Celebrating The Films of 2021 With Awards That Don’t Exist at The Oscars

The third annual Not A Real Person Yet awards (The NARPYs?) have arrived.

We are only a handful of days away from the 94th Oscars. But before the Academy disappoints us with their choices, I need to hand out my own—much more legitimate, prestigious, and relevant—awards.

For the third year in a row, I’ve created 15 categories that do not exist at the actual Oscars. I do this to celebrate the best films from the previous year, as well as shine a spotlight on movies that aren’t being discussed as much during awards season. Just like the previous two years, 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. Most categories have 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


And The Winner Is: Time Stands StillThe Worst Person in the World

It’s never easy to decide which ten nominees to include in this category, let alone choose an actual winner. All ten of these scenes stuck with me long after I finished watching these films. They each have a case for being considered the scene of the year. Ultimately, I decided to give the “time freezes” scene from The Worst Person in the World the victory here. Not only did this scene stir an incredible amount of emotions in me while I was watching it in the theater, it also left me thinking “I’ve never really seen anything like this before,” which is a difficult task to accomplish. When the world freezes around Julie (Renate Reinsve) and she takes off running down the streets of Oslo to meet her new potential love interest, the audience is not only able to relate to every single emotion Julie is feeling in this moment, they are also left mesmerized by Joachim Trier’s masterful filmmaking. Another reason I chose this scene as the winner in this category is because so much of this film can be understood by just watching this one moment. The bittersweet tone that dominates the majority of this movie is captured perfectly and succinctly in this three-ish minute scene. When looked at through a certain lens, this can be seen as one of the most romantic scenes of the year. However, when put into the context of the full story being told in this film, it can also be argued that this is one of the most deeply sad scenes of the year, despite the joy that can be seen on Julie’s face throughout. Any single scene that can do all that is more than worthy of this award in my opinion.

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


  • 8-Bit Christmas
  • Black Widow
  • Cruella
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Vacation Friends

And The Winner Is: Jungle Cruise


Each year I think it is important to note that this category does not go to the film I liked the most out of the five nominees. Instead, it goes to the film who exceeded my low expectations by the widest margin. And I can assure you that I had incredibly low expectations going into Jungle Cruise. Despite a fair amount of acting talent within the cast, I was not expecting to enjoy this film. But, to my surprise, I actually had a pretty decent time with this film. I’m not bold enough to say that this is a great, or even good, film by any means. However, it kept my attention throughout and—considering what it was ultimately trying to be—was a pretty successful, fun, and harmless movie. I would describe the other four nominees in this category in a similar manner. None of these films are great, but I didn’t regret watching any of them and for that, I thank them.

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


  • Rachel Zegler, West Side Story
  • Alana Haim, Licorice Pizza
  • Simon Rex, Red Rocket
  • Mike Faist, West Side Story
  • Bradley Cooper, Licorice Pizza/Nightmare Alley
  • Renate Reinsve, The Worst Person in the World
  • Hidetoshi Nishijima, Drive My Car
  • Ruth Negga, Passing
  • Rachel Sennott, Shiva Baby
  • Nicholas Cage, Pig

And The Winner Is: Simon Rex, Red Rocket


Before I delve deeper into the performance I chose as the winner in this category, I want to briefly touch on how difficult it was to choose the nominations and victor in this category. I originally thought the Academy did a pretty good job with their nominations this year, but when I was thinking of possible nominees for this category I realized just how many names they missed in the acting categories. All ten of the performers I nominated in this category absolutely have a case for being nominated on Sunday night. Moreover, there were several names that I wanted to include in this category but just simply didn’t have room for. Cooper Hoffman, Dakota Johnson, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Marion Cotillard, Emilia Jones, Joaquin Phoenix, Tessa Thompson, and Ben Affleck all just missed the cut of earning a nomination in this category. I guess what I’m trying to say is we were blessed with a lot of great performances in 2021, and I’m still confounded by some of the names the Academy decided to include, and not include, in their acting categories.

