2023 Kaedrin Movie Award Winners

The nominees for the 2023 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week, and today we announce the award winners. The Oscars were also announced this past week, and the discourse has produced the usual unhinged complaints about snubs and relatability and other bitter recriminations. As with many things, the Oscars has had a weird few years in this post-pandemic era. Hosting woes, The Slap™, and ever present controversy has taken a toll, but it’s still fun if you don’t take it too seriously. Speaking of which, it’s about time to get to my silly little awards. I realize this is happening about a month or two later than most publications’ year end roundups, but I’m not a critic with access to screeners, so I’m still catching up with a lot of 2023 movies. Anywho, that’s enough preamble, let’s get to the fireworks:

Best Villain/Badass: Leonard, played by Dave Bautista in Knock at the Cabin. This was a surprisingly hard choice, and to be sure, Bautista’s Leonard isn’t your typical villain, which is probably why I ended up choosing him. Bautista’s soulful performance contrasted with his almost comical physical presence was a big part of it. The movie wasn’t my favorite, but his performance was memorable and effective.

Dave Bautista in Knock ad the Cabin

The competition was also quite weak this year. I considered the Marquis, played by Bill Skarsgård in John Wick: Chapter 4, but he’s a sniveling weakling who hides behind Donnie Yen’s Caine (who perhaps should have been the one nominated, but he’s too sympathetic and friendly with John Wick – one of those weird borderline cases that come up in this award sometimes). Gabriel, played by Esai Morales in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One was also in contention, but he’s such a weird addition to the franchise – they play it like he’s been there all along, but this is the first we’ve seen of him. He’s certainly good in the role and I’m looking forward to the next movie, but he doesn’t really stand out. Also of note are the dueling Hugh Grant nominations for Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre and Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, both underrated movies deserving of more love (and Grant has lots of fun in both roles). It’s also nice to see a strong showing from the Slasher contingent in the nominees, but in the end, the unusualness of Bautista in Knock at the Cabin takes the cake.

Best Hero/Badass: John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 4. I don’t know how this happened. Somehow, there’s been three previous John Wick movies and Wick/Reeves has not won this award. In some ways it’s fitting that this series finale finally generates the long sought after award win, in other ways, I worry that I’m becoming like the Oscars, handing out lifetime achievement awards over more deserving winners.

Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 4

On the other hand, there really isn’t an obvious challenger to Wick and the choice is eminently defensible. Funnily enough, one of the leading challengers would be Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, who defeated Wick a few years ago for this very award (plus, to lean into the Oscar politics aspect, Cruise has won this multiple times). One other strong contender was Denzel Washington in The Equalizer 3, a movie I enjoyed way more than I thought I would (and which seems a bit slept on). Ultimately, though, it was finally time to hand the award to Wick.

Best Comedic Performance: Jennifer Lawrence in No Hard Feelings. A genuinely tough choice as there wasn’t really an obvious winner, though I do think that Lawrence’s performance is genuinely funny and she really put herself out there with this movie (sometimes, *ahem*, literally). The other nominee that I strongly considered and wanted to highlight was Glenn Howerton in BlackBerry. It’s a great performance, quite funny, and deserving of recognition. I dunno, maybe consider this a tie or something? This award is frequently strange because there are so many comedies that are more ensemble pieces than singular comedic vehicles. Plus, comedies are something of a rarity these days, with so many being a component of a larger genre (i.e. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is an adventure with a bunch of comedic beats for flavor, rather than primarily a comedy). Anyway, it’s nice to see an R-rated sex comedy these days, it’s a genre seemingly on the verge of extinction. Margot Robbie was great in Barbie, but I also feel like that’s more of an ensemble piece with a lot of humor coming from elsewhere. Paul Giamatti is amazing in The Holdovers, but while he delivers some zingers and humor, it’s more of a dramatic performance than comedy.

Breakthrough Performance: Sydney Sweeney in Reality and Anyone But You. I’ll admit to this award being somewhat nebulous, but it seems clear to me that Sydney Sweeney is going places, and that we’ll be seeing a lot more from her in the next few years. I will say that I wouldn’t have chosen her if I didn’t catch up with Reality, a high concept acting exercise that shows more range than expected. It seems obvious that Sweeney could achieve success with romantic comedies like Anyone But You, but it seems like she could choose more challenging roles and pull them off if she wanted to… Lily Gladstone was great in Killers of the Flower Moon and I suspect we’ll see more of her, and I do want to call out the last minute addition of Dar Salim in The Covenant. It wasn’t a movie I was particularly excited to see, but his performance was razor sharp and I hope we see a lot more of him in the years to come.

Most Visually Stunning: Asteroid City. Somehow, I’ve never given this award to a Wes Anderson movie. He’s one of our most distinct auteurs and visual stylists, with a brand of fussy, weaponized quirk that is truly beautiful to observe, even if you don’t love the movie (for the record, I really like Asteroid City, though it’s far from my favorite Anderson and probably won’t make the top 10).

