Celebrating The Films of 2020 With Awards That Don’t Exist at The Oscars

It’s my second year of doing this and I still haven’t come up with a clever name for these awards.

On Sunday night, this year’s delayed Oscar ceremony will take place. Over 14 months after Parasite‘s historic Best Picture win, the Academy will finally hand out their awards to the “best” films and performances of 2020, a year which ended over 110 days ago by the way. But before that can happen, I need to give out my own awards because clearly they’re much more important.

For the second year in a row, I’ve created 15 categories that do not exist at the Oscars as a way of celebrating the prior year in film. I’ve assigned a list of nominees and chosen a winner for each one of these awards. Just like last year, I’m going to go through the awards one by one, list the nominees first, then the winner, and finally give some reasoning behind why I chose each winner. For most categories I stuck to a five nominee limit, except for a few that I felt needed to be expanded to ten.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

Award #1: Most Memorable Scene

Nominees:

And The Winner Is: The QuestionnaireNever Rarely Sometimes Always

Much like last year, this was an incredibly difficult category to choose a winner for. All ten of these memorable movie moments have a case for being considered the scene of the year. Ultimately, I decided to give this award to the titular scene from Never Rarely Sometimes Always, because it is the one scene that has stuck with me the most since I watched the movie. If you’ve seen this movie, you know it is not a loud or grandiose film in any way, but the level of emotion it contains is just as powerful as any other film from 2020. The questionnaire scene is when that emotion truly reaches its climax. It is not an easy scene to sit through by any means, and if this award was called “Most Rewatchable Scene,” there definitely would have been a different winner. But in terms of memorability, the subtlety and emotion of this scene, mixed with the unforgettable performance given by Sidney Flanigan, as well as the overall role it plays in the context of the story, makes this the standout movie moment of 2020.

Award #2: The “Shocked it Wasn’t Terrible” Award

Nominees:

  • Sonic the Hedgehog
  • The Old Guard
  • Bad Boys for Life
  • Enola Holmes
  • Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

And The Winner Is: Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the hedgehog

I want to make it clear that Sonic the Hedgehog is not a great film. To be honest, I don’t think I would even call it a good film. It is definitely my least favorite film out of the five nominees. That is not what this category is about though. This category is meant to highlight the film whose overall quality exceeded my low expectations by the widest margin. I remember renting Sonic on PVOD early on in quarantine because apparently I had nothing better to do that day. My expectations were very low. Not only did this film manage to keep my attention all the way through though, I actually found myself enjoying a fair amount of what Sonic had to offer. I definitely was not the target demographic for this movie, but I appreciated the fact that it was simply a fun movie that didn’t try to be anything it’s not. Enola Holmes was a close second in this category because that was another film geared towards a young audience that I, a man in my early 20s, somehow found myself watching alone one night (last year was a weird year). But ultimately, I decided the expectations I had going into Sonic were far lower than the ones I had for Enola Holmes. 

Award #3: Best Performance That Wasn’t Nominated at the Oscars

Nominees:

  • Sidney Flanigan, Never Rarely Sometimes Always
  • Dominique Fishback, Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Charlene Swankie, Nomadland
  • Hugh Jackman, Bad Education
  • Ben Affleck, The Way Back
  • Mads Mikkelsen, Another Round
  • Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami…
  • Jessie Buckley, I’m Thinking of Ending Things
  • Julia Garner, The Assistant
  • Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods

And The Winner Is: Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods

lindo2

Due to the bizarre nature of 2020’s movie year, as well as this elongated awards season, there weren’t a lot of surprises amongst the acting nominees at this year’s Oscars. By the time the nominations were announced, it sort of felt like the races had already been set, which is a shame because Delroy Lindo’s stirring performance in Da 5 Bloods went overlooked. I think the June release date of Da 5 Bloods was ultimately one of the main factors it didn’t receive much recognition from the academy at all—it was only nominated for one award, Best Original Score. It seems like a lot of people just simply forget about this movie, and this performance, by the time awards season finally rolled around. This is not a performance that should be forgotten any time soon though. The legendary Lindo does some of the best acting of his career in this movie. His character, Paul, is the most complex figure in the film. Lindo navigates the role of the aging veteran dealing with PTSD in gripping, brutal, and heartbreaking fashion. There is a reason I nominated his monologue near the end of this film in Most Memorable Scene, it is breathtaking and deeply impactful. This was a powerhouse performance and it is a shame it did not receive any recognition from the Academy.

