2017 has come and gone, and with it, a veritable horde of films, TV shows and video games for consumers to gobble up. There’s been some good, there’s been some bad, and there’s been a tonne of downright ugly, but here we just want to focus on the good. And what a lot there has been! This past year in film we’ve seen a couple war epics, a handful of biopics, and more superhero films than you can shake a cinematic universe at, on the TV side of things, there have been a few new original ideas, alongside returning seasons of some favourite adult cartoons, and the video game world saw the triumphant return of an ageing franchise and the exciting start of a brand new one.
So let’s rate ’em, shall we? Read on to see the winners and runners up (Runner ups? Runners ups?) for the various categories of the first annual Up The Geek Apaddlemy Awards, colloquially known as The Oscoars.
Winner – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
The premise of THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is a simple one – simpler than the title, at least. A young girl was raped while dying, and no arrests were made. The girl’s mother, furious and distraught that everyone seemed to be forgetting about this great atrocity, rented three billboards outside of town that read “Raped while dying”, “And still no arrests?”, “How come Chief Willoughby?” as an attempt to light a fire under the asses of justice. Though it often refuses to take much seriously, and is not wanting for pitch black humour, the film knows when to sit back and let an emotional moment land, usually elevating the scene with a beautiful and thoughtful piece of music, or an insightful, poignant voice over. It also allows plenty of time to expand upon and explore its characters as they drive the narrative forwards, with plenty of surprises and some truly excellent moments as relationships are defined, broken and redefined.
Runner Up – Get Out
GET OUT sees a young black man, Chris, being taken by his white girlfriend Rose to meet her rich parents for the first time and stay the weekend at their remote family home. On the way, he expresses some doubts that are sure to linger in the backs of many minds – what the hell do I do if they turn out to be horribly racist? Upon meeting Rose’s parents, Chris’ fears are mostly allayed, as her mother is pleasant enough, if a little disapproving of his smoking habit, and her father’s only fault is talking about Obama too much. The social satire is rinsed thoroughly as Chris is subject to more and more “in your face tolerance” at a huge party, in which he is treated as something of a spectacle, and reminded over and again of his otherness. Small hints of disquiet and creepiness soon give way to overt horror, and the film reaches a crescendo, with themes and plot threads from throughout feeding in to nail-biting finale.
Winner – Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out)
Meeting the parents isn’t easy for any prospective boy/girlfriend, but few have as rough a time of it as Chris does in GET OUT. He meets his white girlfriend’s parents expecting them to be typical racist-under-the-surface WASP types, but what he gets is more disturbing and terrifying than he could have imagined. As the narrative swerves from social satire to straight up horror, Chris turns from a slightly uncomfortable, but too polite to call out microaggressions kind of guy to a terror victim. The dramatic shift in circumstance, along with the implied safety being suddenly ripped away, offers a great chance to see the different sides of Chris, and the exploration into his backstory allows Kaluuya to fully expose his character’s vulnerabilities, with a raw and desperate portrayal that is rich with emotional resonance, easily making for the film’s best scenes.
Runner Up – Hugh Jackman (Logan)
Hugh Jackman has played Wolverine for seventeen years, bringing the crotchety Canuck to life in nine films and a couple of video games. In all that time, none of his appearances have been more true to the character, and offered more exploration into said character, than LOGAN. Broken and bitter after the mysterious loss of the X-men, the artist formerly known as Wolverine is a much deeper character than previously seen, and Jackman’s gracefully savage portrayal tears to shreds all previous conceptions of what Logan could be. This is a swansong for both actor and character, and the mature, complex performance that Jackman delivers elevates the film to emotional heights never seen before in the superhero genre.
Winner – Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Nothing can make up for losing a loved one, but it goes without saying that a little justice wouldn’t go amiss. In THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, Mildred faces such a problem, as not only does her daughter get raped and killed, but the local police department fail to make any arrests. As Mildred, McDormand is, for the most part, as resolute and unyielding as a block of granite, moving through the narrative with the singular purpose of seeing justice for her daughter, often to the detriment of those who oppose her, or worse, seek to obstruct her. Woven intricately into the seemingly harsh and cold exterior, however, are an impish sense of humour and a warm nurturing instinct, both of which emerge in the most surprising of times, making her portrayal an incredibly relatable, human one.
