Introducing The Tuna Awards!

Posted in Blog by - December 21, 2021
Introducing The Tuna Awards!

For many reasons, the best sport in the world is American College Football. The best reason college football is incredible is because it’s dumb. It’s a sport where eventual hall of famers go up against eventual car insurance salesman. It’s a sport where, realistically, three or four teams can actually be national champion, but that doesn’t stop people from getting indignant when one of those teams does end up doing so. A sport where Alabama is the undisputed center of the sport. It’s a sport where they give you big bowls of food for winning specific games.

The premiere voice of the college football public is The Shutdown Fullcast, a podcast hosted by Spencer Hall (who is probably the greatest sports journalist of all time, and a hell of a modern essayist to boot), and his friends. They treat the sport with the awestruck irreverence that it deserves. Case in point: their annual awarding of something they call the “Bradley Van Pelt (BVP) Award,” given to whoever is the most college football player in a given year. The BVP rules. It got its name after a guy who spiked a ball off an opponent’s head in celebration. Hall gives this award to people who routinely do not get the accolades that some of the sport’s biggest stars do but are awesome in their own right. To quote Hall and Co:

Running quarterbacks with strong but inconsistent arms doomed by bad scouting reports, undersized running backs with blazing speed, oversized running backs with terrible 40 times, slow safeties with great instincts and multiple celebration penalties on their record, and kickers with thousands of tattoos who tackle like linebackers: The BVP not only celebrates the player who hit his peak in college, but also the player whose personality, ethos, and game thrived best in that specific environment, and indeed could have only come to full bloom there.

Here at Big Hot Mess, we love films that could be considered cinema’s version of Bradley Van Pelt. Thus, may I introduce you to the “Justice for the Tuna Named Justice Awards” (The Tuna’s for short). This award tries to reward the films that were consider the most in a given year. These are the films that had me hootin’ and/or hollerin’ throughout. They burned so bright, and we’re here to shine a light…upon them. Here are some rough rules and guidelines that will almost certainly not be followed:

  • The Tuna cannot go to a film nominated for best picture or best foreign film: We’re here to shine a light upon overlooked films from the year, not reward the already rewarded.
  • The film must be fine: This isn’t an award for Space Jam 2, but Ma is probably fine.
  • The film must be unhinged (or whatever choice adjective you wish to use): Easily the most important category. We’re talking about wild horror films, high concept nightmares, Southland Tales, etc. The award is named after the amazing Serenity from 2019, which is the spirit of what we’re trying to convey here.
  • I can nominate however many damn films I feel like nominating. Some years are going to be barren. Others are going to be wild. Am I secretly hoping that 2022 has, like, a dozen of these things? Yes. Yes I am.
  • Technically, a Marvel movie could win the Tuna: But it would be very, very unlikely. This would be like a Notre Dame player winning the BVP, which is technically possible, but functionally impossible. I think Golden Tate was on a BVP long list at one point, and he had to jump into a Michigan State band, trash talk everyone within a 15-meter radius of him, and have the name “Golden” to even get close to eclipsing the Notre Dame-ness. Chibi Spider-Man is my nemesis, and he will never, ever win any awards that I am in charge of, is what I am trying to convey here.
  • What If I Think the Film You Nominated is “Bad?” Then you’re wrong, and you should definitely re-watch the film.
  • Award to be revealed after Oscar nominations: With nominees to be provided at the end of the calendar year. That way, I can disqualify surprise nominees.

Confused? I hope so! To alleviate some of this confusion, here is a functional list of winners and nominees from 2014 (the first year I feel comfortable voting on this award) on forwards. Winners are in bold from the list of nominees.

2014 (Lost River; Inherent Vice; The Giver; Buzzard) Pretty barren crop for this first year. Inherent Vice is probably the best Paul Thomas Anderson film not named Magnolia, but its existence as a film that’s “kind of like The Long Goodbye,” is enough to get it across the line. Buzzard is a fantastic piece from DIY Michigan filmmaker Joel Potrykus, whose stuff is basically Tuna-bait. I have no idea why someone felt Lois Lowry’s The Giver should be an action film, but here we are. Every second that Brenton Thwaits spends running around with a baby sends me. But the winner here has to be Ryan Gosling’s dream logic as pastiche thing that’s part Gummo, part-Lynch, part-pretension, all-swing.

2015 (Mistress America; The Hateful Eight; Excess Flesh) This was another pitiful year for Tuna’s! Excess Flesh would probably be a long-list candidate most years, but with no heavy, Tate Taylor-esque hitters, its intense body horror will have to suffice. The Hateful Eight works on a number of levels, but the film is also a total mess, which is enough to get a nomination here. Really, Mistress America is a film that makes me laugh, and cry, and people who are wrongheaded find it annoying, and I am nothing if not petty.

2016 (Chi-raq; Raw; The Neon Demon; Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk; Nina Forever) There we go baby! That’s the kind of nonsense we’re looking for! A full complement of five films rounds out the class of 2016. Nina Forever is a surprisingly good, albeit a little heavy handed, allegory about a girl who begins seeing her partners dead ex-girlfriend every time they have sex. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is damn near unwatchable (HFR blows), which is what makes it fascinating.

