Welcome to the 1st Annual Shauning Achievement in Cinema Award Show Spectacular! I’m Shaun, and I’ll be your host for this evening from when the stars make their way down the red carpet until the time the last award for the evening is given out and we all head out to get raging drunk.
Before we begin tonight’s ceremony, it’s important to mention in the name of full disclosure that there are a handful of films which have been garnering critical praise that I did not get a chance to see and so therefore will not be on the list. These include (but are not limited to) Silence, Jackie, A Monster Calls, and Green Room. In addition, only films with full theatrical releases are going to be considered. So Netflix only films like Hush and ARQ will not be considered nor will films with very short releases such as Batman: The Killing Joke and Godzilla Resurgence.
And now, on to the festivities!
Let’s start out the ceremony by mentioning a few films that did not get nominated for any awards this evening, but were still excellent and while they didn’t show themselves to be the very best at any one category, they still managed to be very entertaining or thoughtful or creative or interesting or all of the above and are well worth your time and dollar.
- The Witch (Eggers; 2016)
- Eye in the Sky (Hood; 2015)
- The Nice Guys (Black; 2016)
- The BFG (Spielberg; 2016)
- Star Trek Beyond (Lin; 2016)
- Lights Out (Sandberg; 2016)
- Don’t Breathe (Alvarez; 2016)
- The Accountant (O’Connor; 2016)
- Ouija: Origin of Evil (Flanagan; 2016)
- The Eagle Huntress (Bell; 2016)
Shauning Achievement in Acting – The Guys
It wasn’t that long ago that when you thought of great performances in Hollywood it was usually a man’s name that would pop into your mind first. The ’90s and the first decade of the 2000’s was a period in which guys with leading man looks were branching out and taking on comedic and character roles, and turning leading parts into quirky and downright unusual people rather than a typical heroic archetype. That era is beginning to fade a little, and women are stepping forward now with the more unusual and dramatically satisfying roles in very modern Hollywood, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t guys out there who can still bring it.
- Denzel Washington as Troy Maxson in Fences (Washington; 2016)
Denzel Washington is fantastic in this very deep and nuanced performance portraying a man trying to maintain his pride while also confronting prejudice and trying to raise his family in this adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning play.
- Chris Pine as Toby Howards in Hell or High Water (Mackenzie; 2016)
All four of the main actors in Hell or High Water give wonderful performances, but Chris Pine is the stand out as a man determined to give his family what they’ll need to live the comfortable life he could never have and deny those who would try to take everything away from them and him.
- Daniel Radcliffe as Manny in Swiss Army Man (Kwan & Scheinert; 2016)
Daniel Radcliffe is a corpse and best friend in this unusual escape from a deserted island and find home movie. This performance is not only physically demanding, but also creative and thoughtful and will most likely be unfortunately overlooked – but not by me.
- Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool in Deadpool (Miller; 2016)
There has perhaps never been a more perfect marriage between character and actor as Ryan Reynolds to Deadpool. He showed that the superhero genre not only still has life, but also plenty of fun and style still waiting to be explored if the studios would only take some risks.
And the winner is….
- Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler in Manchester by the Sea (Lonergan; 2016)
Affleck’s performance is subdued to the point of nearly boring until you realize just why his character acts the way he does. When we learn Lee Chandler’s history and we see his bottled up emotions explode out of him like the world’s most caustic champagne, you can see just how brilliant and measured this performance is. You deserve the Shauning Acheivement Trophy for 2016 Mr. Affleck.
Shauning Achievement in Acting – The Gals
At some point in the last decade or so, Hollywood figured out that women actually watch movies. While they still haven’t figured out exactly what women like, they have at least determined that it’s more than just romantic comedies which is leading to much more diverse roles for women in Hollywood than the mother or the romantic interest. This has had the pleasant side effect of showing us the real skills of some the best leading ladies ever to be seen on the silver screen, in addition to Charlize Theron who somehow got way ahead of the curve years back.
The nominees for the the Shauning Achievement in Acting for the Ladies in 2016 are
- Ruth Negga as Mildred Loving in Loving (Nichols; 2016)
Ruth’s performance knowingly sidesteps an attempt to make a statement, and just shows us a real person. It’s exactly this realism and vulnerability that ironically makes the movie and her part in it so powerful as we relate rather than listen to preaching.
