13 of the Best Movies the Oscars Snubbed This Year

13 of the Best Movies the Oscars Snubbed This Year

This year’s Best Picture Oscar race is actually pretty solid. Triangle of Sadness is a capitalism-skewing triumph with a memorable central section that climaxes in literal explosions of vomit and shit; Everything Everywhere All at Once has a major plot point that turns on the bold use of a dildo. Just for example. There’s also a Spielberg film, an Elvis biopic, and mega-sequels to Top Gun and Avatar. If nothing else, it’s an eclectic selection.

Of course, Oscar is notorious for overlooking some of the best films and filmmakers of all time, and never gets it entirely right. Here are 13 films that Oscar snubbed this year that could just have easily been showered in year-end laurels. Some flew under the radar, while others are truly surprising omissions from the ballot. All are proof enough it’s been a great year for film, provided you’re willing to look beyond the box office charts.

The Woman King

An historical epic from an acclaimed director (Gina Prince-Bythewood) starring an Oscar-winning actress (Viola Davis)? This is normally the kind of thing that the Academy would eat up at awards time, but somehow the financially successful, audience rousing, critically lauded Woman King didn’t pick up a single nod. Interesting.

Nope

Jordan Peele’s horror films are getting more idiosyncratic with each go-around, with Nope impeccably building suspense while keeping its cards close to the vest, right up until the closing credits (and arguably beyond). It takes a brilliant filmmaker to create a movie this strange that doesn’t collapse under the weight of its own weirdness. Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer are perfect, playing it straight at the centre of a shitstorm.

The Northman

It’s hard to say why Robert Eggers’ viking epic landed with such a box office thud…it’s a gorgeous, bloody, deeply immersive film with impressive lead performances from Alexander Skarsgård and Nicole Kidman (who more than holds her own against any of Shakespeare’s complicated mums). In a climate of carefully test-marketed blockbusters, The Northman is wildly uncompromising, even nihilistic in tone; that journey to Hel feels surprisingly refreshing. On the plus side, even if it didn’t do well with the Academy, it reportedly turned a profit on streaming.

Prey

Given Prey’s extremely limited theatrical release (it played once at Comic-Con), it likely wouldn’t have been eligible for the Oscars in any circumstance. Still, in a streaming age, when theatrical releases are often mere awards-season technicalities, I see no reason to get hung up on such things. Technically the fifth Predator movie, it introduces a new action hero in the form of Amber Midthunder, playing in Sigourney Weaver/Ellen Ripley territory. Outside of that central performance, the film’s true brilliance comes in its blend of Comanche period drama, coming-of-age story, and alien invasion thriller.

Moonage Daydream

A wildly ambitious, feverishly beautiful music documentary that feels like a dive into David Bowie’s artistic consciousness, charting his evolution over decades while only rarely stopping to actually talk about him, instead turning things over to the legendary glam rocker’s own voice. Filmmaker Brett Morgan (The Kid Stays in the Picture) subsumes his own style in favour of something that feels like a movie Bowie would have made about himself, were he around to do it.

Bros

A funny, sharp romantic comedy that dares to make the revolutionary suggestion that maybe-just-maybe queer romance isn’t just an easy analogue for the straight experience. The comparison in 2023 is a little icky, but this feels like the neurotic natural successor to the widely awarded Woody Allen films of yore (if way less problematic). Billy Eichner and Luke McFarlane give solid central performances and, if nothing else, the original song “Love is Not Love” is every bit as good as some of this year’s other nominees in that category.

Descendant

In 2019, the wreckage of the Clotilda was discovered in the Mobile River in Alabama. Reputedly the last ship to carry enslaved people from Africa to the United States, the ship was scuttled in 1859, half a century after such importation had been outlawed (the 110 Africans on the ship’s last voyage were from Dahomey, the setting of The Woman King). Documentary filmmaker Margaret Brown spent the succeeding three years exploring the meaning of the find through the stories of the descendants of the ship’s survivors, drawing sharp lines between what our history books record and lived experience.

Fire Island

Technically, this is another streaming-only release that wouldn’t have been eligible for Oscars, but the film had a couple of different distributors before making its way to Hulu, and could well have wound up with a theatrical release had its path not been so winding. The point being: this sharp update on Jane Austen tackles issues of race and class through a super gay lens, navigating nimbly between tones. It’s the kind of smart, well-acted romantic comedy that Oscar used to reward.

Bad Axe

Director David Siev chronicles his own family’s struggles during the height of the COVID pandemic following his return to his hometown of Bad Axe, Michigan. Siev’s father, a Cambodian refugee, and his Mexican-American mother struggle to save their family restaurant amid disease, economic downturn, and an extreme uptick in racist aggression. The family’s struggles wind up feeling like a microcosm of American life on the margins over these last few years.

Decision to Leave

The latest from Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, The Handmaiden) is a sweeping romantic drama that’s also a police procedural, finding the always brilliant technical director operating at his peak. A detective investigating a homicide develops feelings for the wife of the dead man, with complications equally thrilling and moving. There are few better visual stylists working today, and every frame is beautiful and thematically revelatory. It made the shortlist for Best International Feature, but didn’t wind up with a nomination, and I can’t help but feel like it’s because a certain subsection of Academy voters felt South Korea should be satisfied with all those awards for Parasite a few years back.

Saint Omer

A complex story of the immigrant experience, Saint Omer sees a novelist (Kayije Kagame) travel to the title town to cover the murder trial of a Senegalese migrant accused of leaving her infant daughter to die on a beach (based, loosely, on a real incident). The writer finds parallels to the story in her own life, and the film takes an impressively empathetic look at the experience of a woman guilty of the unthinkable.

The Inspection

This film, about a gay Black fan facing bigotry and homophobia (from his own family as well as his fellow recruits, is very good. But Jeremy Pope, who’ll be playing Jean-Michel Basquiat later this year, is phenomenal in the lead role, and could very easily have wound up on the Best Actor ballot.

The Eternal Daughter

Though it made plenty of best-of-the-year lists, this haunting Gothic mystery was overlooked at awards time. It sees Tilda Swinton playing both and ageing mother and her grown daughter, who is working on a screenplay. The two women are apparently the only guests in a spooky old hotel, but what feels like a ghost story winds up a surprising and powerful meditation on familial generational ties.

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