Thursday, January 15, 2015

Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel lead Oscar nominations

For people like me, much of the movie-going year leads up to two days: Oscar nominations morning and Academy Awards night. Today was the first of the two, and if you were not up in time to watch, well, the announcement was a bit of a strange one. The Academy was all over the place really, showing a lot of love for a number of films, a little love for some, and next to no love for others that had been expected to do well.

First, here are the nominees for Best Picture, if you missed the announcement:

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

My first reaction is that there is not really a clunker in there (full disclosure: I have not seen American Sniper but plan to tonight). There is nothing embarrassing such as Interstellar or Unbroken, though those films showed up in a number of technical categories and deservedly so.

The nomination that stands out the most is the well-deserved recognition for Selma in Best Picture, despite the film missing in virtually every other category. What that means is a number of Academy voters – at least 5 percent per the rules of the nominations process – thought the film overall was the best of the year, but on the micro-level, no one aspect of the production stood out as best or in the top five. It is an odd bit of logic, to say the least. Ava DuVernay missing out on a Best Director nomination for Selma is my biggest disappointment of the morning.

On the flipside of the odd Selma nomination is the odd Foxcatcher omission. Foxcatcher picked up nominations in key categories such as Best Director for Bennett Miller, Best Actor for Steve Carrell, Best Supporting Actor for Mark Ruffalo, and Best Original Screenplay for E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, as well as a Best Make-up nod. However, it missed in the top category. This is the reverse of the Selma situation, meaning Academy members loved the individual parts of Foxcatcher but did not name it their favorite film of the year.

Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel lead the list with nine nominations each (click here to go to the Academy website to check out the full list), while The Imitation Game is close behind with eight. Little surprise there as all three of these films are technical marvels, though The Grand Budapest Hotel got there with no acting nominations, which is unusual.

My favorite nominations of the morning came in the Best Foreign Film category, where my No. 1 movie of the year, Leviathan, was chosen among the nominees, and in the Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Costume categories, where the otherwise-ignored Inherent Vice pulled nominations. I am also delighted by Marion Cotillard’s Best Actress nomination for Two Days, One Night and by Dan Gilroy’s Best Original Screenplay nomination for Nightcrawler.

We have about six weeks to go to the Academy Awards. Right now, Boyhood is your presumed frontrunner, having won the Golden Globe for best drama, as well as a mountain of critics’ awards. Little about this morning’s announcement did anything to change that as Richard Linklater’s film came away with a healthy haul of nominations, chalking up six. Check back here later for more in-depth analysis on the nominations and follow along throughout the season as we make our way to the big night.

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