Review of the 2015 Oscar Nominations

Sorry, this post is about a week late, but I’ve been busy and it’s also given me time to collect my thoughts on a lot of the snubs and surprises that happened last Thursday morning. Recap: Last Thursday morning January 15, 2015 at 5:30 am the nominations for the 87th Annual Academy Awards were announced – and I didn’t sleep a wink that entire night (I’m a nerd, I know. Deal with it.) There were quite a few shocks when the list was announced, but, ultimately, it was the same standard list we’ve been hearing from every guild and voting body in the past 2 months.

Me on Oscar Nomination morning
Me on Oscar Nomination morning

That’s because 2014 was an incredible disappointing year for movies…in my opinion. Maybe it’s just the fact that we’ve been spoiled the past two years with Best Picture lineups that have included: 12 Years A Slave, Gravity, The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, Les Miserables, Django Unchained, etc. These were movies that made an awards race exciting and made the season much more interesting.

I was thinking about how I felt about the race when the nominations came out around this time last year. Sure, we got the same list we were hearing all season from the guilds but it was exciting to have a three-way race against a new David O. Russell film, a sci-fi film which had one of the biggest box offices of the year and was loved by critics, and a film which I say is to slavery as Schindler’s List is to the Holocaust. Three incredible films but also a new Martin Scorsese film, a new Spike Jonze film, and other really original smaller films. It was an exciting list and an exciting season. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t feel that way this year.

This year reminds me of 2011 in most recent memory. The Artist was sweeping every award – and that was fine because it was a cute little, very well made film. But is The Artist something people still talk about now? Can you remember other films on that Best Picture list? A Martin Scorsese family film, a beautiful (if not incomprehensible) Terrence Mallick film, a not-very good Steven Speilberg adaptation of a beloved stage play, and let’s not forget how much uproar was cause when Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close snuck in there. The only thing I take away from that year was that Meryl Streep finally got her 3rd Oscar and ROBBED Viola Davis of it… But that’s another story, nevermind, anyways…

Nevertheless, it’s Oscar season… and this nerd’s favorite time of the year. So I’m going to break down these nominations category by category and share some thoughts. Here we go…

BEST PICTURE

American Sniper

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

So the Academy went with eight contenders for the first time since they changed the Best Picture eligibility rules. Bad news for Foxcatcher which (by best guess) was probably at spot number 9. This is an incredibly predictable list (in fact, if you look at my predictions I guessed it 100% – I just added Foxcatcher to the lineup.) So Boyhood wins Best Picture…blah blah blah. The real surprises here are the number of nominations some films received while still earning a Best Pic nod. Selma only got one other nomination (but that REALLY is a whole other blog post), Foxcatcher receives 5 and doesn’t get a Best Pic nod. That, my friends, is what we call politics in the Oscar season.

Another big shock was the inclusion of American Sniper which had a huge surge of support at the very last minute gaining nominations from the Director’s Guild of America and the Producer’s Guild of America in the weeks leading up to these nominations. In all honesty, it doesn’t deserve to be there and I know I’m not alone in thinking that. I enjoyed the film, should it be listed next to these other great films…not even close. But, it may prove to be the saving grace for the producers of this year’s ceremony. Word is that everyone around the Academy is extremely nervous about this year’s telecast ratings seeing as American Sniper is now the only film of the 8 to break $100 million at the domestic box office. The rest are smaller , independent films that didn’t receive a wider audience. Last year’s show brought in the highest ratings in more than a decade. Let’s hope Neil Patrick Harris can bring people in…

BEST DIRECTOR

Alejandro G. Innaritu – Birdman

Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher

Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Morten Tyldum – The Imitation Game

BENNETT MILLER!!!! I did not think this was going to happen for him. One of the best directed films of 2014, he is so deserving of this nomination. He received the Directing Award at the Cannes Film Festival for the film and than the hype seemed to disappear as the year went on… not completely though! The big snub here (and the one that EVERYONE is talking about) is Ava DuVarney for Selma. Like I said, the Selma conversation is for another blog post. She was very deserving of a nomination, but this was a tough category and a lot of deserving directors did not get in. That being said…these five directors on this list definitely deserve to be here. End of story. When people make the argument that somebody else should be here I always say well who would you take out to put that person in there? And why is that person more deserving than this person? It’s all so subjective…we all need to calm down. And if we’re adding DuVarney on this list, we need to add David Fincher as well…just saying. And Damien Chazelle for good measure…

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Steve Carrell – Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper – American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton – Birdman

Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

This was an interesting list to hear. On the one hand, I was really excited for Carrell who I thought was going to get snubbed because this was such an incredible category. On the other hand, how in the hell Bradley Cooper got in there is remarkable… But I saw it coming when we saw how much love the Academy was giving to Sniper in the tech categories. And that means that David Oyelowo was left off the list… Not surprising since he missed BAFTA and the SAG nominations. And it means that Jake Gyllenhaal isn’t recognized for what is, arguably, the best performance of his career. It was always going to be an uphill struggle for those final two spots since Keaton, Redmayne, and Cumberbatch were locked in there a long time ago…I just didn’t see it going this way.

