Thursday, January 15, 2015

Observations on the 2015 Oscar Nominations (with No Bitching About What Didn’t Make It)

The 2015 Oscar nominations were announced today.  Going down through them there are a few eyebrow raisers, but no out and out WTFs like a couple years ago when Ben Affleck didn’t even get nominated for Best Director for the movie that ended up winning Best Picture (Argo).

Here are the eight Best Picture nominees:

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

I will post reviews for as many of these movies as I can prior to the Oscar telecast on February 22nd.  At this point I have seen only a few of them.  I will also post my predictions in the days leading up to the ceremony.  And I will have another Oscar quiz like last year’s on the titles of Best Picture nominees.

Click “Read more” for a complete list of the nominees, what got the most nominations, and some other things of interest.


Most nominations among the Best Picture nominees:

Birdman – 9
The Grand Budapest Hotel – 9
The Imitation Game – 8
American Sniper – 6
Boyhood – 6
The Theory of Everything – 5
Whiplash – 5
Selma – 2

Multiple nominations among other “Oscar bait” films:

Foxcatcher – 5 (Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Makeup and Hairstyling)
Mr. Turner – 4 (Cinematography, Score, Production Design, Costume Design)
Into the Woods – 3 (Supporting Actress, Production Design, Costume Design)
Unbroken – 3 (Cinematography, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing)
Inherent Vice – 2 (Adapted Screenplay, Costume Design)
Wild – 2 (Actress, Supporting Actress)

Foxcatcher may win something, but I don’t know that any of the others will.  Two years ago Anna Karenina had four nominations.  Does anyone even remember that there was an Anna Karenina film two years ago?

Mainstream movies with nominations:

Interstellar – 5 (Production Design, Score, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing)
Guardians of the Galaxy – 2 (Makeup and Hairstyling, Visual Effects)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier – 1 (Visual Effects)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – 1 (Visual Effects)
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – 1 (Sound Editing)
The Lego Movie – 1 (Song)
Maleficent – 1 (Costume Design)
X-Men: Days of Future Past – 1 (Visual Effects)

Last year there was the usual assortment of technical nominations.  Two years ago, though, and this year, a popular film received five nominations.  It was Skyfall in 2013 and Interstellar this year.

Best Animated, Foreign Language, or Documentary nominees with any other nominations:

Ida – 2 (Foreign Language Film, Cinematography)

Last year two animated films had multiple nominations and the additional one for both was Best Original Song.  This year not one of the nominees for Best Animated Feature received a Best Original Song nomination.  The one animated film that did was The Lego Movie, which did not make the cut in the animation category.

Movies Nominated Only for Acting:

Wild (Reese Witherspoon – Actress, Laura Dern – Supporting Actress)
Two Days One Night (Marion Cotillard – Actress)
Still Alice (Julianne Moore – Actress)
Gone Girl (Rosamund Pike – Actress)
The Judge (Robert Duvall – Supporting Actor)

Only one of the Best Actress nominees was from a film nominated for Best Picture.  And of the other four, three were the only nominations for their film at all.  Every single Best Actor nominee was from a film also nominated for Best Picture.

No film was nominated in all five major categories:

The two prior years saw Oscar history with Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle both being nominated not only in all five major categories (Film, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay), but also in the Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress categories.  They are two of only seven films to have ever done that.  And they were both directed by David O. Russell.

This year The Theory of Everything was nominated in four of the five categories, including the hardest combo – both Actor and Actress – but missed out on Director.

Birdman and The Imitation Game did the more common four out of five by having all but Actress. 

Boyhood had a “mini-five” by receiving nominations for Film, Director, Screenplay, and then Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress.

