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The 10 Biggest Oscar Snubs of 2014

January 16, 2014  |  1:47pm

When the Academy Awards release their annual Oscar nominations, we like to stop and take a moment to be glad for all of the movies and moviemakers that got recognized for excellence. But that moment was over pretty quickly before we couldn’t help but think, “Wait…how’d they miss that?!?” A quick poll of Paste’s editors left feeling that there were some huge oversights by the 6,000-odd Academy voters this year. Here, in our humble estimation, are the 10 biggest Oscar snubs of 2014:

10. Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Jeremy Renner
Look, we’re happy that American Hustle got so much love. And we came around on Bradley Cooper with his performance in Silver Linings Playbook. He’s good alongside Jennifer Lawrence once again in Hustle, but he’s only the second best supporting actor in the film. Jeremy Renner showed a whole different side of himself as the gregarious, corrupt mayor with a heart of gold. Kudos to David O. Russell for getting so many wonderful performances out of his actors that it was hard for the Academy to narrow them down.—Josh Jackson

9. Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Léa Seydoux in Blue Is the Warmest Color
Blue Is the Warmest Color focuses on Adèle Exarchopoulos’s main character Adèle, but this French romantic drama wouldn’t have its considerable power without superb supporting work from Léa Seydoux. As Emma, Seydoux is the embodiment of sophistication, confidence and beauty—we can understand why the younger, less sexually experienced Adèle would fall for her immediately. American audiences had previously known Seydoux from bit parts in Midnight in Paris and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, but Blue allowed her to demonstrate real range, playing Emma as not just a love interest but as an equally complicated, evolving woman who both enchants and intimidates Adèle.—Tim Grierson (review here)

8. Best Documentary: Blackfish
Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Blackfish delivers ominous chills not because it documents orca attacks, but because it makes a clear, strong case that the attacks are of humankind’s making. It’s more Frankenstein than Jaws. Orcas are highly intelligent animals, susceptible to psychological scars, boredom, frustration and anger. The attacks didn’t spring from base animal instinct—killer whales aren’t known to attack humans in the wild—but from lives of mistreatment.—Jeremy Mathews

7. Best Documentary: Muscle Shoals
Freddy Camalier’s masterly Muscle Shoals is about the beginnings and heyday of the recording scene in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, a tiny town that improbably changed the face of rock’n’roll, putting out along the way some of the greatest records in the history of American music. Many of those moments are recounted to great effect in the film; first-timer Camalier is obviously a natural storyteller. But there’s so much more to the doc—the cinematography is lush and beautiful, the editing is crisp and precise, and it’s in turns heartbreaking, inspiring, wry, thought-provoking, nostalgic, and genuinely funny. It’s simply a stunning debut film. It helps that Camalier and his producing partner Stephen Badger are after more here than just a dry lesson in musical history. They delve into the Civil Rights Movement and its effect specifically on Alabama, especially as it relates to a Muscle Shoals music scene that was, shockingly enough, lacking in any racial tension. They return again and again to the ancient Native American legend about the river that flows through the town, and the water spirit who lived there, sang songs, and protected the town. And the personal life of Fame Records founder Rick Hall, the protagonist of the film, is itself worthy of a Faulkner novel. It’s thrilling, it’s engaging, it’s fascinating, it’s stirring. It’s the best documentary of the year, whether you’re a music lover or not.—Michael Dunaway

6. Best Foreign Language Film: Blue Is the Warmest Color
Three-hour movies usually are the terrain of Westerns, period epics or sweeping, tragic romances. They don’t tend to be intimate character pieces, but Blue Is the Warmest Color (La Vie D’Adèle Chapitres 1 et 2) more than justifies its length. A beautiful, wise, erotic, devastating love story from French director Abdellatif Kechiche, this tale of a young lesbian couple’s beginning, middle and possible end utilizes its running time to give us a full sense of two individuals growing together and apart over the course of years. It hurts like real life, yet leaves you enraptured by its power.—Tim Grierson (review here)

