Mia, Brian and Gemma discuss their fave noms and gongs from the latest guild shortlists. A quick look at the Golden Globes, the EE BAFTA Rising Star award public voting is open! And it’s animation time: Turning Red director Domee Shi has a message for the Letterboxd community, and we go deep on Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman and Sergio Leone with Puss in Boots: The Last Wish director Joel Crawford. Then, we re-evaluate the 1976 Best Director Oscar lineup.
Best in Show: Record breakers and indie spirits
The Film Independent Spirit Awards and the last of the Guilds find women winning, while The Quiet Girl’s filmmaker and star drop by for a chat.
Los Angeles in March is divine: the weather’s a consistent 65 degrees every day, the end of awards season means a charged atmosphere of excitement and nerves perforates the city, and sometimes, if you’re lucky enough, you run into Best in Show pod guest Guillermo del Toro in the Academy Museum gift shop. Then you enjoy a casual hour-long chat about lady monsters, working with William Friedkin and why kindness is the most important thing that matters.
And our chance meeting is all because we decided to stay in our pajamas for an extra hour before heading to the museum—a win for self-care! All of this still seems like a too-good-to-be-true dream, as does this beautiful video from the Academy of various Oscar nominees reading love letters from you, our Letterboxd members.
When Letterboxd red velvet-roped me into this awards season project late last year, I never envisioned where it would take us. This week, the trophy hunt whisked us onto the blue carpet at the Film Independent Spirit Awards—a ceremony that used to take place the day before the Oscars but, since the pandemic upended everything, now happens the week before, giving everyone a much-needed chance to catch their breath. If I’m this exhausted, I can’t begin to imagine how drenched in fatigue the actual nominees are.
Film Independent Spirit Awards
Nevertheless, we persisted! And it seems our persistence has paid off: we caught up with Paul Mescal of Aftersun on the blue carpet (before the film went on to win best first feature), where he told us he listens to and loves our Best in Show podcast. If you haven’t been listening along, what more endorsement could you possibly need than that of Oscar nominee Paul Mescal?
But I’m getting ahead of myself—our first guest on the blue carpet was Reid Davenport, director of I Didn’t See You There and winner of the Truer Than Fiction award, presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant attention. A Letterboxd member himself, he shouted out Tarnation as the film that most inspires him in his storytelling, which focuses on advocating for people living with disabilities.
Next up was the Letterboxd-loving Leonor Will Never Die filmmaking family, who traveled from Manila to Santa Monica to support their warm-hearted send-up of Filipino action movies, and were up for the best international film award. They’re all Pinoy Letterboxd die-hards, with multi-awarded filmmaker (and Leonor producer) Quark Henares taking a moment to share his handle. Joyland ended up winning the category, adding another trophy to sit beside their Letterboxd award for highest rated romance of 2022. We got to ask director Saim Sadiq about his favorite independent films, to which he responded “I can’t say every Cassavetes movie, but every Cassavetes movie, if you know what I mean,” before selecting Sean Baker’s Tangerine as another great step forward for indie cinema, due to its being shot on an iPhone.
Now, I purposefully devised this question to sneak in some John Cassavetes propaganda, all in service of the Independent Spirits John Cassavetes award, of course, which honors films made for under a million dollars. The award went to The Cathedral—earlier, director Ricky D’Ambrose stopped by our carpet spot for a chat about indie film, citing the Cassavetes documentary A Constant Forge as an inspiration.
Other highlights from this question include both Ayo Edebiri and Melanie Lynskey choosing Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves, Vicky Krieps selecting Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise and Saint Omer writer-director Alice Diop’s pick of Frederick Wiseman’s seminal documentary Public Housing. The ending of the carpet and beginning of the ceremony was heralded by the arrivals of Mia Goth, Aubrey Plaza, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ke Huy Quan, Michelle Yeoh, Cate Blanchett and more major stars, who were quickly ushered into the tent where our editor-in-chief Gemma Gracewood was ready and waiting.
Gemma reported a strange vibe in the room when Everything Everywhere All at Once began sweeping—particularly when they won the best screenplay category early on, where TÁR and Women Talking were considered hopefuls. “It felt as if those inside were hoping for the spirit to be spread around a tad more,” says Gemma. “But as the afternoon progressed, there was a noticeable turn of mood as attendees realized history was being made right before their eyes.”
