The Academy Awards have always had a very difficult relationship with experimental and artistic films or with films d‘auteur, but, nevertheless, below are five films that should have received at least a Best Foreign Film nomination by the Academy (if not a win) and were unjustly ignored. I am listing only the films that were officially submitted by their respective countries for consideration.
I. Wings of Desire 
The Academy ignoring of Wim Wenders’s masterpiece Wings of Desire in 1988 now sounds like a crime. Was this film really worse than for example Course Completed (Spain) or The Family (Italy) that were nominated in that year? No, it was probably simply too artistic and complex to understand for the Academy. A philosophically entrancing cinematic experience, Wings of Desire tells of two angels in Berlin who observe the behaviour of people around them and things take a more complicating turn when they slowly realise that they can no longer be just impartial observers.
II. Ivan’s Childhood 
This cinematic debut by Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky must be one of the greatest film debuts ever. Thematically significant, visually poetic and unbelievably touching, it tells the story of a twelve-year old boy during the World War II whose zeal to be part of the Red Army fighting the Nazis gains him the admiration of all men around him. The Soviet Union submitted this film for consideration for the 36th Academy Awards and it was unjustly ignored, with the Academy, surprisingly – if not shockingly, nominating such films as Los Tarantos (Spain) and Twin Sisters of Kyoto (Japan) over Ivan’s Childhood. Incidentally, the country’s anti-war masterpiece Come and See  was also later bypassed by the Academy.
Continue reading “5 Foreign Films That Should Have Been Nominated for an Academy Award (Part I)”
I. Ship of Fools (1965)
“When I think of the things I have seen on this ship. The stupid cruelties. The vanities. We talk about values? There’re no values. The dung we base our lives on…We are the intelligent, civilized people who carry out orders we are given. No matter what they may be. Our biggest mission in life is to avoid being fools. And we wind up being the biggest fools of all” (Dr Wilhelm Schumann in Ship of Fools).
Based on a novel by Katherine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools tells of a passenger ship sailing from Mexico and bound for Germany. On board, the people are from all walks of life and classes, from a Countess (played by Simone Signoret) who lost everything to desperate Spanish farm workers. They are also one artistic couple having a serious relationship trouble, a middle-aged Nazi sympathiser, an aging southern belle (played by Vivien Leigh), who is in search of “something”, and a troupe of Spanish dancers, among others. The film focuses on each of those in turn, taking rounds, and could be said to represent a series of “film vignettes”, rather than a straightforward plot moving to one cinematic climax. Directed by Stanley Kramer (Look Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)), who always promoted films with important social issues, Ship of Fools is distinguished by its unusual presentation, incredible cast, and the acting of Simone Signoret and Oskar Werner.
Continue reading “Out to Sea: Kramer’s Ship of Fools (1965) & Hitchcock’s Lifeboat (1944)”
Since we are still on the topic of the Academy Awards, I thought I would present 10 most unbelievable and unforgiving injustices committed by the Academy Awards for the year 2017. In no particular order:
1. “Your Name.“
Rumours have it that “Your Name” now has the distinction to be the highest grossing anime film in history, suppressing the old record set by “Spirited Away” (2001). And, it is no wonder, Makoto Shinkai has crafted something truly unique and memorable. The story of two teenagers swapping bodies randomly at night has everything which any anime could desire to have: a moving long-distance romance, background of an cataclysmic event of cosmic significance and breath-taking visuals, among other things. But, no, in 2017, the Academy simply chose to shut its eyes and pretend this masterpiece does not exist.
2. Rebecca Hall for “Christine”
Rebecca Hall’s performance in “Christine” was simply staggering it was so good. She gave the performance of her career as a nervous and depressed worker for a TV station in the US, portraying a real life character too, but was ignored for a nomination. One may say that the Best Actress category is always very competitive, but the Academy also has this penchant for favouring films which feature in the Best Picture category in all other categories, and “La La Land” is no exception. Besides, if the Best Picture nominations have been expanded to 10, perhaps, it is time to expand the number of nominations in other categories?
Continue reading “Looking Back: 10 Oscar Injustices of 2017”
My favourite to win: The Shape of Water
It is a bit of a surprise that “Phantom Thread” as well as “Get Out” made this list. “Get Out” is a horror (not the Academy Awards’ favourite genre), which was released a bit less than one year ago. Even though it is good to see the Academy nominating such a dark-horse, the amazement is still there. For all its unforgettably tense psychological atmosphere, “Get Out” is still a flawed film (see my review here), and one may wonder whether, as with “Moonlight” the year before, there were not some “race politics” involved in this decision as well. On the other hand, such a great film as “The Florida Project” is nowhere to be seen here, which is astounding. I guess the Academy thought that by nominating “Call Me By Your Name”, they would be done with it when it comes to paying their dues and nominating aesthetically-pleasing, independent-spirited films. The limit is ten nominees per category, and, surely, “The Florida Project” deserves its tenth place on this list.
Continue reading “Academy Award Nominations 2018: Some Commentary”
Winner: 12 Years a Slave
Other nominees: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street
Well, there are hardly any surprises here, with virtually every film commentator predicting ‘12 Years a Slave’’s win. It is easy to see why there was hardly any competition at all in this category, too. With the greatest of respects to other nominated films, ‘12 Years a Slave’ just stands out in terms of its artistic merit and, most importantly, the impact it produces. I don’t mind if ‘Gravity’ sweeps every award out there, as long as the Best Picture goes to its most deserved contender. Arguably, ’12 Years a Slave’ is the only film in the category to which you can comfortably assign the word ‘masterpiece’. It is a great achievement for everyone involved in the production of this film, especially for its director, Steve McQueen.
Continue reading “The Academy Awards 2014”