Alternative Oscars 2021: What if genre films, trailers, posters, emerging filmmakers and actors had their own categories?
La Llorona, Swallow, Why Don't You Just Die! are some of the best films that saved us in the pandemic year, ones we thought should have been awards season mainstays, but were entirely walled off by the Academy.
Come Sunday night, the 2020-21 Awards Season Extended Cut finally wraps up. It's been longer and more exhausting than usual — what with the pandemic-enforced delays. Once the Oscars are given out, it will no doubt provoke lots of rhetoric (and column space) on who won and who should have. Just as the nominations did. Some of the best films that saved us in the pandemic year — ones we thought should have been awards season mainstays — were entirely walled off by the Academy.
That's where we come in. To celebrate such galling snubs, we came up with the Alternative Oscars last year. We handed out our own awards (in name only, no hardware) in the same categories as the Academy does, plus a few bonus ones to honour the best in genre cinema. This year, we're tweaking things a little. First, we're not going to simply handpick an entire slate of Best Pictures, Actors and Directors who should have been contenders in the same categories on Sunday night. Our goal is to recognise crafts intrinsic (like casting) and extrinsic (like poster design) to cinema that the Academy in their myopic view overlook. Second, we're making the genre films our marquee categories. They may be ignored by the Oscar voters, but it's impossible to get a complete picture of the year's cinematic riches without them. Call it a futile attempt to goad the Academy into looking beyond the traditional Oscar-bait. Third and final, because it has to be said, we're not suggesting the films mentioned here are superior to every film nominated for Oscars, but we believe they deserved a seat at the table too. Consider the Alternative Oscars a collateral journey through 2020, the year in cinema.
Genre films give us a fuller sense of just how rich the creative space of filmmaking is. No superheroes or summer blockbusters in 2020 allowed smaller films to shine. Horror had a commendable year. While sci-fi didn't produce an embarrassment of riches, it still remained the canvas on which all the big ideas and bold narrative choices were painted. Genre purists beware: We've let crime and all its noir siblings (neo, Nordic, etc.) bleed into one category. 2020, rather fittingly, served plenty of mind-fucks: genre-bending films that made your brain hurt, but in a good way. We didn't get the best action movies, but they still pumped much-needed adrenaline jolts in shorter bursts — and our category reflects that. Similarly, there were unforgettable music moments, if not unforgettable musicals. Honestly, every category is self-explanatory.
Best Horror Film
Winner: La Llorona
The Beach House
The Invisible Man
Best Sci-fi Film
Winner: The Vast of Night
Best Comedy Film
Winner: Why Don't You Just Die!
The Forty-Year-Old Version
Yes, God, Yes
Best Crime/Noir Film
Winner: A Sun
Beasts Clawing at Straws
Blow the Man Down
I’m Your Woman
The Kid Detective
The Wild Goose Lake
Color Out of Space
I'm Thinking of Ending Things
Best Action Sequence
Winner: Hassan and Zain vs Ifrit - Wira
Harley Quinn's assault on police precinct + warehouse - Birds of Prey
Inverted car chase - Tenet
Escape from police station - Lost Bullet
Set-up and resurrection - The Old Guard
The One-Shot - Extraction
Best Needledrop Moment
Winner: “Bizness” by tUnE-yArDs and “Come Meh Way” by Sudan Archives - Babyteeth
“Got To Give It Up” by Marvin Gaye - Da 5 Bloods
“What a Life” by Scarlet Pleasure - Another Round
“Toxic” (Orchestral version) by Britney Spears - Promising Young Woman
“Silly Games” by Janet Kay - Lovers Rock
“Mr Lonely” cover by Angel Olsen - Kajillionaire
Best “Pure Cinema” Moment
Winner: Making/selling oily Cakes - First Cow
Childbirth - Pieces of a Woman
Dinner with the parents - I’m Thinking Of Ending Things
Questionnaire - Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Opening escape scene - The Invisible Man
Opening assassination scene - Possessor
The Oscars are long enough as it is. So, the next set of categories look unlikely to be added to their existing slate. Breaking into the industry is no easy task. While established filmmakers have the studio-backed luxury of big budgets, emerging filmmakers and screenwriters don't. Making a movie on a smaller scale but still making a big impression on filmgoers warrants a category of its own. The same goes for breakout actors, who often get passed over for veterans at the Oscars. But veteran or debutant, these actors wouldn't have attracted our attention if not for the casting director who saw them fit to take on awards-worthy roles. Be it an ensemble, pairing two actors, or even a single tour-de-force, the casting process often makes or breaks the movie.
Best First Film
Winner: Swallow (Carlo Mirabella-Davis)
Babyteeth (Shannon Murphy)
Blow the Man Down (Danielle Krudy, Bridget Savage Cole)
Emma (Autumn de Wilde)
The 40-Year-Old Version (Radha Blank)
The Vast of Night (Andrew Patterson)
Best First Screenplay
Winner: Lovers Rock (Courttia Newland)
Emma (Eleanor Catton)
Miss Juneteenth (Channing Godfrey Peoples)
Shirley (Sarah Gubbins)
The Assistant (Kitty Green)
The Forty-Year-Old Version (Radha Blank)
Best Breakthrough Performance
Winner: Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder, Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Kelly O'Sullivan, Saint Frances
Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami
Levan Gelbakhiani, And Then We Danced
Lovie Simone, Selah and the Spades
Orion Lee, First Cow
Winner: Bacurau - Marcelo Caetano
Da 5 Bloods - Kimberly Hardin
Emma - Jessica Ronane
Rocks – Lucy Pardee
The Assistant - Avy Kaufman
The Personal History of David Copperfield - Sarah Crowe
Before we watch a film, the poster is what teases the experience to come. At times, all it takes is a single defining image in the right colour scheme, and you're sold on the movie. Graphic designers keep elevating the craft to whole new levels each year, and recognising their work should be a no-brainer. If poster design is an artform in itself, the launch of trailers has become an event. A well-edited trailer doesn't simply reveal the entire damn plot, but cuts it down to its barebones, attracting the audience to the real thing. Often, when they use familiar songs, it leaves an impression stronger than the movie.
Winner: Da 5 Bloods (Design by GRAVILLIS)
Colour Out of Space (Design by Tom Hodge)
I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Design by Akiko Stehrenberger)
Promising Young Woman (Design by Art Machine)
Tesla (Design by Brandon Schaefer)
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