Avatar: The Way of Water
Crimes of the Future
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
The Woman King
This year felt like a split. Telling you precisely why I picked Crimes of the Future is tough in part because as it unfolded there was a tremendous interplay of ideas about creation, art, viewership, life, and death. Specific notes might be taken upon my next viewing. For now, suffice it to say that there was a repulsion/attraction to this film, identification with and fear of the themes, yet also its playful with filmic tropes. It’s a layered film worth revisiting that I think might garner more of an audience in years to come.
James Cameron Avatar: The Way of Water
David Cronenberg Crimes of the Future
Jame Gray Armageddon Time
Steven Spielberg The Fabelmans
Dan Trachtenberg Prey
This was a year that felt like a split. Spielberg’s work in The Fabelmans is so assured it seems effortless, and we all know it’s not. He can still tug on heartstrings as well as anyone, but here also it occurs with ease and without coercion. Emotions are felt acutely like in any great film and the accomplishment is so superlative. It his testament to his lifelong love that gifts us another wonderful film.
Brian and Charles
Lyle, Lyle Crocodile
Animation is a medium, not a genre. It doesn’t inherently mean the work is made for children. Mad God is virtually without dialogue and is a mind-blowing affair that as it goes on creates its own rhythm and meaning. If you want to challenge your preconceived notions about the medium and other things, check this out.
David Brenner, James Cameron, John Refoua, Stephen E. Rivkin Avatar: The Way of Water
Sarah Broshar, Michael Kahn The Fabelmans
Christopher Donaldson Crimes of the Future
Elliot Greenberg Smile
Yorgos Mavropsaridis The Cursed
Aside from the sequence above, The Cursed also crosscuts through time. There are transformations, varied locations and the edits always work to heighten tension, add layers and create meaning.
Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween Ends
Viola Davis The Woman King
Amber Midthunder Prey
Michelle Williams The Fabelmans
Michelle Yeoh Everything Everywhere All At Once
The leading ladies in this category for the most part kicked butt in the physical sense, but all of them of course had battles to wage. The battles Michelle Yeoh wages in Everything Everywhere All At Once are intergenerational, timeless, intense and put all her range on display.
Kevin Bacon They/Them
Austin Butler Elvis
Nicolas Cage The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
Daniel Craig Glass Onion
Viggo Mortensen Crimes of the Future
I knew Tom Hanks would win his second consecutive Oscar. People who weren’t sure he would were thinking about history and how back-to-back hadn’t occurred since Spencer Tracy in 1937 and 1938. The reason I “knew” was naivety really. I thought Hanks deserved to win regardless. The Oscars don’t often care about who deserves it, but since in my awards “deserves” is all that matters I asked myself would I only not pick Cage because he won last year? When I realized that was true I also realized what my favorite performance of the year was.
Asia Argento Dark Glasses
Angela Bassett Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Jamie Lee Curtis Everything Everywhere All At Once
Stephanie Hsu Everything Everywhere All At Once
Thuso Mbedu The Woman King
Whether here or in other award shows, typically two nominees from the same movie in the same category that doesn’t bode well for either of those nominees winning. That’s not been the case this year with Best Supporting Actor and my awards are no different. It was hard to decide between Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu, but the emotional charge in Hsu’s scenes were undeniable.
Anthony Hopkins Armageddon Time
Judd Hirsch The Fabelmans
Pedro Pascal The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
Ke Huy Quan Eveything Everywhere All At Once
Donald Sutherland Mr. Harrigan’s Phone
Ke Huy Quan had a small role in a Netflix film called Finding Ohana. When I saw that I thought it was nice to see him working again but that was all. It wasn’t a role that challenged him. I certainly didn’t expect the powerhouse turn he gave in Everything Everywhere All At Once.
Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Leading Role
Madalen Mills Tiger Rising
Ryan Kiera Armstrong Firestarter
Rakel Lenora Fløttum The Innocents
Violet McGraw A Christmas Mystery
Momona Tamada Secret Headquarters
Gabriella Uhl 13: The Musical
The Innocents is a movie that doesn’t jolt, instead it gets under your skin. To accomplish that a lot hinges on performance. Rakel Lenora Fløttum can unnerve with a smile and through stoic delivery rather than modulation.
Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Leading Role
Winslow Fegley Lyle, Lyle Crocodile
Eli Golden 13: The Musical
Brooks Repeta Armageddon Time
Walker Scobell The Adam Project
Mason Thames The Black Phone
Rueby Wood Better Nate Than Ever
To be a lead in a film and have an emotional arc and carry the dramatic moments is hard enough, to play a lead and to be a comedic foil against one of the current masters of the one-liner with impeccable timing is even harder, to do both is so near impossible that when it’s accomplished, you’re now a bona fide star. And that’s exactly what Walker Scobell did in The Adam Project.
Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Supporting Role
Aria Brooks Better Nate Than Ever
Alma Brynsmo Ramstad The Innocents
Julia Butters The Fabelmans
Mykal-Michelle Harris Cheaper by the Dozen
Millie Kiss The Cursed
Madeleine McGraw The Black Phone
In The Black Phone Madeleine McGraw runs the full gamut: in moments of doubt she prays to a God she fears might not be there, she says what she’s thinking to the cops when she’s angry with them and talks to them calmly when they want her help, she fights for her brother, cowers from her father, and plays action hero when she has visions.
Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Supporting Role
Jack Champion Avatar: The Way of Water
Max Mackintosh The Cursed
Daniel Ranieri The Tender Bar
Javon ‘Wanna’ Walker Samaritan
Jaylin Webb Armageddon Time
Xinyu Zhang Dark Glasses
Due to the fact that Max Mackintosh’s character doesn’t just disappear like many young victim’s in horror films, The Cursed begins to set itself apart. What happens when he returns is what makes is special. Max Mackintosh’s ability to convey fear, to be the audience’s conduit into the story, and to later convey true terror and fear are what makes him stand out in this talented field.
Trinity Jo-Li Bliss, Jack Champion, Britain Dalton, Bailey Bass, Duane Evns, Jr. Avatar: The Way of Water
Kylie Rodgers, Andre Robinson, Kaylee Blosenski, Aryan Simhadri, Leo Abelo Perry, Mykal-Michelle Harris, Christian Cote, Sebastian Cote, Alijah Francis Cheaper by the Dozen
Max Mackintosh, Tommy Rodger, Millie Kiss, Tom Sweet, Áine Rose Daley The Cursed
Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord, Keeley Karsten, Alina Bruce, Julia Butters, Birdie Borria, Sophia Kopera, Sam Rechner, Oakes Fegley, Isabelle Kusman, Chandler Lovelle The Fabelmans
Walker Scobell, Keith L. Williams, Momona Tamada, Abby Jane Witherspoon, Kezii Curtis Secret Headquarters
Mason Thames, Madeline McGraw, Miguel Cazarez Mora, Rebecca Clarke, J. Gaven Wilde, Spencer Fitzgerald, Jordan Isaiah White, Brady Ryan, Tristan Pravong, Jacob Moran, Brandy Hepner, Banks Repeta The Black Phone
The kids in The Black Phone have to play, in some cases, both dead and alive. Whether they cross that divide or not in many cases they aren’t interacting with the adults in the story, they are alone or playing off each other. When they are faced off with adults its combative. Without them this film would’ve had no chance of working.
Boyd Holbrook, Kelly Reilly, Alistair Petrie, Roxane Duran, Nigel Betts, Stuart Bowman, Simon Kunz, Amelia Crouch, Max Mackintosh, Tommy Rodger, Áine Rose Daly, Millie Kiss, Tom Sweet, et al. The Cursed
Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tallie Medel, Jenny Slate, Biff Wiff, et al. Everything Everywhere All At Once
Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, Gabriel Labelle, Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord, Keeley Karsten, Alina Bruce, Julia Butters, Birdie Borria, Judd Hirsch, Sophia Kopera, Jeannie Berlin, Robin Bartlett, Sam Rechner, Oakes Fegley, Isabelle Kusman, Chandler Lovelle, et al. The Fabelmans
Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr.,Kate Hudosn, Dave Bautista, Jessica Henwick, Madeline Cline, Noah Segan, Jackie Hoffman, Dallas Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Hugh Grant et al. Glass Onion
Viola Davis, Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, John Boyega, Jordan Bolger, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Jimmy Odukoya, Masali Baduza, Jayme Lawson, Adrienne Warren, Chioma Umeala, et al. The Woman King
The work of all these casts is of course exceptional, what separates the cast of Everything Everywhere All At Once is that they have to play a consistent storyline in varying modalities and genres. Previous moment meets present genre to make a cohesive whole (not unlike the everything bagel) and it does so in large part due to the commitment of all of its players.
Sean Ellis The Cursed
Tom Gormican, Kevin Etten The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
Daniel Kwan, Dan Scheiner Everything Everywhere All at Once
Jordan Peele Nope
Steven Spielberg, Tony Kushner The Fabelmans
What you get in these Best Original Screenplay nominees is reinventions: reinvention of werewolf lore, reinvention of first-generation American family dramas, alien invasions, artists as young men, and Nicolas Cage. What makes the Unbearable Weight so exceptional is that it plays on persona, genre tropes, and film as metaphor for life in ways both humorous and profound.
Patrick Aison, Dan Trachtenberg, Jim Thomas Prey
David Cronenberg Crimes of the Future
Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill and Joe Hill The Black Phone
James Vanderbilt, Guy Busick, Kevin Williamson Scream
Rian Johnson Glass Onion
The common thread of these adapted screenplay nominations is the unexpected twist on the expected story. In Prey to have the Predator encounter a Comanche tribe centuries ago makes the series feel refreshed and more vital than ever. The changes to Joe Hill’s short story “The Black Phone” are cinematic and perfect. The Glass Onion takes a well-known trope of a man and makes his disassembly as surprisingly exacting as it is hilarious. When Scream returns you expect precise dissection of horror tropes, but feeling as if the series had never left and didn’t miss a beat and could swing as big at the current state of play was a pleasant surprise. However, while it might seem as if adapting one’s own earlier feature into a new version might seem simple but Cronenberg made this version of Crimes of the Future as apropos to 2022 as the original was to 1970, perhaps more so.
Bruno Delbonnel The Tragedy of MacBeth
Janusz Kaminski The Fabelmans
Charlie Sarroff Smile
Larkin Seiple Everything Everywhere All At Once
Mandy Walker Elvis
In this category I have one hold-over from last year’s awards season. Delbonnel’s black and white work is so stunning that deserves the recognition though it was a January wide release. It can be easy to be numbed to Kaminski’s brilliance, but he brings brilliance and luminescence to Spielberg’s images like no one else has. Seiple films many worlds and conveys them as one because they are. Mandy Walker makes Elvis’s life a show and shows us his life. However, what Sarroff does in Smile is to move the camera so smoothly and persistently, twisting big and small as the world around the characters turns upside down.
Avatar: The Way of Water
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Everything Everywhere All At Once
Awarding Avatar Best Visual Effects might seem like a no-brainer, but for the edition to top what it did visually the first time around was expected, to exceed that to reach the cutting edge again and to also be the most successful high frame-rate I’ve seen so far is not to be overlooked.
Terence Blanchard The Woman King
Cody Carpenter, John Carpenter, Daniel A. Davies Firestarter
Howard Shore Crimes of the Future
Cristobal Tapia de Veer Smile
John Williams The Fabelmans
John Williams’ music is almost indistinguishable from the classical pieces that Mitzi plays; Terence Blanchard’s score, like The Woman King, deserved more recognition this awards season; Tapia de Veer’s music is a huge part of why Smile is so unnerving; The Carpenters and Daniel A. Davies outdid their Halloween work in the Firestarter remake; however, Howard Shore’s work on Crimes of the Future is not only his best in some time but sets the surreal and unsettling tone from the beginning. Listen to it here.
The Adam Project
Minions: The Rise of Gru Spirited
The performances by Austin Butler and the select few non-Elvis singers in this film are a large part of what had me almost create two best song categories. Ultimately, I had to decide how to handle these two categories because the real possibility existed of having songs from Elvis be multiple if not all Best Song nominations and Best Soundtrack. Elvis’s work is a shortcut to Best Soundtrack but the performances in this film make it a worthy victory.
“The Bloodmaster” Eli Golden, Frankie McNellis, JD McCrary, Lindsey Blackwell, Shechinah Mpulwana, Nolen Debuc, & Ensemble 13: The Musical
“On Broadway (Busking Version)” Rueby Wood, Lucky Chops Better Nate Than Ever
“Machinery of Torment” Skullflower Metal Lords
“One Way or Another” Bette Middler, Sarah Jessica Parker & Kathy Najimy Hocus Pocus 2
“Good Afternoon” Spirited Ryan Reynolds, Will Ferrell, The Spirited Ensemble Spirited
This year I came close to creating two best song categories to recognize both covers and originals. Combining the performance of the number with how intrinsic the song was to the film is what placed “On Broadway (Busking Version)” over the other deserving nominees.
Andrew Babbitt Glass Onion
Rossitsa Bakeva Barbarian
Mark Beneceraff Armageddon Time
Dylan Cole, Ben Procter Avatar: The Way of Water
Paulo Gonçalves, Patrick Schmitt The Cursed
With these art direction nominees, there are other worlds rendered on screen, other eras, what puts Barbarian above the fray is that there are figurative worlds created, even for fleeting moments, that are vivid: the apartment of a Hollywood player (not pictured), juxtaposes against a suburban house turned AirBnB, the long corridor and underworld it hides, and also the past of the same neighborhood and house. The art direction is as much a part of making the mundane horrific as the characters are.
Ruth E. Carter Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Madeline Fontaine The Cursed
Catherine Martin Elvis
Gersha Phillips The Woman King
Stephanie Porter Prey
With costume design I tend to gravitate toward projects that are not just period pieces. This can mean multiple periods if they’re period at all or more toward the fantastical realm. Catherine Martin’s work in Elvis covers the 20+ year trajectory of Elvis’s career and his stage-wear was always a bit more fantastic, a bit more extra than anything else anyone was wearing. This representation of Elvis’s bigger-than-life attire puts the film over the top.
Johnny Burn, Keith Kohn Nope
Dave Chrastka Avatar: The Way of Water
Dave Grimaldi, Angelo Palazzo The Adam Project
Dan Kenyon Smile
Gary Rydstrom, James Mather, Al Nelson Top Gun: Maverick
The soudtrack of a film is perhaps the most visceral way to drive home intended emotion. All these films do an exceptional job of that, but in a movie that derives many of its scares from creepy smiles and what follows immediately thereafter, Smile does a brilliant job of infusing it soundteack with inherently unnerving and discordant sounds in both the effects work and music as can be seen in the above video.
Alexandra Anger Crimes of the Future
Mark Coulier and Shane Thomas Elvis
Clarisse Domine The Cursed
Camille Friend, Joel Harlow Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
John Russell, Natasa Krstic Hellraiser
Hair and makeup are also world-building. For the nominated titles they were no small art of selling the story: whether it be the tale of death and rebirth in Wakanda, the outfits and personae of Elvis Presley, the clashing cultures and tumultuous times in Cursed, the novel organs in Crimes of the Future or Hell being raised, hair and makeup is a a crucial storytelling tool in visual media.
It’s a telling indicator about the state of an art form when filmmakers bend over backwards to announce how much practical makeup they used, but those who worked on Hellraiser (2022) did, the use of practicals here was something I expected and thought was necessary but it doesn’t make their work any less impressive.
Robert Downey Jr. Award for Entertainer of the Year
See this year’s honoree here.
Ingmar Bergman Lifetime Achievement Award
See this year’s honorees here.
See this year’s honorees here.
See this year’s honoree here.