For Your Consideration: This Year’s Oscar-Worthy, Overlooked Films, Performances, and Screenplays

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As part of Collider’s new column, Oscar Beat, I’ve been covering the in’s and the out’s of this year’s awards race for the past few months.  While there are plenty of excellent films contending for a number of different awards, there are also a number of films that, for one reason or another, don’t fit the “Oscar mold” but deserve recognition all the same.  The Academy is loathe to recognize any kind of comedic work despite the fact that the “Best Actor” or “Best Picture” categories lack disclaimers that would disqualify genres other than drama, and smaller pictures have a hard time drumming up support against the studio-backed fare.

After the jump, I run down a number of films, performances, and screenplays from 2013 that are deserving of awards attention despite failing to drum up serious support.

Best Picture:

the-act-of-killing-anwar-congo-1The Act of Killing

Despite being one of the most powerful artistic mediums, a documentary feature has never been nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.  Looking back on fantastic works of non-fiction like Hoop Dreams and The House I Live In, it’s a shame to think they failed to make the Best Picture cut, and this year’s The Act of Killing looks destined to join them on that list.  Director Joshua Oppenheimer’s doc is a harrowing, uniquely crafted look at a group of people who over forty years ago took part in a genocide in Indonesia and are now hailed as heroes.  The film explores the long-lasting effects of committing such unthinkable acts, and instead of confronting his subjects “Gotcha!”-style, Oppenheimer instead opts to have his subjects create their own film to show what they did.  The results are unforgettable, and The Act of Killing represents cinema at its absolute best regardless of genre or category.

Also Consider: Blue Is the Warmest Color

Best Director:

place-beyond-the-pines-derek-cianfrance-gosling-cooperDerek Cianfrance – The Place Beyond the Pines

Director Derek Cianfrance’s drama The Place Beyond the Pines is one of the more ambitious features from the past few years.  The pic’s triptych structure didn’t work for everyone, but I found it to be a fascinating and ultimately emotional way of telling this sprawling family saga.  Although the film changes protagonists after each act break, Cianfrance is able to have the actions of his characters reverberate throughout the rest of the film thanks in no small part to fantastic performances by Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, and Bradley Cooper.

Also Consider: Destin Cretton – Short Term 12

Best Actor:

simon-pegg-the-worlds-endSimon Pegg – The World’s End 

Comedy is rarely recognized by the Academy, and in the unusual instances that they do acknowledge the existence of more comic-leaning performances, it’s usually in the Supporting Actor/Actress categories.  But Simon Pegg’s wonderfully layered performance in The World’s End is absolutely worth consideration in the Best Actor category.  The film marks the best performance of Pegg’s career as he brilliantly brings the troubled character of Gary King to life.  Just beneath King’s manic façade is a deep sadness and depression, and Pegg is able to layer shades of King’s darkness in with his loveable goofball exterior.  It all comes to an emotional head in the third act, and Pegg’s performance never verges on the predictable or sentimental.  When will the Academy start to recognize that just because a character is funny, that doesn’t mean the performance is any less impressive? 

Also Consider: Miles Teller – The Spectacular Now

Best Actress:

short-term-12-brie-larson-1Brie Larson – Short Term 12
Actress Brie Larson is already a bit of a contender in the crowded Best Actress Oscar race for her work in Short Term 12, but it’s such a fantastic performance that I feel it deserves a mention on this list.  Short Term 12 is an incredibly small, delicate work from a new filmmaker, but it’s one of the most emotionally involving films of the year.  Larson takes the role of a foster-care supervisor—one that could easily have delved into over-the-top Lifetime Movie territory—and absolutely knocks it out of the park.  Larson plays her characte with equal parts passion, toughness, and uncertainty, and she completely disappears into the role.

Also Consider: Adele Exarchopoulos – Blue Is the Warmest Color

Best Supporting Actor:

short-term-12-keith-stanfieldKeith Stanfield – Short Term 12 

While Brie Larson is very much the standout in Short Term 12, the film is packed with stellar performances from the entire ensemble cast.  In the role of Marcus, a quiet boy at the home who is about to turn 18 and thus be forced out, newcomer Keith Stanfield turns in a breakthrough performance.  The character doesn’t speak too often, but one particular scene in which he performs a rap he wrote about his feelings towards his mother is a heartbreaking moment Stanfield performs perfectly.  Surely a sign of great things to come, Stanfield’s supporting performance in Short Term 12 is among the best of the year.

