Okay, l let’s start with the SMH (that’s shaking my head, to you Internet acronym impaired): How on earth did Inside Llewyn Davis get virtually shut out? It was one of my favorites of the year—a near perfect meditation on the necessary selfishness of the artist by the brilliant (and oft-nominated) Coen brothers. I was hoping—perhaps overly ambitiously—that the film would garner Best Picture nods, best actor (for astonishing newcomer Oscar Isaac), and both best director and best original screenplay (for Joel and Ethan Coen). Instead, it only got two nods: For Bruno Delbonnel’s luminous cinematography and for sound mixing (yay?).
Also, Enough Said, my favorite film of 2013 got completely shut out. Not even the expected nods for James Gandolfini in the best supporting actor or Nicole Holefcener for Best Original Screenplay. And in my opinion, Julia Louis-Dreyfus gave one of the best—if not the best—female performances of the year.
But, I’ve licked my wounds, sulked a bit, and I’ve returned to break the major nominations down.
12 Years a Slave
Dallas Buyers Club
The Wolf of Wall Street
Surprises: Philomena was released by the mighty Weinstein Company but hadn’t gotten a whole lot of love from other major voting bodies. Some critics felt it was too hard on the Catholic Church, others, like myself, felt it was a lovely, but slight, film. Philomena’s inclusion speaks, once again, to the never-to-be-underestimated power of Harvey Weinstein. Thrilled about the inclusion of Her, which I wasn’t sure would make the cut. Also, the controversial The Wolf of Wall Street was a question mark. The Academy voters tend to be on the conservative side and that wild and wooly film is anything but. Again, critics were torn, some thinking it was muscular satire of human excess served up like only Scorsese can, while others, like myself, believing it to be skillful but exhausting—much Quaaludes about nothing, if you will. Well, the Academy decided to back Marty. I have to say, my own misgivings about the film notwithstanding, I’m impressed.
Snubs: On the good end: No Saving Mr. Banks, no August: Osage County. On the bad: I already had my freak-outs about Inside Llewyn Davis and Enough Said. I also would’ve loved to have seen nods for All is Lost and Blue is the Warmest Color, which was ineligible for best foreign film. A little surprised that The Butler, which has Academy Award prestige picture written all over it, didn’t get a nod.
Early favorite: 12 Years a Slave
Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Wolf of Wall Street)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Surprises: Wasn’t totally sure Leonardo DiCaprio was going to get a nod, but I’m glad he did. As I said in my review: “I don’t want to take DiCaprio’s excellence for granted, as I think we sometimes do. If a newcomer had arrived on the scene with this kind of confident, charismatic, full-throttle performance, we’d all be swooning.”
Snubs: With DiCaprio in, that meant Robert Redford in All is Lost was out. Such a disappointment that this performance for the ages won’t get recognized. Also, Tom Hanks was excellent in Captain Phillips (and as Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks for that matter), but I wouldn’t swap him out for any of the nominees. I held out a bit of hope that Michael P. Jordan would get nominated for his revelatory work in Fruitvale Station, but I can’t say I’m completely shocked the indie film was overlooked.
Early favorite: Matthew McConaughey
Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Surprises: While first stating for the record that Meryl Streep is our Greatest Living Actress and a National Treasure ™, I also have to say, I wasn’t wild about her boozy, caustic, furniture-chomping performance in August Osage County. To me it was a, “Look at me, I’m acting!” kind of performance, in a film I thought was actually pretty bad.
Snubs: Okay, I’ll stop talking about Julia Louis Dreyfus (if I must), but what about Adele Exarchopoulos in Blue is the Warmest Color and Brie Larson in the underseen (and brilliant) Short Term 12? Some people were expecting a nod for Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks. She was great, but the film was thin, so I’m not too disappointed.
Early favorite: Cate Blanchett
Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
Jonah Hill (Wolf of Wall Street)
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Surprises: So Jonah Hill is now a two-time Oscar nominee. Wrap your brain around that.
Snubs: Oh, how I wished that James Franco’s truly insane (in the best way) performance in Spring Breakers could have been nominated. And then I wish he could’ve accepted the award in character, cornrows, gold grill, and all.
Early favorite: Jared Leto
Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
June Squibb (Nebraska)
Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
Surprises: A very good one, in that Sally Hawkins was nominated for Blue Jasmine. She did the kind of understated, thankless work next to an outsized performance that often gets overlooked.
Snubs: One word: Oprah. (For her great performance in The Butler).
Early favorite: Jennifer Lawrence
Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street) David O. Russell (American Hustle)
Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
Surprises: Wasn’t totally sure Alexander Payne was going to make the cut, although I think he’s quite deserving. The Wolf of Wall Street was an all in or all out proposition for the Academy. They obviously went all in, hence Scorsese’s nod.
Snubs: Besides the Coen Brothers, I sure would’ve loved to have seen the visionary auteur Spike Jonze get a nod.
Early favorite: Alfonso Cuarón
I’ll check back in when we get closer to Oscar day (Sunday, March 2) with my final predictions! Off to go listen to the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack and cry in my beer.