Here we are again. Another year, another selection of films, TV shows and games to pass judgement on. 2019 was a pretty special year, seeing the end (or there abouts) of three enormous franchises, first with the box office dominating Avengers: Endgame, then the underwhelming Game of Thrones Season 8, and finally rounding out the year with the kind of middling Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Among these heavy hitters have been plenty of biopics, epics and Netflix to enjoy, as well as a generous amount of great TV series’ and video games. So, as per uzhe, we’re gonna rate ’em. Read on to see the results of the third annual Up The Geek Apaddlemy Awards (Oscoars to its friends), including several new, well-deserving categories!
Winner – 1917
Following two soldiers on a perilous journey through enemy territory, one that puts their courage and fortitude to the test every step of the way, 1917 is truly an epic odyssey, and would most definitely make Frodo and Sam proud. Sam Mendes’ vision of a tight, point-of-view driven trek through the horrors of WW1 is fully realised here, with the gorgeous camerawork of Roger Deakins and the ingenuity of the editing team building an almost unbearable level of tension. The cleverly designed appearance of one continuous take is a cinematic achievement in itself, and coupled with the emotive script and unyielding drama, will leave viewers begging for the camera to cut away, however briefly, to allow eyes to blink and racing hearts to settle back into chests.
Avengers: Endgame – Wrapping up an interconnected, 22-film saga would have seemed impossible ten years ago, but lo and behold, here we are. Delivering an emotional end for three original Avengers, as well as an exciting “time heist” that pays tribute to the whole MCU so far, ENDGAME is an absolute marvel (pun intended), and sets a new gold standard for superhero films everywhere. For more, check out the full review here.
The Irishman – Telling the tale of a hitman and his alleged involvement in the death of Jimmy Hoffa, the film inverts the excitement of most mafia movies, showing throughout that crime doesn’t pay. With standout performances from its three leads, a compelling narrative, and plenty of Scorsese’s signature mafioso flair, THE IRISHMAN is one of, if not the, signature gangster films of its generation.
Little Women – Breathing new, exuberant life into the well-worn classic story, Greta Gerwig’s take on LITTLE WOMEN is a joyous coming of age tale, filled with flawed, but relatable characters, and realistic family dynamics. The exceptional cast bring a chaotic sense of energy and warmth to the March family, and the non-linear plot structure keeps the pace breezy, while cleverly developing the sisters’ characters.
Winner – Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
For a long time, the late, great Heath Ledger’s turn as the Clown Prince of Crime in The Dark Knight was considered to be an untouchable, character-defining performance. Now, room will need to be made on the podium, as Joaquin Phoenix delivers a take on Joker that, while not quite surpassing Ledger’s, certainly matches it for sheer impact. Starting out as a twitchy loner, Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck lies somewhere between Travis Bickle and Norman Bates, with the added creepiness of his random, uncontrollable peels of pained laughter. As he transitions into the Joker persona, Arthur gets more confident but also more unhinged, culminating in his emotional and utterly transfixing appearance on Murray Franklin’s talk show. For more on JOKER, check out the full review here.
Adam Driver, Marriage Story – No stranger to channelling some pretty big emotions for his roles, Adam Driver brings his signature intensity to the crumbling relationship at the centre of MARRIAGE STORY. Though Driver is stellar throughout, it’s his raw display of rage and despair in a mid-film argument that makes this performance truly spectacular.
Robert Downey Jr, Avengers: Endgame – Once again benefiting from the most robust character arc in an Avengers film, Robert Downey Jr sees his tenured portrayal of Tony Stark out with some of his best work yet. From the emaciated emotional wreck he is in the opening minutes of the film, right up to his devastating final sacrifice, Downey is on absolute top form here, delivering an exceptional performance for Stark’s swansong.
Taron Egerton, Rocketman – Fully capturing the electric showmanship of Elton John, Egerton plays the superstar with a palpable sense of yearning for love and acceptance, diving into aching, dramatic territory when he is refused both. As if that wasn’t enough, Egerton also sings many of Elton’s classic hits in the film, and, while not quite on par with the man himself, packs them full of enough emotion and pizzazz to strike a chord.
Winner – Renée Zellweger, Judy
Portraying Judy Garland in the final year of her life, Renée Zellweger imbues the ageing star with all of the charisma and grace that she was known for in real life, but hidden behind a veil of ever-growing desperation and despair. Zellweger’s strained performance ties excellently in with the flashbacks of a young Judy being chewed up by the industry, fully realising a woman who gave her life to the spotlight, only to see it slowly slip away from her. On top of this, Zellweger also performs several of Garland’s most famous songs, including a heart-wrenching rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, that captures Garland’s struggles in every quaver and crack of Zellweger’s voice.
