In last week’s issue of The Lafayette Staff Writer, Jaclyn Moses’s ‘17 article “The Super Bowl of Award Shows,” commented on the limitations of the Oscars as a bastion of quality. Namely due to the political and economic climate of the film industry and award institutions, the Oscars consistently overlook many worthy films. It is about time that a spotlight was shown on a few great films that were robbed of this year’s nominations.
Films with smaller budgets often have a difficult time marketing themselves as Oscar contenders. Some of the best films this year came out of the film festival circuit, where the independent film genre thrives. Short Term 12, for example, a small scale film about a foster care facility, provided me with a deeply emotional viewing experience. Additionally, Before Midnight, the latest entry in the verbose romance Before series, received a Best Adapted Screenplay nod. For more devoted fans of the series, Before Midnight deserved more. Especially the way the film revisits the complicated relationship of Celine and Jesse. Perhaps more relevant, Frances Ha, my personal favorite film of last year, tackled post-college malaise earnestly, painfully, and hilariously.
Big names in film took risks with their chosen works and therefore also deserve recognition. Film legend Robert Redford starred in the rigorously minimalist All is Lost, which was every bit the stark, powerful survival tale Gravity was, only out at sea rather than in space. The Coen Brothers took the lovable musical fable of O’ Brother Where Art Thou and used it for the more challenging, prickly story of Inside Llewyn Davis. Edgar Wright completed the Three Flavors Cornetto trilogy, The World’s End, the darkest, most serious of the three films while not sacrificing the chipper humor of the series.
Purely entertaining films tend to get overlooked by the Academy, but films like Side Effects and You’re Next are proof that you could draw within genre lines and still create thrilling, audacious works. Yet, surprisingly, documentaries were attempting ambitious things that made fictional efforts look tame. Non-fiction had one of its most daring years in recent memory; in films like Stories We Tell and Leviathan, the very structural integrity of narrative storytelling was thrown into question.
Heck, these are just American films from last year, and not even all the ones that deserve praise. If we started a conversation on overlooked foreign films like Blue is the Warmest Color, The Past, Drug War, Wadjda, or Blancanieves, there wouldn’t be enough room in the paper to even begin considering the embarrassment of riches 2013 was for film. Oscars be damned: award shows just can’t do justice to a golden era in filmmaking.