I feel like little explanation is needed regarding the wildness of Raw and The Neon Demon. But my winner has to be Spike’s Chi-raq. Spike is, like, the Edward Zwick of the Tuna’s, which means that every time he releases something it’s must-see for the purposes of this award. Here, he’s at his most off the rails, a full-on rap adaptation of a thousand-year-old Greek tragedy, that he somehow conned Amazon into spending $15 million on.

2017 (mother!; I, Tonya; Hot Summer Nights; Kuso) mother! is the quintessential film for this project, because it is so, so very dumb. Aronofsky deliberately sets out to poke you in the eye, and isn’t even very good at that, but it’s very funny to watch a film half-assedly throw out biblical allusions for ostensibly no payoff. As for the other nominees; Kuso is a masterclass in gross-out cinema; Hot Summer Nights features maybe the funniest first ten minutes in the history of cinema; and I, Tonya has a bit where a grown-up Margot Robbie tries to convince us that she’s actually sixteen.

2018 (Hereditary; Lu Over the Wall; Sorry to Bother You; Book Club) This year, we’re really stretching the “the film actually has to be good” criteria because Sorry to Bother You is on this list. No, I’m not including Book Club in that list, because Book Club rules. Lu Over the Wall is peak Masaaki Yuasa, which means it’s off the rails and gorgeous. But my winner has to be Hereditary, because Ari Aster was made for this award.

2019 (Serenity; The Prodigy; Under the Silver Lake; Ma; Cats; The Beach Bum; Velvet Buzzsaw) This is a hard-hitter of a year. Just about any of these could win any other year, but alas, 2019 was the last great moment of civilization. Velvet Buzzsaw is on here for my friend Chris alone. The Beach Bum is a massive joke upon itself. Ma is a film that defines hootin’ an/or hollerin’. The Prodigy features a scene in which a seven-year-old is deemed to be a genius because he knows what paprika is.

Under the Silver Lake is a much-maligned film that’s secretly brilliant.  Cats is Cats. Enough said. Probably the only drama here is why Serenity makes the list, and the fact of the matter is simple. The award is named after Serenity! Do you remember the bit where the kid programmed his parents having sex as a hot coffee type mini-game into his fishing simulator? Truly, the kind of film that this award is all about.

2020 (The Lodge; Kissing Booth 2; Fantasy Island) Kissing Booth 2 features a scene in which someone hits an extra in the background with a sign. Fantasy Island has Michael Pena over pronouncing the word “fantasy.” However, The Lodgeis an ideal winner of this award. The film is probably the worst winner of this award that we’ve ever had, but the plot of The Lodge alone is worth every second. Maybe the worst kids in the history of cinema? Who elaborately gaslight their stepmother into undoing her cult deprogramming? Absolutely unhinged. Perfect winner of the Tuna.

Now that we’ve established a precedent for this award. Let me introduce to you the Tuna class of 2021! Spoilers ahead for the nominated films.

The Boss Baby: Family Business: Here because Tom McGrath crushes chase scenes inside a giant metajoke of a film. At one point, Jeff Goldblum is a super-baby that’s an ecoterrorist. Boss Baby should really be a pervious nominee now that I think about it.

Malignant: I like to think James Wan is a bad filmmaker (Aquaman is terrible), who people like because he’s uses a digital camera. In reality, people like him because he’s a certified mad lad. The entire third act of this thing is an off the wall homage to the “backwards man,” scene from Freddy Got Fingered, because the villain of the film is actually a twin that the main character consumed in the womb, or something. So unhinged, plenty of hootin’ and/or hollerin’.

Old: The thing about Shyamalan is that he doesn’t miss except when he misses. Just about any retrospective of his career must use the scene in Signs where Joaquin Phoenix wistfully intones that “it felt wrong not to swing,” as a synecdoche for his whole career. What makes Old work is that it’s both a swing and a miss, a film that doubles down on what he’s good at (crystalizing emotions) and what he’s bad at (plot, dialogue) into a film where one of the most famous rappers on the planet took “Mid-size Sedan” as their name.

Titane: Julia Ducournau is a filmmaker who is the absolute most, which means she’s definitely going to have detractors who dislike when people throw everything at the wall. This entire process is designed to shun these people, so Titane has to be on this list in some capacity.

Annette: Baby Annette briefly became a meme (like “the beach that makes you old”) which is bonus points to being nominated for a Tuna. Plus Leos Carax makes a film which points out just how insufferable stand-up comedians are, so that is a positive in the right direction.

Please! Congratulate the filmmakers on their monumental achievement. Please make sure Julia Ducournau knows that I have honoured her here. This list is subject to additions, and I will see you in January to reveal the winner!

This post was written by
Thomas Wishloff is currently an MA student at York University. He is new to the Toronto Film Scene, but has periodically written and podcasted for several now defunct ventures, and has probably commented on a forum with you at some point. The ex-Edmontonian has been known to enjoy a good board game, and claims to know the secret to the best popcorn in the world.
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