At the end of January, the Academy announced the shortlists of films nominated for 2018 Oscar awards. You have seen or at least heard about most of the nominees. However, the list of outstanding pictures of the past year is not limited by the Academy’s preferences. So, here is a list of the most remarkable yet overlooked films that for some reason are not nominated in any category.
Under the Silver Lake by David Robert Mitchell
Elevator pitch: A ruthless satire about the fakes and deceits of Hollywood
Possible nominations: “Lead Actor,” “Original Screenplay,” “Cinematography,” “Director,” “Best Picture”
America’s favorite self-revelation genre consists of films clarifying why Hollywood and everything around it is a dangerous, sinister, and dehumanizing place—where it is impossible to find anything genuine. Under the Silver Lake is a maze, created by David Robert Mitchell, whose last work was the immensely successful independent film It Follows: a horror about the dreads of growing up. This picture takes a turn to pseudo-noir and stars Andrew Garfield as a young fiddler from the suburbs of Los Angeles who ventures to solve an insane ride from a comic book about a mysterious place under Silver Lake. Along the way, he tries to find an unaccounted for blonde with a small white dog and accidentally learns the secret of all late 20-century pop stars.
The film is full of cinema quotes that will make any avid watcher gag. The films referenced are Inherent Vice, The Big Lebowski, Chinatown, Sunset Boulevard, Barton Fink, Mulholland Drive, and Maps to the Stars. These are essentially the best films about life in Hollywood that fully consists of fakes. Under the Silver Lake, ideally, could receive the best director and best picture awards, as there is no better film about life in the postmodern universe. However, the Academy tends to underestimate young directors and choose them only as an exception.
Suspiria by Luca Guadagnino
Elevator pitch: A visually stunning drama about corporeity, trauma, and collective memory
Possible nominations: “Original Score,” “Original Song,” “Costume Design,” “Cinematography,” “Production Design,” “Adapted Screenplay,” “Lead Actress” for Dakota Johnson, “Supporting Actress” for Tilda Swinton
Trauma and collective memory as tragedies of previous generations and consequences of wars are today’s hot topics. A film by the director of Call Me by Your Name is quite a bold move. Luca Guadagnino uses the classic Giallo trilogy by Dario Argento about mothers and showcases the continuity of violence. This violence dooms humanity with an endless cycle of pain and suffering. The remake is significantly different from the original Suspiria, as the director used it as the inspiration for the vibe rather than the content of the script.
The story is set in 1977 Berlin. It was the hot zone of the cold war, a city separated by the atrocious humanitarian disaster of the 20th century. Suspiria presents different aesthetics with gloomy and dark colors, a minimalistic setting design, and pale faces.
Surprisingly, such a combination was somehow ignored by the Academy. However, this film has a lot to be proud of, such as Dakota Johnson with the most remarkable role in her career, which is a vulnerable American dancer in the ambiance of hostility. Another missed nomination is supporting actress for Tilda Swinton, who embodied the charisma of women regenerating the ideology of the body in post-war times. Finally, not getting a nomination for such a mesmerizing, unsettling, and remarkable score by Thom Yorke is a massive loss for one of the biggest movies of 2018.
Beautiful Boy by Felix Van Groeningen
Elevator pitch: A sincere drama about parental love and destructive addiction
Possible nominations: “Lead Actor” for Steve Carell, “Supporting Actor” for Timothée Chalamet
Beautiful Boy is a result of the significant social shift towards sincerity and realism in the depiction of tragedy without accusations and shaming, which only entered the filming world recently. This film is a relatable story for people who had to face the problem of addiction with their relatives or beloved ones. It is a story about a father’s love and a son’s cluelessness concerning his addiction. Besides, the film demonstrates the absurdity of acrophobic laws, which lead an addicted person and their family to isolation and despair.
Timothée Chalamet steps away from the image of a golden boy, and turns into a typical creative and ambitious American teenager, whose lies and negation of the problem jeopardize his future. Although Steve Carell is known and recognized as a comedian, he plays a loving father who shows empathy and understanding, yet fails to help his son because of his soft heart. The picture goes far beyond a simple film about drug addiction, as it portrays the relationship of a parent and a child who love each other too much to be able to help.
Paddington 2 by Paul King
Elevator pitch: A picaresque film starring the most charming bear
Possible nominations: “Best Picture,” “Costume Design,” “Production Design,” “Adapted Screenplay”
It is noticeable that the Academy’s selection tends to differ from the choices of the audience. For example, Paddington 2 was extremely popular and heartwarming. It is a family movie that teaches kindness. The film failed to receive any nomination from the Academy, although it is a BAFTA favorite this year. It is a British movie that involved several American production companies, which is usually enough for the nomination, apart from the fact that it was released in the US in 2018.
Nonetheless, the film does not need an Academy Award to be the film of the year for its audience, who will joyfully rewatch it with their families. At the time, when all the news is about terrorism and injustice, it is a relief to look at fairytale-like London last-century mysteries, fairs, Hugh Grant, musical performances with umbrellas, and orange jam. A movie, in which the mysteries of a Russian emigrant in a traveling circus are flavored with suspense, and closing credits are crafted by Wes Anderson, is doomed to become the audience’s favorite. Apart from the adorable characters and the plot, the film is also eye candy—it represents the aesthetic of mundane Britain with saturated colors, stereotypes about true English style, and the hospitality of Londoners.