Asteroid City

It’s obviously worth noting Barbenheimer (Barbie and Oppenheimer) here, as they’re both visually stunning, and I’ll also through out extra mention to Poor Things and The Creator, which are also beautiful movies.

Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film: Command Z. A genuinely hard choice here, but I figured I’d spread the love around a bit. Command Z is one of those experimental Steven Soderbergh movies, but its genre elements (involving time travel, amongst a few other sub-genres) tickled me in just the right way. It’s worth seeking out, and you truly do need to seek it out because one of the experimental things about this movie is its distribution, which means it’s only currently available via its website. I’m sure it’ll show up on a streaming service at some point, but it’s worth the effort to watch now. I’ll hold off on the runners up, as some will be showing up below. The only thing I should mention though is that I caught up with When Evil Lurks a few days ago and it’s certainly worthy of attention for horror fans (and would have been nominated if I saw it before the nomination post). It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s quite effective.

Best Sequel/Reboot/Remake: Godzilla Minus One. A surprising amount of good choices this year, but this was perhaps the most surprising in that I think it’s the best Godzilla movie I’ve seen since the original. The biggest problem with most Godzilla movies is that the human stories surrounding the monster are often so rote and boring. Minus One centers around a flawed but striving protagonist that you can’t help but root for, and that embues the struggle with Godzilla with much more power than most monster slugfests. Culturally and thematically rich, I haven’t seen this sort of thing in a Godzilla since the original. Lots of competition for this award though, including the trio of John Wick: Chapter 4, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, and The Equalizer 3, all with a similar sort of bent. Heck, it was even nice to catch up with Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves and A Haunting in Venice, from series I hope to see more of in coming years…

Biggest Disappointment: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Marvel’s fate post Endgame has been mostly mixed, but this, for me, was where I think it fully went off the rails. I can generally excuse things like poor special effects (like, seriously, did they let these shots finish rendering or what?) if the story is good, but this was so deeply unpleasant. Perhaps it was the near standalone nature of the first two films that made me like them so much, but nearly everything I loved about them was absent here. Not just some of the characters (Luis!) but even something as simple as the good natured relationship that Scott Lang has with his family (including his ex-wife’s husband, etc…) It was always something I loved about this sub-series, and it’s just completely jettisoned in favor of obnoxious daddy/daughter strife and crushed under the weight of Marvel’s franchise-service.

Best Action Sequences: Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. Two of the most amazing action set pieces of the year here: one a stunt where Tom Cruise drives off a cliff on a motorcycle and another in which a train crashes. Even some of the more mundane set pieces were noteworthy – a car chase through Rome works incredibly well thanks to Tom Cruise and Hayley Atwell’s comedic tension, not to mention the deranged but gleeful grin that Pom Klementieff sports as she barrels her way through Rome in pursuit. It’s even more effective when you see Fast X try something similar, with much less success. Anyway, tons of competition here and you could certainly mount a strong case for John Wick: Chapter 4 (in particular, the overhead Dragon’s Breath sequence), but let’s spread things around a bit.

Best Plot Twist/Surprise: The Artifice Girl. Obviously I won’t be spoiling this here, especially since I went into this knowing very little about it (which helps with an award like this). Fortunately, this is an underseen movie, so you too could have such an experience. It’s talky and set mostly in a couple of small rooms, but it’s fantastic. Also a strong contender for Best SF/Horror and Best High Concept, I’ve again opted to spread the love with these awards and am sticking with this choice here. Plenty of other worthy nominees, but I feel like even just nominating them is a partial spoiler, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Best High Concept Film: Silent Night and No One Will Save You. Once again, a very tough choice here, so I’m choosing the cop out, because both of these movies essentially have the same gimmick: almost no dialogue in the film at all. It’s a neat gimmick and emphasizes film as a visual medium. If I had to choose one, it would probably be Silent Night, because it’s so clearly a John Woo movie, touching on many of his themes and hobbyhorses, but he’s able to distill his vision in a stripped down, visual way, rather than through clumsy dialogue.

2023’s 2022 Movie of the Year: Orphan: First Kill. The pickins were pretty slim this year, and this award has always been a little weird in that way. The idea was that I was frequently catching up with this after my top 10 that were worthy of recognition, so I created this award for that purpose. The problem is that I rarely catch up with something that’s really that spectacular, and last year was particularly rough on that front. Even some of the nominees weren’t exactly favorites (I’m sure lots of folks would look at that list and think the obvious choice was Triangle of Sadness, but while I respect what that movie is doing, I didn’t exactly love it.) Anyway, I’m giving it to Orphan: First Kill because I wound up having a blast with the movie. Like its predecessor, it’s not exactly good, but the premise in and of itself is almost hilarious. While this seems like simply more of the same at first, it does have a twist that really makes the movie. It’s not the greatest movie or anything, but I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would…

Congratulations to all the 2023 Kaedrin Movie Award winners! And stay tuned, for next week, the awards go arbitrary!

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