Alternative Oscar picks from our favourite film mags
In the midst of the 2019 Oscars, we decided to ask our favourite indie film magazines to give us their best picture picks, and create an alternative nominee list. From South Korean psychological drama, to micro-budget meta horror — it’s the must-watch bucket list you’ve been waiting for.
And the Oscar goes to… Burning
“Few films are simultaneously as elusive and rewarding as director Lee Chang-dong’s Burning, an adaptation of the short story “Barn Burning” by Haruki Murakami. Finely acted, the film creates a sense of mystery not by twisting its plot, but rather by leaving it up to the viewer to draw connections between each of its emotionally fraught, achingly unmoored scenes.” — Darcy Paquet, film critic and guest editor of the forthcoming Nang 6: Manifestos
Published out of Seoul, Nang is a beautifully designed 10-issue title that covers Asian filmmaking. The launch issue focused on screenwriting, and the theme for the upcoming edition (Nang’s sixth) will be Manifestos.
And the Oscar goes to… First Reformed
“Paul Schrader describes First Reformed as the protagonist of Diary of a Country Priest in the setting of Winter Light with the ecstatic coda of Ordet, and yet it’s a film only Paul could make. Also, the Academy robbed Ethan Hawke.” — Michael Ray, editor at Zoetrope
Founded by Francis Ford Coppola, and with the latest issue designed by David Lynch, Zoetrope is some kind of lucid dream of a film mag. Tag-lined ‘all story’, it’s a collection of the finest, most innovative short stories and essays on film from writers all over the world.
Buy the latest issue on the Stack shop.
And the Oscar goes to… Zama
“Our alternative Oscar pick is Lucrecia Martel’s Zama, a bewildering adaptation of Antonio Di Benedetto’s 1956 novel. The mysterious, bitterly comic drama follows a buffoonish bureaucrat entrapped at his post, an outpost of the Spanish Empire in what is now Paraguay. As his desperation to return home grows, time gets woozy. The final act maps a feverish decline, as Martel rebukes the colonial project and the rotten men at its helm. Best Supporting Actor goes to the photobombing llama.” — Annabel Ivy Brady-Brown, founding editor of Fireflies
Every issue of this lusciously thick, theoretical magazine responds to the work of two different filmmakers – virtually unknown outside film buff circles – and interviews the two of them. Issue six features Alain Guiraudie and Albert Serra.
The godfather of indie film mags, Little White Lies also picked Zama. So this one really needs to get added to your watch-list.
“Even though the film is set centuries ago, there’s something futuristic, maybe even post-apocalyptic, about the frazzled, comically unfair world that Lucrecia Martel manufactures. Zama is an unexceptional man, a drone in many respects. Yet Martel is supremely empathetic in her depiction of this person who is tempted by selfish impulses but rejected by the world around him.” — Read the full review by David Jenkins, editor of Little White Lies here.
And the Oscar goes to… One Cut of the Dead
“Shinichiro Ueda’s wildly inventive, micro budget zombie flick is never going to be considered Oscar bait, but if you’ve got a pulse (or maybe not) it’s definitely worthy of your consideration. Beginning as a single take found footage horror romp — that despite bizarre errors and baffling dialogue more than holds its own — the movie then steps back to one month earlier to reveal the chaos behind the production. This double layer is more than satisfying enough, but then Ueda peels back yet one more layer of the process and we are thrust into the live, chaotic shoot of the movie itself, where the setups for the punchlines we’ve already seen are revealed.
It’s not only an incredible amount of fun, so touching and exhilarating — it’s utterly distilled passion for cinema. And all the madness, broken promises, mistreatment, teamwork, sweat, tears and blood it takes to get even the smallest production up on the big screen. Hollywood loves to celebrate movies about itself, so why not one about the thousands of mavericks keeping the underground industry moving.” — Ben Smith, designer and editor of Shelf Heroes
A fanzine gone wild, Shelf Heroes magazine moves through the alphabet one letter at a time, challenging film-obsessed writers, illustrators and artists to create something based on the movies they love. We sent out the latest issue — themed ‘H’ — to subscribers last November.
And the Oscar goes to… A Quiet Place
“Unspeakable alien creatures who prey on even the faintest sound have turned our world into a ghostly wasteland where only the most quiet and careful humans survive. How’s that for high concept? Place a lovingly devoted couple (real life couple John Krasinsky and Emily Blunt — Krasinsky also directs) with young kids into this scenario and you have the makings of a tense and gripping sci-fi drama. Add the fact that the mother happens to be heavily pregnant into the mix and the tension is amped up to butt-clenching proportions. The ‘don’t make a sound’ horror trope has been mined many times before, but A Quiet Place provides the perfect filmic allegory for invasive technology at a time when it’s becoming increasingly difficult to carve out a space of silence amid all the din.
Director Krasinsky has made a seamless transition from comedic acting roles in shows like The Office (US) and Arrested Development to meatier dramatic fare of late, but A Quiet Place establishes his loftier ambitions of leading from the front. Ignored at the Oscars and overlooked by the public in favour of more heavily hyped frighteners such as Hereditary and Mandy, it’ll be interesting to see whether A Quiet Place garners better favour with age. For now at least, it serves up a delicious 90 minutes of lean monster-movie mayhem in the best tradition of the genre.” — Gabriel Solomons, designer and editor of Beneficial Shock
Founded by Gabriel Solomons and Phil Wrigglesworth, both of whom teach at Bristol School of Art and Design, Beneficial Shock is an imaginative film magazine that takes illustration very seriously. The latest issue is all about sex.