2017 Snubby Awards: Top films that weren’t nominated for Oscars

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With each year comes more films that are bound to join the great pantheon of Oscar Snubbery, the likes of which include “The Lego Movie,” which wasn’t nominated for 2015’s Best Animated Feature, and Kathryn Bigelow and Ava DuVernay, who weren’t nominated for Best Director in 2013 and 2015, respectively. Even the great Aaron Sorkin was left unrecognized in a category he should’ve won with the snub of his electric script for “Steve Jobs.” The talent behind such films are forced to watch other, lesser films (cough, “Hacksaw Ridge,” cough, “Passengers,” cough) rise to Oscar-nominated greatness, and all that these snubbed filmmakers can do is applaud and politely smile while little pieces of their soul fade with every second of every overlong acceptance speech. But that ends today. These talents will go unrecognized no longer, as we at The Daily Californian present our first ever Snubby Awards. That’s right, the Oscars are for squares and the squares that liked “La La Land” (like us). These awards aim to recognize the talent that the Academy voters forgot about or just didn’t bother to see (fewer people saw “Silence” than “Night Falls,” which is a film that doesn’t exist). We would like to apologize in advance, however, to the films that were snubbed for the Snubbies, and for the perpetual cycle of snubbery that their exclusion entails. Here’s to you, “Sing Street.” You and “The Nice Guys” will forever be winners in our hearts. Without further ado, here are the winners and nominees of the 2017 Snubby Awards.  

— Harrison Tunggal

Best Picture

Winner:  “Jackie”

The assassination of JFK is one of the most infamous tragedies in American history. Pablo Larraín’s “Jackie” explores Jackie Kennedy’s life in the week after JFK’s assassination, and the film is utterly spectacular. Told nonlinearly, and oftentimes in atmospheric, visual strokes rather than through dialogue or storyline, the film is an intensely affecting exploration of not only Jackie’s grief, but also her powerful quest to free herself from the terror of the Kennedy family’s terrible luck as well as her equally powerful quest to forge the family’s legacy during a time when the public was already writing JFK off. But that kind of ambitious approach needed the right execution, and the acting in the film is amongst the best of the year. Natalie Portman embodies Jackie and her mid-Atlantic gravitas in a mesmerizing fashion. And only Larraín could’ve created a film that is so deeply, hauntingly American with such a French stylistic flare (the film was shot mainly in France with a French crew). “Jackie” will stay with viewers precisely because this film isn’t about politics, but rather about death and the scars of loss left after.

Runner-up: “Swiss Army Man”

Not many saw Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s “Swiss Army Man,” which might just be the biggest shame in film of 2016. But those who took the time to notice the ideas — beyond the absurd amount of farting in the film — received the most uniquely human experience of the year. Behind its gassy, talking corpse and its dazzling music video-esque montages (the original song “Montage” was snubbed as well), we find an investigation into loneliness, love and friendship, but, most importantly, into being weird and finding comfort in our weird-but-perfect selves. “Swiss Army Man” is a film that takes chances like no other film quite possibly ever will — unless “the Daniels” direct another — but it uses them in service of a story that’s worth telling.

“Silence”
“Nocturnal Animals”
“20th Century Women”
“Paterson”
“Patriots Day”
“The Red Turtle”
“Loving”
“The Witch”

Any of the films on this list could’ve made a convincing case for a Best Picture nomination. From “Silence,” the Martin Scorsese epic to Tom Ford’s twisty thriller “Nocturnal Animals” to the risk-taking, no-dialogue, Studio Ghibli-produced “The Red Turtle” and more, these films, and even films beyond them, are a testament to the power of cinematic storytelling. And as long as they’ve offered audiences meaning beyond the theater, they don’t need awards recognition to be considered great movies.

— Kyle Kizu

Best Director

Winner: Tom Ford — “Nocturnal Animals”

The sign of a brilliant director is a film’s command over its themes and style. In the layered “Nocturnal Animals,” a story of stories within stories, fashion designer-turned-director Tom Ford expertly handles the Western, thriller and melodrama genres, each with their own themes and style. But where his direction tops off is in each style’s coherency with each other. Each genre, applied to specific moments in time and space in the film, is supremely different from the other, but they cohere together in service of the film’s overarching story — one of love and betrayal. Only an expert craftsman, and only a fashion designer, could’ve made this film.

