10 Amazing Films Cheated by the Oscars by J.G. Barnes
The Oscars are upon us again. Now, I, for the most part, actually respect the Oscars. I think they can make some great decisions. I welcome you to sue me. I've agreed with their choices more often than not, but when they make a mistake, they make 'em big and hairy like a pair of swollen kicked-in testicles. This isn't a perfect list. It's not a Top Ten. It's not the best of the best. This is a list of films that either were completely ignored, robbed of a nomination, are lesser-known, completely misunderstood (or misrepresented), or for one reason or another missed the opportunity they deserved. Following is a list I will call honorable mentions, not because I feel they are any less important, but because I just didn't have the time or space to write about every single amazing film out there. So, I condensed it to ten films that I felt I could comfortably praise because they remain fresh in my mind. Without anymore B.S., let's have at it...
This masterpiece still sits at the very top of my all time favorite films list. It's been a while since I've seen it, but every single time I come back to it I'm reminded just why it has yet to be dethroned. Directed by one of the greatest living directors, Mr. David Fincher, like all of his films, Fight Club is an especially astute example of how exact and polished of a cinematic mind Fincher has. It lost its only Oscar nomination to the well-deserved Matrix for Best Sound and seemed to be recognized everywhere else for its screenplay, acting, and direction except by the Academy.
My first time seeing this on the unhinged badassery of VHS on a 17" tube TV left my jaw completely unraveled across my floor. I watched it three more times that same weekend completely blown away every single viewing. This film changed my life as a movie lover and raised the bar astronomically high for everything I would subsequently see. I thought I knew what excellent films were before Fight Club thrust itself inside me and popped my film-loving cherry. Since then, it seems so many more films are bitter disappointments in the shadow of Fincher's testosterone-laden man movie.
Fuckin Drive. Wow. Alright, who are the idiots that didn't like this movie? Let me do an impression of you. Hold on. Wait. I need to put on my wife-beater and get a tribal tattoo. OK, let's do this. "Man, that movie's gay, bro. There was like one car chase. The movie should have been called Slow. Where's all the driving at, bro? And why is there like no talking? Why doesn't he just fuck her already? Where's Paul Walker when you need him? Am I right?"
Drive is a film that slowly burns inside you like a fine wine until your loose on a hard buzz. It is a masterful work, executed with Miyagi-like discipline from director Nicolas Winding Refn. Every shot is precise and deliberate. The direction, subtle and careful. The tone, like a warm knife sinking atom by atom through your numbed flesh and into your lungs where before you realize it you're coughing violent expulsions of blood into the air. The film feels like trying to track a ninja in the dark and you only catch the shimmer of his blade when it's slicing off limbs in a shower of human juice. The violence is shocking and erupts in unpredictable spikes throughout the otherwise meditative pace. Though the story is not by any means original, the drama is tightly calculated and the characters deep, genuine, and easy to care for or to equally despise.
Oh, and Ryan Gosling made me question my heterosexuality.
Martyrs is the best film that I never want to watch. It's not fun. It truly can't be categorized as entertainment in any conventional understanding of the term. It's a brutal, emotionally exhausting and raw film that will twist in your gut like a pitchfork slowly churning your stomach into spaghetti -- and these words can't do the gravity of the film justice. After watching it for the first time, emerging from a seat filled with my own urine and shame, it was like the confused aftermath of surviving a horrible car accident; you don't really know what in the fuck just happened, but you wander around aimlessly fulfilling the mundane tasks imprinted in your muscle memory like walking down the stairs and into your kitchen to open the fridge and forget why you did it.
It's perfectly understandable why something like Martyrs would never get nominated for an Oscar. It's not pretty. It's psychologically complex in a way that would unnerve a 20 year psycho-therapist. And it's French. Who reads anymore, right? Director Pascal Laugier wrote the film as his own therapy for overcoming depression and potential suicide when virtually nothing else was working for him especially the comfort of loved ones. Knowing this, it's incredibly clear through the screenplay his intimate understanding of the severe intricacies of his condition and the undulating woes that others like him went through. It's best going in to the film having no idea what it is. If you have not seen this film before, do not watch any trailers. Don't read anything else about it...at all. However, I do promise you that despite the brutality on display it's anything but torture porn. Any idiot could superficially label it as such. It's a psychological thriller of the most insane breed, wrapped in the flesh of a deranged horror film.
