The 2019 Online Film Critics Society awards are out. Weird films didn’t fare well in the nominations this year. I Lost My Body was nominated for Best Animated Film; Florence Pugh for Best Actress in Midsommar; and we saw a Best Supporting actor nom for and a Best Cinematography bid, both for The Lighthouse. (The Lighthouse should have at least earned a Best Original Screenplay nod, too, but whatever). None of them won, but it’s some consolation that received a Lifetime Achievement Award.
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.
Also nominated: 1917, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Uncut Gems, Us
My pick: Knives Out
Comments: Parasite‘s win is in no way a surprise; since winning the Palme d’Or, it’s been fending off all contenders in critical repute. The movie is excellent, a black comedy that becomes a thriller, set in a background of South Korean economic despair and inequality. I thought Knives Out, on the other hand, was the crowd-pleaser of the season, and one of the very few Hollywood films of recent years that hits on all cylinders. Parasite had best foreign offering locked up anyway, but I can’t complain about losing to a Bong Joon-ho joint.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Winner: Toy Story 4
Also nominated: Frozen II, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, I Lost My Body, Missing Link
My pick: I Lost My Body
Comments: The unnecessary but unexpectedly confident Toy Story 4 would be my second choice, but I Lost My Body was legitimately thrilling in its Pixar-meets-adventures of a severed hand fending off pigeons and rats; and moving, too. A close call.
Winner: Bong Joon-ho, Parasite
Also nominated: Sam Mendes – 1917, Celine Sciamma – Portrait of a Lady on Fire,– The Irishman, – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
My pick: Quentin Tarantino
Comments: It’s hard to split up the Best Picture/Best Director combo. I went with Tarantino largely to acknowledge his at times underrated talent at working with actors—from Leonardo DiCaprio’s falling cowboy star to Bard Pitt’s tough guy to Margo Robbie’s star-eyed Sharon Tate to the entire Manson clan, he wrings nothing but the best from even the smallest Hollywood performances.
Winner: Adam Driver – Marriage Story
Also nominated: Joker, Adam Sandler – Uncut Gems– Pain and Glory, Robert De Niro – The Irishman, –
My pick: Adam Sandler
Comments: Driver was fine as the complicated artist struggling through a bitter divorce with a woman he still kind-of loves. He wouldn’t have been my pick, however; many other male actors in their thirties could have done just as fine a job with this material. Adam Sandler was not a revelation, exactly—embarrassing comedies aside, he’d already shown he could deliver great work in other people’s material—but he brought an irreplaceable manic energy to his role as an adrenaline-addicted celebrity jeweler and problem gambler in Uncut Gems. (I’m agnostic on Banderas’ performance, since Pain and Glory was the only one of this year’s nominees I haven’t yet seen.)
Winner: Lupita Nyong’o – Us
Also nominated: Awkwafina – The Farewell,– Marriage Story, Florence Pugh – Midsommar, Renée Zellweger – Judy
My pick: Renée Zellweger
Comments: I have no complaints with Nyong’o’s performance, and it’s nice to see some diversity recognized in the awards (I’m speaking, of course, of a major award going to a horror film). Best Actress looks like the most competitive category this year, but I went with the one most likely to win the Oscar. The fact that Zellweger went that extra mile to do her own singing and dancing as Judy Garland put her performance over the rainbow.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Also nominated: Willem Dafoe – The Lighthouse, Al Pacino – The Irishman, Joe Pesci – The Irishman, Song Kang-ho – Parasite
My pick: Willem Dafoe
Comments: I thought Dafoe’s mad Melvillian wickie had this one sewn up; I may have overestimated The Lighthouse‘s appeal to the mainstream. A sniff of category fraud here, since in my mind (and most others) Pitt andare co-leads in Hollywood—although the same could be claimed of Dafoe and in Lighthouse, nullifying my objection.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Winner: Jennifer Lopez – Hustlers
Also nominated:– Marriage Story, Florence Pugh – Little Women, Margot Robbie – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Shuzhen Zhao – The Farewell
My pick: Florence Pugh
Comments: Lopez was the only good thing about Hustlers. Pugh’s big year should have been honored somehow, but I guess she’ll just have to live with multiple nominations and millions of dollars.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Winner: Parasite – Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin-won
Also nominated: Knives Out –
My pick: Us
Comments: Parasite is killing it with my colleagues. I find it too hard to properly assess a screenplay written in a language I can’t speak. I appreciate that Us proceeds from another great horror metaphor premise from Jordan Peele. But for one plot hole, Knives Out would have been an easy pick for me.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Winner: The Irishman – Steven Zaillian
Also nominated: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – Micah Fitzerman-Blue & Noah Harpster, Hustlers – Lorene Scafaria, Jojo Rabbit – Taika Waititi, Little Women – Greta Gerwig
My pick: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Comments: Maybe Irishman should have won for longest adapted screenplay? I liked that A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, adapted from an 8,000 word “Esquire” article, managed to incorporate all the major incidents from the author’s brief time spent shadowing and interviewing Mr. Rogers, while inventing an entirely new narrative which meshed perfectly with the real-life events and Rodgers personality and philosophy. Now that’s adaptation!
