Monday, January 1, 2018

Unseen Films Awards 2017

The Unseen Film Awards are done and they turned out...completely and utterly unexpected.

And that is a good thing.

As regular readers know Unseen Films doesn't follow the well worn path. We are willing to go go off the trail to see what else is out there because there are gems out there- which is something that is reflected in the winners of the awards.

This year ballots were sent out to 33 voters - all of the Unseen Films listed contributors, the Unseen extended family of writers and some good friends of the site. Voters were asked for their choice for their absolute best/favorite film of 2017 and four or five additional films. These could be of any type at any length.Voters were also told they could further vote for best animated, documentary and short films if they wished if their lists didn't contain any of those films. This resulted in a pool of over 55 feature films dropped into the mix with 19 films listed as our voter's Best of 2017.

As with the previous years the voting was close and the winners were decided when the final ballots were returned- which happened right up to the deadline. This was due to our voters running like hell to catch up and see as many films as possible. Voting was so close that as each ballot came in it changed everything-and then when the deadline came and I sat down to do the tally and thought I did something wrong so I did it again...and again...

...and we ended up with ties in three categories with the multiple films getting the awards for Best Film of the Year, Best Animated  Film and Best Documentary. The ties were the result of the weighted scoring system. While that may bother some people I'm perfectly okay with it. This was a very good year for film and considering what won there is nothing wrong with multiple winners.

The Unseen Film Award for Best Film 2017 is a divided between four films. (That is not a mistake four films are getting the award.)

The four films are:

GOOD TIME seemed to come and go in theaters but it hung in the memory of many as one of the most gripping films of the year. It's a dynamite crime drama with a killer performance from Robert Pattinson who gives yet another Oscar worthy performance.

THE SHAPE OF WATER is Guillermo del Toro's riff on Beauty and the Beast and The Creature from the Black Lagoon touched the hearts of many. Its dark Grimms Brothers sensibility resonated with everyone across the board.

GET OUT was Jordan Peele's scathing mix of genre filmmaking and social commentary. It reminded many that well made horror films are not just about made up horrors. It was a film that entered 2017's cinematic discussion early and never left it.

LADY BIRD burst on to the scene this fall and resonated with pretty much everyone. The decree to which one loved the film depended upon how closely related to all that happens in the film. For many in the voting body who loved the film it was quite simply their life, or portions of it, up on the big screen.

In previous years we awarded an award to the second place vote getter because in previous years the race was always pretty damn close between two film battling for Best Film. However this year instead of doing an "Honorable Mention" we are having a Ring of Honor made up of all of the films named by the voters as their Best of 2017. Pretty much all of these films were in the running until the final tally.

The Unseen Films Ring of Honor 2017 in no particular order is as follows:


The awards for Best Animated and Best Documentary films were films that both appeared on the voters Best of the Year lists as well as well as being picked specifically as the best in their particular category. While the awards for Best Documentary were kind of clear early on, the award for Best Animated  Film was not and voting came down to the last ballot.

The Best Documentary Award goes to

FACES PLACES the road film by Agnes Varda and JR  came and charmed everyone who saw it.

LA92 bludgeoned everyone who saw it with its use of news footage to recreate the LA Riots. It was, for those who saw it on the big screen, one of those films that never left their consciousness and was always one of the first films mentioned when the best films of the year were brought up.

The Best Animated Film Award goes to

COCO moving PIXAR  film was the studios best in ages.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS laugh out loud film delighted everyone who saw the film. Its a brilliant mix of silly kids humor with a knowing adult edge the film made many people turn bue from laughing so hard

LEGO BATMAN was so full of geek/nerd references that it will take years to sort them all out. Long before I saw the film I had been told about how cool the film was because it knew to make reference to some fan thing or another. It's a film some the voters still mention as they discover some new hidden gem or joke they hadn't noticed before.

This year the voting for the Best Short Awards was sporadic and all over the place. Some voters had .not seen any shorts they wanted to include or any at all. Some had seen a good number of films they thought warranted being noted. It was a tough, close battle but the winners were films that those voting for the awards felt passionately about.

The Best Live Action Short Award goes to LOST FACE. This adaption of a Joseph Conrad story looks and feels like a big budgeted western. A stunning piece of storytelling it is a perfectly modulated film with the length working perfectly with the story. Nothing is wasted. More importantly everyone I know who saw it couldn’t stop talking about it after seeing it. It’s simply a damn fine film.

The Best Animated Short goes to FIRST BLOOM a Ghibli-esque romance between a princess and a commoner.

Every year in addition to the typical awards we hand out Awards of Merit for those things that don’t quite fit in your typical categories.

