The First Annual Jakeys

Welcome to the first annual Jakey Awards, wherein I geekily and shamelessly present my own, personal, self-indulgent awards for cinema in 2016. Though there was an ongoing narrative that it was a bad year for movies, that’s only true if you look at the most financially successful movies. There were so many small films that are extra-terrestial in their beauty and intelligence, and it has taken me until now to catch most of them.

For the purposes of nerdily putting this together, I’ve decided to only count films that are released in North America in 2016, not counting at festivals (so Personal Shopper, for example, is considered a 2017 release). Anyway, enjoy.


The Witch (A24)
Mike Mills | 20th Century Women
Robert Eggers | The Witch
Kelly Fremon Craig | The Edge of Seventeen
Kenneth Lonergan | Manchester by the Sea
Jim Jarmusch | Paterson

There were lots of great original screenplays this year, including some the Oscars actually nominated (The Lobster, Hell or High Water). I am deeply impressed by Robert Eggers with his script for The Witch, which as you may know was culled from countless period-era documents, court records and diaries (which may make it adapted, but whatever). This deep research makes for a film that feels authentic and completely lacks artifice, and its horror is richer for it. Kenneth Lonergan’s script for Manchester by the Sea is the one area I’ve chosen to recognize it for, mostly because I wasn’t as taken by it as other people were, but his words are what makes it so devastating. I recently saw Paterson, and the way it engages with the notion of creativity is absolutely unique and I don’t know how Jim Jarmusch did it. The balancing act pulled by Edge of Seventeen, from the seriously emotional to the broadly comic, has rarely been done with such grace. But the winner, for me, has to be Mike Mills and 20th Century Women, a delightful film notably featuring an amazing cast of people that makes the script’s words even better. But the humanity wrung out here, with these characters that are all introduced almost as archetypes but grow to become much, much more…it’s next-level shit. WINNER: 20th Century Women


Moonlight (A24)
Barry Jenkins | Moonlight
Kelly Reichardt | Certain Women
Whit Stillman | Love & Friendship
Park Chan-wook, Chung Seo-kyung | The Handmaiden
Martin Scorsese, Jay Cocks | Silence

Despite Moonlight winning the Writers Guild Award for Original Screenplay, I’m considering it Adapted, since Jenkins did take Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play and add elements of his own autobiography to it. It would probably be a winner regardless, because its structure is so frightening when you think about how much is stuffed into each third of the film, and how effective each third remains in saying what it needs to say. For everything else it does right, Moonlight’s success starts and ends with its screenplay. Kelly Reichardt took three Maile Meloy stories and mashed them together for Certain Women in a way that somehow works, despite minimal overlap. Whit Stillman adapts Jane Austen in this year’s example of Almost Too Perfect. Scorsese’s passion bleeds off of every word uttered in Silence. And The Handmaiden is a sick movie for sick people, so I loved it and the way its twisty plot never becomes overbearing. But yeah, none of them really hold a candle. WINNER: Moonlight


The Fits (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
Robert Eggers | The Witch
Kelly Fremon Craig | The Edge of Seventeen
Barry Jenkins | Moonlight
Anna Rose Holmer | The Fits
Park Chan-wook | The Handmaiden

I still cannot get over the fact that The Witch is Robert Egger’s directorial debut. I can’t wait to see what he does next. Park Chan-wook masterfully handles the absurd plot structure of The Handmaiden, and makes some decisions that, I imagine, no other director would. Kelly Fremon Craig is able to craft a highly individualized teen-romance-comedy-drama with confidence and an enviable sensibility with The Edge of Seventeen. Anna Rose Holmer gives us another stunning debut with The Fits, which is visually dazzling and totally assured in its execution (like deciding to not extend it beyond its perfect 72 minutes). And there are many other standouts from 2016, including Denzel Washington for Fences, Mike Mills for 20th Century Women, Martin Scorsese for Silence, Kelly Reichardt for Certain Women, Andrea Arnold for American Honey. But this one also belongs to Barry Jenkins for Moonlight. Once you find out that the three actors that portray Chiron (Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, Alex Hibbert) never met during filming, and yet there is so much continuity in their performances, you realize the control Jenkins had and what directing is. WINNER: Barry Jenkins


