From festival season all the way to the end of the year, 2018 was a great year for movies. Critics and viewers alike celebrated films from a wide range of genres, including horror and animation, with films like Hereditary and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Unfortunately, this success was not reflected by the 2019 Oscar nominations.
Though the nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, to be held on February 24, had plenty of surprises — The Favourite, one of the best movies of the year, to name one — the Oscars ultimately fail to give recognition to movies that truly tear apart and redefine elements of cinema.
So here is a list of some snubs that, despite their lack of Academy love, deserve your time.
By far my favorite movie of the year, Blindspotting is an inventive and ingenious study on gentrification, following Collin (Daveed Diggs) as he attempts to finish his final three days of probation without getting into any trouble.
From green juice to vegan burgers to Uber, Blindspotting’s stances on the social and economic landscape of America are incredibly insightful and refreshing. Blindspotting does not beat around the bush: racial profiling, police brutality, and the nuanced use of African-American vernacular are all key themes of the movies — brought together by Collin and Miles (Rafael Casal) who, sooner rather than later, will be cemented in the pantheon of loveable on-screen duos.
Toni Collette makes Hereditary. It’s as simple as that.
Collette’s character, Annie Graham, is the centre of the film, which is as terrifying and shocking as it is mind-numbingly tragic.
Hereditary is hard to put into words: it seamlessly dismantles so many tired tropes and clichés in the horror genre, effectively paving a way for a new era where monsters and boogeymen are replaced by strained familial dynamics and an absence of serotonin. Hereditary doesn’t blur lines in its approach to mental health: seek help, take care of yourself, don’t ignore your symptoms, or literal horror will ensue.
You know a horror movie is effective when the terrifying demeanor of demons and cults is second only to the fraying family dynamic helmed by the matriarch Collette depicts on screen.
First Reformed does actually have an Oscar nomination: Paul Schrader is nominated for best original screenplay. But Ethan Hawke gave such a startling performance in this film that this list would be remiss without mention of him.
First Reformed attempts to cut the cord between religion and environmentalism, to separate interests of faith from interests of the planet. Hawke’s Reverend Ernst Toller grapples with reconciling what he knows, what he believes, what politicians say, and what science proves. Hawke delivers a performance that is frenzied, frustrated, but, most importantly, urgent. To divulge anything else would be a disservice to you.
Lynne Ramsay is one of the most exciting directors working today. We Need to Talk About Kevin, her previous film, garnered critical and international acclaim. However, last year’s You Were Never Really Here has unfortunately fallen under the radar.
The film follows Joe (Joaquin Phoenix), a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, who tracks down missing girls for a living. Ramsay is sharp and cold in her directing. Her handling of brutal violence is effortless, allowing the movie to progress in a sequence of events that alarmingly raises the stakes the further it runs. You Were Never Really Here is very challenging but extremely rewarding — Ramsay deserves all the praise.
In 1992 Singapore, a teenage Sandi Tan directed and filmed an indie movie, assisted by her film-loving group of friends and her American mentor Georges Cardona. Once the movie was done, however, Cardona vanished with all of the footage.
The film is recovered 20 years later, and thus begins Shirkers, a documentation of Tan’s personal odyssey of coming to terms with her younger self’s vision, excitement, and ultimate betrayal. Shirkers stitches together snippets of Tan’s original movie — also called Shirkers — and her present-day journey, making for a memorable tale about ambition, one that both celebrates and cautions against the youthful naïveté all of us are familiar with and, at times, still susceptible to.