It’s been an extraordinarily long Oscar season, seeming to last from summer to March, with even a smattering of awards contenders coming out before that. It’s also been a particularly good year for films – which is awkward to define if you don’t live in America. We’ve decided it means “films that came out in 2017 in Ireland unless they were eligible for the Oscars last year as well as films that came out in 2018 in Ireland if they were eligible for this year’s Oscars.”

We can’t really claim that these are what we think should have been nominated at the Oscars, or should win, since we can’t even be sure if any film that wasn’t nominated was eligible. But if we were the only two members of the Academy, and we only cared about the eight major awards – we care about most of the others (except for the fake awards like Best Original Song) but this post would be absurdly long if we picked those too – this is what you’d get: the Sundae Film Awards 2018.

We each did out our personal nominees and then selected the winner by consensus, so the winners only come from films that both of us have seen and nominated, but we’ve each picked a personal runner-up regardless of whether the other has seen or nominated it. We also each picked a Special Achievement Award for something not covered in the major categories. You can see each of our full slates of nominees at the bottom of this post, which we encourage you to check out if you’re looking for recommendations, because there really were a lot of fantastic films this year.

BEST PICTURE – The Florida Project

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Ciara: “It’s kind of hard to capture all that The Florida Project is in a few words. It’s about Halley, a young mother, and her six-year-old daughter Moonee, living week-to-week in a motel on the outskirts of Disney World. I could say that it’s a drama about poverty and homelessness, and that would be true, but I could equally say that it’s a funny, delightful childhood adventure, and that would true, too. Much of the film is shot at the child’s eye-level, ET-style, so that we see this place as Moonee sees it: a brightly-coloured world where every day of summer is a new opportunity for fun. When it comes to the harsh realities of her life, adults either do their best to protect her from them, or they seem, to her, totally normal.

A film doesn’t have to be ‘important’ to be the best picture. But The Florida Project is important, as well as beautiful. Two days after I saw it in the cinema, the chair of Ireland’s Housing Agency said that homelessness is normal, and later that week the head of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive said that homelessness is the result of years of bad behaviour. There are homeless crises all over the world right now, and The Florida Project might be the first film to truly capture this moment – it doesn’t just tell us that, a decade on from the financial crash, the wealth has not and cannot trickle down: it shows us what that means for people’s actual lives.

‘My hope is that [the audience is] going to be inspired to think about the real Halleys and real Moonees out there,’ director Sean Baker said. I hope so too. His film is a small miracle, and I want everyone on earth to see it.”

Ciara’s Runner-Up: The Shape of Water – “For a lot of people, The Shape of Water is always going to be the ‘sex with a fish man’ film – and it is that, unashamedly so, but it’s also a film about race, sexuality, disability, immigration and the Cold War, a film that is in love with old movies and intensely aware of the oppressions that underpinned them. It’s visually beautiful, very romantic – and I kind of can’t believe it exists.”

Dean’s Runner-Up: Bad Genius – “I watched Bad Genius because it has an amazing premise – a heist film about high school kids cheating on exams – but I fell in love with it because it used that premise as a springboard for a gripping, moving story about class conflict, bullying and the exploitative nature of for-profit schools. There’s nothing else like it.”

BEST DIRECTOR – Julia Ducournau for Raw

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Dean: “Raw is the story of life-long vegetarian Justine and how she went to college and became a cannibal. The cannibalism is the big draw of Raw, and, to be fair, it’s excellent cannibalism. But what makes Raw such a masterpiece is how Julia Ducournau’s direction makes the cannibalism one of the least scary things in the film.

Nothing that happens in Raw apart from the cannibalism is out of the ordinary in college. There’s hazing of first year students, parties where everyone is expected to drink and fuck, constant overbearing pressure to be the smartest, the funniest, the coolest. But through Julia Ducournau’s camera, it’s exactly the most ordinary things that seem most terrifying. Cannibalism is shot almost matter-of-factly, while classes and a canteen lunch get Dutch angles. Her use of light and shadows is especially striking, not just in how she makes college parties seem like waking nightmares, but how she makes daylight feel like the most sinister thing in the world.

