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In Memoriam: The 10 Great Movies That Were Forgotten This Oscar Season | Features

February 27, 2024 - Movies

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“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” (Starz/VOD)

With “Past Lives” the only Best Picture nominee released before Independence Day, this year’s Oscars once again illustrate the hard-and-fast rule that, to garner awards consideration, you need to make sure your movie comes out as late as possible. That’s not the only reason writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig’s lovely adaptation of Judy Blume’s influential novel failed to generate much momentum. (For one thing, it bombed at the box office when it opened in April.) But “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” was that rare movie about adolescence that felt wise not condescending, touching not saccharine. Abby Ryder Fortson proved to be the perfect Margaret — awkward, insecure, entirely her own person — while Rachel McAdams arguably did her best work in a formidable career as Barbara, a mother struggling to define herself beyond that role. 

Beau Is Afraid” (Paramount+/VOD)

Writer-director Ari Aster is now three-for-three: He’s made three superb movies, and all three of them have failed to garner any Academy Awards nominations. It was a pipe dream to imagine that “Beau Is Afraid,” his most divisive film, was ever going to get awards-season love. (Plus, the film — A24’s most expensive to that point — barely made a ripple commercially.) Nevertheless, this demanding, ambitious three-hour epic represents the sort of big swing that can be too easily forgotten during Oscar time because it’s too strange — too daring, too defiantly its own strange beast — to fit comfortably with the more polished prestige pictures. I know plenty of critics and viewers who loathe Aster’s and Joaquin Phoenix’s study of a clinically depressed everyman, but there are just as many who adore it. Like other maligned stunners, “Beau Is Afraid” cries out for reappraisal down the road. It wasn’t Oscar-worthy this year, but perhaps its statute will grow over time.

Earth Mama” (Paramount+/VOD)

In a year of great breakthrough performances, let us take a moment to single out Tia Nomore, an Oakland rapper who shouldered her first lead role in “Earth Mama.” It was no small undertaking: British-American writer-director Savanah Leaf’s muted drama follows Gia, who’s pregnant, her other two children in foster care. This single mother wants to get her kids back, but with little resources, she has almost no hope — and now must consider giving up her unborn child to a married couple. “Earth Mama” is clear-eyed about how women like Gia have few options, battling addiction and poverty while trying their best to be good parents. Nomore is commanding in the role, suggesting she might have a bright big-screen career if it ever suited her fancy. The film was honored at the BAFTAs for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, one of the few accolades this tremendous picture has garnered. 

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