Award #4: Best Comedy

Nominees:

  • Shithouse
  • Palm Springs
  • Kajillionaire
  • The King of Staten Island
  • On the Rocks

And The Winner Is: Shithouse

shihouse

Given that Shithouse was my second favorite film from last year, this category was very easy for me to pick a winner for. I’ve written about this film multiple times on this site already, including a full review, so I’m not going to go into great detail about it here. Instead, I want to use this time to briefly touch on the four other nominees. Palm Springs also made it on to my top ten films of the year list, and is definitely a movie that will come up later on in this blog. Kajillionaire, directed by Miranda July, is one of the best hidden gems of 2020. The King of Staten Island is a fairly underrated film with some truly great performances. And, while On the Rocks may not be one of Sofia Coppola’s best films, it is still a clever movie that I had a great time with last year.

Award #5: Best Music Moment in a Film

Nominees:

And The Winner Is: Silly Games, Lovers Rock

lovers rock

The “Silly Games” scene in Lovers Rock was my runner-up for the Most Memorable Scene category, so there was no way it was not winning this award. Honestly, I had an incredibly hard time choosing between this and the questionnaire scene from Never Rarely Sometimes Always for Most Memorable, and the fact that I could just celebrate this scene a few categories later definitely played a role in my decision making. This scene is the centerpiece of one of the best cinematic achievements of 2020. Last year, no other director was able to utilize music to convey emotions better than Steve McQueen did in Lovers Rock. The unconstrained joy and openness felt in this scene practically leaps off of the screen, especially when the music ends and the characters start singing this song a capella. There was not a bigger goosebumps-inducing moment for me in film last year than that one. I also want to take this to implore anyone who has not watched Lovers Rock, or any of the other films in McQueen’s Small Axe collection, to do so as soon as possible. You won’t regret it, especially when you get to this scene.

Award #6: Best Pre-Lockdown Film

Nominees:

  • Bad Boys for Life
  • The Gentlemen
  • Emma
  • The Invisible Man
  • The Way Back

And The Winner Is: The Way Back

The_Way_Back_1140px_KeyArt-1024x576

(Disclaimer: Any film with a release date before March 11, 2020 was eligible for this award.)

It seems like so long ago, but there was a small sliver of 2020 where the world felt at least somewhat normal. I wanted to use this category to look back on that wonderful time. We had so much hope for the year to come, there were actually some decent January/February films, and then everything went to shit. But right before the shit truly hit the fan, The Way Back was released. Now, to be fair calling this a “Pre-Lockdown” movie is a little disingenuous because it was released just 5 days before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and 11 days before US movie theaters were closed to the public. Therefore, it is fair to assume that most people, including myself, saw this film once the lockdown had already begun. But fuck it, these are my awards and I’m saying it is eligible. The Way Back, directed by Gavin O’Connor, isn’t the most original film in the world. But it contains a pretty great Ben Affleck performance, and it is effective in what it is trying to do. The viewer buys in and feels the emotions that this film wants them to feel, which makes this a successful movie. So congratulations The Way Back, you were the best thing the film world had to offer before it was irreparably changed forever.

