erik lundegaard

Thursday January 15, 2015

The 2014 Oscar Nominations: Honesty and Popular Don't Go Hand in Hand

2014 oscar nominations

Announcing the actresses: Adams out, Cotillard in. C'mon, Marion/ It's time that we began ...

Just when you thought the Oscars were going populist, they pull themselves back out.

In 2009, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences expanded its best picture category from five to 10 (and soon after, anywhere from five to 10), in part, it was believed, because the broadcast, and thus the award, was losing popularity. Big box office hits weren't getting nominated; people tuned out. Thus the expansion. And immediate paydirt! “Avatar,” the biggest hit of 2009, was nom'ed, as was “Toy Story 3,” the biggest box-office hit of 2010. But was this partly an illusion? Would these movies have been nominated anyway? Was it a last gasp of a melding of critically acclaimed and popular? Because the following year, 2011, the biggest hit among the nominees was “The Help,” which topped out at 13th, and in 2012 it was “Lincoln,” which also topped out at 13th. Last year, yes, “Gravity,” the sixth-biggest box office hit of 2013, was nominated. But this year we're definitely back to square one. 

Among the eight best picture nominees, the one at the top of the box-office chart is “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which grossed $59 million and isn't even among the 50 most popular movies of the year. (It's 53rd.) That's right, Wes Anderson is most popular—a title I'm sure he never thought he'd ever be able to claim. 

In fact, the total domestic gross of the eight nominees, $203 million, is less than the total domestic grosss of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” ($208 million), which was only the 10th highest-grossing film of the year. 

So here we are again. Just us cinephiles.

Is it better this way? Could any popular movie have been nominated? “Guardians of the Galaxy” maybe? (Right. Sci-fi.)  “Captain America”? (Right. Superhero.) “Interstellar”? “Gone Girl”? “The LEGO Movie”? Hey, how about this? “LEGO,” the fourth highest-grossing movie of the year, and highly critically acclaimed, didn't even get nominated in Best Animated Feature.


The Academy went white and male, too. That's the spin you'll probably hear about more. “Selma” was shut out except for picture and song. Its director, Ana DuVarney, didn't get nominated, nor did its lead, David Oyelowo. Nothing for Angelina Jolie as director for “Unbroken” nor Gillian Flynn for best adapted screenplay for “Gone Girl.”

But the obvious follow-up: Should they have been nominated?

I admit I wasn't a big fan of “Gone Girl.” I could see either DuVarney or Oyelowo among the nominees, but both are crowded fields. Oyelowo certainly would've gotten my vote.

Here's the good news: the big winners are two of the best movies of the year: “Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” each got nine nominations. “Imitation Game” wound up with eight (really?) while “Boyhood” got six. 

The surprise winner was “American Sniper,” Clint Eastwood's late entry into the conversation, which tied “Boyood” with six nominations, include picture, actor, adapted screenplay and editing. Oddly, its most prominent figure, director Eastwood, didn't get nominated.

A pattern, AMPAS? Let's look.


  • “American Sniper”
  • “Birdman”
  • “Boyhood”
  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel“
  • ”The Imitation Game“
  • ”Selma“
  • ”The Theory of Everything“
  • ”Whiplash“


  • Wes Anderson ”The Grand Budapest Hotel“ 
  • A.G. Iñárritu ”Birdman“
  • Richard Linklater ”Boyhood“
  • Bennet Miller, ”Foxcatcher“
  • Morten Tyldum ”The Imitation Game“


  • Steve Carell, ”Foxcatcher“
  • Bradley Cooper, ”American Sniper“
  • Benedict Cumberbatch, ”The Imitation Game“
  • Michael Keaton ”Birdman“
  • Eddie Redmayne  ”The Theory of Everything“


  • Marion Cotillard, ”Deux Jours, Une Nuit“
  • Felicity Jones ”The Theory of Everything“
  • Julianne Moore ”Still Alice“
  • Rosamund Pike ”Gone Girl“
  • Reese Witherspoon ”Wild“

MISSING: Golden Globes winner Amy Adams for ”Big Eyes.“ 

Supporting Actress

  • Patricia Arquette ”Boyhood“
  • Laura Dern, ”Wild“
  • Keira Knightley ”The Imitation Game“
  • Emma Stone ”Birdman“
  • Meryl Streep ”Into the Woods“

MISSING: Jessica Chastain for ”A Most Violent Year.“ Which hasn't played anywhere yet. Glad to see Dern there. Knightley? Please.

Supporting Actor

  • Robert Duvall, ”The Judge“
  • Ethan Hawke, ”Boyhood“
  • Edward Norton, ”Birdman“
  • Mark Ruffalo, ”Foxcatcher“
  • JK Simmons, ”Whiplash“

Original screenplay

  • Wes Anderson ”The Grand Budapest Hotel“
  • E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, ”Foxcatcher“ 
  • Dan Gilroy, ”Nightcrawler“
  • A.G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo, ”Birdman“
  • Richard Linklater, ”Boyhood“

Adapted screenplay

  • Paul Thomas Anderson, ”Inherent Vice“
  • Damien Chazelle, ”Whiplash“
  • Jason Hall, ”American Sniper“
  • Anthony McCarten, ”The Theory of Everything“
  • Graham Moore, ”The Imitation Game“

Still don't understand the lack of Nick Hornby love. That's a tough adaptation. Still don't get the Graham Moore love. ”Imitation Game“ was at best a cookie-cutter biopic. Ditto ”Theory of Everything.“ But I'm happy to see Paul Thomas Anderson in there. Not to mentin Mr. Chazelle. 

