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Rob Edelman: Non-Nominees

The 2015 Academy Awards were doled out over a month ago. Each year, in the days leading up to the Oscar-cast, a popular topic over water coolers is: Who missed out on a nomination? Who’s gonna win? And even, among the fashionistas: What will so-and-so be wearing while strolling along the Red Carpet?

However, scant weeks later, how many of us really can recall the details of the Oscar-cast? Quick now, which film won for Best Picture? Which filmmaker was named Best Director? Which actors won in the four acting categories?

Sixteen films, starting with THE REVENANT, SPOTLIGHT, THE MARTIAN, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, BRIDGE OF SPIES, and CAROL, earned multiple nominations, and a dozen more picked up solo nods. But quite a few exceptional 2015 releases were completely ignored. A while back, I cited one of them: BEASTS OF NO NATION. And at this time of the year, when the majority of the new theatrical releases are not worth your money or your time and will be long-forgotten when the next round of nominations are announced, it might be useful to cite some of these films. All are available on DVD or Blu-ray or from various streaming services. 

* This list begins with 99 HOMES, a potent and timely expose of slimy real estate practices. Michael Shannon gives his usual stellar performance as a smarmy realtor who shamelessly manipulates an unemployed, desperate single father, played by Andrew Garfield. 

* CHI-RAQ, Spike Lee’s flawed but powerful updating of LYSISTRATA, set in a poverty-stricken Chicago community and spotlighting everything from the easy access to guns to gang violence and black-on-black crime.  

* THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL, a refreshingly original take on teen sexuality, featuring 23-year-old BelPowley in a star-making performance as a smart, precocious fifteen-year-old.

* THE END OF THE TOUR, the intimate, soul-baring chronicle of a five-day interview between Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky, played by Jesse Eisenberg, and hot new novelist David Foster Wallace, played by Jason Segel.

* GRANDMA, with Lily Tomlin never better as the title character, a know-it-all who realizes she does not know it all when confronted by her pregnant granddaughter.

* I SMILE BACK, a penetrating character study with Sarah Silverman offering an eye-opening performance as a suburban wife and mother who is careening into a world of drug, alcohol abuse, and self-destruction.

* MANGLEHORN, another penetrating character study with Al Pacino superbly low-keyed as a lonely man who is obsessed with a long-lost love.

* INFINITELY POLAR BEAR, a sharply observed tale featuring Mark Ruffalo as a husband and father who is struggling to live with manic depression. Ruffalo was a Best Supporting Actor nominee for SPOTLIGHT. He easily could have nabbed a Best Actor nod for his work here.

* JAFARPANAHI’S TAXI, an observational, subtly powerful, deeply personal look at life in contemporary Iran. This film is explosive, politically-loaded, and a must-see.

* LABYRINTH OF LIES, a moving drama set a decade-and-a-half after the end of World War II, which exposes the manner in which one-too-many Germans were conveniently ignoring their country’s recent, horrific past. 

* LOVE & MERCY, the Brian Wilson biopic which features two actors, Paul Dano and John Cusack, playing the Beach Boys’ composer-performer-musical genius. This film is an engrossing, deeply moving tale of a brilliant genius and his demons, how he is exploited by some, and how he is loved by others.

* ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL, the potent, tender story of a high school senior and his friendship with a girl who has just been diagnosed with cancer. Unlike so many films featuring characters who are dealing with health issues, this one is refreshingly free of mawkishness.

* TRAINWRECK, the Amy Schumer comedy that is more-than-occasionally laugh-out-loud funny.

* And finally VICTORIA, a strikingly original tale, shot in one continuous take, which follows a night in the life of the title character. For those who relish creative celluloid experimentation, VICTORIA is well worth seeking out and enjoying.

Rob Edelman has authored or edited several dozen books on film, television, and baseball. He has taught film history courses at several universities and his writing has appeared in many newspapers, magazines, and journals. His frequent collaborator is his wife, fellow WAMC film commentator Audrey Kupferberg.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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