2014 Oscar Noms: Scattered Thoughts

All the speculation is over. The Oscar nominations are in, and the shocked, shocked reactions and harrumphs are being expressed all over the media and blogosphere. Here are mine:

This was a fairly predictable year for nominations, and happily, an especially rich one for films. The usual suspects got their multiple nominations: American Hustle, Gravity and 12 Years a Slave (this last one the best mainstream film of the year). American Hustle’s coattails were especially long, with four acting nominations, some which may well have “knocked out” some other expected nominations. For instance, Christian Bale, a generally underrated actor until recently, was swept along with the film’s other nominations as Best Actor. If we think in terms of slots, he might well have taken Tom Hanks’ place, who may have done the best work of his career in Captain Phillips. Strange goings on, here. And Bradley Cooper, who won a Best Supporting nod, has given us a performance in American Hustle that is definitely attention-grabbing, but an acquired taste.

And if Bradley is in, perhaps that is why Daniel Brühl, who was the best thing in Rush, is out. But this is Jared Leto’s year, (Dallas Buyers Club) so it’s a moot point in terms of winners.

Gravity, which will likely win Best Director for Alfonso Cuarón, racked up 10 nominations, most of which fell into the technical categories. Logical, of course, and deserving.

Tom Hanks’ omission might have been the big story in the Best Actor category, but what about Robert Redford, giving the performance of his career in All is Lost, and receiving no nomination? And after winning Best Actor from the New York Film Critics Circle, the most prestigious award-giving group in the country? Perhaps this is Bruce Dern’s year (Nebraska) after all.

Earlier this year, I thought we could have three out of five black performers in the Best Actor category. What about Forest Whitaker in Lee Daniel’s The Butler? Or Idris Elba for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom? Or Michael B. Jordan for Fruitvale Station? At one time, these performances seemed like locks, or at least strong possibilities.

I can understand how Leonardo DiCaprio’s wildly energetic performance in The Wolf of Wall Street snagged a nod, and those coattails have swept up Jonah Hill in the supporting category. But Best Picture and a Best Director nomination for Scorsese? Those wouldn’t have been on my ballot. And yes, Scorsese is a legend and easy to nomination, but Paul Greengrass is a brilliant director (Captain Phillips) and deserved the recognition.

The Best Supporting Actress category is the same as the Golden Globes. Jennifer Lawrence won there for American Hustle, but I hope Lupita Nyong’o wins for 12 Years a Slave. Nothing against Lawrence, but she’s beginning to look like the go-to girl for too much these days. She was very good in American Hustle, but Nyong’o is probably better. Oprah was “supposed” to get a nod for Lee Daniel’s The Butler, but didn’t. She can be a very good actress for a talk show host and businesswoman extraordinaire, but the other performances were stronger, that’s all. The complaining here reminds me of The Color Purple, which got 11 Oscar nominations, including one for Oprah, and ended up winning none. People screamed. But it’s simple: It was good enough to get nominated in each category, but in each category, there was a stronger contender. It’s not rocket science or racism.

There are nine nominations for Best Picture. I enjoyed Philomena, but have a hard time believing it belongs in the list. But perhaps it’s the feel-good pick, like The Blind Side was a few years ago. Not sure Dallas Buyers Club should be there, either.

Frozen is going to win Best Animated Film. That’s a lock. But as my best buddy Clint Morgan pointed out, not seeing Pixar in this category is a change.

Inside Llewyn Davis was practically ignored by the Academy, a big omission and sure to give everyone associated with it a punch in the gut. It was nominated for cinematography, however, which calls attention to the category. 12 Years a Slave, a beautifully shot film, was left out of that category (to make room for Prisoners, perhaps, shot by legendary Roger Deakins?)

A Best Actress category without Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)? Almost shocking, but who would be dropped to make room? Judi Dench? She’s a favorite? Meryl, with her new record for nominations? Is she nominated on the strength of her name this time?

And who ever knows how the Academy picks its Best Song nominations. Some things are better left a mystery….

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About Mark DuPré

Full-time (associate) pastor at a Christian church. Part-time film professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. Husband for 40 years to the lovely and talented Diane. Father to three children and father-in-law to three more amazing people. I preach, teach, counsel, write and plan in my real job. I teach a subject I love at RIT in my "other job," which is a lot of fun most of the time.... I play piano for our local college choir, and sing and play at church occasionally. I also have a film-related website at www.film-prof.com.
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