Also Consider: Danny McBride – This Is the End

Best Supporting Actress:

her-joaquin-phoenix-9Scarlett Johansson – Her

Voice acting is not new territory, but in director Spike Jonze’s unique love story Her, Scarlett Johansson is tasked with selling half of a burgeoning relationship using only her voice.  Johansson brings just the right amount of nuance to the role of Samantha, an artificially intelligent operating system that becomes the object of Joaquin Phoenix’s affection.  It’s a difficult task, as Johansson has to bring just enough life to the character to get the audience to invest in this relationship while also playing into the limitations of an A.I.  The result is a deeply moving relationship drama the likes of which we’ve never seen before, and Johansson is one of the major keys to the film’s success.

Also Consider: Sarah Paulson 12 Years a Slave

Best Original Screenplay:

edgar-wright-the-worlds-endEdgar Wright & Simon Pegg – The World’s End

The Academy tends to favor Best Picture contenders in the Best Screenplay categories, and sometimes it leads to genuine snubs like Rian Johnson’s excellent Looper script and Stephen Chbosky’s touching adaptation of his book The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  It looks like yet another stellar script will be overlooked this year by way of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s The World’s End.  In a world filled with sequels, remakes, and reboots, this film feels like the epitome of what “Best Original Screenplay” encompasses.  Just because it happens to include robots and a pub crawl doesn’t mean it’s any less emotionally investing than something like NebraskaThe World’s End is one of the best original screenplays of the year, and deserves recognition as such.

Also Consider: Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg – This Is the End 

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber – The Spectacular Now

This year’s crop of November and December releases has been so good that many films that premiered at Sundance back in January have been lost in the shuffle.  One such film is director James Ponsoldt’s rich drama The Spectacular Now, and the screenplay adaptation of Tim Tharp’s novel by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber is particularly impressive.  The film refuses to smooth out rough edges when it comes to teenage life and romance, opting instead to show with refreshing candor the struggles of both romantic and familial relationships as well as addiction.  The lead characters of Sutter (Miles Teller) and Aimee (Shailene Woodley) are extremely well-written, and it would be wonderful to see some awards attention thrown to this screenplay.

Also Consider: David Gordon Green – Prince Avalanche

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  • Keegan

    i’m all for This is the End getting more attention, but it was an adapted screenplay from the short film Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse. also i’m glad someone else agrees derek cianfrance deserves some recognition

  • A-Man

    This Is The End winning any script-related award would be a travesty considering it was a film made shat out and “improvised” by a bunch of overpaid underworking frat boys who have far too high an opinion of themselves.

    The ending (which was probably one of the few bits that WAS even written to any degree) was despicable. Celebrating how they are all definitely so awesome and certainly deserve to go to Heaven with no detectable irony – awful, self-aggrandizing bollocks. Left me with a distinctly unpleasant taste in the mouth…

    Danny McBride was the only funny one…

    • Anon

      They said “The World’s End”, buddy. Not “This Is the End”. Maybe read a little closer before flying off the handle.

      • Diego Fernando Salazar Proaño

        Well, it was in the “Also consider…” section of Best Original Screenplay. But, while I consider that even nominating This is the End to any award for its writting would be undeserved if there is no The World’s End nomination, I’m not saying it was a bad film and it was cool to see some of the actors like Michael Cera and Jay Baruchel playing against type. Good comedy, good movie, good script. But award-worthy script? Not quite.

      • Grayden

        Jay Baruchel played against type? All the main guys pretty much played themselves from every movie they’ve been in, save for Hill whose actually taken on varied roles over the past few years. ‘This is the End’ was the most overhyped, underwhelming movie I’ve seen in years. The funniest part of the whole movie was Emma Watson because she played so far outside what her type has been.

      • Hulkamania

        Yeah… YOU need to read a little closer, obviously.