Charlize Theron, Bombshell – Leading the trio of women at the heart of BOMBSHELL’s story of sexual abuse in Fox News, Charlize Theron delivers an understated but powerful performance as TV anchor Megyn Kelly. Embodying the strength and determination that defined the early stages of the Me Too movement, Theron plays Kelly as reserved and terse, which makes the moments where the mask slips all the more impactful.
Lupita N’Yongo, Us – Turning in not one, but two, stellar performances, Lupita N’Yongo defines US with her dramatic duality. Bringing the classic vulnerability as Adelaide, and the menacing terror as her twisted reflection, Red, N’Yongo’s versatility is unparalleled, and creates a strong emotional core for this dark and daring doppelganger drama.
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story – The other half of MARRIAGE STORY’s contentious divorce proceedings, Scarlett Johansson encapsules maternal spirit, filling each of her scenes with a nurturing warmth. When the divorce turns nasty, Johansson also brings plenty of emotional drama, matching Adam Driver’s intensity with a heartfelt and devastating portrait of a woman being torn in two.
Best Supporting Actor
Winner – Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood
One of the most genuinely decent and heartwarming people in the world being played by another one – what else could the result be, but excellence? Mustering up all of his power as America’s gentle father figure, Hanks slips easily into the comfortable shoes and red cardigan of Fred Rogers, opening the film with a warm and inviting rendition of the famous song that gives this film its title. Working opposite Matthew Rhys’ sceptical and cynical journalist, Lloyd, Hanks is soft-spoken and intoxicating throughout, combining the performative silliness of puppeteering King Friday and his subjects with a wise and deeply thoughtful seriousness that seems to pierce straight to the soul.
Al Pacino, The Irishman – Hot-blooded and short-sighted, Jimmy Hoffa is a stubborn man, but one with a good heart and strong convictions. Between his strong emotional arc and his relationships with Frank and his family, this is one of Pacino’s most dynamic and affecting roles in years, deepening the impact of his inevitable comeuppance.
Joe Pesci, The Irishman – Playing against his usual mafia-movie type, Joe Pesci returns to acting with a deeply layered and menacing turn as ice-cold gangster, Russell. Cold and calculating as an apex predator for the most part, Pesci breaks the exterior with sporadic moments of warmth, showing a strong affinity for family, suitably apt for a made man.
Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse – Crotchety and combative from the off, Willem Dafoe’s Tom behaves like a man gone mad long before he and his partner get stranded. Turning in a deliriously sinister and intense performance, Dafoe personifies the madness and volatility of the film with his wild, manic expressions and Shakespearean delivery.
Best Supporting Actress
Winner – Florence Pugh, Little Women
A character that is all too often relegated to being a simple antagonist, Amy is here given the space to develop properly, shifting her into a more complex and believable role that makes sense of her less savoury moments. A lot of this success is due to the writing, of course, but so much credit is owed to Florence Pugh, whose nuanced and committed performance instils a glorious sense of liveliness in the character. Jubilant and petulant with equal abandon, Pugh also perfectly captures the attitude of a youngest sister who tags along with her older siblings, refusing to be left out of anything. The sheer depth to Amy’s character in LITTLE WOMEN means that she not only avoids the basic antagonist role, but she’s actually one of the most fully realised and relatable of all the sisters.
Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers – Radiating attitude, Jennifer Lopez’s Ramona is the confident and daring mentor figure to Constance Wu’s Destiny. Not even mentioning some pretty impressive pole-dancing skills, this is easily Lopez’s best performance in years, carrying the film’s twisting plot with her sexy, sophisticated and dangerous con-woman.
Margot Robbie, Bombshell – As a composite character, representing the experiences of multiple women, Kayla Pospisil is subject to the most overt abuse in BOMBSHELL. In each of these difficult scenes, Margot Robbie radiates discomfort and apprehension, expertly drawing the viewer into the vulnerable, fearful head space of the victim.
Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit – The only person who seems to be talking sense in all of Germany, Rosie is a good woman doing what she can. Often at ideological odds with Jojo, Scarlett Johansson plays Rosie with a gritty determination, intent on loving her son no matter what, as best seen in an emotional argument where she dresses as Jojo’s dad.
Best Ensemble Cast
Winner – Knives Out
Joining the ranks of iconic detectives like Sherlock Holmes and Hercules Poirot, Daniel Craig’s suave, southern sleuth, Benoit Blanc, fits in well with his storied cohort, and is a great centre for the film. Helping him out, mostly against her will, is Marta Cabrera, the victim’s nurse and true star of the film. Ana de Armas turns in a skittish yet determined performance, as Marta tries to help the investigation, while hiding secrets of her own. Finally, no whodunit is complete without a reprehensible cast of potential murderers. Filling out the squabbling, combative family of the murder victim are plenty of A-list actors, clearly having a blast with the material. Toni Collette and Jamie Lee Curtis are particular standouts, with both of their characters being the absolute worst, and Chris Evans steps out from Captain America’s shadow by playing his complete antithesis, and doing so with a hilariously insufferable glee.
