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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Five Best: Non-nominated American Films since 2000

Guy Pearce in Memento courtesy of
I started to make this list (for no real reason...just felt like it) and found myself shifting way too much to the foreign side, which would've made this list impossible. Most years, there's a film or two from outside the U.S. that deserves some accolades that will never be given to them. Regardless, I wanted to put together a list of films (American) that were released since the turn of the century that not only didn't win Best Picture, but weren't even nominated. These are films that, looking back, should have at least been given their fair shake at the ceremony. Instead, they remain brilliant pieces of cinema without even a glance from the Academy. So, here they are, in chronological order.

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Almost Famous (2000)

Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical story about a high schooler who gets to tour with an up and coming rock band for Rolling Stone is a nostalgic, dream-like journey through the difficulties of maturation and growing up. It's littered with wonderful performances, including Oscar nominated turns from Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand, all within the Oscar winning original screenplay. But, with all that gold pointed their direction, the folks from Stillwater still could wrangle a nomination for the biggest prize of all. It's a shame - it's one of the most endearing films of the past 25 years.

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Adaptation (2002)

Two back-to-back entries here from screenwriter Charlie Kaufmann proves that the Academy isn't one to throw accolades at films that are a little outside the box. This one was even co-written by a non-existant twin brother named Phillip. Directed by Spike Jonze, this film about writing a film is wacky, a bit confusing, but incredibly original. It garnered Oscar nominations for its screenplay (losing to The Pianist...whatever), its two leads (Nicholas Cage and Meryl Streep), and won an Oscar for Chris Cooper's supporting role. But, it didn't earn a Best Picture nomination. Sad day, indeed, especially since The Hours did get nominated.

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

I've been pretty vocal in my absolute adoration of this brilliant film, even if the Academy refused to believe in its genius. Just last week, I mentioned Jim Carrey's fantastic work in the film - he didn't get nominated for either. It also won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar and earned a nomination for Kate Winslet's performance, but nothing else. Other films nominated that year: Million Dollar Baby (won, good), Sideways (great), The Aviator (ugh), and Finding Neverland (good, not great). Michael Gondry's film is, quite possibly, the most interesting, mind-challenging film to hit the screen in decades, if not ever. And it only got a total of two nominations.

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A History of Violence (2005)

This David Cronenberg film was released in the infamous Crash vs. Brokeback Mountain year of 2005, so, it wouldn't have mattered all the same. I wrote in an Acada-mistakes entry that this should have been the winner that year. And I stand by it. Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris and William Hurt give some of the best performances of that year, working under a great, but always unrecognized filmmaker. Nominated for its writing and the supporting turn from Hurt, it didn't even come close to sniffing gold.

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The Dark Knight (2008)

Finally, the film that changed the game. After this film was passed up in favor of films like The Reader (eh), Frost/Nixon (okay), and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (ugh), the Best Picture race was revised to include ten films (and has since been changed again). The Dark Knight earned eight Oscar nominations, winning for Sound Editing and for the late Heath Ledger's mind-blowing performance. But, it couldn't break into the pack of Best Picture nominees, bested by some very, very, VERY boring films.

So, before we all fawn over how great the Oscars are, let's remember those that get left behind and how much better they may be. Oh, and just for fun, here's a list of some foreign film that got worked over, too:

Amelie (2001)
In the Mood for Love (2001)
Spirited Away (2001)
City of God (2003)
Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (2007)
Let the Right One In (2008)

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