Oscar Nominations 2015: Snubs and Surprises
Everything is not awesome.
The Oscar nominations are always full of snubs and surprises, but the one that's probably causing the most gasping and eyebrow-raising after Thursday morning's announcement of the nominees is the absence of "The LEGO Movie" from the Best Animated Feature list. If ever there were a gimme in your Oscar pool, that would have been it.
Of course, there are plenty of other shockers -- notably, that "Selma" was ignored in every category except Best Original Song and still managed to eke out a Best Picture nomination, and that "Gone Girl" was shut out of every category except Best Actress. And there were many other unexpected inclusions and disappointing omissions, as you'll see below.
The Academy, which may pick between five and 10 Best Picture nominees, has chosen nine for the last few years, but this year, it only picked eight. The biggest oddity here is the inclusion of "Selma," since support for that movie seems to have all but evaporated over the last couple of weeks, given the controversy over the screenplay's historical accuracy. That cost the film nominations in every category it was eligible for except Best Song (for Common and John Legend's "Glory") and this one. It's awfully rare for a movie to earn a Best Picture nod without also earning recognition for directing, screenwriting, or acting.
The 2009 rule change that allowed the voters to nominate more than five films was supposed to make the category more populist, allowing for bigger commercial hits that also had artistic merit. (In other words, movies like Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar.") But "Interstellar" isn't here (though it did earn five nominations, for Original Score and some technical categories), and neither is "Gone Girl," widely expected to be among the nominees. Nor are such $100 million critic- and crowd-pleasing movies as "Into the Woods" and "Unbroken." That means the biggest hit among the Best Picture nominees is "The Grand Budapest Hotel," at $59 million, though "American Sniper" could eventually overtake it when it goes into wide release.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Academy usually includes one independent film that was a critical darling if not a box office hit. (Call it the "Beasts of the Southern Wild" slot.) This year, "Foxcatcher," "Nightcrawler," and "Whiplash" were all fierce contenders for that slot. "Whiplash" managed to grab the brass ring, along with four other nominations. "Foxcatcher" got five as well, but not Best Picture. "Nightcrawler," despite a recent groundswell of support among critics and awards group, also got left out of every Oscar category except Original Screenplay.
Of course, since this category is limited to five nominees, at least three of the Best Picture candidates were doomed to be snubbed here. In fact, the voters snubbed four of the Best Picture-nominated directors: Clint Eastwood ("American Sniper"), Ava DuVernay ("Selma"), James Marsh ("The Theory of Everything") and Damian Chazelle ("Whiplash"). "Foxcatcher" director Bennett Miller (an Oscar favorite since the days of "Capote" and "Moneyball") grabbed the nomination that seemingly belonged to Chazelle, even though Miller's movie didn't even score a Best Picture nomination. Meanwhile, the surprising lack of love for "Gone Girl" extended to this category; tough luck, David Fincher. Similarly, with "Into the Woods" and "Unbroken" out of the running for the top prize, Rob Marshall and Angelina Jolie didn't earn directing nominations either.
The most shocking snub here is that of "Selma" star David Oyelowo, whose performance as Martin Luther King seemed to be the one thing about the movie that no one could fault. Instead, Bradley Cooper, considered something of a longshot for "American Sniper," managed to hit the target. (Then again, Cooper is also a producer of "American Sniper," and the actors among the Academy voters like it when fellow actors create their own opportunities.) Left out were longer shots Jake Gyllenhaal of "Nightcrawler" and Ralph Fiennes of "The Grand Budapest Hotel."
The big surprise here -- and it's a happy one -- is the inclusion of Marion Cotillard for "Two Days, One Night." After all, it's a foreign language performance in a film that barely played in American theaters, and while it had won numerous critics' awards, it was considered too low-profile to be on Oscar's radar. Guess not.
Then again, Cotillard's inclusion meant no nomination for Jennifer Aniston, widely assumed to be a strong candidate for her atypically dramatic turn in "Cake." (After all, it was the same kind of performance that earned Steve Carell a nomination for "Foxcatcher.") Also unexpectedly ignored was Amy Adams, who just picked up a Golden Globe on Sunday for "Big Eyes." And of course, Hilary Swank ("The Homesman") and Emily Blunt ("Into the Woods"), both longshots, were left out. Rosamund Pike's nomination wasn't a surprise, but what was surprising was that hers was the only nomination "Gone Girl" received.
Best Supporting Actor
This was the most predictable category in this year's Oscar race. There were really only six viable contenders for the five slots, and as expected, the one left without a chair when the music stopped was Christoph Waltz of "Big Eyes."
Best Supporting Actress
Laura Dern was considered a longshot for her role in "Wild," but she made it in. The other four slots went to widely predicted contenders. Dern's inclusion meant a somewhat surprising snub for Jessica Chastain ("A Most Violent Year"). The "Into the Woods" and "Nightcrawler" waves that never materialized also meant snubs for Anna Kendrick and Rene Russo, respectively.
Best Original Screenplay
As in other categories, four of the five slots were easily predictable. The fifth went, surprisingly, to "Nightcrawler," earning the crime drama its only nomination. That left no room for "Selma," though the late-breaking controversy over the movie's factuality had probably doomed its chances. Somewhat surprising is the omission of biopic "Mr. Turner," since writer/director Mike Leigh is an Academy favorite, and since the movie earned four other nominations.
Best Adapted Screenplay
The big shocker here was the snubbing of Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl" screenplay, widely admired as a deft and suspenseful adaptation of her own tricky novel. It had been considered a sure thing, along with "The Theory of Everything" and "The Imitation Game," which both made the cut. "Whiplash" was a late entry to the game, thanks to a baffling Academy ruling that deemed it an adapted screenplay instead of an original, but voters managed to find it on the ballot, so its nomination is a pleasant surprise. So is that of "Inherent Vice," a thorny literary adaptation that didn't get recognized anywhere else on the nominations list except for its period costumes. "American Sniper" was also considered something of a longshot, so its inclusion over Nick Hornby's adaptation of the challenging memoir "Wild" is also somewhat unexpected.
Best Animated Feature
The absence of "The LEGO Movie" will probably provoke the most outrage of anything in the nomination announcement. The acclaimed "The Book of Life" is also inexplicably absent. On the other hand, "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya," from the beloved Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli, is a pleasant surprise, given the film's weak box office. As for the film that grabbed what most thought was the "LEGO" nomination, it's the all-but-unknown "Song of the Sea," a movie that opened here in late December and is only playing at three theaters. It's barely been on the awards radar, but it's from Irish animator Tomm Moore, whose "The Secret of Kells" earned a similar surprise nomination five years ago. Meanwhile, "LEGO" fans will have to be satisfied with a Best Song nomination for "Everything Is Awesome." At least that has a good shot at a win at the Oscar ceremony on February 22.