Plenty of snubs and surprises in 2015 Oscar nominations

Plenty of snubs and surprises in 2015 Oscar nominations

It’s an annual rite in Hollywood. If you’re part of the film industry, you wait by the phone in the wee morning hours on the second Thursday in January as Oscar nominations are announced at 5:30 am PST.  While those with the slightest chance might say they were sound asleep when the announcements were made and were startled when the phone rang, don’t believe it.  To be sure, there were probably a few nominees that were a bit shocked when the phone rang but there were a fair share of actors, screenwriters, directors and producers who wound up waiting for a call that never came.  However, before we look at certain key categories where egregious oversights and pleasant surprises occurred, let’s dispense with the nuts and bolts regarding the nominees.

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Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel and Alejandro Gonzalez Irritu’s Birdman led the pack with nine nominations apiece, while Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game followed closely behind with eight nods. Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper and Richard Linklater’s Boyhood were nominated in six different categories.  All five of these films were nominated for Best Picture, as was Selma, The Theory of Everything and Whiplash.

Best Picture – If there’s a big loser as far as nominations are concerned, it’s Ana DuVernay’s Selma.  Yes, it is up for Best Picture but other than another nomination for Best Song, that’s it.  That this moving and timely chronicle of Martin Luther King Jr.’s efforts to gain voting rights for all in 1965 would be snubbed in so many other categories is the most obvious oversight of the year. The way in which a nomination in this category is earned is that at least five percent of the members of the academy must nominate it as the best film of the year.  The latest membership count has this total at 5,783.  5% of that is 269.  I’d venture to say that with the number of people involved in making the film as well as a push by Paramount Pictures, the distributor of Selma, among its employees who are also members, they were just able to qualify for the nomination.  The fact that it received no other major nominations shows that support was shaky in every other category.  (Remember, directors nominate directors, editors nominate editors, and so on.)  Expect a huge outcry to develop that will simply grow stronger as the ceremony approaches.

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Other snubs in this category: Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, David Fincher’s Gone Girl, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, Rob Marshall’s Into the Woods, Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken and Jean-Marc Vallee’s Wild.

Best Actor – The nominees for this category are all deserving as Steve Carell is up for Foxcatcher, Bradley Cooper for American Sniper, Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game, Michael Keaton for Birdman and Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything.  However, there were other deserving turns that were overlooked and with only five available slots, there simply was no room at the inn for Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler) and David Oyelowo (Selma). 

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That Budapest would lead nominations with nine, yet have Fiennes, who drives the film, on the outside looking in shows just how fierce the competition was in this category.  As for Oyelowo…what can you say?  If there’s a winner here, it’s Carell as he seemingly had faded from view as far as most analysts were concerned, but wound up in the final five.  This speaks to the indelible impression he made with his genuinely unsettling turn as billionaire John DuPont.

Best Actress – If campaigning could bring you an Oscar nomination, then Jennifer Aniston would have heard her name among the nominees.  However, that was not the case as her performance in the little seen drama Cake was overlooked, despite her numerous talk show appearances and a grassroots campaign for her seemed to be growing over the past month.  Instead, the nominees were Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night, Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything, Julianne Moore for Still Alice, Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl and Reese Witherspoon for Wild.

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That Amy Adams wasn’t recognized for Big Eyes shows that academy members saw the film for the slight production that it was.  That Hilary Swank was overlooked for her great work in Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman indicates not nearly enough people saw that film.

Best Director – This category contains the most overdue nomination and the most inexplicable.  Though he had been cited in the screenplay categories, Wes Anderson’s nomination for The Grand Budapest Hotel marks the first time he’s been recognized for directing.  He’s joined by Alejandro Gonzalez Irritu (Birdman), Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) and the out-of-left-field pick of the year, Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher. To be sure, the filmmaker expertly crafted a sly, unsettling piece of work but how he was recognized here yet the film itself was not nominated for Best Picture defies logic.  (If he’s one of the five best directors of the year, doesn’t it stand to reason that he made one of the five best movies of the year?)  Obviously, his fellow filmmakers recognized Miller’s artistry but the Academy as a whole simply couldn’t warm to Foxcatcher.

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Best Adapted Screenplay – Taking a book or play, breaking it down to its most important pieces and then refashioning them into a screenplay is a difficult job. According to the Academy, Jason Hall (American Sniper), Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice) Graham Moore (The Imitation Game) and Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything) were up to the task.  However, Gillian Flynn, who was able to retain the mystery of her novel Gone Girl in her screenplay for its film adaptation, was not deemed worthy by the Academy.  Instead, Damien Chazelle, who expanded his short film Whiplash to feature-length, was awarded the fifth spot in this category.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Chazelle’s movie, but work like Flynn’s doesn’t fall off the script tree every day.

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Best Animated Film – For many, nothing is awesome where this category is concerned as Warner Brothers’ The Lego Movie, which was considered a lock for a nomination, and maybe the win, was left out in the cold.  Instead, Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Song of the Sea and The Tale of Princess Kaguya were chosen as the best five animated films of the year.  I doubt it was a matter of overkill where Lego was concerned but perhaps the animators who voted in this category felt that its $258 million domestic take at the box office was award enough for the feature and opted instead to shine a little light on smaller, more intimate films like the multi-national production Song and the hand-drawn Princess from Japan.

Best Documentary – No nod for Steve James biography of Roger Ebert Life Itself here.  Instead Citizenfour, Finding Vivian Maier, Last Days of Vietnam, The Salt of the Earth and Virunga will vie for the award for Best Documentary.  Perhaps Ebert gave too many thumbs down to the members of the selection committee in the past.

 

 

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