ONLINE FILM CRITICS SOCIETY 2019 AWARDS (WITH OUR VOTES)

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.

BEST PICTURE

Parasite (2019)Winner: Parasite

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.

BEST DIRECTOR

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.

BEST ACTOR

Winner: Adam Driver – Marriage Story

Also nominated: Pain and Glory, Robert De Niro – The Irishman, Joker, Adam Sandler – Uncut Gems

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.)

BEST ACTRESS

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

Winner: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

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 and are 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 , Marriage Story – Noah Baumbach, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood – Quentin Tarantino, Us – Jordan Peele

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!

BEST EDITING

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 ‘s The Image Book—which is composed almost entirely of other people’s footage, manipulated and scored to the author’s monologues—was a natural choice, if one that had no chance of winning.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

1917 (2019)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

Winner: Parasite

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.

BEST DOCUMENTARY

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.

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