Jojo Rabbit – Taika Waititi as Adolf Hitler is the main headline here, but his goofy take on the fuhrer, while hilarious, is far from the only standout in this offbeat black comedy. Roman Griffin Davis is both funny and adorable as the sweetly brainwashed Jojo, and his sibling-esque relationship with Thomasin McKenzie’s Elsa is hilariously heartwarming. Scarlett Johansson is fantastic as Jojo’s mother, and Sam Rockwell’s Captain Klenzendorf and Stephen Merchant’s Deertz are both great fun as their farcically oddball Nazis.
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood – While the delightful bromance between Leonardo DiCaprio’s stammering, washed up actor, Rick Dalton, and his laid-back stunt double/best bud, Cliff (Brad Pitt), is definitely the star of the show, they are supported throughout by a range excellent, well-drawn side characters. Standouts include Margaret Qualley as the dreamy hippy/Mansonite, Pussycat, Julie Butters’ weirdly mature child star, Trudi Fraser, and, of course, Margot Robbie’s brief but bubbly turn as Sharon Tate.
Parasite – Led by Song Kang-ho’s hilariously deadpan stint as the family patriarch, the entire Kim family are pulling double duty in PARASITE, first as their regular selves, so cheerfully engaging in a complex grift, and then as their more palatable performances as helpers in the Park household. The blending and breaking between these two sides of themselves make for some great moments, and the final act, where everything goes to hell, allows the actors to deliver some excellent dramatic scenes, alongside all the farce.
Winner – Sam Mendes, 1917
The only thing older than war films, is war itself. As such, it’s increasingly difficult to find an angle on any major conflict that doesn’t feel either inaccurate or derivative. With an intimate story, clever camera work and a breathless pace, director Sam Mendes manages to do just that, building his own story inside the well-trodden ground of World War One. The personal and surprising narrative unfolds at a reasonable pace, dropping in some tightly choreographed action set pieces at unexpected moments, and the performances are all on point, with several notable British and Irish actors making small but impactful cameos at various points throughout the journey.
Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, Avengers: Endgame – At this point, the Russo brothers are old hands at epic superhero slug-fests, but that doesn’t make ENDGAME any less impressive. With impeccable performances, tight pacing and an absolutely jaw-dropping final battle, the Russo brothers have once again wrangled an unprecedented amount of action, drama and comedy into a single super-flick, delivering an incredibly emotional, dazzlingly impactful and altogether outstanding finale to the Infinity Saga.
Greta Gerwig, Little Women – Only her second time solo directing a feature film, after the critically acclaimed Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig takes on one of the most recognisable classics of all time, and infuses it with the same unique charm that made her last effort so well received. With small, yet effective touches, such as having the sister’s talk over each other during heated moments, Gerwig brings a tangible sense of realness to LITTLE WOMEN, capturing that same magic that Louisa May Alcott first tapped into.
Martin Scorsese, The Irishman – Harnessing the iconic charm of Goodfellas (arguably the best of Scorsese’s early work) and channelling it through the lens of a man looking back pensively on his life in organised crime, THE IRISHMAN can’t help but feel a little like Marty looking back on his career, and reassessing the world to which he has given so much. As introspective as it is enchanting, this is a gangster epic for the ages, casting new light on the genre, and cementing itself as Scorsese’s twilight masterpiece.
Winner – Roger Deakins, 1917
War may be an ugly business, but damn can it be beautiful to watch. Fresh off his first Oscar win for Blade Runner 2049, cinematographer Roger Deakins took on the challenge of filming 1917 to look as though it was all one continuous take. Carrying it off without making it look too much like a gimmick, Deakins’ slick camerawork follows the two leads closely along their journey, drawing the viewer tightly into their perspective. Elsewhere, Deakins makes incredible use of natural light, most notably during a key sequence in the middle of the film, in which one of the soldiers is running through a ruined French town at night, illuminated only by flares and firelight, with hauntingly beautiful results.
Jarin Blaschke, The Lighthouse – Beautifully wrought in deeply dramatic, high contrast black and white, the stark cinematography and precise framing of THE LIGHTHOUSE give the appearance of an old photograph come to life. The tight camerawork and deep shadows beautifully capture the claustrophobia and isolation felt by the keepers, and feed directly into the themes of madness that run throughout the rest of the film.