Award #7: Most Rewatchable Film

Nominees:

  • Shithouse
  • Palm Springs
  • Soul
  • Bacurau
  • One Night in Miami…

And The Winner Is: Palm Springs

palm-springs

This was a difficult category for me to choose the nominees for. 2020 was such a strange year in film and a lot of the big blockbusters or “fun” movies that would usually be nominated in a category like this were pushed back to 2021. Ultimately, I decided to nominate five films that I have actually revisited since my first viewing. Before I get to the winner though, I think it is interesting to note that none of the five films I consider to be the most rewatchable movies of the year are nominated in Best Picture at the Oscars, which says a lot about the crop of films the Academy chose to nominate this year. For reference, last year I nominated three Best Picture contenders (Little Women, Ford v. Ferrari, and Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood) for this award. Let’s get to the winner of this award though because it is a film I truly do love. Palm Springs was one of the biggest delights the year of 2020 had to offer. To me, the three main elements that make this film so rewatchable are the premise, the humor, and perhaps most importantly the chemistry that Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti have together. Although you know these two characters are not the greatest people in the world when watching this film, you can’t help but to root for them and want to spend time with them. If that wasn’t the case, not only would this movie not be rewatchable, it simply wouldn’t work at all. That is why even though this film is incredibly clever and high-concept, the majority of its success is due to the incredible work done by its two stars. I look forward to rewatching this movie many times in the years to come.

Award #8: Best Quote

Nominees:

  • “We fought in an immoral war that wasn’t ours for rights we didn’t have.” – Paul, Da 5 Bloods
  • “The more music you have in the world, the fuller it is.” – Ma Rainey, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  • “You cannot capture a man’s entire life in two hours. All you can hope is to leave the impression of one.” – Herman Mankiewicz, Mank
  • “Don’t worry, they’re fine. You can’t crush a soul here. That’s what life on Earth is for.” – 22, Soul
  • “Can you guess what every woman’s worst nightmare is?” – Cassandra, Promising Young Woman

And The Winner Is: “You cannot capture a man’s entire life in two hours. All you can hope is to leave the impression of one.” – Herman Mankiewicz, Mank

It is always difficult to choose the single best quote in an entire year of film. I ended up going with this poignant sentence from one of my favorite films of last year, David Fincher’s Mank, because I think it is the quote that best represents its movie. Obviously, the idea of attempting to capture a man’s entire life on a page or in a film is sort of the driving force behind the plot of Mank. But this quote goes beyond the context in which Gary Oldman’s character, Herman Mankiewicz, says it in the film. In the movie, Mankiewicz is talking about his script for Citizen Kane and the process of trying to capture the life of Charles Foster Kane/William Randolph Hearst. But, I’m willing to bet this idea of “all you can really do in two hours is leave an impression of who someone was,” is how David Fincher, and his father Jack who wrote this screenplay, feel about this film and perhaps film in general. It can be argued that in Mank, Fincher is not trying to give the audience an exact, historical retelling of what actually happened during the writing process of Citizen Kane. Instead, he is simply trying to give the audience an impression of his interpretation of a story. If that is true, this quote is less of a piece of dialogue and more of a thesis statement, which I think makes it worthy to be awarded the prize of Best Quote.

Award #9: The “I Wish I Could Have Seen This in the Theater” Award

Nominees:

  • Tenet
  • Palm Springs
  • The Vast of Night
  • Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
  • Da 5 Bloods

And The Winner Is: Tenet

tenet

This was an easy winner for me to choose. There were a lot of films I wish I could have seen in a theater last year, but one stands above the rest. In many ways, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet was at the center of the movie theater closing/reopening conversation in the United States last year. Nolan clearly wanted people to see this film in a theater. And while some people did, I never got the chance to. It’s important to note that Tenet is by no means the best film out of the five nominees, but it is absolutely the film I most wish I could have experienced in a theater instead of on the 32-inch television in my bedroom. I think the reasons for that are obvious, given the scope and spectacle of this film. I also want to point out that even though there were only five nominees in this category, there are no shortage of films I wish I could have seen in theaters last year. It was a truly devastating year for the theater industry and I’m just hoping they are able to bounce back over the next couple of years.

