Its been a long and crazy ride that has resulted in some really intriguing results- with a four way tie two years ago and films that no one expected rising to the top of the crop most years. To be perfectly honest even though shepherding all the voters together can make me crazy, I do it simply because the results surprise me every year. And this year is no exception.
Before we get to the actual awards a couple of quick tidbits about this years voting.
Just over 60 people were invited to participate in this years awards. They were asked to send me the best film they saw in 2019 of any type or length. I also said that if they wanted to help with tie breaking to supply a list of up to five additional films that they consider the best of the year. I also said they could supply their votes for shorts, documentary, animated film and anything else they felt should be noted. Anything that was not clear cut or was not a typical award I ran by random members of the voting body to see if we should include them. This year about two thirds of the possible voters turned in ballots with a number of them begging off because they didn't feel qualified to vote (usually saying "I didn't see enough films").
For a long time the top spot was a three way battle. For a chunk of the voting period all three films were very close, however some late in the game votes changed everything ever so slightly that one film slipped out of contention and two others ended up crossing the finish line in dead on tie. And while I was tempted to cast my vote and break the tie (for the record while I do run the awards, I do not throw a ballot in) I let the voting stand.
And the Best Films of 2019 as voted by the family and friends of Unseen Films are
Bong Joon-Ho's PARASITE and Lulu Wang's THE FAREWELL.
Both films received the same number of first place votes and ended up tied when all the tie breakers were tallied.
A really close second was ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD which could have been the winner if tiebreakers had gone differently.
For those curious what the films that were listed as the Best Films of 2019 by our voters were, they are as follows:
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
HIGH FLYING BIRD
HOBBS AND SHAW
NEVER LOOK BACK
ELEPHANT SITTING STILL
GAY CHORUS DEEP SOUTH
Zhang Yimou's SHADOW
GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS
This should be considered the Unseen Films Family Best of 2019 list.
This year the BEST DOCUMENTARY award is going to
AMERICAN FACTORY won the award in the outright voting. In a category that resulted in a lot of contenders the film about a Chinese billionaire buying an American factory either topped or was mentioned on numerous ballots.
A special DOCUMENTARY AWARD OF MERIT is going to Jon Kasbe's WHEN LAMBS BECOME LIONS. The film not only in the mix for Best Documentary but was suggested for some special awards as well. When the discussion of the special awards was mentioned a discussion broke out about how to handle the film since many voters saw it in 2018 when it World Premiered at Tribeca. This resulted in discussion about how we should handle films that cross years- and in this Special Award because a couple of people said that if they could put film into the mix they might have voted for it because it is that good.
The winner of the best FOREIGN FILM is PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE. I suspect for many of you that is causing a raised eyebrow. I know everyone expected PARASITE to win in a walk however, however while Bong Joon-Ho's film did get some specific votes for Best Foreign Film, most of the votes were simply for Best Film of the Year. PORTRAIT received more Best Foreign Film votes. We might have made PARASITE the winner except that PORTRAIT... was specifically listed on some ballots as the Best Foreign Film which also listed PARASITE as the Best Film
We received a number of votes for the BEST PERFORMANCE of 2019 but the only one that got multiple votes was Maddy Murphy in MISS FREELANCE. For those of you who don't know Murphy plays a woman dealing with the men who pay her for sex or companionship and it is as heartbreaking a piece of work as you will ever see. Anyone who saw it were rocked by it.
This year we are not awarding a BEST ANIMATED FEATURE prize simply because all of the votes were singular. Every person voting for the category picked their own film-and anyone listing an animated film into their ballot as a tie breaking film listed different films. Even if I were to vote it would have just added another film to the mix with no clear winner.
Best ANIMATED SHORT FILM goes to LETTERS FROM EVEREST. This is a joyous little true life tale about the filmmakers grandparents falling in love via letters back and forth while one is at Everest that ill make you fall in love with life.
The winner for BEST SHORT FILM is THE NEIGHBORS' WINDOW. This is the story of a couple who watch their neighbor's across the way and what happens over time. It's a perfectly measured film that you don't think is going to kick the crap out of you, but does so in the final moments. I should also mention it is not a thriller.
This year we are not going to be giving a large number of special awards the reaction to all of those that were offered were mixed when thrown out to the steering body. However a few semi-serious awards did slip through.
The staircase in THE JOKER gets the award for BEST PERFORMANCE BY A NON-HUMAN
This year we are awarding THE HARLEQUIN AWARD FOR PERSISTENCE to Alec Kubas-Meyer and his perennial vote for best film Joseph Kahn's DETENTION. Every year I ask for the best film that people saw in 2019 and every year Alec offers up DETENTION by saying that it was the best film he saw all year. It's been on his ballot every year that the awards have been put together and I suspect it will be on everyone until we stop. (I suspect that Bully the Little Stuffed Bull will be winning this award in a few years assuming he doesn't stop voting for PADDINGTON 2)
And finally this year we are awarding a Special Award to Jason Kartalian's GIANT WOMEN MICRO-BUDGET as the BEST DOCUMENTARY ABOUT GIANT WOMEN OF 2019. Honestly it maybe the only real documentary about giant women of this, or any, year- but the thought of the award made the committee laugh so we're awarding it.
Lastly I want to give a shout out to the films that appeared on multiple ballots but didn't win any awards.
BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
1917 (which came in hot and heavy at the end. I suspect that had more people seen it it would have ended up in contention for the Best Film award)
As 2020 starts in earnest I'd like to thank everyone who voted, who kibitzed and egged us on. I would also like to thank you for taking the time to stop by.