- Amy Adams as Louise Banks in Arrival (Villeneuve; 2016)
Amy Adams had two stand out performances in 2016, but her part in Arrival gets the edge not only because it is larger, but because without her very thoughtful performance the rather intellectual themes of the film would not have worked nearly so well.
- Hailee Steinfeld as Nadine in The Edge of Seventeen (Craig; 2016)
Hailee Steinfeld gives us a self absorbed teen who not only avoids stereotype, but actually gets us to root for her even as we recognize that most of the problems she complains about in her life are her own fault. This is another case of a movie falling apart entirely without one amazing character portrayal, and instead Hailee gives us one of the best high school movies of all time.
- Viola Davis as Rose Maxson in Fences (Washington; 2016)
Viola, like Amy Adams, also had one hell of a year. While her performance as Amanda Waller in Suicide Squad was far and away the best part of that film, it’s her role of long suffering wife and mother Rose in Fences that is truly her crowning achievement for the year.
And, the winner is…
- Emma Stone as Mia in La La Land (Chazelle; 2016)
While the singing and dancing does add to the impressiveness of Emma’s performance in this love note to Hollywood and old school musicals, it’s her chemistry with Gosling and complete understanding of her character’s emotional state that make this performance and the entire film an absolute triumph. Come get your award Miss Stone.
Shauning Achievement in Animashaun
2016 was a pretty great year for animated films, showing that not only are cartoons not purely for kids, a common theme for quite some time now, but also that animation can be used to explore themes in ways live action films still are not capable. This year’s nominee’s skewered religion, took a good hard look at racism and sexism, and showed us just how beautiful film can be.
The nominees for The Shauning Achievement in Animashaun Award are…
While the movie had some controversy regarding how it explored its themes of racism, just the fact that it spurred so much conversation is a testament to what a chord it struck in its audience. That’s not even counting the fact that it is one heck of an entertaining story without even taking its message into account.
This movie is gorgeous and gives us a Disney Princess who has no romantic interest whatsoever. It also has Dwayne Johnson giving us one of the more fun Disney characters to come around in a while, and you have all the makings of why Disney rules the box office.
The most adult cartoon to ever get a major release, this film used its very hard R Rating to make statements about our beliefs, how they get started, and why we often need them in a way only a cartoon can. This movie in which nothing is sacred does a fantastic job of teaching us why very little should be.
This family film has a lot to say about family. It’s beautifully animated, well acted, and entertaining for every single member of said family.
And the winner of The Shauning Achievement in Animation Award for 2016 is…
Original, captivating, dark, thoughtful, and the finest stop animation ever captured describes this year’s output from Laika Studios. Kubo and the Two Strings combines Western and Eastern styles and sensibilities perfectly to make for the greatest and most beautiful animated story of the year.
Shauning Achievement in Shaunematography
What sets a stage play apart from a movie ultimately is the camera. The camera is our eye, our viewpoint, into the world being shown to us on the screen. The cinematographer has to give us a viewpoint that is practical while also being beautiful, creative without being incomprehensible, and is the first line in communicating the movie’s very literal vision to those in the audience.
The nominees for 2016’s Shauning Achievement in Shaunematography are…
- Seamus McGarvey for Nocturnal Animals (Ford; 2016)
Is it a strange thing to say that it’s a testament to McGarvey’s skill that after watching this movie you feel the need to go home and shower? His very detailed and off-putting camera work make this very dark fairy tale come to life and grabs your attention from the very first second before the credits even start rolling.
- Simon Duggan for Hacksaw Ridge (Gibson; 2016)
Duggan does a phenomenal job showing he can capture people well, but the chaos of war with the best of them. The highlight of Hacksaw Ridge is the battle in the last half, and the true star of that last half is the visuals.
- Giles Nuttgens for Hell or High Water (Mackenzie; 2016)
This movie is called a Western by many even though it takes place today, and doesn’t focus on cowboys or Indians. Much of the reason for that is Nuttgens’ amazing vision of West Texas showing us both the beauty and the poverty so prevalent in the American Southwest.
- Linus Sandgren for La La Land (Chazelle; 2016)
Vibrant, lively, colorful, frenetic are all words that describe La La Land’s visuals, but more than that it is also one of the most deeply emotional and thoughtfully constructed films in recent memory. Sandgren captures motion as well as emotion and makes for one gorgeous overall package,
And, the winner of the 2016 Shauning Achievement in Cinematography is…
- James Laxton for Moonlight (Jenkins; 2016)
Never has the term window to the soul been so literal as it is here. While all three actors who play Chiron are excellent, and the writing is moving and heartwrenching, the cinematography on display here is what allows us to actually become Chiron for a few hours and experience a character movie like never before. Mr. Laxton, you have created a masterpiece, come get your award.
