Tuesday, February 6, 2024

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Your Winners! For the 2023 Hollmann Awards!

Here we are. You've seen my Top Ten (and if you haven't, why not?) and you've looked at all the nominees (because I won't repeat all of them here!). Now, the final word on 2023 - my winners for the best in last year's cinema. The 2023 Hollmann Awards. Beginning with music:

Best Original Song
1. "Give Me Pity!" from Give Me Pity
music and lyrics by Giulio Carmassi and Bryan Scary
2. "Makin' It!" from Give Me Pity
music and lyrics by Giulio Carmassi and Bryan Scary
3. "Anywhere with You" from Book Club: The Next Chapter
music and lyrics by Mary Steenburgen, Caitlyn Smith and Troy Verges
4. "What Was I Made For?" from Barbie
music and lyrics by Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell
5. "Live That Way Forever" from The Iron Claw

music and lyrics by Laurel Sprengelmeyer and Richard Reed Parry

Best Editing
Jennifer Lame
2. Asteroid City; 3. How to Blow Up a Pipeline; 4. Godland; 5. Saw X

Listen, I'm a sucker for that final scene, Oppenheimer gazing into the pond, the ripples expanding across one another, cutting back and forth between his haunted, excruciating face and the future as he sees it: missile upon missile flying up among the clouds, the ripples of destruction expanding across one another, the world on fire. It's the culmination of Lame's great work: keeping the momentum going, linking depositions to confirmation hearings to memories, keeping track of a constant barrage of names, dates, ideas, events. She makes it make sense.

Best Supporting Actor
Ingvar Sigurdsson as Ragnar
2. Robert Downey, Jr., in Oppenheimer; 3. Forrest Goodluck in How to Blow Up a Pipeline; 4. David Krumholtz in Oppenheimer; 5. Jacob Ward in Somewhere in Queens

A great lineup, if I do say so myself. Sigurdsson, though... In Godland, he plays the Icelandic guide to a Danish priest, ostensibly helping him navigate the wilderness of Iceland but clearly at odds almost from the beginning. Sigurdsson's impassive face still conveys rejection (the Danes are, unsurprisingly, not respectful of the Icelanders whose land they've taken over, but Sigurdsson's silence when the priest tells him he could never take up the cloth himself is a hollowing one), dismissiveness (...and nor do the Icelanders respect these "civilized" folk, either), anger. There is tension in every interaction between him and the priest, culminating in a gutting monologue that not only shows the full extent of Ragnar's rage, but Sigurdsson's strength as a thespian.

Best Actor
Tobin Bell as John Kramer, a.k.a. Jigsaw
Saw X
2. Colman Domingo in Rustin; 3. Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer; 4. Jamie Foxx in The Burial; 5. Joaquin Phoenix in Napoleon

For twenty years, Tobin Bell has played Jigsaw as almost unknowable. Extremely focused during his "games," speaking in riddles, he is Godlike in his puppeteering and mystery. Saw X is finally his movie, allowing Bell to play John Kramer - the man behind the games. He's intelligent, he enjoys life, he is thoughtful and attentive towards others, he does not want to die - he can be blinded by hope. And it turns out he, too, can be blindsided by the clever machinations of wicked people. Bell can play gentle, warm, and wracked, he can even play concern for the innocent, worry for his survival, and fear. And he can do it all without forgetting what makes John Kramer, Jigsaw. His game face is the one we know: stubborn, focused, confident. Bell's complex performance gives new layers and new life to a franchise that should've been long over.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Ivana Primorac, makeup & hair designer
Robb Crafer, makeup & hair supervisor
2. Poor Things; 3. Where the Devil Roams; 4. Saw X; 5. Society of the Snow

There's a degree of difficulty in Barbie that, surprisingly, has gone undersung. It's not just a matter of applying a beautiful face and stunning 'do, but of reflecting the perfection of a doll who has defined glamor for over 60 years. It can't be too much - except for the hair, which must be synthetic but malleable - but it still must be there, complementary, as vital to the Barbie image as that pink box. Then there's Weird Barbie, with her homemade haircut and be-doodled face. And how much of Ryan Gosling's effectiveness as Ken is not just the performance, but also the too-bleached hair, the too-deep tan, the "I don't know, this is hot, right?" afterthought of Ken's whole being? 

Best Original Screenplay
Asteroid City
Wes Anderson
story by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
2. Napoleon; 3. May December; 4. Somewhere in Queens; 5. A Thousand and One

Anderson perfects the nesting doll structure of The Grand Budapest Hotel and uses it to address such things as the emergence of new technologies in the mid-20th century; the unknowableness of the universe despite those new technologies; processing grief; art as expression and escape but always personal, whether you're photographing, writing, directing, or composing a song called "Dear Alien"; the uncertainty of post-war life, especially as each subsequent decade has become post-war, some war, at any rate. And it's still deadpan funny and hopeful about all of us, confident that love, yes, love, can and will rebuild and strengthen us.

