And now, the awards, beginning with....
Lupita Nyong'o's double act has not left my head since I saw Us back in February. Amid the over-written, clumsy world-building, vague allegory, and too-obvious twists, there is Nyong'o, presenting us a portrait of a woman who has built an enviable life after past trauma, only to have it threatened by familiar shadows (a recurring theme this year, it seems, alongside doubles - see also our Best Actor winner). Her work in differentiating between Red and Adelaide is fantastic, specific, subtle; the narrative turns work not just because of the obvious groundwork, but also because of Nyong'o's attention to physicality and voice, creating not just two distinct characters, but showing the tether that makes two, one. It's unbelievable.
In second, Place's Diane slowly reveals her regrets, guilts, and inability to forgive herself. In third, Paradis's Anne Pareze is both villain and heroine, her own antagonist, single-minded, stubborn. In fourth, Sun's Xiao Ai is an able partner and co-conspirator for her husband...and his shadow. In fifth, Zellweger's Judy Garland is neither perfect copy nor pale imitation, but an effective meeting of actress, character, and star personae.
2. Bi Gan for Long Day's Journey Into Night, 3. Lulu Wang for The Farewell, 4. Zhang Yimou for Shadow, 5. Marielle Heller for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
To pull off what Scorsese does with The Irishman - a towering epic of the calcification of America's soul; a character study of a man who skated by, the ultimate punishment for his sins being that he must live with them; a reflection and commentary on the director's previous work; a meditation on aging and mortality - to achieve all that in a film this entertaining, this heartbreaking, this hilarious, this re-watchable...I don't know, I feel like that's the dream, isn't it? That's what filmmaking is all about, to entertain and elucidate, to marry showmanship with art. He solidifies his place as America's greatest living filmmaker. And oh, that Detroit sequence!
In second, Bi is a poet with the camera, presenting a mystery within a memory within a dream - and oh, the pay-off of the spinning house! In third, Wang never strays from Billi's POV, but still gets to know every family member with affection - and oh, when they rush to get the hospital results! In fourth, Heller patiently takes us through Lloyd's healing - and oh, that restaurant scene! In fifth, Zhang brings us the dramatic heights of theatre, the beauty of paintings, the action of the best war films - and oh, that climactic battle!
Not to make this about other awards shows, but wasn't Parasite's win at SAG for Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture the most perfect citation of the season? Everyone is firing on all cylinders, from Song Kang-ho, a favorite of mine in general, through Chang Hyae-jin, my favorite in the film, all the way to late-breaking but vital Park Myung-hoon, child actor Jung Hyeon-jun, cameo Park Seo-joon, and bit players Park Geun-rok and Jung Yi-seo. Everyone has to work for the movie to work, and baby, this movie works.
In second, Dolemite is My Name boasts a murderer's row of comedic talent from Eddie Murphy to Craig Robinson to Luenell. In third, the family dynamics of The Farewell are palpable in conversation, while singing, even during silences. In fourth, Climax's dance troupe comes with all their lusts, jealousies and friendships expressed in their movement, whether dancing or stumbling. In fifth, Extreme Job's undercover police squad is unusual, but then, so are the comic criminals at the center of their investigation.
Best Film Editing
2. Apollo 11, 3. Shadow, 4. Little Women, 5. Dolemite is My Name
The Irishman begins with a single shot, making its way through a nursing home 'til it gets to Robet De Niro. That first cut - a bullet to someone's head, blood spattering - is quick. You know what happens, but you don't quite see it. On second watch, I realized that it was, as Frank points out, what we came to see. The murder. we've already seen it, yet it makes us anticipate it all the more. From that point on, this baby sings - fifty years, three and a half hours, and not a wasted moment, not a single bathroom break needed, never losing its momentum even as it builds from fast-paced mob flick to somber end-of-life reflection. That's Schoonmaker, making every shot count, whether it's Scorsese's or Sheeran's.
