Earlier today, with all eyes on Hollywood (or probably just on Chris Hemsworth reading the names), the final nominations were announced for the 86th Academy Awards. As with any year, there were a fair share of locks, snubs, and surprises. Back on Tuesday, I talked the talk and laid out my predictions for the nominations in the eight major categories of Best Picture, Best Director, both lead acting, both supporting acting, and both screenplay categories.
I think I did extremely well prognosticating. In the eight major categories, out of 41 possible nominees, I was correct on 36 of them. In two categories, I was a perfect 5-for-5 and I just missed on a few predicted surprises from the "dark horses" I listed Tuesday that ended up coming true as nominees. I will save my full Oscar predictions for a special series of editorials that will seek to predict every single winner in every category. The published closer to the March 2nd awards show. In the meantime, let's take a look and unpack some of the trends and surprises in this morning's nominations.
1. THE BEST PICTURE FIELD-- I've said it before and I will say it again. I hate this relatively new bright idea of having up to ten nominees for Best Picture. It doesn't "spread the wealth" or spotlight little movies that normally wouldn't get attention. It waters down the field, the importance of the winner, and the honor to be nominated. Easily half of this field doesn't belong. I'll get into this more with my full predictions next month, but names like "Nebraska," "Philomena," and even "Captain Phillips" don't belong with the other contenders. Stick to five like every other category. Judging by the nominations elsewhere, the real top 5 would be "12 Years a Slave," "Her," "American Hustle," "Gravity," and "The Wolf of Wall Street."
2. BEST ACTRESS SNUBS-- One of the biggest snubs was the omission of Emma Thompson's performance from "Saving Mr. Banks." I, like many, thought she was great and I figured she would be a shoe-in for the final five, but she lost traction next to "American Hustle" bandwagon for Amy Adams and the inclusion of Judi Dench for "Philomena." She's arguably the biggest name female snub.
3. BEST ACTOR SNUBS-- A lot of people this morning are screaming Tom Hanks' name for being snubbed for Best Actor in "Captain Phillips." As I mentioned on Tuesday, this was a loaded category and someone was going to get left off. It was very likely that the people left would be Oscar winners too. Christian Bale, riding the "American Hustle" wave, snuck into a spot that could have went to Hanks or even few other names. Robert Redford, a member of Hollywood royalty, was left off for "All Is Lost." The very same happened to Joaquin Phoenix for "Her." Personally, I find both Redford and Phoenix bigger snubs than Hanks, but, again, this is a loaded field. If I was voting, Bale and Dern don't get a shot over Redford and Phoenix. The other guys who seem missing in the conversation are Idris Elba from "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" and Oscar Isaac from "Inside Llewyn Davis." Speaking of that latter film...
4. HAS THE LUSTER WORN OFF OF THE COEN BROTHERS?-- Normally, the team of Ethan and Joel Coen, two previous Oscar winners and a pair of industry favorites, are automatic Oscar nominees when they make a halfway decent movie. Normally, they have the Midas touch. A ton of critics and people absolutely love "Inside Llewyn Davis." I wasn't one of them, but "Inside Llewyn Davis" was surprisingly completely shut out of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actor for Isaac. Even worse, for a movie being revered for its music, its score and all of its songs were shut out too. Ouch. I guess the girls won't get to see Justin Timberlake on Oscar night. That's why I ask the question about luster. Have the folk music hipsters ruined the Coen brothers? Are the old folks of the Academy stating that with so many snubs?
5. SPEAKING OF MUSIC, THERE WERE LOTS OF SNUBS IN BOTH CATEGORIES-- We're seeing more and more each year that the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards are on different wavelengths. For example, many of the nominees and winners from the Golden Globe music categories aren't making the Oscar field. Original Score winner Alex Ebert for "All Is Lost," a win that was a modest surprise at the Globes, didn't even get nominated for the Oscar in the same category, where Arcade Fire's excellent work was ignored by the Globes, but honored by the Academy. Hans Zimmer, an overlooked master who has never won an Oscar, had two stellar scores this year ("Man of Steel" and "12 Years a Slave"). Both were snubbed. I already mentioned the same music shutout for "Inside Llewyn Davis." Also, Coldplay's global popularity and the huge popularity of the "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" couldn't get its original end credits song into the Oscar competition. The Academy went for U2, the Golden Globe winner, instead for their work from "Mandella: Long Walk to Freedom."
6. THE ACADEMY REALLY LIKES EVERYTHING ALEXANDER PAYNE TOUCHES.-- I was a big fan two years ago for "The Descendants" and named it my top movie of 2011. It was Payne's first film since "Sideways" and it was showered with praise. Even with a substandard and lesser effort, that being "Nebraska," a meandering bore of a film, the Academy loves Payne. The film's screenplay and two senior actors (Bruce Dern and June Squibb) were nominated as well as Payne himself for Best Director. From a trendy standpoint, he may be trumping the Coen brothers for the preferred Hollywood master of quirk.
