Last year, Up the Geek celebrated the inaugural ceremony for its now world-famous annual awards event. As predicted by all the major news outlets, the awards were an unprecedented success: careers were made, hearts were broken, and most importantly, the best films, TV shows and video games from the year were rated and ranked. Since it is crazy, bordering on downright dangerous, to fix something that ain’t broke, here we are in the wee days of 2019 ready to do the whole thing all over again. So without further ado, read on to see the results for the second annual Up The Geek Apaddlemy Awards, or The Oscoars if ya nasty.
Winner – The Favourite
Up first, we’re looking at the highest accolade that we at Up The Geek are legally allowed to dole out – the Golden Paddle Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film. Since that’s a little wordy, let’s just call it the award for Best Film, and hereby bestow it to the excellent black comedy and/or period piece, The Favourite. A tangled web of secrets, lies and political machinations, this exploration into the complicated relationships between Queen Anne and her closest and most trusted confidants is a powerhouse of comedy and beauty. The film features three incredible performances from its leading ladies, the script delicately balances emotional betrayals with bone-dry humour, and each and every scene is bathed in a distinctive style that is realised through immaculate costumes and mesmerising cinematography.
A Star is Born – Expertly blending the highs and lows of an intense relationship with the struggles of stardom and alcoholism, A Star is Born presents a raw and unflinching look at love, peppered throughout with catchy musical numbers. Both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga deliver incredible performances, in both acting and singing, and all of their shared scenes crackle with chemistry. The script ranges from small scenes of witty and realistic anecdotal conversation to achingly powerful relationship dramas, and the music adds strong layers of romance and tragedy to this beautiful, warts-‘n’-all love story.
Avengers: Infinity War – Though the MCU is prone to a certain formulaic approach with many of its films, Avengers: Infinity War literally flips the script, focusing on the villain as the protagonist, and ends up feeling quite unlike anything that’s come before it. The meshing of the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy franchises feels completely natural, even with the latter bringing their music with them, room is found for jokes to land without encroaching on dramatic moments, and despite the overwhelming number of characters in the film, nobody feels too buried, and everyone gets their time to shine.
BlacKkKlansman – In a year when more and more mainstream films are being criticised by some for being “too political”, BlacKkKlansman is utterly unapologetic in wearing its politics loudly and proudly. While it’s mostly presented humourously, there is a certain anger beneath the farce, epitomised in the final scenes which examine the modern day influence of the KKK and their values. Outside of its political appeal, BlacKkKlansman is a witty and tightly paced film with a strong cast and a fascinating story, and every detail from the costumes to the music is dripping with a slick 1970s style.
Winner – Christian Bale (Vice)
Having shrunk down to play an anorexic insomniac in The Machinist, and beefed up to play Batman, Christian Bale already had a well established reputation for changing his body in dramatic, if not always medically safe, ways to suit whatever role he is facing next. It was little surprise, therefore, when it was announced that in his preparation to embody former American Vice President Dick Cheney, Bale had gained forty pounds, shaved his head and bleached his eyebrows. This commitment to the job shines further in Bale’s performance at large, with his growling and scowling version of the veep showing a man of vast intelligence, but one who is all too aware of it, culminating in such arrogant displays as the conniving, self-justifying speech that rounds out the film.
Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born) – Portraying an ageing, alcoholic rock star who comes across a fresh young talent and helps her star to rise even as his own begins to fade out, Bradley Cooper displays an incredible range throughout A Star is Born. Beginning as a typically charming and roguish leading man, Cooper’s Jackson Maine slowly descends into a depressed and alcohol-abusing wreck across the course of the film, with the actor giving one of his best performances to date, dragging intense emotion out of every scene, and feeding it directly into the powerful, heartbreaking finale.
Robert Downey Jr (Avengers: Infinity War) – As much as anyone can be said to be the main character in the sprawling hero-fest that is Infinity War, Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark is it. Not only is he the man who started the franchise, Stark also has one of the most involved arcs in the film. The brazen cockiness, while nothing new for Stark, is on top form here, as he gets the chance to trade barbs with characters such as Doctor Strange and Star Lord, but it’s when the confidence fails that Downey fully gets to explore his character’s mental state, with extremely affecting results.
Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) – Donning a set of fake teeth, an English accent and a cocky swagger worthy of a true queen, Rami Malek steps effortlessly into the confident shoes of Freddie Mercury for Bohemian Rhapsody. Taking the charismatic singer from his early days joining up with the rest of the band, through his sexual awakening and to his eventual AIDS diagnosis, Malek emphasises Mercury’s humanity, bringing to life the showman who carried audiences in the palm of his hands, but also displaying the intense loneliness that lingered within him once the music had stopped playing.
Winner – Olivia Coleman (The Favourite)
Award-winning turns as queens of Great Britain by well-known actresses are usually found in the more serious biographical films and TV shows, focusing on Victoria, or one of the Elizabeths. But not this one. Olivia Coleman’s Queen Anne is nothing akin to the regal, dignified monarchs that have come before; this queen is petulant, child-like and prone to aggressive mood swings. Coleman clearly has a blast making the most of her comedic roots whenever the sitting monarch of Great Britain decides to throw a tantrum, and is easily one of the funniest parts of the entire film. Even when the queen intends to act with more decorum, Coleman gives her an aura of pretence, as though she is merely putting on a front of sophistication, which is subtle enough to not feel forced, but really helps to deepen the audience understanding of this surprisingly complex monarch.
