There used to be a time when you could spot a Best Picture nominee from a mile off. Big studios, big names and big dramas were usually a shoe in, and yet in recent years the Academy’s nominations have been far harder to predict.
Last year a low budget independent drama took home the big prize. And so it looks as though the Academy is diversifying, and it may well be time for the studios to reconsider their big bets.
With that in mind there are an excess of films that didn’t meet the expectations of their initial hype and failed to catch the attention of the Academy. Whether they didn’t meet the mark critically, financially or just didn’t capture the voters’ imaginations, the following films had all the makings of an Oscar nominee but just didn’t gain the all-important nomination.
10. Last Flag Flying (Directed by Richard Linklater)
Larry, Sal and Richard served together in the Vietnam War. Thirty years later they come together again, but this time it is to bury the son of Larry – a young Marine who has been killed in Iraq. The three friends decide to take the casket on a road trip along the coast to New Hampshire, where they relive their memories of fighting together and reminisce on the war that continues to shape their lives.
Last Flag Flying is based upon Darryl Ponicsan’s novel of the same name, and he and director Richard Linklater wrote the screenplay for the film together. Academy Award nominees Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne and Bryan Cranston were cast and there were expectations that between the strong casting, Linklater’s vision and the film’s current subject matter, Last Flag Flying would catch the attention of the Academy. The film had its premiere at the 2017 New York Film Festival.
Unfortunately Last Flag Flying was poorly received critically and financially. It made less than $1 million at the U.S box office and many critics rated it as mediocre and meandering. Consequently, Last Flag Flying missed out on any nominations from the Academy.
9. In the Fade (Directed by Fatih Akin)
Katja’s life collapses around her after her husband and son are killed by neo-Nazis in a bomb attack. After a period of mourning, Katja seeks justice for the people that she has lost. But soon her quest for justice turns to her seeking revenge as the two suspects stand trial for murder.
In the Fade is a German drama film which was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. The film was well received and Diane Kruger won the Best Actress award. In the Fade also won at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice awards and was seen as a frontrunner for awards season. German audiences also warmed to the film and it grossed $4.6 million locally.
In the Fade was one of the nine foreign language films that was shortlisted for Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards. However it failed to make the final five, which was a shock to the filmmakers with director Fatih Akin declining to comment on the matter. Exactly why the film failed to make the final shortlist is unclear, given its many Oscar bait qualities and previous wins. Critics gave the film very mixed reviews and so that may be why In the Fade fell at the final hurdle.
8. Suburbicon (Directed by George Clooney)
Suburbicon is a suburban community which prides itself on being the perfect place to live – the houses are affordable, the lawns are manicured and it is peaceful and idyllic. It is also the perfect place to raise a family, and in the summer of 1959, mild mannered Gardner Lodge is doing just that. But underneath the surface, Suburbicon is masking a dark underbelly of deceit and violence.
Suburbicon is co-written by George Clooney, Joel Cohen, Ethan Coen and Grant Heslov. It is loosely based on a real life incident which took place in 1957, in which a black family moved into an all-white neighbourhood and became the subjects of harassment and violence. It premiered at the 74th Venice International Film Festival and also screened at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.
Suburbicon received mostly negative reviews from critics, who called it a “disappointing misfire.” With its impressive assemble cast and proficient writers, Suburbicon was expected to do well and was presumed as a sure fire hit with the Academy. However, Suburbicon only made $10 million at the box office against a $25 million budget and was considered a major box office flop. With that in mind and its negative and mixed reviews, Suburbicon was unable to collect on its obvious Oscar bait concept and cast.
7. The Glass Castle (Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton)
The Glass Castle is based on the 2005 memoir of the same name by author Jeannette Walls. It depicts the childhood of Walls, who lived in poverty and often squatted in houses along with her four siblings. The siblings’ parents live an unconventional lifestyle which both inhibits and inspires their children. Their mother is an eccentric artist and their father is an alcoholic. When sober, their father captures their imaginations and inspires them. But when he drinks, he is dishonest and destructive.
This bestselling memoir spent over two hundred and fifty weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list and so when the rights were bought, the young female lead of the adaptation became one of the most sought after roles in Hollywood.
Jennifer Lawrence was attached to the project but after she withdrew, Academy Award winner Brie Larson stepped in. Along with Brie Larson, Academy Award nominees Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts joined the cast. With a stellar team behind it and such successful source material, The Glass Castle was expected to catch the attention of the Academy.
However the film received mixed reviews from critics with most criticising the mishandling of the source material and it took a disappointing $21.7 million at the box office. The film made no real splash at the cinema, and with its mixed reviews it lost its chance at any Academy nominations.
6. Wonderstruck (Directed by Todd Haynes)
Based on the novel of the same name by Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck interlaces two stories set fifty years apart. In 1927, Rose dreams of meeting her idol – a mysterious actress and decides to run away from her father’s home in the hopes of finding her. Whilst in 1977, recently orphaned Ben longs for the father that he has never met and runs away from his home in order to find the father he has never known.
Wonderstruck is director Todd Haynes follow up to the critically acclaimed Carol, and once again he chose to adapt from literary source material. Brian Selznick, who wrote the novel, also wrote the screenplay for the film. Haynes was intrigued with the premise from the start and saw it as a chance to make a double period film which he hoped would appeal to all audiences. The film premiered at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival where it received a standing ovation and competed for the Palme d’or.
However despite its impressive cast and ambitious structure, Wonderstruck received mixed reviews and failed to find an audience. It ended up with box office takings of less than $2 million and didn’t make its mark on the Academy.