I could go on and on about any number of amazing scenes – Justine putting on lipstick and dancing in front of a mirror á la Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs is a particular favourite – but I’d rather just tell you to watch it and find out for yourself.”

Ciara’s Runner-Up: Hlynur Pálmason for Winter Brothers – “Winter Brothers is a Danish film nobody’s talking about that I happened to see at a subtitled film festival, and more than any film this year, it felt like an experience: It’s electric, and it plays right on your nerves. It made a lot of sense to learn that Pálmason is also a visual artist. It’s a wonderfully strange, special film, gorgeous to look at and funny and desperately sad. I loved it.”

Dean’s Runner-Up: David Lowery for A Ghost Story – “David Lowery took one of the silliest images in popular culture, a bedsheet ghost, and used it to tell a profoundly moving story about grief, home and memory that still keeps me up at night all these months later. Everything about it is precisely beautiful and perfectly odd, from the much-discussed pie scene to the way the ghosts communicate in subtitles.”

BEST ACTOR – Robert Pattinson as Constantine “Connie” Nikas in Good Time

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Dean: “You only have to look at the polarised reaction to Sam Rockwell’s character in Three Billboards to see how hard it is to sell the humanity of dumb, cruel characters in this day and age, but Robert Pattinson pulls it off flawlessly in Good Time.

Good Time is the story of the biggest sack of shit in the world, Connie Nikas, and how he tries to protect his intellectually disabled brother Nick from abuse and violence. Even as the film puts him in constant motion, never pausing for introspection or even much conversation, Pattinson brings out Connie’s character in every movement, in his gestures and his posture. Connie is quick-witted but stupid and always manages to use his cunning and guile to manipulate his way out of the frying pan and into a series of increasingly large fires. He’s nasty, vain, greedy and lacks a moral compass. When we first see him using a wealthy older woman to fund his plans to escape New York, there’s a smidge of Robin Hood about him, but by the time he’s committing statutory rape to stop a teenage girl seeing his face on the news, you realise he’s just a prick.

Connie has exactly one redeeming quality, and that’s his broken, insufficient but deeply committed love for his brother. A lesser actor would have let his love for Nick become saccharine, but in Pattinson’s hands, it’s so single-minded it’s almost scary, and that’s why it works so well as the one glint of compassion in an otherwise heartless asshole.”

Ciara’s Runner-Up: Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock in Phantom Thread – “It’s old news that Daniel Day-Lewis is good at acting, but in Phantom Thread, he proves himself to be really, really funny: the king of method acting embracing absurdity. There’s a smile he gives – right before he says ‘Kiss me darling’ – that has been rattling around in my brain for weeks, and every time I think of it, I’m filled again with unbridled delight.”

Dean’s Runner-Up: Christian Bale as Captain Joseph J. Blocker in Hostiles – Hostiles isn’t a perfect film – its dialogue is clunky in places and it has some final-act problems – but Christian Bale gives a perfect performance in the lead as a soldier forced to escort his sworn enemy, Chief Yellow Hawk, back to his ancestral lands to die. I think a lot about the scene right after Blocker gets his assignment, where Bale screams silently into the camera, a dozen emotions flashing across his face in just a few seconds.”

BEST ACTRESS – Saoirse Ronan as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson in Lady Bird

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Ciara: “Molly Ringwald didn’t get an Oscar nomination in 1987 for Pretty in Pink. She should have, because she gives one of the best performances yet captured on film in that movie. Pretty in Pink is a big influence on Lady Bird, and though Saoirse Ronan’s performance is very much her own, there’s a spiritual similarity to Ringwald: much has been made of Ronan not covering up her acne, but more than that, she captures the reality of teenage feelings, played with total sincerity, without winking, in a way few have managed since the 1980s.

Ronan plays Lady Bird as incredibly earnest yet innately theatrical, in love with her hometown even as she despises it, aggressively confident even as she is embarrassed of being working-class. She’s cool but not, she’s callous but compassionate, she fights with her mother but loves her more than anything. Ronan’s accomplishment is managing to be all of these things at once, not switch between them. Most impressively, she really feels like she was plucked out of Bush’s first term: her sneer at a Ronald Reagan poster or her line delivery of ‘Don’t be a Republican,’ when her friend mentions terrorism are an absolute delight.”

