The 7th Annual Sheist Film Awards

I may be way behind schedule…way, way, way behind…but I did not forget! Timeliness went out the window a long time ago and my apologies for that, but I need to do this to do it. There are still a few films I wanted to see from 2023 that I couldn’t quite get around to, and a couple of months away just added more to my plate, but my final count for the ’23 cinema year was 185 films. So, in the interest of moving with my midway report for 2024 on deck, let’s get the ball rolling on the 7th Annual Sheist Film Awards with the most readily accessible stuff first.

Best of Streaming

This has become an increasingly tricky category because so many of the streaming services proclaim “original film” in their branding when it’s a distribution deal that the streamers’ studio didn’t produce. So, for all intents and purposes, “Best of Streaming” refers to films that debuted on a streaming service or had a limited theatrical release but were produced (at least in part) by a streamers’ production company. You will see it gets a little cloudy, so maybe I’ll move on from this next year.


Written & Directed by: Brian Helgeland

Stars: Ben Foster, Toby Wallace, Jenna Ortega


Written & Directed by: Matt Ruskin

Stars: Keira Knightley, Carrie Coon, Chris Cooper


Director(s): Roger Ross Williams | Writer(s): David Teague, Roger Ross Williams

Stars: Gael García Bernal, Roberta Colindrez, Perla De La Rosa, Bad Bunny


Director(s): Lisa Cortes

Stars: Little Richard, Ralph Harper, Newt Collier


Director(s): David Gelb

Stars: Kevin Feige, Jack Kirby, J.C. Lee


Director(s): Martin Scorsese | Writer(s): Eric Roth, Martin Scorsese, David Grann

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone


Director(s): Bradley Cooper | Writer(s): Bradley Cooper, Josh Singer

Stars: Carey Mulligan, Bradley Cooper, Matt Bomer

Now That We’ve Got All That Out of the Way, Let’s Get to the Fun Stuff!


Director(s): Wim Wenders | Writer(s): Wim Wenders, Takuma Takasaki

Music Supervisor: Milena Fessmann

Stars: Koji Yakusho, Tokio Emoto, Arisa Nakano


Written & Directed by: Ari Aster

Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Patti Lupone, Amy Ryan, Parker Posey


Written & Directed by: Laura McGann

Stars: Alessia Zecchini, Stephen Keenan, Leigh Baker


Director(s): Chad Stahelski | Writer(s): Shay Hatten, Michael Finch, Derek Kolstad

Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, George Georgiou, Bill Skarsgård


Director(s): Takashi Yamazaki | Writer(s): Ishirô Honda, Takeo Murata, Takashi Yamazaki

Stars: Minami Hamabe, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Sakura Andô


Directors: Jimmy Chin & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi | Writers: Julia Cox, Diana Nyad

Stars: Annette Benning, Jodie Foster, Anne Marie Kempf


Written & Directed by: Kristoffer Borgli

Stars: Nicolas Cage, Lily Bird, Julianne Nicholson


Ayo EdebiriTheater Camp, Bottoms, The Sweet East, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

Archie MadekweBeau Is Afraid, Gran Turismo, Heart of Stone, Saltburn


Cord Jefferson American Fiction, Oscar-winning Adapted Screenplay

Celine SongPast Lives, Oscar-nominated Original Screenplay


Zac EfronThe Iron Claw

While Efron didn’t exactly disappear, there was a string of ill-received and/or underwhelming projects since his career-altering turn as Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile in 2019. His stock was probably as high as ever (dramatically, at least) after that role but it was four years between that and this wildly impressive performance in Sean Durkin’s family wrestling drama. Generally speaking, it’s also one of the most slept-on films of 2023 and Zac is the anchor. It’s got the juice!


Director: Wes Anderson

Writers: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola

There seems to be a growing aversion to Wes Anderson films, or maybe just Anderson himself, but the talent he summons is second to none, and Asteroid City has a pair of command performances in Jason Schwartzman & Scarlett Johansson, bolstered by an impeccable cast. Primarily: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Maya Hawke, Rupert Friend, Jeffrey Wright, Tom Hanks, Steve Carell, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Hong Chau, Bob Balaban, Fisher Stevens, Sophia Lillis, Hope Davis, Liev Schreiber, and Steve Park.


Sandra Huller – We were gifted an exceptional performance from Sandra in Anatomy of a Fall that was arguably the best performance of the year, but given her turn in The Zone of Interest and her work in Sisi & I, I am confident and comfortable giving her POTY.

Nicolas Cage – Cage has a similar case as his performance in Dream Scenario is right up there with the best of the year, then add in the fact that he never mails in a performance so we get strong performances in Renfield, The Retirement Plan, Sympathy for the Devil, a cameo as Superman, and then two more interesting character pieces, in Westerns no less, The Old Way and Butcher’s Crossing. Say what you will, 2023 belonged to Nic Cage.