Toni Collette (Hereditary) – Where most horror films find their scares in the presence of ghosts or monsters, and to be clear, Hereditary does have its fair share of those kind of spooks, the most horrifying moment in the entire film comes not from a jump or a shock, but from a mother finding out that her daughter is dead, and that she will never see her again. As said mother, Toni Collette brings an unspeakable anguish to the table; ranging from blood-curdling screams, to suicidal sobbing to enraged outbursts at the rest of the family, this portrait of a parent losing her child is more chilling than any ghost or ghoul.
Saoirse Ronan (Mary, Queen of Scots) – A more traditional and serious depiction of a queen than Olivia Coleman in The Favourite, Saoirse Ronan’s Mary Stewart is a resolute and ambitious queen, standing firm in her mission to offer complete religious freedom to her subjects, and to exert her birth-right to the throne of England. Facing off against the stalwart guardians of the old way in Scotland, as well as her vindictive half-sister down in England, Ronan carries Mary with grace and dignity, but beneath them lies a fury as fiery as her hair, ready to be unleashed when her claim to power is threatened.
Glenn Close (The Wife) – The role of the long-suffering wife standing in the shadow of the undeserving husband has become a bit of a cliche by now, but the relationship dramas and excellent characterisations in The Wife make it feel like none of that matters in the slightest. A big part of this success is Glenn Close’s elegant portrayal of the titular wife, with her subtle, slowly-building resentment and dissatisfaction feeding into the tension of the film, making it all the more impactful when she finally erupts at the end, and unloads everything that she’s had to keep bottled up throughout the marriage.
Best Supporting Actor
Winner – Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther)
Marvel villains in the past have mostly been a disappointment to audiences, due to their enduring habit of being more than a little one-dimensional, and a lack of any real sense of character, beyond a penchant for evildoing. While Black Panther’s Erik Killmonger is certainly not adverse to murder and mayhem, he separates himself from the generic pack by having a complex set of motivations, tying his actions to T’Challa, Wakanda, and even the real-world issue of black oppression. Throughout the film, Jordan’s Killmonger crackles with relentless passion and fury, feeling worlds apart from the sort of bland baddie that Marvel films have become infamous for, and joining the likes of Loki and Thanos in setting a new standard for the future of the franchise.
Sam Elliott (A Star is Born) – Watching his younger brother drunkenly stumble down the same bad path that their deadbeat father trod, Sam Elliott’s Bobby Maine is a fairly stoic character for the most part, filled with the kind of world-weariness that comes from being unable to stop another loved one from disappearing into a bottle. There are a few moments in which Bobbie and Jackson speak freely with each other, either lovingly or angrily, and in these times, Elliott cracks his stony facade to reveal a tender vulnerability beneath, giving way to some beautiful bouts of uncomfortable man-feelings.
Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) – When he is first introduced, as a wine-soaked, impish, ne’er-do-well approaching Melissa McCarthy’s Lee Israel in a dingy bar, Jack Hock can appear to be a little one-dimensional. As the film goes on, however, and further layers of this deeply unhappy man are peeled back, Grant exposes the level of insecurity that is hidden behind the bravado, adding some welcome depth to the character, and laying the seeds for an emotional payoff later in the film when Jack contracts AIDS.
Mahershala Ali (Green Book) – Beginning the film as the foil to Viggo Mortensen’s more glib Tony Lip, Dr. Don Shirley is initially a rather rigid presence, albeit one that emanates class and sophistication. For much of the film, Mahershala Ali keeps Shirley in this state, delivering his lines with poise and only offering the slightest hints at the resentment that is building inside. When it all finally boils over, Shirley’s pain, anger and loneliness are fully unleashed, in a speech about his race and sexuality that may be a little on the nose, but nonetheless cements Ali as an electrifying emotional core for the film.
Best Supporting Actress
Winner – Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)
The plot of The Favourite presents its three female stars so equally that it is often hard to determine who can be counted as the lead actress, and who qualifies as supporting. This distinction is made all the more difficult by the fact that all three central characters are brought to life with incredible performances. As Queen Anne’s second in command, Sarah Churchill, Weisz is conniving and contentious, using charm and parent-like scolding with equal abandon to exert control over the Queen, and threats and bullying to keep potential rivals at bay. The smartest person in any room she happens to be in, Weisz carries Sarah with a confidence that never blurs into arrogance, thanks to her proving time and again that she can back it up, playing a game more complicated than anybody else in the film understands, until it’s too late.
Emma Stone (The Favourite) – A newcomer to the political games that are played in the court of Queen Anne, Emma Stone’s Abigail Hill begins the film quite naively, but is nonetheless a proven opportunist, and quickly works her way up the food chain to earn the favour of the queen. Stone’s performance takes Abigail through stages of innocence, seduction, and self-servitude as she vies for the best lot her life can give, yet sprinkled throughout are scenes of remorse and regret, for both past traumas and present actions, that add new dimensions to the character, and serve to further humanise her.
Claire Foy (First Man) – While the United States was getting excited in the lead up to the moon landing, and others in the world were trying to beat them to it, there was a woman who was much more focused on the very real possibility that she may lose her husband, and that her children may lose their father. Embodying the fears and worries of Janet Armstrong as she watches her husband prepare to take that one small step, Claire Foy is a strongly grounding presence in a film that is mostly looking to the stars, with her subtle emoting reminding Neil and audience alike of the mortal dangers of the Apollo mission.