Award #10: Best Performance in a Bad Film

Nominees:

  • Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday
  • Iliza Shlesinger, Spenser Confidential
  • Ewan McGregor, Birds of Prey
  • Steve Carell, Irresistible
  • Rose Byrne, Irresistible

And The Winner Is: Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday

andra day

This was another incredible easy category for me to choose the winner for. Andra Day’s performance in The United States vs. Billie Holiday is truly outstanding and she absolutely deserves the Best Actress nomination she got at the Oscars. With that being said, I found that movie to not only be bad, but almost unwatchable at times. It just did not work for me at all, but that doesn’t change the fact that Day is definitely one of the breakout stars of the year, and I’m genuinely looking forward to see what she does next. I want to briefly touch on some of the other nominees in this category because I know it was somewhat strange to nominate both Steve Carell and Rose Byrne from Irresistible. Honestly, I was just having trouble rounding out these nominees and thought they both did a pretty decent job in an otherwise underwhelming movie. I briefly thought about including Zendaya for her performance in Malcolm & Marie but I ultimately couldn’t do it because, despite some of the negative reviews that movie received, I still have a small fondness for it.

Award #11: Most Underrated Film

Nominees:

  • The Nest
  • The Assistant
  • Bad Education
  • Blow the Man Down
  • Da 5 Bloods

And The Winner Is: Blow the Man Down

btmd2

Before I get to the winner, I think it is important to define what I mean by “underrated.” These nominees are five films that I think are better than the reviews they were given, or were praised by those who did see them but just weren’t talked about enough over the course of last year. Now, on to the winner. Blow the Man Down is a fairly small film that was released pretty early on in 2020, so it is not surprising that it did not receive a ton of attention last year, but I still think it is a film that deserves more praise. This movie was released in March and still had a place in my top 20 films of the year by December. It is one of the most unique, clever, and interesting movies that I saw last year but seemingly never really found a substantial audience, which is why I chose it as the winner for this award. It is available on Amazon Prime and I would encourage people to give it a chance, just as I would encourage them to check out the other four nominees in this category if they haven’t already.

Award #12: Breakthrough Performer

Nominees:

  • Sidney Flanigan, Never Rarely Sometimes Always
  • Orion Lee, First Cow
  • Radha Blank, The Forty-Year-Old Version
  • Andra Day, The United States Vs. Billie Holiday
  • Alan S. Kim, Minari
  • Cooper Raiff, Shithouse
  • Jake Horowitz, The Vast of Night
  • Helena Zengel, News of the World
  • Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
  • Talia Ryder, Never Rarely Sometimes Always

And The Winner Is: Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

bak4

In my Oscar nominations reaction blog, I wrote about how Maria Bakalova absolutely deserved her Best Supporting Actress nomination because she took on one of the most difficult jobs an actor can have in this film. She acted alongside Sacha Baron Cohen in a largely improvised comedy film and not only did she hold her own, she actually outshined him in some scenes. For that reason alone, she deserves to win Breakthough Performer. Think about it, Borat was one of the biggest comedy film sensations of the last two decades. The character is iconic and Cohen is so intrinsically tied to the success of that first film. So for a virtual unknown to come in to the sequel 14 years later as the co-lead and actually steal the movie is downright absurd. I don’t know what kind of career Bakalova is going to go on to have, but this performance definitely makes her someone to keep an eye on going forward.

Award #13: Best Hidden Gem

Nominees:

  • Kajillionaire
  • Saint Frances
  • Olympic Dreams
  • Shithouse
  • Standing Up, Falling Down

And The Winner Is: Olympic Dreams

odreams3

This category is similar to some of the other awards I’ve given out already because the win is not going to the film I flat-out enjoyed the most. Shithouse, Kajillionaire, and Saint Frances are better films than Olympic Dreams, but I heard and saw those films being discussed, analyzed, and reviewed throughout the course of last year. On the other hand, I saw almost no one talk about Olympic Dreams, a film I really enjoy.  For those who are unaware, which I think is everyone because I know zero people who have seen this movie, this was the first ever film to be shot inside the actual Olympic Village. It takes place, and was filmed, during the 2018 Winter Olympics. It stars Nick Kroll, and real life olympian Alexi Pappas. It is quite literally the definition of a hidden gem. While it may not be the most original or complex film ever made, it is an incredibly sweet and endearing film that deserves to be seen by more people.