Other observations:

  • AMPAS first expanded from five Best Picture nominees to ten for the 2010 Oscars.  They must have felt that was going to be too many because it only lasted that way two years then they changed it to be “up to ten” nominees.  Nine appeared to be the magic number for them after that because since that change there had only ever been nine nominees for the top award each year…until this year when they have only eight.
  • Interstellar was not nominated – which violates the “Christopher Nolan rule” that had them expand the category beyond five nominees in the first place after The Dark Knight did not receive a Best Picture nomination.  The Nolanites must be having a collective conniption fit.
  • Looking at the “real” Best Picture nominees (those that also received one of the five Best Director nominations) none of the remaining four – American Sniper, Selma, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash – are really surprises for not being nominated for Best Director.  There is one Best Director nominee (Foxcatcher) that did not receive a Best Picture nomination.
  • Fully half of the Best Picture nominees are about real people – American Sniper (Chris Kyle), The Imitation Game (Alan Turing), Selma (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), and The Theory of Everything (Stephen Hawking).  And Foxcatcher, which many expected to be nominated, was also based on actual events.
  • Two of the five Foreign Language Film nominees are from Estonia and Mauritania.  I’m betting these are the first nominations for both of these countries.
  • All eight of the Best Picture nominees also received Screenplay nominations, with Foxcatcher and Inherent Vice making up the other two noms.  Last year Gravity was the only one of the nine Best Picture nominees that did not get nominated for either Best Original or Adapted Screenplay.  It also happened two years ago with Les Miserables. 
  • This year, like last year, almost all the Best Picture nominees also received acting noms.  The two years prior to that both Hugo and Life of Pi received 11 nominations apiece with not one of them being for acting.
  • Three years ago there were two nominees that separated from the rest – The Artist and Hugo.  The next two years the nominations were more spread out and this year mostly continues that trend with every Best Picture nominee receiving five to nine nominations, except for Selma.
  • In fact, Selma’s two total nominations for a Best Picture nominee has only happened three other times since 1945: Decision Before Dawn (1951); Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994); and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011).  None of those other three films won an Oscar.
  • AMPAS apparently holds a grudge for a long time.  (Bear with me.)  Back in 1995 they had one of their most embarrassing moments ever when they failed to even nominate Hoop Dreams for Best Documentary.  The people brought in to decide if it should make it or not shut it off after 10 minutes and didn’t even watch it.  Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel each independently named it the best film of 1994.  Ebert later went on to name it the best film of the entire 1990s.  The two of them waged a very public campaign that finally got the notoriously insular and secretive AMPAS Documentary board to be more transparent in how they selected films and to get the selections opened up to more people.  To say that AMPAS was pissed would be an understatement.  Fast forward to this year.  Steve James, the very same man who directed Hoop Dreams, directs a documentary on Roger Ebert titled Life Itself that captured Ebert’s last battles with the cancer that took his life.  It had won awards from any number of festivals and critics’ societies.  It was considered a lock to get an Oscar nomination, and that it was likely to win.  Guess what?  As I predicted, it wasn’t even nominated for Best Documentary, which gives AMPAS their final revenge against Roger Ebert (and the guilty by association Steve James).
  • In the Supporting Actor category Robert Duvall received his 7th Oscar nomination, but his first in 16 years.  He has a span of 42 years between his first nomination for The Godfather and the one this year for The Judge.  He has won once – Best Actor for 1983’s Tender Mercies.
  • In the Supporting Actress category we’ve got Meryl Streep extending her Oscar record with her 19th nomination.  Her four competitors have six nominations combined (Dern and Knightley with 2 apiece, and Arquette and Stone each with their first). 
  • Laura Dern’s prior nomination was 23 years ago for Rambling Rose.  Last year her father Bruce Dern was nominated for the first time in 35 years.  Her mother Diann Ladd was also last nominated 23 years ago for Rambling Rose.  If I were Ladd I’d be looking for a really good movie to be a part of this year.  Collectively, the three have seven nominations (Bruce – 2, Diann – 3, Laura – 2), but no wins.
  • Among the acting nominees we have: a superhero (Michael Keaton – Batman); the world’s first consulting detective (Benedict Cumberbatch – Sherlock); a Bond Girl (Rosamund Pike – Die Another Day); and not one, but two Hulks going up against each other in the Best Supporting Actor category (Edward Norton – The Incredible Hulk and Mark Ruffalo – The Avengers); as a bonus that same category also includes J. Jonah Jameson from the real Spider-Man movies (J. K. Simmons).
  • If Rosamund Pike wins Best Actress she will be the first combination Bond Girl and Oscar winner since Halle Berry – who as it happens was in the same Bond film as Pike.  And since Berry was in the Bond film after winning her Oscar, the last and only time someone was a Bond Girl first then won an Oscar was Kim Basinger for L. A. Confidential.  And some hardliners don’t want to count the Bond film Basinger was in (Never Say Never Again) as an “official” Bond film because Broccoli did not produce it, so if Rosamund Pike wins Best Actress she will be the first woman to ever be an official Bond Girl then take home an Oscar for acting.
  • Roger Deakins is nominated for a 12th time for Best Cinematography.  Despite shooting such movies as The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, Skyfall, and many others, he has never won.  He even received two nominations in 2008 for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and No Country for Old Men, but did not win for either.  And since the film he is currently nominated for – Unbroken – is trending downwards right now it doesn’t look like this will be his year, either.
  • Just like last year (and many years) AMPAS swaps out a single nominee from the Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing nominations to try to show that they should remain separate categories, which then allows them to continue to freeze out a Best Stunt Production category.  This year The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is in the Sound Editing category while Whiplash is in the Sound Mixing category.  Last year it was All Is Lost and Inside Llewyn Davis splitting them.