Burning by Lee Chang-Dong
Elevator pitch: A dreamlike drama about the pointlessness of existence and destruction tendencies
Possible nomination: “Best Foreign Language Film”
Burning is a movie version of a novel by Haruki Murakami. It was first screened at the Cannes festival. This metaphorical Korean drama instantly became one of the critics’ favorite and gained recognition in many lists of 2018 best films. Burning is an eloquent, intricate, and visually stunning story. However, the literal description of the plot can tell little about the film. It can only denote the characters and setting, but the delivery the director achieves in the picture.
The plot is built around two young men who try to win the attention of a girl. Her character is abstract and difficult to describe. One of the protagonists is poor but gifted. The second one is rich and idle; nobody knows what he does for a living. The latter also has a strange obsession: setting old wooden buildings on fire. Throughout the film, the characters discuss love, boredom, ambition, and disillusionment in metaphorical language, such as imagining a tangerine in one’s hand. At first sight, it is a typical zen-movie, yet despite the thematic similarity, it is a picture on the dark side that every personality has.
Tully by Jason Reitman
Elevator pitch: A sorrowful story about modern parenthood with a role of Charlize Theron you’ve never seen before
Possible nominations: “Original Screenplay,” “Lead Actress” for Charlize Theron, “Supporting Actress” for Mackenzie Davis
Charlize Theron is well known for her ability to transform into a character. Her leading role in Patty Jenkinіs’s Monster brought her an Academy award over ten years ago. However, in Tully, the actress goes through a transformation into a much more familiar role. She plays a pregnant middle-class American woman in her late 30s, and her character has nobody to ask for help despite a caring husband and a wealthy brother.
It is one of the best works in Theron’s acting career, and it is familiar to most women. Marlo is an ordinary, lively, tired, self-ironic and self-conscious heroine. She looks like any mother does, and her everyday accomplishments remain unnoticed and unthanked for. Her power is in her complex and multifaceted personality, scripted by Diablo Cody. The plot of Tully has a twist, which will break your heart but also will open your eyes to the supporting character Tully, who saves Marlo when she starts sinking into despair. Nonetheless, the performance of both actresses was not noticed by the Academy.
Wildlife by Paul Dano
Elevator pitch: An intimate portrayal of a doomed marriage in the 60s
Possible nominations: “Director,” “Best Picture,” “Original Screenplay,” “Lead Actress” for Carey Mulligan, “Lead Actor” for Jake Gyllenhaal, “Production Design”
After its release, Wildlife was praised among critics, who predicted a lot of awards for this film. It is a successful directing debut of Paul Dano. Among other movies about marriages that fall apart, this one stands out for its tranquility and sensibility in its approach to family drama. In Wildlife, the events take place in the poor state of Montana. The modest life in this state is reproduced with a bleak color palette, which is not usual for the oversaturated nostalgia-driven portrayal of the 60s. The setting and cinematography focus on the smallest details from the school interior to the pattern on the heroine’s apron.
Surprisingly, Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal did not impress the Academy in their roles of ordinary, yet profound people with such relatable problems. Probably, the minimalistic approach to acting makes them bleak among overacted performances in mainstream cinema. This film shows that relationships fall apart because of inaction, and the misery of a single social unit is a part of the global picture of changes and uncertainty. The idea is presented simplistically and thoughtfully: with the shot of their son’s stare that shows both his confusion and powerlessness of his parents.
Unsane by Steven Soderbergh
Elevator pitch: A thriller about paranoia and stalking filmed on a smartphone
Possible nominations: “Original Screenplay,” “Director,” “Cinematography,” “Lead Actress” for Claire Foy
Steven Soderbergh established himself as a remarkable movie director many years ago, so now he mostly produces other directors’ films or screenwrites for them. However, once in several years, he gets bored of it, and directs a film personally. What is more interesting, it is usually a narrow-scale independent project. Such is his latest thriller Unsane. It is a movie about a white-collar woman, who has no choice but to move from Boston because she is being stalked. She moves to Pennsylvania, but the assurance of being staked does not leave her. The heroine goes to a psychiatrist and decides to get psychiatric treatment at the hospital. Here, the cinematography is crucial. Soderbergh, who usually shoots and edits his films, follows her through the corridors of the hospital. It makes the visual narration subjective and showcases her paranoia.
Claire Foy could be nominated for the leading role in this film. Although she is known for her reserved acting, in Unsane she portrays paranoia with slanting eyes and trembling mouth.
Mandy by Panos Cosmatos
Elevator pitch: A psychedelic horror with minimum amount of events and chainsaw fight sequences
Possible nominations: “Lead Actor” for Nicolas Cage, “Lead Actress” for Andrea Riseborough, “Production Design,” “Original Score,” “Best Picture”
If we lived in a post-apocalyptic world, Mandy would sure become the best picture of the year. However, in today’s reality, it will remain a guilty pleasure of those who grew up watching VHS tapes with Kubrick and Lynch. It is a compilation of the traditions of genre film, embedded in a story that will bring the joy of recognizing each one of them. On the one hand, we have already seen everything that happens in Mandy. On the other hand, the familiarity fades in the portrayal of each trope. It is the second film directed by Panos Cosmatos, and it is a brave take on the aesthetics of 80s horror movies.
The plot is simple: in a family of black metal fans, the wife is kidnapped, and her husband ventures to rescue her. Mandy is a film worth seeing, as no description can accurately explain what happens there. Nonetheless, the indifference of the Academy is understandable in the case of Mandy: genre stylistics, black humor, sarcasm, and substance abuse are not welcome in their shortlists. However, ignoring the performance of Nicolas Cage and Andrea Riseborough is genuinely surprising, as well as Jóhann Jóhannsson’s mesmerizing score.