Runner Up – Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)
The global narrative surrounding the infamous Tonya Harding is that her jealousy and ambition lead her to arrange a vicious attack on Nancy Kerrigan in an attempt to remove the competition. The lady herself denies this, of course, and it’s from “irony free, wildly contradictory, totally true” interviews with her and ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, that the script of I, TONYA was developed. As her character grows and starts to clash with stuffy skating associations who view her as white trash, Robbie’s belligerent, yet easily wounded portrayal casts a new light on the infamous Tonya. The insecurities and home-grown strength shown as she faces adversity, particularly from her abusive mother and ex-husband, give a real underdog spirit to the character, and regardless of the truth surrounding the issue, Robbie’s performance makes Tonya worth rooting for.
Best Supporting Actor
Winner – Patrick Stewart (Logan)
There’s something very unsettling about seeing someone you’ve relied on for so long lose control of themselves. Since the start of the X-men franchise, Professor Charles Xavier has been something of a constant: No matter how old he is, no matter who plays him, no matter how stable he is, he will always show himself to be cool, controlled and super powerful by the time the end credits roll. And then LOGAN ruined it all. Suffering from a degenerative neurological disease, Charles swings between maudlin regret of his past actions, and loopy ramblings with abandon, all peppered with an increasingly lax control over his mutant powers. Throughout it all, Stewart delivers the performance of a lifetime; the dementia-like moments are grandiose and almost fun, reminiscent of Stewart’s theatrical history, yet the depressive moments are achingly heartfelt, and more powerful than any mutant.
Runner Up – Jason Mitchell (Mudbound)
It takes a lot to make a man want to stay at war. MUDBOUND sees the sons of two families go off to fight the Nazis, one white family, and one black. While neither one comes back exactly happy, such is the nature of war, it’s Mitchell’s character Ronsel who epitomizes the most interesting topic that the film raises. As a black man from the south who went off to war, he returns home to face people who still consider him to be less than human, people whose freedom he had put his life on the line to defend, and he struggles to put up with it as he once did. Mitchell’s portrayal is wearied, constantly on edge and completely fed up with the status quo, and when his desire to be treated the same as everyone else gets him into trouble, he is terrified, pained and broken in a performance that is as uncomfortable to watch as it deserves to be.
Best Supporting Actress
Winner – Octavia Spencer (The Shape Of Water)
Only a very special kind of person will almost unquestioningly support a friend as they engage in an inter-species romance with a fish monster. Such a person is THE SHAPE OF WATER’s Zelda Fuller, a cleaner at a top secret government facility alongside the main character, Elisa Esposito. As her friend is a mute, Zelda ends up talking for them both as they go about their cleaning rounds, and as such her personality is one of the more defined in the film. Spencer’s strength and wit as she helps Elisa navigate the tricky waters of romancing a government test subject are a huge part of what makes her character so intriguing, but it is her relationship with her husband that elevates her above the others. All the while Elisa is having this fairy-tale, overtly romantic encounter, Zelda will make idle chit-chat about her incredibly mundane, altogether more realistic relationship, acting as a grounded and relatable comparison to the magical coupling at the film’s centre.
Runner Up – Alison Janney (I, Tonya)
I, TONYA is a film built from contradictory accounts and personal prejudices. As such, it is difficult to know exactly what kind of mother LaVona Golden was to the infamous figure skater, so the only available comparison is simply how well this character matches up with Tonya’s recollections of her mother. A deeply complex woman, there is nothing particularly good about Janney’s depiction of LaVona; she is physically, verbally and emotionally abusive to her daughter, seemingly devoid of any positive human emotions and completely unwilling to engage in anything that could be deemed even remotely warm or motherly. That being said, her callousness and cruelty are intricately mixed with a desire to see Tonya reach her full potential, and most of her abusive behaviours are born from this trait, leading to a woman who does all the wrong things, sometimes for what she believes to be the right reasons.
