AWARDS

Not an Oscar Contender? That Doesn't Mean It's Not Still a Great Movie

by
November 8, 2013

Don Jon

A little bit of a silly misnomer about me (but a somewhat understandable one considering my line of work) and many of the other folks who write about the awards circuit is that we only care about Oscar contenders and don't look at movies on their own terms. Yes, I make my living mainly writing about the awards season and how certain films will make a play for the Academy Awards but I'm also just a lover of cinema in general. I'm a sucker for a solid Judd Apatow laugh riot or even a good romantic comedy, maybe moreso than top notch promising Oscar players like 12 Years a Slave or the awards-baiting biopics like Lincoln.

When it comes to relationship dramedies or straight dramas? Forget about it if they're good, I'm all over them. It doesn't always have to be Blue Valentine; it can just as easily be something comparably lighter like (500) Days of Summer. Basically, since I'm still relatively new to you readers, and the awards season is in full swing, I wanted to showcase how my focus isn't 100% on simply precursors and Oscar campaigns.

This year, while some of my very favorite movies of the year have been incredible pieces of cinema that I see contending for awards love like Her and Inside Llewyn Davis, I've also been in love with more fringe contenders like The Place Beyond the Pines and The Spectacular Now. Beyond those even, I have a half dozen other flicks that are in my current top 25 of the year so far that pretty much no one considers a legitimate awards vehicle. They may not be headed for precursor love, but they have my love nonetheless.

Stuck in Love

The one that sparked me to think about this is actually a dramedy called Stuck in Love that just hit Blu-Ray/DVD this week. It played the festival circuit a year or so ago when it was still called Writers and didn't seem to impress many people, but when I went to a press screening earlier this year, boy did it impress me. The tale of the romantic woes of a family of writers (led by Greg Kinnear, Lily Collins, and Nat Wolff as part of a strong ensemble cast) perhaps could have come off as cheesy and overly earnest to some, but it spoke deeply to me. It's a well written movie with a great soundtrack, but it's also one of those rare films that comes along and just hits you in a very personal place, making for a flick you know you'll be re-watching again and again as the years go by.

Another one that only I seem to like is Ryan Gosling's reunion with his Drive filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn, the incredibly divisive Only God Forgives. Ever since that first screening at Cannes (which Alex attended and actually liked about as much as I did), almost anyone who's seen this arty action drama has mostly made fun of it. There are a few defenders out there besides me and Alex, but we're in the minority of appreciating Refn's artistic vision and Gosling's captivatingly minimalistic performance. Almost more of a fever dream than a cohesive film, it's still the type of movie that I found myself incredibly fascinated by. I'm sure I'll be studying it for a long time on subsequent viewings, and you can give it a first or second try too when it hits home video next week.

I'm not only talking about movies I'm in the minority on. For a while, my favorite film of the year was Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut Don Jon, dating back to when I saw it at Sundance while it was still called Don Jon's Addiction. It's well liked by my fellow critics (if not necessarily by paying moviegoers), but it's simply not the sort of flick that Academy members jive to. I've written about how hard it is for Oscar voters to get behind "different" movies (as was the case here when I wrote about Her a few days ago), so a comedy about a porn addict was always a nonstarter. If they couldn't handle Shame, this was dead on arrival in terms of the Academy. Still, it was one of my most enjoyable times at the movies, and that remained the case when I saw it a second time at a non festival screening right before it hit theaters.

Kings of Summer

If you're looking for a few other examples, I'd point to the shockingly ignored upon release coming of age comedy The Kings of Summer, the lowbrow yet meta apocalyptic comedy This is the End, and the home invasion horror/thriller hybrid You're Next, among others. They were all well reviewed and in some cases even did well financially, but they're no one's idea of an Oscar contender.

At times, I know it can seem like the only thing I (or colleagues of mine in the same line of work) write about is Oscar contenders, but this can, if nothing else, serve as a reminder that we see just about everything. I see about 300 movies a year, and even more often than the ultimate Best Picture winner winds up on my year end Top Ten list (Argo was the only one of late to actually pull double duty in that regard), less loved titles like The Beaver, Bellflower, The Cabin in the Woods, Clerks II, End of Watch, Funny People, Liberal Arts, Moon, Red State, Two Lovers, and more tend to show up with frequency. When it comes to film, it pays to be well rounded, even if you're an Oscar prognosticator...

Essentially, I just wanted to sort of keep things light and non awards related for a moment before we dive back into the impending fates of Oscar vehicles. I'm obviously passionate about the awards season, but I'm more so just passionate about film. I'm looking forward to taking us all the way to the Academy Awards show and potentially beyond, but I'm also looking forward to occasionally talking about other types of films too, so I hope you'll continue to join me on the journey!

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  • mylesedwardhughes
    Great variety of tastes on display! And don't forget about those guilty pleasure flicks (*cough*Saw*cough*).
    • Joey Magidson
      The Saw franchise does happen to be a guilty pleasure of mine...
  • Kim
    Some new movies for me to look up, so thanks.
    • Joey Magidson
      My pleasure.
  • Nathan Williams
    I've read every one of your articles so far and it's always great seeing people discuss the same passion I too feel for film and you are no exception, great write up. I look forward to your future articles. I'm curious though you've talked about Oscar contenders and award season but what was your favorite "BlockBuster" film of the year? I'm also curious if you have a favorite movie of all time.
    • Joey Magidson
      Much obliged! This year? My favorite blockbuster was probably Man of Steel, actually, though I'm not in love with it. Of all time? That'd be Star Wars. My favorite film of all time is The Shawshank Redemption...
      • Nathan Williams
        In complete agreement with Man of Steel. But personally I was very disappointed with all of the films this summer. Star Wars is of course classic and Shawshank can't go wrong. I've always had trouble picking a favorite film but I'd probably choose between Empire Strikes Back, Jaws, the Original Godzilla, Pyscho, or Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Ring. Not sure on my top for the year yet. Nothing has truly connected with me yet but I'm holding out for Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Her. Which you wrote excellent write ups on both and you appear to have similar taste to me so I am very much excited plus the trailers for both of them speak to me personally. Gravity however very much disappointed me for whichever reason. Can't like them all. Film is about what connects to you and let's face it not every film will connect to every viewer.
        • Joey Magidson
          Exactly right.
  • Whoa
    Glad you liked OGF! An overhated film that I think will stand the test of time.
    • Joey Magidson
      I agree that the hatred went too far...
  • Jess
    Really liked Don Jon and Stuck in Love too!
    • Joey Magidson
      Awesome.
  • DavideCoppola
    Yeah, most of the times some of my favorites of the year don't even get nominated (for whatever reasons) and don't forget foreign films. So many of the year's best films come from allover the world, problem is the release dates and schedules so maybe we only see them the next year..
    • Joey Magidson
      True story...
  • Dustin_Fuston
    Great read! I will keep up with ya buddy!
    • Joey Magidson
      Much obliged there.
  • Moriah Kreppein
    Awesome piece!
    • Joey Magidson
      Thank you kindly.

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