With just three features under his belt, filmmaker J.C. Chandor has won critics over with his clever writing and directing and his ability to use a cast against expectations. After 'Margin Call' (2011) and 'All Is Lost' (2013), 'A Most Violent Year' is his most ambitious film yet, a twist on the Scorsese-style gangster drama that can't help but get under the skin. 

'A Most Violnet Year' stars Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac.
'A Most Violnet Year' stars Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac

Anchored by razor-sharp performances by Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, it was an early favourite for Oscar attention, with lots of attention from critics (Golden Globes, Critics' Choice, American regional groups, London Critics). And yet the film was completely ignored by Oscar voters.

Watch the trailer for 'A Most Violent Year' here:

This was one of the biggest surprises of the nominations announcement, as Chandor has had attention from Oscar in the past ('Margin Call' got an Original Screenplay nod, while 'All Is Lost' had a technical nomination). 'A Most Violent Year' has a 91% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

More: Read the review for 'A Most Violent Year'

Analysts are blaming the same factor that saw 'Selma' largely snubbed by voters: the film was late out of the gate, premiering in November at the AFI Fest in Los Angeles. So screenings and screeners were late in arriving, after voters had already made up their minds. 

More: 'A Most Violent Year' Wins Film of the Year, But What About the Oscars?

But this story of corruption in 1981 New York is such a powerfully relevant drama that 'A Most Violent Year' is bound to be remembered as one of the best films of 2014, even without attention from the Academy Awards.

More: Could 'A Most Violent Year' Win the Oscar for Best Picture?