July 31, 2022

The 1st Lenient Critic Awards: Winners Announcement

There is a massive amount of content released every year, and 2022 is shaping up to be one of the biggest ever for film and television. The Lenient Critic Awards was created to recognize the best of the year on a biannual basis, because even the Oscars, the Emmys and the Golden Globes are unable to award everything that deserves it. With the Lenient Critic Awards, those films and television series have a fighting chance at the lasting acknowledgement they deserve, even those that don’t end up winning.

Image courtesy of A24

And now...the winners!

Best Picture

Everything Everywhere All At Once, a crowd favorite of the year, swept this first show, winning five of the eight awards it was nominated for, especially considering that many of those nominations were in shared categories. This is no surprise, given the critical acclaim and widespread love the film has received, but it is nice to see that that love extends to the Lenient Critic Awards.

Best Lead Actress

It doesn’t seem fair to call Michelle Yeoh’s performance in Everything Everywhere All At Once a “breakout role,” but it is what put her on the map for many people who weren’t previously aware of her tremendous talent. Her part in Everything Everywhere is that of an aging immigrant who comes to find it’s never to late to learn the lessons life has to offer us — and I can’t think of a timelier message.

Best Lead Actor

Austin Butler dazzled audiences in his star turn as Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s biopic, capturing the King’s mannerisms and performance quality such that he practically disappeared into the role. Best of all, it doesn’t feel like an impression, and is instead more of a tribute.

Best Supporting Actress

With two actresses from Everything Everywhere competing in this category, it ended up being a tough battle. Stephanie Hsu, who played frustrated daughter Joy and antagonist Jobu Tapaki, unsurprisingly won out, and it’s not hard to see why; Hsu manages to be hilarious, menacing and heartfelt, oftentimes all in the same scene, a nigh-impossible acting feat. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Best Supporting Actor

If there is any proof that Everything Everywhere is the movie of the year (I promise I’ll shut up about it soon), we once again see a fierce battle to see which supporting player will win the day. Ke Huy Quan timed his return to acting perfectly, because he is this category’s victor. Quan played Waymond Wang, husband of Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), in a star-making turn where is ends up being the very heart of the film.

Best New Series

This is one of the more competitive categories, but in the end, Ben Stiller’s Apple TV+ series Severance, which debuted this past spring with a surprisingly effective first season came out on top. Set in an office of the Lumon Corporation (where some employees have their work selves and out-of-work selves split through a “severance” procedure), Severance is both a workplace drama and a tense mystery.

Best Returning Series

HBO’s Barry takes the cake for Best Returning Series, opposing only minimal votes for Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy and a fellow HBO series, The Righteous Gemstones. Barry’s third season, which firmly established Bill Hader as one of the best working television directors, raised the stakes while building on what made the first two seasons incredible.

Best Limited Series

For the first and only time this year, we have a TIE! Netflix’s thriller parody series The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window and FX’s crime drama Under the Banner of Heaven will share the crown this time, proving that both made an indelible mark on their viewers.

Best Lead Actor in a Series

In addition to being one of the best directors working in television, Bill Hader has the advantage of being a remarkable actor. It’s a good thing, then, that he’s right at the center of Barry in nearly every respect. His performance in Season Three was darker and more subdued, which only proves that he can play both sides of the coin extremely effectively.

Best Lead Actress in a Series

At the end of another tough race, Zendaya has topped the bunch with her stunning and raw performance in the second season of Euphoria. We saw her character, Rue, hit rock bottom (multiple times), run away from home, and at the center of a painful intervention. Let’s hope she gets directing duties next season, and she hopes to!

Best Supporting Actor in a Series

Barry triumphs again, this time for Henry Winkler’s devastating performance as Gene Cousineau. In Season Three, Gene grapples with a horrifying revelation, a far cry from the depressed Gene of Season Two and an even further cry from the affably cruel Gene from Season One. He may be a long way from his Happy Days, but there’s still plenty to see from Gene; including, I hope, more of his Masterclass.

Best Supporting Actress in a Series

Euphoria gets another (imaginary) trophy for Sydney Sweeney, who plays the lonely and troubled Cassie, and who is now headed for a career on the big screen. I would also like to shout out her performance in another HBO series, The White Lotus, a role much more subtle than Cassie, but considerably better-written.

Best Young Performer

The young ’uns can do just as well as the older folks, and I figure they deserve their own category! Out of an impressive roster of accomplished actors under 20 years old, first-timer Vanessa Burghardt won out for her breakout performance as Lola in Cooper Raiff’s Cha Cha Real Smooth.

Best Director

We’re back to Everything Everywhere All At Once supremacy, as the directing duo known as Daniels takes the cake for their truly unparalleled work behind the camera. After a series of music videos, short films and the surreal feature Swiss Army Man, they have produced what may be their magnum opus: 140 minutes of non-stop bliss. If you haven’t seen Everything Everywhere, do yourself a favor and dedicate a few hours of your time to this masterpiece.

Best Cinematography

Cinematography is the bedrock of any great film, able to make or break a viewing experience. Out of five amazingly skilled maestros, Robert Eggers mainstay Jarin Blaschke has won out for his work in Eggers’ Viking epic The Northman. Despite receiving the most nominations, this is the film’s only win, but here it’s truly deserved. Blaschke creates a lived-in environment full of beautiful landscapes and expertly minimal cuts.

Best Original Score

The Batman had to get some recognition too, eh? Michael Giacchino is one of my favorite film composers, and his hauntingly ethereal score for The Batman is one of his best in recent years. Every character gets a distinct theme, and listening to the soundtrack I can picture the exact scene playing out on-screen. Also, if you get a chance, check out his track titles; there’s a level of care and cleverness put into them that many composers forgo.

Best Trailer

Every trailer got a number of votes! But in the end, Thor: Love and Thunder’s exciting teaser trailer, set to “Sweet Child O’Mine,” found itself above the rest! I remember seeing every one of these previews in theaters incessantly (except for Stranger Things, of course, which was my personal favorite), but none of them were ever boring. As of writing, every one of these films (and series) has been released, save for Bullet Train, which is receiving a theatrical release this week.

Thank you to all who participated! The next Lenient Critic Awards will be held at at the conclusion of the year!

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