I didn’t bother publishing Oscar predictions this year, because social media has taken the fun out of it. Everyone just looks at everybody else’s list and tweaks it so they’re not copying, and it becomes a huge circle jerk, and the announcement of the nominations becomes a fait accompli.
I was pleasantly surprised this year. Although most of the nominations, especially those in the acting categories, followed true to form, there were some what-the-fuck omissions. I can’t believe the biggest is in the Best Animated Feature category, where the odds-on-favorite to win, The Lego Movie, wasn’t even nominated. The theme song, “Everything Is Awesome,” an earworm without much musical sophistication, was nominated in Best Song, but that was it for the mega-blockbuster. How did such a good film get blanked? Well, I haven’t seen any of the other nominees, including the two hand-drawn films that haven’t had major releases. Remember, the nominations come from the branches, not the entire Academy, so perhaps the Animated branch are full of old fogies who thought The Lego Movie was one long product placement (which, to be fair, it was). Other than that, I’m mystified.
I was also shocked that Life Itself, the film about beloved film critic Roger Ebert, was left out of the Best Documentary Feature category. The irony here is that director Steve James was famously snubbed 20 years ago for Hoop Dreams, which Ebert championed. That snub led to a complete overhaul of the Documentary nominating process, but it still didn’t help James.
Otherwise, everything was fairly un-seismic. There were only eight Best Picture nominees, after three straight years of nine. The ninth, that failed to make the cut, was probably Foxcatcher, given that it’s director, Bennett Miller, got a directing nomination. This is the first time since the Academy broadened the Best Picture field that a director was nominated for a film that wasn’t nominated for Best Picture.
Selma did snag a Best Picture nomination, and other than The Lego Movie it’s the story of the day. It only got one other nomination–Best Song–and after looking like a possible winner for Best Picture a month ago is now on the ash heap. Considering the racial tension right now, this doesn’t make the Academy look good–it’s the first time this century that no actors of color were nominated–and blaming it on not getting screeners out in time seems a bit of a pathetic excuse. Of course the Academy shouldn’t pander to political correctness, but passing up nominating Ava DuVernay for a historic directing nomination will cause caterwauling.
One thing I’m happy about is that Jennifer Aniston was not nominated for Best Actress for her role in Cake. I have nothing against Aniston, and I’m sorry if she’s having a bad day, but for an industry known for its reliance on publicity machines, her campaign for an Oscar seemed Machiavellian. She had an “award consultant,” and mounted such an aggressive push for an award for a movie that hardly anyone has seen that it made it seem all more unsavory than it is (and it’s pretty unsavory). Of course, I’m sure all five of the nominees have publicists who did a lot for them, but it wasn’t so obvious.
Another film that underperformed was Gone Girl. None of the Best Picture nominees has earned over 100 million, which Gone Girl did. Only Rosamund Pike was nominated, for Best Actress. Who I thought may have been the favorite for Best Adapted Screenplay, Gillian Flynn, was skunked.
A few other things–Meryl Streep received her 19th nomination. She is the Bob Beamon of actresses (Google the name if you’re too young to remember him). Robert Duvall got his seventh, and at 84, is the oldest man to ever be nominated for Best Supporting Actor. He’s been nominated in four different decades, but oddly, not in the 2000s. In the perennial bridesmaid category, we have Alexandre Desplat, who has been nominated eight times in the last nine years in the Best Musical Score category, but has never won, and Roger Deakins, perhaps the most respected living cinematographer, who now has 12 nominations but no win.
In circumstances that I believe are unprecedented, Glen Campbell, the legendary pop star, was nominated for Best Song for a documentary about him. He is an in-patient, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. I have never heard the song, but the emotions surrounding this award will be more taut than usual. I have to believe it will beat “Everything Is Awesome.”
One final note, that I haven’t seen anywhere else: Danielle Brisebois, who played Stephanie late in the run of All in the Family (the dreaded “add a kid” gambit), was nominated for writing a song from Begin Again. At first I thought she might be the only cast member of that show to receive an Oscar nomination, but Rob Reiner does have a nomination for producing A Few Good Men.
As with past years, as we lead up to the awards, on February 22nd, I’ll take a deeper look at each of the major categories.