Oscars to Golden Globes observations:

  • Among the ten Golden Globe nominated films four of them did not receive a similar Oscar nomination – Foxcatcher from the Drama category and Pride, Into the Woods, and St. Vincent from the Comedy/Musical category.  However, both winners – Boyhood (Drama) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (Comedy) – were nominated.
  • Among the six acting winners from the Globes – Eddie Redmayne, Michael Keaton, Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, J. K. Simmons, and Patricia Arquette – all received acting nominations, except for Adams.  She was Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical.  As it turns out, none of the five women from that Golden Globes category received an Oscar nomination.
  • Like the Oscars, the Globes only have five nominations for Best Director.  They included David Fincher for Gone Girl and Ava DuVernay for Selma.  AMPAS swapped them out for Bennet Miller (Foxcatcher) and Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game).
  • Only one of the Globes’ five original song nominees received a similar honor from the Oscars – the winner “Glory” from the movie Selma.
  • Across all the Golden Globe film categories the only winner not to receive an Oscar nomination is Amy Adams.

Here is the complete list of nominations in all twenty-four categories.  I will list my picks for all of them just prior to the Oscars:

Best Picture

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

Best Animated Picture

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

Best Foreign Language Picture

Ida
Poland
Leviathan
Russia
Tangerines
Estonia
Timbuktu
Mauritania
Wild Tales
Argentina

Best Documentary

Citizenfour
Finding Vivien Maier
Last Days of Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth
Virunga

Best Actor

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

Best Actress

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

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall
The Judge
Ethan Hawke
Boyhood
Edward Norton
Birdman
Mark Ruffalo
Foxcatcher
J. K. Simmons
Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette
Boyhood
Laura Dern
Wild
Keira Knightley
The Imitation Game
Emma Stone
Birdman
Meryl Streep
Into the Woods

Best Director

Wes Anderson
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alejandro Inarritu
Birdman
Richard Linklater
Boyhood
Bennett Miller
Foxcatcher
Morten Tyldum
The Imitation Game

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman
Boyhood
Foxcatcher
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Nightcrawler

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper
The Imitation Game
Inherent Vice
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

Best Original Song

Lost Stars
Begin Again
Grateful
Beyond the Lights
I’m Not Gonna Miss You
Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me
Everything is Awesome
The Lego Movie
Glory
Selma