Best Score
1. Oppenheimer
Ludwig Göransson
2. Asteroid City
Alexandre Desplat
3. A Haunting in Venice
Hildur Guðnadóttir
4. Napoleon
Martin Phipps
5. Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning, Part One
Lorne Balfe

Best Visual Effects
Neil Corbould, special effects supervisor
Gavin Kidner, special effects
Theodore Burley / Christine Lemon / Sarah Tulloch, visual effects producers
Henry Badgett / Simone Coco / Charley Henley / Luc-Ewen Martin-Fenouillet, visual effects supervisors
2. The Creator; 3. Godzilla Minus One; 4. Oppenheimer; 5. Rebel Moon - Part One: A Child of Fire

I guess for me, the best VFX are the VFX you don't realize are VFX. Godzilla Minus One accomplishes that - there's the monster, sure, but the way people interact with the destruction he wreaks are impressive - and The Creator is certainly impressive in how tangible it makes its world. Napoleon, though...Napoleon! Sorry, I was fooled, I had no idea how much of it was VFX, and even when I had an idea, as with the Battle of Austerlitz, it was so well-done, so realistic, so impressive, there were times I thought, "Well, did they put amazing stunt horses in harm's way?" 

Best Director
Christopher Nolan
2. Wes Anderson for Asteroid City; 3. A.V. Rockwell for A Thousand and One; 4. John Adams / Zelda Adams / Toby Poser for Where the Devil Roams; 5. Maggie Betts for The Burial

I think back in 2014 I called Interstellar Nolan's masterpiece; I spoke too soon. This is the true culmination of his work (how will he follow this?), visually striking, perfectly acted, vital and entertaining. The Trinity Test, the Einstein conversation, Kitty's whole "you don't get to make mistakes and then ask us to feel sorry for you" confrontation, the big speech after the bomb...to name just a few scenes that are among the best in Nolan's career, among the best of the year. Nolan conveys important historical moments and their implications across time without forgetting the flawed, human individuals at the center. Great filmmaking, period.

Best Actress
Teyana Taylor as Inez de la Paz
A Thousand and One
2. Sophie von Haselberg in Give Me Pity!; 3. Emma Stone in Poor Things; 4. Natalie Portman in May December; 5. Toby Poser in Where the Devil Roams

Tough, tender, funny when you least expect it, caring for all members of her community no matter what  - the scene where she makes a plate for her husband's "other woman" and her child, whew! Taylor shows you Inez's frustration, her biting her tongue, swallowing her pride - even a decade on, still a difficult thing to do - just to keep her boy safe (and herself out of jail). I love that you can see her making decisions - she's considered the consequences, she knows it's not wise, but she does what she truly believes is best. Taylor's line readings, her set jaw, the way she telegraphs true love without ever sanding down her rougher edges - she knows Inez down to her toes. 

Best Supporting Actress
Julianne Moore as Gracie Atherton-Yoo
May December
2. Synnøve Macody Lund in Saw X; 3. Cricket Arrison in Give Me Pity!; 4. Jurnee Smollett in The Burial; 5. Ruby Cruz in Bottoms

She feels quasi-innocent - the way she guilelessly goes about her life making cakes and raising a family with a man she seduced when he was 13 years old, still talking about how she's in touch with all her children, even from the previous marriage - yet Moore gives Gracie a steeliness, an awareness that allows her to "turn on the charm" and steer conversations, a determination to present her own narrative, no matter how ridiculous it may seem. What seems like a goofy, daffy woman in the beginning (surely she can see how weird this is?), Moore reveals to be a python - there's a menace in her crying jags, her steamrolling of conversations ("Who was in charge?"), her declaration of both her naivete and her self-security. Chilling.

Best Ensemble
casting by Maribeth Fox
2. Somewhere in Queens; 3. 12.12: The Day; 4. A Thousand and One; 5. Asteroid City

Everyone in Bottoms is on the same demented page; the fact that they can get away with this over-the-top, insane version of high school and teen films and still convincingly play sincere moments of friendship and self-empowerment is a testament to the strength of director Emma Seligman and to the talent gathered by Maribeth Fox. Obviously, Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri anchor it, but also consider Havana Rose Liu and the unexpected way she goes from unhinged laughter into unsettling wails; Zamani Wilder's perfectly-calibrated skepticism; Summer Joy Campbell's perpetual wonder and overall stoked-ness; Virginia Tucker's sweetness; Miles Fowler's apostolic devotion to Nicholas Galitzine; and, of course, Galitzine himself, whose channeling of American airhead entitlement (with a Puthian childishness) truly announced him as an actor worth watching. Fun movie! Fun cast!

