We are well and truly in the middle of awards season now so it is time for the second annual Shuggie Awards. The Shuggies celebrate the best in film from 2017 across 7 major categories. To qualify to be eligible for a Shuggie a film must be a new release that I got to see in the year 2017, this generally follows UK release dates, with the only real exception being films I get to see early at film festivals. Without further delay let’s get into the first award.
Best Actor – James McAvoy (Split) – I didn’t love M. Night Shyamalan’s Split, it was an ok film elevated by a genuinely incredible performance from James McAvoy. It can’t be easy to play multiple characters in the film, so for McAvoy to play Kevin, someone with 23 distinct personalities was incredible. Sure we spent time with a core four or five personalities, but every single one felt like their own unique characters, and the way that he went between them was masterful. It was a performance that terrified and amused in equal measure. He made you root for some aspects of Kevin, whilst truly loathing others. I think if Split hadn’t been such an early film in the year, and wasn’t in a genre that the big awards tend to ignore then McAvoy could have genuinely been a huge front runner in most awards shows, but alas he will have to make do with his Shuggie Award.
Best Actress – Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth): Lady Macbeth certainly wasn’t the biggest film in the world, but Florence Pugh’s performance as Katherine Lester, a young woman forced into a loveless marriage with an older man, is sensational. Starting the film as a meek and controlled woman the way that Pugh conveys her growing confidence and self-assurance over time immaculately. Lady Macbeth was a film that hung on Pugh’s performance. If she hadn’t got it absolutely right then the film would have fallen apart, but she handles that pressure with such assurance for a young actress, and delivers something truly worthy of a Shuggie Award. And as her performance in Lady Macbeth was so good I cannot wait to she what she manages playing wrestler Paige in Stephen Merchant’s Fighting With Me Family and Elizabeth de Burgh in David Mackenzie’s Outlaw King.
Best Animated Film – Eiga Koe no Katachi (A Silent Voice): Coming from Japan Eiga Koe no Katachi or A Silent Voice is a powerful animated teen drama revolving around the subjects of bullying and depression, but also redemption and forgiveness. It is rare in a story about bullying that you will see the focus being on the bully Shoya Ishida, but that is what A Silent Voice does so well, it shows the other side and the ostracisation that Ishida suffers and his subsequent attempts to make amends. It is truly a heartfelt and moving story that tackles important themes from a perspective we don’t get to see depicted enough on film. And that is why A Silent Voice is deserving of this year’s Shuggie Award for Best Animated Film.
Best Foreign Language Film – Raw: Julia Ducourau’s coming of age horror film is as shocking and disturbing as it is brilliant. It’s not hard to see why a film about a young woman experimenting with cannibalism at veterinary has been passed over for major contention during awards season, but there is so much more to Raw, with a deep symbolism, incredible performances from Garance Marillier and Ella Rumpf, and stunning directorial work from Ducourau. Raw is not a film that everyone will love, the graphic violence and gore will put some people including the award bodies off, but there is no doubting the brilliant craftsmanship behind the film. So if the big award shows won’t recognise Raw in the Best Foreign Language Film categories, then The Shuggies will have to.
Best Screenplay – The Big Sick (Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani): Comedy is a hard thing to get right, and a comedy drama is even harder. With The Big Sick Gordon and Nanjiani managed to not only make one of the funniest screenplays of the year, but also successful balanced the comedy with the drama element. It may have helped that they were basing the film of their own story of meeting and falling in love, meaning that there was an inherent personal connection to it that allowed them to create something so wonderful and relatable. The film is hilarious throughout, and the way Gordon and Nanjiani managed to build in some of the stand up comedy into the film was brilliantly done. Every character was so well written and fleshed out that even the smaller characters felt like real people that you cared about. Most importantly The Big Sick contains a couple of minutes of pure cricket talk, and what other screenplay in 2017 can boast that?
Best Director – Jordan Peele (Get Out): For Best Director I have chosen to celebrate someone who pulled off a big shock. Mainly known as a comedy actor there wouldn’t have been too many people who expected his debut film to be one of the finest horrors of the decade, let alone the year. But here we are and Get Out continues to be one of the best-loved films of the year. Peele’s work as director on the film is absolutely exceptional, with the levels of foreshadowing that he brings into the film appearing on par with Edgar Wright in the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, and necessitating at least a second viewing of the film. The way Peele builds tension in the film without falling back on cheap horror clichés or jump scares was masterful. And he achieved all of this without ever losing the message of the film. A wonderful debut as a director, and one that leaves us excited for what he will do next.
Best Film – Call Me By Your Name – It was an incredibly close run thing between Call Me By Your Name and last year’s Oscar Best Picture winner Moonlight for the 2018 Shuggie’s Award for Best Film. Both films were powerful films surround the LGBT+ community. But in the end I’ve gone for Call Me By Your Name for Best Film purely because it was a more joyous experience for me. Where Moonlight was a film about someone who closed off their sexuality well into adulthood, Call Me By Your Name is about someone who opens themselves up to first love. Call Me By Your Name was a masterpiece is direction, screenwriting, acting, score and soundtrack, and cinematography amongst many other things. The scene between Timothée Chamalet’s and Michael Stuhlbarg as Elio and his father toward the end of the film may just be the best of the year, and the final shot will stay with you for a long time.