Well, the Oscar nominations are in and Twitter has exploded with the usual flurry of WTF?s, OMG!s and TOLDJA!s (perhaps we follow the wrong people). And while in general it seems like a lot of the last-minute trend predictions went in the right direction (Redford went very cool for “All is Lost,” “Inside Llewyn Davis” too, though perhaps not quite icy enough to predict a near-total shut-out), in amongst the various entirely expected nominations there were a fair number of films and performances we didn’t expect to see, and a few we had to double check we didn’t (you can read our full predictions here to see how right and wrong we were).
Expect this conversation to motor on over the coming days and weeks, but here’s our first rundown of the snubs, shocks and even those pleasant surprises that were announced to the bleary-eyed few early this morning, by the President of AMPAS and her lovely assistant Chris Hemsworth who gets our nomination for Best Looking Rumble-Voiced Man Dressed In A Snazzy Suit At 5am.
Snubs & Shocks:
“Saving Mr. Banks” & “The Butler”
Not a great year for the middlebrow, this one. “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” which was at one time thought to be a sure-fire Academy favorite, didn’t get a single nomination, despite having had three SAG nominations—its lack of love from the other guilds clearly showed the way on this one, although even Oprah Winfrey missing out was a little bit of a surprise. You wouldn’t want to be her assistant right now. More of an upset was “Saving Mr. Banks,” which at one point had been tipped by some not just as a surefire Best Picture nominee, but even a possible winner. As it turned out, the film, a warm crowd-pleaser that fit with the movies-about-movies narrative that proved so useful for “The Artist” and “Argo,” picked up only a single nomination, for Thomas Newman’s score.
“Inside Llewyn Davis”
Not so much a shock, because we’d felt the air coming out of this one as soon as it started to screen: Academy members just didn’t seem to respond to a film about mediocrity and failure. But given that even the similarly unfriendly “A Serious Man” was a nominee for Best Picture, it still stood an outside chance. In fact, the film did even worse than we were anticipating: the Coens and lead Oscar Isaac were snubbed, and it even missed out on a Screenplay nod, a category in which the Coens have been nominated six times (and won twice). At least it got two nominations, for Cinematography and Sound Mixing, although that’s the same number as critical and commercial disaster “The Lone Ranger.”
Paul Greengrass & Spike Jonze
In fairness, the Best Director category was brutally tough this year, so someone was always going to be left off. It’s just a shame that it was Paul Greengrass and Spike Jonze, who did some of the strongest work of the year. Interestingly, both are prior nominees, and both for films that didn’t get Best Picture nominations (“United 93” for Greengrass, “Being John Malkovich” for Jonze). This time it was the reverse, and the film got Best Picture nods without the filmmakers picking them up. After a couple of years when people like Terrence Malick and Michael Haneke were nominees, the director’s branch played it safer this time around.
There was a point at which it seemed that, after over a decade of missing out (his last nod was for “Cast Away”), Tom Hanks would come away with two Oscar nominations this year, with both his performances in “Captain Phillips” and “Saving Mr Banks” getting buzz. But there was always going to be blood on the floor in the Best Actor race (Oscar Isaac and Robert Redford also missed out, which many had predicted—the latter might have been a threat to win if he’d bothered campaigning, but seemed mostly uninterested in the whole circus), and Hanks was the most surprising and high-profile casualty. It’s a particular shame, because the film sees him give his best performance in a long time.
One of the biggest shocks of the day came for Hanks’ “Saving Mr Banks” co-star Emma Thompson—even before the film started screening, people assumed that her performance as P.L. Travers would be a factor in the race, and she cropped up in most of the precursor awards. But the Academy clearly didn’t fall for the movie, and rather than the either/or Amy Adams/Meryl Streep scenario most were expecting, both made it in at the expense of Thompson.
Daniel Brühl & James Gandolfini
Supporting actor was a category more in flux than most, but with late-breaking contenders Jonah Hill and Bradley Cooper making the cut, it pushed out some of the early favorites, in the case of “Rush” star Daniel Brühl and the late James Gandolfini for “Enough Said.” The former had a lot of early buzz for playing racing driver Niki Lauda, flagged, then got a second wind with an SAG nomination, but ultimately failed to miss the cut here (indeed, the film picked up no nominations at all). Meanwhile, Gandolfini, also an SAG nominee, is a doubly sad absence—he only has one remaining performance in the can, for Michael Roskam’s thriller “The Drop” (formerly known as “Animal Rescue”). But posthumous nominations are rarer than you might think (Heath Ledger’s is very much the outlier), and sadly it didn’t materialize.
“12 Years A Slave” In Cinematography
Sean Bobbitt’s proven himself to be one of the best DoPs working for some time, but sadly, the Academy hasn’t worked that out yet. Despite his work on “12 Years a Slave” being pretty stunning, the film missed out on a cinematography nomination, the Academy apparently being more wowed by the ‘look, it’s in black-and-white!’ visuals of “Nebraska.” Bobbitt’ll surely get in for something else another year, but it’s a touch worrying for the movie: it got nine nominations, but missed out here and in the sound and music categories. Is that a sign that it doesn’t have the wide-ranging support to win Best Picture?
