. While sharing top billing with a few others in the first instance, and largely acting on his own in the second, in both of his leading roles this year Pitt has been outstanding, bringing different strains of humanity whether he is a Hollywood gopher or an explorer of space.
Honourable mentions: Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Far From Home), Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes), Daveed Diggs (Blindspotting), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood), Tom Hanks (Toy Story 4)
Best Supporting Actor
Awarded to the actor who has impressed the most throughout the year in roles other than the lead.
Jake Gyllenhaal (Spider-Man: Far From Home)
Spidey’s latest was already hitting heights, and that’s before it introduced the MCU’s best villain bar none. Gyllenhaal brings Mysterio to life, imbuing him with every bit of manipulative charisma, quiet psychopathy, and out-right megalomania that the role required, and he pushed the movie into the stratosphere.
Honourable Mentions: Rafael Casal (Blindspotting), Joel Edgerton (The King), Na-Kel Smith (Mid90s), Chris Evans (Knives Out), Adam Driver (Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise Of Skywalker)
Awarded to the actress who has impressed the most throughout the year in leading roles.
Ana de Armas (Knives Out)
In a year with plenty of contenders, de Armas come through late to seal the top prize, in a career-best performance that ties in both parts of Rian Johnson’s dual narrative, as both a quasi-Watson with a dark secret, and as a representation of the downtrodden in America.
Honourable Mentions: Saoirse Ronan (Mary Queen Of Scots), Margaret Qualley (Io), Rosamund Pike (A Private War), Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise Of Skywalker), Florence Pugh (Fighting With My Family)
Best Supporting Actress
Awarded to the actress who has most impressed throughout the year in roles other than the lead.
Zendaya (Spider-Man: Far From Home)
Moving from a fairly minor role in the first installment, Zendaya becomes the beating heart of Far From Home. In her coy shyness, in an otherwise tough and ballsy exterior, in her barbed snark, she demonstrates that she is not the same “MJ” that was essentially rescue-bait or refrigerated previously.
Honourable Mentions: Annie Potts (Toy Story 4), Judi Dench (All Is True), Rachel Weisz (The Favourite), Lena Headey (Fighting With My Family), Lily Collins (Tolkien)
Awarded to the best cast, generally, of any film during the year.
Simply too good of a cast – with a potent mix of long-time veterans, modern-day superstars and exciting newcomers – to be ignored, and not a one putting in a less than stellar shift.
Honourable Mentions: Spider-Man: Far From Home, Toy Story 4, Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, All Is True, Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise Of Skywalker
Awarded to the best director of the year.
Rian Johnson (Knives Out)
I may place the film in third, but I have to elevate Johnson to the top spot. Ahead of Jon Watts and the team behind Toy Story 4, Johnson, in Knives Out, directed a sumptuous and dazzling film, with an eye for details, interplay of light and shadow, and the most engaging framing of principals possible.
Honourable Mentions: Jon Watts (Spider-Man: Far From Home), Carlos Lopez Estrada (Blindspotting), James Gray (Ad Astra), Joe Penna (Arctic), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood)
Awarded to the film that has the best production values of the year, in terms of sets, props and other associated elements.
The surrounds of murder and mystery have never looked so good, with Johnson exhibiting an expert understanding of the confluence of set, props and everything else.
Honourable Mentions: Spider-Man: Far From Home, Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise Of Skywalker, Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, Ad Astra, The King
Awarded to the film with the best use of computer-generated imagery and graphics.
Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise Of Skywalker
This is the Star Wars category really, winning it five years in a row now. You’ll never be closer to a galaxy far, far away.
Honourable Mentions: Spider-Man: Far From Home, Ad Astra, Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, Godzilla: King Of The Monsters
Awarded to the composer/ film with the best instrumental (non-lyrical) music of the year.
John Williams (Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise Of Skywalker)
Williams’ last hurrah for the franchise that he did as much for as anyone else in terms of making it an iconic part of the film landscape is as good as any of the others. The sweeping highs, the stirring lows, the old master has fully earned his final plaudits for Star Wars.
Honourable Mentions: Michael Giacchino (Spider-Man: Far From Home), John Powell (How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World), Alan Menken (Aladdin), Thomas Newman (Tolkien), Christophe Beck (Frozen 2)
Awarded to the film with the best songs, generally, of the year.
Even if I wasn’t all that mad about the film overall, I had nothing but praise for its status as a musical ode to The Beatles. The film reinvents a few old classics and puts a modern shine on others, and as an auditory love letter succeeds where it otherwise falls down.
Honourable Mentions: Homecoming, Blindspotting, Frozen 2, Aladdin, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
Best Original Song
Awarded to the best song created for a film of the year.
“Final Scene Rap” – Daveed Diggs (Blindspotting)
There’s no recorded name I can find for the viscerally emotional rap song that Diggs unloads on his erstwhile tormentor, and the audience, in the final scene of Blindspotting, but it is a powerful piece of song-writing, with a delivery to match, all the same.
Honourable Mentions: “Into The Unknown” – Idina Menzel, AURORA, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (Frozen 2), “Super Cool” – Beck feat Robyn and The Lonely Island (The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part), “Everything Is Better” – Kieran and Heather Shuddall (A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon), “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” – Randy Newman (Toy Story 4), “Hearts Beat Loud” – Kiersey Clemons and Keegan DeWitt (Hearts Beat Loud)
Best Adapted Script
Awarded to the best script adapted from another source of the year.
