2014 Oscar Nominations: A Look at This Year’s (Few) Surprises

The West Coast entertainment media got up nice and early this morning (or stayed up all night, YOLO), put on their Thursday best, and turned out to watch Chris Hemsworth and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs announce this year’s nominees for the Academy Award. It’s all become a bit rote at this point: months of breathless speculation, relentless campaigning, and meta-narratives, followed by an announcement that honors a lot of the year’s best, while including a few surprises and shutouts.

In the latter category, the most immediate (and ferocious) response was to the Academy’s apparent distaste for Inside Llewyn Davis, which received only two minor nominations (for Cinematography and Sound Mixing); somewhat surprising was the voters’ love for Nebraska (a presumptive Best Actor nominee, but also receiving nods for Director, Picture, Screenplay, and Supporting Actress) and The Wolf of Wall Street (since some wondered if its extreme behavior would alienate the older voting bloc, especially after they took to yelling at Scorsese at screenings). Let’s take a closer look at the major categories, shall we?

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Alone Yet Not Alone” (Alone Yet Not Alone)
“Happy” (Despicable Me 2)
“Let It Go” (Frozen)
“The Moon Song” (Her)
“Ordinary Love” (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)

This would seem the category where the Inside Llewyn Davis snub is most egregious, since even those who disliked the narrative or style or tone would have to admit that the original songs were kind of perfect. (Except Greil Marcus, apparently.) But because their rules are hopelessly out of date, “Please Mr. Kennedy” was ineligible for nomination. Few surprises otherwise, though some had predicted Lana Del Ray’s Great Gatsby number “Young & Beautiful” might get a nod.

before-midnight

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke & Richard Linklater (Before Midnight)
Billy Ray (Captain Phillips)
Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope (Philomena)
John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)
Terence Winter (The Wolf of Wall St)

It shouldn’t have been a surprise that Before Midnight got nominated — after all, Before Sunset got a nod in the same category nine years ago — but this viewer still whooped and cheered when it was announced. About the only seemingly presumptive nominee not included here is Tracy Letts for August: Osage County; it would seem that his slot went to Philomena, which ended up being the Weinstein Company’s biggest Oscar success (surprising, in a year that included such seemingly surefire awards bait as August and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom — both nominees, but not for Best Picture — and the shut-out The Butler).

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
David O. Russell and Eric Singer (American Hustle)
Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine)
Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack (Dallas Buyers Club)
Spike Jonze (Her)
Bob Nelson (Nebraska)

In years past, Original Screenplay tended to be the category where voters got daring; previous winners include The Usual Suspects, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Talk to Her, while Boogie Nights, In Bruges, and Moonrise Kingdom were all nominated. And this would also seem a nice place to have nominated Llewyn Davis; the Coens won the category for Fargo and were nominated for A Serious Man. Alas, all of these nominees are also Best Picture nominees, save for Blue Jasmine (and with 15 nominations — far and away a record for the category — Woody Allen tends to get a nomination here any year he makes a particularly good movie). Aside from that, a little surprising to see Gravity left out, even granting that there are some soulless monsters who insist its script is corny and contrived.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
Frozen
The Wind Rises

If they were going to give a nomination to a big-grossing major-studio sequel, Monsters University would’ve seemed the more likely recipient. (Side note: Five years ago, would you ever have imagined a time when Pixar wasn’t just automatically nominated in this category?) Frozen’s kind of the obvious winner, of course, though it’s nice to see The Wind Rises in there.

act-of-killing

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
The Act of Killing
Cutie and the Boxer
Dirty Wars
The Square
20 Feet from Stardom

The big surprises here are the exclusions of popular favorites Stories We Tell and Blackfish (both directed by women, natch), in favor of the less-expected Dirty Wars and Cutie and the Boxer — both fine films, mind you, but not equal to those excluded titles. Still, this was an especially competitive year in this category, and this is a good group of nominees (particularly 20 Feet From Stardom, whose nomination announcement was my other thrilled squeal of the morning).

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Broken Circle Breakdown
The Great Beauty
The Hunt
The Missing Picture
Omar

Those who hadn’t been paying attention to the category were probably stunned that Cannes winner Blue Is the Warmest Color wasn’t nominated, but it wasn’t even on the nine-movie shortlist, since France didn’t release it until after the October 1 deadline (the film they put in instead, Renoir, didn’t even make the shortlist). Of those nine finalists, it’s a little surprising that The Grandmaster didn’t make the cut, especially since it was nominated in Best Cinematography (nice) and Costume Design; you might be able to chalk that up to the controversy over the bowdlerized version dumped onto dumb ol’ U.S. audiences.