      • mattinacan

        ohh, you just made yourself look like a idiot because it turns out you were the one not reading close enough

    • Aquartertoseven

      This is the End was a great film, not Oscar worthy of course though. The World’s End however is apparently the weakest of Pegg and Frost’s 4 films, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Paul being the others.

      • Bernie

        IMO, it’s BY FAR the best one.

        I think in years to come the nostalgia factor of both Shaun and Fuzz will wear off and people will see that The World’s End works much better as a movie than those other two.

        There’s a genuinely strong story going on throughout the picture, which neither film had before – Shaun was a comedy pretending to be a zombie film with a very loose plot about getting his girlfriend back, which had little tension – Fuzz was a comedy pretending to be a hodge-podge mis-match of classic British Horror and Hollywood action film about Angel proving he really is right all the time – whereas World’s End is a drama about nostalgia, re-evaluating the past, and the decimation of society via technology hiding as a sci-fi comedy.

        It’s all opinion, and Shaun and Fuzz certainly have their moments – but World’s End is leaps above it dramatically. It simply WORKS better as a piece of drama than the other two.

      • LEM

        “Shaun of the Dead” was just a zombie comedy about trying to get his girlfriend back? I think you need to re-watch that movie.

    • mattinacan

      underworked? these guys all have busy careers, wtf are you talking about from your mom’s basement?

  • TomNewYorker

    to me 5 over looked films i think should bet oscar bait for best picture are
    1-Spring Breakers.
    2-Disconnect
    3-Fruitvale Station
    4-Spectacular Now
    5-Charlie Countryman

    5 overlooked directors who should be oscar bair for best director
    1-Harmony Korine-Spring Breakers
    2-Joss Whedon-Much Ado About Nothing
    3-Henry Alex Rubin-Disconnect
    4-Ryan Cooglr-Fruitvale Station
    5-Sofia Coppola-The Bling Ring

    5 overlooked actors who should be oscar bait for best actor
    1-Michael Shannon-The Iceman
    2-Michael B. Jordan-fruitvale Station
    3-Jason Bateman-Disconnect
    4-Shia Labeouf-Charlie Countryman
    5-Ryan Gosling-Place Beyond The Pines

    5 Overlooked actresses who should be oscar bait for best actress
    1-Shailene Woodley-Spectacula Now
    2-Evan Rachel Wood-Charlie Countryman
    3-Gina Rodriguez-Filly Brown
    4-Amanda Seyfried-Lovelace
    5-Chloe Moretz-Carrie

    5 overlooked actors who should be oscar bait for best supporting actor
    1-James Franco-Spring Breakers
    2-Mads Mikkelsen-Charlie Countyman
    3-Edward James Olmos-Filly Brown
    4-Bobby Cannavale-Blue Jasmine
    5-James Badge Dale-Parkland

    5 overlooked actresses i think should be oscar bait for best supporting actress
    1-Ashley Benson-Spring Breakers
    2-Jenni Rivera-Filly Brown
    3-Taissa Farmiga-The Bling Ring
    4-Julianne Moore-Carrie
    5-Jacki Weaver-Parkland

    5 overlooked movies i think should be oscar bait for best original screenplay
    1-Spring Breakers
    2-Disconnect
    3-Frutivale Station
    4-The To Do List
    5-Charlie Countryman

    5 overlooked movies i think should be oscar bair for best adapted screenplay
    1-Carrie
    2-Much Ado About Nothing
    3-Black Nativity
    4-Ender’s Game
    5-Great Gatsby

    • Archer

      Not to sound too negative, but you seem to be the only person expressing any kind of positivity about Charlie Countryman. But then again, that’s why everyone gets to have their own opinion.

      • Danny T

        Charlie Countryman was good, but not THAT good. The way things are going, Shia will get an Oscar eventually, mark my words, but not for Charlie. The screenplay was great but doesn’t deserve the nom. Soundtrack was stellar too but unfortunately they don’t give awards for that. And if they did, Anchorman 2 would probably win lol.

    • Diego Fernando Salazar Proaño

      Wow dude, you really liked Spring Breakers don’t you? I would have your back on Much Ado but I won’t for two reasons: 1. It was from last year and 2. still haven’t had the chance to see it, sorry.