Margot Robbie (Mary, Queen of Scots) – With political pressures to marry, the lingering shadow of her famously uxoricidal father hanging over her head, and a half-sister in Scotland with a greater claim to the throne than she, it’s hardly a surprise that Queen Elizabeth was something of a hard woman. When she is struck by smallpox, Lizzie turns even nastier, with Robbie excellently ramping up her temper to the point of screaming fits and bouts of rage-crying, all of which underlines the state of her mind when she finally meets Mary, and fights back tears as she refuses her sister’s plea for leniency.
Winner – Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman)
All throughout his career, Spike Lee has made a point of tackling the hard issues around race and bigotry, delivering such critically acclaimed films as She’s Gotta Have It and Do The Right Thing, and cementing himself as a provocative auteur and pioneer in black cinema. Lee’s latest work, BlacKkKlansman, shows that he has no intention of shying away from the issues that need to be faced, with this story of a black detective infiltrating the KKK simultaneously pulsing with 1970s cool and drawing parallels to the politics of today. The choice to switch in the final minutes from a standard film to a documentary format strongly underlines the themes of the film, and further emphasises the ways in which racism and bigotry still thrive today, and the often violent results that they incur.
Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born) – Joining the ranks of movie stars turned directors who still star in the movies that they’re directing, Bradley Cooper makes a strong argument for the validity of him stepping behind the camera, with his emotionally charged remake of A Star is Born. Interweaving intimate relationship dramas with epic musical numbers, this bittersweet love story is an incredibly strong directorial debut for Cooper, with a great sense of style, electrical performances from both Cooper and Lady Gaga, and the catchy music all contributing the overall triumph of the film.
Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Avengers: Infinity War) – Veterans of the MCU by now, having worked on both Captain America sequels, including the Avengers 2.5 superhero mashup that was Civil War, the Russo brothers had already proven themselves capable of juggling large casts and multiple story-lines without sacrificing overall quality. Going beyond the scope of anything the duo have attempted before, Infinity War proves to be a staunch success, with the disparate franchises of the MCU merging into one cohesive and stylish vision that sets a new standard for superhero storytelling.
Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite) – Previously renowned for his bleak and eccentric back-catalogue of such acclaimed films as The Killing of a Sacred Deer and The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos brings his particular brand of directorial weirdness to 18th century England with his tale of Queen Anne, and the two courtiers who vied for her favour. This lavish and darkly hilarious period flick bears plenty of Lanthimos’ trademark flair, draws three incredible performances from its leading ladies, and is easily one of the year’s most visually interesting films, with its stark style and experimental camera work.
Winner – Bruno Delbonnel (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs)
The core beauty of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is that each of the six stories that the film tells are not only self-contained in that they follow separate characters portrayed by separate actors, but also in that the cinematography of each varies wildly, giving a strong visual distinction to the different tales. The opening story, following the titular Buster Scruggs, passes through wide, open shots of beautiful desert landscapes and cramped, dusty saloons illuminated only by beams of sunlight. The ultimately tragic story of a travelling theatrical act is lit very gloomily, to reflect the morbid nature of its content, and the finale vignette, that follows a coach journey to purgatory, sees the light outside the coach windows slowly turn from a warm, inviting orange to a cold and eerie blue, signifying the transition from life to death.
Rachel Morrison (Black Panther) – Right from the beautiful and artistic sand-work that brings to life the narrated history of Wakanda, Black Panther asserts its intention to pair the intricate world-building with creative and wondrous visuals. The rest of the film sees a similar attention paid to the visuals, be it the dark, spooky jungle in which the Black Panther stalks his prey, that first sweeping shot introducing the audience to the hidden country of Wakanda, or the haunting beauty of the ancestral plains, this is easily one of the best looking superhero films to date.
Robbie Ryan (The Favourite) – There are many secrets hiding in the shadowy corners of Queen Anne’s palace, a fact that is beautifully reflected in several scenes that are lit only using the warm glows of candles and fireplaces, casting long, ominous shadows across intimate scenes of intrigue and betrayal. Natural light has a strong presence throughout, with the enormous windows of the palace bleeding daylight into the indoor scenes, and intermittent uses of wide, fish-eye lenses give certain scenes an absurdist flair, with the end result being that the film has a visually distinct style as offbeat as the comedy.
Linus Sandgren (First Man) – The Sea of Tranquility – the landing site for the Apollo 11 lunar module – more than earns its name in the closing minutes of First Man, with the grand, sweeping shots of the desolate landscape serving as a beautiful, peaceful moment of reflection after the tense and bone-rattling shuttle ride up there. The inside of the craft itself feels incredibly claustrophobic, with extreme closeups of the astronauts as they push through the atmosphere, and a rough, grainy effect is utilised in scenes detailing Neil Armstrong’s life, lending an authentic, documentary-style feel to the film.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Winners – Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus (Avengers: Infinity War)
The culmination of ten years and eighteen films’ worth of plot build-up, vague teases and character development, Avengers: Infinity War sees the various moving pieces of the MCU collide in spectacular fashion as the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy cross paths to stop the villainous Thanos from wiping out half of all life in the universe. The cast is enormous, the stakes are incredibly high, and a film this stuffed with characters, plot and world building has no right to work as well as it does. Making a great stride in event cinema, McFeely and Markus have scripted a superhero epic unlike any other, that expertly balances action and humour with emotional drama and loss.
Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper and Will Fetters (A Star is Born) – If you’re going to remake a film for the third time in less than ninety years, and it isn’t a superhero franchise, you damn well better come correct. Luckily, this fourth version of A Star is Born does indeed come correct, with its tight, well-paced script that is funny and tear-jerking in all of the right places. The characters are strongly drawn, the dialogue feels very natural, and all put together, the script for A Star is Born lays the groundwork for an intriguing and emotionally powerful film.
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) – Weaving together six short stories – two adapted, four original – into a wonderfully varied anthology of old west tales, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is an exceptional addition to the canon of western films, written by two masters of the genre. Each of the vignettes touches upon a different tradition of wild west stories, be it the dusty saloon shootout or the struggling settlers on the Oregon trail, and when viewed as a collection, they paint a broad, beautiful portrait of life, death and survival on the frontier.
Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman) – Walking the tricky tightrope of dealing with a very serious subject matter, in this case, the infamous hate group the Ku Klux Klan, while also angling for a comedic tone, the script for BlacKkKlansman blends together humour and poignancy in a satisfying fashion. The absurdity of the premise is reflected well in the jokes and the dialogue is sharp and witty, yet the dramatic beats manage to avoid being lost in a sea of bathos, culminating in the emotional finale that holds a mirror up to today’s society.
Best Original Screenplay
Winners – Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara (The Favourite)
Telling the mostly true story of Anne, Queen of Great Britain, and the two cousins who fought for her affections, The Favourite charts a wickedly funny course through the conniving and scheming underbelly of eighteenth century aristocracy. Barring a few taken liberties, the script follows history quite closely, detailing the tangled relationships between Queen Anne and the two warring cousins with enough venom and political intrigue to rival Game of Thrones. Further, unlike most royal biopics, The Favourite refuses to take itself too seriously, peppering as much comedy as drama between the pages and delivering a story that is equal parts witty and captivating.
Brian Woods, Scott Beck and John Krasinski (A Quiet Place) – Finding originality in the horror genre isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do – from slashers to spookers, it often feels as though it’s all pretty much been done. With its unique twist of characters having to remain largely silent to avoid the super-hearing monsters, A Quiet Place manages to stand out, but beyond that, its compelling story of a family trying to survive at all costs, enriched by the realistic dialogue, makes it one of the most thrilling films of the year.
Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie and Peter Farrelly (Green Book) – With its story of two guys from different walks of life (not to mention different races and sexualities) being forced to spend time together and eventually learn from one another, Green Book isn’t exactly treading new ground. Yet somehow, with it’s witty, insightful dialogue and strong central characters, the film manages to find a little originality in a stale cliche, delivering a charming tale of friendship forged in the ugly fires of entrenched racism.
Adam McKay (Vice) – It’s not an easy thing to do, in these tumultuous political times, to make a film about one of the most infamous men in recent politics, and have the end result not feel like propaganda. While the liberal-leanings of the film cannot be ignored, Vice makes efforts to highlight the parts of Cheney’s character that can appeal to every viewer, such as his loyalty to his gay daughter, and delves into the motivation behind his more questionable policies. The end result is a nuanced portrait of both Cheney and the politics of his time, which is debatable in its accuracy, but entertaining nonetheless.
Best Original Score
Winner – Alexandre Desplat (Isle of Dogs)
Much like the film itself, the score for Isle of Dogs is sparse, idiosyncratic, and radiating with the oddball appeal that Wes Anderson films do so well. The eclectic collection of tracks from previous Anderson composer Alexandre Desplat, often pays tribute to Japan, the film’s location, with the use of tracks from famous Japanese films such as The Seven Samurai, and heavy use of taiko drums throughout. The versatile score sees the drums matched with deep, ominous chanting and strings when the dogs are facing struggles or a new trouble arises, or with a light-hearted swell of brass for the more optimistic moments, such as when the staunch rebel leader of the pack, Chief, takes a bath.
Carter Burwell (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) – Given that it begins by following the exploits of a travelling musician, it will come as little surprise that one of the best things about The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is its excellent score. Diverse in execution, the tracks for each of the segments follow the tone of the story it tells, with the dark and spooky finale having a chilling score to match, while the titular story is more jovial, and is best represented by the songs of Buster himself, such as the bittersweet “When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” duet that accompanies his death.
Terence Blanchard (BlacKkKlansman) – Throughout this tale of a black cop infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan, a subtle yet evocative score underlines much of the action. Rather than being too overt, the score tends to linger in the background, providing a period accurate backdrop to proceedings, with the jazzy percussion and electric guitar giving a strong sense of the 1970s. All in all, the score sits in rhythm with the rest of the film, producing a cohesive whole with a unified sense of style.
Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther) – While there may be a lot of familiar beats in the Black Panther soundtrack for any who have seen a superhero film in the past twenty years, it stands apart from the more traditional fares thanks to a strong celebration of African heritage and black culture. Regal brass accompanies wide sweeps over Wakanda, tribal percussion and chanting raise the tensions during the challenge at warrior falls, and soft strings lend a beautiful, ethereal aesthetic to the mystical ancestral plane, in a diverse score that fully summarises the deep complexities of Black Panther’s world.
Best Sound Editing
Winners – Mildred Iatrou and Ai-Ling Lee (First Man)
First Man wastes no time getting straight to the action, opening on a hazardous test flight in which Ryan Gosling’s Neil Armstrong flies a jet to the edge of the atmosphere and back again. Right from the first frame, the danger of this situation is made clear through the audio: the long drones of the engines, the teeth-rattling creaks and clatters of the plane as its resilience is fully tested, Armstrong’s frantic breathing as steam gushes into the cockpit. All together, the tactile selection of sounds create an immediate and impressive impact, giving the opening sequence a tangible sense of dread and danger that continues throughout the film, bringing out the fear and risk felt by all during the launches.