Lawrence Sher, Joker – Drawing heavily on the gritty, grimy aesthetic of New York City in many 1970s films, Lawrence Sher’s vision of Gotham is a bleak one. From the muted colour palate, to the run-down apartment buildings and streets piled high with rubbish, the world of JOKER is striking, sparse and effortlessly effective in setting the film’s tone.
Robert Richardson, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood – Excessive shots of women’s feet aside (this is Tarantino after all), OUATIH is a visual treat, intercutting the gorgeous, sun-bleached streets and dusty lots of LA with period appropriate sequences of Rick Dalton’s TV career, and of course, plenty of fast-paced, super bloody, ultra-violence.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Winner – Greta Gerwig, Little Women
Remaining pretty faithful overall to Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel, Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of LITTLE WOMEN mixes things up by presenting the two distinct timelines – one following the March sisters in their youth, and the other as adults – in a nonlinear fashion, cutting between the years to thematically connect different stages of the sisters’ lives. Building the story from adulthood backwards, Gerwig centres the characters as women, not just little ones, whose wants and dreams are to be taken seriously, rather than just dismissed as the trifling of young girls. With strong characterisation and some really energetic dialogue, LITTLE WOMEN is a fresh take on a classic story, and easily the best adaptation that the March sisters have ever had.
Anthony McCarten, The Two Popes – Focusing on one of the biggest and most shocking moments in the history of the papacy, Anthony McCarten’s screenplay looks beyond Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation to sexual assault scandals, religious unrest, and more. Most of all, the story unravels the myth of the pope, looking at the men behind the big hats, and delivering plenty of warmth, humour and tenderness along the way.
Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, Avengers: Endgame – Bringing to a close the first major saga of the MCU, AVENGERS: ENDGAME had a lot riding on it. Somehow keeping the narrative from buckling under its own weight, writers Markus and McFeely deliver both a superhero epic and an emotional powerhouse, suitably drawing one era to a close, while setting the stage for the next to begin.
Steven Zaillian, The Irishman – Adapted from Charles Brandt’s book, “I Heard You Paint Houses”, the story of Frank Sheeran and his teamster antics may be overly long in places, but the content is so rich that more of it is not a bad thing. With excellent characters and a deftly effective non-chronological structure, Steven Zaillian delivers a sprawling story of gangsters and unionists, built around one of recent history’s most elusive mysteries.
Best Original Screenplay
Winner – Rian Johnson, Knives Out
All whodunits tend to have a twist – usually regarding the identity of the killer – but it’s much rarer to find one whose twist turns the entire formula on its head. Rian Johnson, fresh from being the most hated man in nerd culture after his unconventional approach to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, is back to his subversive tricks, this time piecing together and simultaneously disassembling an intricate, Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery. While the defiance of classic structure initially seems like there’s no way it can possibly work, by the end it feels completely natural, developing a compelling mystery, that asks not just whodunit, but how and whydunit as well. Add to this plenty of pithy dialogue and some fantastically written archetypal characters, and KNIVES OUT proves to be a hilarious, intelligent update to the classic murder mystery movie.
Bong Joon-ho and Jin Won Han, Parasite – Starting as a darkly comedic con artist film, PARASITE soon and suddenly devolves into a suspenseful, violent drama, with most of the second half oozing with tension. At the heart of all of this is an incisive and biting examination of the economic disparities in South Korea, making some relatable points about the haves and have-nots that are relevant the world over.
Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story – Heartfelt, humorous and devastating, MARRIAGE STORY charts the downfall and subsequent divorce of a fractured relationship. Though the ending wraps things up a little too neatly, the journey to that point is perilous and dramatic, filled with strong, emotionally raw dialogue, and complex, often ugly, insights into the two lead characters.
Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, 1917 – Approaching one of the biggest wars in history through the tight lens of two men on a personal mission, 1917 cleverly captures the desolation and devastation of WW1 without ever sacrificing the all important human element. Prioritising emotion over action, 1917 forges an intimate path through the fire and ash of the war, deepening the impact of its more traumatising moments.
Best Original Score
Winner – Alan Silvestri, Avengers: Endgame
As much as the screenplay needed to effectively wrap up 22 films worth of story threads, so too did the AVENGERS ENDGAME score need to send off the musical side of the saga on a high note. Weaving together themes and motifs from all across the MCU, legendary composer Alan Silvestri delivers a richly complex aural tapestry that perfectly attunes to the finality of ENDGAME. With some of the grandest and most evocative tracks in the entire franchise – Portals especially is magnificent, and elevates an already breathtaking scene to incredible new heights – this score is a triumph equal to that of the narrative, and perfectly closes the book on this exciting chapter of the MCU.
