One of the great pleasures of my career is being a member of GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics.
As well as highlighting the work of LGBTQ+ critics (call me biased, but as an LGBTQ+ critic I think that’s a good idea), the group has its own set of awards, the Dorian Awards. First nominations are in January – a time to make some out there picks in the hope they make the shortlists. And I love an out there pick – my ballot included Björk in The Northman and Jenny Slate in Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, after all.
Once these votes are all in, the final nominations are released to the public – a moment that’s always one of joy (yes, my support of Moonage Daydream got it multiple nominations) and misery (ugh, my hatred of Babylon did not stop it getting multiple nominations). Then, we all get to vote again for those final consensus winners.
Last week, I submitted my final ballot for the Dorian Awards 2023. Here are my choices. Praise and judge according.
Film of the Year
Nominees: Aftersun, The Banshees of Inisherin, Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Fabelmans, Tár
Make whatever doom-laden pronouncements about the future of cinema you want, but that is an entirely 9-or-10-out-of-10 line-up of films, without more questionable Academy-nominated fare like Elvis or Triangle of Sadness.
Any of these would be worthy winners. EEAAO points to a thrilling future of original maximalist filmmaking. The Fabelmans is a cinematic genius finally telling a story he’s been alluding to for decades. Banshees is screenwriter cinema at its finest, with some undeniable performances. Tár is an ocean of a film, with more to discover the deeper you dive.
A vote for EEAAO may seem like the vote for the future of film, but for me the minor-key storytelling of Aftersun triumphs over the psychedelic bombast of the Daniels’ film. That such a small scale film by a first-time female direction about repression could stand up against big guns like Stephen Spielberg is truly exciting.
LGBTQ Film of the Year
Nominees: Benediction, Bros, Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Inspection, Tár
Another strong set of films. Any new Terrence Davies film is worth celebrating, and his melancholic Siegfried Sassoon biopic deserves a wider audience. Though it had much wider resources behind it, Bros also deserves to be more seen. I can understand why gay audiences would have been turned off my the self-righteousness of some of its press tour, but it’s a funny and charming rom-com that understands how self-hatred can hold queer people back.
EEAAO works fine as a story of coming to terms with an LGBTQ+ child, but I can’t bring myself to award LGBTQ Film of the Year to straight directors. That would also eliminate Tár, even though of course “I am Petra’s father” is already lesbian canon.
The Inspection is the beautifully made story of a gay marine under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, based on the director’s own story. It would be a worthy winner, but it can’t compete with Terrence Davies and Benediction – after all, Davies has been telling stories of repression for decades.
Director(s) of the Year
Todd Field (Tár), Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All at Once), Martin McDonagh, (The Banshees of Inisherin), Sarah Polley (Women Talking), Charlotte Wells (Aftersun)
Frankly, Spielberg’s absence from this category is indicative of how we take him for granted, but that’s a conversation for another day. Tár has some indelible moments (Lydia Tár’s lecture might be the scene of the year), and Sarah Polley manages to bring life into what could just be people in a barn in Women Talking. Banshees is undeniably a well-made film, even if Martin McDonagh has to share the directing credit with the visual power of the Irish countryside.
Fighting it out for my top spot of EEAAO and Aftersun. The latter might be the most-directed movie of the year (with the possible exception of RRR, another snub in this category). The former is amazingly assured for a debut, but I think Everything Everywhere All At Once might just edge it out, especially as my fatigue with its domination of awards season has probably led me to underrate it in other categories.
Screenplay of the Year
Todd Field (Tár), Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All at Once), Martin McDonagh (The Banshees of Inisherin), Sarah Polley (Women Talking), Charlotte Wells (Aftersun)
Clearly it’s been a good year for writer-directors, with the screenplay nominations matching the directorial ones exactly (they have even snubbed the same film – Tony Kushner was robbed a place here for The Fabelmans). Aftersun making both lists is puzzling – for me, it is a film about what is not said and is conveyed through Paul Mescal’s physicality.