Shauning Achievement in Creativity
Creativity in Hollywood is not dead despite the constant outcry from all the naysayers, but it is rarer than the majority of us would like. Part of that is because it is the least creative films that are most often the movies which have the highest box office gross, but it’s also partially because creativity is hard. This award goes out to those who worked hard and took risks to give us a truly original and memorable experience in the cinema this past year.
The nominees for The Shauning Achievement in Creativity Award are…
A big budget science fiction movie about an alien invasion that focuses on linguistics? And, which actually makes the study of linguistics exciting, fascinating, and easy to understand? Mucho kudos to whichever Hollywood exec signed off on Arrival, because this could not have been an easy movie to sell, but the results are extraordinary.
Animated grocery store items sounds like a bad idea, and animated grocery store items in a raunch comedy as a parody of religious belief sounds insane. It is insane, but in a fun, fantastic way and ends up being much deeper than its premise and bathoom humor would suggest.
CGI has become absolutely dominant when old school stop animation is the most creative form of animation around. Add to that a non-traditional story with non-traditional characters and you have the makings of a movie experience not quite like any we’ve ever seen before.
This surreal, low-key movie points out the true absurdity of modern relationships whether it be how we seek out love or the expectations we place on a partner. The movie is unsettling but still endearing, and definitely takes more than one viewing to get everything it’s trying to say, as the first viewing just allows us to get a feel for its incredibly unusual style.
And the winner of The Shauning Achievement in Creativity Award for 2016 goes to…
A lonely suicidal man is saved because of his touching relationship with a scatological corpse. It’s a movie that has no business being touching, but it is, and is the source of my favorite sentence describing a movie for this entire year, “Farts are life affirming!” Thank you, for giving us something truly unique Swiss Army Man.
Shauning Achievement in Directshaun
The director’s job is arguably the most difficult to perform, and also the most difficult to recognize if it’s done well. The director is the film’s coordinator, while they may not personally perform many of the duties they oversee, though they very well may much of the time, nothing on a film gets done without the director’s sign off. Their vision is the film’s vision, and ultimately a film’s success or lack thereof falls squarely on the director’s shoulders.
The nominees for the 2016 Shauning Achievement in Directshaun Award are…
- Anthony and Joe Russo for Captain America: Civil War (Russo and Russo; 2016)
A huge cast of characters that all need individual attention, a movie which requires constant action meaning stunts, special effects, and special attention to editing, many big name stars all with their own quirks and special needs, and an intricate plot which still needs to be easy to follow for all ages. Captain America: Civil War was a Herculean task for a director to take on, and not only did the Russo brothers rise to the challenge, they made it look easy and fun,
- David MacKenzie for Hell or High Water (Mackenzie; 2016)
MacKenzie managed to put together a movie with meaningful themes, but played like an action movie. He gave us the cinematography of an art house flick with a complete lack of pretension usually associated with the arthouse. He coaxed the best performances of their lives from 3 of the 4 actors, and the only reason I can’t say the same for Jeff Bridges is because his phenomenal performance is to be expected from him now.
- Tom Ford for Nocturnal Animals (Ford; 2016)
The attention to every single detail in this movie is mind blowing. The details of the complicated script, the impeccable art direction, the gorgeous cinematography all show that Tom Ford is a director who is a hands on overseer in every single part of his films, and his artisanship pays off.
- Damien Chazelle for La La Land (Chazelle; 2016)
Chazelle’s unique vision combining new and old, corny and down-to-earth, spectacular and grounded came together in a way no one else could have fashioned nor even envisioned. When you get done with this movie, you have seen something familiar yet unlike anything else and you have run through every emotion you know how to feel while also being intellectually stimulated.
But, the winner of the 2016 Shauning Achievement in Directshaun Award is…
- Barry Jenkins for Moonlight (Jenkins; 2016)
Semi-autobiographical character pieces are a dime a dozen, but none allow you to live the life of its subject like Moonlight, and that is due to the vision of Barry Jenkins who managed to merge the work of many different actors working in many different locations into a cohesive work that is beautiful, haunting, and most important, authentic. I feel like I know Chiron, for brief periods I felt like I was Chiron, and that is possible because of Jenkins phenomenal skill.