Alexandre Desplat, Little Women – Buoyant and whimsical, Alexandre Desplat’s score for LITTLE WOMEN is filled to the brim with youthful exuberance, capturing the spirit of the March sisters. The sheer energy pulsating in each track imbues every scene with a sense of anticipation, building to crescendo at key, emotional moments in the narrative.
Hildur Guðnadóttir, Joker – Perfectly capturing Joker’s fragmented and distorted state of mind throughout the film, Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score is an intense, off-kilter assault on the senses. Mixing heavy, abrasive strings with clashing percussion and threatening brass, this unique score is about the closest thing possible to getting inside Joker’s mind.
Nathan Johnson, Knives Out – As classy as the family at the centre of its mystery, the music for Knives out is a grand and dramatic affair. Wrought with elegant piano strokes and foreboding strings, this versatile, jazzy score pairs perfectly with anything from a frantic car chase to a careful clue-hunt, and is enough to make anybody suspect foul play.
Winner – Oliver Tarney, Rachael Tate, Mark Taylor and Stuart Wilson, 1917
War can be loud. Most films depicting a world war are filled with the rattle of bullets, the whines of plane engines overhead and the screams of lives being cut short too soon. In stark contrast to this paradigm, 1917 is quiet, deafeningly so, for great stretches of Blake and Schofield’s journey across the German lines. This unbearable silence means that all other noise is heightened: the crack of a bullet is more invasive than dozens of machine guns, the rush of a waterfall is chaotically overwhelming, and the echoing footsteps of an approaching figure is a dread-inducing nightmare. All layered together, the soundscape of 1917 is an absolute masterpiece in tension building, and a perfect companion to the camerawork in creating a fully immersive trek through the terrors of World War 1.
Daniel Laurie, Shannon Mills and John Pritchett, Avengers: Endgame – Yet again, it all comes back to the final fight. With everything that’s going on, it would be all too easy for ENDGAME’s finale to be a confusing, cacophonic mess, but the exquisite sound mixing means that each laser, war cry, howl and punch is distinct, resulting in an epic spectacle that is as much a treat for the ears as it is for the eyes.
Danny Sheehan, Matthew Collinge and John Hayes, Rocketman – Moving seamlessly between character drama and music video all throughout, the sound of ROCKETMAN has to show a lot of versatility to keep up. It does this easily, blending the two mediums in a unique and dynamic way that captures the musical fantasy aesthetic perfectly, winding up feeling more like a high-production stage musical than a biopic.
Matthew Wood, David Acord and Stuart Wilson, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – As with all Star Wars saga entries, THE RISE OF SKYWALKER opens with John Williams’ deafening fanfare, instantly transporting viewers to that galaxy far, far away. Beyond the opening crawl, the rest of the film is just as audibly impactful, filled with thrumming lightsabers, crashing waves, crackling lightning, and the deep, resonate voice of Emperor Palpatine. For more thoughts on The Rise of Skywalker, read the full review here.
Best Costume Design
Winner – Julian Day, Rocketman
There’s not many men who can pull off walking into a rehab session dressed in a skin-tight, glittery devil costume, complete with twisting horns and giant, feathery wings. But then again, Elton John isn’t just any man. Building off of Sir Elton’s iconic and flamboyant fashion sense, costume designer Julian Day created dozens of unique and striking looks that capture the magic of this musical fantasy. From the sparkling LA Dodgers uniform pictured above (the only costume recreated from one of Elton’s own ensembles), to the intricately layered, Wizard of Oz inspired getup worn by Egerton during Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, every outfit in the film is dripping with personality, and make for a shining spectacle along Elton’s journey to super stardom.
Anna B. Sheppard, Spider-Man: Far From Home – Two words: fishbowl helmet. Yes Spidey’s got a couple of swanky new outfits, and they’re great. But the fishbowl. Not only does Mysterio’s outfit somehow work in live action, it’s actually one of the best villain costumes in the MCU has seen to date, and a beautiful exercise in bringing classic designs off of the page faithfully. For more thoughts, check out the full review here.
Jacqueline Durran, Little Women – The four March sisters are each as different as they come, and their choice in clothing is no different. Along with being a range of beautifully designed, elegantly crafted costumes, the clothing in LITTLE WOMEN serves as a part of characterisation, perfectly presenting the personality of each sister via their attire.