Erik Aadahl, Brandon Jones and Ethan Van Der Ryn (A Quiet Place) – Given that the film focuses so strongly on noise, and the importance of avoiding making any, the sounds of A Quiet Place are understandably very noticeable. Footsteps, the rustling of grass and the clatter of clutter are all elevated here, emphasising the heightened senses of the monsters, and sending tension skyward at the slightest sound. The monsters themselves also come with an array of clicks and growls, often heard off-screen as they prowl near the survivors, drawing endless fright from each scene they occupy.
Steve Boeddeker, Benjamin A. Burtt and Anthony De (Black Panther) – The sounds of Black Panther carry as much duality within them as the fictional country of Wakanda, with most of the outstanding pieces falling into either the African or technological sides of the films DNA. The former category sees inclusions such as the blend of percussion and chanting that precedes the waterfall fight, or the grunts of the war rhinos, and the latter is exemplified with the pulses and thrums of Klaue’s prosthetic hand, and the gentle patter of Shuri’s highly advanced, vibranium sand-based inventions.
John Warhurst and Nina Hartstone (Bohemian Rhapsody) – Freddie Mercury is one of those enduring icons whose talent is damn near impossible to recreate, a fact that led the sound editing team for Bohemian Rhapsody to get a little creative. Barring the occasional use of a sound-alike, all of the singing in the film is pulled from recordings of Mercury, mixed with Rami Malek’s breaths and effort noises, and then synced up with his mouth movements. The end result is an incredibly immersive feat in which Mercury’s voice seems to belt from Malek’s mouth, completing the actor’s magical transformation.
Best Sound Mixing
Winners – Michael Barosky and Brandon Proctor (A Quiet Place)
Early on in the film, A Quiet Place makes painfully clear the devastating consequences of making noise. The family pad silently across a bridge, no noise but the soft crunching of sand underfoot, until suddenly a chaotic combination of beeps and whirs erupts behind them. They turn and run, but are too late, and their young son is snatched by a monster, leaving nothing behind but the electronic space shuttle that he was playing with. The sound mixing implemented in this scene is a masterwork of terror, drawing the audience into the head space of the family: first the rhythmic trudging, then briefly cutting out all sound to present the point of view of the deaf daughter, and finally the dreaded outburst of the shuttle, instilling the instant fear that the parents feel, and the utter devastation when the monster gets to the child before the father can.
Steve Morrow, Tom Ozanich, Jason Ruder and Dean Zupancic (A Star is Born) – With the big set-piece performances having been filmed at real festivals such as Coachella and Stagecoach, there is a great level of authenticity to A Star is Born, aided by the excellent sound mixing. The first time Jackson and Ally sing Shallow on stage together is an electrifying experience, focusing closely on the latter’s fear and exhilaration, and the stark contrast between her final performance and the silence in Jackson’s garage is a haunting and beautiful representation of the film’s climax.
John Casali, Tim Cavigin and Paul Massey (Bohemian Rhapsody) – The Queen biopic opens briefly and closes fully on one of the band’s most famous performances – the 1985 Live Aid concert – and as such, has a lot to live up to. Mixing in recordings of the original set with crowd sounds from a recent Queen concert, the 13-minute final sequence is an outstanding and painstaking recreation of a beloved historical event. The crowds are roaring, the songs are powerful, and a beautiful reverberation echoes throughout the stadium, altogether making an energetic and wholly impactful finale to the film.
Mary H. Ellis, Ai-Ling Lee, Frank A. Montaño and Jon Taylor (First Man) – There is a nervous silence that overtakes First Man as Armstrong and co make their way up to the cockpit of Apollo 11, broken only by a tentative, subdued soundtrack. As the engines explode into life and the fuselage begins to rattle, the soundtrack rises too, merging into a disorientating cacophony. On the other side of this racket, the film ducks back into an incredible silence, fully reflecting on the utter emptiness of the moon, only broken by the steady breathing of Armstrong, and the gentle crackle of the radio in his suit.
Best Costume Design
Winner – Sandy Powell (The Favourite)
In a world of political intrigue and royal power games, there are few things capable of making a stronger statement than the right outfit. The central trio of Queen Anne, Sarah and Abigail each have an exquisite wardrobe of stylish black and white garments that make for some incredibly bold silhouettes. From the simplest dress for one of the vying favourites to the most outlandish of Queen Anne’s gowns, everything is a beautiful blend of period accurate styles and modern fashions, giving the film a wholly unique aesthetic. Outside of the leads, housemaids, lords and members of parliament are all represented in equally outstanding fashion, ensuring that everyone present conforms to the overall style of the film.
Ruth Carter (Black Panther) – The emergence into Wakanda was a spectacular sight for a number of reasons, but few elements stood out more than the beautiful, vibrant, and colourful array of afrofuturistic costumes on display. With different colour palates used to represent the various clans, powerful looks such as the Dora Milaje’s battle armour, and the strong sense of African heritage woven throughout, the costumes of Black Panther are an intrinsic part of displaying and celebrating the culture of Wakanda.
