It’s that time of year again! You know, the one where we put our faith in a voting body and hope that they’ll make good decisions that will lift us up as a society. Yep, you guessed! It’s time for the hallowed Academy Awards!
But as we have learned time and again, you can’t put all your eggs in one basket, so here, once again, are the Alternative Oscars! Erin Vail, Josh Bard, and Sydney Mineer have created their own alternative award categories to honor the films, performances and foods that they loved this year.
Marriage Story, The Report, and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
More than anything else, 2019 was the Year of Driver, #adamdriverszn, and the year I can safely say displayed the most billboards featuring Adam Driver’s face per square mile in the history of Los Angeles. Between Marriage Story, The Report, and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, it felt like I couldn’t get in my car without seeing Adam’s big beautiful face. I’m just happy I haven’t totaled my car even once!
There was a solid 3 month span where movie theaters all across the city had at least one, if not all, of those Adam Driver vehicles playing simultaneously. I will look back on this period of history with great fondness, and a little bitterness, since he has not been recognized by any of the major awards shows for his impressive body of work. Alas, this is my job. On to my favorite Adam performance of the year!
Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
This is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. On one hand, the 5 minutes of The Rise of Skywalker in which Kylo Ren “dies” and Ben Solo returns is some of the best physical and facial acting I’ve ever seen. Consider this: Ben Solo speaks two lines. One of them is “Dad…” to a Force memory (?) of Han Solo, and the other is “Ow,” after he slams into a cliff on Exegol. Yet Ben Solo is a completely different character, and Adam carries himself so differently, in his physical presence, his pushed back hair, and the softness in his face.
Actually, you know what, I’m just going to choose The Rise of Skywalker as my favorite Adam Driver performance of 2019. You can read thousands of words on his emotional, empathetic brilliance in Marriage Story, and probably hundreds of words on his simmering, nerdy, passionate presence in The Report. But Adam’s performance in the Star Wars sequel trilogy is the best acting in all of Star Wars, period, and it’s summed up expertly in The Rise of Skywalker. While I have issues with the film as a whole, everything Adam does in it is exceptional. He has to deliver the objectively terrible line, “I’m going to find you, and I’m going to turn you to the Dark Side,” seriously, and he does it with aplomb.
From both menacing to conflicted to smiley after getting his space kiss, Adam takes us on Kylo/Ben’s journey to a satisfying conclusion in The Rise of Skywalker. The yelling and emotional vulnerability in Marriage Story plus intense focus in The Report are present in his performance in The Rise of Skywalker. As #adamszn comes to a close, it’s important to recognize this excellence.
Pretty self-explanatory: I love beagles, thanks to mine and Shannon’s beloved childhood dog, Flutie.
The beagle from Parasite.
Not a lot of competition in this category this year—shoutout to previous movie beagles such as the beagle in Cats and Dogs and the beagle in John Wick (which I refuse to see to this day, knowing that sweet angel’s fate).
The beagle in Parasite comes to no harm, and is at times overshadowed by the other two fluffy dogs. But every time this beagle came on screen, I was briefly soothed and not locked into the crippling anxiety I felt while watching Parasite. I hope this beagle goes on to have a long and successful career, and brings forth a beagle renaissance in prestige films.
Speaking of cute presences on the silver screen, the next award goes to “Best Cute Kid, Who Should Have Received More Screen Time.”
Julia Butters as Trudi Fraser, the little girl actress in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Skyler Gizondo as Jared, the loner with a heart of gold in Booksmart. And Archie Yates, as Yorki, the chubby, bespectacled, missile-launcher wielding friend in Jojo Rabbit.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the winner is Yorki from Jojo Rabbit who steals every scene he is in with honest, optimistic, and hysterical dialogue with the often conflicted Jojo. Even with the immense success of the film, I would watch a sequel, chronicling Yorki’s rise in the German army. Congratulations to Archie Yates, who will probably lose most of his adorableness once puberty and/or celebrity take their toll.
Our next category awards almost the exact opposite feeling. The “You Hate to See it” award goes to the moment, expertly formulated, where you know something terrible is about to happen.
Parasite, Joker, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
This year’s best picture nominees had them in spades. The first nominee is from Parasite, when the man from the basement walks up the stairs and through the kitchen, during the family’s big birthday party. Already tense for the last hour, you just know this isn’t going to end well.
The second nominee gives you a little less time to prepare for the worst. In Joker, you know things are taking a bad turn as Murray (Robert DeNiro) is losing control of the interview with Joker (Joaquin Phoenix). We don’t know what is coming, but it is clear that there won’t be an invitation to return.
Our third nominee comes from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Manson’s disciples descend on Rick Dalton’s house. We’ve already gotten a few previews of how violent and dangerous Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) can be. And then there’s Chekhov’s Flamethrower, just waiting for its big moment.
Another award to Parasite for its perfect mixture of tension and release. The filmmaking is a thing of beauty, even if the on screen result is hard on the eyes.
There were a lot of rich people over thrown this year on the big screen—huzzah! Though most of them deserved their comeuppance, I thoroughly enjoyed watching them traipse through their mansions with that sense of entitlement you can only get when you have endless amounts of cash to cushion you.
Ready or Not, Knives Out, and Parasite
The thing about the Le Domas family mansion in Ready or Not is that it really feels like an old money house, which is appealing because it has history. It has extensive grounds with a garden (a lovely setting for a wedding), and a pool which is always a bonus. Inside, though, it is a little dark due to the wood paneling throughout the house’s hallways. And you know, also due to the dark secrets the house is holding like the game room that takes games a little too far…
Harlan Thrombey’s mansion in Knives Out is a more gothic style, but it’s brick which complements the fall landscape surrounding it. It has extensive grounds with plenty of room for dogs to roam and ample privacy. What is great about this house is that it comes with a built-in library and a snug little hideaway room at the top of the house. And a trick window for, you know, tricks.
While the Park family home in Parasite feels like a house right out of Architectural Digest (it was designed by a fictionally famous architect/the plot feels like what would happen if you were to climb into any house in the pages of those magazines), it’s not cozy enough for my taste. The house is a work of art to be sure—I love the open concept of the first floor, the spacious bathtub/sauna, and the gorgeous window wall—but it’s not exactly warm. Ya know? It also has that whole haunting basement situation.
I’m going with the Thrombey mansion from Knives Out! It’s spacious enough that you can move your pals in. It’s great for parties. It’s got lots of lighting, the aforementioned library and cool hideout at the top of the house, a balcony… Once you move out the throne of knives it would feel downright homey! Now, someone fetch me the “My House, My Rules” mug.
I love movies about food– your Ratatouilles, your Julie & Julias– so naturally, I also love when a movie about something else manages to centralize food in its story. There isn’t a ton of competition for best meal this year, but food played a big role in both The Farewell and Parasite, our nominees for this category…
The Farewell and Parasite
In The Farewell, food is used as a source of comfort and community, uniting the family in consumption of large quantities of deliciousness. On the flip-side, though, it is also used as a shield for the discussion of the crippling emotions at the center of the film. Food is the stand in for the expression of that emotion. Food is life! Food is love!
In Parasite, food is a source of power. As the Kim family moves to infiltrate the wealthy Park house hold, they find the key to their final incursion in the skin of a peach, weaponizing the house keeper’s allergy to spin it into something more deadly in the eyes of the wealthy family. The Kim’s see food as a means of survival, while their employers, the Parks, take it for granted as part of their ~rich people~ entitlement. It’s another luxury in which to indulge and take for granted, as they take for granted the power that they hold in society and in their home.
RamDon from Parasite.
I’ll be honest, there was never really any competition for this award, I just love talking about food! And I have not stopped thinking about this RamDon dish since I first saw it on screen. The request for this dish happens at a tumultuous turn in the film.
The Kims have just discovered a secret lingering in the house that they thought they had heartily won. As they scramble to deal with this, the Parks announce their fast return to the house and their desire for RamDon. As the house is thrown into chaos prepping for their arrival, the steady preparation of this dish intensifies the action around it, making it so much more satisfying to see the mouth-watering final product—a mix of Udon and Ramen noodles with juicy looking chunks of sirloin steak in a brown sauce. Tensions and anxieties are running high at this point, but the film takes a breath, letting the chaos simmer before boiling over as we watch this RamDon being slowly enjoyed.
My question is, why haven’t any restaurants in L.A. capitalized on the popularity of Parasite and put this incredible, simple dish on their menus? Hello! Feed me!
Niche categories aside, 2019 was a solid year for movies. Let’s hope 2020 doesn’t disappoint! Will you be watching and/or tweeting along with the Academy Awards this Sunday? Which film was your favorite of the year? Let us know on Twitter!