Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Unseen Film Awards 2018

After several weeks of voting it is time to announce the winners in the Fourth Annual Unseen Film Awards. It was a hard fought battle with the ballots literally changing the front runner with each one that came in right up until the absolute final deadline- and beyond.

The ballots were sent out to 52 film lovers around the world. When I started the awards they were voted on just by the Unseen Films family of writers and over the years the voting body has grown include not only more writers but also filmmakers, film professionals and film fans who see a lot of films. In choosing the voters I tried to get film fans who aren’t just one type film fan but people across the spectrum. I wanted to make sure that the views of what constituted the best in the year's cinema went across the spectrum and wasn't just from one point of view.

Voters were asked, at the very least, to vote for their best/favorite film they saw in 2018. They were also asked, if possible, for another five films to help with tie breaking. If voters wanted to include addition choices for documentary, animated and short film choices I would compile awards for those as well. As a result 19 films were picked as the top film with 67 different films appearing on the various the ballots in the Top 5. If you add in shorts, animated, documentary and other titles a grand total of 106 different films were being considered for all of the awards  thrown in to the mix.

After all the voted were counted the BEST FILM OF 2018 is ROMA.

Not only did Alfonso Cuarón's film get the most votes as the best film of the year. Other than the first year of this award when all but but one top pick went to MAD MAX ROAD FURY ROMA received the most Best Film votes for any film in the brief history of the awards.

While I know some people weren't rapturous about the film, I have yet to meet anyone who hasn't liked it and in those who championed it  it provoked deep emotions to the point  they were over come with emotion simply talking about the film even weeks after the fact. I will be very curious how the film is received  by the Academy voters come Oscar time because I was at an Academy screening where it's merits were hotly debated (again everyone liked it but some were unsure it was the best).

There was a tie for the runner up film by three films, all of whom where in literally in the mix for the top slot until the final ballots came in during the final hours of voting. The runner up films are

BLACKkKLANSMAN- Spike Lee's film on racism quietly figured on numerous ballots.

FIRST REFORMED A film which split the voting body in some ways - some people didn't connect to it but which others had a mad passion for it.

PADDINGTON 2 the film from the very start of 2018 which most everyone seemed to love but which kind of embarrassed some staid writers to say how much they enjoyed- until you said you loved it too.

For those curious the complete list of films chosen by voters as their top choice is as follows


This year we are awarding a BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE  film award to Hirokazu Koreeda's SHOPLIFTERS. This story of a found family of criminals won the hearts and minds of a good number of the voters. It actually ended up highest total of votes of any film without getting a Best Film nod. Truth be told if it had gotten even one Best Film vote it would have been the best film winner.

The film voted as BEST DOCUMENTARY is WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR. While I said that people could give me their choices for  Best Documentary the film actually appeared more lists of voter's BEST FILMS (full stop) than actual lists of Best Docs. (Not everyone voted for docs, animated and shorts).  While I know that some people were too close to the Fred Rogers to vote with their head, pretty much everyone I know seconded Peter Gutierrez's  thought about the film  of it is not if you cry during the film but when.

The runners up for Best Documentary is split between

RBG the moving portrait of the supreme court justice the world has fallen in love with was film many held close to their hearts.

BATHTUBS OVER BROADWAY about industrial musical figured into several voter's best of the year lists including the top spot.

The choice for BEST ANIMATED FILM is SPIDERMAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE which appeared not only as people's choice for best animated film but also in top five lists for Best Film of the year for people who didn't include a Best Animated Film choice.

This year's Animated Runners Up is INCREDIBLES 2 which also appeared  on voter's Best of the Year lists as well as being voted for Best Animated film.

Sharing the Runner up award is Maasaki Yuasa's THE NIGHT IS SHORT WALK ON GIRL about a boy and a girl and their courses over an evening. The love for the film was strong and like SPIDERMAN and INCREDIBLES 2 the film was voted for both on the Best of Year lists submitted and as a stand alone vote for Best Animated Film.

The voting for the short film awards was split across the divisions of Narrative, Documentary and Animated. It should be noted that not everyone who turned in a ballot voted for the short films

The BEST NARRATIVE SHORT of 2018 is LABORATORY CONDITIONS. This short horror film  begins with a doctor played by Marisa Tomei tying to locate the body of a recently deceased patient only to discover an unauthorized and secret experiment being headed by Minnie Driver. Creepy, scary and just a kick in the ass the film has been a topic of conversation since many of the voters saw it at Tribeca. It's film so good a couple of voters told me it was the only short they remember seeing this year because it gave them a serious chill.

THE BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT of 2018 is BENEATH THE INK. One of my personal best 5 films of 2018, this doc about a tattoo artist who covers over hateful body art when the wear sees the error of their ways rocked everyone who saw it. How good is it? It is the only time I've ever had filmmakers not connected to a film contact me to talk about a film that they thought had to be seen and the Academy had to notice.

THE BEST ANIMATED SHORT of 2018 is a tie. Receiving an equal amount of votes and deep passionate love by the voters the winners are

ONE SMALL STEP is a small gem that I was brow beaten into watching by several voters for the better part of the last year because, let's face, it is that good.

LOST AND FOUND another one of my personal top five films of 2018, have tissues with you when you watch it. A late addition to the awards mix, the film was discovered by a couple of voters when after the Oscar Short Listing they saw the film as a "Short of the Week" and fell in love with it.

And as we’ve done every year we issue several special awards for things we think need to be noted.

I’m going to begin with an AWARD OF DISMERIT to all the movie theaters who are not using a bright enough bulb when the run 3D films. So many chains are not switching from the cheap ass bulbs that are barely bright enough for regular projection and using them to project 3D films. I know they are well aware that the glasses dim the light coming into the eye but they really don’t care. This is a huge problem since so many filmmakers are using darker images for their films that we as an audience are not getting to see what the director intended until we get to see the films at home. If you want an example consider SOLO which was rendered almost unwatchable at times in 3D and which was reconsidered on Blu-ray and home video by several members of the Unseen family and members of the press. This award is shared by most of the major chains such as AMC who are striving to get people into the their theaters and then shooting them in the foot by giving fans a crappy visual experience.

The BEST REPLACEMENT FOR MOVIE PASS goes to AMC’s A-List. As Movie Pass goes into its final death throes AMC has delighted pretty much everyone I know with their service which allows three films a week, without restrictions, for 20 bucks a month. All the film fans I know have jumped over and have been going movie crazy with service that is bringing them into the theater more often than ever before.

BEST CHRISTMAS FILM is being awarded to ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE. While discussion among the voters I quizzed about the lessened the film's nomination as the BEST CHRISTMAS FILM EVER MADE, no one really had a major problem with it being slotted as the best Christmas Film of the Year.

And lastly THE FILM GOER OF THE YEAR AWARD goes to Hubert Vigilla for his insane attempt to try and use Movie Pass to see 300 films in theaters in a year. Thanks to Movie Pass, AMC A-List, film festivals, a handful of press screenings and an insane drive to prove how crazy he is he managed to see 317 (he could have done more but he slowed down to smell the roses after reaching 300 in mid-November). When all is said and done he spent almost an entire month at the movies not including all the travel time and writing reviews. We jokingly thought of giving him an AMC gift card so he could see more films but I think a trip to a local park is more in order so he can see the great big blue sky.

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