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Oscar's oversight

Posted on February 15, 2009

Washington Post film critic Anne Hornaday says that Academy Award nominations not only highlight worthy films, but also ignore great movies that should win acclaim, "a few choice gems seen on festival circuit the year before are left dangling -- having never garnered all-important buzz, opened in theaters or otherwise gained purchase in the moviegoing consciousness."

One of the choice gems of the past year, according to Hornaday: Wellness, the feature film written and directed by Wheaton film professor Jake Mahaffy.

Now, it's not as though Wellness received no critical raves. The film, which follows the travails of a hapless pyramid-scheme salesman striving to succeed in a business that doesn't exist, won the Grand Jury Award for best "feature film" at the South By Southwest Film Festival.

And the entertainment trade newspaper Variety said, in its review: "Virtual one-man band Jake Mahaffy follows up his 2004 film War with an astute effort that is both razor-sharp and genuinely sensitive, with a flawlessly authentic, heartbreaking performance by central [actor] Jeff Clark.

And Hornaday notes that Mahaffy's film has been a favorite at festivals since its debut in Rotterdam last year. Still, she says the film displays outstanding artistry, "uncommon adroitness and sensitivity, startling performances (including from Mahaffy's own father) and a prescient grasp of the current economic crisis" that it deserves to be seen well beyond the confines of festival screens.

Even though "Wellness" hasn't had the exposure its cadre of fans would have hoped, Mahaffy himself isn't bitter. "I'm not disappointed," he says. "It was never my expectation to have any kind of wide theatrical distribution, or any theatrical distribution for that matter. I made it cheaply, I can afford to do this, I have a day job [Mahaffy teaches at Wheaton College in Massachusetts]. It's the film I wanted to make."

So, while he may not have earned a nomination from the Academy, Mahaffy's winning kudos from critics and viewers just the same.

Source: Washington Post

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