Now, onto Simon Rex. It’s hard for me to definitively say that Rex gave the best performance out of the ten nominees in this category. Honestly, the main reason I chose him as the winner here, besides from the fact that I loved his performance, is because this category is about highlighting performances and films that the Oscars omitted—and Rex’s performance in Red Rocket is the exact type of performance that I wish the Academy would celebrate more often. When I wrote my Oscar nominations reaction blog, I likened Rex’s snub this year to Adam Sandler’s Uncut Gems snub in 2019. I did this because, at times, it can feel like there is a “club” you need to be a part of to earn an Oscar nomination. Films and performers outside of this “club” seem to have a hard time getting in. Going forward, I wish the Academy would have a little more fun and embrace performances like Rex’s, though I’m not optimistic that we’ll see that happen anytime soon. The best I can do for now is award him a NARPY. Congratulations, Simon, you really did give one of the best, most electrifying, and most despicably brilliant performances of 2021.

Award #4: Best Comedy


  • The French Dispatch
  • Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar
  • Bad Trip
  • Zola
  • Together Together

And The Winner Is: Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar


In order to make this category a little more interesting, as well as highlight some films people may not have seen, I decided to omit any film that was on my top ten list that could technically be considered a comedy (Licorice Pizza, Inside, Shiva Baby, and Red Rocket). I did this mainly because I wanted to nominate true, straight-forward comedies in this category—instead of genre-blending films like my beloved Licorice Pizza. Ultimately, this proved to be a difficult task because 2021 was a rough year for comedies. It’s a fairly well-known fact that it has been getting harder and harder to finance and make movies like this in Hollywood over the last couple of years. In fact, when I looked at my list of 2021 movies attempting to come up with nominees for this category, I found it difficult to find even ten films from the past year that I both truly enjoyed and could be classified as comedies. Luckily though, the winner in this category is not only a true old-fashioned comedy, but a delightful film as well. Barb & Star did not get the attention or praise that it deserved in 2021. Personally, I didn’t even end up watching it until months after it came out. Once I actually saw it though, I immediately regretted waiting that long. This is a genuinely hilarious movie, and one of the best viewing experiences I had in 2021. If I’m being honest, it is probably the only pure comedy from last year that I felt comfortable awarding in this category. It has a great weird and quirky tone without ever obnoxiously trying to come off as weird and quirky. Each of the four stars—Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Jamie Dornan, and Damon Wayans Jr.— give a genuinely tremendous comedic performance. If you’re reading this and haven’t seen this film yet, I strongly recommend you watch it.

Award #5: Best Music Moment in a Film


And The Winner Is: “Let Me Roll It” Needle DropLicorice Pizza

This was really a two horse race for me, and funnily enough both moments heavily featured Sir Paul McCartney. Ultimately, it came down to the fact that the “Let Me Roll It” needle drop in Licorice Pizza is more of a great film moment perfectly enhanced by music—while McCartney coming up with “Get Back” on the spot, in The Beatles: Get Back, was more of just a great, historic moment that happened to be captured on film. Unfortunately, this scene is nowhere available online. This is most likely due to the fact Licorice Pizza is not yet available to stream anywhere. However, I’m more than confident that anyone who has seen this movie is well aware of this moment and the goosebumps-inducing power that it has. Adding music to a film is a much harder task than most people realize, which is why PTA’s brilliance was so impressive in this moment. This is a case of a director enhancing his story by placing the perfect song in the perfect moment. That’s not something you see that often. Also, I just want to point out that each year this category serves as a great argument for seeing movies in the theater. Regardless of the film you’re watching, some moments just hit differently in a theater, on a big screen, with giant speakers surrounding you.

Award #6: Best Film With Zero Oscar Nominations


  • C’mon C’mon
  • The French Dispatch
  • The Card Counter
  • Red Rocket
  • Bergman Island

And The Winner Is: C’mon C’mon

cmon cmon

This is a new category I decided to add this year because I wanted to highlight how many truly great films can get completely shut out from the Oscars in any given year. Personally, I think all five of these films are better than a handful of the films up for Best Picture on Saturday night, but that’s besides the point. The real point is that C’mon C’mon is a beautiful, endearing, and masterfully-crafted film, and it’s a true shame that the Academy couldn’t find a single category to nominate it in. Honestly though, this category is not about celebrating just one film. All five of these movies deserve more recognition and to be seen by more mainstream audiences. Since the Academy won’t give them that attention, I want to strongly urge anyone reading this to watch not only C’mon C’mon, but Red RocketThe French DispatchThe Card Counter, and Bergman Island as well. You won’t be disappointed.

