HOLLYWOOD—So it’s been a bit of time since the Oscar nominations were announced, which gives us plenty of time to finally decipher what took place on last Thursday. So first up both “Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” lead this year’s pack of nominees with nine apiece.
Bit of a surprise considering “Birdman” is a comedy and “Hotel” is a comedy as well. Oscar tends to frown at comedy on most days. So was there a lack of dramatic flair at the box-office or did some films hit theaters a little too late. I’d go with the latter.
Both “Selma” and “American Sniper” saw very limited releases on December 25 to make it eligible for Oscar consideration. In “Sniper’s” case it worked, “Selma” not so much. So why isn’t “Selma” nominated for more accolades? Well the picture in my honest opinion is a strong contender, but it’s not the Best Picture of 2014 if you ask me. I was not talking about the movie after leaving the theater, and on the acting front the only true argument can be made for its star David Oyelowo, who is frighteningly good as the Civil Rights leader.
I can also echo that sentiment in the Best Director race. This might be one of the weakest director races I’ve seen in years. I felt the Academy was afraid of placing big contenders in this race. If I were to make the nominations it should have been Richard Linklater “Boyhood,” Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu “Birdman,” Ava DuVernay “Selma,” Clint Eastwood “American Sniper” and Damian Chazelle “Whiplash.”
These are indeed some of the top-notch flicks of the past year. I’m even making the argument right now, that Eastwood’s “Sniper” will be this year’s Best Picture, similar to what “Million Dollar Baby” and “The Hurt Locker” did. A film that came out of nowhere to galvanize critics, moviegoers and America; it has Best Picture written all over it, and the massive box-office debut this past week only solidifies its power in the coming weeks.
One can make the argument for “Foxcatcher” as well. I thoroughly enjoyed the flick, but thought the narrative was a bit uneven at times. So this begs the biggest question everyone is trying to understand. How in the world did Bennett Miller nab a Best Director nomination, but the film failed to score a Best Picture nod? That’s a rarity in the Oscar arena, Best Director, but not Best Picture. We’ve seen splits in the Best Picture and Best Director trophies, but never with the nominations.
Moving to the Best Actor race, I think all of the nominees are solid contenders, except I’m baffled that neither Oyelowo nor Channing Tatum “Foxcatcher” landed in the Best Actor race. It raises the possibility that maybe the door should be open for more nominees. Tatum delivers some of his best work in the drama, but it seems all the love is being shown to his co-stars Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo.
When we turn our attention to Best Actress, two of the biggest snubs went to Jennifer Aniston “Cake” and Amy Adams “Big Eyes.” Instead Marion Cotillard nabbed a nomination for the little known, “Two Days, Two Nights.” That assumption of if you’re nominated for SAG, Golden Globe or even a Critics Choice award, does not solidify a guaranteed Oscar nomination.
When you look at Best Supporting Actor, it was indeed a week year so all of the contenders are validated in my opinion. When you look at Best Supporting Actress there are many more contenders who could be in the mix. Carmen Ejogo “Selma,” Jessica Chastain “A Most Violent Year,” Rene Russo “Nightcrawler” and Sienna Miller “American Sniper” should have all been creating more buzz than some of their counterparts.
I love Meryl Streep, but was her performance in “Into the Woods” so mesmerizing Academy voters couldn’t resist. I don’t think so. She is indeed one of the best actresses of our time, but it seems she gets an Oscar nomination for almost every movie she appears in nowadays, even if it’s not warranted.
Perhaps the most baffling snub involves the movie “Gone Girl” which barely saw any love from the Academy. I mean that film hands down should have been a Best Picture contender. Some could argue David Fincher, should have been a candidate in the Best Director race and the same applies to writer Gillian Flynn for crafting a thriller that kept audiences on the edge of their seat from start till finish.
The snubs this year have been so big, even people are talking about the Best Animated Film race. I mean I’m baffled by how “The Lego Movie” didn’t make the cut. Not only was it a critical darling and a box-office success, but it was a favorite of kids and adults across America. I mean didn’t the Academy have contempt of the creativity that went into crafting such a witty, hilarious and fun flick for all ages?
This could be the Academy’s way of getting audiences to see those lesser known indie flicks that are not always popular with moviegoers. I’ve haven’t seen as much uproar in Oscar history since 2012 which saw quite a few snubs in the Best Director race. That was a year where Kathryn Bigelow, Tom Hooper and Ben Affleck were all missing from the Best Director category, but all had films in the Best Picture race.
I guess the Academy has a history of controversial nominations. Perhaps, an industry insider can score a few in-depth interviews with Academy members to hear them explain how they chose their nominations. That’s my take on this year’s Oscar race. Expect columns for the next few weeks leading up to the Academy Awards as my colleague LaDale Anderson makes his arguments on who will be taking home gold in some of the most competitive races and why.