Spider-Man: Far From Home (Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers)
Adapted insofar as it is based wholesale on comic book properties, McKenna and Sommers crafted a script for Spidey and co that shines through with warmth, humour and emotion, with a perfectly balanced tone and characters that really spring to life.
Honourable Mentions: How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (Dean DeBlois), The King (David Michod and Joel Edgerton), A Private War (Arash Amel), The Two Popes (Anthony McCarten), The Sisters Brothers (Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain)
Best Original Script
Awarded to the best original script of the year.
Knives Out (Rian Johnson)
A very close-run affair, but I can’t get over Johnson’s intelligent script, that manufactured a thrillingly complex, yet logical, murder mystery, established some prescient commentary and gave us literally a dozen three-dimensional characters.
Honourable Mentions: Toy Story 4 (Various), Blindspotting (Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs), Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino), All Is True (Ben Elton), Dolemite Is My Name (Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski)
Awarded to the best camerawork of any film of the year.
Ad Astra (Hoyte van Hoytema)
Van Hoytema has long since established his bonafides, and this completes his hat-trick of wins in this category, after Interstellar and Dunkirk. Ad Astra may not be a Christopher Nolan collaboration, but is still a visual wonder.
Honourable Mentions: Spider-Man: Far From Home (Matthew J. Lloyd), Knives Out (Steve Yedlin), Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood (Robert Richardson), Arctic (Tomas Orn Tomasson), The King (Adam Arkapaw)
Awarded to the film with the best combined make-up, hairstyling and costuming work of the year.
Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise Of Skywalker
As long as they keep making them, and at this level of quality, Star Wars is probably going to keep winning this category.
Honourable Mentions: Spider-Man: From From Home, Knives Out, Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, Ad Astra, All Is True
The Ashling Award
Awarded to my girlfriend’s favourite film of the year.
Honourable Mentions: A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans, The Man Who Wanted To Fly, Toy Story 4, Reuben Brandt, Collector
Awarded to the best comedic film of the year.
Between Two Ferns: The Movie
Awarded to the best animated film of the year.
Toy Story 4
Awarded to the best romantic film of the year.
How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Awarded to the best science fiction film of the year.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
Best Comic Book
Awarded to the best film based on a comic book/graphic novel of the year.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
Awarded to the best non-fiction film with a documentarian focus.
Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened
Awarded to the best historical film of the year.
Awarded to the best Irish film of the year.
Awarded to the best, non-action, scene of the year.
Finding Out Why Collin Was In Prison – Blindspotting
Best Action Scene
Awarded to the best action/fight scene of the year.
Rey/Kylo Ren Final Duel (Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise Of Skywalker)
Best Battle Scene
Awarded to the best large-scale battle scene of the year.
London Bridge (Spider-Man: Far From Home)
Best Delivered Line
Awarded to the best written and delivered line(s) of the year.
“But I’ve been sprintin’ till I limp across the finish with a gun,
Up in my blind spot, really,
Ain’t too hard to figure that you probably never really felt a pressure of a n***a,
But you know what? I ain’t never felt a pressure of a trigger!“
-Daveed Diggs (Blindspotting)
Awarded to the best single set-piece sequence of the year.
Cardinal Bergoglio Remembers The Junta (The Two Popes)
Awarded to the year’s best presented protagonist character.
Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Spider-Man: Far From Home)
Awarded to the year’s best presented antagonist character.
Quentin Beck/Mysterio (Spider-Man: Far From Home)
“Diamond In The Rough” Award
Awarded to the actor/actress who gives the best performance of an otherwise bad movie.
Tory Kittles (Dragged Across Concrete)
“Bang For Your Buck” Award
Awarded to the best film in the shortest running time.
Arctic (97 minutes)
Awarded to a film that is still good despite its plot holes.
Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise Of Skywalker
“Walter Mitty” Award
Awarded to a film that is still good despite its clichéd elements.
“Lonely Planet Guide To…” Award
Awarded to the best world/universe building within a film.
Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise Of Skywalker
“On The Shoulders Of Giants” Award
Awarded to the best sequel, reboot or remake of the year.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
“Equality Now” Award
Awarded to the film that features the best use of female characters.
“Surprisingly Tolerable” Award
Awarded to the worst movie idea that turned good.
“Why Is No One Applauding?” Award
Awarded to the film that has been rated too lowly by the critical community.
“We’re Going To That” Award
Awarded to the film with the best trailer(s) of the year.
Pokemon Detective Pikachu
“You Can’t Take The Sky From Me” Award
Awarded to the best thing of the year.
“I’m going to go, because I’ve got a date. Uh, bye.” (Spider-Man: Far From Home)
New year, new decade, new movies. Looking forward to JoJo Rabbit, Birds Of Prey, Sonic The Hedgehog, Onward, Mulan, No Time To Die, Black Widow, Greyhound, The Personal History Of David Copperfield, Artemis Fowl, Wonder Woman 1984, In The Heights, Tenet, Death On The Nile, The Witches, The Eternals, Dune, West Side Story and Uncharted. See you in the 2020’s.
(All images are copyright of Sony Pictures Classic, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Netflix, Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing, Netflix, and Lionsgate).