No matter how pernicious entertainment reporters and critics find the phrase “what, no…?” in the comments of their well-reasoned lists and rankings of noteworthy films, most of them (including yours truly) cannot resist a little armchair quarterbacking when high-profile nominations are handed out, as was the case this morning with the Oscars. Check out this gallery of just twelve of the incredible films made this year that are at least worthy of nominations from the AMPAS - and sadly received none.
Alex Garland’s follow-up to the critically-acclaimed “Ex Machina” attracted a lot of critical praise despite Paramount’s best efforts to bury it last spring, and it continues to resonate as a smart, female-driven science fiction project exploring issues worthy (at least) of a Best Adapted Screenplay nod, not to mention recognition of Rob Hardy’s phenomenal cinematography, Mark Digby’s production design and some really beautiful, bonkers visual effects.
'Crazy Rich Asians'
Jon M. Chu’s romantic comedy revival wasn’t merely noteworthy for its box office success and its virtually all-Asian cast; it tells a really wonderful story in what is for many a previously unseen landscape, featuring exceptional production design, a fantastic Best Supporting Actress performance by Michelle Yeoh, and certainly enough all-around qualities to make it worthy of a Best Picture nomination - especially since there are spots for ten contenders, and only eight were used.
Bo Burnham’s coming of age story doubles as one of the year’s most frightening films - mostly in terms of the recognition it produces in virtually anyone who sees it. Elsie Fisher netted a deserved Golden Globe nomination for her performance in the film, and it’s both her turn as Burnham’s writing and directing that deserve to be honored alongside the rest of the year’s best work.
So-called “adult” comedies seldom resonate with critics and audiences alike, but filmmakers Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley plays its twists and turns perfectly straight for what ends up being a terrifically funny thriller. Meanwhile, Rachel McAdams is wonderful as the spirited Annie, and Jesse Plemons absolutely steals the show in a turn for which he absolutely deserves to contend for Best Supporting Actor.
As a mother dealing with indescribable loss - and the creeping influence of her late mother’s mysterious machinations - Toni Collette gives one of the year’s soul-baring performances in a film that resonates both with terror and absolute humanity. Alex Wolff’s deterioration as her character’s son offers its own incredible anchor for the frightening images and ideas in Ari Aster’s meticulous writing, and later, in his expert direction of this frightening tale.
'Leave No Trace'
Given the late surge in popularity for this film from a number of critics’ groups, Debra Granik’s film about a PTSD-stricken veteran raising his daughter off the grid seemed like it had a real shot for at least some well-deserved Best Adapted Screenplay and possible Best Director nominations. But both Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie do exceptional work in their co-lead roles, and its timely message resonates in such a way that a Best Picture nomination would be absolutely warranted.
'Private Life' (2018)
Tamara Jenkins’ heartbreakingly funny story about a couple trying to have a child and the young woman who agrees to donate her eggs to them possibly suffered from lack of recognition because of its late-fall debut on Netflix, but Jenkins is an incredible storyteller with a gift for humor and intimacy in the face of devastating personal trauma. Her original screenplay is worthy of a nomination by itself, but Kathryn Hahn has been doing great work for years and this somehow surpasses almost all of it as Lead Actress.
Chloe Zhao’s astonishing, honest film about an injured rodeo rider contemplating his past, and his future has already earned dozens of awards from regional critics groups and five nominations from the Independent Spirit Awards. But Zhao’s writing and directing are certainly on par with the current Oscar nominees, and Brady Jandreau’s haunting, reflective performance is absolutely worthy of consideration for Best Actor.
Boots Riley has been attracting attention for his feature debut since its first appearance at Sundance, but this transgressive look at identity and representation and commercialism and horse people (?) pushed more than enough buttons to warrant a Best Screenplay nomination. Meanwhile, both Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson ground this wild film with performances that stand alongside the best of 2018.
'THE HATE U GIVE'
Unfortunately, this movie kind of came and went without raising anywhere near the amount of attention it deserved, in a number of year-end awards categories - including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay for Audrey Wells, Best Actress for star Amandla Stenberg, and Supporting Actor Russell Hornsby. It’s a movie born out of earned (and deserved) anger that somehow never loses that emotional energy but manages somehow to feel hopeful in spite of it.
Steve McQueen’s reimagining of a 1980s BBC television series is a remarkable work from a major artist. Viola Davis’ lead performance is one powerfully weighted with fierce desperation; Elizabeth Debicki’s supporting turn offers a truly affecting, empowering transformation. McQueen’s direction is terrific, but it’s his collaboration with Gillian Flynn on its screenplay where the true power comes from, and an Adapted nomination could have recognized the core work that made this such an extraordinary film.
You Were Never Really Here
Lynne Ramsay is just one of a number of incredible female filmmakers whose work went unrecognized this year at the Oscars, but her latest film, about a troubled hit man who rescues trafficked girls, deserved nominations for both her direction and screenplay, its lead, Joaquin Phoenix, cinematographer Tom Townend, and Jonny Greenwood’s phenomenal score.