Ruth E. Carter, Dolemite is my Name – The 1970s. A time of big personalities and even bigger lapels. Striving to make a statement in this already flamboyant time, DOLEMITE IS MY NAME decks the title character out in a variety of loud and bombastic outfits, each one carefully designed to perfectly accentuate the blaxploitation star’s unique attitude.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Winner – Vivian Baker, Kazu Hiro and Anne Morgan, Bombshell
In the TV business, it’s imperative to look your best, and few know that better than the team behind the transformative looks in BOMBSHELL. Given the film’s inclusion of an enforced dress code for the ladies at Fox News, it goes without saying that the makeup and hairstyles are all incredibly glamorous, with Baker and Morgan effortlessly evoking the look and attitude of a Fox woman. And then there’s Kazu Hiro’s subtle but extremely effective prostheses. Nicole Kidman has minor pieces to accentuate her nose and chin, and John Lithgow is fattened and jowled to the nines in order to capture the essence of Roger Ailes, but the main event is Charlize Theron’s metamorphosis into Megyn Kelly. With prosthetics on her eyelids, nose, nostrils and jawline, Theron’s likeness to Kelly is a striking achievement, and helps to further sell the authenticity of the narrative.
Jeremy Woodhead, Judy – Usually actresses use makeup to cover up wrinkles, eye-bags and crows feet, but not Renée. Using prosthetics and clever makeup shading, the JUDY team transformed Zellweger into an aging Judy Garland, adding to her performance by visualising her ongoing struggles in a carefully crafted face.
Kay Georgiou and Nicki Lederman, Joker – Reimagining the Clown Prince of Crime is no easy feat, but the JOKER team have hit the mark perfectly. Matching slicked back, broccoli-green hair with a face of classic clown makeup, the look brings to mind the real-world clown killer John Wayne Gacy, and cements an iconic new style for the Joker.
Paul Gooch, Arjen Tuiten and David White, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – Somehow making Angelina Jolie’s cheekbones even sharper than they normally are, the makeup and prosthetics team on MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL build on the work established in the first film, producing designs that are impressively edgy, in more ways than one.
Best Visual Effects
Winner – Pablo Helman, Leandro Estebecorena, Nelson Sepulveda-Fauser and Stephane Grabli, The Irishman
De-aging technology has been around for a while now – Disney in particular are making regular use of it – but the implementation of it traditionally requires a series of clunky apparatus to successfully map the actors’ faces. Unwilling to compromise his stars’ ability to play off of one another, director Martin Scorsese asked Industrial Light & Magic to help him find a way to have the same actors play a character at different points in their life. The results might not be perfect (seeing a man supposedly in his mid 40s move like one in his mid 70s is definitely a little jarring), but this pioneering technology allowed the leading actors to give everything to their performances, and overall represents a huge step forward for de-aging in cinema.
Adam Valdez, Robert Legato, Andrew R. Jones and Elliot Newman, The Lion King – Despite the animals not being able to emote anywhere near as well as their hand-drawn counterparts, there’s no denying that the photo-realistic animation of THE LION KING is a thing of beauty. Erring closer to a nature documentary than a Disney film, this triumph of design is a new landmark in animation technology.
Alexis Wajsbrot, Cyndi Ochs, Janek Sirrs and Jonathan Opgenhaffen, Spider-Man: Far from Home – Easily supplanting the standard of visuals that are expected of any MCU film, FAR FROM HOME rises above the rest with its wildly inventive, intricately choreographed, and occasionally terrifying (looking at you, zombie Iron Man) mid-film illusion sequence.
Roger Guyett, Neal Scanlan, Patrick Tubach and Dominic Tuohy, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Though disappointing in other areas, THE RISE OF SKYWALKER really comes through on the visuals front, with the Death Star wreckage duel, the epic final battle over Exegol, and the technically amazing Maz Kanata puppet all being particular stand-outs.
Best Stunt Ensemble
Winner – Jonathon Eusebio, Scott Rogers, Cale Schultz and Jérémie Vigot, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
The allure of the John Wick series has always been heavily intertwined with the strength of the action scenes, and for his third outing, Baba Yaga cranks things up a notch. Hunted by all manner of assassins, John gets into more of the wildly inventive, improvisational fight scenes that made the first two Wick films such favourites, with anything from dogs to books being used as tools in the brutal, beautiful dances of death. Along with some incredibly tight choreography and blisteringly fast-paced driving sequences, the stunt team behind JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM deliver another chaotic instalment in the action franchise, with some of the strongest and most original stunt work yet.
Chris Barnes, Monique Ganderton, Isaac Hamon and Sam Hargraves, Avengers: Endgame – While heavy on the drama and emotion, ENDGAME is still a superhero film at heart, and therefore features tonnes of bone-cracking action. From the hilarious Cap vs Cap fight to the epic final showdown, ENDGAME’s stunts are executed flawlessly, and provide some of the best spectacles in the MCU thus far.
Ben Cooke, 1917 – Though for the most part, 1917 sees two soldiers trying their very best to avoid the action, things can only remain so quiet when traversing enemy territory. As bombs drop and bullets fly, the stunts of 1917 are executed with visceral precision, and are made all the more impressive by the unyielding cinematography.
