These are the Films that SHOULD have Won Oscars in 2018.
As I write this, the 90th Oscars has concluded, stars are on their way to glitzy parties, celebrating and commiserating and self-congratulating their industry. Millions of viewers across the world discuss and argue the various wins, and I sit alone on a nightshift, contemplating how looking forward to sleep I am. Some fantastic films won awards this year: Roger Deakins received a well deserved win finally, criminally underrated Allison Janney won for her screechingly cruel performance as Tonya Harding’s mother, Jordan Peele inspired writers everywhere, winning Best Original Screenplay for Get Out, a film he “quit writing 20 times.” Phantom Thread got a look in for Costume. Other not so good films won awards too: Sam Rockwell picked up an award for Best Supporting Actor, for playing a 2-dimensional racist cop who becomes a good guy at the flick of a switch in Three Billboards. Gary Oldman won Best Actor for fully embracing the term Oscar-bait in Darkest Hour; a film I haven’t seen but judge continuously. Meanwhile, some films were robbed. War For The Planet Of The Apes, which I think was a great end to one of the best trilogies in decades, got nothing, Phantom Thread lost in several big categories, Loving Vincent lost to Coco aka The Book Of Life (but Disney).
This year however, as with every year, several great films went unrecognised and un-nominated, and it’s these I’d like to talk about. Many caveats come with the Academy Awards, and although great films do win awards, more often than not we recognise that often it is the film with the ‘most’ of something, rather than the ‘best’ of something that will win.
So here’s to those films who weren’t nominated. Let’s begin our alternative Oscars right here, right now, for films that weren’t nominated for a single one, and with a liberal smattering of where they could be nominated instead. So first off in this subjective, alphabetical list we have...
A Ghost Story
I’ve written at length about this film here, but in case you don’t really fancy reading 2000 words about it, I’ll just say that the film needs to be seen, to be experienced. It is a work of quiet, reflective, and beautiful art, with the power of touching the soul in the gentlest manner. David Lowery directs the film with absolute devotion and sincerity, and Rooney Mara is wonderful as a grieving widow. The film’s portrayal of grief is of the simplest, most effective quality. It’s costume is inspired, the ghost being dressed in nothing but a white sheet with eyeholes.
Nominations - Best Supporting Actress, Best Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Picture, Best Score, Best Original Screenplay...Best Costume.
Happy Death Day
A gleeful and hilarious slasher riff on the premise of Groundhog Day, Happy Death Day was one of my unexpected joys of 2017. The film is competent and confident in its execution, and features the best fart joke I’ve ever seen. While funny, the film proves genuinely disturbing at times, while at others it is so movingly sad and affecting that I was actually moved close to tears. It balances its knife-edge tone expertly, with an awareness of its central character that gives her agency and clear development. A completely unexpected, but most welcome surprise.
Nominations - Best Adapted Screenplay (c’mon, it’s not original), Best Editing.
2017 was a spectacular year for horror, as you’ll see later in the list, and It is perhaps the most successful and most kinetically terrifying of the year. Stephen King’s clown Pennywise terrorises kids, as they fight back against a being that feeds on them, as they realise that what gives him power is their belief in him. Perhaps a bit escapist in today’s climate, It is a bonafide horror, with all the requisite parts required for scares. Bill Skarsgård is intensely creepy as Pennywise, bringing both quiet danger and weird quirks to a role so perfectly brought to life by Tim Curry 30 years earlier. It’s an underrated performance, just look at his eyes for confirmation that there’s more to it than putting on a voice and make-up. Not enough has been said about It’s complete understanding of the terror of movement: the hyper-kinetics of some of its scenes lend a panic and chaos to the fear of the kids that is incredibly effective. While mainstream and relatively risk-free otherwise, it’s this movement and understanding of camera movement specifically that brings the film up.
Nominations - Best Actor, Best Costume, Best Make-Up,
It Comes At Night
The scariest film of the year. It Comes At Night is about the dangers of isolationism, of closing ourselves off to others and the fear of the unknown. It’s about what happens when our notions of the other are challenged. Never quite what you expect, the film gives the audience very little compared to most films, much like A Ghost Story. We live the film through our characters, and narratively the film has parallels with Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter, starring Michael Shannon. Given the increasing fear and backlash against multiculturalism, globalism and immigration in the western world, the film is intensely relevant, as unintentional as that might be. It is a claustrophobic, paranoid film and it’s editing and sound design are unmatched in conveying this. The ending of the film, had it been more widely seen, would surely be the most shocking in mainstream cinema. The Mist ain’t got nothing on this...
Nominations - Best Supporting Actor, Best Sound Design, Best Sound Mixing.
Darren Aronosfky’s film, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem is simply the most stressful and intense cinematic experience of my life. Around 80% of the film is a close up for Lawrence’s face, or the back of her head, as we spiral down from an idyllic home life into depravity, invasion, horror and violence. What makes it almost bearable, and what makes this film one of the most interesting of the year, is it’s rand of possible interpretations. Whether you see the film as a biblical interpretation, a meditation on the cost of art, the struggle and pain of relationships, or just a weird horror, what’s undeniable is that the film will provoke some sort of reaction and what more can you ask for from cinema?