EEAAO could take this for the sheer breadth of ideas in the Daniels’ script, but no script this year can deliver the pathos and poetry of The Banshees of Inishirin. Who else but Martin McDonagh could make a fascinating film about a man so dull his best friend would rather mutilate himself than talk to him?
Non-English Language Film of the Year
All Quiet on the Western Front, Close, Decision to Leave, EO, RRR
A rare year where the foreign language choices are outstripped by the English language ones. Decision to Leave is probably the film I’ve underrated the most this year, but I found its laconic murder mystery fairly inpenetrable – Park Chan-Wook’s more immediate films like The Handmaiden work better for me.
Close I found a puzzling watch, which I can’t help but think would have been better had it focused on the other boy in its central duo. All Quiet on the Western Front’s award season explosion has been slightly baffling to me, with the film feeling like a fairly rote war film that never improves on the 1930 Best Picture-winning version. As for EO, the faintly psychedelic stuff is fun, and I’ll just watch Au Hasard Balthazar for the rest.
That leaves RRR, the most singularly enjoyable film I saw in 2022. And I do mean singular – where else will you see a man throw a motorcycle at a tiger?! Every franchise filmmaker should be forced to mainline this film until they learn how to have fun again.
Unsung Film of the Year
Aftersun, After Yang, Benediction, The Eternal Daughter, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, The Menu, Emily the Criminal
I have some questions over exactly how ‘unsung’ some of these were. Aftersun and The Menu were everywhere in my admittedly very Letterbox-y bubble, and Emily the Criminal got Aubrey Plaza an SNL hosting gig.
Two of my favourites actresses battling it out here, with Emma Thompson in Leo Grande going against Tilda Swinton in The Eternal Daughter. But much as I want to sing their praises at every available opportunity, After Yang is taking my vote here. Terrence Davies and Benediction are surely unsung, but I’m singing its song for Best LGBTQ Film. After Yang, meanwhile, feels genuinely unsung – even among Colin Farrell fans, it is getting overshadowed by Banshees, even if he gives one of his most tender performances in the sci-fi film.
Film Performance of the Year
Cate Blanchett (Tár), Austin Butler (Elvis), Viola Davis (The Woman King), Danielle Deadwyler (Till), Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin), Brendan Fraser (The Whale), Mia Goth (Pearl), Paul Mescal (Aftersun), Jeremy Pope (The Inspection), Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once)
Blanchett is an undeniable force of nature, and perhaps one of the only people who could make you empathise with such a cancelable character. However, she, Colin Farrell, Brendan Fraser and Michelle Yeoh are getting enough plaudits elsewhere.
With that in mind, I want to do my tiny part to make up for Danielle Deadwyler being snubbed by the Oscars. Between Deadwyler in Till and Alfre Woodard in Clemency, director Chinonye Chukwu is now two-for-two in getting career-best performances from her actors. Watch Deadwyler’s heartbreaking Mamie Till after seeing her tomboyish turn in 2021’s The Harder They Fall and marvel at her range.
Supporting Film Performance of the Year
Angela Bassett (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), Hong Chau (The Whale), Jaime Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere All at Once), Dolly De Leon (Triangle of Sadness), Nina Hoss (Tár), Stephanie Hsu (Everything Everywhere All at Once), Barry Keoghan (The Banshees of Inisherin), Janelle Monáe (Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery), Keke Palmer (Nope), Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All at Once)
Barry Keoghan is one of the young actors I’m most excited about, and his role of Colin Farrell’s simple-minded friend showed greater emotional range from an actor who’s usually terrifying. But the drum I’ve been beating this entire award season is Stephanie Hsu. Every time an EEAAO actor won an award while she remained un-nominated I got slowly more furious (no shade to Ke Huy Quan, but I don’t get it).
She is the emotional heart of that film, and deserves to be recognised as such over people who do less with less.
Documentary of the Year
All The Beauty and the Bloodshed, Fire of Love, Good Night Oppy, Moonage Daydream, Navalny
There were things I like in all the nominations, even if there is stuff that doesn’t work for me in all but one of the nominees (my most unhinged take of the season – All the Beauty would work better without all the protest footage).
