Well, it’s that time of year again. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS aka The Academy) announced the nominations for the 86th Academy Awards yesterday. Say what you will about The Academy, for better or worse they bestow the highest and most prestigious awards in the world of cinema. You may not agree with them, hell–even I don’t agree with them a lot of the time, but since these awards essentially comprise the highest ‘Best of List’ for the year in cinema, you kind of have to pay attention to them as the films they nominate and award create ripples through all of Hollywood.
Here are my initial thoughts on the six major categories . . .
Nine BEST PICTURE Nominations
Many film writers and movie bloggers have said that 2013 was a good year for cinema, and I’m inclined to agree with them. There were a number of real quality films and I’m on board with almost all of these nominees. In fact the only one I have a qualm over is Philomena. While Judi Dench offers up a superb performance in the film, it wasn’t on too many critic or Oscar prognostication lists as making it into the Best Picture race. I thought the film was ok enough, though I’m not sure if it deserves to be up there. However, I could make a case for it to be on there as well so I’m not too broken up over it appearing here.
My one gripe is that I think there could have, and should have been, the maximum number of ten Best Picture nominations. The one oversight: Inside Llewyn Davis. Granted Llewyn Davis isn’t a film that slaps you with Oscar on your first viewing, but there’s a lot of wonderful stuff going on in that film from an acting and musical/score perspective alone that it should have been up there with these other nine films. Add to the fact that the Coen’s are regulars in the Oscar hut and I’m a little surprised they didn’t make the cut.
With ten nominations apiece, it’s obviously a two horse race between Gravity and American Hustle as we begin the next phase of Oscar season. Both are worthy films, but my favorites out of the nine would be Captain Phillips, The Wolf of Wall Street, and 12 Years a Slave. We’ll see how it all plays out with campaigning going forward.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
- Amy Adams, American Hustle*
- Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
- Sandra Bullock, Gravity*
- Judi Dench, Philomena*
- Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
As much as it might be hard to hear, Meryl Streep is the surprise nomination out of this group. Up until Wednesday, everyone had written off August: Osage County. Critics panned it, which is why you haven’t seen too much play from them, with the only real support coming from a Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) nomination for Streep. However, we’ve been in this territory before in underestimating a Meryl Streep performance with 2011’s The Iron Lady (she ended up winning that year beating out front runner Viola Davis from The Help).
Having seen only three of the five, it’s hard for me to make a decision at this point. If I had to take a stab in the dark I would have to go with either Dench or Blanchett (sight unseen).
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
- Christian Bale, American Hustle
- Bruce Dern, Nebraska
- Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
- Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
- Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Out of all the categories this year, this was the most difficult to predict. Like I said the year was so good that I can name three other actors off the top of my head who also deserve to be up here: Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, Robert Redford in All is Lost, and Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis. With this category being so crowded it could be tough to predict the winner as well. My choice out of all of these would be Leo over Ejiofor, but The Academy doesn’t seem to like him because he’s been passed over for an acting award on his past three occasions (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator, and Blood Diamond). Ludes man.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE *3 of 5 viewed*
- Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
- Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle*
- Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave*
- Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
- June Squibb, Nebraska*
Again, the story here is more about the surprises rather than the front runner. If I had to call it, Lupita Nyong’o and Jennifer Lawrence would be front runners. The fact of the matter is, with JLaw’s best actress win last year I’d be really surprised if The Academy gave her two statuettes in back to back years (though I think she is deserving). No the story here is the exclusion of Oprah Winfrey and the inclusion of Julia Roberts & Sally Hawkins. When Lee Daniel’s The Butler debuted back in summer, critics and bloggers everywhere were touting that Oprah was a metaphysical lock to nab a supporting actress nomination. However, come the announcement she’s not on the list of nominees. Instead, two ladies arguably “on the bubble”, Roberts and Hawkins, both make their way in with Winfrey’s absence.
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE *All 5 viewed*
- Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
- Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
- Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
- Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
- Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
No surprises here in the supporting actor category, in fact picking the nominations was the easy part, picking the winner could be a tad trickier. If it was mine to give, I’d give it to Barkhad Abdi for his captivating performance as the hijacking leader in Captain Phillips. When you can stand toe to toe with an acting great such as Hanks on your first time out; that gets you a lot of cred in my book. However, realistically speaking, I think this is a two horse race between Jared Leto’s transformative performance in Dallas Buyers and Jonah Hill’s manic sidekick in Wolf of Wall Street. Leto’s been talked up quite a bit leading up to the nominations and Hill has been doing a lot of campaigning as of late so both of them are standing head and shoulders above the rest right now.
- David O. Russell, American Hustle
- Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
- Alexander Payne, Nebraska
- Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
- Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
In a year with nine Best Picture nominees and an overly crowded best actor category, any name not landing in the Best Director category was going to make some noise. Probably the more egregious omission from the category; the exclusion of Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips. If you look at the Director’s Guild of America’s (DGA) nominations four of the five match The Academy. The lone name separating the two is Alexander Payne on The Academy’s list with Paul Greengrass on the DGA nomination list. While I like Alexander Payne just fine, I definitely think Greengrass had more going on with Captain Phillips. As an aside, there’s also a small (but vocal) set arguing the omission of HER‘s Spike Jonze from the list.
On the whole, I’m actually pretty on board with all the selections in the major categories listed above. Yeah sure people will always say ‘so and so’ was snubbed or left off the list, but this year, with so much good quality filmmaking and acting going on, there aren’t any huge or obvious snubs in my opinion. People can split hairs all they want about who should have been nominated but at the end of the day, I think The Academy did fairly well (by their standards anyway).
With nominations in hand, the real campaigning will begin. Just like political campaigning, there’s all kinds of strategy involved to get your name out there in front of Academy voters and have them (hopefully) make the right choice. Be sure to check back with us throughout the next couple of weeks as we’ll be diving deeper into the Oscar race, where the categories and nominees stand closer to the ceremony, and we’ll also take a look at some of the other categories not mentioned here.
Tomorrow fellow Project Manager Rye will take The Academy to task for all the things they got wrong with this year’s nominations. What say you? What were your favorite movies or performances from last year that didn’t get any Academy love? Hit us up in the comments.