The good, the bad, and the damn ugly of the Oscar nominations

Worst. Nominations. Ever. Look, maybe I’m exaggerating with that statement, but in all the years I’ve been paying way too much attention to the Academy Awards, I cannot ever remember being this downright disappointed by the final nominations. You come to expect a few surprises, and of course a few painful snubs, but this year, it seems like the snubs are too damn hard to swallow, no matter how many times I remind myself it’s just an awards show.

At the end of the day, great films, and the artists who create them, will still ultimately remain great, with or without recognition at the Oscars. It’s just difficult to believe that the Academy would be so out of touch this year that the HFPA, and its Golden Globes, were actually far more progressive. The Academy took some great steps forward last year, but now they’ve gone and taken ten steps back.

Let me elaborate and maybe you can understand my heartbreak this morning.

THE GOOD
The phenomenal showing for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Most people assumed releasing it way back in February would severely damage its Oscar chances, but with an incredible nine nominations, it was great to see that wasn’t the case. The last Best Picture nominee to be released so early in the year was Silence of the Lambs, so it’s it’s a staggering achievement for Wes Anderson and co that we rarely see. It stands to prove that sometimes it doesn’t matter when a truly great film is released to be recognised come awards season.

Bradley Cooper scores his third nomination in as many years. A lot was said about Matthew McConaughey’s resounding career turn-around, aka the McConaissance, last year, but I would argue that Cooper’s is just as impressive. Three noms in a row isn’t something you see every day (we haven’t seen it since Russell Crowe in 2001), so kudos have to be given. He’s now the dark-horse to steal Keaton’s thunder.

The Imitation Game nabs eight nominations. The film had wrongly been labelled as a one-performance wonder, but it was so much more than just the Cumberbatch show, so it was great to see it recognised as such. The director nom was a huge surprise but a very welcome one.

Nine first-time nominees in the acting categories. Always a pleasure to see new faces in the mix, especially long overdue names like Keaton, Arquette and Simmons.

Meryl Streep extends her incredible record as the most nominated actor of all time, with her 19th nomination. They very easily could have left her off, but she deserves to be there.

Whiplash scores five nominations, including Best Picture. It was very likely to happen, but it was far from a certainty.

The eight Best Picture nominees all truly deserve to be there. We don’t have any bizarre Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close or War Horse type entries this year. They’re all masterful films for different reasons.

THE BAD
The LEGO Movie snubbed for Animated Feature. Not only should it have been nominated, it very likely should have won this category. I have no explanation as to how it missed out. Sure, it came out a while ago, but every other awards show has remembered it, so how did Oscar forget?

Bennett Miller is nominated for Director, but his film Foxcatcher is not. There is no sense to that. You’re basically saying he achieved one of the five best directing efforts this year, but the film ultimately wasn’t one of the best. Right.

Birdman misses out for Editing. It was bad enough its score was ineligible, but to snub it for its absolutely sublime editing is just as hard to take.

THE UGLY
Not one non-white performer is nominated in the acting categories for the first time since 1998. Plus no female writers or directors nominated either. Just a disgraceful lack of diversity makes this the whitest and most male-orientated Oscars in almost two decades. After last year’s abundance of diverse winners and nominees, this is truly baffling.

Gone Girl only receives one nomination. You know, I wasn’t shocked by the Academy ignoring Fincher, but I still thought they’d acknowledge the film. Nope. Wrong. One single nomination is all they could handle handing out. While the lack of nominations for Picture, Director, and Score are rough to take, Gillian Flynn’s snub is the hardest to accept. Her screenplay was the best of the year, and should have won the damn thing. I’m not one to cry misogyny, but I can’t easily explain it any other way. Maybe it just made too much damn money, since that apparently was a cardinal sin this year, given none of the Picture nominees this year made a blip at the box office.

Jake Gyllenhaal misses out for Nightcrawler. I’ve made it clear several times that I considered this the performance of the year, so I was devastated to not hear his name read out. I know the Actor category was overloaded this year, but I still thought he’d get in.

Interstellar snubbed for Cinematography. I had this down to win this category, so I’m confounded by its lack of even a nomination. Remember when this was finally going to be Nolan’s year? Sigh.

