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Published on January 16th, 2015 | by Brad

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And the Oscar Nominees Are… Weird…

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It’s that time of year again. The Academy Award nominations were announced yesterday and frankly, they’ve rather outdone themselves. This is the most perplexed and baffled I’ve been by the Oscar nominations in quite some time. As a quick disclaimer, due to UK release schedules I’m yet to see a number of the nominees, so I’ll speak as intelligently as I can but if I get something wrong, I’m sorry. I’ll endeavour to check it out. So without further ado, let’s start at the very top.

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Best Picture

In 2009, the Academy opened this category up from five potential nominees to ten, so as to represent a wider range of films. In that time, they’ve used the full ten slots once. Normally they go for nine, and this year they’ve gone for eight. This makes no sense to me. There’s probably some strange voting rule that makes this happen, but it strikes me that two from Foxcatcher, Interstellar and Nightcrawler could have filled the list out pretty comfortably. Interstellar has been nominated for more technical awards than anything else without being recognised as a great film, which seems to be the lot of Christopher Nolan’s films at the Oscars. Nightcrawler has been almost completely overlooked, for pretty much the only time in the entire awards season. And Foxcatcher… I don’t even know. It’s up for two acting awards, director, screenplay and make-up, and yet no best picture nomination. Very strange.

From those nominated, I expect a very comfortable victory for Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. A unique experiment which validated itself by virtue of the fact that while you’re watching it, you’re so swept up in it that you aren’t really thinking about the logistics behind it. Alongside Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash, that’s actually a very interesting set of nominees, burdened a little by the biopic love-in that makes up the other half of the list. Take those four and Interstellar and you’d have had a spectacular list in the old five movie limit system.

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Best Director

Given that Foxcatcher isn’t up for Best Picture, perhaps Bennett Miller’s nod for directing could have gone elsewhere. I’m somewhat surprised that the Academy have chosen to ignore Ava DuVernay, the director of Selma. Well, not that surprised. Ava DuVernay is a black woman. Only four women have ever been nominated in this category (Lina Wertmüller in 1977, Jane Campion in 1994, Sofia Coppolla in 2004 and Kathryn Bigelow (the only female winner) in 2010); the only non-white director to win an Oscar is Ang Lee (twice a winner for Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi). I suppose the chances of the august body whose membership is 96% white and 77% male nominating a black woman as the best director of the year were fairly slim. Ho hum.

Again, I predict a good night for Richard Linklater. The guy’s been one of the most vital voices in American cinema for the last fifteen years or so, while he’s been making Boyhood on the side, and it’ll be richly deserved.

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Acting

All 20 nominees are Caucasian. I don’t want to get too hung up on the racial aspect, but really? Straight up, there’s no need for the Meryl Streep and Robert Duvall nominations. They’re part of the club, that’s literally it. Streep gave one of the worst performances of her career in Into the Woods, and though Duvall was fine in The Judge, there’s no way he deserves to be nominated ahead of Riz Ahmed’s blistering performance in Nightcrawler, or Tyler Perry’s movie-stealing lawyer in Gone Girl. From the same film, I’m going to perpetuate the all-white domination in the Supporting Actress category by replacing Streep with Rene Russo on career-best form. Bradley Cooper’s nomination, and the general love-in for American Sniper, has come a bit out of nowhere relative to the rest of the awards season, and that he’s effectively replaced either Jake Gyllenhaal, whose work in Nightcrawler was the best by any actor in anything all year, for me, or David Oyelowo, whose Martin Luther King in Selma is the subject of nigh-universal acclaim is very unusual. Wild is out today, so I’ve not seen it yet, and Still Alice won’t hit the UK until three weeks after the Oscars, so the actress category is a bit tough to judge.

Of the nominees, I reckon Michael Keaton, Julianne Moore, J. K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette will be taking home the gold. All of whom I love, and would be thrilled to see win. Obviously given our demographic here at Need to Consume, I know we all want to see Batman and J. Jonah Jameson taking home the Oscar glory!

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Other

Everything is not awesome. To widespread outcry, The Lego Movie has not been nominated for Best Animated Feature. Which looks like a massive surprise on the face of it, but thinking on it, I can kind of see why, even though I don’t agree. With the nominees being selected by their respective branches of the academy, old and new masters of hand-drawn animation Isao Takahata’s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya and Tomm Moore’s Song of the Sea were always going to be nominated, and there was never any doubt behind Laika’s stop-motion The Boxtrolls, either. So it was a case of two from three of the big CGI family movies, and for whatever reason, they’ve gone for the more classically structured Big Hero 6 and How to Train Your Dragon 2 ahead of the wacky irreverence of The Lego Movie. I can’t say as I agree with the decision (I’ve not seen three of the nominees, but I liked Lego better than Boxtrolls or Dragon). If I’m going to pick a winner, I’d lean towards How to Train Your Dragon 2, though I’d love to see Laika win again for The Boxtrolls.

Overall a strange set of choices, then. I’m not saying the academy are a bunch of rampant racists and sexists, but this feels like a massive step backwards to the old white men’s club. And while some will (rightly) say that the Oscars are just an excuse for self-congratulation and back-slapping and don’t really matter, the fact is that this is the highest-profile declaration of what’s great in movies to the general public, as well as one of the historical indicators for what movies from now future generations should be watching, and as such a better reflection of the diverse, interesting work going on in the world of 21st century cinema would have been nice.

A little game, before we go; since the Oscar voters always get it wrong, let’s pick alternative winners for the big six categories, choosing exclusively from those not nominated for Oscars.

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Brad’s Picks:

Best Picture: Interstellar

Best Director: Christopher Nolan (Interstellar)

Best Actress: Essie Davis (The Babadook)

Best Actor: Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler)

Best Supporting Actor: Tyler Perry (Gone Girl)

Best Supporting Actress: Rene Russo (Nightcrawler)

A man can dream. Your thoughts, Consumers? Can you make a better list than they did with no nominees? Let us know in the comments!

Brad

Brad

Consumer. Scribbler. Occasional drunkard. Nice beard, though...
Brad

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