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The 2015 Esseffies: Because the world needs more film awards. 

Wednesday, Feb 18 2015

Here it is, our annual film awards that no one asked for or needed but which we, nonetheless, put forth into the world as a supplement for — or alternative to — this Sunday's bloated, predictable, and often-bland Academy Awards. If nothing else, may you leave this page with something new to watch (or hate-watch) on Netflix.

Sherilyn Connelly

Most Realistic Drug Bender: God Help the Girl

The best film of 2014, Stuart Murdoch's musical isn't really about drugs, except for the showstopping "Musician, Please Take Heed" sequence in which troubled protagonist Eve (Emily Brown), abandoned by her friends for the weekend, acts out by dropping hallucinogens, cuddling up with a cute girl ... and marathon-watching the old BBC series Minder. The sad truth is that most drug trips are just that banal.

Biggest FFFFFFUUUUUUUUUU Moment: The Boxtrolls

It starts out as a fine, occasionally thoughtful stop-motion movie with an unusually strong (if supporting) female character. Then it takes a deeply transphobic turn when the only other female character of note turns out to be the slimy villain in drag, moonlighting as cabaret singer Miss Frou Frou, and who has of course "fooled" the male townsfolk, and FFFFFFUUUUUUUUUU...

Ickiest Omen of Things to Come: Love and Air Sex

Half of this film is a decent comedy about moving on after a breakup. The other half involves the "Air Sex World Championships" at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, in which horrible people (mostly douchey broheims) "fuck the air." Ew ew ew gross gross gross. If that's what goes on at the Drafthouse, it might be just as well if the New Mission never opens.

Best Vision of What San Francisco Should Be: Big Hero 6

Disney's first cartoon to use Marvel characters didn't have the cultural impact of the individual brands' Frozen or Guardians of the Galaxy, but it does have the year's best onscreen architecture in the form of San Fransokyo. It's just what it sounds like, a combination of Toyko and San Francisco, and it's utterly gorgeous.

Worst Vision of What San Francisco Actually Is: Godzilla

It was nice to see San Francisco as ground zero for the city-stompin' action in this American reboot of the most famous kaiju of all — or, it would have been had the filmmakers even bothered to disguise the streets of Vancouver. A budget of $160 million, and not a nickel went toward getting the rights to the actual BART logo.

The "I Just Can't Even" Critical Reaction Award: Big Eyes

Tim Burton's first great film in decades concerns the real-life artist Margaret Keene's struggles to overcome her domineering husband, Walter, who took credit for her paintings; some of the "meh" reviews complained that it focused too much on Margaret and not enough on Walter. I Just Can't Even.

Best Piece of Film Criticism from an Unlikely Source: "Hulk Vs. James Bond: Staring Into the Id of a Boner Incarnate"

Film Crit Hulk is not an easy taste to acquire — HULK WRITE IN ALL CAPS AND REFER TO HULK IN THIRD PERSON, for starters — but his roughly 80,000-word examination of the 23 canonical James Bond pictures from a strong feminist viewpoint is absolutely essential reading.

Best Dramatic Moment Nobody Will Ever Care About: My Little Pony: Equestria Girls - Rainbow Rocks

The media's snickering fascination with the demographic-spanning fanbase will probably always keep the modern Pony franchise from getting the respect it deserves, but the nighttime soul-searching between former enemies Twilight Sparkle and Sunset Shimmer is one of the most emotionally charged scenes of the year.

Best Mystery That Couldn't Have Possibly Happened, Unless It Did: Led Zeppelin Played Here

Jeff Krulik's documentary about a regional urban legend — Led Zeppelin playing at a tiny youth center in Maryland on the night of Nixon's '69 inauguration — seems like a no-brainer, because obviously that never happened. Except that Krulik makes a strong case that it may well have.

The Group "You Look Like Shit" Screenwriting Award: Rudderless, A Thousand Times Good Night...

...The Liberator, The November Man, and all the other films that made use of this most hoary of clichés. (Special acknowledgment goes to Black Sea for being the first film of 2015 to use the line.)

Jonathan Kiefer

Best Cure for Gratuitous Exposition: Under the Skin

Love it, hate it, or wonder what the hell is up with it, you certainly can't accuse Jonathan Glazer's otherworldly sci-fi freakout of being one of those movies that too frequently explains itself. Much of the film's mystique owes to being shot in part with hidden cameras, which is to say that not even the people in it knew what was going on.

Best Emerging-Economy Lodging-Establishment Dramedy Since The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Hundreds of mostly positive reviews on can't be wrong, even if the place is completely fictional.

Best Good Sport: Luke Wilson, The Skeleton Twins

For Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, as siblings working through some shared childhood trauma, this seemed like a perfunctory display of serious indie drama acting chops. But Luke Wilson, as a man oblivious to being one half of an unhappy marriage, transcended his rote role with subtlety and novelty.

Best Great Actor Due for a Big Break: Sam Rockwell

Lately the keen and congenial screen presence of this talented Bay Area native has been seeming underserved. How unjust that Better Living Through Chemistry played on local movie screens last year but Laggies never did. This year, happily, he's in the new Joe Swanberg movie, the Sam Raimi-produced Poltergeist remake, and a film about a Biblical archeologist from the director of Napoleon Dynamite. Rock well!

Better Title for The Imitation Game: Tinker Tailor Sherlock Spy

Whether or not it aptly sums up the dramatic life of Alan Turing, it certainly does epitomize the charismatic career of Benedict Cumberbatch.

Most Joyful and Joyless Movies About Young Musicians Coming of Age: We Are the Best! and Whiplash, Respectively

If the three wee proto-punks in Lukas Moodysson's frisky character study ever met the head-gaming monster bandleader in Damien Chazelle's glum thriller, they'd probably just flip him off, go home to Sweden, and write an adorably inept song about what a fartknocker he is.

Most Prosaic Expression of Poetic Ideas: Interstellar

For all his fame and financing, you'd think Christopher Nolan could dramatize the emotional and philosophical implications of time passing more quickly on the surface of a planet than in orbit thereof more adroitly than an episode of Star Trek: Voyager did 15 years ago.

Unintended Pregnancy Helpmate Award: Gaby Hoffmann

Compassionately, she was there for Reese Witherspoon in Wild, and for Jenny Slate in Obvious Child. That's a pal. Trolls may enjoy knowing that in real life she had a pregnancy of her own, intended, and publicly extolled the virtues of eating her placenta.

Wisest-Slash-Batshit-Craziest Filmmaking Advice Giver Ever: Werner Herzog

We knew this, of course, but how splendid to have it reaffirmed when Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed hit bookstore shelves last September. Sample: "Something is wrong if it takes more than five days to finish a screenplay. A story created this way will always be full of life." Sample 2: "I will rearrange my entire day to have a solid meal with friends."


About The Authors

Sherilyn Connelly

Jonathan Kiefer

SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.


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