The 2020 Kaedrin Movie Award Winners were announced last week. The idea is to recognize aspects of films that aren’t reflected in more traditional awards or other praise like a Top 10 list. However, any awards system will fail to capture all the nuances and complexity available; hence the Arbitrary Awards, an opportunity to commend movies that are weird or flawed in ways that don’t conform to normal standards. A few of these “awards” have become an annual tradition, but most are just, well, arbitrary. These are always fun, but in a year as weird as 2020, they are also necessary. Previous Arbitrary Awards: [2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006]
The “You know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else” Award for Worst Dialogue: Tenet. Look, I really love this movie and it will most likely find a spot on my top 10… but it has the absolute worst howler of the year. Upon discovering that her husband’s plan will kill everyone on the planet, the character of Kat feels compelled to inform us that this is “Including my son!!” Elizabeth Debicki is a good actress, but no one could deliver that line in a way that would not result in at least a snort from the audience. The rest of the dialogue in the film isn’t particularly noteworthy either way, though it does seem like Nolan is trolling people a bit for complaining about all the exposition in Inception (and thus we get the “just feel it” line here). And yet, the “Including my son!!” line is just so bad that it wins this award all by itself. (There are probably movies that overall have worse dialogue, but it’s the extreme contrast here that just sinks it – how can a movie this carefully constructed and well thought out include such a terrible line?)
The Proximity to Jason Vorhees Award for Heroic Stupidity: Save Yourselves! Of course, that’s kinda the point of the movie. However, just because a movie is self aware and pits two know-nothing hipsters against a Critters-like alien invasion doesn’t mean it’s enjoyable. It feels more sad than funny. Again, that’s kinda the point of the movie, but still, I couldn’t get past how stupid these two were.
The Garth Marenghi “I know writers who use subtext, and they’re all cowards” Award for Achievement in Didacticism: Bacurau. I go back and forth on this movie in general, but it is unquestionably a blunt commentary. Again, not sure how to take that. On the one hand, I don’t usually like that approach… on the other, you have to admire the brazenness. I have a feeling this is going to become a recurring Arbitrary Awards category (like the previous two).
The “Weiner” Award for Unparalleled Access to Documentary Subjects: The Painter and the Thief. It’s a rather amazing story, and the documentary covers a very long period of time. That the thief agreed to be a subject for the painter in the first place is pretty amazing. The documentary footage is just icing on the cake at that point. Certainly not as amazing as this award’s namesake, but still pretty good… Honorable mention to Tread, which certainly had a wealth of audio to pull from, but mostly because the subject thoughtfully left it for people to discover.
The Beer Baron “To alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems” Award For Contemplating Man’s Relationship With Alcohol: Another Round. There are times when I think this movie nearly endorsed alcoholism, but it clearly backs away from that by depicting some rather severe consequences while still retaining the idea that alcohol itself can be a fine thing in moderation.
Best Action-Packed Long Take of the Year: Extraction. The movie clearly hews to the Netflix mold of generally bland storytelling, but there is one action sequence that is portrayed as a single long take that is very well executed.
Achievement in the Field of Gratuitous Violence: Possessor. Perhaps an unconventional pick, as it’s not like this is wall to wall violence, but when it goes there, it goes hard. The violence is absolutely gruesome here, and hard to watch. A more conventional pick would be VFW, which isn’t exactly cartoonish violence, but not as affecting as Possessor.
Best Motion Picture Score: Soul by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross with Original Jazz Compositions by John Batiste. Around 30 years ago, Trent Reznor was writing songs about fist fucking and commissioning music videos that bordered on snuff films. Now, he’s composing movie soundtracks for G-rated Disney/Pixar fare… and it’s amazing. Reznor and Ross effortlessly transition between Batiste’s jazzy compositions and the more whimsical numbers reserved for the afterlife. It also demonstrates the protagonist Joe’s love of music and the inspiration it can provide. Honorably mention to Carpenter Brut’s synthy score on Blood Machines, a movie that is otherwise mostly awful. Do yourself a favor and skip the movie, but look up the score. It’s great.
Award for Pandemic Creativity: Host. Most of the stuff produced whilst in lockdown during the pandemic has been painfully bad, but this short found footage horror jam was very well executed. A bit derivative, for sure, but entertaining and spooky.
Best Faked Death Sequence: The Air Conditioner in Dick Johnson Is Dead. This is a very strange film, a little messy at times, but the concept at its core is an eye-opening one. A documentary filmmaker works with her aging father to stage a bunch of fake death scenes, perhaps as a way to cope with the coming grief of his inevitable passing. It’s an interesting, if a bit indulgent, conceit. It gets a bit messy when other things develop, but it’s all worth checking out if you’re in an existential mood.
The Irishman De-Aging Was Terrible Award for Best Flashback Alternative: Da 5 Bloods. I wonder if Spike Lee tried to convince Netflix that de-aging his cast for the Vietnam sequences was worthwhile… In any case, I’m glad he didn’t get that de-aging money, because the alternative he devised – just using the actors, unchanged – is far more effective.
Best Badass/Villain That Didn’t Get Nominated Because I Hadn’t Seen the Film Yet: Han, played by Hae-soo Park in Time to Hunt. I caught up with this post-apocalyptic heist flick a few days ago, and it’s a neat little flick, if a bit derivative. Han is the character that is hunting down our protagonists after the heist, and he’s pretty darned badass. He wouldn’t have won the category, but if I’d seen the movie before the nominations came out, he would have garnered a nom.
Best Badass/Hero (non-Human Edition): My Octopus Teacher. What a neat little film. It’s a little stilted, but the octopus at its heart makes for a great subject for a documentary.
So there you have it, another bout of Arbitrary Awards. Stay tuned for the traditional Top 10 list (with honorable mentions and the coveted Quantum Jury Prize), which will probably be up in two weeks (though maybe I’ll have a productive week and get it down by next Sunday, who knows?)