Winner – Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk)
As a director, Nolan has a habit of using the concept of time to elevate a good story into a great experience, so when he announced that he planned to make a film about Operation Dynamo – the extraction of over 300,000 allied troops from France – it should have come as no surprise that this was not going to be a traditional war epic. Instead, DUNKIRK follows three separate story threads, each taking place over a different length of time, all interwoven into one narrative that paints a broad, inclusive picture of a vast and complicated war effort. Each segment carries with it a distinct style – be it the sturdy patriotism fuelling the civilian boat rescue, the frantic, skin-of-their-teeth survival of the foot soldiers or the detached efficiency of the plane battles – so the jumps between the timelines never feel too jarring, and they each compliment one another enough to make the overall film feel like a stylistically varied, but very much cohesive vision.
Runner Up – Jordan Peele (Get Out)
The idea that a member of a famous comedy duo could then go on to produce one of the most insightful, chilling and original horror films ever seen used to be an impossible one. Then Jordan Peele came along and shocked the world with GET OUT, his social satire turned racially charged nightmare that artistically explores themes and threats of racism in America, all through the lens of a subversive, intelligent horror. Visually, the film is striking, playing with the subject matter of race with clever imagery such as the rich white people arriving to the party in black cars – a small but critical scene that lays the groundwork for later plot reveals – or the enchantingly empty “sunken place”, the soundless depths of which are a haunting criticism of marginalisation and oppression.
Winner – Roger A. Deakins (Blade Runner 2049)
When making a work of cyberpunk, the most important thing to get right is the look. You have to capture the perfect blend of shadow and neon, industrial and technology, a world more advanced, yet also more depraved than our own. Back in 1982, the original nailed this concept, setting the standard for exactly how a science fiction/noir story could look, and essentially kick-starting the cyberpunk genre into what we know it as today. BLADE RUNNER 2049 came in fully aware of this high bar, and soared right over it with it’s visually stunning exploration of the lands beyond the original’s scope. The city streets are still beautifully crafted with their holographic advertisements dominating the spaces, but it’s elsewhere that Deakins’ magic truly shines. From the orange tints of Deckard’s radiated desert hideaway, to the snowy finale – the expansion of the Blade Runner universe makes for a film that is just as striking visually as it is intellectually.
Runner Up – Dan Laustsen (The Shape of Water)
Any fairy-tale worth its salt, especially one that focuses on a mute woman courting a fish man, knows that if it wants to be truly great, it needs to do more than just present a unique, whimsical story: it has to bring said tale to life with magical, eye-catching imagery. This tightrope walk is one that THE SHAPE OF WATER knows exactly how to tread. From the cinematic opening scene of a flooded apartment with its mysterious atmosphere and ghostly visuals, to the tense, evocative finale with its instantly iconic underwater tableau, Laustsen has painted near-everything with a soft, ethereal blue tint. Coupled with the story beats that focus intensely on water – Elisa’s private bathtub times, her and Zelda mopping up blood, Strickland’s thoughts on hand-washing – and the film presents a strong connection to water, embodying a key theme of its own narrative.
Winner – Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos (Baby Driver)
A heist film relies more heavily than most on its editing team to make sure that the high tempo action sequences get pulses sufficiently raised, but BABY DRIVER takes that need and kicks it into sixth gear with it’s dedication to creating a strong symbiosis between its music and visuals. Small, innocuous moments, such as main character Baby collecting and delivering the morning coffees for his fellow criminals while they plan a heist, or making breakfast for his foster father, are set to whatever music he happens to be listening to at the time, and choreographed with the precision of a musical to line up actor movement with audio cue – and that’s just the beginning. Larger set pieces, including the car chase set to “Bellbottoms” by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, or the shootout scored by The Button Down Brass’ “Tequila”, see the concept elevated with gun shots, explosions, wheel screeches and more syncing with the soundtrack, in this genius feat of choreography and editing skill that gives the film a unique, musical twist.
