by Matt Clemens
It happens every year. You have a favourite movie you just know is going to sweep the Oscars. “It’s the best film I’ve seen this year for sure,” you tell all your friends and family. And then, come February 26, that movie is left off the list! And it happens every single year, at least to me anyhow.
Here’s 10 decades of phenomenal films that in this writer’s opinion could have (and in most cases absolutely should have) received Oscar nominations for best film.
And the winners are…
2007 – The Prestige
Viewed by many as one of the Nolan brothers’ finest collaborations, The Prestige tells the story of rival magicians who battle to earn their stripes as the greatest tricksters of all. Christian Bale, Michael Cane and Hugh Jackman are all excellent in their respective roles, and although the latter should have undoubtedly received a nod from the Academy in a supporting (or even a lead) role, the cleverly paced narrative and outstanding third act reveal are the real stars of the show. It’s nothing short of a travesty that The Prestige was not nominated for best film in 2007. It’s the Houdini of magician films. In fact, it’s the Houdini of the thriller drama category period. And it’s also a wonderful tribute to the outstanding cinematic contributions provided by David Bowie, who stars as the man at the heart of all the mystery, Nikola Tesla.
2008 – The Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford
Adapted from Ron Hansen’s 1993 novel of the same name, this American revisionist Western epic was written by Andrew Dominik and featured a younger Casey Affleck in yet another break-out role as “the coward”, Robert Ford. Although Affleck was the recipient of a Best Supporting Actor nomination from the Academy, the film itself was snubbed, despite appearing on many top 10 lists of some of the most revered movie critics in the world. The fine score written in tandem by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis was similarly snubbed, and although Roger Deakins’ fine cinematography was acknowledged, he once again went home empty handed.
2009 – In Bruges
Officially one of the best films of all time (in this writer’s opinion), In Bruges is a black comedy crime film written and directed by Martin McDonagh. For its emotional and thought-provoking script, loveably flawed characters and absurd set pieces, it was one of the most original films in 2008 and unquestionably the movie gem that was infuriatingly left hidden. Colin Farrell (of whom I should mention I was not a fan before) delivered a hugely convincing and deeply emotional performance as the tormented child killer ‘Ray’, with the support from Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes, similarly noteworthy. The comical use of the C word and the “bottle” scene will forever stick in the memory. Every single one of them could have received a statue. Unfortunately, none of the actors nor the film received a nomination. It goes down as one of the greatest travesties of Oscar history.
2010 – Moon
It’s hard to believe that Moon was Duncan Jones’ directorial debut, such is the accomplishment of his first film. Sam Rockwell, who continues to be one of the most underrated actors around, carries the film as virtually the only human presence in the whole movie, supported by the soothing voice of Kevin Spacey as his robot companion. The aspect around cloning asks the audience to ponder deep questions about the future developments in the field of genetics, and the pay-off is highly emotional. Jones is apparently planning multiple follow ups in the coming years (Mute being the first), and with Rockwell set to return, albeit in cameo form. Perhaps the next movie will be deemed worthy of a nod from the Academy. Only time will tell.
2011 – Scott Pilgrim vs the World
This suggestion will inevitably cause some fierce debate, particularly in view of this being a comedy, but Pilgrim was and still is one of the most original films ever made, and one that Edgar Wright absolutely nailed, albeit making a loss at the box office. The film’s quirky comic-strip style (based on the graphic novel) and geeky gamer references were a true delight. It also has a killer soundtrack, ranging from Frank Black’s ‘I Heard Ramona Sing’ and T-Rex, all the way to the Zelda theme tune. It’s a truly whacky ride. It also happens to be incredibly quotable, thanks in part to some brilliant cameos from the likes of Brandon Routh and Chris Evans, although Michael Cera is certainly at his best too. Perhaps a sign that 2011 wasn’t the greatest year for film, but regardless (and call me crazy) I think Scott Pilgrim would have been deserving of a nom.
