Alongside the predictable successes of Boyhood, Birdman and the other top films of the past year, there were a handful of notable absences and surprise inclusions, from a toy-based animation to the Dardennes’ latest drama.
Conventional wisdom says that the Best Picture winner for this year is pretty sewn up. It doesn’t seem that any film has the ability to catch Richard Linklater’s slice-of-life drama Boyhood.
However, the rest of the category was very much up in the air until the nominations announced. Only eight films are vying for the statuette this year, which is the lowest number since the category was expanded in 2010.
Bennett Miller’s chilly drama Foxcatcher – which picked up five other nominations – is notable by its absence, particularly given Miller’s nomination for Best Director and its success in the acting categories for stars Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo.
The real-life drama is a baffling exclusion given its critical success and its appeal across the other main categories.
Also missing was Angelina Jolie’s war drama Unbroken, which was snubbed almost completely, with the exception of Roger Deakins’ nod for Best Cinematography and a few technical categories. The film has really lost momentum in the wake of poisonous reviews, tossing it aside as nothing more than a film “embalmed in its own nobility”.
Thankfully, the Academy found room in its Best Picture field for Damien Chazelle’s blistering Whiplash – released in UK cinemas tomorrow – which is an incredibly special piece of work. JK Simmons is the frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor and it’s unfortunate that there was no room for Chazelle in the Director field.
He is, however, nominated for his script in the Adapted Screenplay category, which also found room for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Pynchon adaptation Inherent Vice.
The Screenplay categories also included Dan Gilroy’s script for Nightcrawler – a terrifically bleak drama about the morality of crime reporting that should really have secured a Best Picture nomination. Its star, Jake Gyllenhaal, is the most glaring omission from the crowded Best Actor field. Gyllenhaal is nothing short of perfect in Nightcrawler in a chilling, sociopathic performance that should have been a real awards contender.
This year’s incredibly competitive Best Actor category also left no room for The Grand Budapest Hotel’s eccentric star Ralph Fiennes or Timothy Spall’s terrific display in the otherwise rather sluggish Mr Turner, which was also snubbed at the Golden Globes 2015.
Perhaps the most notable absence from Best Actor, though, is David Oyelowo – star of Selma. That film – which opens in the UK on 6th February – was snubbed in several major categories, despite its nod for Best Picture. In particular, the exclusion of Ava DuVernay from Best Director is making waves amongst those taking exception to the lack of diversity in this year’s nominations, which feature a disproportionate number of white male nominees.
Over in the Best Actress category, Jennifer Aniston’s widely-tipped turn in Cake was snubbed in favour of Marion Cotillard’s performance in Dardenne drama Two Days, One Night.
There was a well-deserved nomination for Rosamund Pike’s breakout portrayal of kidnap victim Amy Dunne in Gone Girl – which was depressingly absent from any of the other major categories, including Best Adapted Screenplay, where it stood a real chance.
In perhaps the most shocking oversight of 2014, The Lego Movie missed out on a spot in the Best Animated Feature category. Whilst ‘Everything is Awesome’ is nominated for Best Original Song, it’s awful that the Academy’s animation branch has chosen to ignore what is without doubt the smartest, most inventive, children’s film in years.
However, the worst snub of the Oscars 2015 nominations occurred in the Best Documentary category. Steve James’ beautifully measured Life Itself, which depicts the life of film critic Roger Ebert, is essential viewing for anyone with an interest in film. It’s both bizarre and troubling that this heartfelt, joyous film isn’t getting awards recognition.
Whatever happens at the Oscars 2015, it’s going to be a ceremony that rewards some truly terrific films. But just as is the case every year, it’s often the films that aren’t there that stick in the mind even more.
What do you think of the nominations for Oscars 2015? Who would you have nominated over the Academy’s choices? Let me know in the comments section.