Award #14: Best First Time Director

Nominees:

  • Max Barbakow, Palm Springs
  • Darius Marder, Sound of Metal
  • Radha Blank, The Forty-Year-Old Version
  • Cooper Raiff, Shithouse
  • Andrew Patterson, The Vast of Night

And The Winner Is: Andrew Patterson, The Vast of Night

Patterson

This is the one category I think the Oscars really need to incorporate into their show. It is the same as Rookie of the Year in sports, or Best New Artist at the Grammys, and I don’t understand why the Oscars do not have it. It would be a great way to celebrate certain films and filmmakers who don’t have a chance in the Best Director or Best Picture categories. But it would also just be nice way of including more independent cinema and young emerging storytellers at the Oscars. With that minor diatribe out of the way, let’s get to the winner because this is the most I have been impressed with a first time director in some time. Andrew Patterson’s work on his film, The Vast of Night, is nothing short of awe-inspiring. I am blown away by what this man was able to accomplish in his first feature with a shoestring budget. It is incredibly rare for your first film to draw comparisons to Spielberg, but it is even more rare for those comparisons to actually be legitimate and not hyperbole. That is what Patterson did with The Vast of Night. Perhaps the best way to quantify just how impressed I was by Pattersons directing, is to look at the other four incredible nominees in this category. Max Barbakow wrote and directed one of the most universally beloved films of the year in Palm Springs. Darius Marder’s first feature, The Sound of Metal, is up for Best Picture this Sunday night. Radha Blank announced herself as one of the most unique and creative voices in entertainment with The Forty-Year-Old Version. And Cooper Raiff became perhaps my number one young filmmaker to watch after Shithouse, because he reminded me of some of my favorite writer/directors of all time, including Noah Baumbach and Richard Linklater. But despite all of that, I could not deny the technical skill and overall brilliance that Patterson displayed in his first feature when deciding the winner of this award. Hopefully, he has a long and successful career ahead of him.

Award #15: Best Cast

Nominees:

  • Mank
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  • Minari
  • Judas and the Black Messiah
  • One Night in Miami…

And The Winner Is: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

ma2

My final award was as difficult to choose a winner for as any of the prior 14. There were a great deal of truly incredible performances spread out amongst the five films nominated in this category. But ultimately, when a movie contains the two people that I believe should receive the Best Actor AND Best Actress award at the Oscars this Sunday, that is the film I have to go with. The two people I’m referring to are of course Viola Davis and the late great Chadwick Boseman. And while they may have been the two standouts in this film—both giving unbelievable, career-defining performances—there were many other actors who contributed to this cast winning this award. Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman, Michael Potts, Taylour Paige, and Dusan Brown were all outstanding. More so than other film from last year, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was powered by its performances. This film would not have achieved even half of the success that it did with a lesser cast. I want to briefly praise the other nominees in this category though, as well as just all the movies that I loved from 2020. We all know last year was a bizarre and devastating year, but we still did get some great films and performances to help us get through it. Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried were incredibly memorable and charming in Mank. Every member of the family in Minari helped make that movie as heartfelt and effective as it ultimately was. In Judas and the Black Messiah, Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield proved they are two of the best actors working today with truly powerful performances. And the four main actors in One Night in Miami… gave masterful performances that, similar to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, were vital to the success of their film. Even though we may not have been able to watch all of these films in the exact ways we wanted to, I’m very grateful for the movies we received in 2020.

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