Runner Up – Lee Smith (Dunkirk)
The concept of juggling multiple stories in one sprawling narrative is a challenging one, as each of the individual strands is trying to spin its own yarn, often resulting in a wildly varied pace as the focus jumps from one plot to the next. While DUNKIRK is definitely not immune to this particular issue, it manages to avoid faltering for the most part, and actually turns the phenomenon to its advantage with deft, deliberate edits used to show the different stories’ individual timelines. The ground troops’ plot, for instance, which is set over the course of a week, sees plenty of long tracking shots with less emphasis on fast cuts, even during scenes of high tension, whereas the air force story, set over just one hour, doesn’t spend too much time lingering on any one shot – representative of both the short timeline and the urgency of the pilots’ mission.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Winner – Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green (Logan)
The X-Men hold a very important place in the history of comic book films. Not only are they heavily responsible for the cultural swing towards superheroes in cinema, but they also dabbled with juggling large, ensemble casts of super-powered beings years before The Avengers ever hit screens. After building up such a legacy, it was almost fitting that Wolverine, the central figure since the franchise’s inception, was the one to subvert everything the property stood for in the low-key, character driven neo-western LOGAN. Very loosely adapted from the comic book series “Old Man Logan”, the film retains the key themes and tone of its source material, but offers a wholly fresh and remarkably adult story to see the clawed Canadian out with satisfaction. The narrative is deep, offering some incredible introspection on beloved characters, the writing is sharp and fiercely intelligent, full of Easter eggs for the franchise as a whole, as well as a heart-wrenching callback to the prophecy in The Wolverine, and the film stands as living proof that superheroes and rich, complex story lines don’t need to be mutually exclusive.
Runner Up – Virgil Williams and Dee Rees (Mudbound)
Most films focused on World War 2 imply that once the soldier is home, his struggle is over. MUDBOUND, adapted from the award winning 2008 novel of the same name, forgoes much time spent in actual war zones, opting instead to look at the trials and torments that await those lucky enough to get home alive. The film focuses on two families, one black and one white, who work the same cotton farm in Mississippi, and their respective sons who both return from war to face survivor’s guilt and racism. The narrative is kept simple enough, leaving plenty of room to dig into the characters and social aspects of 1940’s southern farm life, and running throughout is the strong theme of grit and fortitude in the face of a life as cold and hard as the winter mud.
Best Original Screenplay
Winner – Jordan Peele (Get Out)
It’s extremely difficult to write an original horror film these days. With only so many stories under the sun, and a finite selection of fears for filmmakers to exploit, it is both extraordinary and refreshing that GET OUT manages to be so unique in its execution. The story weaves together some typical film tropes – guy meeting girl’s parents for the first time, secluded farmhouse, villains whose sinister nature only becomes apparent over time – but rather than a rehash, Peele manages to find new life for each of them with his clever and incisive social satire of the black experience in America. Everything from police profiling to over-eager white people is covered here, often with hilarious results. And then, when the comedic turns to the chilling as terrifying truths are revealed, some truly intelligent twists are applied to the horror formula, including a riff on the “cotton-picker” racial slur, and an ending that only works so well because the groundwork had been laid so subtly throughout the rest of the script.
Runner Up – Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Telling the story of a woman who, frustrated at the police for not finding a culprit for the rape and subsequent murder of her daughter, decides to erect a trio of billboards to spur them into action, McDonagh once again turns in a pitch-black comedy that subverts and openly ignores traditional narrative structure, in THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI. The script is filled from start to finish with excellent dialogue, monologues that swing between hilarious and melancholic at the drop of a hat, and an abrupt refusal to take the story anywhere near where the audience expects it to go. The quirky host of characters are a satisfying array of fierce, flawed and funny – exemplified in the honest attention paid to a racist cop character, who is not only presented as a complex person rather than a hate-filled stereotype, but is more importantly given a strong arc in which, he may not become good, but at least ends up slightly less terrible than he began.
Best Original Score
Winner – Hans Zimmer (Dunkirk)
Collaborations between super-composer Zimmer and director Nolan always tend to lead to some pretty extraordinary music, with their combined might leading to such films as Interstellar, Inception, and the Dark Knight trilogy, and their latest endeavour, DUNKIRK is certainly no exception. Developed from the particularly insistent ticking of a watch belonging to Nolan, the score excels in creating and maintaining an enormous level of tension thanks to the subtle implementation of the Shepard tone. This auditory illusion consists of a superposition of sine waves separated by octaves, with the middle at a constant volume, the upper fading out and the lower fading in, tricking the brain when played on a loop, and giving the impression of a pitch that is seemingly increasing unto infinity. With this clever trick as a baseline, Zimmer went on to create a score that covers the three separate time frames with unique, stirring tracks, none of which fail to bring the tension.
