Best in Show: let the gongs begin

West Coast editor Mia Vicino introduces Best in Show, our rolling coverage of awards season, with a look at recent ceremony victors and the new Oscar shortlists. 

We must celebrate and support each other’s work and forever eliminate this ridiculous word ‘best’ from the conversation. That word should be left to the titles of wonderful films involving dogs directed by Christopher Guest.

—⁠Todd Field, writer and director of TÁR

Welcome to Best in Show, a weekly column dedicated to the frenzy of awards season. It’s a companion to our limited series podcast, which runs throughout the next few months and will conclude soon after the 95th Academy Awards have been engraved. I anchor the show with my co-hosts Brian Formo (Letterboxd’s editorial producer and a veteran of the Hollywood scene) and our editor-in-chief, Gemma Gracewood.

On the podcast, we’ll be recapping recent ceremonies and chatting with awards contenders and industry insiders. This column will bring you highlights of those conversations along with additional reporting on the latest wins and nominations, red carpet events, the complexities of the Hollywood machine and how all these awards bodies’ decisions stack up against the opinions of those who really matter: you, the Letterboxd community.

If, at this point, you’re thinking, “Wait, aren’t awards just arbitrary status symbols that have no actual bearing on a film’s cultural and personal impact?” Listen, I hear ya, and you have a case. Most of my favorite films have never been nominated or even considered for these things, and on the off-chance they are, they usually lose, and I have to remind myself that I don’t need the validation of the Academy to be moved by a work of art.

Every profession deserves its own trophies, even tax auditors. 
Every profession deserves its own trophies, even tax auditors

Speaking of the Academy, we’re largely awards-agnostic at Letterboxd (apart from our own upcoming Year in Review, naturally), which means we will talk about the BAFTAs in the same breath as the Oscars, and take note of the various guild awards, critics’ choices and other topical trophy moments. But also: we’ll double down on being excited for the independent and international films that land Academy Awards noms—after all, my love affair with the Oscars began with Karen O’s performance of ‘The Moon Song’ at the 86th awards ceremony in 2014—her nominated song for Spike Jonze’s $23 million dollar Her—which was never going to beat ‘Let it Go’, but that didn’t matter. It was still a win for the alt-rock girlies like myself.

It’s easy and comforting as a cinephile to pretend that awards don’t matter at all, but they unequivocally do. These laurels majorly affect what types of studio movies get made next, and they can spark a box office boost for films with the one-inch subtitle “barrier”. They have an impact on who is handed opportunities, and also, the recipients’ lives. So with Best in Show we are carving our own Letterboxd-shaped space out of this simultaneously archaic and modern structure, thereby reclaiming awards season as a means of championing and uplifting the films and filmmakers we love—whether they win or not.

Anyway, the 95th Academy Awards shortlists just dropped, and After Yang is nowhere in sight, so awards no longer matter. KIDDING!!!

Blonde lead hair designer Jaime Leigh McIntosh, one of many craftspeople to make the Oscars shortlist, with actress Ana de Armas. More on Jaime Leigh’s wigwork here.
Blonde lead hair designer Jaime Leigh McIntosh, one of many craftspeople to make the Oscars shortlist, with actress Ana de Armas. More on Jaime Leigh’s wigwork here.

The 95th Academy Awards Shortlists

Academy Awards voters are a huge group of almost 10,000 industry professionals, whose task is to make their way through the best of the year’s cinematic offerings and elevate a very few of them to Oscar status. To ensure this massive club doesn’t necessarily have to watch 500 new releases a year, the Academy releases an annual shortlist of films in ten categories.

All the shortlisted titles for this year’s awards have been compiled into one Letterboxd mega-list by the Academy of Death Racers (a community of mad ones who attempt to watch every nominated film), while Letterboxd member Ian Bulaclac has listified the categories for documentary and international features, makeup and hairstyling, original score and original song.

Some highlights from the international feature shortlist include Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave (South Korea), Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Bardo (Mexico), donkey fable EO (Poland), coming-of-age drama The Quiet Girl (Ireland), Boston Society of Film Critics best film winner Return to Seoul (Cambodia) and Cannes Queer Palm winner Joyland, which marks Pakistan’s first ever shortlisted film in this category.

Sara Dosa’s volcanic love story Fire of Love, which made the Oscars shortlist, has a 4.0 average Letterboxd rating. 
Sara Dosa’s volcanic love story Fire of Love, which made the Oscars shortlist, has a 4.0 average Letterboxd rating. 

Several of Letterboxd’s favorite documentary features of 2022 made the cut, with their respective subjects in parentheses: All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (photographer/activist Nan Goldin), Fire of Love (volcanologist romance), The Janes (1970s abortion collective) and Moonage Daydream (David Bowie), though the acclaimed Mars Rover doc Good Night Oppy is a stunning omission. The highest rated of those on Letterboxd is Laura Poitras’ All the Beauty, with a whopping 4.2-out-of-five-star average.

As for below-the-line nods, Everything Everywhere All at Once snagged a few, specifically for sound, original score and original song for ‘This Is A Life’ by Son Lux, Mitski and David Byrne (our official campaign to get this trio on that Oscars stage begins now).

