It of course is impossible for every film deserving of recognition to win a nomination for an Academy Award, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve that recognition. The following are a few movies that may or may not get noticed by those who vote for the Oscars but certainly won’t get honored for all that they deserve.
The Hunt (Jagten)
After his amazing reinvented turn as the beloved cannibal psychiatrist on the show “Hannibal,” it could be difficult for some to fathom Mads Mikkelsen as anything other than the equal parts mysterious and terrifying villain. But his role as a divorcee whose life in a close-knit Danish village is smashed to pieces when he is falsely accused sexually abusing a young girl, The Hunt (Jagten) is pure and hard proof that his acting range extends far beyond the calculated baddie he is known for on TV as well as 2006’s James Bond reboot Casino Royale. Denmark is all but assured that the film, as their bid for the foreign film category, will get at least one nomination, but the film excels in a great many departments. Not only does Mikkelsen command the film with powerful emotion and sympathy, but also writer/director Thomas Vinterberg shows a deft hand for creating intense drama without melodrama as well as a moodiness akin to Hollywood heavyweight David Fincher.
The Way, Way Back
The Way, Way Back is the story of Duncan, an awkward and self-doubting fourteen year-old stuck on a vacation with his mom (Toni Collette) and her secretly terrible boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) and his daughter. Refusing to be a victim of Trent’s verbal abuse or a witness to his mothers self-denial, Duncan finds some peace of mind when he goes to work at a local water park for free-spirited joker Owen (Sam Rockwell). Written and directed by the Oscar-winning writers of The Descendants Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the film strikes a lovely balance between the sadness and levity making it a pitch-perfect dramedy. The real reason to see this underdog movie is Rockwell whose mentor Owen is completely golden. Throughout his career it seems as though Rockwell never fell into any category as far as Hollywood is concerned, neither character actor or chameleon – its highly unlikely Rockwell will receive an Oscar nomination for his role in The Way, Way Back, but the film and his endearing performance just gives further credence to not only his talent but his deservingness of such admiration from his peers.
Short Term 12
It couldn’t be more cliché to love an indie movie because of its purity, but luckily for writer/director Daniel Cretton this happens to wholly be both subjectively and objectively true. Based on Cretton’s own work experience, Short Term 12 is the story of Grace (Brie Larson) who, with boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher, Jr.) and some other twentysomethings, run a temporary placement home for foster kids. The character-based drama is an exquisite collection of human portraits, each character damaged but struggling in his or her own special way. Cretton’s gift is how organic and present all of these people feel, from the troubled children and their desperate lives to the equally though secretly pained adults who look after them, their personality and personal sorrows unfolding for the audience like sad flowers. The film isn’t without lightness either though, each tragic moment finding graceful reprieve. Unfortunately for Cretton, the screenplay category is packed with potential candidates just as worthy of the award but with far more clout…but if he makes a trend of recreating the magic he found with Short Term 12, he’ll win the big prize eventually.
For the first time since the foreign language film category was introduced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences almost sixty years ago, the country of Saudi Arabia has made its very first submission to the competition, Wadjda, the story of a plucky Saudi girl who enters her school Koran competition in hopes of winning the prize money that will buy her a new bicycle. The film, written and directed by Haifaa al-Monsour, a woman, explores a lot of family problems unique to its country’s culture, like the restrictions of gender and polygyny, but its truth and soulfulness never fail to be relatable and sympathetic. The film’s eponymous hero, played by the wonderful Waad Mohammed, is alive with defiance and resourcefulness and an astounding sense of self that is unique to children. Wadjda may not be as startling or sweeping or harrowing as the other more typical and likely to be nominated films, but it’s still powerful with momentous and precious wonder and possibility.