Martin Scorsese

Working on one sweeping period epic is enough work, but taking on a passion project like Personality Crisis while also producing another handful of films all in the same year is super impressive, especially at 82. All the praise and the glory to Marty.

Now Let’s Take a Look at the More “Serious” Categories


Written & Directed by: Jonathan Glazer | Novel: Martin Amis

The film starts with several minutes of droning binaural wave sounds and never really relents from there, mixing in jarring pivots between silence and cacophony to great effect.


“I’m Just Ken”Barbie | Music and Lyrics: Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt

While Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell took home the Oscar for “What Was I Made For?”, when looking back at the film or even the Oscars, it’s clear to see which song had the broader and longer-lasting cultural impact.


Ludwig GöranssonOppenheimer

Kind of an easy choice, but I was considering Naoki Sato for Godzilla Minus One which has an excellent score as well. However, Sato’s score smartly folds in compositions from Akira Ifukube’s original Godzilla score and it’s amazing, but Göransson gets the nod.


Holly WaddingtonPoor Things

There’s always a certain level of fascination with colonial-style costume design that tends to give it an advantage over more contemporary costume design when it comes to awards season. I was very tempted to give this to Jacqueline Durran for Barbie because of the vibrancy and importance of clothing choices to the characters’ identity but the freedom of expression in Waddington’s work, given that it’s not a traditional “period piece” as much as it’s fantasy, gives it the edge for me. Another honorable mention to Paco Delgado for his wonderful contemporary designs for John Wick: Chapter 4.


Shona Heath & James PricePoor Things

I’m not always in lock step with the Academy, but when it comes to the visual richness of Poor Things I have to give the edge over the other contenders for similar reasons as with costume design. The surreal fantasy aspect of it is more appealing to me than something like Barbie or Oppenheimer.


Stephane Ceretti, Alexis Wajsbrot, Guy Williams, and Theo BialekGuardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Punching down on Marvel films has become popular in recent years but GOTG Vol. 3 shouldn’t be on the receiving end of that vitriol. If this was a bang-for-buck/pound-for-pound award, the Godzilla fan in me would give it to the Minus One team. I’m happy they got the Oscar.


Edward LachmanEl Conde

It was always going to be tough to compete with the likes of Oppenheimer, Barbie, and Poor Things but El Conde was one of the most compelling viewing experiences of the year because of how it’s shot.

Alright, Let’s Get to the Big Dogs!


Directors: Nick Bruno & Troy Quane | Writers: Robert L. Baird, Lloyd Taylor, Pamela Ribon, Marc Haimes, Nick Bruno, Troy Quane, Keith Bunin, Nate Stevenson (novel)

This one may get the most pushback because it was a great year for animated features. Had I seen Robot Dreams sooner than this summer, that would have gotten my vote. Add that to a field with great films like Boy and the Heron, TMNT: Mutant Mayhem, and Across the Spider-Verse, and you can’t really go wrong with any of em. Nimona just surprised me the most.


Director: J.A. Bayona | Writers: J.A. Bayona, Bernat Vilaplana, Jaime Marques

This is maybe the most competitive category on the card. I am a Godzilla purist, to the core, so the fact that this wasn’t automatic for me says a lot about restraint. There were a dozen or so legitimate contenders and two of those (The Zone of Interest and Anatomy of a Fall) were rightfully given Best Picture consideration. So, I omitted them from my selection process to give some others a chance and I kept coming back to Society of the Snow. It’s raw, intense, authentic, gripping…I couldn’t ask for more.


Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret – Kelly Fremon Craig (Screenplay), Judy Blume (book)

So, things are a little murky with the Adapted Screenplay “rules”. Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret feels like a very faithful and well-executed adaptation of Judy Blume’s book and the screenplay is a huge part. However, Barbie is based on intellectual property but not a literary work, television show, comic, or previous film, and Gerwig and Baumbach were still nominated as such. There are a lot of heavy hitters in this category with all five Oscar nominations also up for Best Picture, but that’s why I do this. Sometimes it’s easy for the Academy to forget or dismiss films from earlier in the year, but I don’t.


David Hemingson – The Holdovers

This is another strong category, both based on what the Oscars nominated and just in general. I’m re-reading the list of eligible screenplays, and it’s staggering. The Holdovers works for me best in that so much of the meat of the movie’s strength is in its character interactions. I understand screenplays are more than dialogue, but I feel like well-written characters are harder to come by than well-written scenes. I’m not upset with the hardware going to Anatomy of a Fall.


