With the Oscars right around the corner, a time when the world unites to celebrate the fantastic achievements in cinema over the last year, let’s kick things off by taking the easy route and complaining about all the snubs.
First things first. A snub, it should be made clear, is not simply a film that has been ignored. To qualify as a ‘snub’, a film must be in serious contention to get nominated in at least one category. So, for the purposes of this list, we won’t be looking at films that have been nominated - even once - at the 89th Academy Awards. Instead, we will focus on movies that were, at some point, up for consideration but were completely shut out. Which means that while it was largely ignored, Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece Silence will not be featured here thanks to its sole nod for best cinematography.
Sadly, with the Oscars being as political as they are - massive ad campaigns are curated to secure nods, with studios often aligning hefty budgets to woo voters - it becomes difficult for films released before ‘awards season’ (roughly October-December) to gain any sort of attention.
But here’s our opportunity to continue this celebration, and take a look at movies that could easily have been among La La Land and Moonlight had it not been for some arbitrary rules.
Director Jim Jarmusch has been a critical darling for decades, and his latest film, starring Adam Driver as a bus driver named Paterson in Paterson, New Jersey, who also happens to be a closeted poet, was warmly received when it opened at the Cannes Film Festival. And Adam Driver is achingly good in it. On paper, it was tailor-made for the Oscars, but it wasn’t to be.
Don’t Think Twice
Comedies, like sci-fi or action movies, are rarely considered ‘worthy’ by the Academy. Bridesmaids, Midnight in Paris, Arrival, Avatar, Inception and Mad Max: Fury Road were anomalies and a result of the recent change in voting rules which allowed a bigger pool of nominees. So it wasn’t surprising when Don’t Think Twice, with a handful of excellent performances, one of the most innovative screenplays of the year, and a rare 99% on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, couldn’t get a nod.
In a year when La La Land is expected to sweep the Oscars, another musical has shockingly gone under the radar. Directed by John Carney, whose Begin Again and Once were recognised by the Academy, Sing Street was curiously missing from even the music categories.
The Nice Guys
True, Ryan Gosling perhaps doesn’t need more accolades this year, but an original screenplay nomination for Shane Black’s brilliant neo-noir The Nice Guys would’ve hurt no one.
Eye in the Sky
Out of this entire bunch of movies, Eye in the Sky easily has the best Oscar pedigree. It’s directed by Oscar-winner Gavin Hood, stars Oscar-winner Helen Mirren, and features the last screen performance by the late Alan Rickman. What more does it have to do? Answer: Not be released in March.
The Edge of Seventeen
For a while there, it seemed like Edge of Seventeen had a real shot. It was being adored for its warm John Hughes vibes, its refreshing take on the coming of age genre, and a truly excellent central performance by Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld. But naturally, for a ‘teen movie’ to get the Academy’s attention, it needs to be as grim as Moonlight.
Queen of Katwe
Normally, the Academy laps up inspirational tales about poor people. Just look at Lion. But Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe, despite being almost as good, and almost as inspiring as Dev Patel’s gritty drama - almost, because Lion is a masterpiece - vanished without a trace soon after its theatrical release.
Deadpool’s Oscar chances, while initially coming across as a joke, got a shot of validation when the Golden Globes gave it, and star Ryan Reynolds nods. But no such luck. The Academy must’ve worn its brown pants.
So till Sunday (early Monday for us), read about the films that actually did get nominated. They’re really quite terrific.
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