Shauning Achievement in Writing
Every film, even a documentary, needs a story. While the director molds the story into his or own, it has to come from somewhere originally, and that somewhere is the screenplay. Sometimes the screenplay is an original vision sprung straight from the writer’s head, sometimes it’s an adaptation of an earlier work of a different kind, but in either case the story needs to be told taking the advantages and limitations of telling a largely visual story in a limited time frame into mind. The very best of those stories not only entertain, though they definitely have to do that, but educate, enlighten, and inspire as well.
The nominees for The Shauning Achievement in Writing Award are…
- Barry Jenkins for Moonlight (Jenkins; 2016)
Adapted from the stage play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, Moonlight is a nearly perfectly paced and always engrossing script that knows how much power there is in silence and action rather than in constant dialogue.
- Eric Heisserer for Arrival (Villeneuve; 2016)
This was a nearly impossible script to get right. It had to be entertaining and educational in equal measures focusing on a subject that sounds as if it couldn’t be anything other than dull, and not only did Heisserer succeed, but he knocked it out of the park making for a truly thrilling experience, thrilling due to personal discovery as much or more than the alien invasion plot.
- Damien Chazelle for La La Land (Chazelle; 2016)
Chazelle had to write not just dialogue and action for this film, but also lyrics (the music was composed by the also excellent Justin Hurwirtz). This entire movie is a magic trick which lulls you into believing it’s one thing, then pulls the rug out from under you giving you one of the most emotional experiences in cinema, and it could never work if not for the impeccable construction of the screenplay.
- Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea (Lonergan; 2016)
Non-linear story telling is hardly something new, but it is still a very hard technique to perfect. Lonergan manages to not only perfect it here, but is intelligent enough to know that this character and this story could never have the impact they do if this screenplay was constructed any other way.
And, the winner of The Shauning Achievement in Writing for 2016 is…
- Taylor Sheridan for Hell or High Water (Mackenzie; 2016)
Clever without being pretentious, fast paced but still very deep and meaningful, dramatic at the right times, comic at the right times, and all this with true to life, fully realized and fully developed characters. It’s rare that a script can touch everyone on at least some level, but in Hell or High Water Sheridan achieves exactly that.
The Shauning Achievement in Shaunema Award
Here we are at the end of the night, it’s almost time that you can stop paying attention and go do a line of the drug of your choice off the abs of your choice, just hang in there a few minutes longer. What makes a movie the best? It’s an impossible question to answer, but it’s part craftsmanship, part teamwork, part entertainment value, part art, and part inspiration. Any movie can do something well, but it’s those rare movies that do most everything well that can be looked at as being one of the best.
The nominees for The Shauning Achievement in Shaunema Award are…
Appealing equally to a child and adult audience both as a work of entertainment and as a think piece, this is the best animated film to hit the theaters in a very long time. Kubo and the Two Strings may be a better piece of animation, and a more creative work, but Zootopia is the animated film that goes above and beyond and becomes a true work of cinema.
The only thing that keeps this movie from being perfect is simply that other movies have done very specific things better. Hell or High Water is impeccably acted, wonderfully written, artistically shot, and artisanally directed. 2016 gave us three masterpieces in this critic’s opinion, and this is one of them.
A movie emotional enough to have you weeping in the early stages of the movie (if you have a soul, anyway), intellectual enough to have you thinking about it weeks afterward, and entertaining enough that you want to watch it over again. This is a very rare movie, indeed, and that’s Arrival.
The best character piece this critic has ever seen, the second masterpiece of the year, and the only reason it isn’t winning best picture is due to a lack of mass appeal. The subject matter, as important as it is, will still turn a great many people off. That is a very unfortunate truth.
The Shauning Achievement in Shaunema for 2016 is
A traditional love story married to a love letter to Hollywood which is immensely entertaining, took massive amounts of talent and dedication from everyone involved, perfectly mixes old with modern, and still surprises while making you feel as deeply as a movie can make one feel and lingers in your thoughts long after you’re done, La La Land is a masterpiece and the greatest film of the year 2016.
That’s it for my completely made up award ceremony. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you continue to read Shaun’s Reviews in the future. As I wrap up my first year of writing this, I’m reaching out to my readers to ask what you like about what I’ve done, what you haven’t liked, how I can improve, and things you would like to see me do for the next year.
Happy 2017, everyone! And, remember, why develop your own taste when you can trust mine?