There are only so many Oscar and Golden Globe nominations to go around, meaning that each year there are exceptional films that go completely unrecognized regarding major awards.
Below are ten great films that were completely shut out of Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations.
1. Take Shelter
Jeff Nichols has directed five movies, including this one, and all of them have been excellent. The common feature of all five films, aside from excellence, is the presence of the great Michael Shannon. Here he plays Curtis, a man whose world and behavior completely unravel as a result of apocalyptic visions he has had.
Jessica Chastain plays his wife Samantha, who watches in horror as her husband appears to mentally disintegrate. What was once her contented family now teeters on the verge of collapse. With his marriage in chaos and his community relationships strained to breaking, Curtis depletes his family finances to build a fallout shelter that he believes will protect his family from the looming disaster.
Throughout the film we are asked to consider whether Curtis is truly going insane or actually knows something others don’t. Director Nichols does a tremendous job of creating and maintaining a sense of unease and discomfort. His efforts are aided greatly by Shannon, who is brilliant in the role. He takes us inside the mind of this man and shows us the world through his eyes.
It’s an intense and gripping performance. Chastain, as well, is very good as his supportive yet worried wife. This is filmmaking of the highest order and was one of the best films of 2011, registering a 92% score on Rotten Tomatoes and an 85 on Metacritic.
Director Lars Von Trier does not make movies that are easily tolerated, with Melancholia being no exception. He picks at the scabs of the human psyche, repeatedly freshening the wound. It is always difficult to say that one of his films has been enjoyed. Still, Melancholia is one of the most beautifully filmed and profoundly ambitious films of the 21st century, exultant and almost liberating in its perpetual sense of doom.
This is grand and pompous filmmaking of the best kind, with Von Trier stretching for and reaching the excellence his ego demands. The Oscars and Golden Globes, however, paid no attention, as is their typical reaction to a Von Trier film.
The French, conversely, can’t seem to get enough, as Von Trier has won the Palme d’Or and been nominated an astonishing eight other times, including for Melancholia.
Starring Von Trier regular Charlotte Gainsbourg, Charlotte Rampling, and Kirsten Dunst in a career best movie performance, the film tells the story of almost impossibly depressed Justine (Dunst), as she attempts to celebrate her disastrous wedding while impending catastrophe approaches in the form of planet Melancholia.
This film, like most others, reflects Von Trier’s extremely pessimistic worldview, although never before has he presented that view with such elegance. This is a film that clings to you long after the credits role.
One of the best science fiction films of recent years, Looper continues the genre tradition of time travel stories. It is directed by Rian Johnson, who recently directed the latest Star Wars movie and previously directed the wildly underappreciated Brick. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, and Paul Dano (who really needs to appear in more movies), the film tells the story of time travel invention and its subsequent illegality and black-market status.
The year is 2074 and when the mafia wants someone hit, they send him into the past where a hitman (Looper) awaits to complete the job. Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a hitman for whom life is grand, with the money flowing in regularly.
Eventually, however, circumstances arise that make Joe’s employers decide to close his loop by sending his future self (Bruce Willis) back for assassination. As with all time travel stories, a willing suspension of disbelief is requiredand this film makes that easy. Very well acted and entertaining, the film also allows for the consideration of themes such as aging and personal choice.
The film performed well commercially and was critically praised (93% on Rotten Tomatoes and 84 on Metacritic), yet gained no traction for any major award nominations.
4. The Spectacular Now
Focusing on a hard partying, spontaneous teenager named Sutter (Miles Teller), the film explores his pending collision with love and adulthood, two things for which he seems ill equipped and uninterested.
When Sutter falls in love with “good girl” Aimee (Shailene Woodley), It forces him to deal with adult issues and face uncomfortable realities. Never looking for tidy answers, the film explores the real confusion, passion, and uncertainty faced by people of this age.
The film is sharply observed and at times incredibly sad. Both Teller and Woodley give outstanding performances, as does Brie Larson in a supporting role. Directed by James Ponsoldt, who also directed Smashed and another film that will appear on this list, the movie does an excellent job of rounding out these characters and making them more than the stereotypical movie teens.
The film received a 92% Rotten Tomatoes and 82 Metacritic score but was never under any serious discussion or consideration for the major awards.
Similar to the previously discussed Looper, this is one of the better science fiction movies released in recent years. Set on a train that perpetually hurtles through a frozen landscape, the film depicts the various sections and classes that inhabit this continuously moving society, clearly serving as a metaphor for the stratification that exists and has always existed in our world. Dissatisfied with their situation at the back of the train, the lower classes plot a rebellion that could have disastrous consequences.
The film is directed by South Korean Joon-ho Bong, who previously directed another excellent science fiction film called The Host. Here he tells a straight forward story, but one that continues to progressively gain momentum throughout.
The cast is excellent, led by Chris Evans in the lead role as Curtis. John Hurt has a fine supporting role, as do Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris. Swinton, in particular, is exceptional and unrecognizable as Mason.
The film was extremely well received critically, with scores of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and 84 on Metacritic. One of the best films of 2014, it hardly mattered come awards time, as no major award nominations were forthcoming.