The Oscar Warrior: Shocking Nomination Surprises and Snubs!

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The 87th Annual Oscar nominations were announced this morning by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and as usual, it left a lot of mouths ajar, not just because of what movies and performances and technical achievements were nominated but also which ones were completely ignored or forgotten or just considered not up to the Academy’s standards.

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There were a lot of big upsets, but the fact that Christopher Miller and Philip Lord’s animated The LEGO Movie would get nominated for its catchy original song “Everything is Awesome,” but not get a nominations in the animated feature category has left the millions of LEGO fans–who already had to contend with an upset at the Golden Globes–fairly outraged.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a little bit and we probably should look at the overall picture first and then get back to some of the individual categories. As in the past few years, the Academy created a rule that would allow for between five and ten Best Picture nominations and since that rule was created, there have been nine nominations in that category. This year, so many movies seemed to be getting support, some thought that we might actually get our first year with ten Best Picture nominees since the category was first expanded.

Nope! The Academy only named eight films for Best Picture and there were a lot of obvious omissions and yet, one particular movie got into the eight selected despite having been snubbed by all the industry guilds before that.

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There had been a lot of talk lately about how Ava DuVernay’s Selma, which had not been nominated for a single award from the Screen Actors Guild, hadn’t gotten recognized by the Producers (PGA), Directors (DGA) or Writers Guild (WGA). This normally would be a bad sign that the movie just didn’t have the support it needed. Those who had seen the movie, which has received as many positive reviews as some of the other movies in consideration, were starting to lose hope that it would get recognized at the Oscars. While DuVernay didn’t get a nomination for her directing and David Oyelowo was snubbed for his amazing performance as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the movie still received a Best Picture nomination. The only other nomination it received was for its song “Glory.”

Now that’s fairly confounding, but even moreso may be the absence of a thriller that was huge at the box office and had received support from at least three of the guilds – David Fincher’s Gone Girl. Actress Rosamund Pike continued her streak with a nomination in the leading actress category, but that was about it. Many already felt that David Fincher wouldn’t receive his third Oscar nomination but Gillian Flynn’s adaptation of her own novel seemed like a sure thing. It was noticeably missing from the Adapted Screenplay category this morning but also didn’t received a Best Picture nomination despite having support from the WGA and PGA.

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Then there’s the odd case of Foxcatcher, Bennett Miller’s eerie drama starring Channing Tatum, Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo. The movie debuted at the Cannes Film Festival last May (after being delayed from 2013) and it had a lot of critical support… until the critics started handing out awards and mostly ignored it. Ruffalo had been getting the most awards attention for his supporting role, but the movie wasn’t listed among the Critics Choice Awards for Best Picture and Carell was snubbed despite their extended category. Carell was back in the mix with an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of eccentric billionaire John Du Pont and the movie received an Original Screenplay nomination and Bennett Miller even was nominated for his direction—something which few saw coming—and yet Foxcatcher didn’t get a Best Picture nomination. Go figure.

That’s almost unheard of these days with the five directors nominated by the Academy being a good indicator of which movie has the strongest support to win Best Picture. Except that Foxcatcher wasn’t even nominated, making this the inverse of the famous controversy when Argo was nominated for Best Picture (which it won) but director Ben Affleck didn’t receive a nomination. It shouldn’t be too surprising since only directors vote for other directors and the entire Academy votes for Best Picture, but it’s odd to think that other directors with Best Picture nominations weren’t nominated. Like Ava DuVernay for instance.

The biggest boost from the Oscars had to be for Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, which–as luck would have it–opens nationwide tomorrow with sneak previews tonight. Reviews for the movie haven’t been great with 73% on Rotten Tomatoes, compared to much higher numbers for other Best Picture nominees. But the Academy apparently loved the movie, not only including it among their eight Best Picture nominations but also nominating Bradley Cooper for his third Oscar nomination in an incredibly packed Leading Actor category. It also received nominations for its screenplay, editing and for its sound design and mix … and yet, that’s all the support it got with a still-impressive six nominations. Clint Eastwood didn’t receive a nomination for his direction, despite receiving a DGA nomination earlier this week, nor was its cinematography cited, which means it can’t really be considered a serious contender to win Best Picture.