The Award for Changing Cinema As We Know It  goes to WONDER WOMAN and the No Man’s Land Sequence in particular. WONDER WOMAN was the moment when Hollywood’s stupid idea that a female lead superhero movie (or any film) couldn’t do big box office disappeared. Yes BEAUTY AND THE BEAST had made a mint earlier but for many it was a hold over from the animated classic. LAST JEDI could be seen as just the Star Wars gravy train. However it was in the moment when Diana climbed the ladder to step into No Man’s Land that the whole cinematic universe changed- as audiences screamed and cheered approval everything shifted and a portion of old Hollywood and it’s out dated system died. In a year where women began to break the legs of the Hollywood's oppressors and naysayers WONDER WOMAN was the visible call to arms, the birth of a heroine and the moment when men were shown to be not so needed after all.

WONDER WOMAN also get an award for being  The Film Everyone Talked About But Which Ended Up On Almost No One's Best Of The Year List.

The Award for the Best Film Our 8 Year Old Selves Ever Saw goes to KONG SKULL ISLAND. While it is seemingly just another giant monster film with ties into the Godzilla franchise (see the post credit sequence) it is in fact so much more. Watching he film again and again on cable revealed the film to several voters to be a much more complex tale told in a series of mind blowing sequences. What is all the more amazing is that the high level of the filmmaking isn’t apparent on the first time through, but only reveals itself upon later viewings when we aren’t 100% focused on the story and have the time to really see what Jordan Vogt-Roberts and his team had done, which has make some of the most arresting action sequences in years

Best Dance Scene- the soldier and his gun in FOXTROT

Best Use of a Classic Rock Song- Cat Steven's Father and Son in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2. In a year were music was used to fantastic effect in so many films, this was the one moment mentioned over and over again as the point were every one cried. (And if you say you didn't - we know you're lying because we have video)

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS is getting two special awards this year.

The first goes to Kenneth Branagh for the Best Facial Hair in a Film. His mustache is a thing of beauty. And while it may seem laughable outside of the film it actually works to help build character because simply by looking at the ‘stache we instantly have a bead on who Poirot is- someone who is his own man. Using it may have seemed like a WTF move but it instead makes an indelible impression that vaults the character instantly into the pantheon of iconic characters.

The second Award for Making Something Old New Again goes to the script which takes a well-known and simple murder mystery and turns it into something greater. While earlier film versions of the story have told the tale with various levels of skill, this current telling raises the bar and spins it as to be not just a murder mystery but also an examination of real justice not just the notion of rule of law. The interest in the outcome is no longer just tied to who done it but why they done it. It’s an intriguing question that becomes even more so if you know the full arc of the great detective and the events of his final case.

After a nomination and a brief discussion with voting members not on either end of the debate we are giving it a Citation of Note to BLADERUNNER 2049 as either The Most Troubling of Divisive Film of Year or The Best Film to Start a Discussion of Women's Portrayals in Film.

 As several of the voting members swallow their tongues at the mere mention of the film in anyway connected to awards for anything other than technical achievement (I mean Roger Deakins cinematography needs to get an Oscar), I need to stress this is not an award but a citation- meaning it’s a film that needs to be discussed especially within the context of the current battle against sexual harassment in Hollywood. While we are not going to argue the film's merits good or bad, we would like to use it point it out as a place to begin discussing Hollywood’s attitude toward women since the film has been reviled by many as being incredibly misogynistic. Others have argued that there isn't a problem  If you need a forceful explanation of the problem start with the well-traveled piece by Unseen Film’s contributor and family member Lauren Humphries-Brooks ( Whatever you think of the film, the treatment of women in film has to be addressed and BLADERUNNER 2049’s being in the cross-hairs might be the way to get you thinking about it.

The runner up for this award if it's termed divisive is STAR WARS LAST JEDI which split fandom down the middle and resulted in lots of angry words.

The Award for Best Action Sequences goes to Byung-gil Jung's THE VILLAINESS with it's bat-shit crazy fights including a sword fight on motorcycles.

Voters asked that Andy Serkis get singled out for his work in The Planet of the Apes Films. Without his presence the films simply would not ave worked on any level.

Lastly we have to include a list of Films Too Good To Miss. Yes they didn't make the best of the best lists but they are good enough that they should not be forgotten and should be sought out.

DAVE MADE A MAZE (how the hell did this disappear after early reviews were so strong?)
Jonathan Olshefski's QUEST
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (It should be noted this appeared in the voting for Best Film and made a good run in the voting)

In conclusion I'd like to thank everyone who participated. I also want to give an extra special thank you to John DiBello for whipping up the awards banner at the top.

If you don't agree with the awards feel free to comment. More importantly if you've just run across a film or two you haven't heard of please take the time and chase down the titles that intrigues you

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