Please welcome your award presenter, Renesmee.
Photo-Illustration: Vulture. Pictures: Forever Twilight in Forks; Gabriel Bouys/AFP via Getty Images
There are so many spaces where actors and actresses are praised. Awards shows. Year-end show listings. Comments. Round tables. Late night shows. Homosexual Twitter. The comments section on Jennifer Garner’s Instagram posts. But not all performers are actors. All performers are not even necessarily people.
Some performers are actually just dolls.
For some reason, film and TV in 2021 was a veritable clown car of dolls, which just kept spreading: scary dolls, funny dolls, scary-funny dolls, scary-scary dolls. It was as if casting scouts were only signing talent this year at the nearest American Girl Café. An artist is less likely to contract COVID this way, if they don’t have lungs. Puppetry has long been used as an effect in movies, even today, when it’s often complemented by CGI. But it’s one thing to puppet a monster or an animal; the humanoids are something quite different, a vale that is too weird, too flashy, and with weird limbs. And we’re not talking strictly about puppets, but also about diegetic dolls – dolls that exist in their universes like dolls. Some move, some don’t. Some speak, others sing. Some are MacGuffins, others are main characters. But all of them were dolls, and you couldn’t watch anything in 2021 without them watching you. So please welcome your host, recent Vampire Week winner Renesmee, as we present the first annual Golden Dolly Awards.
As if there had never been a competition. Young-hee, who also goes by the name “Chantal” according to her interview with E. Alex Jung, literally stood head and shoulders among other influential dolls on screen this year. This massive killer robot doll set the tone for the rest of the series in its premiere squid game Appearance: Menacing and captivating, weaponizing nostalgia against its players. While most dolls are weird and scary because they look like people but are too small, Young-hee flips that paradigm. Of all the dolls on this list, Young-hee has the highest kill count, and considering some of the other dolls here, that’s saying a lot.
This sketch features Once upon a time in Hollywoodis Julia Butters, but there’s writer Patti Harrison writing on it. This toy commercial parody revolves around a popular doll called Tammy Craps, throwing back children’s decades-old love for dolls that piss and shit themselves. Although puzzling for adults, there is certainly a psychological reason why this is such a thing. But every additional detail in Tammy Craps’ announcement becomes more and more disturbing. Children must be a certain minimum weight to play with Tammy Craps, otherwise she is as toxic to them as five packs of cigars. She “no longer has farts in her head”, a characteristic that raises more questions than it appeases, but yes, she always lies. Like Claire’s season-ending skit, “Tammy Craps” feels torn from Tim Robinson’s experience as a father and Harrison’s love for all things grotesque and surreal. And as false advertising, it also plays into the madness of Robinson’s Comedy Central series. Detroiters. In a world where a diaper-throwing unicorn called “Poopsie Slime Surprise” is a hit toy, does Tammy Craps, the poison doll who shits and lies about it, seem so weird?
The only concession this list will make to a doll that is arguably more puppet than doll is Baby Annette, the star and centerpiece of Anette. Leos Carax’s woozy musical Sparks about fame, love and obsession wouldn’t work without this creepy wooden girl playing the exploited and beloved daughter of star soprano Marion Cotillard and edgy comedian Adam Driver. Annette is gifted and kind of floats when she sings, and she’s an object celebrated and torn apart by the world, but she’s also a child: observant, scared, holding an even smaller doll and waddling and sitting on the knees by Simon Helberg. She is the Renesmee arthouse. You might not think that everything this movie offers clicks. The songs experience a massive drop in quality after opening. The comedic sets really give the impression that a Frenchman understands what stand-up is, and that’s not a good thing. But don’t blame baby Annette. As the film’s best line says, “She is a baby, after all.
