Dunno about you, but the past 12 months of relentless good films have left us all tired. Tired AF. It seemed like each week offered up a new movie that was being hailed one of the best of the year; masterpieces appearing, left right and centre. In one sense, that’s been good: a lot of veteran filmmakers have bounced back with their strongest films in years, subgenres once scoffed at were fully embraced by the industry, and young actors who’ve not had much awards shine were given the recognition they were rightly due.
But we’ve sort of reached a saturation point, too. And with so many solid films mounting on our watch list, it seems the most showy and boisterous ones have made their mark at awards shows. So what that’s left us with? A sea of films that pretty much all deserve masterpiece status, but for one reason or another have been totally ignored by the institutions that hand out big, career-shifting prizes. Yesterday’s Oscar nominations only further proved this. 20 acting nominees; one person of colour (Cynthia Erivo for Harriet) among them. Five directors prizes all handed to men when Greta Gerwig was right! There! For every smidgen of progressive decision making, it seems we’re catapulted right back again when the final calls are announced.
So here -- in an effort to give these films some proper love -- are the films that i-D loved in 2019 and 2020 that the Golden Globes, BAFTA and Oscars unfairly slept on. Let’s try and do better in 2021, girls!
Best use of lots of Frank Ocean music: Waves
Trey Edward Shults’ follow up to the twisted and mysterious It Comes At Night was this soul-shattering family drama that felt like the ideal film for the Instagram age. Not only did it tackle many issues that directly affect Gen Z today (anxiety and the pressures of hyper-masculinity most prevalently), it also featured a breakout performance from Kelvin Harrison Jr, indie darling Lucas Hedges and Euphoria star Alexa Demie. Let’s not forget its most glowing feature though: no fewer than seven Frank Ocean songs, lifted from Endless and Blonde. It was a touching, lyrical film that burrowed itself into those who loved it. It deserved more than it wound up with.
Best Scandinavian cult horror starring Flo-Pugh: Midsommar
IDK about you, but I still have a really diabolical phobia of high cliff-edges that has bothered me ever since I saw Midsommar earlier in the year. Ari Aster’s psychological horror masterpiece, about a group of American students on holiday in Sweden, spirals quite drastically out of control. It also gave Florence Pugh her first iconique performance of 2019, and should’ve realistically be a shoe-in for a Best Original Screenplay nomination somewhere. But the Hollywood decision makers screwed that one up and that shall haunt them for centuries. Like a weird sacrificial demon performing sadistic sexual rituals.
Most diamond-encrusted Furbies: Uncut Gems
The lack of love for Uncut Gems, arguably one of the best and most heart-jolting films of the past decade, is the definition of gobsmacking. It has all of the ingredients of an awards hit: hugely watchable, a redemptive moviestar narrative from its lead star Adam Sandler, the support of A24 and -- most importantly -- a Furby necklace encrusted with diamonds! What on earth are these people looking for?! Show us the criteria -- stat.
Best lesbian bourgeoisie French period drama: Portrait of a Lady on Fire
I’ve said it once I’ll say it six more times: the last five minutes of
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
are literally flawless filmmaking. In many ways, Celine Sciamma’s celebrated drama, about a woman of high society and an artist enlisted to paint her portrait, is on par with
, the exemplary South Korean thriller that’s broken out of the Best International Feature category and dominated many others outside of it. Quite why it didn’t do the same is strange: Celine’s script is bursting with carnal energy, the score, costuming and cinematography are all gorgeous. It’s arguably better than many of the movies that swept the boards in 2020 -- and yet it’s absent from the Oscar race this year. Celine Sciamma remains the queen of our hearts, if not the queen of 2020’s award season.
Best film involving Martin Scorsese: The Souvenir
Can you believe The Irishman, a really long film about a bunch of blokes, has overshadowed what might be one of the most deft and special projects Martin Scorsese has been involved in in his entire career? He executive produced Joanna Hogg’s masterpiece The Souvenir: a film about the relationship between a young filmmaking student and her older boyfriend. It’s the kind of love story we see quite often: fractured, complex and inexplicable. But what Joanna Hogg does with this semi-autobiographical story that makes it so special is ground it in reality, free of showy, hyper-cinematic flares. In a time when movies are hell bent on making gigantic statements, The Souvenir did something different: it made something piercingly familiar. That it didn’t get nominated for a single BAFTA is one of the biggest awards snubs in recent memory.
Best use of a horny R-Patz character: The Lighthouse
Whether he’s a vampire or a seahand off the windy coast of North America, Robert Pattinson is really good at playing a sexually starved protagonist acting on impulse. He gave his all in The Lighthouse, the Robert Eggers comic-horror that has dominated every film festival it’s played at, and was well on its way to earning R-Patz his first Oscar nomination. Alas, it never came through. And The Lighthouse has gone widely unrecognised by the voting bodies in favour of safer choices. He dreamt of coitus with a mermaid -- and this is how you repay him?
Best North American cult horror starring Lupita Nyong'o: Us
Lupita Nyong’o gave us a tremendous, double-edged performance in Jordan Peele’s Us, and she deserves to have her dues paid after her sharply persuasive portrayals of Adelaide and Red -- two diametrically opposed characters. Lupita shows us a tender, accomplished mother with a steely resolve who is, nonetheless, petrified in Adelaide. In Red, we see the embodiment of human desperation in an alien-esque character, navigating and terrorising our unfamiliar world with jagged, uncanny movements. What’s clear in the performance of both characters is Lupita’s dogged dedication to the inner lives of each of these women, and their many, many similarities. That she failed to get formal recognition for it? A criminal misstep. Text Jenna Mahale.
Best film starring FKA Twigs: Honey Boy
Shia Labeouf writing a sort of biopic, casting himself to play his own dysfunctional father and handing the director’s control over to the brilliant Alma Har'el? Back at Sundance in 2019, Honey Boy was one to beat: a moving, brilliantly shot drama about familial conflict and the pain of being brought up a child star. It’s catnip to the kind of people who vote for stories that resonate with their own, but Shia and Alma’s film wound up being too quiet. Not even a stellar performance from i-D cover star FKA Twigs, or that aforementioned indie darling Lucas Hedges, helped to push it over the edge. Taste? The Academy doesn't know her!
Best film of the year, maybe even the century: Hustlers
Every so often I remember that Hustlers was once dismissed as dumb popcorn fodder, and then consider how powerful it is that it managed to flip the bird to its doubters and wind up being so blindingly iconic that the Academy… forgot to nominate it! It had everything: Cardi B, Lizzo, “Sorry to this man” legend Keke Palmer, Jennifer Lopez in a fur coat, a script many heist movie Hollywood veterans wish they could write, and a director, Lorene Scafaria, whose love for those women permeated every minute of the film she made. At the very least, we expected J.Lo to go home with a Best Supporting Actress gong (in the year of queen Florence Pugh, even I would allow this). But nope! Apparently we’re more interested in ensuring that the world gets to see more films about privileged, white cishet people -- predominantly men -- whose stories we’ve heard a hundred times before. We’re not angry, just disappointed.