Hitting our screens on Monday, March 28th, the 94th Academy Awards are quickly gaining momentum, with the Best Picture race heating up between the ten selected films. With the likes of Steven Spielberg, Paul Thomas Anderson, Denis Villeneuve, Guillermo del Toro and Adam McKay included in the lineup, it’s clear that once again the awards ceremony has chosen familiarity over genuine cinematic innovation.
Sure, plenty of the films included in the category are great, though on the whole they simply do not represent the finest films of the year. To be specific, whilst the likes of Licorice Pizza, Dune, The Power of the Dog, CODA and Drive My Car deserve to be on the list, the other half of the category including Don’t Look Up, Nightmare Alley, West Side Story, Belfast and King Richard, could’ve certainly been omitted.
Often failing to appreciate the whole sphere of any given year in cinema, the Academy Awards have once again dabbled with innovation only to settle on the familiar. So, instead of the likes of Don’t Look Up, Nightmare Alley and West Side Story, what other films deserve to take their place? From international masterpieces to overlooked films nominated in other categories, let’s look at the ten films from 2021 that deserved to be nominated for Best Picture.
10 movies that deserved a Best Picture nomination:
10. The Lost Daughter (Maggie Gyllenhaal)
A surprising snub for Best Picture, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter was expected to appear in the category after being named in the awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Leading Actress for Olivia Colman and Best Supporting Actress for Jessie Buckley.
Led by its fantastic performances, Gyllenhaal’s film is an emotional vice that follows the story of a woman whose beach vacation takes a turn when she is forced to address the ghosts of her past. Strange and unpredictable, the story is well adapted from Elena Ferrante’s novel of the same name, with the snub perhaps having something to do with the fact that Netflix is already being represented in the Best Picture category by Don’t Look Up and The Power of the Dog.
9. Titane (Julia Ducournau)
This hard-hitting body horror from Julia Ducournau was awarded the Palme d’Or at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, though was sadly omitted from the 94th Academy Awards with no mention across all 24 categories.
The provocative piece of filmmaking operates on several plains of traditional genre and provides a genuinely fascinating commentary on modern attitudes towards gender and sexuality. Led by a spellbinding performance from Agathe Rousselle in her debut feature film role, Titane is a fantastical tale entwined with a painful emotional subtext that explores the turmoil of parental care.
8. The Tragedy of Macbeth (Joel Coen)
Celebrated in part by the Academy, Joel Coen’s solo venture The Tragedy of Macbeth is up for Best Achievement in Production Design, Best Achievement in Cinematography, as well as Best Leading Actor for Denzel Washington.
Missing from the list of nominations is, of course, the coveted Best Picture nod, with Coen’s monochrome film recreating the space and feel of a classic theatrical performance, brought to life by the performances of Washington, Frances McDormand and Brendan Gleeson. Keeping loyal to the source material, Coen’s adaptation keeps the story in the past though updates the visuals with stunning cinematography.
7. The Green Knight (David Lowery)
Strangely swept aside by the Academy Awards, The Green Knight by David Lowery features some of the finest cinematography of the year as well as an impressive adapted screenplay, yet fails to qualify for any award including Best Picture.
An intricate tale of honour, bravery and courage, Lowery’s film is a stunning retelling of the classic tale of the knight Gawain who sets out on a sprawling journey to find the sinister Green Knight. Recreating an ethereal tale, laced with moral lessons, Lowery utilises subtle CGI together with staggering cinematography to create a modern fantasy classic that sets itself apart from the crowd.
6. Red Rocket (Sean Baker)
Having been noticed by the Academy before for his 2017 film The Florida Project that was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Willem Dafoe, the continued omission of Sean Baker from the Best Picture category is near scandalous.
Having made Tangerine in 2015, followed by The Florida Project and now, Red Rocket, just how Baker has managed to avoid a Best Picture nomination is inexplicable. His latest film stars Simon Rex as Mikey Saber, a washed-up porn star who returns to his Texas hometown only to discover that no one wants him back. Captured in 16mm, just like his previous films, Red Rocket is a powerful, frenetic character study that keeps the director on a steady course of success.
5. After Love (Aleem Khan)
Recognised at the 2022 BAFTAs for Outstanding British Film of the Year, Best Director and Best Leading Actress for Joanna Scanlan, After Love has missed out on any Oscar nods despite being one of the finest films of the previous year.
A captivating journey about finding purpose in the wake of tragedy, Aleem Khan’s film is an urgent contemporary tale about the transcending power of love to reach beyond nationalities, cultures and creeds. Masterfully examining the intimate tussle between two battling identities of self, After Love is led by a powerhouse performance from Joanna Scanlan who commands the screen as a woman dealing with the sudden death of her husband.
4. The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier)
Recognised in the categories Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film, often the Academy thinks this is as much as a foreign classic deserves, with the likes of Another Round by Thomas Vinterberg also being given a similar treatment at the 2021 awards.
Worthy of contending in the most significant category, The Worst Person in the World is one of the best dramas of 2021, telling the story of Julie, a young woman navigating the troubles of her life whilst trying to find a career path. Romantic and often hilarious, the Danish-Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier crafts a tender love story for the modern generation that surpasses the quality of many of the Best Picture nominees.
3. Memoria (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
Sparking great debate among critics and fans upon the release of the film, Memoria from the modern master Apichatpong Weerasethakul evaded all nominations at the 2022 Oscars, despite winning the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2021.
Starring Tilda Swinton as an expat who sells flowers to make a living in Medellín, Weerasethakul takes the audience on a fantastical trail that recalls his previous works of ethereal cinema such as Syndromes and a Century and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Developing his own idiosyncratic language through cinema, let’s hope that Apichatpong Weerasethakul is soon recognised for his remarkable contributions to cinema.
2. Petite Maman (Céline Sciamma)
This petite, spellbinding French fairytale clocks in at just over 70 minutes and continues the incredible form of filmmaker Céline Sciamma whose projects include Water Lilies, Tomboy, Girlhood and Portrait of a Lady on Fire.
Nominated for Best Film Not in the English Language at the BAFTAs, Sciamma’s film has been left out completely by the Academy Awards. Starring twins Gabrielle and Josephine Sanz, Petite Maman follows the daughter of a woman who has recently lost her mother who ventures into a nearby forest and visits past versions of her relatives. Recalling the magic of the films of Studio Ghibli, Sciamma’s tale is one of magic, wonder, love, loss and passing.
1. Flee (Jonas Poher Rasmussen)
The Oscars have always had an inextricable problem with animation, having long discredited the art form in favour of live-action filmmaking.
A similar case can also be made for documentaries, with both categories being relegated to their very own category, making it seem that they are ‘not worthy’ of a Best Picture nomination. There is no better film than Flee for the Academy to nominate in the Best Picture category to demonstrate their appreciation for both documentaries and animation, to miss out on its greatness is a shocking shortcoming.
One of the most innovative documentaries of the year, Flee is an animated chronicle of the life of a refugee who opens up about his difficult past to his husband before their marriage.