I Voted In These Critics Awards. They’re Okay.

By  · Published on December 28th, 2016

The Austin Film Critics Association announces its 2016 Awards.

Keith Maitland’s Tower

One of the great things about being part of an association of film critics is that you get to leave your mark on the awards season landscape. Your vote counts for something that will be part of the larger conversation. That’s the major reason why some of us spend the time weaseling our way into such organizations and dedicating time and effort to keeping them up and running. It’s not all about free screeners.

This blessing is also the curse of being part of such an organization. Just as my vote counts, the results of the group’s vote also represents me. Sometimes that works out in a way that accurately represents my taste, sometimes it does not. Even as the Vice President of the Austin Film Critics Association, I have no special powers that could prevent our group from handing out awards that go against my own preferences. For I am one part of the whole.

It’s a microcosm for the greater idea of democracy we’ve experienced in 2016. Did I think Casey Affleck was deserving of Best Actor? Not really, but the group voted overwhelmingly. Would I have given the Breakthrough Artist award to the filmmaker behind a local niche documentary over say, Barry Jenkins for Moonlight? Probably not. Don’t get me wrong, Keith Maitland’s Tower is excellent and you should all see it, but it’s not like he’s about to take over the world of cinema.

Elsewhere, I’m very proud of our group. Moonlight is likely to be the consensus pick as Best Film of the year. It’s going to be the favorite going into Oscar night. And there are films like Kubo and The Handmaiden that deserve their time to in the sun. This year’s AFCA awards are, as they’ve been in previous years, as diverse as any you’ll see. And while every year I hope that we’ll push boundaries and recognize a more unique set of movies – staying out of the general consensus – sometimes this is what you get.

In the end, you should see Tower. And every movie that made the group’s Top Ten list, for that matter. They are all worthy of your time. See the full list of winners below.

Best Film: Moonlight (dir: Barry Jenkins)

Best Director: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Best Actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Best Actress: Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Fences

Best Original Screenplay: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Best Adapted Screenplay: Eric Heisserer, Arrival

Best Cinematography: Linus Sandgren, La La Land

Best Score: Justin Hurwitz, La La Land

Best Foreign-Language Film: The Handmaiden (dir: Park Chan-wook)

Best Documentary: Tower (dir: Keith Maitland)

Best Animated Film: Kubo and the Two Strings (dir: Travis Knight)

Best First Film: The Witch (dir: Robert Eggers)

The Robert R. “Bobby” McCurdy Memorial Breakthrough Artist Award: Keith Maitland, Tower

Austin Film Award: Tower (dir: Keith Maitland)

Special Honorary Award: To the ensemble cast of Moonlight and casting director Yesi Ramirez for excellence as an ensemble.

Special Honorary Award: To honor Anton Yelchin for his contribution to the cinema of 2016, including performances in Green Room and Star Trek Beyond. His was a brilliant career cut profoundly short.

Special Honorary Award: To A24 Films for excellence in production in distribution. Their work gave us Moonlight, Green Room, Swiss Army Man, The Lobster, The Witch, and 20th Century Women, among others.

Special Honorary Award: To filmmaker Keith Maitland and his film Tower for revisiting a tragic event in Austin, Texas history in a sensitive and unique manner.

AFCA 2016 Top Ten Films:

  1. Moonlight
  2. La La Land
  3. Arrival
  4. The Handmaiden
  5. Manchester by the Sea
  6. Elle
  7. Hell or High Water
  8. The Lobster
  9. Jackie
  10. Sing Street

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)