Shockingly, however, the humane action-adventure-comedy didn’t make the cut for best visual effects, while Jurassic World Dominion and Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore did. And RRR’s flying tiger is missing here, too. This doesn’t really matter too much as Avatar: The Way of Water will most likely win, plus our mission statement promises we won’t tear down others—but surely there is a place to honor the mere seven people credited for the hefty multiverse effects of EEAAO. (Letterboxd member Jim Hemphill got some insights from the film’s VFX lead Zak Stoltz for IndieWire.)

Nevertheless, there are other happy surprises: David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future squirmed its way into best makeup and hairstyling, and RRR’s delightful dance number ‘Naatu Naatu’ was tapped for best original song. So was ‘Ciao Papa’ from Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio and, of course, Lady Gaga’s ‘Hold My Hand’ from Top Gun: Maverick.

Voting runs from January 12 to 17, nominations will be announced January 24 and the 95th Oscars will be held March 12 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. Check out the rest of the 95th Academy Awards shortlist here.

32nd Annual Gotham Awards 

Don ye now your bat apparel as we fly from Hollywood to Gotham. Established in New York in 1997 as a means of showcasing the best Big Apple-set movies the city had to offer, the ceremony expanded in 2004 to include all independent films made for under $35 million. Eligible works are nominated by a cross-section of film and TV critics, festival programmers and film curators (some of whom are on Letterboxd), then just five filmmaking jurors per category determine the winner. For example, five jurors vote on Best Lead Performance, but a different batch of five jurors vote on Best Picture.

And so, as TÁR’s Todd Field won the Gotham award for best screenplay, the image of Clea DuVall and Chris Messina, two of that category’s five jurors, watching and loving TÁR brought me peace and warmth. As did Field’s victory speech: “Best. We all know that word is a cartoonish absolute with no place in the creative endeavors… We must celebrate and support each other’s work and forever eliminate this ridiculous word ‘best’ from the conversation. That word should be left to the titles of wonderful films involving dogs directed by Christopher Guest.” (We had already named our awards season coverage after that film, but it’s nice to have the Todd Field Seal of Approval™.)

Ke Huy Quan has won multiple awards for his role as Waymond Wang in Everything Everywhere All At Once.
Ke Huy Quan has won multiple awards for his role as Waymond Wang in Everything Everywhere All At Once.

This year, the various five-person juries appeared to rule in favor of TÁR, which earned the greatest number of nominations with five (cue: Mahler’s Fifth, am I right, Tárheads? Tárheels? What’s our team name?!). But it was Everything Everywhere All at Once that emerged most victorious, the Letterboxd leaderboard-topper scoring two wins: Ke Huy Quan for best supporting performance and directors the Daniels for best feature. Co-director Dan Kwan used his acceptance speech to give a shoutout to fellow filmmaker Charlotte Wells: “Aftersun, my favorite fucking movie of the year: that should’ve won.” (Wells didn’t leave empty-handed; she scooped up breakthrough director, the first award of the night.)

The 2022 Governors Awards

Each year, the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (aka the Oscars) hands out three lifetime achievement awards. If you were watching the ceremony pre-2009, you’ll remember when these were given out on-air. Since then, they’ve been spun off into their own event in one of many moves to try to “fix” the Oscars.

On the one hand, this means normies like us who are stuck watching the Oscars at home are deprived of the grand opportunity to see Elaine May accept her honorary Academy Award, which she did last year, off-air. But on the other, the Governors Awards have since swelled into a major red carpet event marking the start of awards season. This year, the carpet was studded with stars including Margot Robbie, Florence Pugh, Taylor Russell, Austin Butler, Angela Bassett, Cate Blanchett, Paul Mescal, Colin Farrell, Michelle Yeoh and more Oscar hopefuls.

Euzhan Palcy, Diane Warren, Peter Weir and (front) Michael J Fox with their lifetime achievement Governors Awards. 
Euzhan Palcy, Diane Warren, Peter Weir and (front) Michael J Fox with their lifetime achievement Governors Awards. 

For the 13th-annual Governors Awards, the Board bestowed Michael J. Fox with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for bringing credit to the film industry through his humanitarian efforts; as Woody Harrelson explained in his introduction to the Back to the Future trilogy star, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research so far has raised over $1 billion for the cause. And then there were three honorary Academy Awards handed out: to prolific songwriter Diane Warren, director Peter Weir (Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Truman Show and many more) and pioneering filmmaker Euzhan Palcy.

In 1983, Palcy made her feature debut with Sugar Cane Alley, a coming-of-age period piece about a boy growing up in Martinique under French colonial rule in the early 1930s. Six years later, she became the first Black woman to direct a major Hollywood movie with A Dry White Season, a political drama interrogating the horrors committed by the secret police of South Africa. The story was so powerful that it coerced Marlon Brando out of his nine-year acting retirement to play a supporting role, which ended up earning him his final acting nominations (for supporting at the Oscars, Golden Globes and BAFTAs).