Colleen Atwood (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald) – Though there is no excuse for having Professor Dumbledore appear in the Fantastic Beasts sequel without his trademark robes, the rest of the looks in The Crimes of Grindelwald manage to make up for this egregious transgression. The dark wizard himself cuts an imposing figure with his ensemble of trench coat, snazzy waistcoat and more buttons than he could ever possibly need, Newt and Tina return in their usual stylish get-ups, and newcomer Leta Lestrange models a lavish silken number complete with a matching witch-esque hat.
Alexandra Byrne (Mary, Queen of Scots) – Though Queen Elizabeth I is most famously associated with her snow-white makeup and elegantly styled ginger hair, it should not be forgotten that she also had a wardrobe full of ridiculously extravagant gowns, at least, if Mary, Queen of Scots is anything to go by. Standing opposite Queen Lizzie I, Mary Stewart is also not exactly hard up for dresses, with multiple looks throughout the film ranging from the more modest ‘woman of the people’ tunics, to full on regal attire that could give her half-sister a run for her money.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Winners – Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia Dehaney (Vice)
While a lot of his dramatic transformation into Dick Cheney can be attributed to Bale’s unwavering commitment to changing his body to fit his next role, a protruding gut and a thick neck were not all that was needed to fully become the Veep. The metamorphosis was completed through the application of a complex set of prosthetics, painstakingly crafted by reviewing footage of Cheney, building moulds of his face for the five periods in his life that the films covers, and then applying the changes to Bale. The end result is a startling transformation, even by Bale’s chameleon-esque standards, and makes for a more immersive experience, elevating the quality of the film overall.
Joel Harlow and Camille Friend (Black Panther) – As with many other elements of this Afrofuturistic film, the hair and makeup designs seen throughout Black Panther carry a strong sense of African heritage within their construction. Killmonger benefits greatly from these details, with his character bearing dozens of scarification marks across his chest and an asymmetrical short-dreadlocks hairstyle, as does Shuri, whose hair and makeup change styles several times across the course of the film, allowing her to model a range of fierce and powerful looks.
Beverly Binda, Samantha Denyer and Nadia Stacey (The Favourite) – The Court of Queen Anne was a pretty fashionable place, if The Favourite is anything to go by, mostly thanks to the beautifully extravagant and (mostly) period-accurate array of wigs and makeup. From Anne’s unfortunate but hilarious ‘badger’ look, to the varied collection of brilliantly over-the-top wigs on offer in the halls of parliament, The Favourite’s sense of period and style is aided no end by the artistic selections of hair and makeup on offer.
Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher and Jessica Brooks (Mary, Queen of Scots) – Though the stark white makeup and extravagant ginger wig are both classic staples of Elizabeth I’s regal visage, and both are recreated here beautifully, the more impressive aspects of the hair and makeup are what Lizzie was trying to cover up. Through the application of prosthetics, Margot Robbie’s face was transformed into the scarred and pockmarked reality of a post-smallpox Elizabeth, underlining the rift between her and the more traditionally beautiful Mary.
Best Visual Effects
Winner – Aquaman
From the first dive beneath the waves, when the spires and lights of Atlantis shimmer into view, Aquaman makes clear that it will be heavily and unashamedly relying on its visual effects to fully bring its underwater kingdom to life. The aquatic armies ride giant alligator and sea horse-looking creatures into battle, ritual combat takes place to the beat of an octopus playing the drums, and in a move that would make Dr Evil proud, Atlantis is patrolled by sharks with frickin’ laser-beams attached to their heads. Outside of the monsters and cities, the visual effects of Aquaman can be seen shining in such beautiful scenes as the horror-tinged and flare-lit dive into the trench, or even simple scenes of two Atlanteans having a conversation underwater, with their hair and clothes billowing realistically, giving a strong authenticity to the imagined world.
Avengers: Infinity War – Yes, he may bear a more than passing resemblance to a purple Bruce Willis with a particularly prune-like chin, but there’s no denying that the motion capture that led to the creation of Thanos is an incredible feat of animation. The fact that sympathy can be garnered for a CGI character, and a villain no less, through expression alone is enough to prove the success of the mo-capping used here. Add to that the array of aliens, spaceships and crashing moons, and Avengers: Infinity War triumphs as a smorgasbord of visual splendour.
Ready Player One – For the most part, watching Ready Player One is kind of like living inside of a pop culture nerd’s acid trip, and as such a lot of the film relies heavily on the visual effects. With the majority of the film taking place in the virtual world, not to mention popular franchises ranging from Back to the Future to Mortal Kombat to The Iron Giant being represented throughout, there is a vast variety of animation styles on show, culminating in a haphazard, but overall visually pleasing, aesthetic.
Solo: A Star Wars Story – While any Star Wars film worth it’s blue milk will come with CGI space battles, aliens and strange planets galore, the heritage of the series has always been in the impressive use of practical effects, and here, Solo does not disappoint. From the early appearance of worm-like crime boss Lady Proxima, to Lando’s eccentric co-pilot L3-37, several elements of this Star Wars story are at least partially realised through practical effects, imbuing the film with a recognisable charm that cannot be faked.
Winner – Wade Eastwood (Mission Impossible: Fallout)
Tom Cruise has long been playing a game of chicken, seemingly with himself, throughout the Mission Impossible franchise, with each entry seeing him pulling off a more insanely dangerous stunt than the last. In this latest film, Cruise’s character Ethan Hunt has to perform a HALO (High Altitude, Low Open) parachute jump into Paris, which of course means that the actor skydived from 25,000 feet over 100 times to get the sequence just right. Elsewhere throughout the film, Cruise and co-star Henry Cavill take part in a brutal and incredibly well-choreographed bathroom fist fight, and the finale sees Cruise dangling from a helicopter 2000 feet above the ground. These stunts provide some truly visceral action, and are a testament to the skill and ingenuity of the stunt team.