Best Cinematography

1. Godland
Maria von Hausswolff

2. A Haunting in Venice
Haris Zambarloukos

3. Asteroid City
Robert D. Yeoman

4. Oppenheimer
Hoyte Van Hoytema

5. All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt
Jomo Fray

Best Production Design

Beau is Afraid
Fiona Crombie, production design
2. Asteroid City; 3. Barbie; 4. Poor Things; 5. Evil Dead Rise

Beau is Afraid gives you a lot of sets over its three-hour runtime, and while many have posted about the long fantasy sequence halfway through the film with its pullies and stop-motion and shadow puppetry bringing a lifetime of work, sacrifice, and regret in the form of a play, it is the nightmarish "real world" of the rest of the film that I find most impressive. And when I say nightmarish, I mean they quite literally operate in dream logic. His mother's house, with its railing-less winding staircase and sheer-drop ledges, already decorated like a museum in her honor (complete with a company timeline), while still bearing the somewhat familiar hallmarks of an upper-class home...this is not a home safe for a child, but a place where one is constantly on edge, precariously close to the precipice. Contrast that with the too-normal, too-middle-class perfection of Grace and Roger's dwelling...complete with a too-pink, too-girly room for their burning-out daughter, the immaculate bedroom serving as shrine to the memory of their dead son, and a garden growing wild, isolating them from the outside world. But gosh, before all this, there's Beau's shitty apartment in the shitty building in the shitty neighborhood. Everything is caked in grime and graffiti and who-knows-what. It's over the top. It's perfect.

Best Costume Design

Asteroid City
Milena Canonero
2. Give Me Pity!; 3. Poor Things; 4. Barbie; 5. Polite Society

Honestly, I would have expected Asteroid City to take both design categories, but Beau is Afraid was too good to deny. Anyway, the costumes by Melina Canonero are, no surprise, superlative. The unique pastel template, the character specificity (always, with an Anderson/Canonero vehicle), just how good they all look. These are, after all, costumes for a play and so it is more than appropriate that they actually are capital-c Costumes, with the only one getting obvious outfit changes being the movie star played by Scarlett Johansson. Outside the play-within, of course, are outfits just as character-specific and period-perfect.

Best Adapted Screenplay
A Haunting in Venice
Michael Green
from the novel Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie
2. Oppenheimer; 3. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret.; 4. The Killer; 5. How to Blow Up a Pipeline

I have to admit, I tried making a post where Oppenheimer wins this - and it was a very close call between the two - but my heart insists that the deserving winner here is A Haunting in Venice. It does have the upper hand with my being familiar with the source material, I suppose...though one could also argue that would be a handicap, considering how much it deviates. But gosh, how inventive! Turning the bratty child who says the right lie at the wrong time into a medium whose showboating may have hit too close to home? A nurse-companion always referred to but never seen into a very present nurse-companion-housekeeper full of regrets? One Hallowe'en party becoming, what, a fortnight of detection in an English village...becomes one dark night of the soul on All Hallow's Eve in Venice? All the important elements of the novel are there, twisted and remixed ingeniously by Michael Green. And then reading the script itself, which I have several times, is a delight - vivid, briefly-drawn characters, a real sense of tension, fast-paced without losing itself, playing fair with the clues. It took three tries but, they finally got it right!

Best Sound
Godzilla Minus One

Natsuko Inoue, re-recording mixer / sound designer

Hisafumi Takeuchi, re-recording mixer / sound recordist

2. Ferrari; 3. Oppenheimer; 4. Napoleon; 5. The Zone of Interest

I will never ever get tired of hearing Godzilla's mighty roar, the blast of his laser breath, the crumbling of cities, army bases, warships, etc., amid people's screams, the buzz of airplanes, turbulent waters thrashing against a ship's hull, music perfectly mixed...oh my gosh, this movie opens with a sound showcase, silence and waves as a single kamikaze plane detours for what it thinks will be a safe landing. Great work.

Best Picture of the Year
produced by Christopher Nolan / Charles Roven / Emma Thomas
2. Saw X; 3. Where the Devil Roams; 4. Asteroid City; 5. A Thousand and One
6. The Burial; 7. Godland; 8. Give Me Pity!; 9. A Haunting in Venice; 10. Somewhere in Queens
11. Rustin; 12. Napoleon; 13. The Zone of Interest; 14. How to Blow Up a Pipeline; 15. Bottoms; 16. 12.12: The Day; 17. Godzilla Minus One; 18. May December; 19. Freud's Last Session; 20. Thanksgiving

And so, Oppenheimer walks away with four awards, including Best Picture. Twelve other films went home winners alongside Oppenheimer: Asteroid City and Godland each won two; and one apiece for BarbieBeau is AfraidBottoms, Give Me Pity!, Godzilla Minus OneA Haunting in Venice, May December, NapoleonSaw X, and A Thousand and One.

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