January 15, 2015

OSCARLAND: The Nominees


The race is officially on, with Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel (both from Fox Searchlight) tied for the lead with 9 nominations (The Imitation Game has 8, while Boyhood, not so much a technical showcase, has 6), and although with just a couple of exceptions (not even an Animated Film nomination for The LEGO Movie?  Everything is not awesome) the surprises are minor rather than jaw-dropping, there will be plenty to talk about between now and February 22.  Let’s take a quick look at the major categories (a full list of nominees can be found here) :

BEST PICTURE:  American Sniper, Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

Foxcatcher, Unbroken, Gone Girl, Wild and Nightcrawler were among the hopefuls that missed out.  Selma is clearly only in because of the Academy’s expanded Best Picture list, since it was passed over for Director, Actor and Screenplay.  Also worth noting:  this is the first time since the Academy went to a variable list that there were fewer than 9 Best Picture nominees, which happens because in order to be nominated, a film has to be the #1 choice on at least 5% of ballots.

BEST DIRECTOR:  Alejandro G. Inarritu, BIRDMAN; Richard Linklater, BOYHOOD; Bennett Miller, FOXCATCHER; Wes Anderson, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL; Morten Tyldum, THE IMITATION GAME

The Best Picture nominees who couldn’t crack this shorter list were Clint Eastwood, Ava DuVernay, James Marsh and Damiel Chazelle.  That probably, although not definitely (remember Argo?) makes their films less likely to take the big prize.  David Fincher and Angelina Jolie also failed to get in.  (Instead of this being the first year with 2 female nominees, there are none.)

BEST ACTOR:  Steve Carell, FOXCATCHER; Bradley Cooper, AMERICAN SNIPER; Benedict Cumberbatch, THE IMITATION GAME; Michael Keaton, BIRDMAN; Eddie Redmayne, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING

This was an impossibly crammed category, and it was clear from the start that several strong contenders wouldn’t be able to make the cut.  Omissions include Jake Gyllenhaal, Timothy Spall, David Oyelowo and Ralph Fiennes.

BEST ACTRESS:  Marion Cotillard, TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT; Felicity Jones, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING; Julianne Moore, STILL ALICE; Rosamund Pike, GONE GIRL; Reese Witherspoon, WILD

You can’t really call Cotillard’s inclusion a shock, since she’s done extremely well in critics awards, but nevertheless she wasn’t expected to make the list (her nomination caps an amazing day for IFC, also the tiny studio behind Boyhood).  Her slot is the one that many expected Jennifer Aniston to take.  Amy Adams, who just won the Comedy/Musical Golden Globe, was also considered a strong candidate to get in.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:  Robert Duvall, THE JUDGE; Ethan Hawke, BOYHOOD; Edward Norton, BIRDMAN; Mark Ruffalo, FOXCATCHER; J.K. Simmons, WHIPLASH

The only real question going in was whether Robert Duvall would pick up a nomination for the box office failure The Judge, and he did, depriving Tom Wilkinson, among others.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:  Patricia Arquette, BOYHOOD; Laura Dern, WILD; Keira Knightley, THE IMITATION GAME; Emma Stone, BIRDMAN; Meryl Streep, INTO THE WOODS

Here again, the perception was that there was only one semi-open slot, which went to Dern rather than Jessica Chastain, Rene Russo or Tilda Swinton.


Selma is the potential nominee that hoped to get in here, especially after the Academy moved Whiplash to the Adapted category.


Inherent Vice and American Sniper took the slots that were expected to be Gone Girl‘s and Wild‘s.

Those who enjoy reading tea leaves will note that Birdman did not even receive a nomination for Best Editing, very often considered a bellwether for a Best Picture win.  Since it can’t win that category, there were those that will say things are even more set up for Boyhood (or the surging candidate The Grand Budapest Hotel).  Also, apart from the insane snub to The LEGO Movie, it’s a surprise that Best Documentary didn’t include the Roger Ebert biography Life Itself.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."