But those four docs could be note perfect and they would still lose out to my film of 2022, Moonage Daydream. I found the opening so overwhelming at the BFI IMAX that I spontaneously burst into tears, and the film as a whole was the perfect tribute to Bowie and his cherry-picking of all the best ideas the 20th century had to offer.
LGBTQ Documentary of the Year
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, Framing Agnes, Moonage Daydream, Nelly & Nadine, Sirens
Monage Daydream. Moonage Daydream. Moonage Daydream. We will never know how much of a put-on provocation Bowie’s bisexuality was, but to me this film is at its core a queer film. So much of what I love about being in the LBTQ+ community is how being different from others forces you to look to other sources to find things that speak to you – and that process is exactly what the documentary is about.
Animated Film of the Year
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, Marcel The Shell with Shoes On, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, Turning Red, Wendell & Wild
Talking of films that made me cry, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. Had I had my choice, Jenny Slate’s voice work in this unbearably moving story of grief would have been a wildcard choice for Best Lead Performance. Plus, none of those other films feature a shell with shoes on, so…
Film Music of the Year
Babylon, Elvis, RRR, Tár, Women Talking
Absurd to me that Elvis, which does actively egregious things with The King’s music, should be nominated over the beautifully curated Moonage Daydream soundtrack, but such is life.
There could be no other winner for me here than RRR. Naatu Naatu forever.
Visually Striking Film of the Year
Avatar: The Way of Water, Babylon, Everything Everywhere All at Once, Nope, RRR
Babylon is like being visually struck in the eye with a sharp pencil. Any of the others would be worthy winner. Avatar 2 is truly immersive, EEAAO gave us hundreds of visually rich worlds. As for RRR: Motorcycle. Tiger.
Nope has the lead for me, however, as its visuals are so integral to its message about the power of cinematic looking. Nope contains an entire history of film in it, and not just in the tacked way that Babylon does.
Campiest Flick of the Year
Babylon, Bodies Bodies Bodies, Elvis, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Pearl, RRR
I can see why we have this category as an LGBTQ+ voting body, but it always seems to me the weirdest mix of bad-but-enjoyable, wild rides and standard Hollywood fare with a slightly offbeat vibe. Not sure Susan Sontag would class any of the nominees as camp, but I’m giving Bodies Bodies Bodies the win because Rachel Sennott’s performance made me cackle in a very gay way (she would have been my pick for a wildcard Best Supporting Performance nod).
Rising Star Award
Austin Butler, Frankie Corio, Stephanie Hsu, Gabriel LaBelle, Jenna Ortega, Jeremy Pope
I’m not one of the 38 billion people Netflix says watched Wednesday, so no Jenna Ortega. No one in this list really grabs me like rising stars of yesteryear like Barry Keoghan or Lucas Hedges, but Stephanie Hsu gets my vote for the same reasons that made her my Best Supporting Performance pick.
Wilde Artist Award
To a truly groundbreaking force in film, theater and/or television
Cate Blanchett, Billy Eichner, Janelle Monáe, Keke Palmer, Michelle Yeoh
Each GALECA member will have their own take for who to vote for here, but for me LGBTQ-identifying individuals should be first in the queue (though of course I would vote for Tilda Swinton in a second so guess I’m a hypocrite).
As such, Janelle Monae is the perfect nominee – LGBTQ+, a genuinely groundbreaking force, and having a big year post-Glass Onion.
For an actor or performer whose exemplary career is marked by character, wisdom and wit; alternates yearly between male and female / non-binary honorees
RuPaul Andre Charles, Nathan Lane, Tom Hanks, Anthony Hopkins, Bill Nighy
Same rules apply here. I just can’t bring myself to vote for RuPaul – at this point, I’ve had to sit through so many lackluster episodes of Drag Races and/or episodes whose convoluted twists made me pull what little hair I have left out.
I love Bill Nighy (especially in Living, for which we have snubbed him) and Anthony Hopkins’ habit of writing ‘no acting required’ on dodgy scripts is a camp queeny move. But my self-imposed LGBTQ rule leads me to Nathan Lane, which I’m perfectly happy with – it does feel remiss that we have not awarded him such an award yet.