Best Original Score

The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Interstellar
Mr. Turner
The Theory of Everything

Best Cinematography

Birdman
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ida
Mr. Turner
Unbroken

Best Editing

American Sniper
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Whiplash

Best Production Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Interstellar
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner

Best Costume Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Inherent Vice
Into the Woods
Maleficent
Mr. Turner

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Foxcatcher
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy

Best Visual Effects

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
Interstellar
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Best Sound Editing

American Sniper
Birdman
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Interstellar
Unbroken

Best Sound Mixing

American Sniper
Birdman
Interstellar
Unbroken
Whiplash

Best Animated Short

The Bigger Picture
The Dam Keeper
Feast
Me and My Moulton
A Single Life

Best Documentary Short

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Joanna
Our Curse
The Reaper
White Earth

Best Live Action Short

Aya
Boogaloo and Graham
Butter Lamp
Parvaneh
The Phone Call

12 comments:

  1. I really hope that wasn't revenge against Roger Ebert, that would be pretty ugly if that's the case, especially now that he's passed away. I also think it's a factor that maybe the Academy prefer to nominate documentaries about world events, since so many english language films are recognized in the main categories.

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    Replies
    1. I certainly wasn't in the room when the group picked the five nominees, but I have no doubt that spoken, or unspoken, this doc was skipped over very deliberately.

      Hoop Dreams wasn't the first time Ebert had run afoul of them. A few years earlier the doc Roger and Me came out. It was a fresh voice on the documentary market. It got people talking. It was entertaining. It made ordinary people interested in documentaries in general - something that anyone who loves docs should appreciate. Did it get an Oscar nom? No. Ebert dug into it and found out that they bypassed it because Michael Moore used a very short clip of a son returning home at the beginning of the film when he talked about returning to his home town. Ebert cried foul.

      The year before that the doc The Thin Blue Line came out. It did such a good job of presenting the evidence in a murder case in the 1970s that it got an innocent man freed from prison after 17 years. It showed how powerful and important documentaries were. Did it get an Oscar nomination? Not a chance. They rejected it because instead of having a talking head reading the facts of the case to us we were shown how the events would have occurred, based on the evidence that was given. Ebert cried foul.

      When Hoop Dreams came out, though, no one could figure out why it had been rejected. It didn't insert a few seconds long clip from another movie. It didn't present re-creations of events. It crossed all its "T"s and dotted all its "i" in regards to qualifying. Siskel and Ebert kept banging the drum, very publicly, to get the Academy to at the very least tell people why it was rejected. Finally, someone from the AMPAS documentary board anonymously revealed the process for picking nominees to a reporter: A few people would sit in a theater for hours and work their way through dozens of potential nominees. If any one of them felt at any point like it wasn't worth watching the rest of the doc he would shine a light around the theater. If no one of the few other people who showed up objected, then the film would be stopped and the next one started. They watched Hoop Dreams for 15 minutes before someone waved a light around, no one objected, and that was the end of it being nominated.

      When Siskel and Ebert found this out they were astonished at how little regard was being given to documentaries by the very organization who was supposed to be doing the most to promote and support them. They publicly embarrassed AMPAS for years before AMPAS finally agreed to change their practice - although it's still not a very inclusive one, at least it's a little more public.

      Here is one shot Ebert took at them after it was first bypassed for a nomination: http://www.rogerebert.com/festivals-and-awards/anatomy-of-a-snub

      Here he is 15 years later still giving them crap about their process: http://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-journal/the-great-american-documentary

      Here's a video compilation that includes Siskel and Ebert talking about the film being passed over: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BmAKtLFpFw

      That's part 2. If you watch Part 1 of that, near the very end they correctly predict that the documentary branch is so out of whack that they might conceivably skip over it, and they therefore hope it gets nominated in the Best Picture category so every Academy member can vote for it instead of the few people on the documentary committee.