American Honey (A24)
André Holland | Moonlight
Shia LaBeouf | American Honey
Billy Crudup | 20th Century Women
Tom Bennett | Love & Friendship
Mahershala Ali | Moonlight

Another stacked AF category. Surrounded by an ensemble of complex and compelling women, Billy Crudup is softly captivating as someone you think you understand right away, but who reveals new layers throughout 20th Century Women. Tom Bennett is fucking hilarious in Love & Friendship as the absolutely clueless Sir James Martin, who really just was expecting a church on a hill. André Holland and Mahershala Ali both make huge impressions in their small amounts of screen time in Moonlight; in Ali’s case, you think about him after he’s gone in every moment, and in Holland’s case, you forgive the guy for what his younger version did mostly from his performance. There are many other runner-ups, from Alden Ehrenreich’s star-making turn in Hail, Caesar! to John Goodman’s menacing charmer in 10 Cloverfield Lane, and from David Oyelowo’s compassion in the underseen Queen of Katwe to Michael Shannon’s typically affective performance in the otherwise-fine Midnight Special. But man, this thing has to go to Shia LaBeouf for American Honey. I go back and forth on LaBeouf as a person, but he is electric in this movie, and somehow makes you fall in love with a deadbeat with a goddamn rat tail. That’s acting. WINNER: Shia LaBeouf


Certain Women (IFC Films)
Lily Gladstone | Certain Women
Kristen Stewart | Certain Women
Golshifteh Farahani | Paterson
Viola Davis | Fences
Janelle Monae | Hidden Figures

Firstly, it’s highly debatable that Viola Davis is a supporting character in Fences (she won the Tony for the same role as a lead), but I can see the argument. Regardless, she is fire. To be fair, the other actresses here are not given the same kind of show-stopping monologues, and they make just as much of an impact. Golshifteh Farahani makes Laura, her character in Paterson, much more complicated than she otherwise could have been. At first, it feels like the movie is making fun of her, until you come to understand her relationship with Paterson, and what it is about her that he loves. I hope she becomes a bigger star after this. Janelle Monae, likewise, has a hell of a film career ahead of her, and she steals Hidden Figures. And in a movie full of killer supporting performances, Kristen Stewart and Lily Gladstone in the final third of Certain Women are otherworldly. You come for K-Stew, right? And then Gladstone comes out of nowhere to steal your heart and blow away everyone else. It’s amazing what she does, taking naturalism to an unforeseen climax. Wow. Also worth noting: Marion Cotillard in Allied, Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning in 20th Century Women, Tammy Blanchard in The Invitation, Angourie Rice in The Nice Guys and Sarah Gadon in Indignation. WINNER: Lily Gladstone


Fences (Paramount)
Denzel Washington | Fences
Adam Driver | Paterson
Andrew Garfield | Silence
Joel Edgerton | Loving
Ryan Gosling | The Nice Guys

A weak year for this category, just like last year. That said, there is still greatness here. Gosling and Garfield are both Oscar-nominated for the wrong performances, because they are equal turns hilarious and punishing, respectively, in The Nice Guys and Silence. Joel Edgerton is a mumbling man who just wants to be left alone in Loving, but he perfectly exemplifies the film’s theme of, like, not understanding why everyone cares so much about who he wants to marry. Adam Driver brings all the requisite understatement to Paterson, a quiet movie about quiet people, but he puts so much emotion and information into just his reaction shots alone. And Denzel is doing some capital-A Acting in Fences, and it is a master class. You can see the gears in motion, you can grasp the pathos. They will probably screen this movie in acting classes for years. Also worth noting: let’s not take for granted how great Tom Hanks still is, playing another guy who is good at his job, just like him, in Sully. There’s also Peter Simonischek in Toni Erdmann, Andy Samberg in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Russell Crowe in The Nice Guys and Chris Pine in Hell or High Water. WINNER: Denzel Washington