7. AS EXPECTED, "GRAVITY" RAKES IN THE TECHNICAL AWARD NOMINATIONS (AND, SOON, THE WINS TOO).-- "Gravity," in total, has ten nominations, making like "Life of Pi" last year and "Hugo" before that as a Best Picture contender with serious achievements in technical categories and not just acting. Watch it clean house with wins in those areas and be the most honored movie of the night on March 2nd in total awards, even without winning Best Picture.
8. WE NOW HAVE TO SAY THE WORDS "TWO-TIME ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE JONAH HILL,"-- Remember those words the next time "The Sitter" shows up on cable or you pop in that DVD of "Superbad." In a duel of "it" guy comedians, Hill from "The Wolf of Wall Street" bested a push from his real-life buddy James Franco in "Spring Breakers" to earn his second Best Supporting Actor nomination in three years, following up his nod from "Moneyball." While Hill was as wild and out-there as Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Wolf of Wall Street," I think the academy missed a chance to honor the late James Gandolfini for "Enough Said" instead.
9. ALONG THE SAME LINES, WE NOW HAVE TO SAY "THE ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATED FILM 'JACKASS PRESENTS: BAD GRANDPA.'"-- In a shocker of a nomination that likely got a few giggles even among the press present covering the event, we live in a world where "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" is an Oscar-nominated film....for Best Hairstying and Makeup. Don't get me wrong. The folks there did a masterful and crucial job in transforming Johnny Knoxville into his old man persona, but you can't tell me that film trumps the absolute volume of work in hair and makeup from a film like "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" or even "American Hustle." The very same can be said in the same category with "The Lone Ranger" making the field of three as well.
10. NO FOREIGN FILM POWERHOUSE SHOWED UP THIS YEAR-- In recent years, highly regarded foreign films like "The Artist," "A Separation," and last year's "Amour" have made big splashes with Oscar nominations and Oscar wins in major categories outside of Best Foreign Language Film. This year, the brightest candidate to follow that success was "Blue is the Warmest Colour," the Palme d'Or winner of last year's Cannes Film Festival. It has topped the overwhelming majority of lists as the best foreign film of year and cleaned up the awards in that very category. That's why it's a bit of a shocker to see it get completely left off the final five for Best Foreign Language Film and rack up zero nominations elsewhere. Is that trend dead for at least a year?
11. THE FILM THAT DOES HAVE THE BIGGEST POWERHOUSE BANDWAGON THIS YEAR IS "AMERICAN HUSTLE."-- I've hinted at this in the other items, so I'll give it its own discussion. So often, these award shows are pure popularity contests. The Golden Globes gave us a glimpse of that with throwing a lot of bouquets in the direction of "American Hustle." Everyone seems to love this movie, its fun style, and its glamorous stars. Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence turned their Golden Globe wins into Oscar nominations and the wave of buzz brought Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper with them. Director David O. Russell is a double nominee for the second year in a row for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay in following up "Silver Linings Playbook" with "American Hustle." More than "Gravity," "American Hustle" is the movie riding the biggest wave of momentum as a potential upset Best Picture winner over the universally praised "12 Yeas a Slave." If voters get turned off by the violence and darkness of "12 Years a Slave," "American Hustle" could pull a "Crash" and surprise everyone.
12. PIXAR WAS SHUT OUT OF ANIMATED DOMINANCE FOR JUST THE SECOND TIME-- Pixar doesn't have many down years. In just the second time since the award's creation ("Cars 2" being the first case), Pixar was left out of the Best Animated Feature category it has won 7-out-of-12 years since the award has existed. This year, "Monsters University" was left off in favor of two foreign animated selections, "Ernest and Celestine" and Japan's powerhouse "The Wind Rises." Watch this light a bit of a fire under Pixar and also watch its parent company Walt Disney get its first win in forever for "Frozen."
13. FINALLY, NO ONE VOTING CARES THAT YOU DIDN'T LIKE "THE WOLF OF WALL STREET."-- The boiling uproar the general public has for "The Wolf of Wall Street" and its questionable content clearly didn't have any influence on its voting. It made its R-rating and was trimmed from its bloated 4-hour NC-17 initial cut. The film is up for Best Picture, Best Director for Martin Scorsese, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Also, as discussed earlier, both male leads (DiCaprio and Hill) earned nominations too. While I don't think it has a shot to go on to win any of those awards, the message was sent that the rants over the common man didn't matter and were overstated. I had to agree with the snobs of Hollywood, but they are right.
Once gain, as the Academy Awards get closer, I will be writing out my full analysis and winning predictions in an article series coming in February. Stay tuned and take this time to catch some of these great films that are still in theaters.