Robert Nagle, Ford v Ferrari – Recreating the high-speed action of the 1966 Le Mans, as well as several races leading up to it, FORD V FERRARI succeeds on the strength of these sequences. The stunt drivers carry this burden effortlessly, delivering several races that are so convincing in execution, they are almost indistinguishable from the real thing.
Best Animated Film
Winner – Klaus
Starting with a classic unlikely friendship scenario and quickly morphing into a hopeful ode to the infectious nature of kindness, KLAUS is a beautiful and heartwarming fairy tale origin story for the magical legend of Santa Claus. Following a self-centred postman and a gruff, unsociable toymaker, the story unfolds with few surprises (the whole polar opposites learning to work together angle is nothing new), but the wonderfully twisted world, and the sheer, unrelenting warmth and sincerity give this film a strong identity of its own. Add to this an impressive voice cast, and an aesthetic that resembles an old hand-drawn storybook brought to life, and KLAUS captures that ineffable spirit of Christmas, adding itself to the long list of classics for a cold winter’s eve.
I Lost My Body – Exactly as weird as it sounds, I LOST MY BODY is an intensely creative and original film. Despite the manic-pixie-dream-girl love story, the film succeeds with beautiful (and appropriate) hand-drawn visuals, and an unconventional but engrossing mystery that sees a severed hand seeking its body, and the truth of its dismemberment.
Missing Link – Another impressive feat of stop-motion animation from Coraline creators, Laika, MISSING LINK is a funny and surprisingly mature adventure film. With strong voice acting and a captivating blend of claymation and CGI, the film delivers a lighter, brighter experience, but one that is just as enjoyable as the studio’s more Gothic back catalogue.
Toy Story 4 – Despite some questionable characterisations (Buzz in particular is written very strangely), TOY STORY 4 succeeds as a quieter, more thoughtful epilogue to the main trilogy. Best of all, the unexpected story offers some of the most interesting development that Woody has seen since the original film.
Best TV Animated Series
Winner – BoJack Horseman Season 6
A premature swansong for this misanthropic, alcoholic, anthropomorphic horse, BOJACK HORSEMAN SEASON 6 sees the titular BoJack trying to turn his life around, and let go all the guilt of his past mistakes. Unfortunately, the rest of the world has different plans, and the post-rehab “new BoJack” is quickly confronted with the long-reaching consequences of old BoJack’s worst decisions. Insightful, hilarious and devastating, often all at once, the sixth and final season of BOJACK HORSEMAN offers no easy solutions, denying both the audience and the titular horse any neat sense of closure, in favour of a more complicated and nuanced status quo. Along with some spectacular experimental animations, and plenty of trademark screwball comedy, BOJACK HORSEMAN SEASON 6 is some of the most affecting that the show has ever been, and a phenomenal sendoff for the series.
Big Mouth Season 3 – While not quite as strong as the show’s first two runs, BIG MOUTH SEASON 3 is a hilariously lewd exploration of puberty and hormonal woes. Unflinching as ever, this season deals with a variety of awkward and taboo teenage experiences, delivering some poignant character moments amid all the sex and period jokes.
Harley Quinn Season 1 – Somehow finding a unique angle on the Batman universe, the first season of HARLEY QUINN is a punky, irreverent antidote to the recent grim Bat-films, and an empowering examination of exactly who Harley is when she replaces her toxic Joker relationship with an adorable and relatable friendship with Poison Ivy.
Love, Death and Robots Season 1 – Though there are a few misses alongside the hits, LOVE, DEATH AND ROBOTS’ first season is overall a fantastic and engaging anthology series, boasting some excellent performances, stunning art styles, and a whole host of intriguing and imaginative sci-fi concepts.
Best TV Comedy Series
Winner – Barry Season 2
Picking up after one of the best season-ending cliffhangers of all time, BARRY SEASON 2 sees the titular assassin turned actor struggling to maintain his new, peaceful life, as his violent past continually creeps up on him, threatening consequences. Anchored by Bill Hader’s career-best performance, this black-as-death comedy takes everything that made the first season such a refreshing thrill and doubles down on it. The action is breathless and often fantastically farcical, the exceptional cast of side characters are expanded and explored further, and Barry himself faces more of the darkness within, building upon the richness of his character, and allowing Hader to deliver some exceptional dramatic performances along the way.
The Boys Season 1 – Managing to find new ground to cover in an over-saturated genre, THE BOYS is a gore-filled, foul-mouthed and action-packed antidote to superhero fatigue. Amid all the blood and swearing, there’s a surprisingly affecting story to dig into, and a whole host of compelling anti-heroes/villains to cheer for and root against.
