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Oscar Voters Go Classy, Small, Indie, But Will Anyone Watch?

Oscar Voters Go Classy, Small, Indie, But Will Anyone Watch?

Academy execs are breathing a sigh of relief as Clint Eastwood came through with six nominations for populist Iraq war movie “American Sniper” for the February 22 Oscar telecast. Why? Most of the Oscar nominations in 24 categories announced Thursday morning are for small, independent movies, and picky Academy voters, choosing five candidates on their ballots, wound up with only eight Best Picture slots. There have been nine in recent years.

Studio specialty division Fox Searchlight’s “Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” led the way with nine nominations each. Weinstein Co.’s “Imitation Game” had eight, followed by IFC’s first Best Picture contender “Boyhood” with six and Sony Pictures Classics’ “Foxcatcher” and “Whiplash” and Universal specialty arm Focus Features’ “The Theory of Everything” (Working Title) with five. Ava DuVernay’s indie-financed $20-million “Selma” eked out two nominations, for “Best Song “Glory” and Best Picture. The Academy directors branch, notorious for going their own way, went with “Foxcatcher”‘s Bennett Miller over DuVernay or Eastwood, but “American Sniper” landed in the Best Picture race and the admired murder drama “Foxcatcher” did not. 

The Academy voters went classy, granting just one nomination each for edgy hit thrillers from David Fincher (“Gone Girl,” Best Actress, Rosamund Pike) and Dan Gilroy (“Nightcrawler,” Original Screenplay). They chose Studio Ghibli’s 2D “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” and GKIDS’ “Song of the Sea” over noisy animated hit “The LEGO Movie,” from two animation outsiders (Phil Lord and Chris Miller), who had to settle for Best Song (“Everything is Awesome”). (@philiplord tweeted: “It’s OK. Made my own!”, see below.) And the Academy accorded Poland’s luminous foreign language nominee “Ida” a cinematography nomination–the 11th for black-and-white photography since 1967.

The actors branch favored French thespian Marion Cotillard (“Two Days, One Night”) over TV comedienne Jennifer Aniston’s bid for dramatic cred in “Cake,” but rewarded comedian Steve Carell’s dramatic performance in “Foxcatcher” over Jake Gyllenhaal’s creepy videographer in “Nightcrawler.” They also chose Bradley Cooper’s transformative performance in “American Sniper,” which marks his third consecutive nomination. (Clearly, winning raves on Broadway for “The Elephant Man” didn’t hurt.) And they picked Laura Dern’s loving mom in “Wild” over Rene Russo’s venal TV producer in “Nightcrawler.” For the record books, Meryl Streep landed her 19th Oscar nomination for warbling Stephen Sondheim in Christmas hit “Into the Woods.” 

The documentary branch said yes to two films about photography, Wim Wenders’ and Juliano Salgado’s stunning “The Salt of the Earth” and “Finding Vivian Maier,” directed by the late Gene Siskel’s nephew, Charlie Siskel (with John Maloof), but denied Steve James’ well-liked Roger Ebert documentary “Life Itself” a slot, along with popular “Keep on Keepin’ On,” from newcomer Alan Hicks. On the foreign side, Sweden’s chilly “Force Majeure” was edged out by heart-tugger “Tangerines” from Estonia. 

Sure, grabbing technical nominations were Chris Nolan blockbuster “Interstellar” (five) and Angelina Jolie’s Christmas hit “Unbroken” (three), but touting cinematographer Roger Deakins’ 12th nomination (with no wins) won’t sell global moviegoers on watching the big show. The biggest hits of the year are relegated to vying for Best VFX: “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Interstellar” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”   

February 22 could be the least-watched Oscar show in years, no matter how hard energetic new host Neil Patrick Harris and his musically gifted producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron try to dazzle viewers worldwide — having the five best songs performed on the show is a start. Viewers come to see their favorite films– from “Argo,” “Life of Pi” and “Gravity” to “The Lord of the Rings,” “Titanic” and “Avatar”– vie for Best Picture. 