Euzhan Palcy’s Sugar Cane Alley (1983), a watchlist must-add.
Euzhan Palcy’s Sugar Cane Alley (1983), a watchlist must-add.

The 25th British Independent Film Awards

We brave the traffic to LAX, jet across the pond and arrive fashionably late to the British Independent Film Awards (BIFA). Created in 1998 by the folks behind Raindance and voted on by a pool of fewer than 200 top British film industry professionals, these trophies are handed out to UK-produced indies with a maximum budget of $20 million. Some famous BIFA patrons include Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton and my two most beloved English character actors: Tom Hollander and David Thewlis. This year, the BIFAs removed gender from the acting awards, creating four gender-neutral categories (lead, supporting, joint performance and breakthrough performance).

Ella Kemp photographed Aftersun leads Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio for Letterboxd. More images here.
Ella Kemp photographed Aftersun leads Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio for Letterboxd. More images here.

Aftersun swept this year with a well-deserved seven wins, including best British independent film, screenplay, director, cinematography and editing. Georgia Oakley’s upcoming drama Blue Jean was also a strong contender, particularly in the acting categories: newcomer Rosy McEwan beat out Florence Pugh, Bill Nighy and Sally Hawkins among other heavyweights for best lead performance, and Kerrie Hayes won for best supporting. Slam that watchlist button to be ahead of the curve!

Oh, and our benevolent monarch Mrs. Harris (who famously Goes to Paris) won best costume design for Jenny Beavan’s gorgeous Dior haute couture, which Letterboxd member Zoë Rose Bryant praises in her review: “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris shows the beauty in simplicity (except for when it comes to those delicately designed dresses—WOWZA Jenny Beavan).” Take note, American awards bodies. Also on the craft front, the makeup and hair design award went to the team behind Medusa Deluxe, a continuous-shot hairdressing horror-comedy that premiered at Fantastic Fest, and lands in the US next year (speaking of watchlists).

If Lesley Manville is not dressed by Dior for any Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris awards appearances, I’ll eat my floral hat.  
If Lesley Manville is not dressed by Dior for any Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris awards appearances, I’ll eat my floral hat.  

New York Film Critics Circle,  LA Film Critics Association, National Board of Review

It seems stateside voters are indeed taking my notes, as Colin Farrell just won best actor for The Banshees of Inisherin from the National Board of Review, as well as from The New York Film Critics Circle Awards (NYFCC) for both Banshees and After Yang. The two organizations also agreed on giving our beloved Marcel the Shell with Shoes On best animated feature, though there was dissent about best film: the Board selected Top Gun: Maverick, while the NYFCC went with TÁR. It’s a skirmish between two creative geniuses willing to go to very different extremes in the name of art: Tom Cruise vs. Lydia Tár.

Like BIFA, the LA Film Critics Association (LAFCA) have switched to gender-neutral acting categories, with the leading performance award shared by Cate Blanchett (TÁR) and Nighy (Living). In supporting, it’s Quan for the win, again, shared with Triangle of Sadness breakout star (and lurking Letterboxd member) Dolly de Leon. Two lovely LAFCA craft decisions went to cinematographer Michal Dymek for EO, and editor Blair McCLendon for Aftersun. And best picture? It’s a meeting of the coolly disconnected matriarchs—Evelyn and Lydia—in a tie between Everything Everywhere All at Once and TÁR.

On the Babylon red carpet

Now I’m going Mach 10 in one of Maverick’s Boeings to speed back to Hollywood, because for some reason the powers-that-be are allowing me to run amok on Tinseltown’s red carpets. First stop: the Babylon world premiere at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in LA, Paramount Pictures squeezing in a theatrical run for Oscars consideration (in the hopes of adding to filmmaker Damien Chazelle’s trophy cabinet of Whiplash’s three, La La Land’s six and First Man’s one).

Just as Lady Gaga presciently sang on Chromatica: “Battle for your life, Babylon!” And battle for my life I did, especially when alleged Letterboxd member Margot Robbie arrived to a cacophony of cheers. I didn’t get to speak with her that night (though I did ask Chazelle about his four faves), but it’s all good—she had already given me a major scoop at a press junket a few weeks prior. All I’ll say for now is Robbie started the conversation by exclaiming, “I love Letterboxd!”

Margot Robbie lights up the red carpet at the Babylon world premiere in LA, December 2022. 
Margot Robbie lights up the red carpet at the Babylon world premiere in LA, December 2022. 

I’d spill more, but this is supposed to just be a teaser, and we’re quickly snowballing into a full-on novella. Exciting nomination news to come, and our first full Best in Show podcast episode drops on January 3, but in the meantime: What do you want to know about awards season? What’s confusing or intriguing or mysterious about this absurd yearly ritual, and how can we help to demystify it for you? Email us any and all questions —and suggestions for our TÁR fandom nickname—and we’ll get our resident Hollywood veteran Brian Formo onto the answers.


The first full episode of ‘Best in Show’ (with special guest Roger Deakins) lands on January 3, 2023. Meet the hosts on our teaser episode now. 

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