My big error in predictions this year was assuming that “The Wolf of Wall Street” would mostly be passed over, but Scorsese’s film had enough love from the Academy’s less shockable members that it picked up nods in Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor, among a total of five. But more surprising was the omission of Scorsese’s longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker: for every Scorsese picture since the turn of the millennium, bar “Shutter Island,” she’s picked up an Oscar nod, and won twice for “The Departed” and “The Aviator.” This time, the Academy decided that “Dallas Buyers Club” was better put-together…
Given that it was a weak year for the category, we always figured that, despite lukewarm reception, Pixar’s “Monsters University” would make the cut, but it was pushed out by tiny French animation “Ernest & Celestine” and blockbuster sequel “Despicable Me 2” (which also outgrossed the Pixar effort by some margin). The studio once dominated the category—and in fairness, won last year for “Brave”—but having missed out on a nod for “Cars 2” two years ago as well, the omission here continues to add to the narrative that the animation titans are in something of a creative crisis.
“Stories We Tell” & “Blackfish”
The documentary category’s always a little unpredictable, and we already warned that one of the critical favorites risked missing out. It came to pass, as well—while “The Act Of Killing” made the cut, Sarah Polley’s lovely personal film “Stories We Tell” missed out. More unexpected was that “Blackfish,” one of the most successful non-fiction films of the year, also failed to pick up a nomination. But then, it’s not a very good film, so we’re not as upset about that one.
Hans Zimmer & Alex Ebert
At least the shocks in the score category were sort of egalitarian: first-time film composer Alex Ebert missed out for his work on “All Is Lost,” despite winning the Golden Globe this week, but veteran Hans Zimmer, probably the best-known composer in the world, also missed out, despite having a number of worthy possibilities, including “12 Years a Slave” (which most figured would be the one to make it), “Rush,” “The Lone Ranger” and “Man Of Steel.” In the former case, it’s likely that the work was too subtle, or that the branch didn’t see the movie, in the latter, his votes may have been split too far.
“Philomena” & “Her”
Surprises might not be the right word here—we did predict these, after all. But there were plenty of skeptics out there that didn’t buy that Stephen Frears’ little British charmer and Spike Jonze’s techno-romance would make the Best Picture cut. But once Harvey Weinstein finally got his weight behind the former (having ummed and aahed a bit), Academy voters started to swoon for it, while fears that the older Oscar demographic wouldn’t fall for a film that dealt with newfangled technology ultimately proved unfounded (although Jonze did miss out in Best Director).
Again, we will stop blowing our own trumpet in a minute, but this was another one that we did predict, whereas very few prognosticators did. In fact, we called that a David O. Russell film, for a second year in a row, would manage to get a nod in every acting category (the last film to do so before “Silver Linings Playbook” was Warren Beatty’s “Reds” in 1981). But even we were a little bit shocked to see this come to pass: Bale had had so little buzz that most ranked DiCaprio, Redford and even Forest Whitaker above him as possibilities. Instead, having won the Oscar for his supporting role in “The Fighter” three years ago, the “Dark Knight” star got his first Best Actor nod.
If, when you first saw Jonah Hill—most likely with a brief, oddball cameo in “The 40 Year Old Virgin”—someone had told that a decade later, that same performer would be a two-time Oscar nominee, you’d likely have tried to have them committed. But here we are, and after a nod for “Moneyball” two years back, Hill’s got his second. He received a lot of buzz when the film first screened, which died down a bit after he was skipped over by most precursors, but the comedy actor came through at the last. And for all the muttering, both nominations are thoroughly deserved, in our opinion.
A month or two back, the chance of Sally Hawkins getting a nomination for “Blue Jasmine” seemed so remote that we included her on our list of For Your Consideration nominees, who we’d like to see happen, but were unlikely. Fortunately, Hawkins then got a second wind with BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations, and that followed through with a nomination today, which we’re thoroughly delighted with. We like to think it’s the Academy’s mea culpa for not nominating the British actress for “Happy-Go-Lucky” last year.
“The Grandmaster,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Her” in the technical categories
There’s always a film with some surprising strengths in the below-the-line awards, and this year saw three of them that were particularly notable. Remarkably, no Wong Kar-Wai film had ever been nominated for an Oscar before this year, but while it didn’t make the foreign language cut, it received surprise nominations in Cinematography and Costume Design—proof of the power of the union of Harvey Weinstein and Megan Ellison. Meanwhile, Spike Jonze’s “Her” picked up a production design nomination for its subtle and brilliantly achieved art direction, a rare case of a near-contemporary film cracking the category (“Inception” was the last, though had more expansive fantasy sequences, before that it was “The Birdcage” and “Romeo + Juliet” in 1996). Finally, “Dallas Buyers Club,” which many weren’t even counting as a Best Picture nominee until a few weeks ago, picked up six nominations (tied for fourth place with “Captain Phillips” and “Nebraska”), including surprise nods for Best Editing and Best Make-Up and Hairstyling. That suggests a wide range of support that could make the film a dark horse for a Best Picture upset.
Arcade Fire & Alexandre Desplat
It wasn’t the strongest year for Best Song, but at least the Academy used the opportunity to make a bolder choice; while Hans Zimmer was absent, William Butler of Arcade Fire and strings supremo Owen Pallett (also known as Final Fantasy) were nominated for their lovely score for Spike Jonze’s “Her,” a forward thinking move that makes up for Alex Ebert missing out. Less trendy, but perhaps more surprising was a nomination for Alexandre Desplat’s music for “Philomena.” Desplat is wonderful, and it’s shocking that he’s never won an Oscar, but “Philomena” was far from his best work.
“Alone Yet Not Alone”
Certainly the nomination this year that not a single person would have predicted, and the one that caused whiplash-inducing double-takes on its announcement, is this faith-based movie about a German immigrant family during the French and Indian war. Almost no one had heard of the film, and no one imagined that its title song, performed by quadriplegic evangelical Christian author Joni Eareckson Tada would be an Oscar nominee, and yet here it is, destined to be a question in movie trivia quizzes for ever more. Watch/listen below.