Every year on the pre-dawn morning of the Oscars nominations, hopes are raised flagpole high in anticipation of the official announcement. Today hope stood still for a moment or two as the names and titles were read out in two batches by directors Alfonso Cuarón and J.J. Abrams and then AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Star Trek’s Chris Pine. For some like For some like The Theory Of Everything and The Imitation Game, there was a plethora of Academy voter good news. For Selma director Ava DuVernay, American Sniper helmer Clint Eastwood, Roger Ebert docu Life Itself, Jennifer Aniston and The Lego Movie, among others …well, it’s hard to believe some of these fine films, actors like David Oyelowo and directors were snubbed but that’s the way the Oscar can crumble:
Ava DuVernay – The first feature on Martin Luther King Jr is a long overdue achievement but that film being Selma and from this already barrier-breaking director is nothing short of stunning. That Selma got Best Picture and Original Song noms and DuVernay did not get a Best Director is as stunning. Perhaps being snubbed already by the Director’s Guild, the Screen Actors Guild and the Producers Guild, past Sundance Best Director winner DuVernay should have expected today’s Oscar door to stay shut to her. Was it the fallout from Paramount’s decision not to send screeners to guild members? Was it questions over historical accuracy? Regardless, DuVernay’s examination of a pivotal time in American history and the players shaping it was more than worth of a place in what is the Academy’s boy’s club this year.
David Oyelowo – Speaking of another Selma snub. This lack of a Best Actor nomination also comes just days before the MLK holiday that celebrates the life and legacy of the great American – which shows a near zero sense of both appreciation for Oyelowo’s performance and timing on the part of Academy voters.
The Lego Movie – This is a real shock. Everyone in Hollywood seemingly did voiceover work for this blockbuster Warner Bros pic and it was even talked of as a Best Animated frontrunner going in. Now the bricks are all in pieces and not feeling very awesome despite the Original Song nomination. (Update, 6:30 AM: Co-director Phil Lord tweeted this reaction after this morning’s announcement:)
Timothy Spall – Maybe he and the Mike Leigh helmed Mr. Turner peaked too early with the film’s debut at Cannes last year. Yet Spall is an actor who has often raised the worth of projects far lesser than his performances in them. In this case the film about the life of J.M.W. Turner was on par with Spall’s talent. Reunited with Leigh, he painted a glorious portrait of the artist and the art. In the process, he also won the Best Actor at Cannes and more recently took home the top acting prize from the National Society of Film Critics.
Jennifer Aniston – Despite a SAG Awards nom, it seems there will be no Oscar cake for the hard campaigning Cake actress.
“Shine” – An evocative toe-tapper and hip shaker from Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams from the Paddington soundtrack, this tune should have seen Pharrell back in the Best Original Song category after his “Happy” loss last year.
Life Itself – The Roger Ebert docu directed by Steve James had the audience crying with loss and appreciation when it debuted at Sundance last year. Today, the movie about the great movie critic was dry when it came to Oscar love.
Clint Eastwood – Four Oscar nominations and two wins over the years and a DGA nomination this year but despite Best Picture and Best Actor noms there was no Best Director to make the American Sniper helmer’s day today.
Foxcatcher – Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo and Best Director for Bennett Miller but no Best Picture wrestling themed drama? Someone got thrown to the mat here.
Jake Gyllenhaal – A smart and increasingly seasoned actor inhabiting a role that speaks directly to our era. This creature of the 24/7 news cycle night from the Dan Gilroy directed Nightcrawler made it look so easy and creepy at the same time. A modern Travis Bickle? The fact that we pose the comparison means this past Oscar nominee was worthy of another shot this year. So do the collection of Indie Spirit, SAG Awards and BAFTA nominations, among other accolades, for his Nightcrawler performance.
Unbroken – This is the sort of film that Oscar voters has traditionally opened their hearts and ballots too. Sure it got a few technical noms but what happened? Was director Angelina Jolie just too high profile? Were the slights by the Golden Globes and the guilds too much for this portrait of Louie Zamperini too much for Unbroken to break through?
Jessica Chastain – Nothing for the A Most Violent Year actress? I’m just assuming you haven’t seen the movie, that has to be the only answer.
Nick Hornby – A 1-man cottage industry on the shelf and on the screen with a near flawless populist touch, the best selling author was given a WGA Awards nomination for his adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s best selling 2012 memoir. But Oscar didn’t want to take a Best Adapted Screenplay walk with him for Wild? Is it because of Fever Pitch?
Amy Adams – Well, looks like that Golden Globe win on the weekend for her Big Eyes role didn’t get a second coat from Oscar.
Ralph Fiennes – How the Academy could overlook giving the man a nomination for his masterful role as the concierge Monsieur Gustave H. in Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel is simply an insult to his exceptional service to the craft of acting.
Christopher Nolan – Sorry, but really an epic isn’t enough for you people?
Interstellar – Speaking of the epic, sure it got some technical noms but in a Best Picture field with 10 spots and only 8 of them filled, this out of this world dive into what it is to be both human and universal, on a literal and figurative level couldn’t get a place? Seriously, big doesn’t automatically mean best but in the case of Interstellar it was like a dream unfolding before our eyes – something that only a very select sort of film can do.