Ciara’s Runner-Up: Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in I, Tonya – “It’s been a hell of a year for lead actresses – Frances McDormand gave one of the performances of her career, and Sally Hawkins is extraordinary without saying a word in Shape of Water – but Margot Robbie’s performance is special. Watching her put on her make-up while crying and practising smiling is overtly brilliant, but Robbie embodies her character in every frame, right down to the way she squares her jaw.”

Dean’s Runner-Up: Anne Hathaway as Gloria in Colossal – “Anne Hathaway is the last person I would think to cast in a slacker-comedy-slash-addiction-drama-slash-kaiju-film, but I guess that’s why she’s Anne Hathaway and I’m just some guy. Her portrayal of Gloria is just about the funniest thing she’s ever done, and one of the most poignant.”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Barry Keoghan as Martin in The Killing of a Sacred Deer

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Ciara: “It’s really hard to describe why Barry Keoghan’s performance as Martin in The Killing of a Sacred Deer is so good. None of the performances in the film are realistic – most of them have a dead-behind-the-eyes quality, saying the most bizarre and disturbing dialogue completely blankly, in a way that people seem to either find horrifying or hilarious. Keoghan is like that too: unnatural.

The way Keoghan holds himself and delivers his lines heightens the absurdity of everything, as he renders the supernatural horror mundane and the everyday deeply sinister. One of the best pieces of acting this year is the scene where Martin eats spaghetti. Shortly after his father died, he explains, he was eating spaghetti, and a family friend said he ate spaghetti just like his old man. It’s years later when he finds out this isn’t special: ‘Everyone eats spaghetti the same way,’ he says, ‘The exact. Same. Way.’ Keoghan masters a tricky balancing act: it’s really funny, and he gives new meaning to the term ‘deadpan’ in his delivery, but he is also simultaneously genuinely menacing, playing off the relationship between humour and horror in surprising ways.

Keoghan does anything but wear Martin’s emotions on his sleeve, yet we can always sense Martin’s inner feelings. None of the characters in Sacred Deer are like real people, maybe least of all Keoghan’s character, and yet he makes Martin, if not a real human being, then something just as interesting.”

Ciara’s Runner-Up: Sam Rockwell as Jason Dixon in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – “Sam Rockwell is truly brilliant as Dixon, the dumb racist cop. He plays for laughs a lot, but never at the expense of the character’s humanity. A big part of what makes Dixon’s arc work for me is Rockwell’s performance: from the start, he plays the sadness and loneliness under Dixon’s hatred and rage, refusing to reduce him to a cartoon villain.”

Dean’s Runner-Up: Michael Rooker as Yondu Udonta in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 – “Michael Rooker takes Yondu from a very silly Mary Poppins joke to a tearful death in about ten minutes and neither feels out of place because he makes Yondu feel like a whole person. He’s funny, he’s cool and he’ll make you cry, provided you have a heart.”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Bria Vinaite as Halley in The Florida Project

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Dean: “Bria Vinaite had never acted before The Florida Project – Sean Baker discovered her on Instagram, making funny videos for her friends out of boredom. There’s a tendency to dismiss the talents of actors who don’t come from a formal performance background (Baker: ‘We don’t call them non-professionals. Everyone starts somewhere and this is just their first film.’ ) and amidst the general snubbing of The Florida Project this awards season, no one was snubbed as frequently or pointedly as Bria Vinaite, even though she gave one of the year’s best performances.

Halley is a young, single mother living in a shitty motel in Orlando, trying to keep her six-year-old daughter happy and healthy in a world full of misery and cruelty. You wouldn’t like her in any other movie: she’s rude and loud and has an annoying voice; she smokes weed around her child; she flips out at the slightest provocation; she goes out partying; she scams people for money and engages in sex work to pay her rent. These are things that are supposed to make you hate poor people in movies, to see them as less than human and undeserving of help.

