The nominations for the 2017 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. I’m sure your anticipation knows no bounds, so today I’ll be announcing the winners. Next week, I’ll announce the winners of some more goofy, freeform categories that we call the Arbitrary Awards, and not long after that, I’ll post my top 10 of 2017. Finally, we’ll have some Oscars talk (predictions and probably live-tweeting or retweeting funnier people than me) and then it’s on to 2018. Without further ado:
- Best Villain/Badass: Adrian Toomes / Vulture, played by Michael Keaton in Spider-Man: Homecoming. While I’d judge the overall quality of villainy in 2017 to be relatively low, the relative strength of the nominees was actually pretty high. Keaton’s Vulture might be the best MCU villain (with the only real competition being Loki), in large part because his motivations are so relatable and almost even justified. Runner up would be Adam Driver as Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, who continues to carve out a unique form of villainy in the largely black and white Star Wars universe. Pennywise the Clown, played by Bill Skarsgård in It, is also well worth a mention, but fell behind a bit due to excessive use of CGI in the film. Michael Fassbender’s David is a fascinating character, it’s just a shame that Alien: Covenant is such a bad movie. Kurt Russell also made for a more engaging than usual Marvel Villain in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and the extent to which the character Hela works at all in Thor: Ragnarok is due entirely to Cate Blanchett’s sheer force of charisma. The remaining nominees all have their pros and cons, of course, but in the end, it’s Keaton’s year.
- Best Hero/Badass: Lorraine Broughton, played by Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde and Bradley Thomas, played by Vince Vaughn in Brawl in Cell Block 99 (tie). Oy, I couldn’t decide, so I just chose both. A cheat, but these are two great badasses. An utterly brutal, punishing performance from an unexpected source in Vince Vaughn.
I mean, he beats up a car with his bare hands, and that’s the least badass thing he does. Charlize Theron kicks a lot of ass and pulls off some of the more intense action sequences of the year (more on this in a bit)…
She’s more polished and stylized than Vaughn, making this an almost apples to oranges comparison, hence the tie. On the superhero front, Wonder Woman was certainly a contender. The Villainess suffered a bit from melodrama, but has some wonderful sequences for its titular hero. Tom Hardy’s role in Dunkirk was probably too small to really take the award, but it’s a pivotal (and yes, badass) role. Similarly, there were a bunch of nominees, like Armie Hammer’s character in Free Fire, that were great,
but only really functioned as part of a larger ensemble.
- Best Comedic Performance: James Franco in The Disaster Artist. There’s something kinda bittersweet about the performance, but I feel like there’s a genuine love for the character in the performance, and so it did make me laugh quite a bit. Runner up would be Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird (believe it or not, she’s a former Best Hero/Badass winner, and might be the first person nominated for both). Kumail Nanjiani in The Big Sick was also a front-runner. The other nominees were all great, of course, but tended to be smaller performances or part of a larger ensemble, which is always a difficulty with this particular award.
- Breakthrough Performance: Robert Pattinson in The Lost City of Z and Good Time. Alright,
so this is an example of what makes this award a little strange. I obviously knew who Robert Pattinson was, but I must admit that his rise to sparkly vampire stardom did set a point of reference that was perhaps not ideal for him. I also knew that he had done some smaller, more independent fare over the years (perhaps to escape his sparkly vampire reputation), but this year saw two pretty fantastic performances (both in movies I don’t love, per say). I didn’t even recognize him in The Lost City of Z, but the real performance of the year was in Good Time. The movie is a bit too much of a downer for me overall, but he’s amazing in it. As for the other nominees, well, just getting the nomination is an award right? Also of note, I probably should have included Vicky Krieps from Phantom Thread as a nominee, but didn’t because I’m the worst.
Take a bow Vicky, you were wonderful.
- Most Visually Stunning: Dunkirk. The thing with this category is that the nominees can usually be split into two camps: Gorgeous spectacle and well photographed with impeccable cinematography. Winners tend to favor the former rather than the latter, but this year it went the other way.
Perhaps it was the theatrical experience of IMAX 70mm, and to be sure, there’s a little spectacle in the movie… but nothing quite as ostentatiously spectacular as Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, which was actually one of a handful of others that was a solid choice. Star Wars: The Last Jedi also merits a mention in the gorgeous spectacle realm (and it’s also conversant in film history in a way that no Star Wars film has been since the originals, which is worth recognizing), and Blade Runner 2049 straddles the line well. Columbus might actually be the film with the best cinematography and composition, but it all felt a little static for my taste. The other nominees are nothing to sneeze at either, so maybe quit it with all the sneezing, ok?
- Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film: Get Out. I know this is not a common mix of genres, but rare is the year that science fiction films could warrant a category of their own, so I always pad out the category with some horror. The past several years have seen strong SF presence, and this year there’s a nice mix, but the ultimate winner goes to horror. Get Out is a wonder. Supremely entertaining on its own, filled with social relevance without feeling preachy or didactic (and indeed, playing on such expectations to superb effect).
Lots of other good choices. No clear second place, though I will make special mention of Better Watch Out, The Girl with All the Gifts, and Your Name, as they don’t show up much in these sorts of discussions, and I love them all…
- Best Sequel/Reboot: Spider-Man: Homecoming. I feel like this movie had the deck stacked against it. It’s the second reboot in less than ten years, and the previous few films (going back to even Raimi’s disappointing third entry) did little to inspire confidence. True, the new Marvel take showed up in Civil War (and was great there), but that could have easily been a fluke. Ultimately, though, this movie succeeded where many Marvel movies fail. It had a great villain, and while the stakes were smaller in an objective sense, I felt just as involved as one of the more planet-threatening box-shooting-a-beam-of-light-into-the-sky scenarios (if not moreso). I was also quite close on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but the whole Casino planet subplot held me back a bit. Honestly, this was a pretty strong year for this category. Several of these films compare favorably to previous winners. I have a general aversion to sequels though, so it’s often difficult for me to populate this category. But not this year, for some reason.
- Biggest Disappointment: The Mummy. I had high hopes. I really did. I love the old Universal monster-verse, which you could argue as being the original cinematic universe, so it just made sense to properly revive those old properties. It’s been done numerous times before (most successfully with the Hammer Horror films in the 60s), but for whatever reason, Universal just keep stumbling, and this latest attempt, an explicit effort to set up a cinematic universe,
flamed out rather spectacularly. Many elements were there. I actually like Tom Cruise. Sofia Boutella was an inspired choice for the Mummy. Unfortunately, with the exception of the plane crash sequence, most of the film fell flat and the blatant hooks for future films did no favors. While perhaps not objectively the worst nominee, it was the most disappointing because my expectations and hopes conspired to let me down on this one. Of the other nominees, I rather liked the idea of Killing Gunther and Schwarzenegger was great in it… but it’s just a shame that he only shows up at the end, and that the rest of the movie is subpar at best. Most disappointing. Magellan is one probably no one else watched, and I guess with good reason, but it’s disappointing because there are some interesting ideas that just sort of go nowhere in the end…
- Best Action Sequences: Atomic Blonde. Several great setpieces in the film, notably the stairwell long take, but also lots of others. John Wick: Chapter 2 is the runner up, I guess, and the two films share the same aesthetic, but Atomic Blonde‘s felt fresher and more distinct. Baby Driver and Three are both noteworthy in that they have one exceptional action setpiece (the opening car chase of Baby Drive, and the shootout finale in Three) that drove its nomination, but could not pull ahead for the win. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets suffered a similar fate, even if it had a little more consistent action throughout the film. The Villainess also had a spectacular first person opening that guaranteed a nomination, but could not bring it hope with the remainder of the film…
- Best Plot Twist/Surprise: Your Name. Whether or not you can see a plot twist coming is a measure that is not as meaningful as you might think, but I have to be honest in that I really didn’t see the twist in this one coming. I almost feel bad even indicating that there is a twist in this movie at all, as I certainly don’t want to spoil anything, but who am I kidding: this is an anime movie that few of you will probably watch. I considered Split for a while, because it’s another one I didn’t see coming and loved when it happened, but the implications of that twist held it back a little. I loved the sort of downer twist of Blade Runner 2049, but then, it’s also a bit of a downer. Better Watch Out
is the rare “early” twist that actually works well. But now we’re edging ever closer to spoiler territory, so I’ll refrain from ruining the other nominees (even though, again, just saying that there is a twist can be something of a spoiler; I guess that’s just a risk we have to take, eh?)
- Best High Concept Film: Bad Genius. Another obscure one that you probably haven’t seen, this is a Thai teen movie… and it’s the best caper of the year (albeit unconventionally so). I won’t say much more about it, but it’s definitely worth checking out. Shout out to Happy Death Day for being an actual good take on the whole “What if Groundhog Day was a horror movie?” concept that has been done poorly oh so often. Of course, it’s still a blatant ripoff of Groundhog Day, so it can’t get the win, but it’s got a nice twist or two on the formula. Also Wheelman, a sorta action packed version of Locke that doesn’t get much play.
- 2017’s 2016 Movie of the Year: Silicon Cowboys. I guess? I mean, it’s a pretty straightforward documentary on the rise and fall of Compaq computers. A topic in my wheelhouse, so there is that. And it’s totally worth checking out if you like this sort of thing, but it’s not really something that would have cracked my Top 10 (or even honorable mentions) last year. The other nominees are fine for what they are, but it turns out that I didn’t follow up on a lot of 2016 movies this year, to the point where I probably should have just removed this category altogether. And this isn’t the first year this happened either, so this might be destined to become a quasi-annual Arbitrary Award someday. But for now, I’m fine with giving it to the nerdy computer documentary.
Phew! Some of those category were really difficult, and after my first draft right now, I’m waffling hard on a couple of my choices (update: yep, I put a tie for best hero/badass because I’m the worst).