Rian Johnson is not yet a household name, but I have a feeling that he's on his way to massive summer draw for a huge hit one day. With smart, genuine dramas that are sprinkled with a little action and sci-fi like Looper, Johnson is right on the tails of J.J. Abrams. Brothers Bloom is a lesser-known romantic comedy starring Rachael Weiss, Adrien Brody, and the Hulk. How in the hell this wasn't nominated for Best Screenplay is beyond my understanding. This is an intricately woven caper film that is as equally sharp and complex as it is heart-warming and funny. With the star power it had, it's unfortunate it's not more well-known. I never hear ANYONE outside my group of superior film admirers ever mention it.
It's one of those very rare films that is deceptively deep. Like Fight Club or The Matrix, Brothers Bloom gets better every time I see it because I keep catching veiled details winking at me from dark corners that fill in pieces residing between the lines of the plot.
The Devil's Double
Why was Dominic Cooper not nominated for Best Actor for this? Why, Academy? WHY?! If you want to see some of the most truly exceptional and mind-boggling acting ever captured, go get this film right now. Cooper will get his due sooner or later. I would hope so. One of these days, when he does, we're all gonna look back and say, "Where did this guy come from?" Then we'll see Devil's Double and be reminded of how ignorant we, as human beings, were to miss him when he deserved it most.
Devil's Double is the story of Latif Yahia, the body double of Uday Hussein. That's right, Barack Hussein Obama's long lost Iraqi son...
Alright, Fox News, don't get any big ideas, I'm just kidding. It's Saddam Hussein's totally flipping nuts son. And, wow, what a seriously bat-shit crazy psychopath this dude was. The film is mesmerizing just watching the complete deconstruction of this guy's warped mind. It's shot with style and color that pop and dazzle like the erratic, glitzy nature of Uday's life. Just like Uday himself, the film is as unpredictable and stuffed to the brim with one wild scene after the next and might be one of the least boring films ever created. It can be at times tough to watch, but that's who the guy was. 2011 was loaded with many spectacular and unique films. This one sits right up at the very top and for crimes which will forever go unpunished, was not given the recognition it deserves. Do not go another second without seeing this one.
When I first saw this ruthlessly esoteric test of the mind and soul, I didn't like it. I was young and dumb and still thought pants the size of garbage bags were cool. Since then, I've grown up, started buying pants that fit and realized my foolishness. The Fountain is a perfect film. One of the few that is as truly perfect as it is extraordinarily profound. It's all in your perspective. I don't like to pull this card -- like ever -- but, if you didn't like it, you just plain don't get it. I've had the biggest morons express to me how it's too pretentious and that it beats you over the head with how much smarter it thinks it is than you are, well, apparently it actually is in this case, but that does not mean it's a bad movie. It just means you're kinda dumb.
The Fountain is actually a rather short film and plays out much like a dream where mistakes in your life are repeated into an endless nightmare, where you spin yourself into maddening cycles of errors trying to figure out where and why everything went wrong despite regurgitating your blunders and never learning from them. This is a story of a man so insanely devoted to solving the wrong questions when the simplest answer, wasting away before him, might disappear before he realizes it. Again, another actor robbed of a nomination. Hugh Jackman is absolutely heart-wrenching and director Darren Aronofsky has never been better. Black Swan would come close, but not quite reach the towering genius of The Fountain.
Kingdom of Heaven
There's an easy answer why Kingdom of Heaven was never nominated for Best Picture. It's because some asshole producer decided that no one wanted to see a three hour film and ordered for it to be cut down by 46 minutes, therefore leading to less than stellar box office results because viewers and critics felt it was "incomplete." Way to go, dipshit. Since the director's cut had been released, it's widely considered one of the best -- if not the most definitive -- director's cut of a film that has ever been released, filling in tons of detrimental details fleshing out motivations and history.
