Presenting: The Livys
My awards for the movie musicals of 2021
It was a banner year for the movie musical — not necessarily in quality, but certainly in quantity. This year saw movie musicals that delighted, horrified, and dulled audiences all over the country. Not since the Golden Age of the Hollywood studio system have we seen so many goddamn musicals make their way to the big screen (or the small one, if you’re streaming). With such a glut of options for those of us deemed “insufferable” by our peers, it is time for them to be celebrated.
Usually this mantle would be taken up by the Golden Globes, but those are irrelevant this year and also I am not the one who makes that ballot. So without further ado, I present to you: The Livy Awards.
Named after myself, The Livys are a one-off celebration of all things movie musical in the year 2021. We will be celebrating and denigrating the performances, filmmaking, and overall quality of this year’s great bounty. Of course, there are some rules:
We are strictly talking about movie musicals. Which means that filmed Broadway performances like Diana The Musical and Come From Away are out of the running. That is actually the only rule. If there was a movie this year that featured people singing to advance the plot, it’s in the running.
Here are the nominees and winners of this year’s Livys.
Best “Woman Going Through It” Performance
Alexandra Shipp, Tick, Tick… Boom!
Leslie Grace, In The Heights
Julianne Moore, Dear Evan Hansen
Marianne Cotillard, Annette
Ariana DeBose, West Side Story
Winner: Julianne Moore in Dear Evan Hansen
When thinking of this award, the performance itself was not the only thing considered. How much did this woman go through both on and off screen? How much did she have to work with and how much did she end up bringing to the role? With that in mind, Moore’s work in Dear Evan Hansen (the story of a boy named Evan who lies about being friends with another boy who died by suicide and there is a lesson in there, somehow) is the obvious choice. She plays Evan’s single mother Heidi — the role for which Rachel Bay Jones won a Tony — who is forced to accept her sociopathic narcissist son for who he is. Moore’s big number, “So Big/So Small,” is one of the only sort-of affecting moments in the movie, which is the highest praise I can give to that trainwreck.
Best Performance From An Actor Who I Think Is Canceled? I Can’t Tell.
Adam Driver , Annette
Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen
Ansel Elgort, West Side Story
James Corden, Cinderella
Vanessa Hudgens, Tick, Tick… Boom!
Winner: Adam Driver in Annette
If this were the award for “Most ‘Are They Canceled?’ Actor” it would obviously be going to Elgort, who was accused of sexual misconduct back in 2019. But the category asks which of these actors delivered the finest performance, and Elgort’s performance in West Side Story is mid at best. That being said, Driver really ramps up his natural freakdom in Annette, playing a stand-up comic whose child is a puppet.
Song Most Likely To Appear Embarrassingly High on Olivia’s Spotify Wrapped 2022
“30/90,” Tick, Tick… Boom!
“Benny’s Dispatch,” In The Heights
“Gee, Officer Krupkee,” West Side Story
“Don’t Even Know It,” Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Winner: “30/90” from Tick, Tick… Boom!
All of these songs tickle a very specific corner of my brain, but “30/90” is going to take home the statue tonight. It’s a great way to open a show, and as much as I did not want to, I really like Andrew Garfield’s voice. A win for him, a loss for my algorithm.
Best “Wait, He’s Not Gay?” Character
Evan Hansen, Dear Evan Hansen
Jonathan Larson, Tick, Tick… Boom!
Winner: Evan Hansen in Dear Evan Hansen
This was a tight race, but at the end of the day it is more shocking that Evan Hansen is “straight.”
Movie Musical Most Likely to Make Sondheim’s Ghost Roll His Eyes
Dear Evan Hansen
In The Heights
Winner: Dear Evan Hansen
Okay, wow. Dear Evan Hansen is really running away with the Livys this year. Perhaps it’s because I saw it in theaters off a 50 mg marijuana edible, but all of its horrors have really stuck in my mind. I think Sondheim would find it treacly and soft, too afraid to lean into the fact that its titular character is actually the antagonist.
Movie Musical Most Likely to Make Sondheim’s Ghost Say, “Pretty Good”
West Side Story
Tick, Tick… Boom!
Winner: West Side Story
Yeah, he wrote the lyrics, so what? I bet he loved this shit.
The Elaine Stritch Award for Best Elder Statesman Performance
Richard E. Grant, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Rita Moreno, West Side Story
Jimmy Smits, In The Heights
Billy Porter, Cinderella
Winner: Richard E. Grant for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
An upset! The awards prognosticators were saying this was going to go to Moreno in a blowout, but Grant playing an old drag queen in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie — a little movie that almost no one talked about — managed to take it. The word on the street is that this is a make-up award for him losing his Can You Ever Forgive Me? Oscar to Mahershala Ali’s Green Book performance. But that’s just conjecture.
Best Movie Musical I Have Not Yet Seen But I’ve Heard Is Good
The Peter Dinklage-starring film wins because my friend/colleague Sarah Hagi loved it so much that she messaged me about it while she was still in the theater. The movie was very much still playing, and she felt that I needed to know it was good that instant.
What a year it was for the first and last Livy Awards. Congratulations to the team behind Dear Evan Hansen, as this is maybe the only award show where you will emerge as the victor. For the theater kids in the audience, let’s all give ourselves a round of applause. Was it a good year for movie musicals? Fiscally, no. Almost all of these movies are box office flops. But art is not about money. It’s about being bitchy with your friends in a group chat, and this year’s slate of movie musicals gave us so many chances to do that. Until the Jimmy Awards!