5. Best Actress in a Leading Role: Julie Delpy in Before Midnight
Along with Richard Linklater and Ethan Hawke, Delpy has created possibly the strongest trilogy ever. What’s even more amazing is that the films—and performances—keep getting better. The trio are older, wiser and better writers, and of course Delpy and Hawke just keep getting better and better as actors. Delpy is the top of her game in Midnight, helping create possibly the most fully realized portrait of a mature relationship ever put to celluloid. We’ve all been privileged to watch Jesse and Celine go through life together; some of us have even grown up with them. See you in nine more years.—Michael Dunaway (review here)
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4. Best Picture: Inside Llewyn Davis
Inside Llewyn Davis is not the first time that the Coen brothers have portrayed a period of distinctly American music, but beyond that the film holds little in common with the elephant in the room, O Brother, Where Art Thou?. While music plays a crucial role in their latest work—in fact entire scenes are devoted to the performance of songs—for the Coens the point seems to be less about the music per se and more about documenting a particular moment in American history and specifically American themes. Whether it’s small-town murder, drug violence along the southern border, CIA paranoia, and now early ’60s folk music, the Coens have been masters of casting, plot and atmosphere. Inside Llewyn Davis continues their winning streak, Oscar or no.—Jonah Flicker (review here)

3. Best Director: Spike Jonze for Her
Spike Jonze’s colossal talent was far too great to remain trapped in MTV’s orbit; that became immediately clear when his breakout feature-length debut, Being John Malkovich, earned him an Oscar nod for Best Director. Following that minor postmodern masterpiece, he and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman continued their journey into solipsism with the hilariously unhinged Adaptation. As challenging, yet fun and accessible as Kaufman’s screenplays are, Jonze’s Her answers any lingering questions of whether those two movies’ (well-deserved) acclaim sprang solely from the power of Kaufman’s words. Retaining the sweetest bits of the empathetically quirky characters, psycho-sexuality and hard-wrung pathos of Malkovich, Her successfully realizes a tremendously difficult stunt in filmmaking: a beautifully mature, penetrating romance dressed in sci-fi clothes. Eye-popping sets and cinematography, as well as clever dialog delivered by a subtly powerful Joaquin Phoenix, make Jonze’s latest feature one of the best films of 2013. It also serves as confirmation that—much like Her—the director is the complete package.—Scott Wold

2. Best Actor in a Leading Role: Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis
After his breakthrough performance in the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, Oscar Isaac will no longer be considered just a fine character actor. Distinctive in everything from Sucker Punch to Robin Hood to Drive, this Julliard-trained, theater-seasoned actor grew up playing in different rock and punk bands, and he brings all those different disciplines to his portrayal of Llewyn Davis, a struggling solo artist in the early-‘60s New York folk scene. It’s a performance of enormous subtlety that balances on a knife’s edge between tragedy and comedy: Many of us recognize in ourselves Llewyn’s thwarted ambitions and soulful searching for his place in the world, and yet we also see the personal failings that may keep him (and us) from any sort of happy ending. Beautifully reserved yet hinting at his character’s unknowable depths of sadness and frustration, Isaac gives Inside Llewyn Davis its spirit, its humor, its beautiful poignancy. In the process, a fine character actor becomes an indisputably great star.—Tim Grierson (review here)

1. Best Picture: Before Midnight
Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight began with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in 1995’s Before Sunrise, and the latest and arguably best chapter continues a beautiful study of life and love. The series’ trademark intense, thoughtful and personal conversations remain. An early scene holds on one perfectly acted two-shot in a car for 13 minutes. The discussions are often as hilarious as they are engaging. Hangups, regrets and doubts have have become a greater part of Jesse and Celine’s lives, and the film reflects that. But it also reminds us what made the couple such a lovable pair that they could hold our interest for 20 years.—Jeremy Mathews (review here)

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