(500) Days of Summer and 9 Other Great Films the Academy Completely Ignored This Decade

I was really shocked that (500) Days of Summer was completely ignored by the Academy this year. It was on several critic’s top ten lists. It had won several critic awards for its screenplay. I really thought, at the very least, it would get nods for Original Screenplay and Editing (hello, that Expectations vs. Reality scene was fucking awesome). I even had it on my predictions for Best Picture.

Alas, this was not the case and was probably, for me, the biggest disappoint of Tuesday’s announcements. However, this is not the first time an amazing piece of cinema has gone completely un-lauded by the Academy. I’ve picked one film from each year of this past decade that also has zero Oscar nominations to its name.

2000 – Snatch.

Guy Ritchie’s crime caper about the world of underground boxing in London went largely unnoticed by any of the end of the year awards, save the Nation Board of Review, who honored the film with a Special Recognition Award for Excellence in Filmmaking. The film was released in December of 2000 in Los Angeles, making it illegible for the Oscars that year, and then released wide in January. It walked away nomination-less. If anything it should have been up for Original Screenplay and Editing. Regardless, the film has a bit of a cult following and remains high on IMDB’s Top 250 list – currently it resides at #136.

2001 – Donnie Darko

Richard Kelly’s dark, sci-fi-laden drama served to launch Jake Gyllenhaal into stardom (although, I first fell for him in 1999’s October Sky). The film was nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards and also has a huge cult following. This is another film with a wildly original screenplay and a complicated plot that worked largely because of some spectacular editing. Again, the Academy failed to honor the film with a single nomination. Donnie Darko currently resides at the #124 spot on IMDB’s Top 250.

2002 – The Count of Monte Cristo

With generally favorable reviews from critics, Kevin Reynold’s film adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ novel was an entertaining call-back to those swashbuckling films from the 1940s (Erroll Flynn, anyone?). Richard Harris was excellent as the wise Abbé Faria to Jim Caviezel’s Edmund Dante. The film was the last Harris filmed before he died. The costumes are lavish, as is the set decoration and cinematography. And Guy Pearce is deliciously devious as Caviezel’s best friend-turned enemy Mondego. I think, perhaps, the problem with this film was that it was released too early and thus became largely forgotten by the time voting came around. Sometimes it’s all about timing.

2003 – Love, Actually

The directorial debut of Richard Curtis, an Oscar nominee for 1994’s Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love, Actually was the perfect romantic comedy. With intertwining stories and an ensemble cast to die for, this film was a hit with critics and audiences alike. Curtis was nominated for Best Motion Picture Screenplay at the Golden Globes, but somehow failed to make the cut come Oscar time. Also snubbed was Bill Nighy’s zany performance as an aging, drug-addled rock star, trying for one more big hit. Nighy is arguably the best thing in a film full of wonderful performances. It’s a shame the Academy didn’t feel the same way.

2004 – I ♥ Huckabees

Perhaps David O. Russell’s ensemble dramedy was just too odd for most Academy voters. Another film with a large cult following, it was either loved or hated by critics and audiences. It remains, however, one of the most original screenplays in recent years and is full of some of the most memorable characters as well. The stellar cast includes Naomi Watts, Jason Schwartzman, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law, Isabelle Hubert, Dustin Hoffman and Mark Wahlberg. Whalberg gives my favorite performance in the film. I was really hoping he’d get a Best Supporting Actor nod for his comic turn in the film.

2005 – Sin City

Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City is another film with multiple things going for it – amazing visual effects, great screenplay, amazing performances by a stellar ensemble cast. And yet no love from the Academy. At the very least it should have had a nomination for visual effects – it even won the Technical Grand Prize at Cannes that year. Filmed entirely in a sound stage on Rodriguez’s sprawling Texas ranch, he created Frank Miller’s world almost entirely with a computer. And what a wonderful job he did of it. The editing of this film is flawless and the adaptation from Miller’s graphic novel is pitch-perfect. As performances go, this is the beginning of the “resurrection” of Mickey Rourke. He is fabulous as Marv and I was really expecting more love for the performance than it received.

2006 – Stranger Than Fiction

I remember reading a review at the time that called this film “Charlie Kaufman-lite” and I don’t think that is at all fair. Directed by Marc Forster (who had previously been snubbed by the Academy after directing 2004’s Best Picture nominee Finding Neverland), the film is sweet and quirky and filled with wonderful characters. Another great ensemble featuring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson, Queen Latifah, Dustin Hoffman and stars Will Ferrell, in his best performance to date. The snub of the film’s screenwriter Zach Helm is the most acute, as his screenplay had received several nominations – including Best Original Screenplay at the Writer’s Guild of America.

