Written by Luke Brown, Edited by Tijen Mustafa
Here we are again, taking a look at the films that left an impression on us in the past year. 2021 saw a number of huge releases, from No Time To Die to Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Reel Talk has asked around Warwick’s Film and Television department to see what was the agreed upon best of the year. With an interesting mixture of streaming exclusives and cinema releases (and more than a few surprises!), it’s time to take a look at our Alternative Oscar winners for 2021!
- West Side Story – 7 votes (3 students, 4 staff) – WINNER
- Licorice Pizza – 7 votes (6 students, 1 staff) – WINNER
- Drive My Car – 6 votes (4 students, 2 staff)
- The Power of the Dog – 6 votes (2 students, 4 staff)
- Titane – 5 votes (3 students, 2 staff)
- Dune – 4 votes (3 students, 1 staff)
- The French Dispatch – 4 votes (all students)
- The Worst Person in the World – 3 votes (2 students, 1 staff)
- Malignant – 3 votes (1 student, 2 staff)
- C’mon C’mon – 3 votes (all students)
For the first time in the Reel Talk Alternative Oscars history, we have a tie for winner! With 7 votes each, West Side Story and Licorice Pizza have both won Best Picture. Interestingly, Licorice Pizza appears to have appealed more to students than staff, judging by the 6 to 1 ratio of votes, compared to the more even split of West Side Story. As a remake of an award winning classic, directed by Steven Spielberg, it’s to be expected that West Side Story has done as well as it has (having 11 Oscar nominations), yet it only beat out the films tied for second place by one vote. Both Drive My Car and The Power of the Dog managed to garner 6 votes, with the former being more popular with students and the latter with staff. Having seen a return to cinemas occurring in full force over the last year, it is unsurprising that the number of streaming service original productions voted into the top spots has decreased since the last vote, The Power of the Dog being the only one in the top ten.
It’s also interesting to see how Warwick’s Film and TV department have voted for noticeably more non-English language films than have been nominated for Best Picture by the Academy, the only film on both lists being Drive My Car. The fact that both Titane and The Worst Person in the World are present amongst the nominated English language films here, yet are not amongst those nominated for Best Picture, may point to biases within the Academy, or maybe merely point out the preferences of those present in the department. There are also a number of films that have been nominated for Best Picture that are absent in our list, such as Belfast and Don’t Look Up, so clearly we don’t all quite agree with the Academy’s choices this year.
- Succession – 12 votes (9 students, 3 staff) – WINNER
- It’s a Sin – 7 votes (4 students, 3 staff)
- Squid Game – 4 votes (all students)
- Hawkeye – 3 votes (1 student, 2 staff)
- The White Lotus – 3 votes (1 student, 2 staff)
- Invincible – 3 votes (all students)
- Bo Burnham: Inside – 3 votes (2 students, 1 staff)
Unlike our film section, there’s a very clear winner for TV this year; Succession! With 12 votes, a whole 5 more than the show in second place, Succession was a clear favourite for both staff and students. Celebrating it’s third season, and the announcement of its fourth, Succession is doing incredibly well critically as well as with the people of the Film and TV department. Following Succession we have It’s a Sin and Squid Game, with 7 and 4 votes respectfully. Following the top three, with a large number of votes between them, the rankings get very close, with Hawkeye, The White Lotus, Invincible and Bo Burnham: Inside all getting 3 votes (Inside technically got 4 votes, however, due to it being present on both the film and tv lists). There were also 27 shows that only garnered 1 vote each, showing a huge variety in the types of things people have been watching over the past year.
- Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog) – 6 votes (3 students, 3 staff) – WINNER
- Steven Spielberg (West Side Story) – 6 votes (5 students, 1 staff) – WINNER
- Denis Villeneuve (Dune) – 2 votes (1 student, 1 staff)
- Julia Ducournau (Titane) – 2 votes (1 students, 1 staff)
- Wes Anderson (The French Dispatch) – 2 votes (all students)
Once again we have a tie, with both Jane Campion and Steven Spielberg winning! Earning 6 votes each, the two tied for first won with three times the votes of any other director on the list. Jane Campion seems to be most popular with staff (although the votes for her were an even split between them and students), however Spielberg is noticeably more popular with students. Both Campion and Spielberg are in the running for Best Director at the Oscars this year, however our other popular choices are nowhere to be seen. Spielberg is no stranger to Best Director nominations (and wins), however it is nice to see Campion garnering more nominations with The Power of the Dog than she has seen for a number of years.
- Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe (Drive My Car) – 6 votes (4 students, 2 staff) – WINNER
- Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza) – 4 votes (all students)
- Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt (The Worst Person in the World) – 3 votes (2 students, 1 staff)
- Joanna Hogg (The Souvenir: Part II) – 2 votes (1 student, 1 staff)
- Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Lost Daughter) – 2 votes (1 student, 1 staff)
- Lana Wachowski (The Matrix Resurrections) – 2 votes (all students)
Based on a short story by the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, Drive My Car is the clear winner of the Best Screenplay category! While Drive My Car clearly won, there were only 2 votes between it and Licorice Pizza, both of which have been nominated for their respective writing awards at the Oscars this year. The votes were generally very close in this category, 11 films each getting a single vote, and the top three having only 3 votes between them. As a whole, the top picks for this category were clearly more popular with students than staff, with the staff votes tending to be for films that only got one or two in total. Interestingly, The Matrix Resurrections has managed to sneak into the top six, proving that it isn’t always serious “awards films” that have the best writing.
