The nominations for the 2021 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. The overall awards season is in a bit of a shambles these days, for numerous reasons. The pandemic certainly plays a role, with numerous publications and even the Oscars delaying their ceremonies. The Golden Globes has nearly disappeared from the zeitgeist, though that’s at least partially due to numerous controversial scandals and corruption. But the Kaedrin Movie Awards chugs along on the same, slightly delayed schedule that befits my status as “not a critic with access to screeners”. January is generally a time when I can finally catch up with poorly distributed movies that only received qualifying runs at the end of the year, and so on. Also, I’m sometimes lazy and/or have other things going on in my life. I know, I’m sorry. Anyway, that’s enough preamble, let’s get to the winners!
Best Villain/Badass: Bob Viddick, played by Gerard Butler and Anthony Lamb, played by Toby Huss in Copshop (tie). Yes, it’s a cheat, but the way this sort of thing usual goes is that movies with multiple nominations in the same category split the vote, leading to something else winning. Since there’s only one vote that matters here, I figure I can get away with this pretty easily. Copshop was a movie that sorta fizzled at the box office and it has that Joe Carnahan sheen of macho posturing that will turn off some viewers, but I greatly enjoyed it. And the best part was the villainy.
Gerard Butler is swaggering around in full Den of Thieves scumbag mode, while Toby Huss steals every scene he’s in as a gleeful lunatic rival dirtbag. The movie falters a bit towards the end, but it’s quite entertaining.
The other nominees are all well and good, but this wasn’t an especially accomplished year in villainy. Tony Leung in Shang-Chi was a possibility, but I didn’t love the way that plays out. Similarly, Michael Myers is an accomplished villain, but I genuinely disliked Halloween Kills to the point where I was kinda rooting for him (a win here would be more like a “lifetime achievement” award, the sort of symbolic gesture common in the Oscars that I’d like to avoid).
Best Hero/Badass: Sam, played by Karen Gillan in Gunpowder Milkshake. In accordance with the “Everyone gets a John Wick” Act of 2014, this last year arguable saw 5 to 10 examples of this sort of thing. Indeed, three (arguably four) were nominated for this award. I’m giving it to Gillan because she’s great and Gunpowder Milkshake has three memorable action set-pieces that are fantastic. The movie is a bit flawed in its self-conscious copying of Wickian ideas, but Gillan and the rest of the cast (including Lena Headey, Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh, and Angela Bassett) are absolute badasses that carry the day.
Runner up goes to to fellow Wick Act nominee Bob Odenkirk in Nobody, which is also excellent. Honorable mentions to Daniel Craig’s send off of James Bond in No Time to Die (who won the very first Best Hero/Badass Award back in 2007) and Alexis Louder in Copshop (it turns out that good villainy breeds good heroism – if the heroic competition wasn’t so strong and villainy so weak, we could have had a reverse situation…) All in all, an excellent year for heroics, which given the state of the world, is probably a good thing.
Best Comedic Performance: Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo in Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar. One of the challenges of this award is that comedies are so often reliant on interactions between an ensemble for the laughs, and nothing exemplifies this concept as well as Wiig and Mumolo here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like this pair of performances… Indeed, they are so in sync with each other that it almost becomes a singular, joint performance that single handedly justifies this win. The movie itself is a weird, silly, insane delight that requires those core performances.
There are a couple other pairs in the nominees that are worthy, but the real runner up is a sole performance, and that’s Eric André in Bad Trip. Dude is really going for it and largely succeeding in a Borat-like farce. Other nominees are also worth checking out, but either I didn’t seek out enough comedy this year or people aren’t making enough comedies… Ideally, this category would have more nominees!
Breakthrough Performance: Jodie Comer in Free Guy and The Last Duel. She’s had quite a year, and these two performances are excellent and distinct, requiring different things in each case. This demonstrates an impressive range, from the subtlety of The Last Duel to the bombast of Free Guy, and she succeeds admirably. Strong, agonizing runner up from Alana Haim, who put forth a remarkable performance in Licorice Pizza. Overall, it’s a pretty solid list of nominees, and here’s to hoping they all pan out with great careers…
Most Visually Stunning: The Green Knight. This is one of those movies that is so gorgeous that nearly any shot, even any frame, is worthy of recognition. The movie is a tad long and episodic, but it’s never boring and visually impressive.
