The nominees for this year’s Academy Awards are deserving and well founded, but each year there are several amazing performances, films, and directors that don’t make the cut. Not that they aren’t equally deserving. Some may even have been rushed to make the Academy deadline for nomination and so were unable to distribute enough screeners to Oscar voters. As the voting formula whittles down the list to the select few that will compete for the top prize, a great film or actor hopes to at least garner one nomination that will provide it the exposure it needs to get itself in front of more audiences across the world. For those that don’t, they should take solace in the continuing recognition by the viewing public still singing its praises long after its left the theater. Here are just a few of the talented individuals whose works from 2014 should be sought out and experienced.
Snubbed For Best Actress Nomination
The biggest exclusion from the female leads category is Jennifer Aniston. She shines in comedies like Office Space or Horrible Bosses, but can make a real impression on you like she does in Cake as a woman suffering with chronic pain. There seemed no doubt her performance would solidify a nomination, but it wasn’t to be. Another actress who demonstrated great talent once again is Jessica Chastain. I much enjoyed her in Zero Dark Thirty and looked forward to every scene with her in Interstellar, but her character in A Most Violent Year is what stands out. As the wife of a shady businessman trying to maintain his operations in New York City during 1981, you see her frantic energy as she struggles to keep the troubles of his enterprise from spreading into her family. It may not be her year to get a nomination, but she only stands to get better as time goes on. So it won’t be long before her name is called out once more.
Snubbed For Best Actor Nomination
One of the most engaging characters to cross the screen this year is Louis Bloom played by Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler. Written and directed by Dan Gilroy, the tension of this movie is carried on the shoulders of Gyllenhaal as he pulls us into dangerous situations better off left to the cops. His character is a symbol of our desire to witness tragedy in all its gory detail. As long as we aren’t the ones getting our hands dirty. He disappears into this role more than any other I’ve seen him take on. It really wasn’t until the 11th hour of 2014 that Jake Gyllenhaal’s chances of getting a nomination became less certain. Even though the award should go to Eddie Redmayne, a nod for his performance is sorely missed. Another nomination should go to David Oyelowo for MLK Jr in Selma. It takes confidence and courage to take on such an iconic figure and Oyelowo does it so convincingly that all sense of caricature fades away; leaving the essence of Dr. King shining through with every church speech. The intimate moments with his wife or friends also provides another lesser known side of this iconic figure; and Oyelowo tackles these scenes marvelously.
One other actor who should at least be commended for his work last year is Tom Hardy. He did two movies which emphasized the nuance of his talent. The first one being Locke, a story about a construction foreman driving down the highways of England to look after a woman he impregnated, even though it would mean his family and career would suffer for it. The movie takes place entirely in a car and all conversations are carried out by phone calls. Tom Hardy’s facial expressions and delivery of his lines are our only window into this tale of doing the right thing regardless of the consequences. His other film is The Drop, which stars James Gandolfini in his last film role. Tom Hardy plays a bartender who handles money drops for organized criminals. He helps cover up a robbery gone wrong and is forced to deal with other troubles in his neighborhood. Hardy’s delivery in both films is subtle and allows you to gradually become engrossed in the story.
Snubbed for Best Director Nomination
I would love to see Dan Gilroy’s name mentioned, but another first-time director who definitely should be in this Oscar Category is Ava Duvernay for Selma. Her depiction of the events in Alabama leading up to the march in 1965 is engaging and thought-provoking. Whether there was more compassion from Lyndon B Johnson back then is still a cause for discussion. The message of community from the entire nation as whites rallied to support their black brothers and sisters in a cause for basic human rights is executed so well that even those that witnessed it firsthand say this movie brings that moment back to life. The pain and struggles due to prejudice, coupled with an inflated sense of supremacy, flamed the fires of animosity in Selma; creating one of the pivotal moments in the civil rights movement and encouraging the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Snubbed for Best Picture Nomination
If there were ten nominations this year, because I can’t fault any of the existing nominees for being there, I would add Nightcrawler to this list. It builds up to a satisfying ending so well and brings you into a world of Los Angeles that is real and virtually unnoticed by most. My other pick would be Gone Girl. No other movie left my eyes open so wide at the end, except for Whiplash. Even if you saw where the story was going, and it’s Lifetime movie storyline didn’t interest you, the execution from top to bottom is phenomenal. You have David Fincher’s haunting direction, all the supporting actors, from Tyler Perry to Neil Patrick Harris, the music, the cinematography, and the set design. I was sure it would be a major contender this year, but it didn’t happen. I am still in awe at how well it came together.
I couldn’t finish this article without some honorable mentions such as Snowpiercer and The Raid 2. The latter specifically for how well the fight scenes were orchestrated. It now has the best car chase scene of all time for me. Also Edge of Tomorrow is a great sci-fi film that suffered from bad marketing. Tom Cruise carries these types of movies terrifically and the dark Groundhog Day humor should have been included in its trailers. Life Itself, the documentary about Roger Ebert, was also omitted despite much praise and appreciation among moviegoers. The last movie I have to bring up is one that might have just been too silly for the average, aging Academy voter. The Lego Movie is nowhere to be seen for Best Animated Feature. Had it gone up against Frozen the year before, it would have surely lost. Luckily Frozen came out in December of 2013 and The Lego Movie in February of last year; so it seemed guaranteed a spot, despite strong showings by Big Hero 6 and How to Train Your Dragon 2. Lord and Miller, the directors of The Lego Movie, have been on a winning streak critically, but this nomination was to be the icing on their Lego cake. Instead they’ve settled for a Lego Oscar they made themselves to poke fun at the snub. The other three nominations, The Boxtrolls, Song of the Sea, and The Tale of Princess Kaguya, are beautiful animated stories that deserve to be at the Academy Awards, but for the massive audience that has re-watched The Lego Movie many times with their kids, and sometimes by ourselves, we will just have to settle for a fun performance of Everything is Awesome on stage this Sunday.
Whether a film gets a nomination or not, it is important to let your friends and family, even complete strangers, know how you feel about a movie. Especially if it moves you or makes you see things differently. No matter how many awards a movie gets, it doesn’t replace your appreciation and your memories of that film. You may not always revere a movie as you once did years ago, but the same can be said for any movie. Still there is always something to take away. I had my first kiss watching this movie. I laughed the hardest with my son when we saw this. From the first time you sit down and see the images grace the screen at your local theater to the first time you introduce your kid to a personally beloved classic, a movie will remain cherished regardless of its prominence in awards history. ET didn’t beat Gandhi in 1982, but I bet it is watched more often every year. Back to the Future, Fight Club, Network, The Princess Bride, The Neverending Story, Star Wars, etc. Wherever they fall at the critic’s doorstep, we pick them up and take them home. On a rainy day when we aren’t feeling so well, we can pop in Clue or Goonies and relax for an evening of nostalgia, laughter, scares, or tears. We can recognize quality along the way and still enjoy ourselves. I loved Saving Private Ryan, but I’m more inclined to see The Burbs for the 20th time. I have seen several movies in 2014 that I place in this category and I cannot wait to look for them on the next rainy day.