Reactionary Tale: Oscar Nominations 2014

I did better than I thought I would have in terms of predictions. There will always be surprises, but there were more bad than good. Read on for my reactions.

Biggest Snubs (in order from most to least egregious)

1. Tom Hanks – Best Actor and Paul Greengrass – Best Director for Captain Phillips
The film had a strong showing, with six nominations overall. But these two omissions are befuddling. While I’m happy for a Best Picture nod and over the moon newcomer Barkhad Abdi is a Supporting Actor nominee, both Hanks and Greengrass deserve these two nominations more than any others left out. They’re both essential to bringing this incredible story to life. Hanks in particular, is giving his best performance in years. This is his latest snub in a long line (Apollo 13, The Green Mile and Charlie Wilson’s War come to mind). His two wins are huge, but he should be chasing Jack Nicholson’s record right now.  

2. Spike Jonze – Best Director, Joaquin Phoenix – Best Actor, Scarlett Johansson – Best Supporting Actress for Her
So it’s good enough for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, but the rest of the visionaries who made this beautiful movie possible were left out in the cold. I’m least surprised by Johansson’s absence, but it’s indicative of an Academy that fears progress. There’s more to acting than just appearing onscreen.

3. Daniel Bruhl – Best Supporting Actor and any below-the-line nominations for Rush
Placing Bruhl in the supporting section is blatant category fraud, but he was brilliant as the cold, calculating Niki Lauda. Even more bewildering is the film’s complete absence in the technical categories. Its cinematography, film editing and especially its sound work were all first rate.

4. Monsters University – Best Animated Feature
For the second time, Pixar is shut out, and that’s a shame. This was one of my favorite movies of the year, not just my favorite animated movie. I haven’t seen Despicable Me 2, but, come on. Cuteness doesn’t trump Monsters U.  

5. Pacific Rim – Best Visual Effects
Sure, The Lone Ranger and Star Trek into Darkness had some impressive special effects, but none of them compared to the awe-inspiring Kaiju vs. Jaeger action in Guillermo del Toro’s blockbuster.

6. The Blue Umbrella – Best Animated Short Film
Inexcusable. Not just because it’s so beautiful, it’s a true breakthrough in what animation is capable of.

7. Kyle Chandler – Best Supporting Actor and Scott Neustadter & Michael Weber – Best Adapted Screenplay for The Spectacular Now
Neither had a shot, but the film as a whole, and particularly these two elements blew me away. I wish more people had taken notice.

8. Any below-the-line nominations for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Make-up and Hairstyling should have been in the bag for this sequel. But, yeah, let’s go with The Lone Ranger and Dallas Buyers Club. Its costume work was no less extraordinary.

9. Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach – Best Original Screenplay for Frances Ha
As has been said many times before, this was like a big-screen version of Girls, but infinitely better. An unlikely Best Actress nomination would have been nice, but it should have at least had a shot for its writing. I’m a big American Hustle fan, but this screenplay is superior.

10. Oprah Winfrey – Best Supporting Actress for The Butler
A nomination would not have been paying tribute to a living legend. She’s just that good, giving it her all in a role that’s not what you’d expect from a woman of her stature.

Pleasant Surprises (in no particular order)
Arcade Fire & Owen Pallett nominated for Best Original Score
Their unused score for The Box was a chilling set of music. Their work on Her is a lot lighter and even more powerful. I didn’t think the Academy would bother with an indie rock band after snubbing Jonny Greenwood twice, but they wisely chose something a little bit different. Kudos is also in order for the production design team, also nominated.

U2 nominated for Best Original Song
After losing to Eminem for Gangs of New York‘s “The Hands That Built America,” they were snubbed for Brothers‘ “Winter.” But after winning the Golden Globe, they were rewarded once again for “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Sorry, haters.  

Roger Deakins nominated for Best Cinematography
Any time he’s nominated is cause for celebration because he’s the best in the business. Sadly, this means yet another loss because as great as his lensing is for Prisoners, no one’s going to beat Emmanuel Lubezki (nor should they).

Lana Del Rey not nominated for Best Original Song
I still can’t believe some people thought she’d not only get nominated, but deserved to be for the dreary “Young and Beautiful” from The Great Gatsby. Back to Tumblr with you.

Dirty Wars nominated over Blackfish
To all the Facebook friends who keep telling me to watch it: a documentary about drone warfare trumps the alleged plight of killer whales at SeaWorld. There’s a lot more at stake because of the former.

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