Runner Up – John Williams (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)
Much like the challenges faced by the continuation of the Star Wars franchise itself, the creation of new, evocative scores that can forge their own identity while simultaneously paying homage to everything that came before them is a tricky tightrope to walk to say the least. As the original creator of that now iconic orchestral track and every piece of music heard in the saga thus far, Williams is a deft hand at weaving the various themes and motifs of the past films into his work, and THE LAST JEDI benefits from a dynamic and dexterous score that introduces plenty of amazing new riffs – such as Rose’s theme, an enchanting piece that is as light and optimistic as the character herself – intricately interlaced with all the incredible, iconic cues that fans have come to associate with the franchise over the years.
Best Sound Editing
Winner – Matthew Wood and Ren Klyce (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)
The wavering thrum of an ignited lightsaber. The many beeps and whistles of R2-D2. The rattling, asthmatic breathing of Darth Vader. The Star Wars saga brings with it a backlog of iconic, thrilling sounds that are just as important to the impact of the films as the plot and characters, so any new elements introduced have to be unique enough to stand out amongst the crowd, while remaining familiar enough that they gel with all other sounds in the universe. THE LAST JEDI introduces plenty of new creatures and scenes that come with interesting sounds of their own, such as the gentle tinkling of the crystal foxes (AKA the Vulptex), the complex, multi-faceted babel of Canto Bight, the casino planet, and the squawking chirrup of the annoying sidekicks/Wookie delicacy, Porgs. Already established elements are given new material to work with as well, with a particular highlight seeing BB-8 turned into a rolling piggy bank, to hilarious effect.
Runner Up – Nathan Robitaille and Nelson Ferreira (The Shape of Water)
With much of the action in THE SHAPE OF WATER taking place in the secret government facility during the 1960’s, there is a great focus on period details, including accurate, or at least believable, sounds to go with the cold war era setting. Filling the background of most scenes are the appropriately scientific sounding beeps and whirrs of nondescript machinery, and everything from the elevators to the clock-in station are accompanied with suitably aged dings and clunks. Most impressive, however, is the part of the film that is not period accurate – the amphibious man. From the rattling of his breathing to the uncomfortably recognisable shrieks of pain when he is tortured, to the satisfyingly weighty swish of water as he passes through it, nothing helps to ground the character in the world more than the sounds of him, and together they help to create a creature much closer to man than monster.
Best Sound Mixing
Winner – David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Stuart Wilson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)
When the opening crawl begins, before it even identifies which episode of the saga it is preceding or lays down any of the pre-film exposition, it has a single, notable moment that really indicates that a Star Wars film is about to begin. The loud, almost assaulting first note of the orchestral score is a powerful example of the franchise using sound to build tension and anticipation, and THE LAST JEDI takes this theme and runs with it. The large scale battles, such as the bombing run and the last stand on Crait, offer incredible soundscapes that masterfully balance the cacophony to ensure that not a single blast or scream is wasted, resulting in spectacular audio to go with the visuals. Similarly, the film has a great strength in knowing when to quiet things down, such as the claustrophobic closeness of Paige’s sacrifice, the stark silence after Holdo makes the leap to hyperspace, and most of all, the intimate vacuum of noise in which Rey and Kylo communicate.
Runner Up – Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill and Mac Ruth (Blade Runner 2049)
LA is overcrowded at the best of times, and according to BLADE RUNNER 2049, things only get worse from here. The quiet isolation of the opening scene’s remote farmhouse soon gives way to the loud, chaotic streets that ring with a chorus of rain, holographic adverts, and shouting citizens. This heavily layered soundscape creates a deep sense of immersion as it brings the hustle and bustle of too many people packed in too close together to the forefront of the scene, allowing the dense population and urban chaos to take centre stage while K silently slinks through it all. Elsewhere, the noises fade away into an almost tangible silence, making as much of a statement as the scores of voices do, especially in the irradiated zones. And in between the two extremes, the intermittent use of Elvis in the music hall punch-up acts as an intriguing, strangely poetic background to the clashing of titans happening in the fore.