Penélope Cruz – Ferrari

How Penélope, and this movie in general, were so widely dismissed is puzzling. I’m sure part of that is due to the movie underperforming and not being the kind of high-profile race movie as say Ford V. Ferrari, for example. Even I was let down by that, but then the more I thought about it as a biopic of the man and not an ad for the cars, it gained more ground. However, one readily apparent thing was Cruz elevating the project. No shade toward Da’Vine, I’m happy she got the Oscar.


Glenn HowertonBlackberry

Another film and performance that got sorta buried as awards season rolled on was Glenn Howerton’s intensely dramatic turn in Blackberry. It could be because this was one of several true stories of the same ilk with Pinball, Tetris, Dumb Money, Air, and even Gran Turismo to some degree. That said, Howerton is a powerhouse in this film and deserves the credit as such. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for RDJ to get the Oscar for his role in Oppenheimer. He was near the top of the leaderboard for me, but I would have had him around fourth or fifth.


Emma StonePoor Things

This ended up becoming pretty much a two-horse race down the final stretch of awards season between her and Lily Gladstone, and rightfully so. I think that says more about the vehicles available than the quality of the performers, but the only other name I’d lump into the mix would be Sandra Hüller. I wound up giving the light edge to Emma because of the physicality required of the performance and the fact that she is the focal point of the film in a way that Hüller and Lily Gladstone aren’t.


Cillian MurphyOppenheimer

A showcase role like this for Murphy was long overdue and, fortunately, Christopher Nolan was the man to provide it. What sets this performance apart from some of the others of 2023 was not just the haunting revelation of being responsible for the large-scale evaporation of life, but balancing that with the ambition of a person who just enjoyed the scientific part of engineering a problem. It’s hard not to be happy for Murphy who is as humble as they come.


Great GerwigBarbie

For the third time in three attempts (Lady Bird, Little Women, and now Barbie.), Greta Gerwig finds her film nominated for Best Picture with only one Best Director nom to show for it. It’s clear that she is among the best working directors today, and she’s positioning herself for a “legacy win” similar to other nominees who have great work and end up winning for something because it’s past due. However, what she did with Barbie may be her crowning achievement in terms of taking what is essentially a two-hour toy commercial and fleshing it out with real characters and an entire world to make it so much more than that. That’s not to say there weren’t other fantastic directors in the competition, she was working off essentially a blank slate where four of the other director nominees were working from adapted material. The only one who wasn’t was the lone woman in the nominee pool, Justine Triet (Anatomy of a Fall). So, I’m comfortable with my decision.


Producer: James Wilson | Director: Jonathan Glazer | Writers: Jonathan Glazer (screenplay), Martin Amis (novel)

I thought 2023 was an excellent year for film and it could have been an all-timer if the strike hadn’t resulted in numerous delays of high-profile films that are now 2024 standouts. However, none of them stuck with me in the way The Zone of Interest did. Part experimental, part period drama, it felt contemporary and fresh in a way that a lot of movies that focus on the WWII era (of which there are myriad) don’t. It is unsettling to just watch Nazis be people while also being Nazis, but it’s interjected into a larger narrative about passivity and indifference. Plus, the more I learned about the technical side of making the film, the more impressive it is as a piece of filmmaking. *It did take home the Oscar for Best International Feature.

Best of the Rest

As I just mentioned, 2023 was a great year and it’s important to acknowledge that there are good movies out there that weren’t award winners, either here or elsewhere, but were part of the consideration process in putting this together. So, this is the part where I recognize all those movies.

Across the Spider VerseDumb MoneyOriginDungeons & Dragons
A Thousand and OneThe Boys in the BoatSaltburnTMNT: Mutant Mayhem
AirTheater CampRed, White, and BlueThe Boy and the Heron
Fallen LeavesMI: Dead Reckoning Part 1Ninety-Five SensesThe Killer
PassagesThey Cloned TyroneStill: A Michael J. Fox MovieTetris
Rye LaneSick of MyselfYou Hurt My FeelingsBottoms
All of Us StrangersBruiserMaster GardenerMonster

The Sheist List

If you are still with me, firstly, I commend you. Secondly, it’s time for my favorite part of the whole thing. These movies are just some of my favorites that cover the whole spectrum of quality but speak to my taste.

Smoking Causes CoughingThe BlackeningBiosphere
Shin UltramanInsideThe Pod Generation
Door MousePlaneDicks: The Musical
May/DecemberThe Old WayDivinity
EileenNo Hard FeelingsAppendage
Evil Dead RiseJohnny & ClydeSympathy for the Devil
LinoleumMoon Garden

Thanks for reading! Word of mouth is still the best way to help. So, if you enjoy what I’m doing, please tell somebody. And if you have a comment, I’d love to hear it! Liking, subscribing, and sharing go a long way too. As usual, be well, be safe, and have fun no matter how you get your movies!

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