      Delete
  2. The Nolanites must be having a collective conniption fit.

    It's not that hard to induce a conniption fit where Dear Leader's fans are concerned. Merely suggest The Dark Knight is a little over-rated and you will automatically be detained by the Re-Programming Committee.

    Surrender! Comply! Assimilate!

    All hail Dear Leader!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the laugh.

      True story: I wrote a positive, but not gushing, review here for The Dark Knight Returns and among the comments I received was an anonymous one that simply said, "Chip is a douche." I left it there out of amusement.

      Delete
    2. The Dark Knight Rises was SOOOO BAD!!! I gave it a few points for Anne Hathaway and a few points for the craziness of the last hour (because Gotham As Urban Madhouse is a common comic book trope) and it still barely got a 5 from me at IMDB.

      I was told I have a heart of coal because I said The Dark Knight is a little over-rated.

      The Nolan cult is out of control.

      Delete
    3. Whenever anyone tries to tell me that The Dark Knight is the best superhero movie ever made I reply that it's not even the best superhero movie released that summer. Iron Man was.

      Does The Dark Knight have a great acting performance from Heath Ledger? Yes, but a single great acting performance does not necessarily equate to a great movie. The plot has holes you could drive a truck through - almost literally.

      SPOILERS FOR THE DARK KNIGHT

      The single best person in the entire city of Gotham to drive the truck transporting the Joker is the Commissioner of Police? And he's so far out in front of whoever number 2 is that the bad guys know he will be the driver, so they have to fake his death so the bad guys won't be expecting him to be the driver? Really?

      Then they shut down all bridges, roads, and tunnels because of a threat from the Joker, even after they checked them out from top to bottom and found nothing, so the only way out of Gotham is by ferry boat. Then the first people they decide to remove from the city of 10 million people are half convicts? Then after all the threats, NOT ONE PERSON even sticks their heads under the decks of the ferries to see if there is any danger? Really? And how did the Joker and his henchmen move those hundreds of loaded 55 gallon drums onto not one, but two public ferries without anyone noticing in the first place? It would have taken several hours.

      Finally - Batman has to take the fall for Two-Face's crimes so the city won't lose hope? Seriously? Let's go with it and stipulate that that's true (even though it's silly.) Now let's think. Why does it have to be Batman that gets blamed? Is there maybe some other maniac running around the city, wreaking havoc, comitting crimes, that Two-Face's could be blamed on? One that would probably even be happy to claim responsibility for them? Let me think.

      END SPOILERS

      Having said all this, I did enjoy The Dark Knight and it's the best of the three Nolan Batman movies, but it's definitely a shut your brain off and eat popcorn kind of movie, and far from being one of the greatest movies of all time.

      Delete
    4. Now you've done it. The Nolan cult will soon be flocking to this thread to explain why those aren't plotholes with a bunch of logical fallacies and lame sophistries so transparent they would make a creationist blush.

      Yeah. The whole thing about Batman taking the blame for Harvey Dent's death is idiotic. And Nolan hasn't made a great film since Memento.

      Delete
    5. I'll go a step further on this--I genuinely prefer Batman Begins to The Dark Knight. The Nolanites can get into a conga line and collectively bite me.

      And I agree that Iron Man was the best superhero movie of that year.

      Delete
    6. @Tony - Memento is my favorite Nolan movie,but I felt Inception was well done,too. I haven't seen Interstellar yet.

      @Steve - Batman Begins was probably the most grounded of the three, so maybe that's why you like it the most.

      Delete
    7. I liked Inception. But I don't think it's a great film by any stretch of the imagination. I've liked a lot of his movies. I even liked The Prestige despite it being horribly contrived and also idiotic.

      I'd forgotten all about Insomnia when I made my earlier comments. I like that one a lot, too. I don't know if I'd call it great though. Better than any of his Batman movies, that's for sure.

      Delete
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