Best Visual Effects
Winner – Ben Morris, Michael Mulholland, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)
The Star Wars franchise has a long, beautiful history of astounding visuals; from the intricate, impressive practical effects of the original trilogy that brought such iconic characters as Yoda and Jabba the Hutt to life, all the way up to The Force Awakens’ CGI enhanced landscapes and space battles, the galaxy far, far away has always been filled from edge to edge with imagery as fantastical as its tale of space wizards and terrible family reunions. THE LAST JEDI offers even more of the beauty that came before, with plenty of the usual suspects – dizzying lightsaber battles, tense, epic dogfights, plenty of new planets and creatures – but this time, Star Wars went one step further, and created something entirely new. No, it’s not Luke procuring his green milk. The scene that can simply be described as “The Hyperspace Bit” offered a few seconds of incredibly well designed and realised visuals that are unlike anything seen in the franchise before. It was stylish, it was striking, and it was a visual highlight in a film full of beauty.
Runner Up – Joe Letteri, Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon and Joel Whist (War For The Planet Of The Apes)
Continuing the string of prequel films to everybody’s favourite saga of a world run by monkeys, WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES sees the ever growing tribe of various primates fighting for survival against the last remaining remnants of humanity. At the head of the pack, leading the charge, is Caesar, brought to life by Andy Serkis, the prince of performance capture, of Gollum, King Kong and Snoke fame. As the culmination of the trilogy, it was only fitting that War was also a huge step up in terms of technical achievement for the visual effects team. Not only do Caesar and his band of apes, chimps and gorillas look the part better than ever, the increasingly complex, affecting story-line relies more and more on their ability to convey and elicit feelings just through the use of gesture and facial expression, easily matching their human counterparts for emotional resonance and poignancy.
Best Costume Design
Winner – Mayes C. Rubeo (Thor: Ragnarok)
When Thor is captured on Sakaar, he is given the most drastic alteration of any marvel superhero thus far, and his flowing golden locks are slashed off, leaving an altogether different look for the Lord of Thunder. This change is the first of many bold costume choices that make THOR: RAGNAROK. His shorn off hair is paired with a sleek, futuristic version of his classic helmet, his armour is altered with some added pieces and battle paint, giving it a less regal, more gladiatorial look. And the changes don’t stop with Thor: Hulk has his own set of battle armour, perfectly pulled from the pages of the Planet Hulk comic books, The Grandmaster is a vision of elegance with his flowing silk robes and glittered lipstick, and everything from the Valkyrie’s armour to Hela’s iconic headdress works to expand this colourful, chaotic world.
Runner Up – Renée April (Blade Runner 2049)
Even in the rain and neon soaked streets of this dystopian future, LA still has a vibrant fashion industry. The original film instantly caught people’s attention with it’s iconic array of high collars and padded shoulders, leaving quite the legacy to live up to – a challenge that BLADE RUNNER 2049 is more than happy to meet. Protagonist K spends much of the film swathed in a high-collared, fur lined trench coat that is more than a little reminiscent of 1982 Deckard’s look, while the man himself is clad in a comparatively simple shirt and tee ensemble. Elsewhere the streets are lined with citizens wearing get-ups comprised of furs and pleather, evoking the 1982 film’s style with enough difference to suggest that fashions have progressed alongside replicant designs.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Winner – Camille Friend, Louisa V. Anthony, Jules Holdren, John Blake and Brian Sipe (Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2)
Back when Quill and co first assembled to guard the galaxy, actors Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Michael Rooker and Karen Gillan were all forced to sit for hours on end as makeup and prosthetics were applied to transform them into their iconic characters. By the time GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 rolled around, the talented team of artists had managed to shave off at least an hour of application time for all involved. Not only is the process much more efficient, the end result actually looks better; Drax’s tattoos are vivid, Nebula’s robotic parts more distinct – and that’s not to mention all the new characters who flesh out the world. Mantis cuts an instantly striking look with her antenna and wide, black eyes, and Ayesha looks positively god-like with her radiant golden skin and hair, perfectly capturing the essence of her character.