Bria Vinaite never lets you forget Halley’s humanity, even at her worst. She’s uncomfortably real and painfully young – her age is never given explicitly, but it’s clear from the way she treats Moonee more like a sister than a daughter that she was still a teenager when she had her. You want to reach through the screen and give her the help no one else will, and when all her love and frustration and rage finally coalesce in a scream towards the sky, it’s jaw-dropping and heart-breaking as only the most keenly-felt performances can be.”

Ciara’s Runner-Up: Rooney Mara as M in A Ghost Story – “There’s a scene in A Ghost Story where Rooney Mara eats a pie. It goes on for ten minutes, and in Rooney Mara’s hands, it’s absolutely riveting. Like the inverse of Sideshow Bob stepping on all those rakes, it starts out sad, then gets less sad, then gets more sad than you could ever imagine.”

Dean’s Runner-Up: Laurie Metcalf as Marion McPherson in Lady Bird – Lady Bird is so committed to seeing the world from the title character’s perspective that it’d be easy for her mother to come off as a villain. Marion is short-tempered, passive-aggressive and does some cruel shit in the last act of the film, but Laurie Metcalf never lets you forget that she loves Lady Bird more than life itself, even if she doesn’t always love her the right way.”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird

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Dean: “More than anything, what sticks in my mind about Lady Bird is how its characters sound like real people, even as they’re dramatic and ridiculous and turning phrase. What people so often fetishise as realism is secretly disconnected from reality, where characters talking in pop culture references or playing on each other’s words in conversation is described as ‘stylised’ when actually people use pop culture references and play on words all the time in real life. There’s a scene in Lady Bird where Lady Bird says she wanted her first sexual experience to be special. Her pretentious kinda-boyfriend responds ‘Why? You’re gonna have so much unspecial sex in your life.’ I laughed out loud, even though it’s a harsh moment, because I’ve never seen a film so perfectly capture the weak wit of a condescending, obnoxious teenage boy before.

In an era when even great teen movies feel dislocated from time and place, bereft of social or political context, and thoughtlessly, homogenously affluent, Lady Bird does for Bush’s America what John Hughes did for Reagan’s. ‘Authenticity’ is mostly a cheap buzzword, but there’s something undeniably sharp in how Lady Bird portrays the specificities of adolescence in the shadow of the Iraq War, intergenerational class shame and the wanderlust of those who live in places never memorable enough to be forgotten.”

Ciara’s Runner-Up: Martin McDonagh for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – “I still love Three Billboards, and the thing I love the most about it is its writing. I think it’s a more morally complex film than its detractors give it credit for, but mostly, it’s blackly funny – ‘Oh great, the ‘raped while dying’ route home!’ – and more surprisingly, sincerely moving. The writing is filled with small details that make the film great, like the scenes with Dixon’s mother.”

Dean’s Runner-Up: Jordan Peele for Get Out – “I didn’t love Get Out as much as a lot of people but I did love it, and its screenplay in particular. It’s one of those screenplays where every line of dialogue pulls more weight than five pages of a lesser film. There’s a reason ‘I would have voted for Obama a third time if I could’ was the most instantly iconic line of the year.”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – Armando Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin and Peter Fellows for The Death of Stalin

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Ciara: “I was really excited about The Death of Stalin from the moment I heard about it, because I love The Thick of It and In the Loop and Veep, and I figured The Death of Stalin would be The Thick of It but in Soviet Russia. I wasn’t wrong. Death of Stalin is completely hilarious: its dialogue dazzles, as power struggles, coup-plotting and public relations become sites for high farce and an awful lot of swearing. The screenwriters take Iannucci’s usual targets – cronyism, doubletalk, PR management – and transfer them to the highest-stakes environment possible, where one wrong word to the wrong person gets you shot. In an early scene, Stalin requests a recording of a concert – but no recording had been made, and so everyone has to be prevented from leaving so that they can do the concert over again, and record it this time. ‘Nobody’s going to be killed,’ they’re told, ‘This is just a musical emergency!’

