Oscar Nominations: Surprises, Snubs and Stories

Good morning, all. For personal reasons, I won’t be doing any deep critical analysis on pop culture this year. However, I’ll still be doing quick write ups for Oscar season, namely my Top Films of 2014 and a will-win, should-win list. I got up early to watch the Oscar announcements this morning. Here are a few picks for my surprises, snubs and stories to watch from the list of nominations.

Surprises

  • American Sniper love: American Sniper got absolutely nothing in the way of nominations or wins at the Golden Globes. Of course, that doesn’t mean always mean a lot for the Academy, but it was a little shocking to see it rack up 6 nominations, including nods for Best Picture and Best Actor. I’m seeing it tomorrow, and this only adds to my excitement.
  • Wes is more: It’s pretty much agreed upon that Wes Anderson is the most snubbed figure in Hollywood when it comes to winning awards (apologies to Leonardo DiCaprio). But it was only so long before the Academy could reasonably keep him out. The Grand Budapest Hotel garnered 9 nominations, including Best Picture and Directing nods, both firsts for Anderson.
  • Supporting Actress swap: It’s not exactly a shocker, but I did find it interesting that the Academy decided to swap out Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year) for Laura Dern (Wild) especially considering that neither was very likely to beat Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) or Emma Stone (Birdman). Could it mean Laura Dern has some support from within?

Snubs

  • No The Lego Movie?: This is easily the biggest snub of the year in my eyes. The Lego Movie was a force in 2014 and was the best box office surprise of the year. It was both funny and well-made, and many people figured it would at the very least earn a nomination and win one major award. It lost at the Golden Globes to How To Train Your Dragon 2 and was left of the list this year in favor of…The Boxtrolls? Disappointing.
  • Actors on actors on actors: It’s a problem every year, and 2014 was no exception. The Best Actor category is always loaded with marvelous performances. The Golden Globes dodges this issue by separating Drama and Comedy. But the Academy only takes five, so there are always a few snubs. This year’s list includes heavy-hitters like David Oyelowo (Selma), Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler).
  • Gone Girl: It seems as if David Fincher has worn out his welcome with the Academy. His style is abrasive and uncomfortable, but that has never stopped him from earning nominations. But Gone Girl, arguably his best film, got next to nothing aside from a nod for Rosamund Pike, who is probably a dark horse in her category.
  • Ava DuVernay: I haven’t seen Selma yet, so I can’t give a completely honest assessment of how big a snub this is. But everything I read suggests her work on Selma deserved a nomination. And it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that she wouldn’t get one. After all, I loved The Imitation Game. But did Morten Tyldum really need a nomination for directing? Probably not.

Stories to watch:

  • Lead actors: Both lead acting categories are stacked this year, and while there are frontrunners (Julianne Moore and Michael Keaton), I’ve got a feeling we could be in for a few surprises. Marion Cotillard got a lot of praise for Two Days, One Night and Rosamund Pike made Gone Girl what it was. Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne are also hard to ignore and may be closer to Keaton than people think.
  • This year’s American Hustle: Last year’s brilliant American Hustle got nominations in every major category and 10 overall, but failed to bring anything home. So who is this year’s American Hustle? Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel lead with nine nominations, and both will almost certainly take something home. But with the Academy’s history of snubbing Anderson, I wouldn’t be shocked if Hotel got stonewalled. Other prime candidates to get hustled: The Imitation Game, Foxcatcher and American Sniper.
  • Interstellar love: Christopher Nolan is another one of those characters who can’t seem to please the Academy. He makes some of the most mind-blowing blockbusters to ever grace the silver screen. And he’s always left with a handful of technical nominations for his efforts. Usually he gets a “thanks for playing” award, but he might get shut out completely this year. That would be inexcusable.

Final Academy grade: B-

There’s more to the Oscars than just winning. Usually the people who should win awards will win awards. But getting nominated is an honor, so nominations are heavily scrutinized. I was happy with a lot of the trends this year, namely lots of love for Whiplash and The Grand Budapest Hotel. I’m also glad that restraint was shown for films like Into the Woods. But the lack of nominations for Interstellar, Selma and The Lego Movie is confusing.

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