The list of nominations for the 87th Academy Awards is here and below:

Performance by an actor in a leading role

  • Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher”
  • Bradley Cooper in “American Sniper”
  • Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game”
  • Michael Keaton in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
  • Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything”

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

  • Robert Duvall in “The Judge”
  • Ethan Hawke in “Boyhood”
  • Edward Norton in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
  • Mark Ruffalo in “Foxcatcher”
  • J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash”

Performance by an actress in a leading role

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

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

  • Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood”
  • Laura Dern in “Wild”
  • Keira Knightley in “The Imitation Game”
  • Emma Stone in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
  • Meryl Streep in “Into the Woods”

Best animated feature film of the year

  • “Big Hero 6” Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli
  • “The Boxtrolls” Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable and Travis Knight
  • “How to Train Your Dragon 2” Dean DeBlois and Bonnie Arnold
  • “Song of the Sea” Tomm Moore and Paul Young
  • “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” Isao Takahata and Yoshiaki Nishimura

Achievement in cinematography

  • “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Emmanuel Lubezki
  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Robert Yeoman
  • “Ida” Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski
  • “Mr. Turner” Dick Pope
  • “Unbroken” Roger Deakins

Achievement in costume design

  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Milena Canonero
  • “Inherent Vice” Mark Bridges
  • “Into the Woods” Colleen Atwood
  • “Maleficent” Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive
  • “Mr. Turner” Jacqueline Durran

Achievement in directing

  • “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Alejandro G. Iñárritu
  • “Boyhood” Richard Linklater
  • “Foxcatcher” Bennett Miller
  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Wes Anderson
  • “The Imitation Game” Morten Tyldum

Best documentary feature

  • “CitizenFour” Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky
  • “Finding Vivian Maier” John Maloof and Charlie Siskel
  • “Last Days in Vietnam” Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester
  • “The Salt of the Earth” Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and David Rosier
  • “Virunga” Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara

Best documentary short subject

  • “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry
  • “Joanna” Aneta Kopacz
  • “Our Curse” Tomasz Sliwinski and Maciej Slesicki
  • “The Reaper (La Parka)” Gabriel Serra Arguello
  • “White Earth” J. Christian Jensen

Achievement in film editing

  • “American Sniper” Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach
  • “Boyhood” Sandra Adair
  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Barney Pilling
  • “The Imitation Game” William Goldenberg
  • “Whiplash” Tom Cross

Best foreign language film of the year

  • “Ida” Poland
  • “Leviathan” Russia
  • “Tangerines” Estonia
  • “Timbuktu” Mauritania
  • “Wild Tales” Argentina

Achievement in makeup and hairstyling

  • “Foxcatcher” Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard
  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier
  • “Guardians of the Galaxy” Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Alexandre Desplat
  • “The Imitation Game” Alexandre Desplat
  • “Interstellar” Hans Zimmer
  • “Mr. Turner” Gary Yershon
  • “The Theory of Everything” Jóhann Jóhannsson

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

  • “Everything Is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie”
    Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson
  • “Glory” from “Selma”
    Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn
  • “Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights”
    Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
  • “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from “Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me”
    Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond
  • “Lost Stars” from “Begin Again”
    Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois

Best motion picture of the year

  • “American Sniper” Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan, Producers
  • “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole, Producers
  • “Boyhood” Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland, Producers
  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson, Producers
  • “The Imitation Game” Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman, Producers
  • “Selma” Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Producers
  • “The Theory of Everything” Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten, Producers
  • “Whiplash” Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster, Producers

Achievement in production design

  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
  • “The Imitation Game” Production Design: Maria Djurkovic; Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald
  • “Interstellar” Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
  • “Into the Woods” Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
  • “Mr. Turner” Production Design: Suzie Davies; Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts

Best animated short film

  • “The Bigger Picture” Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees
  • “The Dam Keeper” Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi
  • “Feast” Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed
  • “Me and My Moulton” Torill Kove
  • “A Single Life” Joris Oprins

Best live action short film

  • “Aya” Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis
  • “Boogaloo and Graham” Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney
  • “Butter Lamp (La Lampe Au Beurre De Yak)” Hu Wei and Julien Féret
  • “Parvaneh” Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger
  • “The Phone Call” Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

Achievement in sound editing

  • “American Sniper” Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
  • “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Martín Hernández and Aaron Glascock
  • “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” Brent Burge and Jason Canovas
  • “Interstellar” Richard King
  • “Unbroken” Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro

Achievement in sound mixing

  • “American Sniper” John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin
  • “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga
  • “Interstellar” Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten
  • “Unbroken” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee
  • “Whiplash” Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

Achievement in visual effects

  • “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick
  • “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist
  • “Guardians of the Galaxy” Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould
  • “Interstellar” Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher
  • “X-Men: Days of Future Past” Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

Adapted screenplay

  • “American Sniper” Written by Jason Hall
  • “The Imitation Game” Written by Graham Moore
  • “Inherent Vice” Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson
  • “The Theory of Everything” Screenplay by Anthony McCarten
  • “Whiplash” Written by Damien Chazelle

Original screenplay

  • “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo
  • “Boyhood” Written by Richard Linklater
  • “Foxcatcher” Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness
  • “Nightcrawler” Written by Dan Gilroy

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