But what puts The Death of Stalin over the top is the moments when it chooses not to be funny. The whole film is drenched in an immense sense of panic, and in its last ten minutes or so, it’s bone-chilling. It’s a film about the brutality and horror of Soviet Russia, about the brutality and horror of when so much power is concentrated in the hands of an unaccountable few. Throughout the film, Steve Buscemi’s Nikita Khrushchev tells Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana, that she will be kept safe. In the last moments, we realise what he means by that. And it’s terrifying.”

Ciara’s Runner-Up: Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green for Logan – “It’s been a year, so I think we’ve sort of forgotten what a shock to the system Logan was: when the superhero genre was even more dominated by Marvel’s oppressively consistent tone, Logan came along. The first revisionist superhero movie, Logan is a Western, a perfectly self-contained film that takes its characters and their feelings seriously. There’s so much I can point to that’s great writing, but maybe nothing sticks with me more than how it integrates the speech from Shane.”

Dean’s Runner-Up: John Hodges for T2 Trainspotting – “To write a sequel to one of the most iconic films of the past quarter of a century is already a tall order, but to write one that conspicuously reuses and recontextualises parts of the first film as much as T2 Trainspotting does, without getting overshadowed by it, seems impossible. John Hodges did it though, and laid the foundation for probably the best film about nostalgia I’ve ever seen.”

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – the hall of mirrors fight scene in John Wick: Chapter Two

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Dean: “When John Wick first entered a huge art installation made of mirror and LED screens, I just assumed it was a real installation in a real museum the director had got permission to film in. The art-speak narration that played as he walked through the doors seemed too perfect to be faked (‘the interplay of light and the nature of self-images coalesce to provide an experience which will highlight the fragility of our perception of space’) and besides which it was hard to imagine a mid-budget action film being able to afford a set piece this extravagant. But then people started slamming each other against walls and jumping through mirrors and I realised it had been conceived, designed and executed entirely by the filmmakers.

If the hall of mirrors fight scene had just been a cool set piece, it would have been amazing. Chad Stahelski is an ex-stuntman and he shoots action with the fluency of someone who’s spent years on both sides of the camera. But it’s more than that – it’s a microcosm of the whole movie. There are geometrical gags inspired by Buster Keaton (e.g. you think you’re watching John walk past a mirror, then he steps through it, revealing it to be empty space), one of the silent cinema stars whose work influences Stahelski’s approach to action. The design of the set pushes forward the film’s themes of confrontation with the self as John literally watches himself hunt down and kill people.

But I pretty much knew I’d want to give this film some special recognition when one of the villain’s goons pushes John through a pair of spinning mirrors, making him vanish into his own reflection. You can’t let beauty like that go unnoticed.”

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – the karaoke scene in Happy End

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Ciara: “Michael Haneke’s Happy End is a good film, if not a great one. It has a lot going on, and a lot of it is really interesting: it’s a film about class, wealth, assisted suicide, psychopathy and the refugee crisis. But it has one absolute holy shit scene, and that’s when Pierre (Franz Rogowski) drunkenly sings Sia’s ‘Chandelier’ at karaoke. In a long unbroken shot, Pierre flings himself across the stage, slamming into the floor and the walls, in an unskilled but very enthusiastic attempt to recreate the choreography of the music video, wailing at the top of his lungs, words slurred.

I love karaoke scenes – I love when a character is singing a random song and gradually the words of the song become everything they want to say (the ‘Greatest Love of All’ scene in Toni Erdmann is one of my favourite things ever). The karaoke scene in Happy End is absolutely one of those: ‘Chandelier’ is a song about alcoholism, and Pierre is an alcoholic. He’s drunk right now. ‘I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist,’ he screams, and he means it.

It’s a funny scene, and deeply sad one. Rogowski’s performance is all-in: not just how committed he is to throwing his body full-force, but how he pours his character’s entire emotional life into this one moment. Pierre is an alcoholic, yes, and the scene’s about that and the sadness of it, but it’s also about why he’s an alcoholic: because it’s here – drunk off his face, doing handstands – that he is the closest thing to free.”

Ciara’s Full Slate

Dean’s Full Slate

One thought on “The Sundae Film Awards 2018

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