Runner Up – Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick (Darkest Hour)
It’s never easy to become the prime minister of Great Britain, but few have had to put in as much effort as Gary Oldman did to become Winston Churchill in DARKEST HOUR. The film follows the prominent politician from the moment he is elected to the position that nobody else wanted, war time leader, through the inception of Operation Dynamo, and right up to his famous speech on British fortitude and resilience. Throughout it all, Oldman’s performance is elevated by the mass of prosthetics that took almost three hours to apply daily and weighed half as much as the man himself – courtesy of industry pro Kazuhiro Tsuji. These, combined with makeup from Malinowski and Sibbick, utterly transform Oldman, delivering a fresh take on a well-worn character, and providing an extra level of immersion in the film as a whole.
Best Animated Film
Winner – Coco
Nothing is more important that family. Disney’s latest colourful, musical cryfest carries this message high on its shoulders in every corner of its beautifully realised world. Young protagonist Miguel has the obligatory clash of ideals with his otherwise loving and supportive family, over their stubborn refusal to allow music of any sort in their home, a tradition passed down through generations in reaction to a wayward ancestor, who left his wife and child to pursue a career in music. This localised Footloose scenario leads to Miguel getting cursed on the Dia de los Muertos, dropping him in the land of the dead among his departed relatives. The story, while simple enough in its conception, actually goes on to deal with some very deep and serious issues, with a key theme being that loved ones are never truly gone as long as their memory is kept alive. Visually, COCO is among the best Disney has ever done, with the land of the dead embodying Dia de los Muertos colour schemes, resulting in a vast, vivid world that is as full of character as it is of corpses.
Runner Up – The LEGO Batman Movie
As the standout character from The Lego Movie, it was only a matter of time until the bricked crusader wound up headlining his own film. What was surprising, was that THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE not only matched the first block adventure for fun and whimsy, it easily surpassed any previous bat-flick for the sheer fan service woven into the narrative, with more references to the dark knight’s storied history packed into its run-time than a super fan’s basement. The plot is relatively simple – fun enough to keep children interested, but not complicated enough to lose their attention – and is filled with a deep exploration into the character of Batman and the fears that drive him, all brought to life by a diverse and talented cast of voice actors.
Best TV Animated Series
Winner – Bojack Horseman Season 4
The curmudgeonly anthropomorphic horse-man is back again for another season of self aggrandising, loathing and doubt, but this time round it looks like he might just have a long lost daughter to contend with. While a couple of the sub-plots may feel a little shoehorned for the sake of filling out the season, the main narrative offers incredible exploration into the usual suspects of main characters – Bojack, Diane, Todd, Mister Peanutbutter, Princess Carolyn – as well as some interesting new narrative threads courtesy of potential daughter Hollyhock, and some incredibly written, achingly tragic backstory starring Bojack’s mother, Beatrice. The writing is sharper than ever, the jokes are as clever as the animal puns are groan-worthy and BOJACK HORSEMAN holds its crown as the most thoughtful, introspective and alarmingly insightful show on TV.
Runner Up – Rick and Morty Season 3
It was a long, long wait for season 3 of RICK AND MORTY but oh geez was it worth it. The first two seasons set up a lot of expectation, and worse, a rabid fan base desperate for the wonders that the new episodes would hold, so its hardly any surprise that the creators made damn sure the season was the best it could be before they dropped it. With the family unit truly broken for the first time since the show began, these new episodes focused heavily on Rick’s dominance over the household, as relationships between him, the grand-kids, Beth and even Jerry are explored and dissected, leading the way for some exceptional character development. Some work better than others, just as some episodes hit harder than the rest – with particular standouts in “Pickle Rick” and “The Ricklantis Mixup”, both of which are easily among the best work the series has ever done.
