Movies are like cookies, there are so many different kinds, you simply cannot please everyone.
I won’t be listing them in top 10 form, but I am going to talk about what was not nominated (often referred to as snubs). What else usually stands out as the dust settles is how the awards are also distributed per film. What I mean is, how certain movies are rewarded in these categories, but not those ones. I know it is not simply the case that the voters like this movie so lavish it in as many categories as possible. Though sometimes it feels like that. No, what I mean is the Academy members vote in each category, and the tally of votes provides us with the nominees. I almost said that they vote for their favorites, but ‘favorites’ is perhaps not the best word in this process. Neither, then, is ‘best’ the appropriate word. When I choose my favorite / best films of the year I certainly don’t need to be swayed by consensus views, controversy, or For Your Consideration ads. Just saying.
Let’s just get the likes of A Most Violent Year, Belle, The Homesman, Mommy, and Big Eyes out of he way. No nominations for any of them. I am sure there are others, but those were off the top of my head.
If you had to pick one movie that would do well across the board, not necessarily the favorite to win, that perhaps was not likely to be ignored, then you would call Birdman. Joint highest amount of nominations with 9 (including the expected categories like Picture, Director, Writing and for three acting), Birdman was though excluded from Editing – once upon a time a primary indicator of a Best Picture success. Add to that the Original Score ineligibility, the movie could have seemed a stronger favorite in numbers.
The movie that in the end was not forgotten despite the very early release, The Grand Budapest Hotel matched Birdman’s tally. No acting success here though, but that was to be expected. The Academy consensus got this pretty right in my view, and it was about time they piled it on a little heavier with the movies of Wes Anderson.
The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything have seemingly been side-by-side the whole awards season with their British heroics not dissimilar in awards arena merit to A Beautiful Mind. Both mentioned in Picture, Writing, Music and two acting categories, The Imitation Game edged it eight to five in nominations, which was not too surprising – even if the Directing and Editing nominations are considered a little over-flattering by some.
Boyhood, still the movie to beat them all, picked up six nominations. Immediately after the announcements I was shaking my head at the negative reactions to this total – The Guardian in their headline even used the phrase “Boy disappoints with six”. I think it is fair to say that magic six (two for acting, Picture, Directing, Editing, Writing) were exactly what we were expecting. What else could it nail down – Costume Design and Visual Effects? And those days of requiring the most nominations to fly home to Best Picture are not as set in stone as they once were.
Whiplash made good on its promise too, picking up that foregone conclusion nod for J.K. Simmons, as well as being recognised in Picture, Editing, Sound Mixing, and Writing. It’s counterpart movie Nightcrawler was significantly absent with just the one Writing nomination. The huge Best Actor threat Jake Gyllenhaal was nowhere to be seen.
What appears to be punching above its weight is gate-crasher American Sniper. And although Clint Eastwood has been in this position before, he was not nominated for Director this time, just days after his DGA nod. American Sniper grabbed six nominations including Picture, Editing, Writing, and Actor for Bradley Cooper. You can’t have wonder about the omissions made in those particular categories for this movie to get in.
Gone Girl and Selma are one of the most talked about films of the year and one of the best reviewed films of the year respectively. There were unjustifiable little doubts about Gone Girl’s chances because of its dark subject matter, and then Selma had all kinds of mud thrown at it a la Zero Dark Thirty. But the outcome of three Oscar nominations between the two movies is ridiculous at the very least.
I thought Gillian Flynn was pretty much the favorite to take Adapted Screenplay. Wrong. Not even nominated. Hard to swallow. Gone Girl was a huge contender in categories like Picture, Director, Editing, Score, and Cinematography, and to miss out on two or three of those would have been head-scratching. It missed out on all of them. Only Rosamund Pike can carry Gone Girl now.
As for Selma, with the whole Lyndon Baines Johnson debate, sole-writer claims, and screener fiasco hanging over it, managed a measly two nominations. Even watching the nominations live I was sub-shocked when it made Picture as it seemed it was going to get the full screwed treatment. I am not sure if that nod is a consolation or an insult. Nothing for it’s technical achievements, nothing for David Oyelowo’s portrayal of Martin Luther King, nothing for Ava DuVernay the movie’s black, female director.
By the time you read this though you will likely be exhausted by the nominations rather than still celebrating them. My initial reaction was I won’t be watching the Oscars now. But we all know that is not going to happen. Nor will such drastic action change the world. The Academy’s lack of enthusiasm to honour Life Itself, a documentary about the movie critic Roger Ebert, might sting the most. And The Lego Movie being AWOL from Animated Feature now has us all singing Anything But Awesome.
As I opened this piece, there did also seem to be some conflicting views of certain movies reflected in their nominations. Cannes favorites Foxcatcher (five nominations) and Mr Turner (four) faired quite well, but I couldn’t help wonder about how much they really liked those movies. Mr. Turner was recognised in the more technical areas like Cinematography and Music, areas were more widely predicted movies were perhaps bumped out. All welcome mentions all the same, but why no Timothy Spall or Mike Leigh? And Foxcatcher bagged two acting nods, Make Up, Writing, and what turned out to be a real surprise when Bennett Miller was named as one of the Best Director bunch with Foxcatcher not even making the eight Best Picture nominees.
And what was that about? Eight Best Picture nominees. I don’t need the rules of voting explained to me, nor do I intend to enlighten anyone reading. But you don’t need to be Stephen Hawking or Alan Turing to know that however they do it is in need of some serious tweaking.
On a lighter note it was good to see Paul Thomas Anderson getting an invite to the party via a Screenplay nomination for Inherent Vice, Marion Cotillard rightly making the Best Actress line-up, and Ida winning a worthy nod for cinematographers Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski. Alas, none of them will likely win come the big night. Maybe ‘big’ is not the right word. But that is how the cookie crumbles.