When you look at the Academy Award nominations every year, there always seems to be at least one film that you feel should have been nominated for Best Picture that wasn’t. It all seems so subjective. Why did they pick that film and not this one?
One thing to remember is that Academy voters tend to be older and very conservative. You rarely see fantasy films, sci-fi, comedy, horror, films that are designed with the younger viewer in mind such as superhero films, or films that are spun off into several sequels.
You seem to get the same old genre films nominated every year, especially intense dramas, thrillers, and crime films. With that being said, here are 20 films from the 2000’s that should have scored a Best Picture nomination, but didn’t.
20. Monster’s Ball (2001)
An African-American woman and a white former prison guard, who both have suffered family losses, fall in love. How will she react when she finds out that he was the head guard on duty the night her convict husband was executed?
Halle Berry became the first African-American to win Best Actress for her portrayal of Leticia Musgrove in this film. It tells the story of a prison guard (Billy-Bob Thornton) who oversees an execution, and sees his son (Heath Ledger) kill himself after calling him too soft and ordering him out of the house. He buried his son in the backyard, resigns his job and burns his uniform.
Meanwhile the executed prisoner’s widow (Halle Berry) loses her son as he is hit by a car while they are walking along the highway. In their mutual loneliness, the guard and Leticia start sleeping together. When she finds out he was the guard on duty when her husband is killed, she turns on him, but realizes she has nothing left in her life but him.
Uniformly excellent performances, especially by Berry and Thornton, made this film a box office winner, but despite Berry’s win as Best Actress, the film was not considered strong enough to be nominated for Best Picture.
19. Closer (2004)
American Alice Ayres (Natalie Portman) and British Dan Woolf (Jude Law) meet on a London street as they are walking in opposite directions. Alice tries to cross the street to talk to him, but is hit by a taxi. Dan takes her to a hospital where she is treated. They become lovers.
After a year Dan is restless. He has written a novel and is being photographed by the American Anna Cameron (Julia Roberts), he tries to get a kiss and she complies just as Alice enters. She asks to use the bathroom. While she is away, Dan tries to get Anna to sleep with him. When Alice returns, she asks Anna to have her portrait taken. She asks Dan to leave them alone. As Anna takes her photo, Alice reveals she overheard them. She weeps as Alice takes the portrait.
Dan sets up Larry, who he met online, by telling him he is Anna and will meet him at the aquarium. Larry goes there and actually meets Anna, and they start a relationship. Eventually Anna and Dan realize they belong together and drop their respective partners. Alice goes back to stripping and meets Larry. He tries to find out her name, and offers her a great deal of money, but she insists she is Jane Jones, and we find out at the end as she returns to New York that Jane Jones is indeed her real name.
The film received some very good reviews mostly for the screenplay, Natalie Portman, and Clive Owen. The script had very explicit language but no real nudity. Despite this, many people felt the picture was very adult and would not attract the right audience, especially the 18-24 crowd. So while Portman and Owen were nominated for supporting Oscars, the film was not nominated for Best Picture.
18. The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)
A barber (Billy-Bob Thornton) in Santa Rosa, California wants to get out of his boring life by having his wife embezzle money from her boss, so he can invest in the “new” dry-cleaning technology, but it leads to blackmail and death.
Joel and Ethan Coen displayed their love of neo-noir films with this stylish black and white entry set in 1949. Billy-Bob Thornton had such respect for the Coens that he accepted the lead of Ed Crane without first reading the script. He received glowing reviews for the film. The film was set in Santa Rosa, California, pictured as a sleepy town. Ed works at his brother-in-law’s barber shop, but dreams of a better life for himself and his bookkeeper wife (Frances McDormand).
This film has several of Coen’s regular actors. Besides McDormand, there are Richard Jenkins, Michael Badalucco, and Jon Polito. It also has Scarlett Johannson, and Tony Shalhoub in small roles. In spite of the fact that the film won Best Director at Cannes, Billy-Bob Thornton had a much bigger hit that year in “Monster’s Ball” and to many Academy viewers that split the vote so that neither film was nominated for Best Picture.
17. A Single Man (2009)
The movie takes place on one day, November 30, 1962. Professor George Falconer (Colin Firth) is dreaming of the car accident that killed his partner of 16 years, Jim, eight months previously. George wakes depressed and intends to kill himself that night. He goes through his day.
At school he meets a student Kenny who would like a relationship. George meets his best friend Charlie (Julianne Moore) for dinner. She also would like a relationship with George and is angry because she doesn’t understand his relationship with Jim.
George leaves and meets Kenny and goes to have drinks, then takes him home and continues to drink until he passes out. When he wakes. He sees Kenny asleep in another room and he is holding George’s gun so George doesn’t hurt himself. George takes the gun and locks it away, realizing he is coming to grips with his loss.
The film received wonderful reviews, praising Tom Ford on his directorial debut and writing love letters to Colin Firth. Many critic said he gave the best performance of the year. Many people were shocked that a fashion designer could direct a major film so well.
The film won several accolades from gay rights’ groups. Praising the script and Colin Firth. Colin has gone on record that he did not approve the marketing of the film as the trailer and poster made it look like a romantic comedy with Julianne Moore as his love interest. He felt the studio sanitized the marketing and felt that to be wrong, saying it was “a beautiful story of love between two men and I see nothing wrong with that. The audience should see it for what it is”.
Colin received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, but many people felt the subject matter prevented a Best Picture nomination.
16. Gone Baby Gone (2007)
4 year old Amanda McCready has been abducted. Her Aunt Beatrice (Amy Madigan) hires private detectives Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and his partner Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) who is also his girlfriend, to help the police find her niece and return her to her mother, Helene McCready (Amy Ryan).
Helene’s boyfriend is killed by a drug lord, and the police Captain Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman) reads a telephone transcript setting up the exchange for the money for the girl, but the child is believed dead. That is just the top of the iceberg. Patrick and Angie continue to investigate and this leads to discovery they would never believe.
The reviews were great, with many critics saying the film was better than the book, and the Affleck brothers got raves. The whole cast did well by the reviews, especially Amy Ryan, who was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress. Despite the reviews, it did not receive a nomination for Best Picture. All in all, a well-crafted thriller worth seeing.
15. Zodiac (2007)
Well-crafted film based on the books of the real life Robert Greysmith, who was the political cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle (Jake Gyllenhall), about the Zodiac killer of the late 60’s and early 70’s. The film chronicles the lives of the reporters and the police officers involved in the search, interspersed with scenes of the murder and the reporters and police receiving taunting notes and pieces of evidence supposedly from the killer.
The reviews were mostly positive, with the actors being praised, but some critics complained about the length of the film (2 hours and 37 minutes) and the fact there was not enough action scenes. They spoke of the police procedural scenes as pedestrian, and too much time was spent on those scenes.
The critics did praise the director for his casting choices and the tightness of the script. They also liked the historical era and how it was presented in the fact that it didn’t show a San Francisco of hippies, peace and love, but instead just how gritty the city looked and the long work days of the police.
The film barely broke even at the box office. Having such an ambiguous ending, the film was not nominated for any Academy awards, let alone Best Picture, which many critics believed it deserved.