Best TV Drama Series
Winner – The Handmaid’s Tale Season 1
Adapted from the 1985 dystopian novel of the same name, season 1 of THE HANDMAID’S TALE follows Offred, one of the few fertile women left in the country of Gilead – formerly known as the United States of America – who are all enslaved by the religious fanatic government and forced to act as surrogates for the wealthy elites, by way of a pious rape ceremony. The story of Offred and her red-robed sisters is an expansive one, and this first season offers of broad look at the lives of several handmaids, with a focus on setting up the plague of infertility that has struck the world, and the systems in place to help the barren oligarch’s continue their lineage. The entangled story-lines are each captivating, enraging and in some parts terrifyingly plausible; the acting is sublime across the board, with some truly agonising performances from the handmaids and deeply sinister ones from their master’s, and the portrait painted of this troubling, terrorising, all too close to home future is as masterful as it is appalling.
Runner Up – The Punisher Season 1
The Marvel Netflix Universe started out really strong, with Daredevil, Jessica Jones and the first half of Luke Cage offering a grittier, more mature companion to the family friendly cinematic outings, but the poor reception of Iron Fist and The Defenders left the whole endeavour feeling a little inconsistent. Enter THE PUNISHER. Spinning off from his wildly successful introduction in Daredevil season 2, Frank Castle storms into a series of his own, exploring the wider ramifications of the government conspiracy that killed his family and introducing a slew of interesting new characters and compelling arcs. The Punisher we see may not yet be the systematic crime-stopper that comic fans know and love, but he’s a rich, complex character at the centre of an enthralling narrative, and he’s well on his way to earning his murderous moniker.
Game of the Year
Winner – Horizon: Zero Dawn
Guerrilla Games made a name for themselves as developers of gritty, visually astounding first-person shooters with the Killzone series, with the most recent entry, Shadow Fall, arriving to critical and commercial success, and acting as a revitalising agent for the waning franchise. It was surprising, therefore, when the developers announced that the next game they would release was a brand new IP – action RPG HORIZON: ZERO DAWN. And what a surprise it turned out to be. The gameplay is innovative, with a deep combat system built around stealthy, tactical approaches to encounters, using a vast arsenal of creative weaponry; the huge map is filled with a plethora of side activities that reward exploration through the gorgeously realised environments; and at the heart of it all is an intriguing narrative with plenty of history and lore to discover, centred around a strongly written, well developed main character with as many mysteries to uncover about herself as the world she inhabits.
Runner Up – Assassin’s Creed: Origins
With the main games of the Assassin’s Creed series reaching double figures (not to even mention the innumerable spin-off titles) and the rinse and repeat formula wearing very thin, a good shake up was more than overdue. Developer Ubisoft took a year off from churning out annual titles to strip back everything that had grown stale and rebuild their franchise from the ground up, and what emerged on the other side was an astoundingly fresh and polished adventure, a world apart from the series that came before. Going right back to the beginning to examine how the order was first created, ASSASSIN’S CREED: ORIGINS leans heavily into RPG elements, introduces a new combat system that is more accessible and challenging than ever before, has a sweeping narrative that guides players across one of the most unique and beautifully rendered settings the series has ever done, and even offers some brilliant origin stories for the Creed’s most famous quirks, right down to the blood-soaked eagle feathers.
Up The Geek Legacy Award
Carrie Fisher (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)
Back in 1977, the world was introduced to the Star Wars universe, and with it, one of its most courageous, most enduring heroes in Leia Organa, princess of Alderaan. In the decades since, she has gone on to appear in films, novels, holiday specials and video games, she has been replicated in numerous toys, figures and statues, becoming a cultural icon that will live on until the end of time. Unfortunately, the woman who first brought Leia to life is of a more mortal calibre, and Carrie Fisher became one with the force back in 2016, leaving an unfillable void in the hearts of her loved ones, and fans of the franchise across the world. This year, THE LAST JEDI released, acting as Fisher’s swansong, not only in her performance as an actress, but with her talent as a script doctor also. Alongside her meteoric rise to fame as everyone’s favourite rebel princess, Fisher started lending her keen eye to scripts that were missing something, and worked without credit on dozens of films, becoming known as one of the most sought after script doctors in Hollywood. A maelstrom of talent, Carrie Fisher not only breathed life into one of the most famous characters of all time, she also helped guide other films to their best potential, and in this, her legacy is one that will endure, with the grace of a princess, and the determination of a general. The love, respect and adoration of the world, and of course, the force, will be with her, always.