19TH ANNUAL ONLINE FILM CRITICS SOCIETY AWARDS (WITH OUR VOTES AND COMMENTS)

The 2015 Online Film Critics Society awards awards are out. As usual, weird films were underrepresented or ignored when it came time to dish out cinematic props. Despite some encouraging advocacy among my peers, our best weird shot, The Forbidden Room, ‘s love letter to lost film, was not nominated for any awards. Critical darling ‘s third chapter in his absurd “being human” trilogy, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, was also shut out. The best we weirdophiles could muster this year was a “Best Animated Feature” nomination for ‘s stop-motion psychological dramedy Anomalisa (where it was forced to compete with Pixar/Disney’s Inside Out juggernaut).

As always, despite the levity in my tone, I take my voting responsibility very seriously, and I do not put forward weird films at the expense of worthier mainstream candidates just because it’s “my thing.” Here is the list of this year’s winners, along with my choices and a touch of personal commentary.

BEST PICTURE

Still from Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road

Also Nominated: Brooklyn, Carol, Ex Machina, Inside Out, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Sicario, Spotlight

G. Smalley’s Vote: Ex Machina

Comments: Mad Max winning the OFCS awards will be one of the shocks of the awards season, and will likely negatively impact the Society’s record of correctly predicting the Academy Award winner. Max was fine, and I’m not mad (or even furious) that it won, but Ex Machina was a far more thoughtful picture that still managed to deliver great drama and suspense. Disclosure: I did not see the late-release movies Revenant or Room (no screeners were provided by the studios for these contenders).

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Winner: Inside Out

Also Nominated: Anomalisa, The Good Dinosaur, The Peanuts Movie,
Shaun the Sheep Movie 

G. Smalley’s Vote: Inside Out

Comments: A toughie. In another year ‘s adult-oriented Anomalisa (rated R for graphic puppet cunnilingus) could have won. Though it’s an intensely different film aimed at a younger demographic, I thought the inventive and relatively sophisticated Inside Out edged Kaufman by a nose (sorry, Charlie!)

BEST FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

Winner: The Assassin

Also Nominated: Goodnight Mommy, Mustang, Phoenix, Son of Saul

G. Smalley’s Vote: White God (not nominated), Goodnight Mommy (of the nominees)

Comments: I thought non-domestic filmmakers let us down this year. The Assassin is a very beautiful and elegant film, an arthouse wuxia that’s more “Hamlet” than Hero, and I understand why my colleagues voted for it. I thought White God, with its scenes of hundreds of mutts rampaging through the streets of Budapest, had the best animal choreography of all time, and was an underdog that deserved more love than it got all year. Goodnight Mommy, a flawed horror with a great eerie opening that degenerates into torture porn, was my runner-up. I suspect the highly-praised Holocaust feature Son of Saul might have been able to take this weak field, but again, no screener.

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Winner: Look of Silence

Also Nominated: Amy, Best of Enemies, Cartel Land, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

G. Smalley’s Vote: Cartel Land

Comments: Unfortunately, for me, ‘s Look of Silence, which revolves around an Indonesian optometrist confronting some of the men involved in his brother’s killing during that country’s brutal 1960s Communist purges, suffered from going over much of the same turf as his previous masterpiece The Act of Killing, while not being as groundbreaking as that previous feature. I voted instead for another Third World horror story, the brutal and shocking Cartel Land, which finds the documentarians embedded in a Mexican vigilante group that grows into a paramilitary army in the province of Michoacán, Mexico.

BEST DIRECTOR

Winner: , Mad Max: Fury Road

Also Nominated: Todd Haynes, Carol; Tom McCarthy, Spotlight; , The Martian; , Sicario

G. Smalley’s Vote: Alex Garland, Ex Machina (not nominated), Tom McCarthy (of the nominees)

Comments: Mad Max nearly sweeps the non-acting categories, but I again preferred Ex Machina. Miller’s job was impressive, but lacks the artistic seriousness I’d like to see in a Best Director.

BEST ACTOR

Winner: , Steve Jobs

Also Nominated: Matt Damon, The Martian; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant; Michael B. Jordan, Creed; Ian McKellen, Mr. Holmes

G. Smalley’s Vote: Michael Fassbender

Comments: I don’t usually cotton to biopics, but there’s no question Fassbender did a fantastic job in seamlessly portraying egotistical tech mogul Jobs in three different eras.