2007 – Zodiac

This is my favorite film on this list and, to me, is one of the greatest films ever to be snubbed by the Academy. Helmed by David Fincher, it is a masterful adaptation of Robert Greysmith’s books about the Zodiac serial killer case in California, Zodiac and Zodiac Unmasked. What pisses me off almost more than this film being snubbed is how the following year Fincher finally got an Oscar nomination for Best Director for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a vastly inferior film. What is so remarkable about Zodiac is how the film pulls you in to the story – with its characters more so than the killer or his crimes. Having read both books I am in awe of screenwriter James Vanderbelt’s screenplay. They are very dense books, filled with zillions of facts and events. To boil them down so precisely, all the while keeping the essence of the books intact, it’s astounding really. This film should have been up for Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Costume Design, Set Decoration, Cinematography, Visual Effects (due to the refusal of the inhabitants of the Presidio neighborhood in San Francisco, the filmmakers completely recreated the street where Zodiac killer took cab drive Paul Stine’s life on a sound stage with CGI. Could you tell? I know I couldn’t until I watched the special features on the DVD), and perhaps Best Supporting Actor for Robert Downey, Jr. And yet the film got no recognition by the Academy. Maybe, again, it was a case of timing. The film was released in March, and for many Academy voters anything released before October, November even is easily forgotten.

2008 – The Fall

I think perhaps Tarsem Singh’s masterpiece The Fall suffered from a lack of marketing and thus was not widely seen by audiences or critics. While the plot is not the film’s strongest feature, its visuals are. What is really remarkable about this film is that there are no special effects in the film. Singh achieved the film’s surreal looks by exquisite location shooting – it was shot in 26 locations in 18 countries. Yet the film failed to receive a Best Cinematography nod, as I had predicted it would.

2009 – (500) Days of Summer

This brings us full circle, back to this year’s #1 snubee – (500) Days of Summer. In the end, though, this film will be remain revered by those who loved it from the beginning and I have no doubt it will be loved by all those who discover it in coming years.

About Marya E. Gates

Cinephile to the max.

Posted on February 4, 2010, in Top List and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Nice job. I can attest that Zodiac’s script is amazing. I have read the books – which are page-turners that I could not put down. The story is very complicated and the movie does justice to it. It is a lengthy movie and I never realized how long because it was so compelling.

    It’s a darned shame that movies come out 12 months of the year so we movie lovers have something to see, and yet anything from the first half of the year is lost. Can anyone spell Black Hawk Down?

    • Except Black Hawk Down got some Oscar love and even won for Editing and Sound (and was nominated for Director and Cinematography). It’s problem was it was released too late in the year to get momentum for Best Picture.

      If they keep the ten Best Picture thing next year and Shutter Island is as good as it looks and it gets remembered, then we’ll see if the times really are a’ changing.

  2. yankeefrommississippi

    Good post! I actually have Zodiac from Netflix right now and I’m looking forward to watching it when I get a chance. And The Count of Monte Cristo was probably one of the best times I ever had seeing a movie in a theater. It was such a great experience, and the movie was pretty good too.

    I see your comment above: I’m DYING to see Shutter Island.

    • I so cannot wait for Shutter Island. I’m going to try my damnedest to see it the weekend it opens.

      as for Zodiac, CANNOT WAIT FOR YOU TO SEE IT. It’s one of my top 5 films from the decade.

      • yankeefrommississippi (Shannon)

        I need to send some Netflix movies back so I can hopefully get Serious Man when it comes out on Tuesday (though I’m sure I’ll have to wait.) So I’m going to definitely watch something this weekend, so it might as well be Zodiac. And maybe Bright Star. I have both of those.

        As for Shutter Island, I’ve been wanting to see it for ages and I am so glad it’s going to be out soon. I normally avoid movies the weekend they open, but I think I’ll make an exception for this one. I CANNOT WAIT.

  3. Agreed. I love almost all of these movies (Haven’t seen Sin City).

    Zodiac and Stranger than Fiction especially.

    I love Monte Cristo, but I can see how it wasn’t quite up to par. A great adventure/dramatic movie but not completely superb. But really really fun to watch.

  4. Good list and reasons why the films should have been nominated. I agree that Bill Nighy was the best thing in Love Actually I am such a fan of his after seeing that film.

    I totally agree that (500) Days of Summer was totally snubbed this year. It should have been nominated for best picture. It is definetly one of the best films I had seen for quite a long time. For me it would have taken the place of District 9 – I didn’t like that at all.

  5. I agree with you about Sin City and Donnie Darko- great films- but Snatch?????? I like some of Guy Ritchie’s other films but this one…err, there’s no polite way to say it: it was annoying trash!

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