From 'Shiva Baby' to 'Black Bear', these are the films that got snubbed at The Academy Awards.
by Tyler Appleby
It’s that time of year again—it’s Oscar season! Every year, the Oscars cause quite the stir amongst the film community for what is nominated and for what got snubbed. Some of the greatest films of all time were never recognized by The Academy Awards, including all-time classics like John Ford’s The Searchers, Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love, and Lulu Wang’s The Farewell. Since we’ve run down what we believe are the best films represented at the Oscars, now it’s time to go through the best films from 2020 that were ignored by The Academy.
The Nest (2020)
Dir. Sean Durkin
Surely made to contend at the Oscars, The Nest is one of the year’s best films on every measurable level. Written and directed by Sean Durkin, known for Martha Marcy May Marlene, the film is a slow-burn drama about an entrepreneur who moves his family to an English manor where everything is not as it seems. It’s an incredible screenplay and features two brilliant performances from Carrie Coon and Jude Law. Rich and layered storytelling, loaded with themes about identity, and exquisitely crafted, The Nest should have been recognized for multiple Academy Awards.
Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always (2020)
Dir. Eliza Hittman
Perhaps the most important film of 2020, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is about two young women who travel to New York City in need of medical help after an unintended pregnancy. Featuring beautiful performances from young actors Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder, this is a masterclass in quiet but powerful filmmaking. The scene that the title refers to is one of the most powerful movie moments of the past decade, and is devastatingly unforgettable. One of the best screenplays of the year, and sure direction from Eliza Hittman, it is one of the most poignant looks at abortion and womanhood ever portrayed in cinema.
Black Bear (2020)
Dir. Lawrence Michael Levine
For those looking for heady and ambitious storytelling, look no further. With an amazing lead performance from Aubrey Plaza, Black Bear is as baffling as it is exciting. The story follows a young filmmaker (Plaza) who goes to a remote cabin to seek inspiration, only to encounter odd situations and people along the way. This is easily the least Oscar-bait movie on this list, and it would never be nominated for anything—but it should be. Aubrey Plaza is STELLAR here, and Lawrence Michael Levine’s screenplay is brilliant. This is one of the year’s most distinctive movies, a trait hopefully recognized more at future Oscar ceremonies.
Dir. Andre Ahn
A beautifully poetic and barebones film that shines a spotlight on late character actor, Brian Dennehey—who definitely should’ve been recognized here in the Supporting Actor category—as he delivers one of the most memorable performances in years. The film follows a young boy and his mother (played by Hong Chau) as they travel to his late aunt’s house, and meet a neighboring retiree (Dennehey). This film is a beautiful look at perspective and the brilliant differences that it has within culture and age. See this mainly for Dennehy’s last performance before he sadly passed, and is definitely his best.
Shiva Baby (2020)
Dir. Emma Seligman
Emma Seligman arrives on the scene here with a short 75-minute comedy about a young girl who awkwardly runs into her sugar-daddy at a family shiva, and it is astoundingly great. Super low-budget and very small-scale, it packs a massive punch; Rachel Sennott delivers a true breakout performance here, with supporting roles from Dianna Agron and Molly Gordon. Regarding the Oscars, this definitely is deserving of Best Original Screenplay for Emma Seligman and Best Score from Ariel Marx. The funniest and most intense comedy of 2020, and the year’s best debut feature.
Small Axe (2020)
Dir. Steve McQueen
This one is cheating…sort of. While this is technically considered a TV series by the Academy, filmmaker Steve McQueen has made it very clear that this is a series of five individual films. Every single one is brilliant and features some of the best acting, writing, cinematography, editing, and music of the year. Mangrove is the best courtroom drama of the year, Lover’s Rock is the best tone-piece of the year, Blue, White, and Red is the best politically charged drama of the year, and Education and Alex Wheatle are both great as well. This series also delivers beautifully poignant commentary and has more interesting things to say about society than anything recognized by the Academy. This series is a true masterwork and could have been nominated for every single award at the ceremony. Small Axe is the defining project of 2020 and should be seen by all.