Runner-up: Pablo Larraín — “Jackie”
Martin Scorsese — “Silence”
David Mackenzie — “Hell or High Water”
Jeff Nichols — “Loving”

Larraín’s film makes a very convincing argument for the application of the “auteur” label. “Jackie” is at once visually stunning, emotionally profound and thematically resonant in ways that only a true auteur could execute. The legendary Martin Scorsese tackled a very different task in directing “Silence,” one that required a rock-solid grip on such an expansive scope and scale in “Silence.” Jeff Nichols handles scope on a smaller scale with equal verve, delicately walking a fine line between quietude and voice in “Loving.” And finally, David Mackenzie modernizes the Western, flipping the genre on its head in an assured and confident manner, while also utilizing many of its conventional elements to such utter perfection in “Hell or High Water.”

— Kyle Kizu

Best Actor

Winner: Andrew Garfield — “Silence”

Though Garfield was nominated as Best Lead Actor for “Hacksaw Ridge,” his performance in “Silence” as the determined Jesuit priest Father Rodrigues is equally, if not more moving. In “Silence,” we see Rodrigues put through the ringer, and Garfield’s performance brings us along for every moment of the character’s journey. His elation, fear and ultimate brokenness feels like our own, and it takes a top-tier actor like Garfield to accomplish that degree of empathy.

Runner-up: Adam Driver — “Paterson”
Jake Gyllenhaal — “Nocturnal Animals”
Joel Edgerton — “Loving”
Michael Keaton — “The Founder”

Like everyone else that contributed to the making of “Paterson,” Adam Driver had to pull off a completely banal performance with heavy emotional profundity. And he does, emoting creative passion as well as creative and personal pain when that passion is beaten up. Through the smallest of looks and the most reserved delivery of dialogue, Driver shows us — rather than telling us — what it means to live a completely uneventful yet entirely fulfilling life. In a similarly quiet fashion, but with a more overt character, Joel Edgerton convinces us of true, unbroken love in “Loving.” Jake Gyllenhaal plays essentially three different versions of his character — the romantic, the creative and the heartbroken — to equally successful degree in each part of “Nocturnal Animals.” And finally, Michael Keaton continues his career resurgence through unforgiving, relentless and harmful determination as the greedy Ray Kroc in the McDonald’s origin story “The Founder.”

— Harrison Tunggal and Kyle Kizu

Best Lead Actress

Winner: Amy Adams — “Arrival”

Director Denis Villeneuve himself expressed surprise at Amy Adams’ lack of an Oscar nomination, and for good reason. As Dr. Louise Banks, Adams is subtle, but emotive enough to convey a mother’s heartbreak and the profound excitement of a woman making the greatest discovery of her career (hell, the greatest discovery, ever). Adams’ performance gives the lofty linguistic theory of “Arrival” an emotional tether, and she does it masterfully. Without this emotional core, “Arrival” wouldn’t be the touching movie it is.

Runner-up: Rebecca Hall — “Christine”
Annette Bening — “20th Century Women”
Taraji P. Henson — “Hidden Figures”
Hailee Steinfeld — “The Edge of Seventeen”

It seems as though the Academy never considered Rebecca Hall’s performance in the true-story film “Christine,” which is a shame because hers is undeniably one of the most impactful of the year. Playing Christine Chubbuck — a woman struggling with depression, a lack of romance and career stagnancy — Hall conveys such struggle so thoroughly. Through determination, social awkwardness, reserved joy and deep mental pain, Hall is heartbreaking, and those who know the ending can see the immense subtlety she brings to a woman who simply wants connection. But beyond Hall are three other performances that have made the Lead Actress category one of the strongest in years. Annette Bening is sublime as a ‘70s single mother in “20th Century Women,” struggling to raise her son on her own. Taraji P. Henson tackles systemic racism with a brave, raw will as one of the greatest minds of her time in “Hidden Figures.” And Hailee Steinfeld reminds us of her unprecedented, remarkable talent — she’s only 20 years old and stands tall with these veterans — through her performance in “The Edge of Seventeen” as an adventurous and sarcastic teenager trying to find her place in a world that seems to not want her to.

— Harrison Tunggal and Kyle Kizu

Best Supporting Actor

Winner: Trevante Rhodes — “Moonlight”

“Moonlight” has one of the best scenes of any film in 2016, and it’s the reunion between former flames Chiron and Kevin in the diner where Kevin works. Kevin puts on Barbara Lewis’ “Hello Stranger,” and the music exhumes years of Chiron’s heartbreak and pain, which unspools right before our eyes. Trevante Rhodes’ performance as Chiron in this scene is powerful and quiet, much like the hardened character he plays. Even though his performance is subdued, Rhodes brings out an emotional heft that only the rarest of movies is lucky enough to have.

