Best martial arts sequence set on public transportation: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which uses the narrow aisle of a San Francisco city bus to, for once, give the villains a reason to attack our hero one at a time instead of coordinating their efforts.
Best use of pre-existing music: Last Night in Soho, whose soundtrack reminds us how immediately the right song can evoke an era. Special bonus: Anya Taylor-Joy sings “Downtown” and “You’re My World.”
Most unexpected opening: Bad Luck Banging or Looney Porn, whose first few minutes are hardcore, amateur pornography. That may draw more viewers to this film, and with luck they’ll stay around long enough to understand the point Radu Jude is making, which is that the real obscenity lies elsewhere.
Marmite movie of the year: The French Dispatch, which outdoes itself to be the most Wes Anderson film ever. I have no doubt die-hard Anderson fans will love it, but for those of us not in that category, it’s mostly eye candy that has gone stale.
Film which best recalls a Moms Mabley joke: Nightmare Alley, which features a charmless Bradley Cooper in a role made famous by Tyrone Power. The punchline of the joke, to save time, is “Why don’t you throw yourself out of the window and make everyone happy?”
Film that is exactly the right length: in a year when many Oscar contenders run well over two hours in length, Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, which revisits his boyhood in Northern Ireland, is a welcome relief and makes good use of its 98 minutes.
Best use of sound that is neither dialogue nor music: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria, with sound design by Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr, which creates palpable atmosphere while relying primarily on ambient sound.
Best anthology film: In a year when that format proved popular with well-known directors, The Year of the Everlasting Storm is the clear winner based on the variety and quality of the short films contributed by seven different directors (Jafar Panahi, Anthony Chen, Malik Vitthal, Laura Poitras, Dominga Sotomayor, David Lowery, Apichatpong Weerasethakul).
Best representation of a Middle English classic: The Green Knight, loosely based on the 14th century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. As a former grad student in English who once participated in a dramatic performance based on said poem, I can attest that director David Lowery caught the spirit of the poem, while an outstanding cast led by Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, and Sarita Coudhury brings it to life.
Best title sequence: No Time to Die, courtesy of Daniel Kleinman and Framestore. Good job it won this award, because otherwise I’d have to award it Film Most Determined to Cram in As Many Clichés as Possible (but it was still a lot of fun to watch).
Most embarrassing accents: House of Gucci, whose cast collectively takes over the crown from Russell Crowe (remember his performance in Robin Hood?). I have no idea why Italian people would speak to each other in accented inflected English, but the effect is so grating that even the scandalous behavior and beautiful locations on display can’t save this film. | Sarah Boslaugh