Selma only receives two nominations. The ugliest snub of the year, particularly due to the fact that it’s clear the mud-slinging “controversy” campaign is the reason behind it. It’s a miracle it managed to make it into the Picture race. I could write an entire post about the disgraceful way the Academy has treated one of the best films of the year, and its female (gasp) black (double gasp) director. Racial and sexist issues aside, it’s a damn brilliant film, so there’s just no reason for it not to be one of the big contenders this year. Just consider this – Selma received the same number of nominations as Guardians of the Galaxy

It’s just a huge disappointment to think the Academy is finally diversifying and evolving one year, and then come crashing back down to earth the next. I’m not saying that just because a film is made by a woman or involves people of colour that it automatically deserves to be nominated, but these aspects definitely shouldn’t work against it either. That clearly occurred this year, and that’s wrong on so many levels. I can only hope the enormous backlash from a large number of journalists and bloggers this morning will mean we never have to suffer through this kind of nonsense again.

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Fearless Oscar nomination predictions

It only feels like yesterday that awards season began, and yet here we are on the cusp of the Academy announcing their anointed ones for 2015. There’s still a lot up in the air, and I wouldn’t say I’m entirely confident with a lot of these categories, but alas, onwards and upwards with this year’s predictions.

Best Picture
American Sniper
Boyhood
Birdman
Foxcatcher
Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

I’m well aware Selma has oddly been left out of the Producer’s Guild Awards, and it’s very rare for a film to get Best Picture nominated without a PGA nod, but it has happened plenty of times before, and I think it will still squeak in. There’ll be some mighty big howls if it’s left out. I thought The Grand Budapest Hotel might have some issues being remembered, but after its Golden Globes victory and strong precursor awards showing, it’s clear that’s not the case. You may see Unbroken sneak in, but I get the feeling the film is going to be almost universally snubbed by the Academy. Possible dark-horse Nightcrawler could also nab a place, but fairly unlikely. Yes, I’m going with ten spots, and that’s probably not going to happen, but you tell me which film to take out? How do you eliminate one of them?

Best Director
Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ava DuVernay – Selma
David Fincher – Gone Girl
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – Birdman
Richard Linklater – Boyhood

It’s always hard picking the Director nominees, since we only have five slots but generally far more than five deserving directors. I’m going with these choices because they just seem like the avenue the Academy will go down. That being said, the last few years have seen some absolute shockers in this category, and after the baffling Director’s Guild nominations, it’s likely a few of my picks will be wrong. You may see Fincher shamefully ignored (likely) or DuVernay overlooked (highly likely), and in their place directors like Morten Tyldum, Damien Chazelle or Bennett Miller. Hell, even Angelina Jolie or Clint Eastwood could steal a spot.

Best Actor
Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler
Michael Keaton – Birdman
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

Easily the toughest category this year. There are so many brilliant lead actor performances this year that it seems a travesty to only choose five. Leaving out actors like David Oyelowo, Bradley Cooper, Ralph Fiennes, and Timothy Spall, and even young guns Miles Teller and Jack O’Connell, just feels so wrong. They all deserve a nod, but sadly not this year. I think the most vulnerable of my picks is Gyllenhaal, so any of the above men could steal his spot, most likely Oyelowo. I still maintain Carell should be in Supporting, but that’s a rant post for another day.

Best Actress
Jennifer Aniston – Cake
Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore – Still Alice
Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl
Reece Witherspoon – Wild

A lot has been said about the lack of great female performances this year. I think that speaks more to the lack of great roles being written for women in Hollywood, rather than a lack of great female talent working today. That shouldn’t take anything away from the above performers. They all delivered performances as good as the men. There’s just not as many actresses to choose from for Academy voters when compared to the actors. I can’t really see anyone else sneaking in, except perhaps Amy Adams, but I highly doubt it, given the lack of love for Big Eyes.

Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall – The Judge
Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
Edward Norton – Birdman
Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Probably the category I’m most confident with predicting. I don’t see anyone else in contention, but the Academy does often throw a curveball in the Supporting fields, so maybe Tom Wilkinson or potentially Josh Brolin could make an appearance.

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Laura Dern – Wild
Kiera Knightley – The Imitation Game
Emma Stone – Birdman
Meryl Streep – Into the Woods

This one also seems quite locked away. Maybe they won’t bother nominating Streep, given it doesn’t seem like Into the Woods will get much love at all, or they’ll overlook Dern, but I don’t think so. If they really love Selma, you might see Carmen Ejogo steal one of their spots. I’m not bold enough to put Rene Russo in, but it could happen, and if so, I’ll be screaming with joy.

As always, I won’t bother delving into all the other technical categories. If you would like to see my full predictions list, head to http://www.goldderby.com/dougmj/mypredictions/. In the end, I believe we’ll see Birdman lead with 9 nominations, followed by Boyhood, The Imitation Game and Gone Girl with 7, and The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash with 6.

Let the games begin…