Monday, February 15, 2021

The 2020 Seattle Film Critics Society Award Winners

seattle film critics society logoIt’s that time of year again. Okay, thanks to COVID-19, it’s significantly later than usual, but still, it’s the middle of awards season, the time where various groups get together to laud their favorite movies of the past year. I’m fortunate enough to vote in a couple of film critics groups and one, the Seattle Film Critics Society, just announced our 2020 awards.


As with most of the world, things regarding handing out shiny movie trophies are wonky as hell this year. The Oscars, the Golden Globes, and other major awards have been pushed back. There are also some discrepancies group to group when it comes to eligibility, so there is sure to be a lot of, “Didn’t that movie just come out?” Even more than most years. (And not just with the SFCS, it’s across the board as many, in not most groups adjusted their eligibility windows.)


Here’s my annual spiel about how I’m not a huge fan of ranking, rating, pitting films and performances against each other, and all that. I don’t like and I’m bad at it. I have little internal consistency and logic with grading films and determining which is best. In most cases, it’s the ones I like the best for whatever reason. 

[Related Reading: The 2019 Seattle Film Critics Society Award Nominations]


I know many people for whom this is serious business. Like in-depth spreadsheets, running lists of each category, and similarly detailed records. In general, I only track the movies I watch for the first time in a given year, and, when I remember to, I keep a sporadic list of the performances, scores, cinematography, and the rest that stand out and leave a mark. Like most things, I’m bad at it and usually forget to keep it up to date for most of the year, which comes back to bite me every time I go to vote and can’t remember a single damn movie. 


Basically, I’m trying to say, I play fast and loose with my nominations. And, especially this year, I didn’t actually keep track of who and what I nominated or voted for. If you’re interested, here’s the list of my favorite movies of the year:


Brent’s Top 15 Movies of 2020


That said, while I don’t put much stock in awards, I do usually enjoy the SFCS process as a whole. As a group we tend to make unusual choices—we’re fairly small, so it only takes a handful to influence things in off-kilter ways. And as opposed to others organizations, I actually know all of these people personally, so I definitely feel more invested. I’m also proud we have categories like best stunt choreography and best villain. One is fun and different, one is a huge oversight in most major awards, though a number have come around and started giving stunt performers their due.


Okay, this has gone on long enough. Below are the SFCS Award Winners for 2020. I love some of these choices. I’m not as fond of others. A few are weird as hell and I’m here for it. For each category I’ll try to include who I voted for as far as I recall and maybe even a few thoughts on the matter. Because I’m a windbag who likes to hear his own voice.


Seattle Film Critics Society 2020 Award Winners:


Best Picture of the Year


I did not vote for this, but it was on my nomination ballot and my best-of list. It’s quiet and lovely and while I’d hoped we’d go a different direction than many other groups, it’s hard to argue with this choice.


Best Director

ChloĆ© Zhao—Nomadland

I’m honestly not sure if I voted for Zhao or not here. I definitely considered it and it’s certainly deserved. She gets such delicate, nuanced performances across the board, and takes what, in other hands, could have become slow and tedious and turned it into a sharp, emotional, subtle evisceration the failings of capitalism.


Best Actor in a Leading Role

Riz Ahmed—Sound of Metal

Delroy Lindo for Da 5 Bloods was easily my choice in this category, though Ahmed was my clear number two and also gives an incredible, stunning performance.


Best Actress in a Leading Role

Frances McDormand—Nomadland

Come on, it’s Frances McDormand. Sure, I don’t vote for her, though again she was on my nomination ballot. (I went Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man as my number one choice.) But she’s incredible and should get all the awards always.


Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Daniel Kaluuya—Judas and the Black Messiah

Kaluuya absolutely channels Fred Hampton. I know technically he’s a supporting actor, but this is 100% his movie and he takes over every moment he’s on screen. (I hadn’t seen this by the time we submitted our initial nominations, so my original number one was Dan Stevens from Eurovision Song Contest.)


Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Yuh-jung Youn—Minari

Admittedly, I haven’t watched Minari yet. Every year I have a couple of glaring blind spots, big contenders I haven’t seen yet for whatever reason, and this time around it’s Minari and First Cow


Best Ensemble Cast

Da 5 Bloods—Kim Coleman, casting director

When we had to turn in our nominations, I considered only submitting this one. There are other good ensembles from 2020, but nothing close to this. The cast is incredible. I nominated Lindo as Best Actor and three others as Supporting Actor. It’s nice to see it recognized. 


Best Action Choreography


It’s hard to argue with this, but I’m not super enthusiastic about it either. Tenet is the highest profile action movie of 2020 and the set pieces are impressive and a lot of fun. (Though weirdly the scene where Nolan crashes an actual 747 was somehow kind of underwhelming, which, how?) But for my money, the best action movies released this year smaller international pictures that not many folks saw. Then again, that’s usually the case. This is the most obvious choice. (Lost Bullet was my top nomination, while Tenet was number five and the only one of mine to make the final list.) Regardless of how I feel on the winner, I love that we have this category.


Best Screenplay

Promising Young Woman—Emerald Fennell

I believe this was my second choice (I flip-flopped some between this and Palm Springs), but I have no beef with this at all. Clever and gutting, it’s an incisive look at how our society treats women. And it may have the most intentional, effective casting of any movie ever. 


Best Animated Feature

Wolfwalkers—Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart, director

I didn’t see a ton of animated movies this year, but Wolfwalkers was by far the standout for me. And thank god it wasn’t Onward.


Best Documentary Feature

The History of the Seattle Mariners: Supercut Edition—Jon Bois, director

This one’s weird as hell and I love it. A three-plus-hour deep-dive into the most aggressively mediocre baseball team in history told primarily through a power-point like presentation. I waffled back and forth a bit on this and Dick Johnson is Dead, but this is such a delightful oddity, and an impressive achievement, I’m so glad we gave it this award. Who the hell else if not us? It’s fantastic and I highly recommend tracking it down on YouTube.


Best Film Not in the English Language

Minari—Lee Isaac Chung, director

Again, I haven’t watched Minari yet. I voted Bacurau in this category, though it was, as always, a formidable slate.


Best Cinematography

Nomadland—Joshua James Richards

I voted for Shabier Kirchner for Lovers Rock, I just love how the camera places the viewer right in the middle of the party in such an intimate way. However, this was also on my nominations list and a worthy winner for sure. Richards captures the sparse beauty of open American road that is not only lovely, but thematically enhances the film. 


Best Costume Design

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom—Ann Roth

I mean, the outfits in this movie are incredible. 


Best Film Editing

Nomadland—ChloĆ© Zhao

I voted for Da 5 Bloods in this category, though Nomadland was also on my list. No beef with this choice. 


Best Original Score

Soul—Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste

I’m notoriously terrible at keeping track of scores throughout the year. I remember liking this one. And I do think it’s funny that Trent Reznor made music for a Disney movie. Who would have believed that in like 1994?


Best Production Design

Mank—Donald Graham Burt (Production Design); Jan Pascale (Set Decorator)

I didn’t see Mank, so I have no real feelings here. 


Best Visual Effects

Tenet—Andrew Jackson, Andrew Lockley, Scott Fisher, Mike Chambers

This is the obvious choice this year, nothing else even seems like a legitimate contender. Though it would have been rad to see Possessor get a nod at least we nominated it. And, of course, this looks fantastic. 


Best Youth Performance (18 years of age or younger upon start of filming):

Alan Kim—Minari

Yeah, didn’t see Minari yet. But the kid must be good because this was a strong category this year. 


Villain of the Year

The Invisible Man/Adrian Griffin—The Invisible Man—portrayed by Oliver Jackson-Cohen

More than the performance here—Jackson-Cohen is fine—it’s how the movie uses this character that stands out. He embodies the rampant misogyny and gaslighting that pervades so many domestic abuse situations and turns it into this looming force that’s everywhere, even if we can’t see it. It’s a great update on a classic movie monster. I honestly don’t remember whether or not I voted for this, but it’s a solid choice.

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