A-List: Recent Oscar Snubs

By Sean Collier

January 5, 2009

FYI: that thing in the corner is a dog, not a pig. I understand your confusion, though.

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It doesn't take a box office prophet to see that you can't judge a film's merit by how many awards it took home. Many factors besides quality determine who gets little gold statues; it comes down to which films can buy the nicest "For Your Consideration" ads, which genres are in favor, who has or hasn't offended the wrong members of the Academy or the press, so on and so forth. On some very rare occasions, the most lauded film actually was the Best Picture of the year; most of the time, however, a bunch of naked gold men just indicates that a film was pretty damn good.

Oscar nominations are less than a month away, and will be swiftly followed by the national critical harrumphing over the deserving films that went unnoticed. This is inevitably a matter of personal taste, and everyone has a favorite or two that miss out on higher recognition. However, some snubs are understandable. You could, for example, argue that John Cameron Mitchell's sublime Shortbus was one of the best films of 2006, and you'd have a solid case on your hands. However, a film with a ten-minute joy of masturbation sequence and what I can only refer to as a highly misdirected rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner isn't going to get an Oscar nomination, now or ever.

Other films, however, truly deserve to be recognized. The right kind of movies, the right kind of roles, true artistic achievements that somehow manage to slip through the cracks. Again, this is often more an effect of marketing and campaigning than true oversight, but nevertheless, there are injustices. We'll be seeing one such near miss this year, I'd wager – Slumdog Millionaire really, really feels like a best picture of the year. Not only because I think it's great, but all the elements are there. It just won't win.

Rather than find an excuse to whine with the rest of the nation one day after nominations (and one hour after the ceremony,) I thought I'd revisit some of my favorite unrecognized films of the past few years. I'm limiting this one to the past five years of Oscar eligibility, just so you're not here all night. With a reminder that the Calvins are the one and only true arbiter of a film's worth, The A-List presents The Best Recent Oscar Snubs.


Best Foreign Language Picture/Best Picture, 2004 - A Very Long Engagement

Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet's 2004 follow-up to Amelie reunited him with that film's star, Audrey Tautou. While the playful light romance of Amelie made for a much bigger hit, especially in American theaters, A Very Long Engagement is almost certainly a stronger film. A period romance set in the closing months of World War I, Tautou is allowed to stretch beyond the simple charm of her previous role, and Jeunet maintains his distinctive visual style while adding more gravitas to his approach to romance. A Very Long Engagement certainly could've been nominated for Best Picture in 2005, especially with three mediocre films (Ray, Sideways, and Finding Neverland) getting nods. The true insult, however, was that Jeunet's film didn't even manage a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, passed over as France's entry in favor of the vastly inferior Les Choristes.

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