Let’s focus on the bad for a moment. Rather than revel in the success of the films that were nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, let’s take our glass-half-empty spectacles and focus on the snubs. Some of the films listed were on the bubble, but some unquestionably belong on the short list.
You can’t make everyone happy all the time, and I’m sure that even this list of snubs doesn’t cover a few films that others thought deserve to make the cut. But it’s a small step on the road to healing for these neglected orphans of Oscar night.
I will mention context in greater detail for a couple more films, but operating in the confines of the James Bond universe handicaps your ability to garner critical acclaim. Of course, one shouldn’t add degrees of difficulty for good performances in bad films, or exceptional direction in a trite, mass-marketed action franchise, but at the same time, the quality of the work shouldn’t be disregarded because of those factors either.
Skyfall was a raging success as a Bond film, but would have gathered more acclaim if it hadn’t been. Sadly, the producers will have to live with the designation of “an amazing Bond film” rather than “an amazing film.” It’s better than a stick in the eye, but not the treatment the outstanding film deserves.
Unlike many other tour de force directors, at no time has Paul Thomas Anderson run the risk of repeating himself. While it looked like he had been flirting with delusions of grandeur in Magnolia, he quickly righted the ship with diverse fare such as Punch Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood.
He’s back for more with The Master, which, despite existing atop many year-end lists, didn’t make the shortlists for Best Picture or Best Director. I am not saying that the film is the best of the year (though the case could be made), but it clearly exists on a completely separate level than Argo or Silver Linings Playbook, both phenomenal films, but demonstrating nowhere near the mastery and authorship that P.T. took to The Master.
This is the year’s most baffling and inexplicable exclusion. There was even more room to include, but Oscar voters opted not to. One has to wonder if the scientology machine could have been behind this snub, because common sense sure wasn’t.
This film isn’t in English, so it would be situated in the Oscars’ “Best Foreign Language Film” category. However, we don’t have a “Best Movies That Didn’t Get Nominated For Best Foreign Language Film,” so this film goes on this list.
Holy Motors is a bewildering fantasy film that doesn’t seem to follow in the vein of, well, any film ever, which is a large part of its draw. It follows a protagonist as he goes through a door in his apartment, finding himself acting out myriad different scenarios for audiences, off-camera directors, and the like.
Anyone’s explanation won’t do the film justice. What the film lacks in production values (and it does lack them), it makes up for in innovation and weirdness. The film even has Kylie Minogue in it for God’s sake. What more could you want?
It’s the most Wes Anderson-y of all the Wes Anderson films, and ten years ago, that may have been a good thing. But as we’ve seen with Tim Burton, and increasingly with Quentin Tarantino, audiences, over time, get restless with auteurs who sit so steadfastly in their comfort zone.
So in context, Moonrise Kingdom was a film that may have simply served as chapter six of the Wes Anderson saga, even if Fantastic Mr. Fox bought him a little goodwill in this regard. Out of context, Moonrise Kingdom serves as perhaps Anderson’s strongest outing yet, taking his childlike sense of wonder and aligning it with actual children, and their wonderful compliment, clueless adults.
Strong performances, especially by Edward Norton should have catapulted this film from “great Wes Anderson movie” to “great movie.”
Sure, it came out way back in January, when most movies get dropped off because they can’t find a home in more high-profile release dates, and yes, it stars the current action-star Liam Neeson, and not the more thought-provoking Liam Neeson of yesteryear, but none of that should matter. The Grey is a triumph for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that director Joe Carnahan was able to shoehorn profound sadness and existential subject matter into a film the logline of which is “Guys fight killer wolves in the snow.”
That logline is where the mass-marketed appeals stop as we see a group of the toughest men in the world slowly, sadly resign themselves to their fate. There’s no underdog story, no come from behind win. Just a story beautifully told, and subtext that goes far beyond a killer wolves picking off plane crash victims.