Thursday, January 16, 2014

2014 Oscar Nominations (Reaction and Analysis)

While I didn't watch the live announcement this morning of the 86th Annual Academy Award nominees by new Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Thor himself Chris Hemsworth, a couple of things jumped out at me when I saw it later. First off, this might mark the only time in Oscar history when all of the nominees' names were properly pronounced. Bonus points for impossibly nailing the correct pronunciation of "Chiwetel Ejiofor" and even deftly handling the tongue twister that is best original song nominee "Alone Yet Not Alone" from...Alone Yet Not Alone. Though in the case of the latter, it's unlikely anyone would have noticed or cared as its nomination is one of the bigger head-scratchers in a famously problematic category. That said, these two should read these every year and it's always fun to listen and compare the audience reaction to certain nominees (video below). As always, the entire list can be viewed at, but let's get right to it because there were more than a few interesting (if not entirely shocking) snubs and surprises. Overall, this slate is pretty satisfying for fans of great movies.

-WOLF! The Academy does right, giving The Wolf of Wall Street extremely well-deserved nominations for Picture, Director (Scorsese), Actor (DiCaprio), Supporting Actor (Two-time Oscar nominee Jonah Hill!) and Screenplay (Terence Winter). I guess that whole alleged controversy amounted to nothing. They could stomach it. And you have to wonder how close Margot Robbie came to getting in for Supporting Actress, which would have been a great surprise. Either way, this clearly peaked at just the right time.

-Robert Redford SNUBBED for All is Lost. You'd figure voters would be foaming at the mouth to reward the legend with his only competitive acting Oscar in the twilight of his career so something definitely went wrong here beyond just its disappointing box office haul. I know Redford's blaming the studio, and while that may be true, he wasn't exactly lighting the campaign trail on fire. That's just not him and you can't help but respect it.   

-Inside Llewyn Davis SNUBBED for Best Picture, Best Director, and most surprisingly, Best Actor. Of all the omissions, this one stings the most. We knew the film was difficult and now we found out just how difficult it was for voters who probably lacked the patience for a movie that takes multiple viewings to fully absorb. They usually fall all over themselves to acknowledge the Coens (even nominating A Serious Man for Best Picture a few years ago) so this clearly didn't connect for them. If history's taught us anything, it's that this snub is likely to be the best possible outcome for its legacy.

-A controversy that didn't amount to nothing was the one involving Disney's whitewashing of Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks, which was so blatant that apparently even sappy Academy members couldn't take it. Emma Thompson is shut out. 

-David O. Russell's American Hustle cleans up, doing just as well as Silver Linings Playbook last year. Director and Picture, plus acting nods for Bale, Cooper, Adams, and Lawrence. Suddenly, it's a major threat.

-Tom Hanks SNUBBED. Him not getting in Supporting for playing Disney is a surprise, but not as surprising as his snub in the Best Actor category for Captain Phillips, which got an unexpected Best Picture nod. And to think just a month ago we assumed Hanks was a sure double nominee this year.

-To quote Leonardo DiCaprio, "Philomania" is certainly running wild, as Philomena gets in for Best Picture, Actress (Judi Dench) and even Screenplay.     

-It looks like Spike Jonze's Her wasn't too hip and offbeat for voters, as it gets in for Picture and screenplay. Joaquin Phoenix was always a longshot so no real shock at that exclusion.

-Did not expect to see Dallas Buyers Club nominated for Best Picture.

-Was it me or was the most shocking nomination, Julia Roberts for Supporting Actress in August: Osage County?

-We've finally found something Oprah can't influence. Given the film's lukewarm reception, her suppporting snub for Lee Daniels' The Butler can't really be considered anything resembling a surprise.

-This proves Meryl Streep can get in for ANYTHING. She just has to show up on set. That's it. These movies exist only for her to be nominated.

-Jared Leto's supporting nomination is proof that you're never completely out of the game. Sometimes all it takes is one role.  

-Nebraska does better than expected, not only getting the Best Actor nod for Bruce Dern but receiving nominations for Best Picture and Best Director for Alexander Payne.

-Gravity does about as well as expected, but at least it didn't get a screenplay nomination. That would have been a joke.

-Typical yearly embarrassment in the Documentary category, with Blackfish and Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell getting snubbed. In the case of the latter, the unusual format may have played a role, but honestly, both these exclsions are inexcusable.

-No big pop stars in the Original Song category, as Taylor Swift, Coldplay and Lana Del Ray are snubbed. U2 has this one in the bag for their Mandela contribution, but once again we're probably in for a boring show in terms of musical performances. Don't even get me started on how "Please, Mr. Kennedy" from Inside Llewyn Davis was deemed ineligible.

-McConaughey's really starting to look like the frontrunner right now, which should upset no one. Best Picture is more of a question mark. 

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