Fleabag Season 2 – Following up the much-lauded first season, and somehow bettering it in every way, FLEABAG SEASON 2 is a bitingly funny in places, achingly depressing in others, and deliciously creative throughout. Oh, and of course there’s Andrew Scott’s Hot Priest love interest, whose inclusion is just as brilliant as it sounds.
Sex Education Season 1 – Exactly as awkward as having a sex therapist for a mother sounds, the first season of SEX EDUCATION is a witty and heartfelt coming-of-age story, full of quirky, well-written characters, with all manner of sexual problems and teenage issues to be milked for all their comedic glory.
Best TV Drama Series
Winner – Watchmen Season 1
This shouldn’t have worked. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s seminal deconstruction of the superhero comic book was always meant to be impossible to adapt – a suspicion that seemed to be confirmed by the hit-and-miss quality of Zack Snyder’s 2009 film. And yet somehow, here we are. More of a remix than a direct sequel, WATCHMEN SEASON 1 is a surprising and tantalising follow-up, that doesn’t only live up to the legacy of the graphic novel, but casts new lights on certain parts of it, bringing greater depth to the material, and elevating the overall franchise. Add to this deftly drawn characters, deeply affecting writing, and racial politics that couldn’t be more relevant right now, and WATCHMEN SEASON 1 proves itself the best series of 2019. For more, check out the full review here.
Chernobyl Limited Series – Easily the most harrowing thing put to screen in a long time, CHERNOBYL is a bleak and unflinching look at one of history’s most notorious disasters. Sealed with some phenomenal performances and stomach-churning visuals, this limited series makes more impact in five episodes than some shows make with five seasons.
Euphoria Season 1 – A dark and drug-fuelled odyssey into the world inherited by Gen-Zers, EUPHORIA is a balancing act of hilarious and devastating. Featuring a phenomenal cast, led by Zendaya at the top of her game, this season tackles depression, addiction and isolation in a grounded and relatable way that cuts straight to the core.
The Mandalorian Season 1 – With fun, serialised action, strongly-written characters and more practical effects than you can shake a Wookie at, THE MANDALORIAN is a thrilling adventure that captures that unique Star Wars spirit in a way that nothing has since the original trilogy. Read more in our review here.
Game of the Year
Winner – Control
The latest creation from Max Payne and Alan Wake creators, Remedy – and notably their weirdest endeavour yet – CONTROL puts players in the shoes of Jesse Faden, the newly hired director at the Federal Bureau of Control, just as an extra-dimensional threat called the Hiss attacks its staff. Armed with the shape-shifting Service Weapon and an arsenal of psychic powers, players explore the Oldest House – the trans-dimensional home of the FBC – fighting to take back control from the Hiss. A mind-bending blend of The Office, Lovecraft, Men in Black and the Southern Reach trilogy, CONTROL adds to its deeply satisfying combat and New Weird narrative by marrying all of the madness to mundanity – allowing for the unique oddness of stopping on the way to fight a sentient pipe clog to read a colleague’s surprisingly detailed review from the company book club.
The Outer Worlds – Taking the strengths of Fallout: New Vegas and blasting them into space, THE OUTER WORLDS is a hilarious and socially poignant RPG, that makes up for its lacklustre combat with one of the best dialogue systems ever put to game. For more, check out the full review here.
Resident Evil 2 Remake – With its terse, terrifying atmosphere, clever puzzles, and the ever-present threat of Mr X’s dogged pursuit, RESIDENT EVIL 2 is a breathless, anxiety-inducing survival horror, and the new standard for what a remake can achieve with the right team behind it.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – Mixing challenging lightsaber combat with Metroidvania exploration and an expansive story of Jedi heritage, STAR WARS JEDI: FALLEN ORDER is (partly by default) the best narrative Star Wars game we’ve had in years, even if it does rely a little too much on familiar gameplay mechanics.
Up The Geek Legacy Award
Peter Mayhew (The Star Wars Saga)
The gentle giant behind everyone’s favourite walking carpet, Peter Mayhew was working as a hospital orderly when the casting call went out, looking for tall actors to play a big, hairy alien in this weird little sci-fi film called Star Wars. After scoring the job simply by standing up and looming over director George Lucas, Mayhew established Chewbacca’s distinguished mannerisms by observing bears and gorillas at the local zoo. While health issues kept him from playing Chewbecca after The Force Awakens (with Joonas Suotamo taking over for Chewie’s last three appearances), Mayhew is undeniably the driving force behind everything about the furball that makes him so beloved. Chewie FINALLY getting his medal at the end of The Rise of Skywalker was a great moment for the character, but more so, it spoke to an appreciation of those who have previously been overlooked. He may not have the name recognition of Hamill, Ford or Fisher, but Mayhew was just as instrumental in giving Star Wars its iconic status, and the galaxy far, far away will never be the same without him.