Ever since vampire Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) summoned the ghost of her soul, became her best friend, and found a gothic doll to own, this haunted doll has been a key member of the What we do in the shadows gang. Because the show is filmed in a handheld mockumentary style, the doll’s movements in truth are especially fun, whether she rolls her eyes or does a little jiggle in her seat. The doll comes in handy for scenes where Nadja is out of the house in another storyline, but a Demetriou zinger is needed to punctuate a scene. The show is very smart about not abusing the doll, almost to the point that the viewer may forget she’s there, until she reappears for a hilarious reaction or visual gag. But it’s that same restraint with the character that drives the doll’s best episode yet: Season 3’s “The Siren.” The doll is frustrated that everyone in the house is too busy to pay attention to her. , so she runs away. This leads to some great shots of the doll in action: practicing sword fighting, tugging Nadja’s skirt, and eventually packing a bindle and walking away. Eventually, she goes on a possession spree, jumping from the doll’s body into a dummy, a statue, and Scabby the rat, before reuniting with her chosen family. “More comedies should have standalone episodes for their haunted doll characters”… that’s what I would say if more comedies had haunted doll characters.
Arguably the best thing about Home Sweet Home alone, the Disney+ reboot (and, in some scenes, the remake) of the John Hughes classic Alone at home, is that the action revolves around a malformed German porcelain doll with her head upside down. Synopsis: Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper, the wet bandits in this movie, must break into Archie Yates’ house to retrieve the antique, baby boy “Schneider Kinder” doll, so they can sell it on eBay and keep their house. It’s a goofy, irreverent premise that saves the film from being an overly tasteless retread and leads to the perfect use of Rob Delaney: as a grown-up doll man.
Photo: @sylvaniandrama via TikTok
In the second episode of Pen15, Maya and Anna “play Sylvanian” by sitting on the floor of Maya’s bedroom and moving cute animal figures. They act out slightly more mature scenarios than before middle school: they force little cats and hedgehogs to fight, kiss and fool around. It’s a perfect shorthand for their bittersweet time in life, existing awkwardly between childhood and adolescence. The TikTok account @sylvaniandrama is like this scene stepping into her mother’s medicine cabinet and receiving a series order for 1,000 episodes to play as a daytime soap opera. To pop songs both new and nostalgic, @sylvaniandrama’s cinematic mastermind sets these cute figurines into outrageous scenarios, forcing them to bully each other, go on crash diets, get married, makeovers, getting murdered, doing benders and having midlife crises. What sets these videos apart from something like “The Most Popular Girls in School” is that there’s a capital A ACTION and the action goes fast. There are boat accidents, car accidents, hospitalizations, and figures jumping from great heights (roofs of dollhouses) at certain perils. All that atrocity done with empty-faced little Calico Critters and sassy layered captions. It’s the best soap of the year. What Happy tree friends was in the era of Flash animation, @sylvaniandrama is in TikTok.
None of the young people on yellow jackets are fine, but Taissa’s (Tawny Cypress) son, Sammy, isn’t fine. At least those other kids have the understandable excuse of being stuck in the desert for months. Sammy is clearly disturbed, and the show hints at some sort of intergenerational trauma that is potentially supernatural in nature. He struggles to make friends and he draws really scary shit, both classic marks of a horror movie kid. Sammy’s only companion besides his mother appears to be a doll named Manny, who looks like an American Boy™, if that’s even a thing. When Sammy gives Taissa some nerve, she confiscates the doll, only to find it in the basement, in the middle of a summoning circle, with its eyes gouged out. Here’s a doll who died in the line of duty: helping a haunted child solve a shit.
Chucky and his fiancée, Tiffany, have always given off the aura of straight couple allowed to Pride. It has punk John Waters. He fought with Kathryn Heigl on the set of Bride of Chucky. He recently made a guest appearance accosting Miranda on And just like that…. And this year, he got a new show on USA and Syfy and used it as a platform to give a surprising pep talk to the current poor human he’s terrorizing, a gay teenager named Jake (Zackary Arthur). In a clip that has gone viral, Chucky talks about his own “queer child”, Seed of ChuckyGlen/Glenda, gender fluid. Chucky may be a killer doll from Satan’s private toy box, but he’s “not a monster, Jake.” Chucky is absolutely coming for Michael Stuhlbarg in call me by your nameis lunch. Dad of the year around here.