In second, Apollo 11's gargantuan feat in making a suspenseful drama out of thousands of hours of archival resources. In third, Shadow's converging battles - one-on-one, army-on-army, court manipulations - are brought together seamlessly, anxiously. In fourth, Little Women juggles timelines to better connect the present, the past, fantasy, and growth. In fifth, Dolemite is My Name lands every laugh and tear without breaking a sweat.
Long Day's Journey Into Night
Li Danfeng, sound director
Si Zhonglin, sound supervisor
2. Shadow, 3. The Lighthouse, 4. Ford v. Ferrari, 5. 1917
Much of the writing about Long Day's Journey Into Night has focused on the 59-minute single take that ends the film, and with good reason (there's a reason I placed it first for Best Cinematography). But I feel like what gets lost, or under-mentioned, is the way the soundscape plays throughout that sequence: the echo of the karaoke performances, reverberating like a call to prayer; the gentle breeze against the plastic walls of the pool hall; Tang Wei's chilly sniffle; flapping wings that make reality into a dreamscape. But that's not to say the preceding hour of the film isn't just as meticulous in its soundscape, from the crime kingpin's own karaoke performance to the rattle of a water glass near train tracks to the flick of a lighter.
In second, Shadow's zither plays against the clang of blades, the slitting of throats, the whooosh of garments in battle. In third, The Lighthouse makes horror of its foghorn, its seagulls, its constant noise in what should be silence. In fourth, Ford v. Ferrari pays attention to the sound of each car, each with its unique quality. In fifth, 1917 has war sounds - explosions, gunfire, hands sloshing into gaping wounds...
Best Visual Effects
Scott R. Fisher, special effects supervisor
Allen Maris, visual effects supervisor
2. Alita: Battle Angel, 3. Shadow, 4. 1917, 5. The Irishman
If you're constantly wondering what's practical and what's post, if you're asking, "How'd they do that?", if you're never distracted because they so perfectly, unostentatiously serve the film instead of vice versa, then you're probably looking at the best visual effects of the year. Space travel, planets, moons - hell, space battles! - all presented tangibly.
In second, the bonkers world and uncanny heroine at the heart of Alita: Battle Angel. In third, the spinning warriors of Shadow. In fourth, the stitchless blending and explosive action of 1917. In fifth, the de-aging of The Irishman.
Best Costume Design
A tough call between Shadow and Dolemite is My Name, both living on opposite ends of the color spectrum. In the end, I went with Shadow for the full story the wardrobe tells with the production design and cinematography - those clothes that sometimes seem as sheer as the screens, and just as kissed with the black ink of the calligraphy brush. At one point in the film, we meet the (curiously beautiful) expatriates who've retreated into the forest; it is the first time we see new colors, albeit dull greens and browns, shades of earth. Oh my goodness, and their armor! So detailed! So intimidating!
In second, Rudy's clothes must be as bold and loud as his imagination in Dolemite is My Name. In third, The Irishman's dad chic. In fourth, Judy's sparkling wardrobe, on-stage and off. In fifth, Uncut Gems' tale of over-sized shirts, work-inappropriate body suits, and Bat Mitzvah dresses that still fit.
Best Original Song
1. "Glasgow (No Place Like Home)" from Wild Rose
music and lyrics by Caitlyn Smith, Kate York and Mary Steenburgen
2. "Willow" from High Life
music and lyrics by Stuart Staples and Dan McKinna
3. "Beautiful Ghosts (Victoria's Song)" from Cats
music and lyrics by Taylor Swift and Andrew Lloyd Webber
4. "Hello" from Always Be My Maybe
music and lyrics by Daniel "Dan the Automator" Nakamura, Randall Park and Lyrics Born
5. "The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy" from Toy Story 4
music and lyrics by Randy Newman
Best Motion Picture of the Year
produced by Gerald Chamales / Robert De Niro / Randall Emmett / Gabriele Israilovici / Gaston Pavlovich / Jane Rosenthal / Martin Scorsese / Emma Tillinger Koskoff / Irwin Winkler
2. Long Day's Journey Into Night, 3. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, 4. Shadow, 5. The Farewell
6. Dolemite is My Name, 7. Knife + Heart, 8. Pain and Glory, 9. Parasite, 10. Aladdin