Hauntingly scored by the amazing Harry Gregson-Williams, he delivers one of his most underrated and gorgeously dark scores he's ever done. Battles are visceral, gritty, and awesomely massive. The cinematography is no less than exceptional with massive crane shots sweeping through a spectrum of gold, silver, and deep blacks and blues. The film is loaded with stunning production through and through. Ed Norton, especially among the remainder of the phenomenal cast, gives his most inarguably unique performance of his career thus far. Most importantly, though, is the profoundly thought-provoking story that follows a non-believer who despite trying and failing to find God, becomes the savior of thousands.
In my opinion this is the only film to equal Ridley Scott's other masterpiece, Gladiator. Kingdom of Heaven is an epic in the biggest, most powerful way, and should not be missed.
The Truman Show
There's nothing quite like The Truman Show. Before this film Jim Carrey was known for being either an idiot or a loveable one with the exception of the darkly quirky love-it-or-hate-it Cable Guy. In the case of Truman Burbank, however, was the first time I was floored by Carrey. The man could act his ass off. For me, this was an extremely moving film when I first had seen it. It deeply affected me on not only an emotional level, but made me look at the world differently.
There aren't a whole lot of films that pull off the surrealism quite like director Peter Weir did and you could not have picked a better leading man to be the tight rope on which the entire film balances. The Truman Show is loaded with some of the most bittersweet heart-twisting dialogue that reaches out and involves the audience in delightfully discomforting ways especially when Truman's "loved ones" are forced to fabricate things in order to save face. Truman Show is philosophically dense, and wears its religious allegory on its sleeve, yet tastefully in a way that invites anyone to enjoy it and derive their own meaning. Hugely inspirational, poignant, hilarious, and touching, The Truman Show deserved more. Much more.
The Matrix is perhaps the most subversively influential film since Citizen Kane. Now, before you sandy film snobs break a blood vessel and start firing your elitist condescension at me through your keyboard, let me explain. There are films before The Matrix and there are films after The Matrix. The Wachowski's dropped a nuclear bomb on the Hollywood blockbuster world that reduced everything to a dusty wasteland where film makers had to start over and think differently if they were going to impress anyone after that. The Wachowski's asked why can't we have our cake and eat it, too? Why can't an absurdly cool action flick ask life's most essential questions while blowing your mind along with the explosions and ass-kickery?
I say "subversively influential" because a lot of people really don't recognize how significant the film is. Yeah, it's a smart action flick, but, really? Is it really that brilliant? Well, yes, actually. When I first saw The Matrix I only thought it was pretty good until years later when my life took me down a path of reading into the philosophies the film is based on. This stuff is truly deep. Endlessly deep. There has never been a film loaded with as much replay value and to this day no action film can compare. Seriously, if you have no idea what I'm talking about I can't waste much time explaining it. Go and read a book. Look into the philosophies that inspired the film and be prepared to have your life ruined in the best way possible.
I wish I could talk more about this film, but you don't have the attention span and we don't have the screen space. Sound off in the comments and let's start a conversation!
What Dreams May Come
You could quench the thirst of millions of dehydrated Ethiopian children with the tears expelled during one sitting of What Dreams May Come. The film is almost sickening to watch as it takes you from tears of joy to tears of sadness from scene to emotionally revolting scene while simultaneously throwing at you some of the most beautiful special effects ever created in the history of cinema. It makes sense why the Academy would miss this one. It's tiring. It asks a LOT of you. Maybe too much and that's why it's gotten such mixed reviews.
I, on the other hand, feel that when it comes to pure beauty in film, it doesn't get better than this. Robin Williams utterly captivates as he tries to conquer the impossible. For someone like me who is fascinated by the "rules" of religion, what it means to be human, and the philosophies in between, What Dreams May Come covers the gamut and never ceases to move me to near physical weakness.
Defiance, Match Point, Man on the Moon, The Prestige, Closer, Heat, Adaptation, Walk the Line, Mulholland Drive
So, you've completed the article and realized there are glaring omissions -- and believe me, I most certainly did not forget to put Dark Knight on here -- but please, let me know what you think I might have forgotten in the comments below! Let's hear your Best Pictures that were never nominated!
-article by J.G. Barnes
-article by J.G. Barnes