Award #7: Most Rewatchable Film


  • Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar
  • Coda
  • Licorice Pizza
  • West Side Story
  • The Worst Person in the World

And The Winner Is: Licorice Pizza


It’s never easy to articulate what specific qualities make a movie rewatchable. You can point to the characters, the jokes, the story, the action, the scope, or the emotions. But ultimately, the movies we love returning to over and over again just have some sort of ineffable “it” factor that keeps us coming back. To me, the 2021 film that captured that quality more than any other was Licorice Pizza. Admittedly, each of these five films has good reasons for viewers to return frequently. Barb & Star has its great humor, Coda has its feel-good and heartwarming tone, West Side Story has immaculate filmmaking and stunning musical numbers, and The Worst Person in the World has relatability in its story and an engaging, unique filmmaking style. But there’s no film world from 2021 that I would most often want to revisit than the one Paul Thomas Anderson created in Licorice Pizza. Interestingly enough, a lot of people’s main criticism of this film is actually one of the main reasons I consider it to be so rewatchable. Some people had an issue with the fact that this film is, in their opinion, nothing more than a series of vignettes or small scenes without any overarching plot stringing them together. Now, I would disagree with the sentiment that this film isn’t “about anything,” but the fact that there are so many great independent moments/scenes in this film is the reason why I see myself returning to it a lot over the next few years. Sure, this film may not be as plot-driven as some of the other nominees, but when there is something truly great in nearly every scene, that isn’t a problem for me.

Award #8: Best Quote


  • “Whatever you plan on happening, never happens. Stuff you would never think of happens. So you just have to c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon…” – Jesse, C’mon C’mon
  • “Yes, I do love you. But I also don’t.” – Julie, The Worst Person in the World
  • “Try to make it sound like you wrote it that way on purpose.” – Arthur Howitzer, Jr., The French Dispatch
  • “You take care of your mother. And you take care of, if you have one, your woman. If you drink, you keep your shit together. If your shit’s not together, you don’t drink. Don’t be like one of these assholes who acts like it was Jesus who came down and made him late for work and spend all their money and throw back Old Hammerhead and Vanilla Coka for thirty years. You know what I’m saying? It’s about being a man.” – Uncle Charlie, The Tender Bar
  • “If you really want to look at someone, then your only option is to look at yourself squarely and deeply.” – Kôshi Takatsuki, Drive My Car

And The Winner Is: “Yes, I do love you. But I also don’t.” – Julie, The Worst Person in the World

Even more challenging than choosing the scene of the year, it’s always difficult to pick the one single line of dialogue that stands out from the rest in a given film year. That is why I like to award this category to the quote that is not only great and memorable, but is able to capture the entire essence of the film it appears in. For me, no quote represents its film better than Julie telling Askel she both loves him and does not love him. You’re able to immediately understand so much about this film, this story, and this character from that one moment. And Renate Reinsve’s perfect delivery of that line elevates it to an even higher level. Admittedly, I also just wanted to reward what I think is one of the greatest screenplays from 2021 in this category as well.

Award #9: Best Theater Experience


  • Dune
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home
  • Licorice Pizza
  • West Side Story
  • The Suicide Squad