Winner: Parasite – Jinmo Yang
Also nominated: Ford v Ferrari – Andrew Buckland & Michael McCusker, The Irishman – Thelma Schoonmaker, 1917 – Lee Smith,
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood – Fred Raskin
My pick: The Image Book (not nominated)
Comments: At this point, I think voters are just checking the Parasite box automatically whenever it shows up. Editing is a particularly hard category to evaluate for those of us who are not technical experts. I like to think outside the box when voting on editing, so
Winner: 1917 – Roger Deakins
Also nominated: The Irishman – Rodrigo Prieto, The Lighthouse – Jarin Blaschke, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood – Robert Richardson, Portrait of a Lady on Fire – Claire Mathon
My pick: 1917
Comments: Finally, I agree with my colleagues on something! Deakins (almost) one-take tracking shot of a movie was an impressive feat, rivaled only by Long Day’s Journey Into Night (which I also strongly considered).
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Winner: Us – Michael Abels
Also nominated: Joker – Hildur Guðnadóttir, Little Women – Alexandre Desplat, Marriage Story – Randy Newman,
1917 – Thomas Newman
My pick: Long Day’s Journey Into Night (not nominated)
Comments: The most memorable music in Us was not original. I can’t remember the original music from any of the nominees, which is arguably a good thing (perhaps music, like editing, should work its magic without being noticed by the viewer—er, hearer). The Chinese blues score of Long Day’s Journey Into Night is something I would listen to on its own, however, and deserves recognition. I also would have voted for Mica Levi’s Monos (not nominated), Midsommar (not nominated), or The Peanut Butter Falcon (not nominated) ahead of any of the scores that actually competed here.
BEST DEBUT FEATURE
Winner: Olivia Wilde – Booksmart
Also nominated: Mati Diop – Atlantics, Melina Matsoukas – Queen & Slim, Tyler Nilson & Michael Schwartz – The Peanut Butter Falcon,
Joe Talbot – The Last Black Man in San Francisco
My pick: The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Comments: I’m not sure what others saw in the grossout comedy Booksmart, although I know Olivia Wilde is well-liked in the industry. I prefered the street poetry feel of Joe Talbot’s promising The Last Black Man in San Francisco. I vaguely hoped that Mati Diop’s Atlantics, a very confident and serious first feature from Senegal that did not have a prayer against Parasite, could have slid in here. But it didn’t have much hope against a major Hollywood release, either.
BEST FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
Also nominated: Atlantics, Monos, Pain and Glory, Portrait of a Lady on Fire
My pick: Parasite
Comments: A foregone conclusion. If I wanted to be a pure contrarian I would have voted for Monos.
Winner: Apollo 11
Also nominated: American Factory, For Sama, Honeyland,
One Child Nation
My pick: For Sama
Comments: Unless you believe the moon landing was faked, it’s hard to argue against the monumental nature of Apollo 11, which documents mankind’s greatest technological achievement using only contemporary footage (including some previously unseen material supplied by NASA). Apollo 11 had my personal vote, too, until I watched For Sama literally hours before the deadline to vote. Waad al-Kateab’s personal documentary about her experiences working at a hospital in besieged Aleppo, and the heartrending moral dilemma she faces when pregnancy makes her wonder whether she should abandon the resistance for her daughter’s sake, was incredibly moving. It’s a terrifying act of hope.