And the silliest plot Oscar goes to…
As Academy members begin to sift through the contenders for Oscars in the new year, here are Dan Carrier’s alternative awards for movies in 2019 – highlighting not just the cream of the 12 months in film, but ones that moved him in different ways...
02 January, 2020 — By Dan Carrier
Keanu Reeves in John Wick
The Keanu Reeves vehicle John Wick was not a pleasant watch. With knife crime in the headlines, the question must be asked: who wants to see such on screen violence? But director Chad Stahelski has taken a cue from some of the best Hong Kong style Kung Fu action movies of the 80s and 90s (think Donnie Yen/John Woo/early Jackie Chan) and you get the idea of how crazy the choreography is in this superbly produced, if uncomfortable action film.
Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to the movies with an alternative Charles Manson plot intertwined, wasn’t a nice film: how the director dealt with the murder of actress Sharon Tate is horribly flippant. But the film had a saving grace in how it was cast, shot and dressed: Brad Pitt, wearing a Champion spark plugs T-shirt and a funky Hawaiian shirt, prompted fashionistas to go online immediately, buy the look and pretend they’d had such garments long before Pitt sashayed his way sexily through scenes.
Amazing Grace, the documentary shot by Sydney Pollack of a gig Aretha Franklin did at a Baptist church in the early 1970s, is almost a cheat in this category as it’s a no brainer the music will dominate.
Perhaps the same can be said of Rocket Man, the bio-pic of Elton John. Taron Egerton – previously in the Kingsmen series, which must count as some of the worst films ever to accidentally get off a one-page pitch and be made into a movie, is excellent in the lead, and the music will convert the staunchest, anti-Elton grump into a fan.
Yesterday should also get a mention, simply because who doesn’t want to be reminded of The Beatles superb catalogue?
Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor in Midsommar
Ari Auster’s Midsommar had plenty of contenders for this one: it’s hard to say which characters demise was most shocking, but the early deaths – the euthanasia via a high cliff of elders – was particularly disturbing.
The film also wins for nastiest sex scene, which is enough to make any one take a prolonged vow of celibacy.
The Joker deserves special credit for how Joaquin Phoenix’s character despatches of a colleague who’s been bullying him. Horrible.
Subtlest political message of the year
You could go for Ken Loach’s amazing Sorry We Missed You – but it was so powerful, it doesn’t qualify for this category. The same applies to the Keira Knightley-led film Official Secrets, which told the true story of GCHQ Iraq War whistle-blower Katharine Gun – a great watch, but hardly gentle when it comes to laying out how badly the UK behaved when seeking a reason to support the US in deposing Saddam Hussein. Bait, about gentrification in Cornwall, dealt well with the issue.
But the winner has to be the documentary Honeyland, that tells the story of a mother and daughter living in a ramshackle hovel in the wilds of Macedonia has the best piece of political philosophy tucked away in a beautifully shot story of a woman who tends to bees. The message is simple: don’t covet more than you need, and the only way to live in a decent world is to share. Powerful.
Silliest Plot Twist
Many contenders for this one – especially as some high-grossing films of the year were science fiction, such as Ad Astra, which was great to look at, but eventually wearing because it was all just a bit silly. Special mention also to Danny Boyle’s Yesterday (again) – it was beautifully stupidly fantastical, and had a horrible dose of Richard Curtis-style sweetness too.
The excellent B Movie, Crawl, by Alexandre Aja saw alligators invade the home of the dad of a professional swimmer. It had a global warming message within, but rode high because of its overall absurdity, which it wore with deserved pride.
Rambo – Last Blood scoops this category, simply because Sly Stallone’s psychopathic pensioner would never be allowed to adopt a daughter who is then kidnapped by Mexican drug cartels, which he then has to go and bump off single-handedly.
It would be unfair to single out Sly without giving his peer Arnold Schwarzenegger an honorary mention: Terminator: Dark Fate has Arnie as a curtain and soft furnishings salesman. The plot is actually exactly the same as the originally Terminator, and it worked nicely then – but watching the same story play out once more just felt preposterous.
Booksmart, the coming-of-age comedy starring Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever as the two high school swots learning that life isn’t all about the revision you’ve done. It’s brilliantly observed and has a big heart – and packed with giggle-inducing sequences that will warm you on dark, cold nights.
Back to Ari Auster’s Midsommar for this one: heading to a Swedish summer festival, and finding you can’t get away from the hippies when you need some down time. Anyone who has been to Glastonbury will understand quite how frightening this premise actually is…
Best food scenes to whip up an appetite
This award has to got to The Green Book, a film that divided opinion last January when it came to the UK. It tells the story of black pianist Don Shirley and Italian American driver Frank Vallelonga who go on a road trip into the South and face racism as they travel from concert to concert.
The film is packed with people shovelling food in to their giant gobs. A spaghetti and meat balls feast gets things started and then it’s hot dogs and burgers scoffed at the wheel of a 50s gas guzzler, or late-night breakfasts served in funky looking diners.
It’s loaded with scenes that will make you want to gobble up as much American fast food junk as you can lay your hands on.