6. Annihilation (Best Visual Effects)
Alex Garland offered a unique take on the sci-fi horror genre with Annihilation, which felt more indebted to Russian masters such as Andrei Tarkovsky and Alexey German than any contemporary American films. Telling the story of a group of female scientists who get more than they bargained for when they step into “The Shimmer”, it boasted one of the most original sci-fi visions in years.
With an estimated production budget of only $40 million, the special effects – ranging from the creepy dopplegänger to the strangely blooming plants to the scary animals to the weird sights in the sky – are truly remarkable to behold. They may not be the most attention-grabbing – especially in the year of Infinity War and Black Panther – but work perfectly well in service to the film’s themes of regeneration and not knowing your own body. Nonetheless the nomination looks unlikely considering that the film was dumped by Paramount and given to Netflix, who barely did any campaigning for the movie.
7. Widows (Best Picture)
With an Oscar-winning director (Steve McQueen), stellar cast (Viola Davis, Daniel Kaluuya, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farell and Michelle Rodriguez) and a piping-hot screenwriter (Gillian Flynn) to die for, Widows had the phrase “prestige project” written all over it.
Telling the story of three women who team up to complete one last heist that their men couldn’t do, Widows also hit the feminist zeitgeist, unafraid to show women at their most vulnerable and fiercest. Yet somehow it didn’t truly connect with viewers, only making $74.2 million at the box office. This is a shame considering the capital I-important points it made about American life and the intersection between race and class.
While Viola Davis is in with a shout for Best Actress (as seen by her BAFTA nom), Widows itself has been inexplicably dropped from awards conversation, with no nominations from either the Golden Globes or the BAFTAs. This is an almighty shame considering the smartness of the screenplay and the confidence of McQueen’s direction. This is possibly the fault of poor marketing which suggests Widows as a run-of-the-mill thriller instead of the barnstorming socially conscious project it actually is.
8. Sorry to Bother You (Best Original Screenplay)
Sorry to Bother You is the kind of film that’s best to go into blind, as nothing in the first act could possibly prepare you for the insanity of the last one. That’s thanks to Boots Riley’s original screenplay which blends together social satire, pointed leftist commentary and outright comedy with aplomb.
While the sloppy execution of the film itself left a lot to be desired, the screenplay is a rare highly politicised and didactic gem about the black experience that felt both fresh and vital; sparking conversations about modern slavery, telemarketing and white privilege.
Despite the critical adulation for the film, Awarding committees have not been generous – the film was neither awarded for a BAFTA or a Golden Globe nomination. A sure cult classic for the ages, time will kindly remember Sorry to Bother You’s screenplay as a unique combination of polemic and entertainment.
9. Burning (Best Supporting Actor Steven Yeun)
A mysterious Korean man with shades of Gatsby, terrifically rich but bored all the time, Steven Yeun’s Ben proves the perfect foil to the lovestruck Lee Jong-su (Ah-in Yoo). It is the perfect supporting performance, throwing the protagonist’s desires into sharp relief. We can never know exactly what Ben is thinking, Steven Yeun playing him as a wonderful enigma in a way that always remains interesting yet never frustrating.
It’s rare that actors in Foreign Language films are nominated for awards. Burning has the extra challenge of even getting into the Foreign Language nominee race, inexplicably denied a nomination by both the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs. As an Asian-American in his first Korean film Steven Yeun may have the advantage of being widely known from his The Walking Dead days, but it looks like this won’t be enough to get him a prestigious slot.
10. Private Life (Best Actor Paul Giamatti, Best Actress Kathryn Hahn)
Private Life is the kind of mid-budget, upscale New York film that critics claim don’t get made so often anymore. This isn’t entirely true. It’s not that they don’t get made, it’s that barely anyone sees them.
Private Life, which was released on Netflix to little fanfare, is one of those films, which meticulously depicts one older couple’s desire to have a baby – no matter the method. A tightly-wrought, well-scripted drama by Tamara Jenkins, it garners its power through two astonishing performances by Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti.
Playing a couple torn at the seams by the wish to have a child, the two of them have a lived-in naturalism that makes this one of the best films of the year. Every zinger and barb is chewed on and spat out with relish, and when the intensity needs to be turned up, both actors are more than game. Perhaps the most slept on American movie of the Oscar season.