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Getting into some of the acting categories, Jennifer Aniston had been doing a ton of campaigning for her quirky drama Cake (out next week) and had been receiving tons of earlier nominations including a Golden Globe, SAG and Critics Choice nomination. But she was left off the final nominations in favor of previous winner Marion Cotillard, whose movie Two Days, One Night didn’t even make it to the short list for the Foreign Language category. This isn’t the first time that a non-nominated Foreign Language film had received nominations in other categories either. 

Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, which had been receiving a lot of support in the earlier categories, specifically nominations for Jake Gyllenhaal and some of his supporting cast, did not receive an acting nod for Gyllenhaal nor the suspected Best Picture nomination and only received a nod for Gilroy’s Original Screenplay.

Other than that and Bradley Cooper’s nomination, the only other big surprise was that Laura Dern, who many thought early on would get a nomination for her supporting role in Wild… she actually was nominated! The only reason that’s a surprise is because SAG, the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice completely ignored her in their nominations so many people felt that her chance at a second Oscar nomination had passed.

The huge support for Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, which tied Alejandro Iñarritu’s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) with nine nominations each, is only surprising because the movie was released way back in March after premiering at the Berlin International Film Festival. Normally, a movie released so early in the year would already be forgotten, but apparently everyone loved that movie whether they were critics, journalists or in the industry and it would be surprising if it didn’t win one or two Oscars. By comparison, Anderson’s much-lauded Moonrise Kingdom only received one nomination, for its writing.

Now as someone who gave Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash my only 10 out of 10 of the year, I wasn’t even remotely surprised by its Best Picture nomination and it got support in the technical categories, particularly editing and sound mixing. It’s a shame that Damien Chazelle didn’t get nominated for his direction, but at least his screenplay was nominated in the Adapted category despite a last-minute move from the Original category where other groups nominated it.

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Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken has been doing great at the box office, but many already thought it was out of the running for Best Picture and a nomination for its direction, but it still received three technical awards, two in the sound categories and the 12th nomination for the Susan Lucci of the Oscars, cinematographer Roger Deakins.

Another regular Oscar nominee, Alexandre Desplat, had already received six nominations for his film scoring and this year, he doubled down by being nominated twice, for The Imitation Game and The Grand Budapest Hotel (He also scored Jolie’s Unbroken, oddly enough.) One would think that this would be his year to finally win an Oscar, but he’s going up against The Theory of Everything composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, who just won the Golden Globe in the same category, and previous winner Hans Zimmer with his score for Interstellar (which also was honored only in technical categories).

One huge snub that clearly showed the divide between the film industry and film critics was the lack of a nomination for Steve James’ documentary Life Itself, which covered the career and last days of beloved film critic Roger Ebert who passed away in 2013.

The Foreign Language category was fairly straightforward with Pawel Pawlikowsky’s Ida getting a little added support with an unexpected additional nomination for its black and white cinematography.

There were a couple surprises in the Original Song category including Glenn Campbell’s new song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from the doc Glen Campbell… I’ll Be Me

Anyway, going back to that first and possibly biggest snub we mentioned earlier, The LEGO Movie wasn’t nominated as an animated feature, but GKIDS once again scored two nominations for smaller and lesser-seen movies Song of the Sea and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya along with DreamWorks Animation’s Golden Globe-winning How to Train a Dragon 2Disney’s Big Hero 6 and LAIKA’s The Boxtrolls all getting their expected nominations.

THE LEGO MOVIE co-director Philip Lord didn’t seem too phased, as he tweeted his own LEGO Oscar:

Hopefully, Jennifer Aniston, David Fincher and the other “snubees” accepted their lack of a nomination with similar grace and spirit.

The Oscar winners will be announced on Oscar Sunday, February 22.