Nominations - Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Visual Effects.
Murder On The Orient Express
The remake of the Agatha Christie classic is, in a word, joyous. I can’t remember a film in recent memory that had so much fun with its script and characters. I went in already knowing the story and enjoying the previous, first film. I just didn’t expect to have so much fun watching this one. Kenneth Branagh makes a brilliant Poirot, directing proceedings with complete confidence. It’s just such a heartening example of the fun and happiness that cinema can bring, reminding us that in a medium where vapid blockbusters feign seriousness, and metaphorically dense films are talked about endlessly, sometimes all we need is a bit of fun and joy for a couple of hours. There’s no better film to give us that.
Nominations - Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume, Best Cinematography
I watched Personal Shopper in the early part of 2017, and think much of the reason for its lack of nomination was the timing of its release. It’s a psychological, supernatural drama film starting Kristen Stewart, who’s never been better on screen. The film is about grief, in a word, and we follow Stewart’s character as she finds connection to the spirit world after the death of her twin brother. It’s a deliberately slow, ponderous path the film takes, but it’s all the better for it and the film’s confidence in its own world carries it well.
Nominations - Best Actress, Best Sound Mixing
The acclaimed French horror film failed to pick up any nominations but was surely one of the more daring films of the past year. Part coming-of-age tale, part cannibalistic horror, the movie has a wicked sense of humour that fits perfectly with its grotesque subject matter. It’s the most fun you can have watching people eat people. The lead actress is brilliantly played by Garance Marillier, and in a list (and industry) featuring mainly male directors, Julia Decournau is deserving of both recognition and future success.
Nominations - Best Original Screenplay, Best Director
Hot take: Ewan Bremner gave the best performance of his career and of the year, playing Spud again in T2. The film is a sad, depressing look at these broken middle-aged men. Gone is the representation of an ignored section of society, disaffected and furious as they were. Instead, we have an emotional look at what they became, in a world that moves faster and faster away from them. Come for the humour, for the acerbic wit and dark jokes, stay for the wonderful score, the just-as-provocative cinematography, but above all the performances. McGregor is at his best, Carlyle is unbridled fury, Bremner is simply astonishing. His is the most heartbreaking and touching of roles, of characters and we owe it to performances like these to watch them.
Nominations - Best Score, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography.
The Girl With All The Gifts
The best British zombie film since 28 Days Later. The best British horror film since 28 Days Later. One of the best British films of the year, The Girl With All The Gifts is a fresh take on a genre constantly in danger of becoming worn out. The best part of this film is the dedication of its cast to simply putting the work in, and getting the results. Salaries were low, on a budget of only £4 million, and it’s all on screen, right there in its tactical CGI, it’s sense of scale, it’s world-building. It takes serious stones to end the film the way it does, and that should be commended. Watch it if you can.
Nominations - Best Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects.
There was no more provocatively sexy film in 2017, and Park Chan-Wook doesn’t let something as trivial as plot get in the way of that. The plot, indeed, is sly, full of deceit and double crossing and constantly puts the audience on the wrong foot, in a way that’s delightful when it finally shows you what’s really happening. The set design is unparalleled, each object and costume is fetishistic, only adding to the film’s unrelenting sexiness. On top of this, lies 2 women who challenge the role of femme fatales, giving depth and gravitas to their characters.
Nominations - Best Production Design, Best Director
The Red Turtle
A transcendent animation film, a universal story of family and love and life, a celebration of the very origins of cinema, of silent movies and a time before dialogue. It reminds us that stories don’t always need to be signposted with words and explanation. It is exquisitely painted, beautifully scored and simply a life-affirming joy to watch. Lie back, go in without expectation or prejudice, let it wash over you like a warm wave.
Nominations - Best Animated Film, Best Sound Design, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture
A couple of caveats, the film suffers a little from the white saviour narrative, and while that’s a justified complaint, I would argue that by the end of the film, no problem is actually solved, and we’re reminded that this is the case by intertitles showing us the scale of the problem of violence against Native American women. The film is understated and the best thriller on the list. It’s performances are captivating and believable, it’s representation of Native Americans heartening. It’s most genius casting was Jon Bernthal’s surprise appearance, and this must be one of the most tense, terrifying scenes of the year. Scored reliably strongly by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, the film is a haunting reminder that we have a long long way to go before justice and equality is available to all.
Nominations - Best Original Song, Best Supporting Actor (Bernthal), Best Screenplay, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Design, Best Editing
An affecting film, showing us that humility and kindness are just as important as strength and power. It’s rare for a superhero film to show so many facets to its hero: most often get bogged down in conflict and superpowers instead but Wonder Woman was different. Gal Gadot is at once strong and battle-hardened, but kind and inspiring too. The film’s supporting cast carry its message to, that we should be kinder to one another, as well as ourselves.
Nominations - Best Director, Best Visual Effects, Best Adapted Screenplay
This is, naturally, subjective. There are many films I haven’t seen this year, and it strikes me that many of those listed are English-centric when there were hundreds of films in other languages released this year. I failed to watch as diversely as I would have liked, but nonetheless, I hope this gives you something new to watch, after the whirlwind of Oscar nominated films this past couple of months.
by Jack Buchanan