2012 – Killer Joe
In case you missed it, Killer Joe is an American Southern Gothic crime film based on the 1993 play of the same name starring Emile Hirsch and Matthew McConaughey, the former a drug dealer in debt to someone you don’t want to be in debt to, and the latter playing an ex-cop/contract killer claiming he can make the whole mess disappear. Of course, nothing goes to plan and Killer Joe (McConaughey) turns out to be a bit of a psychopath, which he performs brilliantly, once again confirming he is more than just a devilishly good-looking rom-com star. It’s filled with twists and turns, clever dialogue and features one of the most horrifying scenes you’ll ever see with a piece of fried chicken. Just think about that if you haven’t seen it yet! Some would say that a film that only took $3.7m at the box office couldn’t be considered as an Oscar worthy film. I disagree. It was certainly one of the most entertaining and memorable films of 2012.
2013 – Seven Psychopaths
Like In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths is written and directed by Martin McDonagh, and while it may not be as polished as its predecessor, Psychopaths is another outstanding accomplishment. The dialogue is sharp and the character relationships, particularly between Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken, are equally compelling. The real strength of the film is that it never takes itself too seriously. At its core, this is a parody of all the greatest cinematic crime clichés, one that mirrors the style of Tarantino but delivers a uniquely (I’d like to say British) touch. Even if you see the big reveal coming, it also delivers on a great pay-off in the finale. Like In Bruges before it, Seven Psychopaths is proof that comedies, dark and regular alike, should certainly be considered alongside serious dramas. If it’s this good, why shouldn’t it receive an Oscar nomination?
2014 – Rush
One of those films you simply can’t believe didn’t receive an Oscar nomination. It can’t be stressed enough just how fantastic Rush is and it certainly ranks among the best biopics ever put to the screen. It tells the story of the charismatic English playboy James Hunt, played by Chris Hemsworth, and his intense rivalry with Formula 1 racing legend Niki Lauda, played by Daniel Brühl. In particular, it depicts the rise and fall of both figures during the height of their rise to prominence, not to mention the build up to a terrible disaster that would change Lauda’s life forever. Astonishingly, Rush wasn’t nominated in any category at the Academy Awards, not even the one that arguably should have earned Brühl a golden statue for his fantastic performance. It really is a head scratcher that Rush didn’t pick up the plaudits it deserved in 2014. I still can’t believe it as I type. Wait, I’ll check the internet one more time…
2015 – Nightcrawler
Nightcrawler is a psychological thriller that was written and directed by Dan Gilroy. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal as the darkly comic Lou Bloom, who films violent scenes late at night the likes of car crashes and gangland murders and then sells them to his local television station to make a few bucks. The film is an exploration of the very worst aspects of human curiosity and the limits one could be pushed to achieve success. It’s often very funny, but the themes are always dark and you feel a little guilty for the occasions it makes you laugh. The exchange between Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo in one restaurant scene where he essentially blackmails her into continuing a sexual relationship is one of the stand out scenes, as is the tragic betrayal of Riz Ahmed’s ‘Rick’ in the final scene. It’s one of the most twisted and diverse performances Gyllenhaal has given to date. He deserved a nod, as did the film.
2016 – Straight Outta Compton
A considerable number of the films listed above (it has to be said) performed poorly at the box office compared to their budget. Straight Outta Compton was made for $50m, sure, but it made $200m in return. It later became the highest grossing music biopic of all time, surpassing 2005’s Walk the Line. This film clearly found a global audience, why is it that this excellent NWA biopic didn’t receive an Oscar nomination? The question hangs in the air still in the wake of a 2016 Oscars that was criticised for being the least diverse in a decade. But that’s enough about that. What I will say is that this is an incredibly enthralling and memorable portrayal of a much loved group in the prime of their music careers. It also unearthed some real up and coming talent the likes of Corey Hawkins and O’Shea Jackson Jr (AKA Ice Cube’s son). Given the hugely positive critical and public reception the film received, it’s unquestionable it should have at the very least received an Oscar nomination for best film in 2016.
What film in 2017 do you think has been wrongfully snubbed at the Oscars? Let us know your opinion in the comments below.