The Edge of Seventeen (STX Entertainment)
Hailee Steinfeld | The Edge of Seventeen
Ruth Negga | Loving
Anya Taylor-Joy | The Witch
Annette Bening | 20th Century Women
Royalty Hightower | The Fits

This one was the hardest for me to limit down to just five nominees. It killed me to not put Isabelle Huppert here for either Elle or Things to Come, because she is fearless in both. I’ve never really been convinced about Amy Adams, but her performance in Arrival unquestionably carries the movie. Kim Tae-ri is intoxicating in The Handmaiden, Sandra Hüller is a composed firecracker in Toni Erdmann, Sasha Lane is (sorry for using this word) revelatory in American Honey, Kika Magalhaes does so much in The Eyes of My Mother (seriously, seek out this little effed-up horror flick), Kate Beckinsale has never been better than she is in Love & Friendship, Natalie Portman picked that accent for Jackie and just kept going, and Mackenzie Davis had a transcendent year between Halt and Catch Fire, Black Mirror, and her performance in Always Shine, a Hitchcockian thriller unlike any other.

But then there’s these five. Royalty Hightower is only 11, but she holds the screen like a goddamn pro in The Fits, utilizing not just her voice but also her physicality and gestural nuance to portray this driven little girl. Anya Taylor-Joy, like every other aspect of The Witch, fits perfectly into the world of the film, leaving the character deeply felt but morally ambiguous. It’s a tough role to pull off and she does it with aplomb. Ruth Negga, alongside Joel Edgerton in Loving, is quiet, but she says so much with her amazingly expressive face. She earns her spot if only for that phone call she makes to her husband, expressing so much complexity in just a moment. I haven’t been snuck up on with a performance like this in a while. Annette Bening. It is violence that she is not nominated for the Oscar. But she is nominated for the Jakey Award, because this is probably the performance of her career in 20th Century Women. And Hailee Steinfeld nails the difficult role of the lead in Edge of Seventeen. Right from the first scene, when she storms in to talk about committing suicide with Woody Harrelson, it’s clear that this movie belongs to her. The way she balances the sober sadness and darkness of the dialogue with the moments of humour is aces. How does she do it? What a career she has ahead of her. WINNER: Hailee Steinfeld


20th Century Women (A24)
The Witch
20th Century Women
The Handmaiden
The Fits
The Edge of Seventeen
Things to Come
Cemetery of Splendour
Right Now, Wrong Then
Always Shine
Certain Women
Love & Friendship

This is the Jakeys, where I can nominate 15 movies for Best Picture if I feel like it. These are, more or less, in order, kind of. Jumping back to the introduction, this has absolutely been a fantastic year for movies. There are many original, messy, beautiful, fucked up, affecting, and provocative films being made, as many as ever, and these are just 15 examples. Support independent theatres, support small films that don’t get the same marketing as others, support challenging cinema. Our art can reflect the best of us, and the worst of us. These movies are irresistible, and worth checking out if you haven’t. I love cinema that not only reflects my own experience, but shows a variety of perspectives, and we are lucky to have so many available to us. WINNER: The Witch

That’s it for the Jakeys. Here’s some smaller awards:

BEST DOG: Marvin (played by Nellie, R.I.P.) | Paterson

BEST GRANDFATHER: Robert De Niro in Dirty Grandpa



BEST SONG: “I’m So Humble” | Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

BEST COSTUMES: Jackie and Allied

BEST MOVIE NOT MENTIONED SO FAR: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

BEST BONER: Daniel Radcliffe in Swiss Army Man

BEST 31-YEAR-OLD PLAYING A TEENAGER: Hayden Szeto in The Edge of Seventeen

BEST GOAT: Black Phillip in The Witch

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