TOP TEN FILMS
- Cold War
- Ash Is Purest White
- Can You Ever Forgive Me
- A Bread Factory, Parts One and Two
- Birds of Passage
- Madeline’s Madeline
BIL’S BEST ACTOR
When you see one person credited as writer/director/star, it’s understandable that you brace yourself for a disastrous voyage into self-indulgence, particularly when it’s Rupert Everett and you’ve been reading about him working on this goddamned Oscar Wilde movie for ten years. Perhaps prejudice against his wearing many hats, as well as whatever bridges he reportedly burned throughout his illustrious career, is the reason that, when The Happy Prince finally did come out, it went mostly unnoticed by the film world despite good reviews and positive responses at film festivals. As far as I’m concerned Everett never did me any harm and if he had, it would all be forgiven, as the result of his many years of toil is a film that makes all that came before it (like that disastrous Stephen Fry version) irrelevant, while outclassing the dull David Hare play that Everett toured with for three years to raise interest in his own project. His Wilde is both survivor and self-sabotager, mistreated by societal hypocrisy but also frequently the hand that wields the axe over his own head, and is the richest portrait of this fascinating wit that has yet been put on screen. Everett’s performance, even while under mountains of prosthesis, makes for his most humane and sympathetic portrayal yet.
BIL’S BEST ACTRESS
Well it’s my awards page and I can do whatever I want, so if I say it’s a three-way tie, then that’s what we’re going to have. Besides, indulgence is the key word in The Favourite, and as far as I’m concerned the three lead performances in Yorgos Lanthimos’ remarkably playful All About Eve-meets-Barry Lyndon extravaganza are inextricable from each other: you cannot have Emma Stone‘s wicked ambition, Rachel Weisz‘s cat-eyed manipulation or Olivia Colman‘s blind gluttony in solitude, they only work when combined (and the placing of Colman in the leading category during this awards season is incorrect anyway, since the movie is about Stone and the whole thing is viewed from her perspective). These three ladies are game for everything Lanthimos sets them up for, from social-climbing filthy sex to filthy cake eating accompanied by all that vomiting, but behind all the scheming, begging, sexing and shenanigans, not to mention those adorable rabbits, these are lonely souls who are fighting for survival without really knowing why (well Weisz probably does, but the expression on her face that suggests that she won’t tell us is also what makes her so damned good).
BIL’S BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
One of the most exciting and charismatic films of the year, Blindspotting is also beautifully propelled along by its performances, Daveed Diggs’ low-burn charm in the lead and the contrast of Rafael Casal as his loose-cannon best friend. The film charts Diggs’ struggles to survive life after prison while Casal keeps trying to keep things bad-boy-business as usual, temperamental and capricious, and sometimes downright foolish, but always impossible to resist. His own personal awakening in the film charts the most intelligent observation of a character coming to terms with their own privilege without coming across as simplistic virtue signalling, while still respecting the challenges he has in life; but that sounds too dry and intellectual, the truth is he’s just goddamned hilarious.
BIL’S BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
The consensus of the end of year awards is that Regina King is the year’s Best Supporting Actress, and rightly so considering that King has always been a superb actress whose film work has largely gone unrewarded (just her telling her sister to shut up in How Stella Got Her Groove Back still makes my day) and she brings all her intelligence and intensity to her role in Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight follow-up, If Beale Street Could Talk. For me, though, the performance I couldn’t get out of my head in that movie was the one scene in which Aunjanue Ellis appears and outright steals the show, planting herself in my memory and I couldn’t forget her by the end. In this beautiful tapestry of a film, one that easily glides from private, romantic sensuality to the harsh realities of public American racism, Ellis provides a fearless, almost campy distraction as a woman desperately clinging to her religious and moral beliefs in an effort to keep her family in line with the life she dreams of in her mind. It’s often said of acting that it’s much harder to get your character across when you have less time to do it, and it’s to Ellis’s (and, of course Jenkins’) credit that she manages to tell so strong a story in so few moments.
BIL’S BEST DIRECTOR
Praising Alfonso Cuaron feels a bit redundant at this point, people have been waxing poetic on his varied projects so much that he almost feels like the Spielberg of the arthouse set (you’re bored of people talking about him but you have to admit that he has a reputation for a reason). It seems that after success with films like Y Tu Mama Tambien and Gravity there was no way he could surprise us, and yet with Roma Cuaron makes one of his deepest-felt dramas, one of his most magical explorations of life yet. The central figure of the film, a character reportedly based on the director’s memories of the maid who lived in his bourgeois childhood home, keeps her composure as she travels through her personally devastating experiences amid the almost picaresque series of events that surround her, from the family’s own troubles to the political changes happening in the early-seventies Mexico that she lives in. Criticism for Cuaron’s perspective of a character whose class experience he cannot possibly understand is perhaps a valid argument worth having (of course it’s also because we now live in an era when artists are no longer credited with empathy, mainly because we’re all so jealous of their millions), but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s something enchanted about the way this film presents every-day realities, either because of the glinty black and white cinematography, or the fascinating sound design (if you’re lucky enough to see it in a movie theatre). And then there’s just the way real life seems to just happen around her so spontaneously: a student demonstration is one thing, but a student demonstration that occurs in the background while people shop for baby cribs is something that, for some reason, feels downright revolutionary.