- Alana Haim (Licorice Pizza) – 7 votes (5 students, 2 staff) – WINNER
- Agathe Rousselle (Titane)– 3 votes (1 student, 2 staff)
- Renate Reinsve (The Worst Person in the World) – 3 votes (2 students, 1 staff)
- Kristen Stewart (Spencer)– 3 votes (all students)
- Emilia Jones (CODA) – 2 votes (all staff)
- Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter) – 2 votes (1 student, 1 staff)
- Thomasin McKenzie (Last Night in Soho)– 2 votes (all students)
We have another very clear winner here: Alana Haim! As was the case with Licorice Pizza itself, it appears that Alana Haim is a student favourite, getting at least 2 more student votes than any other actress on the list. Unlike Licorice Pizza, however, Alana Haim herself isn’t nominated for any acting awards at the Oscars this year (in fact, only two of the women on our list are). Agathe Rousselle and Renate Reinsve are the next two most popular choices (with a relatively even split of student and staff votes) and are also noticeably absent from the Oscar nominations. While The Worst Person in the World (which stars Renate Reinsve) is present in a couple of Oscar categories, both Agathe Rousselle and the film she stars in, Titane, are not to be found anywhere despite the very impressive critical response. Once again, it’s clear that what the Academy looks for in its nominees is not always what is popular with critics, or the general audience.
- Andrew Garfield (Tick, Tick… BOOM!) – 6 votes (5 students, 1 staff) – WINNER
- Nicolas Cage (Pig) – 4 votes (2 students, 2 staff)
- Stephen Graham (Boiling Point) – 3 votes (2 students, 1 staff)
- Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Power of the Dog) – 2 votes (all staff)
- Mike Faist (West Side Story) – 2 votes (1 student, 1 staff)
- Vincent Lindon (Titane) – 2 votes (1 student, 1 staff)
- Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog) – 2 votes (all students)
Another clear winner for Best Actor: Andrew Garfield! With six votes in total, five of these being student votes, Garfield is the student favourite for Best Actor this year. Many people remember Andrew Garfield for his take on Spider-Man (spoilers ahead – a role he reprised in the past year for No Way Home) however it is nice to see him getting recognition for his other acting ventures. The runner-up to Garfield is an actor who has been in a strange place for many years: Nicolas Cage. Whether you think he’s great, awful, or somewhere in between, it’s hard to argue against the fact that, in the past few years, Cage has been in a number of undeniably good films. From Mandy to Pig, its good to see Nic Cage getting some love.
Interestingly, some of the main actors from some of this year’s most popular films appear to be less popular choices for Best Actor. Benedict Cumberbatch, for example, who starred in The Power of the Dog, only garnered 2 votes in comparison to Garfield’s 6. Cooper Hoffman, lead star of Licorice Pizza, only managed to get a singular vote for his role in one of the films that secured Best Picture.
- Titane – 5 votes (all students) – WINNER
- The French Dispatch – 3 votes (2 students, 1 staff)
- Mike Faist – 2 votes (all staff)
- Denis Villeneuve – 2 votes (all students)
- Alana Haim – 2 votes (all students)
Finally, we have the Most Snubbed category. With a mixture of actors, directors and films, this year’s most snubbed winner is: Titane! Getting 5 votes, all students, Titane wins by just two votes, having just beaten Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch. Titane, as previously mentioned, released to great critical success (having won the Palme d’Or) and yet not a single individual involved in the film has been nominated for an Oscar. Titane’s lack of nominations at the Oscars shines a light on exactly what the Academy looks for (or, rather, doesn’t look for) in the films that it chooses to nominate, as the overwhelming critical success of the film evidently means little to nothing in the Academy’s mind.
Overall, this category was highly populated with films, directors and actors that each only got a singular vote, 13 of them not making it into the top five by only a single vote. It’s clear that we all have a number of people or films we feel were overlooked by the Oscars, and the voting throughout the whole of the Alternative Oscars has shown this.
While some of our choices here do align with the nominations for this year’s Oscars, only time will tell how closely they resemble the actual outcome. Will West Side Story or Licorice Pizza win Best Picture? Will Andrew Garfield win Best Actor? Will the Academy suddenly turn around and give Titane the attention it rightly deserves? We’ll have to wait and see. But here’s what we can tell: there have been many amazing films and TV shows released over the last year, and their quality isn’t dictated by the Academy’s recognition. Whether you agree with this list or not, we hope you’ve enjoyed reading our thoughts on the 2021 Oscars, and we wish you a great awards season!