Animated Feature 

  • ”Big Hero 6“
  • ”The Boxtrolls“
  • ”How to Train Your Dragon 2“
  • ”Song of the Sea“
  • ”The Tale of the Princess Kaguya“

MISSING: ”The LEGO Movie.“ I've heard ”Song of the Sea“ is beautiful, though. 

Documentary Feature

  • ”Citizenfour“
  • ”Finding Vivian Maier“
  • ”Last Days in Vietnam“
  • ”The Salt of the Earth“
  • ”Virunga“

MISSING: ”Life Itself.“ Thumbs down.


  • Roger Deakins, ”Unbroken“
  • Emmanuel Lubezki, ”Birdman“
  • Dick Pope, ”Mr. Turner“
  • Robert Yeoman, ”The Grand Budapest Hotel“
  • Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski,”Ida“ 

Just when you're finally getting the recognition you deserve, the president of the Academy pronounces your name ”Poop.“ Sorry, Dick Pope. Seriously, Academy presidents, do a run-through or something.

Film Editing

  • ”American Sniper“
  • ”Boyhood“
  • ”The Grand Budapest Hotel“
  • ”The Imitation Game“
  • ”Whiplash“

MISSING: ”Birdman.“ Because of all the single shots? And does this kill its chances for best picture? The last time a film won best picture without being nominated for film editing was in 1980 with ”Ordinary People“: 35 years ago. 

Foreign Language Film 

  • ”Ida“ (Poland)
  • ”Leviathan“ (Russia)
  • ”Tangerines“ (Estonia) 
  • ”Timbuktu“ (Mauritiana)
  • ”Wild Tales“ (Argentina)

MISSING: ”Force Majeure.“

Production Design

  • ”The Grand Budapest Hotel“
  • ”The Imitation Game“
  • ”Interstellar“
  • ”Into the Woods“
  • ”Mr. Turner“

A lot of prognosticators got this way wrong. They were thinking ”Birdman“ and ”Maleficent“ and ”Unbroken.“ But the Academy was not kind to Angelina Jolie this year. Too old, I guess. 

Costume Design

  • ”The Grand Budapest Hotel“ 
  • ”Inherent Vice“
  • ”Into the Woods“
  • ”Maleficent“
  • ”Mr. Turner“

Original Score

  • Alexandre Desplat, ”The Grand Budapest Hotel“
  • Alexandre Desplat, ”The Imitation Game“
  • Jóhann Jóhannsson ”The Theory of Everything“
  • Gary Yershon, ”Mr. Turner“
  • Hans Zimmer ”Interstellar“ 

Original Song

  • ”Everything is Awesome“ (Shawn Patterson, Tegan and Sara, ”The LEGO Movie“) 
  • ”Glory“ (John Legend and Common, ”Selma“) 
  • ”Grateful“ (Diane Warren, ”Beyond the Lights“)
  • ”I'm Not Gonna Miss You“ (Glen Campbell, Julian Raymond, ”Glen Campbell ... I'll Be Me“)
  • ”Lost Stars“ (Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois, ”Begin Again“)

Makeup and Hairstyling

  • ”Foxcatcher“
  • ”The Grand Budapest Hotel“
  • ”Guardians of the Galaxy“

Sound Editing

  • ”American Sniper“
  • ”Birdman“
  • ”The Hobbit“
  • ”Interstellar“
  • ”Unbroken“

Sound Mixing

  • ”American Sniper“
  • ”Birdman“
  • ”Interstellar“
  • ”Unbroken“
  • ”Whiplash“

Visual Effects

  • ”Captain America: The Winter Soldier“
  • ”Dawn of the Planet of the Apes“
  • ”Guardians of the Galaxy“
  • ”Interstellar“
  • ”X-Men: Days of Future Past“

Animated Short

  • “The Bigger Picture”
  • ”The Damn Keeper“
  • ”Feast“
  • ”Me and My Moulton“
  • “A Single Life”

Documentary Short 

  • “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1”
  • “Joanna”
  • “Our Curse”
  • “The Reaper (La Parka)” 
  • “White Earth“

Live Action Short 

  • “Aya”
  • “Boogaloo and Graham”
  • “Butter Lamp”
  • “Parvaneh”
  • “The Phone Call“

Thoughts? I'm sure I'll have more as the day progresses. 


”Birdman“ leads with nine nomations. ”How did we end up here ...?"

Posted at 07:54 AM on Thursday January 15, 2015 in category Movies - The Oscars  
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard