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With the announcement of the Academy Awards nominees, we’re finally in the race to the finale of this year’s award’s seasons. Seeing that Mr. Oscar tends to get it wrong so much of the time (although this year’s nominees were fairly great across the board), we have an annual tradition of issuing our own awards to recognize the best storytelling and performances throughout the year. Since we’re not tied to any silly number of nominees, we went ahead and listed every one that we thought deserving of a mention, even if the list well exceed more than 5 or 10. You won’t find a Best Picture category here as I think that is properly summarized by our Top Ten Films segment, which I would urge you to visit if you haven’t already. With that out of the way, the SSR Award goes to…

Best Director

WINNER: Paul Thomas Anderson ‘Phantom Thread’

Runner-Up: Guillermo del Toro ‘The Shape of Water’

2017 saw a host of new and returning directorial talent share the wealth with newbies Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele each deservingly earning honors from the Academy Awards. For me, the directing talent to top came in at the very last second in the shape of Paul Thomas Anderson whose craft in Phantom Thread is impossible to not admire. Every single aspect of the movie feels so controlled and intentional, ironic in that Anderson himself described the process as chaotic, and it adds up to a stunning, singular artist vision. Anderson is a cinephile’s auteur and his work’ (which includes such knockouts as Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Punch-Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood) has rarely seemed so sumptuous and utterly seamless. So too was Guillermo del Toro showing off his style as a filmmaker, crafting a love letter to monster movies and weird romance in a movie that is glistening with artistic intent.

Honorable Mentions:

Christopher Nolan ‘Dunkirk’

Julia Ducournau ‘Raw’

Jordan Peele ‘Get Out’

David Lowery ‘A Ghost Story’

Denis Villeneuve ‘Blade Runner 2049’

Matt Reeves ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’

Alejandro Jodorowsky ‘Endless Poetry’

Joe Wright ‘Darkest Hour’

Greta Gerwig ‘Lady Bird’

Sean Baker ‘The Florida Project’

Martin McDonagh ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’

Edgar Wright ‘Baby Driver’

Darren Aronofsky ‘mother!’

 

Best Actor

WINNER: Robert Pattinson ‘Good Time’

Runner-Up: Daniel Day-Lewis ‘Phantom Thread’

Robert Pattinson has quietly been honing an impressive resume since his tenure in Twilight, offering note-worthy performances in Cosmopolis, The Rover and last year’s critically-heralded The Lost City of Z. But he’s never been better than in the Safdie Brother’s Good Time, a psychedelic crime odyssey-cum-character study where Pattinson plays a Class-V hurricane of a man. The performance is fueled by id and loaded with verve, rarely stopping to consider the wreckage left in his wake. Pattinson is a force as Connie with an absolutely stunning final moment on screen and it was a male performance that wasn’t topped in 2017. In what is allegedly his final onscreen performance, Daniel Day-Lewis paired with PTA to paint a portrait of a tortured artist that is so layered and multifaceted that you can never predict where it’s going to go next. Just another acting masterclass in a career full of them.

Honorable Mentions:

James Franco ‘The Disaster Artist’

Andy Serkis ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’

Daniel Kaluuya ‘Get Out’

Hugh Jackman ‘Logan’

Bryan Cranston ‘Last Flag Flying’

Vince Vaughn ‘Brawl in Cell Block 99’

James MacAvoy ‘Split’

Josh O’Connor ‘God’s Own Country’

Gary Oldman ‘Darkest Hour’

Denzel Washington ’Roman J. Israel, ESQ.’

Jake Johnson ‘Win It All’

Sam Elliot ‘The Hero’

Bryan Cranston ‘Last Flag Flying’

 

Best Actress

WINNER: Frances McDormand ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’

Runner-Up: Margot Robbie ‘I, Tonya’

What an absolutely impossible category this was in 2017, the amount of talent represented here astonishing in all regards. This made it even harder to choose a winner as pretty much every me

ntion is this category offers something that would warrant the title of “best ____”. But for me, Frances McDormand, who has been sweeping up awards left and right and is the clear Oscar frontrunner at this point, just couldn’t be beat out. Her pissy, no-nonsense performance in Three Billboards is just the shot of rebellion America needs right now. The Oscar winner has made a career out of supporting roles outside the mainstream and it’s great to see her back in the spotlight. Margot Robbie is in many ways the opposite kind of nominee as McDormand but her fired-up turn as the white trash Tonya Harding is deliciously raw and effortlessly amusing. Just fantastic work.

Honorable Mentions:

Sally Hawkins ‘The Shape of Water’

Saoirse Ronan ‘Lady Bird’

Vicky Krieps ‘Phantom Thread’

Emma Stone ‘Battle of the Sexes’

Danielle Macdonald ‘Patti Cake$’

Garance Marillier ‘Raw’

Kristen Stewart ‘Personal Shopper’

Jessica Chastain ‘Molly’s Game’

Carla Gugino ‘Gerald’s Game’

Brooklyn Prince ‘The Florida Project’

Aubry Plaza ‘Ingrid Goes West’

Lindsay Burdge ‘Thirst Street’

Eili Harboe ‘Thelma’

Meryl Streep ‘The Post’

Cynthia Nixon ‘A Quiet Passion’

Debra Winger ‘The Lovers’

 

Best Supporting Actor

WINNER: Barry Keoghan ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’

Runner-Up: Willem Dafoe ‘The Florida Project’

Another tough category because to me there wasn’t a run away winner here. The margins were uber tight when selecting a king and I had a hard time thinking of a performance that was more commanding of my attention than Barry Keoghan’s bugged-eyed Martin. Keoghan casts a spell as the mystical Martin, forcing me to lean forward in my seat every time he spoke, hanging on every strange-cadenced confession. When I think of supporting performances this year, Keoghan was that which haunted me most, making teenage awkwardness into a thing of pure terror. I shuffled a few in and out of that second spot but none proved as heartwarming and caring as Willem Dafoe’s turn in the sublime Florida Project. Characterized by a hardball veneer and paternal instincts, Dafoe’s Bobby is a man of texture, doing what he can to help, witness to a conveyor belt of tragedy.

Honorable Mentions:

Steve Carrell ‘Last Flag Flying’

Sam Rockwell ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’

Bennie Safdie ‘Good Time’

Richard Jenkins ‘The Shape of Water’

Sebastian Stan  ‘I, Tonya’

Daniel Craig ‘Logan Lucky’

Patrick Stewart ‘Logan’

Armie Hammer ‘Call Me By Your Name’

 

Best Supporting Actress

WINNER: Michelle Pfeiffer ‘mother!’

Runner-Up: Bria Vinaite ‘The Florida Project’ 

Keeping in lockstep with my best supporting actor winner, I gave the top prize to a performance that was so frosty and haunting that it proved impossible to shake off. Michelle Pfeiffer doesn’t necessarily have a ton of screen time in Darren Aronofksy’s divisive (but excellent) mother! but she makes every second count, casting a cold shadow over the early parts of the film with her steely demeanor and murderous side eye. On the opposite side of the spectrum, we return to The Florida Project, this time recognizing Bria Vinaite who plays Haley, a streetwise kid raising a kid of her own. Bria breathes life into Haley, giving this misguided victim of circumstance a palpable, heartbreaking soul.

Honorable Mentions:

Nicole Kidman ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’

Ana de Armas ‘Blade Runner 2049’

Allison Janney  ‘I, Tonya’

Laurie Metcalf ‘Lady Bird’

Andrea Riseborough ‘Battle of the Sexes’

Bridget Everett ‘Patti Cake$’

 

Best Screenplay

WINNER: Jordan Peele ‘Get Out’

Runner-Up: Greta Gerwig ‘Lady Bird’ 

Even with a surface read, Get Out functions as a perfect conspiratorial thriller with themes of race subjugation. But when you dive into the obvious subtext, Get Out exhumes the injustices of American Black History, from slavery all the way to the Black Lives Matter movement. Smart, tenacious and loaded with symbolism and double-meaning, Get Out also manages to be startling funny and utterly horrifying and it all stems from Jordan Peele’s darkly satirical script. On the flip side, Greta Gerwig pens a universal poem about the challenges of growing up and the nuclear family’s place in that process. Heartfelt, sharply comedic and earnest to a T, Lady Bird soars on the back of Gerwig’s tender and thoughtful script.

Honorable Mentions:

Martin McDonagh ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’

Noah Baumbach ‘The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)’

Efthymis Filippou, Yorgos Lanthimos ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’

Geremy Jasper ‘Patti Cake$’

Julia Ducournau ‘Raw’

Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor ‘The Shape of Water’

Best Animated Feature

WINNER: Birdboy: The Forgotten Children

Runner-Up: The Breadwinner

A haunting, gothic look at the horrors of addiction, the Spanish-language animated Birdboy: The Forgotten is certainly not for children. With amazing hand-drawn animation and stark, post-apocalyptic setting, this parable about communities broken by drugs and desperation is a heartbreaking and somber triumph, deeply felt and startlingly affecting. Miles better than any American animated feature, Birdboy has the distinction of being entirely ignored by most critics groups even though it was, in my humble opinion, far and away the best animated film of the year. Credit too to Cartoon Saloon’s The Breadwinner about a little girl doing what she can to free her father from prison in an Afghanistan under Taliban rule, which manages to utilize its animated to meld timeless mythos and hardnosed realities.

Honorable Mentions:

Your Name

Mary and the Witch’s Flower

My Life as a Zucchini

Coco

 

Best Documentary Feature

WINNER: The Work

Runner-Up: Mommy Dead and Dearest 

Always one of the most frustrating categories in the award’s season (simply by virtue of so many good documentaries being ignored) the Best Documentary conversation always seems woefully ignorant. Granted, I myself have yet to watch a host of those nominated by the Academy Awards even though I tried by damnest to get eyes on as many docs as possible in 2017. For me though, nothing topped Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous’ The Work, which takes viewers inside Folsom Prison where an experimental therapy session matches inmates with visiting men to exorcise their demons. Unprocessed and unbelievably powerful, The Work challenges traditional models of masculinity, drawing into question the destructive models of our forebearers and the resulting cycles of violence. Another that really knocked my socks off was Mommy Dead and Dearest, one of this year’s stranger than fiction docs about a mother who forced her adult daughter to pretend to be a sick child and the devilish consequences that followed.

Honorable Mentions:

Faces Places

City of Ghosts

Icarus

LA 92

Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press

Jane

Get Me Roger Stone

My Scientology Movie

Ex Libris: The New York Public Library

Bill Nye: Science Guy

Kedi

The Final Year

Best Foreign Language Film

WINNER: Raw

Runner-Up: Endless Poetry 

My adoration of Raw is well documented at this point and all I need to do is point you to my Top Ten list – where it claimed the #1 spot – to give you a list of the reasons why. So instead I’ll focus on Alejando Jodorowsky’s Endless Poetry, an incredible artistic mainfesto/autobiography that is theatrical and surreal in ways that you probably can’t imagine. Unlike anything Jodorowsky has done before, Endless Poetry is a moving account of man’s search for self-actualization from a guy who has damn-near achieved such. Stunning, exaggerated and absurd, this towering biography is bustling with larger-than-life characters who speak to an earnest truth about humanity. Simply a must see.

Honorable Mentions:

Thelma

The Square

Graduation

The Oath

Frantz

First They Killed My Father

 

 

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