      • Brandon Davis

        Though it [Much Ado About Nothing] did in fact premiere at TIFF in 2012 it didn’t see a theatrical release til this year so it would actually qualify for lists and maybe a few nominations. I can agree with your #2 reason but I plan to watch it in… I don’t know.

    • Richard K.

      I’m still in shock that Disconnect only did about $1m at the BO. Been my #1 pick of the year since its release. Such a shame that nobody saw it.

  • Jan

    Most overlooked performance this year was Alexandra Daddario in Texas Chainsaw 3D, but that is only because she didn’t cement herself in our memories by *not* showing us her magnificent you-know-what-I’m-talking-about.

  • Mixed Race rich kid NYC

    This guy loves unfunny comedies
    I guess

    • mattinacan

      and ben affleck is a bigot, follow my link!

  • Brandon Davis

    Ugh “The Spectacular Now” is so overlooked.

    • Mattie Dubbs

      This x1000

  • JK1193

    Love the shout outs to Edgar and Simon, especially for the Gary King character. Along with Pegg, Hugh Jackman also deserves special attention for Prisoners. I was stunned by the emotional depth that he went to and in a weaker year, he would definately be a lock-in.

    Other favorites:
    Daniel Brühl- Rush
    A memorable performance of real-life hero Niki Lauda, I have a feeling that with the SAG and Golden Globe noms, he could sneak in.
    Jeremy Renner- American Hustle
    It’s a smaller role than the rest of the cast, but Renner deserves kudos for going against his intense, brooding type roles for a warm-hearted and genuinely likable guy who is the unknowing mark of a sting operation.
    Jena Malone- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
    Call me crazy, but she rocked as Johanna Mason. Stole every single scene she was in, even opposite Jennifer Lawrence.

  • Marissa Evans

    When will the Academy start to recognize that just because a character is funny, that doesn’t mean the performance is any less impressive?
    Read more at http://collider.com/oscars-overlooked-brie-larson-simon-pegg-scarlett-johansson/#vYCypPA5l9zrT5M0.99
    Honestly, I still say comedy is more impressive than drama. I feel like anybody could turn in a dramatic performance (I exaggerate of course), but very few actors can make me laugh without needing a well-timed edit or an excellent joke. Of all the entertainment mediums out there, to me a good comedian is still the hardest thing to come across, whereas I can go to any dramatic play and see at least a few good performances where I say “Yeah that person could probably be a successful film star.”.
    An award for Simon Pegg would be so refreshing, especially considering how he balanced both comedy AND drama..

  • Matt

    I went into the The World’s End having loved Shaun and Hot Fuzz but to be honest I never got into The World’s End. I watched it again and it still seems the weakest of the 3. I agree its a more mature film, but there’s more maturity in a dozen other films I’ve watched this year because I don’t just watch popcorn flicks. I just felt they dropped the ball on the humor. And if you drop the ball on the main sell of your film you had better completely hit the other parts out of the park. I just didn’t feel that strongly about them.

    I say this as someone who is often okay with being sold one thing and getting another. I know most people hate The Village. I don’t think its a great film by any means but I come back to it a lot because its gorgeously shot, has some decent performances, the music is great, and there just aren’t very many “scary” movies I enjoy. The Village was sold as one thing but really its a love story. And a genuine one at that. Again, I’m bringing this up because I really don’t mind when you come to a theater looking for X and then you get Y. I just think the Y for The World’s End didn’t make up for the lack of X. Confusing enough?

    Still need to see Short Term 12. The Spectacular Now was a beautiful film. Its remarkable to me how all these indie films get such short shrift in the awards season. Before Midnight isn’t likely to walk away with much of a nod but it certainly has to be the best screenplay of the year.

  • Greg

    This list is interesting but The Worlds End and Place Beyond the Pines! Is it good filmmaking? Without question but not oscar worthy in my opinion. That’s coming from a HUGE Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright fan.

  • Ella

    I loved The World´s End. Simon Pegg absolutely stunned me and I knew before he could deliver a heart breaking performance like this. Him and Hugh Jackman in Prisoners are huge snubs…but I guess Oscars are given for weight loss and playing a historical figure, not a real acting…

  • Richard K.

    Disconnect. Don Jon. About Time.

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