As many, many entertainment outlets reported early January 16 — early enough to get Jared Leto out of bed so he could have an existential crisis, think about vegan pancakes, and get back into bed — the 2014 Oscar nominations are out. American Hustle and Gravity lead with ten nominations each; 12 Years a Slave trails just the slightest with nine. (As one critic pointed out, 12 Years a Slave would likely have 10 nods as well if the movie even had a leading actress to nominate.)
And then, there were the snubs and surprises. Our favorite part.
Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson get nothing?!
There’s no love for the lovable. Tom Hanks hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar since Cast Away in 2001, and his leading role in Captain Phillips had all the makings of another sure thing: a character who was emotionally and physically adrift, left to survive at sea on increasingly smaller boats. And this time, Hanks got to act opposite a Somali pirate (played by Barkhad Abdi, up for best supporting actor in his film debut) instead of a volleyball (played by Wilson). His final 30 minutes in this film deserved a nod.
Meanwhile, Emma Thompson will have to settle for Meryl Streep’s adoration instead of an Oscar. The Academy didn’t recognize her outstanding work as P. L. Travers — the fussy author of Mary Poppins, dogged by Walt Disney for 20 years to turn her novels into “sentimental animated rubbish” or “[insert British-y putdown here]” — in Saving Mr. Banks. It probably didn’t help that the movie and the late Walt Disney have received hate press for the past month, but Thompson shouldn’t be punished because Disney didn’t like women, Jews, or cats.
Lots of love for Nebraska and Dallas Buyers Club.
In the shadow of his fellow nominees — Nebraska
director Alexander Payne (best director), Bruce Dern (best actor) and the hilarious June Squibb (best supporting actress) — stands Bob Nelson, nominated for best original screenplay for his debut script. He’s something of an unknown to the Academy, but in Seattle, he was one of the funniest guys around
for over a decade. His story — of an addled alcoholic (Dern) who’s convinced he won the Sweepstakes and embarks on a Great Plains Odyssey to collect his winnings — both warmed and broke my heart.
Not surprising that Matthew McConaughey (best actor) and Jared Leto (best supporting actor) ride their Golden Globe victories for Dallas Buyers Club into Oscar season. What is pleasantly surprising is that DBC sauntered into the best picture category, elbowing out Inside Llewyn Davis and Saving Mr. Banks with a McConaughey-styled “all right, all right, all right.”
Only two nominations for Inside Llewyn Davis.
For cinematography and sound mixing, which probably feels like nominations for “best trailer” and “best mixtape.” Despite Llewyn Davis topping multiple “best film of 2013” lists, the melancholic movie about a pitiable Greenwich Village folk singer looking for his big break in the early 1960s was like a 105-minute Jeff Buckley song. Sad, and beautiful, but really, just sad. No wonder critics loved it. Happy things don’t get nominated for Oscars unless Pharell Williams is involved.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler is shut out.
That’s what you get for sticking your name in the title. Is the butler waiting on Lee Daniels? No.
The movie also committed the cardinal sin of Oscar maneuvering: Thou shalt not release thine film in the summer. Even Oprah’s star power couldn’t keep The Butler’s momentum going from its release, in mid-August, through Oscar voting season this winter.
Handicapping the 2014 Academy Awards
- If it’s a visual effects or editing category, give it to Gravity.
- If it’s an acting category, give it to American Hustle or Dallas Buyers Club. (Or just give it all to Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine.)
- Best screenplays go to 12 Years a Slave and Her, otherwise the Academy will feel guilty.
- Director: Alfonso Cuarón. The man conquered space.
- Best picture: Toss-up between 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. It’s a rare best pic that doesn’t win best director and/or best screenplay. Advantage goes to Slave, since Harvey Weinstein publicly praised it.
The 86th Academy Awards airs Sunday, March 2, at 7e/4p on ABC.