The other nominees are no slouches either, whether it be Dune‘s desaturated but still effective palate or Wes Anderson’s trademark quirkiness in The French Dispatch or Edgar Wright’s manic camera in Last Night in Soho, there were a lot of visually nifty movies last year…
Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film: Dune. After two quasi-failures in adapting Frank Herbert’s epic novel, it was tempting to claim it was an unfilmable story. And now we’re proven wrong, or at least, half-wrong, as this is one of the best first halves of a movie I’ve seen all year. Director Denis Villeneuve sometimes has a tendency to become overly ponderous and slow, but he struck an almost perfect pacing and tone with this movie. Here’s to hoping that he can stick the landing. Runners up all worthy, especially Malignant, which I get will rub some folks the wrong way, but I kinda loved. Another category I feel is kinda light this year, this time almost certainly due to my own viewing habits. I need to catch up with a bunch of other stuff…
Best Sequel/Reboot/Remake: The Suicide Squad. I can’t get over the gulf between this movie and its predecessor. Dark but still fun and just ridiculous enough to match the premise. Obviously Dune is the strongest contender here and probably the better movie, but I wanted to spread the love, and technically you could argue that Dune is more of a new adaptation than a remake or reboot, but whatever. Also of note: Zack Snyder’s Justice League was also much better than expected, though obviously it’s still indulgent and far too long. That said, it almost justifies its choices and is clearly far superior to the original cut.
Biggest Disappointment: Without Remorse. This movie had so many factors going for it. A screenplay by Taylor Sheridan, based on one of the better Tom Clancy novels (that isn’t Jack Ryan centered), starring Michael B. Jordan? This should have been a great action thriller, but the whole thing feels fumbled and sloppy. The other nominees are all mixed bags that aren’t necessarily terrible, but nevertheless scored poorly on Joe Posnanski’s Plus-Minus Scale. I suppose part of that is a me thing, but Without Remorse really took this award by the largest margin.
Best Action Sequences: One Shot. Call it a gimmick if you like, but it’s a pretty impressive gimmick. This is another one of those movies that is made to appear as one continuous shot. There have been a few of these, but none that have incorporated anywhere near this much action. And it’s not small scale stuff either. The action ranges from large scale gunfights and explosions to stealth missions across the compound to martial arts battles. Scott Adkins stars in his fair share of DTV junk, but a few of those really stand out, and this is one of them. He’s a great action star and it would be nice to see something like this on the big screen someday. Tons of great action to choose from in 2021, a really solid slate of nominees here (one that I caught up with this week that would have made the list: The Fable: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill, which has an exceptional set-piece on scaffolding that works incredibly well.)
Best Plot Twist/Surprise: The Trip. As usual, just noting that these movies have twists and surprises in them is a bit of a spoiler, so read on at your own peril. But this Scandanavian thriller doesn’t just rely on one big twist at the end or something, instead favoring a steady stream of surprising developments throughout the entire movie. One of my favorite discoveries of the year, and well worth checking out (it’s one of those foreign flicks that Netflix has that you will never stumble on because algorithm or something). Lots of other good twists in the nominees, and even some better overall movies, but when looking at just the twists, The Trip has it.
Best High Concept Film: The Last Duel. What appears to be a spin on Rashomon turns into something that distinguishes itself quite a bit by the end of the film. It’s a great film, and the concept of telling the same story through three different perspectives seems like one thing that somehow still manages to pull the rug out from underneath you in the end. It’s a remarkable film and one we’ll be seeing more about in the top 10. The other nominees have their moments, ranging from a high concept you have still probably seen before to things that are still pretty unique.
2021’s 2020 Movie of the Year: The Empty Man. I was really taken with this horror flick that got dumped due to being the last movie produced by Fox before it was gobbled up by Disney and also the bad timing of the pandemic. I’ve already said my piece on The Empty Man so I’ll leave it at that for now. Of the other nominees, I was really quite taken with The Kid Detective and annoyed with myself for not catching up with it last year. It would have certainly made my Honorable Mentions, if not the top 10…
So there you have it, please congratulate all the 2021 Kaedrin Movie Award winners! And stay tuned, for next week the awards get arbitrary!