The 2023 Kaedrin Movie Awards Winners were announced last week, which means that it’s time for more arbitrary considerations. 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 consistent, formal awards system will fail to capture all the nuances and complexity available; hence the 2023 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, some were stolen from other folks, but most are just, well, arbitrary. Previous Arbitrary Awards: [2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 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: Shazam! Fury of the Gods. I give this award every year, but it’s always one of the most difficult because memorably bad dialogue is actually somewhat rare. Or at least, it is for me. A lot of the worst dialogue is bad because it’s distinctly unmemorable. Anyway, this sometimes means there’s a recency bias in this award, and I literally just watched this one. It has lots of awful dialogue, but the thing that pushed it over the top was: “The most powerful thing about you… is you!” Alright, that’s not great, but is it really the worst of the year? Well, it might not have been if they only said it once in the movie. Instead they say it again, just really calling attention to the badness. Also of note, The Marvels has a planet where everyone has to sing their dialogue, which is just awful but in an almost defensible way. I mean, I don’t like it, but I suspect there are a lot of people who could get into that idea and think it’s fun. That being said, it doesn’t even have the courage of its convictions and abandons the singing halfway through the scene. Anyway, this is more due to the way the dialogue is delivered than the actual contents of the dialogue, so we’ll just leave it as not winning.
The Proximity to Jason Voorhees Award for Heroic Stupidity: It’s a Wonderful Knife. There’s some things to like about this movie, but I found myself baffled by how stupid a lot of it was. A slasher inspired by It’s a Wonderful Life is an interesting idea, but they can’t even really get the premise right, let alone have the characters do things that aren’t just nonsense. Also of note: Scream VI has well and truly driven the series into the ground, and No One Will Save You gets a bit of a pass because the dumbest characters are the invading aliens.
The Garth Marenghi “I know writers who use subtext, and they’re all cowards” Award for Achievement in Didacticism: Killers of the Flower Moon. It’s a good movie, maybe even a great movie, and I think the grand majority of the movie is thematically rich and thought provoking, but then Martin Scorsese, perhaps worn down through decades of people willfully misinterpreting his movies as glorifying the actions of horrible people, literally comes on screen and says something to the effect of “These people were all bad.” I get it, and he actually does it in an interesting way that doesn’t ruin the movie or anything, but that’s why this award is here. One of the fun things about the Arbitrary Awards is that things that seem like they’re a bad category to win aren’t actually bad. They’re just weird (and weird is good in this context!)
Achievement in the Field of Gratuitous Violence: Sisu. The Finnish role in WWII notwithstanding, that guy sure did blow up them Nazis real good. Also of note: Thanksgiving, which has some pretty gnarly effects going on.
The “Scotty Doesn’t Know” Award for Best Cameo: Bradley Cooper in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Genuinely unexpected and probably even unnecessary, the two hallmarks of the best cameos.
Also of note: John Cena as a Merman (Merken?) in Barbie.
The Hank Scorpio Award for Cheerful Villainy: Pom Klementieff in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. In particular, the sequence where she’s chasing Cruise and Atwell through Rome in a HMMV-like vehicle, just grinning dementedly as she pancakes bystanding cars in pursuit. It’s the sort of performance the elevates an almost rote henchperson role into something much more… Also of note: Casey Affleck’s performance as Boris Pash in Oppenheimer. Infused with a perfect sorta smiling menace and dread, you almost don’t even need Matt Damon’s character to explain Pash’s past exploits to know how much danger Oppenheimer put himself in with that meeting. Genuinely want to explore more about Pash, who seems like an interesting (if a bit unhinged) guy.
Most Unnecessary Subtitle: Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre. I mean, the whole title is somewhat bad, and honestly, most subtitles that aren’t sequels are unnecessary, but man, what were they thinking here? I really enjoyed the movie quite a bit, a frothy, fun spy caper thing that really didn’t catch on, but is worth seeking out if you like that sort of thing. But with a title (and subtitle) like that, I don’t blame you for not knowing about it…
Best Retired Spy: The Equalizer 3. It’s so funny that Denzel has only done two sequels in his career, and it’s these Equalizer movies he keeps coming back to… but this third installment is actually quite good! Maybe even the best of the series. Denzel’s retired spy turned drifter winds up in Italy, and finds peace… until he doesn’t and turns into an avenging spirit, almost like a slasher villain or something (but, like, heroic instead of villainous).
Best Badass/Villain (non-Human Edition): Godzilla from Godzilla Minus One. One of the great things about this movie is that they let Godzilla be a monster, instead of like, a sorta heroic monster that protects humans from bad monsters.
Most Underseen Romantic Comedy: Rye Lane. Delightful British RomCom that didn’t get much of a release here, but is well worth seeking out for fans of the genre (it’s on Hulu).
Best U.S. Military Cameo: The AC-130 in The Covenant. The movie has some tense action sequences and plenty of intractable bureaucracy, but I was not expecting the AC-130 “Angel of Death” sequence towards the end of the film. It’s disturbingly satisfying to watch.
Bleakest Horror Movie: When Evil Lurks. Absolutely messed up, nihilistic, doomcore, just plain mean movie. It’s pretty damn good.
Best YouTube Release: The History of the Minnesota Vikings. Clocking in at 9 hours and change, this is more of a TV series than a movie, but documentary director Jon Bois has really carved out a particular niche, complete with his own auteurist style. I don’t know if it’s quite as good as his History of the Seattle Mariners series, but it’s still pretty great.
Should Host the Oscars: Chancellor Jarnathan from Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Other candidates: M3GAN, The Cocaine Bear (which actually showed up at last year’s Oscar ceremony), and of course, The Entity from Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One.
That does it for the 2023 Arbitrary Awards, but stay tuned, moar 2023 movie commentary incoming, including the traditional Top 10 list (this will probably take a couple weeks) and some Oscars commentary…