In the final minutes before the Academy announces its annual nominees, anything is still viable. Essentially all of the films released theatrically over the past twelve months still have some—albeit slim—hope of getting a nomination of some sort.
Some of the films below will get a nomination. Good for them. Most will not. Many of the better films, in fact, won’t get mentioned at all. After the fifteenth, the forgetting starts to settle in. By the following week (and the unofficial start of the winter festival season), all of these will be so-last-year.
Many of these films aren’t even eligible since they didn’t get their week-long qualifying runs in New York and Los Angeles. They merely screened at festivals (and this serves as an opportunity to encourage folks to seek them out again). The titles in the domestic box office “top ten” were excluded, arbitrarily. They’re unlikely to get nominated for anything more than a technical award or two. Technical awards are important. Honest. But there are more to technical awards than explosions and sequels.
Everything has been foolishly boiled-down to a single memorable scene (or some particularly compelling element). Can a film really be described by one moment? Not really.
There will be disagreements.
Approaching the Elephant: Kids will be kids.
Birdman: Fabricated one-shot (and the endless permutations).
Blue Ruin: A confession from the trunk of a car.
Boyhood: Walk-and-talk (and the witnessing of a filmmaker maturing [stylistically] right along with his cast).
Citizenfour: The surveillance shot of Snowden (with Mills) in exile.
Crimes Against Humanity: Hospital bed visitation.
Edge of Tomorrow [a.k.a. Live, Die, Repeat]: Cruise getting “killed” repeatedly.
Force majeure: Avalanche! Aftermath.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night: The meet-cute (a meet-cute for the ages).
Gone Girl: Did he? Didn’t he? Did she? She didn’t!
Goodbye to Language: Disharmonious 3D.
The Grand Budapest Hotel: The animated tram to the hotel.
Hard to Be a God: Muck. More muck. The most muck.
Hellion: Unremittent delinquency.
Horse Money: Reminiscence of what was and what never will be again.
Ida: The open window [and a parallel of another open window for identical reasons in Manuscripts Don’t Burn].
Inherent Vice: An adaptation less of plot details than of plot construction.
The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq: An intersection of reality and fiction.
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter: Adrift in the snow [accompanied by the Octopus Project].
Land Ho!: Road trip!
Life Itself: Sneak Previews-era Siskel and Ebert bickering, brotherly.
Li’l Quinquin: Inappropriate music for a funeral.
Listen Up Philip: Moss, purely and simply.
The Look of Silence: The denouement. The confrontation.
Love is Strange: Separated and then brought back together (in a bunk-bed).
Manakamana: The pilgrimage up, the journey back and the transitions in black. Not in that order, necessarily.
Mr. Turner: A painting come-to-life.
Ned Rifle: Getting the band back together one last time.
Obvious Child: Comedy is (still) not pretty.
Only Lovers Left Alive: Living forever has its drawbacks.
Palo Alto: Coming-of-age that defies the coming of age.
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence: The sound of the bottles clanking on the ferry.
Rosewater: The solitary-confinement dance to Leonard Cohen.
La Sapienza: Italian architecture a la Green.
Selma: An historical portrait deeply connected to the present, intentionally (not incidentally).
A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness: Concert-ending tracking shot out of the club (along with the stunningly tranquil opening and closing).
The Strange Little Cat: The precision of daily life in a small space.
Stranger by the Lake: Nobody’s perfect.
The Theory of Everything: Transformation, biopic-style.
Thou Wast Mild and Lovely: A left-turn at East of Eden.
Top Five: Hammy!
Under the Skin: Submerged in the inky black.
We Come as Friends: The reality of (or a reality for) South Sudan, a situation far worse than imagined.
White Shadow: While rummaging through piles of trash, a faux telephone call.
Wild Tales: Pre-credit sequence (and the long-arm of coincidence-that-isn’t-
Catherine: “You don’t have any pens yet. And you don’t have any paper.” “Well, if it’s like before, I’ll need to use them.” “It is like before. How many would you like of each?”
Too Many Cooks: “It takes a lot to make a stew.”
Untitled Footage of a Bear: Claridryl. Acts immediately. Lasts indefinitely.