Runner-up: Issey Ogata — “Silence”
Ben Foster — “Hell or High Water”
Alden Ehrenreich — “Hail, Caesar!”
Daniel Radcliffe — “Swiss Army Man”

2016 did something extraordinary. It gave us a film where Daniel Radcliffe’s farts become a profoundly moving metaphor. We were also treated to a neo-Western with Ben Foster as a rogue gunslinger. 2016 was made an even better year for film because of Issey Ogata’s role as Inquisitor Inoue in “Silence.” He used a composed, calculating demeanor to create a character that felt profoundly threatening and if that weren’t enough, Ogata’s sneer is a will-breaking force of nature. Speaking of will-breaking forces of nature, Alden Ehrenreich’s bumbling Hobie Doyle, cowboy twang and all, nearly broke the will of Ralph Fiennes’ director character in one of the year’s funniest scenes.

— Harrison Tunggal

Best Supporting Actress

Winner: Greta Gerwig — “20th Century Women”

Greta Gerwig could’ve easily been nominated this year; if someone was next in line, it was her. Her performance in “20th Century Women” as a young and rebellious woman recovering from cancer reverberates with truth. We can feel the blood in her veins through both the freedom of her lively spirit as well as the raw vulnerability in her painful steps toward recovery and meaning. While Bening is sublime in the film, the most affecting performance comes from Gerwig.

Runner Up: Janelle Monáe — “Hidden Figures”
Felicity Jones — “A Monster Calls”
Lily Gladstone — “Certain Women”
Janelle Monáe — “Moonlight”

The award for most surprising actor of the year goes to Janelle Monáe. The singer-turned-actress seemed to jump out of nowhere with her short, yet tender and loving performance as Chiron’s mother figure in “Moonlight.” But when we saw her play a spunky, confident, hilarious and brilliant mathematician in “Hidden Figures,” we realized that she’s a force to be reckoned with. Beyond Monáe, Felicity Jones breaks our hearts and channels a mother’s love with one of the most powerful scenes out of any actor this year in “A Monster Calls.” The only reason she’s not nominated is because her performance is limited to that scene and only a few others. Finally, Lily Gladstone breaks through in “Certain Women” with a subtle, yet extremely nuanced look at a lonely Native American woman living in the lonely Montana.

— Kyle Kizu

Best Original Screenplay

Winner: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert — “Swiss Army Man”

As a script, “Swiss Army Man” has it all. A metaphor about how farts represent the underrepresented facets of us that we hide from society? Check. Funny and engaging dialogue from a corpse? Check. The film even references “Jurassic Park,” and it still avoids being pointlessly gratuitous in its zaniness while maintaining an undercurrent of heart, which is guaranteed to be profoundly affecting. This is a film that understands what it feels like to have a best friend and to feel like a social outcast. That it does so underneath well-written humor and an undeniable sense of joy is what sets the film apart.

Runner-up: Jim Jarmusch — “Paterson”
Noah Oppenheim — “Jackie”
Jared Bush, Phil Johnston — “Zootopia”
Matt Ross — “Captain Fantastic”

It takes a great script to establish an undeniable sense of pathos. In “Paterson,” we are reminded of the beauty in the mundane and the poetics of the insignificant. Few films are as human as “Paterson,” and it’s a credit to the film’s lyrical script. Pathos is one thing, but grief is another, and “Jackie” and “Captain Fantastic” explore the death of a family member through tour de force writing. In fact, the films complement each other, since “Jackie” is an examination of grief while “Captain Fantastic” shows us how family can help us move on from such grief. Lastly, “Zootopia” deserves recognition for metaphorizing racism without being overbearing and still working in a killer “Breaking Bad” reference.

— Harrison Tunggal

Best Adapted Screenplay

Winner: Jeff Nichols — “Loving”

“Loving” was left out nearly everywhere, save for the endlessly deserving Ruth Negga, perhaps because it never asserts itself like most other Oscar films do. The film never presents a message itself, but simply allows the humans and their natural moments to show the terrible racial injustice of the mid-20th century. It’s often about what’s not said more than it is about what is said, and a screenplay that can pull off quiet poetry of the highest order deserves recognition.

Runner Up: Jay Cocks, Martin Scorsese — “Silence”
Tom Ford — “Nocturnal Animals”
David Birke — “Elle”
Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick — “Deadpool”

Some don’t really recognize the merits of an adaptation. The movie may not be perfect, but the translation of some form of text to moving images is a mountainous task. And the job that Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese execute for “Silence,” visualizing such a grand story of religion and humanity across nations, is nothing short of miraculous. But neither is Tom Ford’s job with “Nocturnal Animals,” quite unbelievably adapting a meta commentary on storytelling with utter finesse. David Birke took on delicate subjects and turned them into profound statements in “Elle.” And Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick took one of the hardest superheroes to properly adapt and did just that with “Deadpool.”

— Kyle Kizu

Kyle Kizu is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Tweet him at @kyle_kizu.

Harrison Tunggal covers film. Contact him at [email protected]ilycal.org.