In 2005, the Academy overlooked The Matador, a fantastic little quirky film starring Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear. Written and directed by Richard Shepard, it was easily the one of the most original stories I've seen in a long time. Never once did the plot take a predictable turn. Shepard managed to balance oddball humor with depth, and the ending is surprisingly poignant. The film also marks Brosnan's most inspired performance to date: a bisexual(?), aging hitman suffering from panic attacks who befriends a businessman in Mexico on a sales trip. Alternatively frightening, pathetic, sleazy, and lovable, Brosnan's creation is something entirely unique, entirely new. Kinnear plays off him extremely well, the everyman to Brosnan's one-of-a-kind. I didn't hold out much hope for this movie but thought it deserved at least a nomination for Best Original Screenplay. No dice.
In 2008, the Academy did themselves one better (or worse?) by nominating, but not awarding, In Bruges, a film written and directed by Martin McDonagh and starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes, for Best Original Screenplay. Laced with dark humor, a lot of style, and some fine performances--Fiennes absolutely steals the show--In Bruges tells the story of Ray and Ken, two heavies working for an English mobster who have to hide out "in Bruges" indefinitely after a botched hit. There's no shortage of laughs in the film, and like The Matador, the plot never quite goes where you think it will. There's a lot going on in this story, and many have posited that Bruges is purgatory for all these characters, while they or the fates or God determines how they are to be punished and if they are to be saved. In Bruges certainly deserved the one nomination it received, though it was probably deserving of a few more. But alas, it was not meant to be.
When will the Academy not be afraid to honor a hitman movie with an Oscar?
1 day ago