Indeed, Everything Everywhere won more awards than any other film in Indie Spirit history, scooping up best editing (Paul Rogers), best screenplay and best director (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), best breakthrough performance (Stephanie Hsu), best supporting performance (Ke Huy Quan), best lead performance (Michelle Yeoh) and the coveted best feature. Our industry insider Brian Formo reported that their celebration in the press room afterwards involved Jamie Lee donning hot dog fingers and squeezing Ke’s face, as well as an emotional speech from Stephanie: “If I could talk to my younger self, I think I would have given her permission to fall in love with making art sooner,” she said. “I think I was scared to love it. I would have told her, ‘It’s okay, you can love it; it’s awesome and you’re gonna be okay.’”
The industry praise that’s been showered upon EEAaO has been especially heartening considering how much work still needs to be done in regards to inclusion. Nanny director Nikyatu Jusu earned the One to Watch award (on which her name was misspelled), and used her time in the press room to highlight the loneliness of filmmaking as a woman, particularly as a woman of color: “Filmmaking is very lonely, especially when you are tokenized, when you become a symbol, when you’re one of the few who’s visible in your community,” she said. “Charlotte Wells, Ellie Foumbi, Alice Diop; seeing all these amazing, brilliant innovators here is really inspiring because it reminds me I’m not alone in this very lonely trajectory.”
Thankfully, women are winning this awards season: Mandy Walker just became the first woman in history to win the top prize from the American Society of Cinematographers for her dazzling work on Elvis. “This is for all the women that win this award after me,” she said in her acceptance speech. Meanwhile, at both the USC Scripter and Writers Guild of America awards, Sarah Polley and novelist Miriam Toews won best adapted screenplay for their Women Talking script.
Women Talking also scooped up some wins at the Satellites (voted upon by the International Press Academy), winning best adapted screenplay and best supporting actress for Claire Foy. There were a few exciting shake-ups: Danielle Deadwyler won a well-deserved best actress in a drama trophy for her riveting performance in Till, and our li’l buddy Marcel the Shell with Shoes On snagged best animated film. Finally, for his dynamic editing work on Top Gun: Maverick, Eddie (Hamilton) won an Eddy at the Eddies (the editing guild awards)!
A Quiet Chat with Ireland’s History Makers
This week’s podcast episode focuses on the international feature film category, which was first given (as “best foreign film”) to Vittorio de Sica’s Shoeshine in 1947. The category remained an occasional award until 1956, and it was renamed best international feature in 2020—last year, Japan’s Drive My Car won the gold statue. I write “Japan” rather than Ryusuke Hamaguchi, because the Academy attributes the award to the country, not the filmmakers. Weird! But also: an indication of the health of a nation’s film industry, particularly in the case of Ireland, which makes history this year with the first film in the Irish language to be nominated for an Oscar.
Since sweeping his own country’s IFTA trophies a year ago, writer-director Colm Bairéad, his producer (and wife) Cleona Ní Chrualaoí and their star Catherine Clinch have been on the awards beat with The Quiet Girl. “It’s been an amazing journey, and this is our first feature film,” Bairéad tells Gemma on our show. “We made it through our own production company. We’ve learned an insane amount about this whole business in the last twelve months and how you get your film out into the world and the whole ecosystem of the film market and everything.”
Not only that, but Bairéad reveals that “you actually learn a great deal about yourself as a person, but also as a filmmaker” on the festival and awards beat, “and it sort of solidifies or crystallizes certain things that you perhaps knew to be true within yourself. I really value all of that. I think that this whole experience has just given us so much.”
Colm describes how “utterly surreal” the journey has been, from the moment when “Cate Blanchett came up to us two weeks ago in London... and told us how much she loves The Quiet Girl,” to meeting Steven Spielberg: “I was a little lost for words where I just shook his hand, and I don’t know, it’s almost like you’re meeting a father-figure or something. And then I met Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron and Roger Deakins and just all these people that I just have the utmost respect for. I mean, it’s just a very special place to be, and we just feel really grateful to be finding ourselves in these situations.”
If that’s not what awards season is all about, why are we even here?
And that’s (almost) a wrap—it’s all Oscars from here on in. Academy members have finished voting, I’ve finished painstakingly updating our awards lists, and Gemma and I have had our walk-through of the 95th Oscars press room, where we’ll be on the night! There’s nothing anyone can do anymore to move the dial. It’s all in the hands of the auditors. Let’s hope they all wrote in “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris for best picture”.
Now it’s YOUR last chance to fill out your ballots (which you can grab here: .png, .jpg, .pdf), watch any films you haven’t seen yet (your local theater may be playing the short film nominees!) and finalize your Oscar party novelty snacks—everyone will be bringing everything bagels, so how ‘bout Tártine? The Brie Cheese of Inisherin? Ham Sammy Fabelmans? Triangles of Sandwiches?