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones – The Thoery of Everything

Julianne Moore – Still Alice

Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon – Wild

This was a very weak year for leading female roles, unfortunately. This category was locked up a while ago with only one spot up for grabs…and Marion Cotillard grabbed it! So well deserved too. I was so prepared to throw y computer across the room on Thursday morning if I heard Jennifer Aniston’s name called. Cotillard has been looked over year after year since she won on her first nomination in 2007. This nomination will make up for all those snubs (most memorable “Rust and Bone.) Other than that, Moore already has the Oscar in hand…boring category.

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Robert Duvall – The Judge

Ethan Hawke – Boyhood

Edward Norton – Birdman

Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher

JK Simmons – Whiplash

This was an easy category to predict – 5/5. And there’s no competition on who wins – JK Simmons. Again, it’s a boring year.

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Laura Dern – Wild

Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game

Emma Stone – Birdman

Meryl Streep – Into The Woods

I’m still pissed about this category. The first 4 spots were locked with Jessica Chastain and Rene Russo really battling it out. Than Laura Dern came back from the grave – with a boring performance, but with a famous family and LOTS of friends. I shouldn’t say that, I hear she’s the nicest person in the world. But she doesn’t belong here. The Acadmey made it pretty clear that they didn’t really care for Nightcrawler as much as every guild did. I compare it to Drive in 2011 – had so much momentum going into the season and loved by everybody. But the Academy ultimately thought it was too dark and it only received one sound nomination. Chastain I can understand because she was a force to be reckoned with in two films this year – stole the show in both A Most Violent Year and Interstellar, so she could have suffered from split votes. It just sucks that a mediocre performance snuck in over that.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Birdman

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Nightcrawler

No big surprises her, but that means that screenplays such as Selma, A Most Violent Year, and Interstellar were left out.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

American Sniper

The Imitation Game

Inherent Vice

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

The big shocker here: Gillian Flynn’s brilliant adaptation of her book “Gone Girl.” This just proved how much the Academy didn’t like this film. On the same day as these nominations, Flynn went on to WIN this award at the Critic’s Choice Movie Awards haha. The Academy was also the only group that decided that Whiplash had an adapted screenplay instead of an original one because Chazelle made it a short film first to get funding for the feature length film. At least it got nominated still. I love Paul Thomas Anderson (and so does the Academy), but the screenplay of Inherent Vice was one of the problems with the film… Oh well.

Other shocking snubs/surprises:

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM – The Lego Movie was looking like the surefire winner of this category. AND IT DIDN”T EVEN GET NOMINATED! The Academy again tended to lean toward smaller films and foreign films in this category. This leaves this category open to some real competition (fingers crossed for How to Train Your Dragon  2) and also makes this one of the only exciting races this year!

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – Once again the Academy shows how much they did not like Gone Girl and snubs the brilliant score which has been picking up nominations all season. Instead, they turned to the score from Mr. Turner. Good news though: Alexandre Desplat continues to prove that he is the new king of this art form and gets 2 nominations!

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – This race was supposed to come down to two films – Citizenfour v. Life Itself. And then…Life Itself was not even nominated! The documentary about film critic Roger Ebert was loved across the industry and this was a huge snub, but now leaves Citizenfour open to win! (See my Top 10 List of 2014)

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – One of the biggest snubs of the morning was the exclusion of Force Majeure from this category. Sweden’s entry into the awards was considered a frontrunner and favorite of many people. There’s a video online now of the film’s writer and director watching the nominations and seeing that they were snubbed and it’s absolutely heartbreaking.

BEST FILM EDITING – The big shocker here is the exclusion of Birdman who went on to win this award later that night at the Critics Choice Awards. Birdman was made to seem like one seemless shot and that was in large part to cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (who is looking poised to win his 2nd consecutive Oscar for the film) but also in large part due to the editing. The exclusion of Birdman is huge because statistically speaking a film needs nominations in 3 categories to win Best Picture (Best Director, Best Adapted/Original Screenplay, and Best Editing). Since editing became a category in 1934, only 9 films have won Best Picture without a Best Editing nomination and the last one was in 1980 (Ordinary People.) Birdman was looking like the best competition for Boyhood – now, I wouldn’t count it out completely, but it’s not a safe bet.

Well, there you have it. Of course, there are other snubs and surprises – I’m just trying to cover the main categories and the biggest shock of the year. I’m going to keep blogging throughout the season and keep you updated on the races. The 87th Annual Academy Awards are exactly one month from today!

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