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Variety Editor Picks Idiosyncratic Film Awards for 2023

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This fall marks 30 awards seasons I’ve covered, not only as neutral observer, which is my main gig, but also as a fervent film fan, quietly cheering on my filmmaking heroes who sometimes manage to put their teams on the field. Sometimes they even manage to win.

But most of the time, I’ve spent the past 30 years hoping, not hyping.

I’ve hoped that the achievements that seem special to me also resonate with voters for the Oscars, Golden Globes, various guilds and critics’ groups. It doesn’t matter, if you care passionately about great cinema, you never hit the “off” button. But I’ve done so in the context of equal attention to everything, no playing favorites, let the fastest horse win at the gate.

I have also managed to personally avoid the predictions game, which now seems to almost dominate coverage across all publications, including this one. Once upon a time, the trades and consumer press both mostly steered clear of the horse racing aspect of awards season, leaving that to online specialty operations like Gold Derby. But given my deep feelings about the films in contention, I always saw that as a slippery slope to avoid.

Ditto the selfie thing, which was always part of covering Hollywood, but never part of my own personal approach. If I didn’t bother to get my picture taken over the decades with Stevie Wonder, Marion Cotillard, Van Morrison, Merle Haggard, Charles Brown, Dolly Parton, et al, it’s pretty clear by now that I keep my heroes and heroines in my stories and in my heart, not on my Instagram page.

But to everything, there is a season, turn turn turn and now it’s time that I stop the decades of neutrality and self-effacement and all that quiet desperation jazz.

It’s time for the Stevie Awards.

These are the 10 films that, in my view, exemplify the central role of cinema in working out our collective neuroses, fears, phobias and socio-political anxieties.

The Stevie Award for film to create angst and fearful muttering among the conservative males threatened by newly liberated toys: “Barbie”

The Stevie Award for film for boomers to explain to millennials and gen Xers “I was in diapers when they came up with all that global self-annihilation technology stuff”: “Oppenheimer”

The Stevie Award for film to ensure that tabloid tittle-tattle and salacious fan site speculation about rumored bisexuality of major cultural figures never gets a rest: “Maestro”

The Stevie Award for film to prove the royals could never have schemed and played a role in the death of Princess Diana because British aristocrats have the I.Q.s of goldfish: “Saltburn”

The Stevie Award for film to demonstrate why it is impossible for some major studios to market anything wholly original, beautiful, poetic and devoid of opportunities for toy manufacturing, beachwear products development or universe-building for future theme park operations: “The Bikeriders” (which, thanks to the good folks at Focus, we get to have in the real awards season of 2024)

The Stevie Award for film to keep alive the spirits of Russ Meyer, Roger Vadim, Radley Metzger, Just Jaecklin, Zalman King and John Derek: “Poor Things”

The Stevie Award for film to expose the heinous history of the United States’ centuries-long denial of Native American rights while also turning the No. 1 most eligible bachelor on earth (Leonardo DiCaprio) into the least appealing potential suitor in the world: “Killers of the Flower Moon” 

The Stevie Award for film to generate the first instantly timeless quote of this Awards Season, Ridley Scott’s fearless declaration, “The French don’t even like themselves”: “Napoleon”

And finally, the Stevie Award for film to give Elvis Presley’s infamous manager Colonel Parker a break and Tom Hanks a well-deserved rest: “Priscilla”

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