Thursday, January 15, 2015

Oscar Nominations 2015

I’ve always found it confusing that it’s the year after the release year being honored for the Oscars, but the 2015 Oscar nominations were announced this morning for the 2014 cinematic release year. As is often the case with the Oscar—bowing at the end of the awards season—there was more predictability with this year’s nominees than surprises. The Academy never seems to get away with no surprises, however, and there are some notable omissions and inclusions in this year’s batch.

Announced as usual very early in the morning in Los Angeles by directors J.J. Abrams and Alfonso Cuarón and actor Chris Pine and AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, this year marked the first time ever that every category was included in the live announcement. This detail might seem insignificant to some, but it shows that the Academy has a little more respect than they’ve showed in the past for those categories that aren’t considered the major awards. The announcement was split into two parts, with the second installment certainly focusing more on the major nominations. The only categories that have been included in past live announcements to make it in the first section of nominations were Animated Feature, Documentary Feature and Original Song.

The complete list of nominees can be seen at

All of the front-runners got their nods, which should result in a very predictable winners ceremony. As for surprises and snubs, probably the most talked about omission will be the lack of nominations for the Martin Luther King Jr./civil rights historical film “Selma”. It was expected that Ava DuVernay would become the first black woman to ever receive a Best Direction nomination for her work on the film, but that distinction will have to wait for another year. Also absent from the Best Actor category is David Oyelowo’s performance as King. “Selma” was included among the eight Best Picture nominees and received an expected nomination for its Original Song “Glory” by Common and John Legend.

Stealing Oyelowo’s spot was the surprise inclusion of Bradley Cooper for his role as the real life American hero Chris Kyle in Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper”. Although his nomination will be considered as steal from Oyelowo and dark horse Jake Gyllenhaal for his role as a video journalist in critical darling “Nighgtcrawler”, rumor is that this is a career defining performance for Cooper. The film, which receives its wide release in theaters this weekend and is expected to be Eastwood best box office effort to date, also surprised in the Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay categories and received a surprising total of 6 nominations. And yet, Eastwood himself is notably absent from the Best Direction list.

While Eastwood was expected to receive a Direction nod even if his movie missed the Best Picture list, Bennett Miller seems to have stolen his Director spot despite the fact that Miller’s movie “Foxcatcher”, an expected Best Picture nominee, was omitted. As one of the ABC GMA analysts sarcastically said, “That makes sense.” Also missing from the Best Picture race are the high profile pictures “Gone Girl”, which received its only nomination in the Actress category for Rosamund Pike, and “Unbroken”, whose hopes were dashed after a harsh critical reception in late Decemeber. “NIghtcrawler” was another dark horse possibility for Best picture that didn’t pan out.

Along with Pike, the Best Actress category produced another welcome surprise with a nod for Marion Cotillard in what has been said by critics to be the best female performance of the year, although the award is expected to go to Julianne Moore for her role as a victim of Alzheimer’s in “Still Alice”. Missing out is Jennifer Aniston for her lauded work in the movie “Cake”. Perhaps the least awesome omission is the absence of “The Lego Movie” in the best Animated Feature category. Much of the omissions this year have been blamed on some studios having difficulty getting screeners out to the Academy voters in time for the Jan. 8 cut off date for nomination voting.

That may explain the strong showing for films that were released earlier in the year, like Richard Linklater’s Best Picture front-runner “Boyhood” and Wes Anderson’s spring of 2014 release “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. Despite wonderful early year reviews for Anderson’s film, the Academy is historically notorious for having a short memory, so the film’s award season success has been a surprise for all. It’s nice to see such a wonderfully fun and smart movie receive 9 nominations 11 months after its theatrical release.

The big winners of this day are the two high concept independent films and front-runners for multiple categories, including Best Actor (Michael Keaton), Best Supporting Actress (Patricia Arquette), Direction, Original Screenplay and Picture for “Boyhood”, with 6 nominations, and “Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”, with 9 nominations. Also winning are the unexpected nomination hauls for “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, “American Sniper” and “Whiplash”, which turned a shoe-in Supporting Actor nomination (and most likely win) for beloved character actor J.K. Simmons in a terrifying performance into a 5-nomination wellspring, including nods for Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay.

“The Imitation Game” also pulled out 8 nominations, including Best Picture, Direction, Actor, Actress, Screenplay and Original Score, although word of mouth about it being overrated might prevent rolling any of those major nods into wins. Also, beyond its surprise inclusion and omission in the Direction and Picture categories, “Foxcatcher” received 5 nominations, including an Actor nod for comedian Steve Carell in a very dramatic role and Mark Ruffalo for Supporting Actor. Also receiving 5 nods, the Stephen Hawking romance “The Theory of Everything” and “Interstellar”, although the space adventure’s nominations all came in technical categories providing the only technical category sweep of the year.

The Oscar winners will be announced live on ABC Sunday, February 22 at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT in a ceremony hosted by Neil Patrick Harris.

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