The 38th annual Association of Alternative Newsmedia Convention was held in Salt Lake City last Saturday and it was there they distributed the AAN Awards. The AAN Awards highlights the best alternative journalism of the year in writing, design, and multimedia out of a field of over 920 entries from the U.S. and Canada.
There are numerous AAN categories within the writing field, including food writing, music writing, beat reporting, and LGBT/Gender Equality coverage, but here at Criticwire, we’re going to focus on the arts writing, specifically the movies. Chris McCoy of the “Memphis Flyer” won second place in the Arts Criticism (circulation under 45,000) category for his reviews of “Finding Vivian Maier,” “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” and “Birdman, or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance.” Here’s McCoy on “Jodorowsky’s Dune”:
“There are two movies I recommend to aspiring filmmakers: “Raiders Of The Lost Ark: The Adaptation,” in which three kids from Mississippi worked for seven years to do a shot-for-shot remake of the Lucas/Spielberg classic; and “Lost In La Mancha,” a documentary about genius director Terry Gilliam trying and failing to make his version of “Don Quixote.” The former shows what you can accomplish with only determination and resourcefulness; the latter shows that your determination and resourcefulness may not be enough. I now have a third film to recommend: “Jodorowsky’s Dune.” Alejandro Jodorowsky is a Chilean director whose 1970, El Topo, is an “acid western” that is called the first modern cult film. John Lennon happened to be in the cult and funded Jodorowsky’s next film, “The Holy Mountain,” a psychedelic masterpiece that features, among other indescribable sequences, a cast of live frogs, toads, and lizards reenacting the conquistador conquest of the Aztecs. I’m not making that up.”
Next, we have Amy Nicholson of the L.A. Weekly who won first place in the Arts Criticism (circulation over 45,000) for her reviews of “American Sniper,” “The Boxtrolls,” and “Calvary.” Here’s an excerpt from her “Calvary” review:
“Like his brother Martin, the British playwright of ‘The Pillowman’ and ‘The Lieutenant of Inishmore’ (and director of ‘In Bruges,’ another philosophical comedy that hinges on killing a priest), McDonagh specializes in literate tragicomedies that show off their talents while tearing up the image of Ireland as a postcard place of cheery hills and big-grinning drunks. That’s blarney. Modern Ireland is in a fascinating moment of self-reflection and deserves storytellers such as the McDonagh brothers, who give the country’s struggles weight if not quite dignity. Even the stereotypes seem aware that they’re stereotypes. Sighs Gillen, ‘The atheistic doctor, it’s a cliché part to play,’ a line that gets a giggle but is too self-aware to register as more than McDonagh beating us to the punch. When another character, a reclusive old novelist (M. Emmet Walsh), breezily insists, ‘My whole life is an affectation,’ Father James blurts, ‘That’s one of those lines that sounds witty but doesn’t actually make sense.’ Everyone besides Gleeson is forced to act like a bow tie–wearing, lollipop-sucking, cocaine-snorting kook. There’s even a bit part for a gay hustler (Owen Sharpe) who talks like Jimmy Cagney and wears the only other crucifix in town. They’re all vibrating on a wackier frequency than Gleeson, pinging off him like cheap BB gun pellets while he gives the film more gravitas than the other characters deserve. He has the odd ability to take up most of the space on a screen while seeming almost see-through — his face hardly moves, but all his vulnerabilities are laid bare.”
Finally, Scott Renshaw of the Salt Lake City Weekly won the third place prize in the same category for his reviews of “Edge of Tomorrow,” “Magic in the Moonlight,” and “St. Vincent.” From his “Edge of Tomorrow” review:
“So what the hell does any of this have to do with couples therapy? It’s there, if you look, in the central relationship between Cage and Sgt. Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a soldier already legendary for her Mimic-killing prowess largely because she too was once caught in a repeating loop. While the repeated days provide Cage a chance to learn from his mistakes on the battlefield and try to defeat the Mimics, they also offer him a chance to grow up. Vrataski may never remember Cage from one repeated cycle to the next, but she matters more and more to him every time. And when it begins to appear that Vrataski can’t survive a particular key moment in the cycle, his own survival starts to mean less than finding a way they can survive together. Great genre work has always been a way to explore human nature, wrapped in monsters and mayhem to help the medicine go down. ‘Edge of Tomorrow’s’ simple, smart pleasures include a look at how many screw-ups it can take to learn there may be things — and people — beyond yourself that are worth fighting for.”
The rest of the award winners are on the AAN website.