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The Best Movies Without Academy Award Nominations of the 21st Century, From ‘Wonder Woman’ to ‘Zodiac’

25 great films and not a single nod among them.

21st Century Oscar Snubs

5. “Caché” (2005)

Cache

Michael Haneke’s mystery is a bleak examination of a family unravelling once they realize they’re under surveillance by a mysterious presence. As the sinking realization that the videotapes they’re receiving anonymously point to a secret buried in the past, things get dark quickly. The film is peak Haneke, with a sparse, unforgiving look, feel, and philosophy that likely left Academy members who celebrated his 2012 romance “Amour” in the cold. The film is marked by unease and dread as well as striking imagery and violence that remain indelible for fans of the auteur. This tense, slyly political work deserved a Best Foreign Language Film nomination, as well as a Best Director nod for Haneke, whose unflinching vision makes the audience the ultimate voyeur. Unfortunately, the Oscars disqualified “Caché” for a supremely silly reason: Austria submitted it because Haneke is Austrian, but since the film was in French, and French is not the primary language of Austria, it wasn’t eligible to represent either country. C’est stupide! —WE

4. “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” (2010)

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives ghost monkey

Seven years later, it appears the Academy is finally ready to recognize a movie in which a woman has sex with a fish. Better late than never, right? And though Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s evocative masterpiece was too ahead of its time for AMPAS, at least the jurors at Cannes weren’t similarly shortsighted: “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” rightly won the Palme d’Or, making the auteur affectionately known as Joe the first Thai filmmaker to be so honored. With an otherworldly vibe in which the ghost monkeys are here to both console and unsettle the living — one of whom, the title character, will soon depart this mortal coil — the film is somewhere between a memory and a dream. That’s fitting, as Weerasethakul weaves in a subtle commentary on aspects of his nation’s troubled past that many would rather forget. Not that you need to be an expert on the history of Thailand to be utterly entranced by this singular experience: “Uncle Boonmee” is like a cinematic spirit animal, an ethereal entity whose power can’t — and doesn’t need to be — conveyed in words alone. —MN

3. “Frances Ha” (2012)

Frances Ha Greta Gerwig

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Co-writer and star Greta Gerwig has spent the past few months cleaning up some very deserved accolades for her charming solo directorial debut, “Lady Bird,” but it’s nearly impossible to think critically about Gerwig’s current success without recalling some of the earlier work that clearly helped inform her high-school set coming-of-age gem. The unique and well-drawn young ladies of both “Frances Ha” and its spiritual sister “Mistress America” (both co-written by Gerwig alongside director Noah Baumbach, and populated by two of Gerwig’s best acting turns yet) fit so wonderfully inside the aesthetic and aims of “Lady Bird” that, yup, we’re calling it now: it’s the Gerverse. Gerwig was nominated for a Golden Globe for her acting in “Frances Ha,” a fitting accolade for the kind of role best billed as “a breakthrough” or “a revelation” or even just “oh, look, Greta Gerwig is being great again,” and if there was any justice in this world, that attention would have turned into an Oscar nod. She’s just perfect in the film, fully realized and multi-dimensional in a way that few roles for women even hint at, so refreshing and weird that she feels as if she might jump out of the screen at any minute. And then there’s the writing. The film marked a major change for Baumbach, too, and having a new partner obviously reinvigorated the filmmaker to co-craft a sharp and funny script that also reveals a deep sense of humanity. It’s one of his best, and helped pave the way for similarly rich work. —KE

2. “Certified Copy” (2010)

Certified Copy Juliette Binoche
The premise of Abbas Kiarostami’s late-career masterpiece couldn’t be simpler or more complex. A writer named James Miller (William Shimell) visits a small Tuscan town to give a talk on his book about authenticity in the arts, and why reproductions are authentic in their own way. There, James spends the day with an unnamed woman played by Juliette Binoche, who a local cafe owner mistakes her for his wife. The two strangers lean into the bit, roleplaying as a married couple as they stroll around the countryside. And then, at a certain point, it hits you. That point comes at a different time for everyone, but it arrives like a thunderbolt whenever it strikes. What if these strangers aren’t strangers at all? The truth, of course, is both unknowable and irrelevant, but the question itself opens the door to a dizzying number of implications. In that moment, “Certified Copy” transforms into an inimitably original portrait of relationships as their own kind of performance art. Where does reality end, and artifice begin? How does Kiarostami so nakedly explore such intellectual concerns with the emotional force of “Before Sunset?” How did Oscar voters manage to overlook the endlessly layered beauty of Juliette Binoche’s performance, the crown jewel of a peerless career? We’ll never know. —DE

1. “Zodiac” (2007)

"Zodiac"

2007 was a ridiculously good year for movies — and if you don’t believe us, just ask “No Country for Old Men,” “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” “Eastern Promises,” “There Will Be Blood,” “Gone Baby Gone,” “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” and, well, you get the picture. Though most of these were rightly recognized by the Academy in one form or another, David Fincher’s slow-burn thriller was conspicuous in its absence on nomination day. Ten years later, its exclusion only looks more unjust — especially with a slew of nods directed toward the likes of “Juno.” Predicated on the idea that “there’s more than one way to lose your life to a killer,” Fincher’s cerebral thriller traces the life-altering efforts of two journalists (Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey, Jr.) and a detective (Mark Ruffalo) to discover the identity of an infamous serial killer who, spoiler alert, was never caught.

That doesn’t make this procedural any less compelling, however — if anything, its focus on uncertainty makes it a forerunner to more recent true-crime obsessions like “Making a Murderer” and “Serial.” It began the most impressive period of Fincher’s career — the dude completed this one, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” and “The Social Network” over the course of just three years — and will long be remembered as the hurdy-gurdy masterwork it is. —MN

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