And The Winner Is: Spider-Man: No Way Home


Due to the pandemic, I could not include this category in my awards last year. I’m thrilled to have it back this year though, because movie theaters returning to our lives after roughly a year of being closed was truly one of my favorite things about 2021. And I knew I had to give this win to the one film that dominated movie theaters in 2021 more than any other. Say what you will about this film or the MCU as a whole, seeing this movie in a packed theater felt like a return to a pre-pandemic time, and remains probably the most fun experience I had in a theater in 2021. Spider-Man: No Way Home was not the best film of 2021 by any means, but one of the reasons going to movie theaters is so important and so great is that it gives you a true communal experience. You sit in the audience and you know that you’re all on this ride together. And it was hard to sit in a theater for a showing of No Way Home and not feel a palpable sense of joy, anticipation, and wonderment in the air around you. Another thing that made this theater experience so special is the fact that the film actually delivered on its promise. It’s rare for a film with this much hype to actually live up to it, but I feel No Way Home pulled that off. It’s also important to note that I’m not the biggest MCU fan in the world or anything. In fact, while I like and care about many MCU films, I wasn’t a big fan of any of the three other movies they released in 2021. But you have to give them credit when they deserve it. And Spider-Man: No Way Home deserves credit for being the best theater experience of 2021 for me and so many others.

Award #10: Best Performance in a Bad Film


  • Jodie Comer, Free Guy
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up
  • Barry Keoghan, Eternals
  • Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos
  • J.K. Simmons, Being the Ricardos

And The Winner Is: Jodie Comer, Free Guy


It’s always important to note that I use the term “bad film” pretty loosely in this category. For instance, while I’m not a huge Don’t Look Up fan, I can admit that it is far better than something like Free Guy or Eternals. It’s also important to note that this was a difficult category to choose a winner for this year because I honestly don’t love any of these performances. Ultimately, I decided to go with the performance that I thought exceeded the quality of the film it was in by the largest difference. And since I truly hate Free Guy as a film, but am a fan of Jodie Comer and thought she gave a perfectly fine/good performance in this film, I’m giving her the award. I was not blown away by her performance in this film or anything, but she is far and away the best thing about Free Guy. I also thought she was great in another 2021 film, The Last Duel, that I liked much more than Free Guy. Going forward, I hope she finds herself in more roles like that, and less roles like this.

Award #11: Most Underrated Film


  • Shiva Baby
  • Pig
  • Zola
  • The Card Counter
  • The Tender Bar

And The Winner Is: Zola


Zola winning this award is a great example of how much release dates matter when it comes to awards season and end-of-the-year lists. This was genuinely one of the best, most fun, and exciting films of the year, but because it came out over the summer, it got lost from people’s minds when it came time to honor the best films of the year. To be fair, there is a case to be made that Zola isn’t actually that underrated because it did receive a fair amount of praise from the people who did see it. But I still feel comfortable giving it this award because I just did not feel like I heard this film be talked about as much as it should have been last year. This film contains two genuinely great starring performances from Taylour Paige and Riley Keough, some solid comedic relief from Nicholas Braun, and one of the most vibrant directing efforts of the year from Janicza Bravo. The film is also just a really exciting and engaging ride from start to finish. I hope more people choose to seek it out on streaming services at some point in the future because it deserves a lot more recognition than it got in 2021.

Award #12: Breakthrough Performer


  • Cooper Hoffman, Licorice Pizza
  • Alana Haim, Licorice Pizza
  • Rachel Sennott, Shiva Baby
  • Rachel Zegler, West Side Story
  • Woody Norman, C’mon C’mon
  • Simu Liu, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  • Mike Faist, West Side Story
  • Ariana Debose, West Side Story
  • Renate Reinsve, The Worst Person in the World
  • Suzanna Son, Red Rocket

And The Winner Is: Rachel Zegler, West Side Story


Believe it or not, this was another category that it was difficult to select the nominees for. Unfortunately, I had to leave a handful of names off the nominations list because there were just too many great performances from up-and-coming actors and actresses in 2021. When thinking about who I ultimately wanted to give this award to, degree of difficulty played a huge factor in my decision making. West Side Story was Rachel Zegler’s first ever film role. I cannot imagine taking on a character as iconic as Maria in a story as iconic as this one in your first ever role on screen. I think everyone who saw this movie would agree that she absolutely knocked it out of the park though. In a film filled with several great performances, she still managed to stand out. She had everything that is required to play the role of Maria successfully. Singing, dancing, emotion, innocence, romance—there was nothing she didn’t nail. Although I’m not the biggest musical fan in the world, I am really looking forward to seeing how the rest of Zegler’s career plays out. She became a legitimate star with just one performance and I see her continuing that momentum into many great roles in the future. Truthfully, film lovers should look at the performances of 2021 and feel grateful that there are an incredible amount of young stars who are destined to give memorable performances in the coming years.