Kyle Gardiner and R.A. Rondell (Aquaman) – The waterlogged road to reclaiming the throne of Atlantis is fraught with conflict, which translates to a lot of work for the stunt team behind Aquaman. With much of the film taking place underwater, there are plenty of unique looking fights beneath the waves, including a fluidly choreographed trident showdown. A standout of the film takes place above sea level, in the form of an exciting rooftop chase taking place on two fronts, with crane-mounted cameras swinging and zooming from one site to another, giving an incredible sense of pace to the sequence.
Jonathon Eusebio, Andy Gill and Darrin Prescott (Black Panther) – Taking place in yet another secret country with a Shakespearean struggle for control of the throne, Black Panther sees the titular hero partaking in two brutal bouts of ritual combat, with both bringing incredible action and tension through the well-designed stunts. As stunning as the waterfall fights are, the stunts to beat can be found in the South Korea section of the film, with the multi-layered casino fight and the pulse-raising car chase that follows it showcasing some of the best action the film has to offer.
Rob Inch (Outlaw King) – Yep, a third film whose action is mostly defined by the struggle for a throne – but at least this one takes place in a real country. Robert the Bruce’s long and arduous fight for Scottish freedom sees many incredible battles, including a fire-lit ambush in the middle of the night and a guerrilla attack at the shore of a lake, but it is the final fight, the Battle of Loudoun Hill, that is the most exhilarating. Muddy, gritty and bloody as hell, the enormous clash between the Scots and the English is a ballet of tripping horses, brutal kills and falling bodies, as beautiful as it is chaotic.
Best Animated Film
Winner – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
After the MCU version of Spidey, the PS4 game and the Venom film, 2018 had been pretty chock full of spider-characters already as December approached. Amazingly, when Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse came along, bringing with it several more spider-people, it didn’t feel like the last straw in a year over-saturated with spiders, but rather put them all to shame, delivering not only a fantastic animated film, but also one of the best Spidey stories that’s ever been put to screen. The choice to focus on Miles Morales instead of Peter Parker allows the film to set itself apart from all other iterations of the year, and the comic book-style animation, along with the inclusions of noir, anime and Looney Tunes aesthetics for the respective spider-people, makes this film visually unique and an absolute spectacle to behold.
Incredibles 2 – It took a long fourteen years for the sequel to Brad Bird’s much beloved family superhero film to make it to cinema screens, but the end result was more than worth the wait. Incredibles 2 brings back all the family dynamics clashing with super heroics fun that fans found so intoxicating in the first film, while expanding the universe with a slew of new heroes and an intriguing new villain, managing to find some originality in a time that is increasingly overstuffed with supers.
Isle of Dogs – Returning to the stop-motion animation roots that skyrocketed his career, Wes Anderson delivers a tale of dynasties and dog flu filled to the borders with quirky characters, deadpan wit and more symmetry than a dog can shake his tail at. The central story is simple, following five exiled dogs as they help a young boy find his pet on the titular isle of dogs, but the films finds its depth in the great voice performances, stylish dialogue, and strong themes of love, loyalty and acceptance littered throughout.
Ralph Breaks the Internet – Having successfully found happiness and friendship in his arcade home, the titular smashin’ man is sent careening into the world wide web when a wifi router is installed, opening the way for hundreds of jabs at YouTube, eBay and just about everything else remotely related to the internet. Though some of the jokes may not be all that current, Ralph Breaks the Internet is consistently hilarious, and is enriched by the heartwarming bond between Ralph and Vanellope.
Best TV Animated Series
Winner – Castlevania Season 2
Picking up where the first season left off, season two of Castlevania further explores the dual plot-lines of Dracula and his ilk planning the end of humanity, and the unlikely trio of Trevor Belmont, a vampire hunter, Sypha, a holy magic-wielder, and Alucard, the son of Dracula, seeking to stop them at any cost. The rich, and surprisingly complex story-lines are animated in a beautiful, anime-influenced style, which is brought to life with licks of flame and splashes of blood. The voice acting is all stellar, with special mention for Graham McTavish, whose deep melancholy and thinly veiled rage presents a version of Dracula who, rather than being a simple moustache-twirling villain, is instead a man wracked with sorrow and fury, and deeply enveloped in a shroud of darkness.
Big Mouth Season 2 – Letting the puberty monster back out of the closet, the sophomore season of this lewd and rude tale of a group of kids facing the woes of growing up keeps everything that worked so well the first time around, and adds more laughs, more character and tonnes more adult-only jokes. The characters are further explored as the sinister Shame Wizard emerges to haunt them for their every questionable action, and the awkward, miserable nature of puberty is once again lampooned to hilarious effect.
Bob’s Burgers Season 8 – This offbeat family comedy returns for its eighth season, bringing with it more jokes, more quirky characters, and of course, more burgers of the day, proving once again that The Simpsons and Family Guy aren’t the only games in town. This season sees plenty of stories involving well-established side characters, such as Teddy, Tammy or Mister Frond, and introduces several other interesting people to bounce off of the central cast in a slew of hilarious episodes.