BEST ACTRESS

Winner: Cate Blanchett, Carol

Also Nominated: Brie Larson, Room; Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years; Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn; Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road

G. Smalley’s Vote: Sarah Snook, Predestination (not nominated), Saoirse Ronan

Comments: Snook justifiably got high plaudits when Predestination was released, but it seems I was the only one who remembered this January 2015 release come December awards season. Of the remainder, I preferred Saoirse Ronan, who singlehandedly made the mediocre and predictable immigrant romance Brooklyn palatable. I confess I don’t get the infatuation with Carol (either with the title character, with Blanchett’s portrayal of her, or with the movie itself).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Winner: Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina

Also Nominated: , Sicario; Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight; Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies; Sylvester Stallone, Creed

G. Smalley’s Vote: Oscar Isaac

Comments: Oscar Isaac is emerging as one of America’s best actors. He is completely different in every role, but masters each. He fully deserved recognition as Ex Machina‘s ambiguously villainous, alcoholic genius.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Winner: Rooney Mara, Carol

Also Nominated: Cynthia Nixon, James White; Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria; Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl; Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

G. Smalley’s Vote: Kristen Stewart

Comments: Time for some “inside baseball” awards season tidbits. There was quite a bit of hand wringing among some critics over Mara’s placement in the “Supporting Actress” category. In fact, I agree with the dissenters that she should have been nominated as the lead actress in Carol. The problem, you see, is that Carol is a lesbian romance; were it a heterosexual tale, the two co-leads could have been nominated in Actor and Actress, respectively. The only solution here if you want to give them both an equal chance to win— and notice that they both did win—was to shuffle one of them to the supporting category. It’s really sort of arbitrary which actress is nominated as the support; part of the decision may be based on the fact that Cate is more established, and the younger thespian should wait her turn for the honor. I dodged the whole kerfuffle, since I liked Kristen Stewart’s role as an aging actress’ surprisingly competent personal assistant better (although I admit Stewart may have benefited from exceeding low expectations).

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Winner: Spotlight

Also Nominated: Ex Machina, Inside Out, Mistress America, Sicario

G. Smalley’s Vote: Ex Machina

Comments: Spotlight‘s script had the virtue of keeping a complex story easy to follow, balancing lots of characters and events as the investigation unfolds over years. Recognizing it here is also a way to reward a very good movie that doesn’t deserve Best Picture, and whose ensemble style dilutes its chances at any of the acting awards. Still, Ex Machina… I also would have accepted Inside Out.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Winner: Carol

Also Nominated: Brooklyn, The Martian; Room; Steve Jobs

G. Smalley’s Vote: Predestination (not nominated), Steve Jobs (of the nominees)

Comments: It just wasn’t meant to be for Predestination, which is a very faithful and effective adaptation of Robert Heinlein’s seminal time-travel paradox puzzler “All You Zombies.” I voted for Steve Jobs. Aaron Sorkin still has a way with dialogue, and a masterful way of building conflict through exchanges so that your sympathies tend to switch back and forth depending on the speaker. As for Carol, if you made the lovers heterosexual, you would have a very formulaic picture. Room could have taken this category, if I had seen it.

BEST EDITING

Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road

Also Nominated: The Martian; The Revenant; Sicario; Steve Jobs

G. Smalley’s Vote: The Forbidden Room (not nominated), Mad Max: Fury Road (of the nominees)

Comments: Any time Guy Maddin makes a movie it should be automatically nominated for Best Editing, sight unseen. The Forbidden Room has the further benefit of being one of those multi-story scripts that “best editing” voters usually eat up. On the other hand, the Best Editing award traditionally goes to an action feature, and it’s hard to complain about the Fury Road‘s high-octane chase winning the award.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road

Also Nominated: The Assassin; Carol; Mad Max: Fury Road; The Revenant; Sicario

G. Smalley’s Vote: The Forbidden Room (not nominated), Sicario (of the nominees)

Comments: The only argument against The Forbidden Room‘s coasting to this award is that, with all its digital filters and scrambling and morphing effects, the film is too dependent on post-production processing (which would fall into the non-award granting category of “visual effects”) to achieve its impact. Still, I think that the necessity of creating dozens of different film looks, switching back and forth between black and white, color, and tinting, using various cameras and film stocks, made it worthy of a win. Given the complete lack of noms for Maddin, however, I instead followed the “when in doubt always vote for Roger Deakins” rule of cinematography awards voting. It usually works, although it let me down this time (who could foresee Max‘s total dominance?)

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