Some Thoughts on the Winners and Losers of This Year’s Oscar Nominations

Boyhood

The nominations for this year’s Academy Awards were announced this morning and—as ever—there were many surprises and a bunch of snubs. (And apparently a case of a very unfortunately mispronounced name; let’s just say that cinematographer Dick Pope is this year’s Idina Menzel.) Read on to let us guide you through what all the nominations really mean and if Michael Keaton will finally be getting the Oscar he deserved for Mr. Mom. 

Best Picture: 
Boyhood
The Imitation Game
Birdman
The Theory of Everything
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Whiplash
Selma
American Sniper

The most-nominated movies, and also those that, based on nomination numbers and certain other categories (directing and editing) could be considered in the shadow “real” race for Best Picture (that is, the movies that seem like they would have made the cut if the Academy still did five nominations only) are Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, and Boyhood. Not bad! I mean, The Imitation Game is the kind of semi-middling, ultra-Weinstein-y Oscar movie that looks particularly weak next to the ambitions of the other four, but it’s a lot better than The Theory of Everything—which, incidentally, looks like it would have been the classic “fifth Best Picture nominee that can’t win because the director didn’t get in” in the system of yore.

Let’s hold on this Grand Budapest and Boyhood business for a moment. In 2014, Wes Anderson made a movie that while compromising exactly none of his artistic sensibility managed to gross $175 million worldwide and receive eight Oscar nominations, while a career-defining film by Richard Linklater is currently an Oscar frontrunner. I know Mark Harris has been productively cultivating a long-standing shtick about how Hollywood is killing itself with franchises, and I certainly don’t need any more “expanded universes” manufactured for my viewing pleasure, but that’s kind of a good sign, right? When things like this happen? That said, it’s probably telling that the Oscar voters can only fully recognize Anderson’s impeccable craft when it at least has something to do with World War II.

Selma managed to be nominated for Best Picture and nothing else except Best Song. Considering none of the other nominees received fewer than five nominations, I think it’s safe to chalk this one up to white guilt. That’s not to say it’s undeserved; it joins four other nominees on the “actually really good movies” list. Just that, as with 12 Years a Slave last year, I wonder just how many Academy members have actually watched this excellent movie.

I also question whether people actually saw American Sniper or just made a movie in their head that resembled the best possible outcome of a Clint Eastwood movie, like Unforgiven or Million Dollar Baby, rather than a late-period Eastwood movie that doesn’t really work.

Best Actress:
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Reese Witherspoon, Wild
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night

So this is slightly less fucked than we thought? Though we’ve seen multiple well-considered essays about the weird inevitability of Jennifer Aniston campaigning her way in and the weird inevitability of a Julianne Moore win for a movie hardly anyone has seen, Aniston didn’t make it in and critically beloved Marion Cotillard did. Of course, Moore is still the presumed victor because for some reason it’s considered more fair to award her for a movie no one cares about than to give Cotillard or Witherspoon a second award or, better, give it to Rosamund Pike for a more complex character than Moore is playing. And of course, even Two Days, One Night is still pretty much about Cotillard suffering, but you can’t break Oscar voters of all their bad habits. Or possibly any of them. Like, for example, Clint Eastwood movies.

Best Animated Feature
Big Hero 6
How to Train Your Dragon 2
The Boxtrolls
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya

I know the cool film-snob thing to do is not complain about the lack of The Lego Movie in the Best Animated Feature category, but instead crow that The Tale of Princess Kayuga and Song of the Sea got in. But you know what? Princess Kayuga, at least, was always going to get in there; Best Animated Feature has included at least one artsy or foreign or adult-oriented entry for four of the last five cycles (which is great, obviously). Moreover, it wouldn’t take either of those movies failing to get The Lego Movie in there; just an acknowledgment that maybe How to Train Your Dragon 2 was very professionally crafted and not very good.

Best Actor
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

And finally: I don’t wanna sound racist or anything but did we really need TWO pasty English guys playing real people nominated for Best Actor?

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