Every year, the Academy has the chance to shine a light on smaller films that made a big impact, and yet they rarely do. We’re not saying the following films deserve major nominations like Best Picture, but smaller, more techinical nods should have certainly been in the cards (especailly if “Passnegers” is a two-time nominee). Here are 11 amazing films rejected by the Oscars this year.
It was always going to be a stretch for Daniel Radcliffe to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor (even though his life-affirming performance certainly deserved one), but “Swiss Army Man” should have received its Oscar love in the Best Original Song race for the ridiculously catchy “Montage.” Anyone who saw the film came walking out of the theater with this melody buzzing in their heads. Do we really need two “La La Land” songs up for the Oscar?
John Carney has been infusing music and moviemaking ever since "Once" became an Oscar winner a decade ago, but he reached crowd-pleasing new heights with the infectious "Sing Street." The story of a high school kid who forms a band to impress an older girl plays entirely by the rules, but it does so with heartfelt spirit and insanely catchy tunes. We're not saying "Sing Street" deserved major nominations, but any one of its amazing original songs should have been a contender (here’s looking at you, “Drive It Like You Stole It”).
“Krisha” may be too polarizing and too challenging to appeal to Academy voters, but it’s hard not be wowed by Trey Edward Shults’ fluid and hallucinatory direction, bolstered by Drew Daniels’ freewheeling cinematography. Together, these collaborators capture the manic psyche of their protagonist in every disorienting camera movement. It’s a symphony of chaos like no other.
Park Chan-wook’s erotic stunner was shockingly not submitted as South Korea’s official Oscar entry, which means a Best Foreign Language Film nomination was never in the cards. Still, the production design by Seong-hie Ryu ranked as one of the year’s very best and certainly should have been a contender. The same could be said for cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon, whose roaming camera creates a sensual pulse that’s impossible to resist. No Korean film has ever been nominated for an Oscar, and we were hoping “The Handmaiden” would finally correct this. We’ll have to wait a little bit longer.
Every performance in Luca Guadagnino's “A Bigger Splash” deserved Oscar buzz, but Ralph Fiennes should have been a contender for the whole Best Supporting Actor prize. It was certainly one of the best turns of 2016 — a dance-worthy distillation of everything that has made Fiennes such an enduring star over the last two decades.
Kelly Reichardt's "Certain Women" is sitting the Oscars out, but at least she can take comfort in the fact that it's her highest grossing movie to date. Part of that is because of the star-studded cast, which includes Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart and Michelle Williams. But the heart of this human story is the vulnerable and endlessly absorbing Lily Gladstone, who would've certainly been on our Best Supporting Actress ticket if we were Academy members.
Winning big at Cannes doesn't mean anything for the American awards circuit, and yet Andrea Arnold's poetic sensibilities and Sasha Lane's star-making performance certainly deserved louder buzz in the Oscar race. Lane, a complete unknown, makes the kind of magnetic debut that's impossible to forget.
Robert Eggers’ terrifying family psychodrama should have been a contender in a lot of the major races this year (the performances by Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie are certainly awards-worthy), but where the Academy really dropped the ball was in failing to honor the exquisite below-the-line talent. The sense of time and place conjured by the production design, costume design and cinematography was unnervingly authentic and a colossal feat given the production’s low budget (shooting with natural light, for starters). “The Witch” feels so real and tangible in every frame that the fear leaps out of the screen and into your soul. If only the Academy embraced horror for the art it can be.
Kirsten Johnson’s transcendent documentary “Cameraperson” was a real contender all season long, but it was sadly omitted from the final five nominees for Best Documentary. It’s a shame, because this mesmerizing collage finds the director confronting her own process of creation. It takes autobiographical filmmaking to new heights.
It’s no surprise Oscar voters love a well-made, impeccably acted crowdpleaser (just see “Hidden Figures”), which is why it’s a bummer that a rousing adventure like “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” never even entered the conversation in the first place. Taika Waititi made an infectious blast of energy with this story about the relationship between a young rascal and his uncle. The Academy has gone gaga for young newcomers in the past, and the breakout Julian Dennison made a first impression like no other this year.
Jim Jarmusch’s "Paterson" is the kind of soulful meditation the Academy never touches, which is a damn shame when you have Adam Driver giving the best performance of his career so far. Like Oscar Isaac in "Inside Llewyn Davis" (also a tragic snub of Oscar's past), Driver is all nuance and introspective feeling. His performance is a masterclass not in action, but in reaction and listening. We have no doubt Driver's Oscar is still to come.