BoJack Horseman Season 5 – Just when it began to look as though the darkest depths of the misanthropic anthropomorphic horse’s soul had been plumbed, season five of BoJack Horseman returns to delve even deeper. This time around, BoJack is the star of a new TV show, he’s struggling with addiction to prescription painkillers, and the secrets of his past are lurking in the periphery. The secondary characters are struggling with equally demoralising circumstances, continuing the show’s knack for shining a light on real issues, and bringing them to life through the escapades of animated animals.
Best TV Drama Series
Winner – The Haunting of Hill House
Striking the incredibly delicate balance of producing a genuinely terrifying horror story with a plot and characters whom audiences can relate to and care about through expert writing, The Haunting of Hill House is a masterclass in emotion and suspense. Following the Crane family in dual narratives, one that sees them living in the titular Hill House as children, and the other following them as adults, the show explores the psychological fallout of growing up in a haunted house, and the ramifications that they can have for the family as a whole. All performances across both timelines are incredible, and combined with the sharp writing, allow for an emotional depth and poignancy that is rarely seen in the horror genre, but is exemplified here.
Atlanta: Robbin’ Season – Somehow managing to surpass the series’ first outing in all areas of weirdness, surrealism and narrative experimentation, Robbin’ Season, named for the period leading up to Christmas in which crime rates soar in Atlanta, further explores the life and woes of Earnest Marks. Thanks to the unending commitment to character, Robbin’ Season includes some great relationship dramas between Earn and his loved ones, as well as exceptional weirdness in one-shot episodes such as the Gothic, absurdist tale of Teddy Perkins and his messed up family.
Daredevil Season 3 – After being put in prison at the end of the first season, and a brief appearance in the second, Wilson ‘Kingpin’ Fisk finally returns as the main big baddie in the third, and ultimately, final, outing of Netflix’s Daredevil. With an incredibly dark story that sees Matt Murdock dealing with family dramas and questioning his faith, as well as visually spectacular fights thanks to the engaging new villain, Bullseye, this season exceeds in everything that is best about Daredevil, bringing a deep and satisfying conclusion to the Man Without Fear’s saga.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 – Moving beyond the main narrative of the book that served as the source material for the series, The Handmaid’s Tale season two further explores the dystopian country of Gilead, and how its archaic laws affect the lives of those trapped within it. As socially relevant and frighteningly plausible as the first season, these latest episodes present new and horrific ways in which the handmaids are tortured and contained, as well as taking viewers outside Gilead to visit the irradiated colonies, and the ‘unwomen’ who are forced to work there until they die.
Game of the Year
Winner – Red Dead Redemption 2
Faced with the impossible task of following up from its wildly popular predecessor, Red Dead Redemption 2 tells an epic story of fellowship, greed, and the consequences of an outlaw’s life, that equals, and occasionally surpasses, John Martson’s tale of violence and vindication. As a protagonist, Arthur Morgan is satisfyingly complex and likeable, and the ambiguity of his morality and the freedom of the gameplay allow for the facilitation of every cowboy fantasy, from duels at high noon to tying an innocent stranger to the railroad tracks. Finally, the wide open world is inhabited by a plethora of engaging side characters, intriguing points of interest, and a whole ecosystem of animals to hunt and skin, all of which succeed in bringing a deep sense of life to the beautiful, dusty trails of the old west.
Detroit: Become Human – Putting all other choice-based narrative games to shame with its complex and layered branching story-lines, Detroit: Become Human presents a fresh perspective on the classic tale of humans vs androids. The plot is touching in some places and socially relevant in the rest, and the three engaging protagonists are made all the more compelling thanks to the incredible motion capture, delivering an unprecendented level of realism in the movement and facial expressions of characters.
God of War – Serving as a soft reboot to the traditionally more bloodthirsty series, God of War pulls back from the ultra-violent hacking and slashing of its forebears to tell a more grounded and mature story of Kratos trying to raise a son, and make him better than his father. The combat system is deep and satisfying, the vistas of Norse mythology are beautiful, and the central relationship between father and son is totally captivating, making this a successful return for the vengeful ghost of Sparta.
Marvel’s Spider-Man – After a string of so-so open world Spidey games that never quite lived up to the legacy of the oft-praised Spider-Man 2 tie-in, Insomniac Games have delivered a title that does for the Web-Slinger what the Arkham series did for Batman. The combat is fluid and intuitive, the story is an emotional powerhouse that feels fresh while remaining referential to Spidey’s history, and the web swinging is the best ever seen in a game, culminating in an experience that makes you truly feel like the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.
Up The Geek Legacy Award
Stan Lee (Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Venom, Once Upon a Deadpool, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)
As noted above, and seen throughout these awards, 2018 has been absolutely riddled with various renditions of, alternate versions of, and characters relating to the history of, Spider-Man. Though now one of the most recognisable and commercially successful superheroes in existence, there are a few men to whom Spidey’s existence is owed, including the king of cameos himself, Stan Lee. Working with many other comic book legends at Marvel, particularly Spidey co-creators Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby, Lee was at the creative forefront of the comic book industry, bringing to life such now beloved characters as the X-Men, Daredevil, and Iron Man. He also pioneered a more human and naturalistic approach to the characters he wrote, imbuing the larger than life heroes with flaws and shortcomings, making them all the more relatable for the reader. Lee’s contribution to Marvel, and the comic book industry as a whole, cannot be overstated, and his legacy is forever committed to film thanks to a propensity for cameos that would make Alfred Hitchcock and Quentin Tarantino blush. Excelsior!