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The 2016 Esseffies: The Film Awards that Tell It Like It Is 

Wednesday, Feb 24 2016
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You may think movie-awards season culminates with the Oscars, but would be wrong if you did. The shindigthis Sundaycelebrating white people in Hollywood is merely an epilogue for the only awards that matter: the Esseffies.

Best Eye Acting: Rinko Kikuchi in Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

The best film of 2015, Nathan and David Zellner's riff on Fargo and depression, features a wonderfully understated performance by its producer and star, Rinko Kikuchi. She's rarely outwardly expressive in the film, but keep an eye on her eyes, particularly as she begins to realize her VCR is eating her copy ofFargo. She speaks volumes using only her extra-ocular muscles.

Poutiest Snub: Beasts of No Nation

Cary Joji Fukunaga's story of child soldiers in Africa was controversial from the start, as major theatrical chains refused to carry it because of its same-day Netflix debut. Hollywood's tantrum continues with the Academy ignoring the film, refusing even to nominate Idris Elba or newcomer Abraham Attah for their amazing performances. The entertainment industry's resistance of the advance of consumer-oriented technology always works, which is why the Internet never caught on, and everyone still listens to music on CDs.

Best Argument for Social Media Being a Source of Good and Not Evil: Twinsters

In Samantha Futerman and Ryan Miyamoto's heartwarming documentary, Korean-American adoptee Samantha discovers almost by accident on the Internet that she has a twin sister living in France. It's a heartwarming true story that might not have happened without social media, so score one for modern technology.

Best Argument for Social Media Being a Source of Evil and Not Good:  Unfriended

Sure, it's a horror movie and not a true story, but if there's the slightest chance that the spirits of the dead could possess their old Facebook and Skype accounts to seek vengeance on the living — and in Fresno, no less — isn't that a good enough reason to unplug? Darn you, modern technology!

Best Pwnage of Dumb Boys: The Failed Boycotts of  Mad Max: Fury Road  and Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MRAs — or "Men's Rights Activists," who are a genuine political movement — called for boycotts ofMad Max: Fury Roadbecause it had a prominent female lead character, andStar Wars: The Force Awakensfor not only having a prominent female lead character, but also a prominent black lead character. (Being directed by a person of the Jewish faith didn't help, either.) Fury Road went on to gross $350 million worldwide and is nominated for Best Picture, while The Force Awakens made over $2 billion. The MRAs do claim their "online reporting of the social justice nature" of the latter cost it a whopping $4.2 million at the box office. Nice try, bros.

Worst Recasting: Emilia Clarke & Jai Courtney in  Terminator: Genisys

Obviously, a film that's set during the events of the first Terminator film from 1984 can't use Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn as Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese. But Clarke and Courtney are mediocre actors in the best of circumstances, and were miscast to the point of unwatchability, setting a new standard for bad ideas poorly executed.

The "Are You Not Entertained?" "No, We Are Not!" Award, Professional: The San Francisco Press Screening of  Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The nationwide press screenings of The Force Awakens on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015 were very hush-hush affairs.A colleague at the Village Voice tells us that at the New York screening, the critics applauded like mad from start, and the sight of Rey force-grabbing Luke's lightsaber received as big of a response as the titles or the familiar faces. By comparison, the Bay Area crowd seemed annoyed to be there, sitting in stony silence throughout because they're professional grown-up adults who take their important jobs seriously, thank you very much. (The Los Angeles bureau refused to comment, suggesting something truly terrible happened.)

The "Are You Not Entertained?" "No, We Are Not!" Award, Amateur: The Internet's Reaction to Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Anhedonia among film critics is to be expected because we're the worst, but the backlash from fans was a bit more confounding. Even as they went to see it multiple times, they took to the Internet to rip the story to shreds, as though it were the only Star Wars film with glaring plot holes. (Seriously, how did the Death Star get to the Yavin system so quickly from Alderaan? Why didn't they just blow up the planet, which also would have taken out the Alliance's moon?) Folks, you were given a gift. Enjoy it.

Best Bridge of Spies: The Bridge of Spies inBridge of Spies

Not that there were a lot of other bridges of spies to compete with in 2015, but the bridge on which spies were exchanged in Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies was still the best. Although it was filmed on the Glienicke Bridge outside Berlin that was used for exchanging spies during the Cold War, Spielberg shoots it in a way that recalls the Devil's Tower UFO landing site from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Making a real-life location feel like a set is its own kind of old-school movie magic.

The "I Just Can't Even" Award:  Freedom

Preaching to the same white choir that is changing textbooks to refer to the slave trade as the "Atlantic triangular trade," Peter Cousens' Freedom is a faith-based film acting in bad faith toward the history it supposedly conveys. A hagiography of the slave-ship captain who wrote "Amazing Grace," the picture has the temerity to suggest that the reason a merciful God would allow slavery is that there are no good people because of Original Sin, so aren't we all slaves when you think about it? I Just Can't Even.

The One-And-Done-Club of 2015:

Having a unique, searchable title is more important than ever for a product to be found in an increasingly crowded marketplace, but you wouldn't know it from all the single-word titles. 2015's include — but are not limited to —Aloft, Aloha, Amy, Ardor, Asthma, Boulevard, Brooklyn, Burnt, Buzzard, Carol, Chappie, Cheatin', Cinderella, Concussion, Cooties, Creed, Dilwale, Dope, Eden, Entertainment, Experimenter, Everest, Felt, Focus, Freedom, Freeheld, Girlhood, Gravy, Güeros, Home, Iris, Jauja, Joy, Krampus, Legend, Leviathan, Listening, Macbeth, Maggie, Manglehorn, Marshland, Match, Meru, Momentum, Mommy, Mustang, Noble, Paddington, Pan, Phoenix, Pixels, Predestination, Preservation, Results, Room, Rosenwald, Serena, Sicario, Sisters, Southpaw, Spectre, Spotlight, Spy, Suffragette, '71, Tangerine (singular), Tangerines(plural),Theeb, Timbuktu, Tomorrowland, Trainwreck, Trumbo, Truth, Twinsters, Unexpected, Unfriended, Vacation, Victoria, Wildlike, Youth, and Zarafa. Special mention goes to the Bollywood import i, whose director Shankar gave no fucks the day he named his film.

The One-and-Done Club of 2015, Definite Article Branch:

Some titles got a little more specific, such as The Assassin, The Boy— the 2014 The Boy, not the 2015 The BoyThe DUFF, The Gallows, The Gift, The Gunman, The Himalayas, The Humbling, The Intern, The Loft, The Martian, The Nightingale, The Nightmare, The Overnight, The Revenant, The Rumberbutts, The Salvation, The 33, The Tribe, The Visit, The Walk, The Wolfpack, and The Wonders.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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