Award #13: Best Hidden Gem


  • Bergman Island
  • Together Together
  • Annette
  • The Climb
  • Happily

And The Winner Is: Together Together


Once again we have a category that requires a bit of a disclaimer. I do not award this category to the film I flat-out enjoyed the most. Bergman Island was in my top ten films of 2021 list so if that were the case, it would be the easy winner here. Instead, I award this category to the film that I heard and saw being discussed, analyzed, and reviewed the least throughout the course of last year. Together Together is not an amazing film by any means, but it is a really solid—and unique—comedy that apparently was seen by almost no one. This movie was released in April last year and just kind of came and went. I strongly recommend people seek it out online though because it’s hard not to be charmed by this film. It tells the story of the friendship that grows between a single man in his 40s and a young loner who becomes his gestational surrogate. It contains probably the best Ed Helms film performance of his career, and a surprisingly good breakthrough performance from Patti Harrison as well. It’s also important to note that this film will always hold a special place in my heart because it is the first film I saw in movie theaters after they reopened in 2021. For that reason alone, I will always be grateful for it.

Award #14: Best First Time Director


  • Emma Seligman, Shiva Baby
  • Michael Sarnoski, Pig
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Lost Daughter
  • Rebecca Hall, Passing
  • Questlove, Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

And The Winner Is: Emma Seligman, Shiva Baby


I say this every year I do these awards but this is a category the Oscars need to include in their show. It’s the Rookie of the Year award, it’s Best New Artist at the Grammys, and I don’t understand why the Academy does not incorporate it into their awards. It would be a great way to honor certain films and filmmakers that don’t have a chance at being recognized in some of the major categories. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to Emma Seligman and the incredible work she did in her feature debut, Shiva Baby. For those unaware, Seligman wrote and directed Shiva Baby, and it was actually based on own her short film of the same name from 2018. I saw this film fairly early on in 2021 but it remained in my top ten for the entire year. Not only did I love the unique story, the awkward humor, and the performances—I was absolutely blown away by Seligman’s directing. The amount of tension she is able to add to this story through her filmmaking is one of the main reasons the film is as successful as it is. Through the use of sound, camera work, and close-up shots she is able to create a claustrophobic and overwhelming feeling for the audience that mirrors the exact feelings the main character, Danielle, is going through. Like Danielle, we feel trapped at this event. And the ever-growing tension in this story builds and releases at the perfect moments. It takes a skilled filmmaker to tell a story like this and make it an engaging experience for the audience. Seligman clearly proved she has the skills to pull something like that off, and I’m sure a whole lot more is coming in the future.

Award #15: Best Cast


  • The Power of the Dog
  • Licorice Pizza
  • The Lost Daughter
  • Coda
  • Drive My Car

And The Winner Is: The Power of the Dog


Finally, in the last category, the film with the most Oscar nominations this year—and possibly a Best Picture win in its future—gets some recognition at my awards. Here’s the thing, I really like and admire The Power of the Dog, ultimately though, it was not one of my favorite 15 films from 2021. However, I cannot deny the brilliance of the performances in this film. There is a reason the film’s four stars all received nominations at the Oscars. At its center, this film contains arguably the best performance of the year from Benedict Cumberbatch. And he is surrounded by genuinely great efforts from Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst, and Kodi Smit-McPhee. Jane Campion’s directing may be the driving force behind this film, but it does not reach the same level of quality without its four stars. While I admire the work done by the Coda cast, loved the ensemble in Licorice Pizza, was moved by the performances in Drive My Car, and was wildly impressed by the three leads in The Lost DaughterI do not believe there was a cast that collectively performed better than The Power of the Dog‘s did in 2021. Looking back on the nominees in this category though, as well as the previous 14, I’m reminded of just how much great work we saw from the film world in 2021. I can only hope that we get more of the same in 2022.



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