Jan. 16th, 2014

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It's that time again. The nominations for the 2014 Oscars were announced this morning, and boy do I have a lot to say about them. Let's jump right in with the Best Picture nominees. No big out-of-left-field "Amour" level surprises, but "Philomena" and "Dallas Buyers Club" were relative long shots that I'm glad to see made it into contention. Meanwhile, "Saving Mr. Banks" and "Inside Llewyn Davis" not only didn't make the list, but failed to secure any major nominations. "Blue is the Warmest Color," "The Butler," "Rush," and "Fruitvale Station" were totally shut out.

Going by the Best Director nominations, the frontrunners here are "12 Years a Slave," "American Hustle," "Gravity," "Nebraska," and "The Wolf of Wall Street." That means that in spite of the controversy, Martin Scorsese's picture still won over a good chunk of the Academy, and "Captain Phillips" has lost most of its steam since October. "Nebraska" seems like a bit of an oddball because of its low profile, but the Academy has been very receptive to Alexander Payne's work, and we have to remember the older skewing age of the voters here. "12 Years a Slave" looks like the leader of the pack at the moment, and "American Hustle" is probably due for some backlash.

On to the acting categories, and what on earth is Christian Bale doing in the Best Actor category over Tom Hanks in "Captain Phillips" and Robert Redford in "All is Lost"? Or Oscar Isaac for "Inside Llewyn Davis" or Joaquin Phoenix for "Her"? Considering how competitive the category is this year, Bale's nod is a weird one. It feels like a coattail nomination that only happened because of the outsized support for "American Hustle." In Best Actress, there is a lamentable lack of Emma Thompson, and honestly a few too many of the same faces. I was hoping to see Brie Larson, Greta Gerwig, Julie Delpy, or Adèle Exarchopoulos steal away a slot from Meryl Streep or Sandra Bullock.

In supporting, I think I'd find Jonah Hill's second Academy Award nomination a more palatable prospect if it weren't for the fact that he probably bumped out Daniel Brühl for "Rush." Bradley Cooper also didn't add much to "American Hustle," making this an oddly weak category this year. On the Supporting Actress side, I can't say I'm too upset about the Oprah snub. Sally Hawkins in "Blue Jasmine," the underdog, gave the better performance. The weak link here is Julia Roberts, who was perfectly fine in "August: Osage County," but there were lots of more interesting work to choose from - Sarah Paulson, Lea Seydoux, Margot Robbie, and Scarlett Johanssen, for instance.

The writing categories reveal some interesting alternates. There's "Before Midnight" in Adapted Screenplay and "Blue Jasmine" in Original Screenplay, with "Gravity" the odd one out. And then there's Editing, which is usually one of the major predictors of awards glory. Of the five frontrunners, "The Wolf of Wall Street" was called out for some dodgy editing choices and doesn't appear here. Neither does "Nebraska." Instead, "Captain Phillips" and "Dallas Buyers Club" got the nods. The Cinematography category features a lot of interesting choices: "Inside Llewyn Davis," "The Grandmaster," and "Prisoners" join frontrunners "Nebraska" and "Gravity," though I think you could have made a good case for "12 Years a Slave" and "Captain Phillips" too.

On to the smaller categories. The nominations for Best Animated Feature aren't a surprise to anyone who's been following the race for a while, but I think "Monster University" should have gotten a spot over "Despicable Me 2" and "The Croods." And despite being the most talked-about documentary of the year, "Blackfish" didn't show up this morning in Best Documentary Feature. The Foreign Language Film category came out looking pretty toothless - what happened to "The Grandmaster"? How did "Wadjda" and "The Past" not even make the shortlist? "Blue is the Warmest Color" and "Like Father Like Son" really should have been in the running, and it's a shame they weren't submitted.

Finally some odds and ends. "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" picked up three nods in the Sound and Visual Effects categories. The much maligned "The Lone Ranger" picked up two for Makeup and Hairstyling and Visual Effects. "The Great Gatsby" got two for Production Design and Costume Design. Current box office champ "Lone Survivor" appears in both of the Sound categories. "Inside Llewyn Davis" is oddly missing from Best Song, despite getting so much love for its soundtrack, though it did pick up a nomination for Sound Mixing. I had to look up one of the other Song nominees, "Alone Yet Not Alone," which is is a super obscure Christian evangelist indie.

And scoring one nomination apiece are "Saving Mr. Banks," (Score) "All is Lost," (Sound Editing) "The Invisible Woman," (Costume) "The Book Thief," (Score) "Mandela Long Walk to Freedom," (Song), "Iron Man 3," (Effects) "Star Trek Into Darkness (Effects)

... and "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" for Makeup and Hairstyling. Heh.
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