This morning's announcement of the Academy Awards nominations left me as contented as I have ever felt upon hearing of the nominees, perhaps because 2014's gaping dearth of cinematic quality made snubbed films few and far between while also allowing more than a few stinkers to snag some coveted spots. The Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman led the way with nine nods apiece, and while it is good to see Wes Anderson get the unexpected recognition he deserves, I still am failing to grasp the fascination behind Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's mediocre movie. Boyhood still appears to be the favorite, American Sniper fared better than predicted, and the Academy again showed Christopher Nolan out of its favor by snubbing Interstellar in the major categories in addition to the heavy handed Selma, which only scored a Best Picture nod. Nightcrawler did not make the last second stride many thought it would, although it did snag an Original Screenplay nomination. In outlying categories, the biggest shock of the day may have came when The Lego Movie was shut out in the Animated category, I was bummed to see Steve James' Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself go by the wayside, and it was nice to see Ida procure nominations in the Foreign Language and Cinematography fields. Here are some thoughts on the major awards categories:
Since they've expanded the Best Picture category a few years back, this year is the fewest nominees we have seen with eight, perhaps another reflection of the sad state of the movie industry. Again Boyhood appears the favorite, and rightly so, and to my mind sees its only competition from Birdman. It was good to see nods for The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash and I can't understand why excellent films like Nightcrawler, Inherent Vice, and Fury didn't make a bigger splash. I also found it odd that Bennett Miller drew a Best Directing nomination without Foxcatcher cracking this category.
Should Win: Boyhood
Will Win: Boyhood
I don't see how Richard Linklater loses here. His magnum opus has been roundly heralded on the awards circuit and I don't expect that to change. Bennett Miller and Wes Anderson (his first) also received very deserving nods.
Should Win: Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Will Win: Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Michael Keaton was the sole redeeming quality of Birdman and for putting himself and his career on the line, he should be the recipient of this year's Best Actor trophy. He could see some major competition from Eddie Redmayne who did a fine job in mimicking Stephen Hawking physically but did not really create a character in The Theory of Everything. Bradley Cooper is a surprise in his third straight year on the podium (I haven't seen American Sniper yet), Benedict Cumberbatch finally gets a well deserved nod, and I appreciated Steve Carell in Foxcatcher although it was really a leading role. Finally, why didn't Ralph Fiennes, Brad Pitt, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jake Gyllenhaal receive more of a push?
Should Win: Michael Keaton, Birdman
Will Win: Michael Keaton, Birdman
2014 was once more a slack year for actresses. Granted I haven't seen two of the nominated performances yet (Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night and Julianne Moore in Still Alice), but very little in what I saw otherwise was praiseworthy. Of the remaining nominees Rosamund Pike and Reese Witherspoon ranged from irritating to unspectacular and Felicity Jones was just plain forgettable. I only wish the Academy would have found room for Hillary Swank for a superb work in The Homesman.
Should Win: Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night (I suppose)
Will Win: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Best Supporting Actor
Always the most interesting category and this year is no exception. J.K. Simmons is the favorite for powerfully honing his talents as a tyrannical jazz instructor but if pressed I would be hard torn between Ethan Hawke's imperfect though well meaning father in Boyhood and Mark Ruffalo's self-assured, tragic Olympian in Foxcatcher. I haven't seen Robert Duvall's work in The Judge and I don't understand what people found so special about Ed Norton in Birdman. As for snubs, I just want to add that the Academy (and everyone handing out awards this season) really missed the boat when it came to nominating Shia LaBeouf for his work in Fury.
Should Win: Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Will Win: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette and Keira Knightley were impressive in unassuming roles. Laura Dern and Emma Stone pushed the envelope of irritation in extremely grating performances and if anyone other than her majesty Meryl Streep would have played her role in Into the Woods, you could guarantee it would have not been up for an award, no matter how strong the showing. Lastly, I would have liked to see some recognition for Rene Russo in Nightcrawler.
Should Win: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Will Win: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood