Oscars 2014: Top 5 Best Picture Snubs
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the Academy Awards ever since I was old enough to be able to ignore my bed time and finish the excessively long event all the way through. On the one hand, there was something oddly special about watching artists I deeply admired get the recognition they deserved, not to mention seeing celebrities bomb onstage with poorly-written one-liners. But the Oscars have had a long history of making downright maddening choices, and recently their snubs and dubious decisions have become all the more apparent, from awarding “safer” films to their sad attempts to appeal to a younger demographic.
But I feel like I could turn the other cheek this year and forget about their mistakes (and the stupid campaigns the voters inevitably bought into) because 2013 might be the most impressive year for film in our still-young century, especially for American cinema (sorry, 2007). The movies that I fell in love with or struck me the most weren’t nominated because they weren’t “Hollywood” enough, sure, but they were also left off because the race was genuinely too close. So here are the five films I believe should’ve been nominated for Best Picture, and in a bizarro version of the Oscars, any one of them could’ve won, too. (Honourable Mentions: Fruitvale Station, Short Term 12 and Inside Llewyn Davis).
Before Midnight (dir. Richard Linklater)
Before Sunrise was a hopeless romantic’s fantasy. Boy meets girl on a train, and over the course of one night, they fall in love. Before Sunset is the nostalgic, heartbreaking counterpart, with one of the most perfect endings in cinema history. Before Midnight is the third film we didn’t know we needed – Jessie and Celine are finally together, with two twin girls and almost a decade’s worth of memories, both joyous and aggravating. This film has so many impeccable aspects – the virtuoso writing and chemistry, and the courage to downplay the sweetness and naiveté of the previous two films, and dig into something deeper. Before Midnight will continue to be adored for years to come, but it’s a film that belongs to something greater than itself. Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have crafted a trilogy that’s peerless in contemporary cinema.
Blue is the Warmest Color (dir. Abdellatif Kechiche)
When Blue is the Warmest Color won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, I thought its chances of pulling an “Amour” and securing dual nominations for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture were more than likely. But it wasn’t nominated in either category, and not even for Best Actress (sorry, Adèle). Enough articles have been written about the lengthy, explicit sex scene, from the supposed inaccuracies that many gay viewers spotted to director Abdellatif Kechiche’s apparent “male gaze.” But look past those two factors (which should be fairly easy because it’s a three-hour film), or the entire scene in general, and you’ll find that Blue is the Warmest Color might be one of the most distinct coming-of-age stories in recent memory, and one of the most natural depictions of a relationship in any language. Its ending doesn’t let viewers off the hook, either.
Frances Ha (dir. Noah Baumbach)
Frances Ha has been compared to so many things (the freewheeling charm of the French New Wave, Woody Allen’s Manhattan), it’s easy to forget about how refreshing and current it feels. Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s screenplay, and the black-and-white cinematography might resemble the past, but the end result is strictly “now,” thanks mostly to the dialogue, and Gerwig’s effortless performance of a woman who should really be trying harder. Its bears many similarities with Inside Llewyn Davis, another New York-set film about a seemingly aimless lead character and a wandering “plot.” But Frances Ha just feels more complete, and much less claustrophobic or cynical. And the titular Frances could well be a stand-in for an entire generation of misguided, immature twentysomethings who still want more out of their lives than just getting by.
Upstream Color (dir. Shane Carruth)
Those aware of Carruth’s only other film, Primer, know he has Kubrick’s touch when it comes to narrative control (and interpretation). With Upstream Color, he’s decided to add Malick’s poetic imagery and editing into the mix. If that sounds a little too intimidating or pretentious for you, reconsider. Upstream Color is almost as dense and complex as Primer (it’s a film about pigs, flowers, schemes, traumas, relationships, life cycles and more), but its strangeness somehow makes it more approachable, maybe because Carruth has matured enough as a filmmaker to conjure up genuine intimacy, spirit and wonder. For an awards show that’s been reduced by many viewers as a “safe” one, how provocative would it be to nominate a seemingly challenging film like Upstream Color for Best Picture?
The World’s End (dir. Edgar Wright)
Along with horror films, comedies get the least amount of love from the Academy, and it’s always puzzled me. Listen to or watch any interview with an actor who’s done both drama and comedy, and said actor will most likely tell you that comedies are much harder to pull off. The World’s End, the final entry in Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s aptly named “Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy,” may be the duo’s most absurd, funniest and compassionate achievement yet. Why should it have been nominated for Best Picture, you ask? Because a film that portrays an alien invasion during a pub-crawl, but reveals itself to really be more of a bittersweet meditation on nostalgia, sacrifice and growing older should deserve some Oscar recognition.