Thursday, January 15, 2015

The 5 Biggest Surprises of the Oscar Nominations

Most who watch the Oscars find their greatest pleasure in judging the outfits worn by the stars, grading the monologue, or joking about the length of the ceremony.  I've always found my greatest pleasure in decrying the snubs and questionable nominations by the Academy.  I was not disappointed this year, as the Academy made several moves that I (nor most others) did not expect. 

Here are the five biggest surprises of this morning's Oscar nominations.

1. Bradley Cooper's Best Actor Nomination
Steve Carell, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Keaton, and Eddie Redmayne were virtual locks for nominations, with only the fifth spot up for grabs.  Conventional wisdom had the fifth nomination going to Jake Gyllenhaal, who was nominated for his role in Nightcrawler by both the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globes, or Timothy Spall for his work in Mr. Turner.  If not one of these two, most Oscar watchers would have guessed David Oyelowo might be able to sneak in for his portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Cooper was barely talked about, yet he managed to sneak in his third consecutive acting nomination, in addition to an additional nomination for producing American Sniper.

2.  The LEGO Movie shut out from Best Animated Feature Film
The LEGO Movie has a 96% Tomatometer score at Rotten Tomatoes and grossed more than $250 million, and was seen by many as the clear favorite to take home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film.  Yet the film failed to receive even a nomination in the category, receiving its sole nomination in the Best Song category.  Two little known films received nominations instead (Song of the Sea and The Tale of Princess Kaguya), common practice for the Academy, but virtually no one saw The LEGO Movie getting shut out.

3. Amy Adams and Jennifer Aniston left out
After her win in the Musical or Comedy category at the Golden Globes for her role in Big Eyes, Adams's hope for her first Oscar were revived.  After the Screen Actors Guild left her off of the ballot in favor of Jennifer Aniston for her work in Cake, her nomination chances were far less certain, but it seemed that one of the two would battle for the nomination.  Instead, both were left off the ballot in favor of Marion Cotillard.  Notably, none of the Golden Globe Musical or Comedy actress nominees were nominated for Oscars, and only Michael Keaton of the Musical or Comedy actor nominees earned an Oscar nod.

4. Whiplash's Big Day
J.K. Simmons is the favorite for the Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category, but it seemed unlikely that Whiplash would get other attention from the Academy.  Instead, the film received five nominations, including the Big Kahuna nomination for Best Picture.  The film has taken home just over $6 million, but this attention from the Academy should help it find a much larger audience.

5. Gillian Flynn Shut Out
Gillian Flynn's adaptation of her own novel Gone Girl was much lauded, with her smart pruning adding suspense to the already impossibly suspenseful story.  The film had the potential to be nominated for its screenplay, cinematography, and leading lady, but only Rosamund Pike was nominated for her star making performance.  The Imitation Game was a lock for a nomination after receiving nominations from the Golden Globes and the Writers Guild Awards, and The Theory of Everything seemed to be a likely candidate as well.  Whiplash was nominated by the WGA in the Original Screenplay category, so its nomination wasn't a huge surprise, and American Sniper seemed like a possibility after its WGA nomination.  Few saw Paul Thomas Anderson having much of a chance for Inherent Vice, especially after it failed to be nominated for either a Golden Globe or a WGA Award (Gone Girl was nominated for both films).  Yet Anderson heard his name called and Flynn did not, much to the dismay of the book's legion of fans.

And the least surprising nomination...

Roger Deakins for Best Cinematography for Unbroken
This is his 12th nomination and third in three years, and it's getting to the point where it's hard to imagine an Oscar ceremony without a Roger Deakins nomination.  Perhaps our greatest living cinematographer, Deakins has yet to take home an Oscar, and it seems unlikely that this will be his year.